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Picture courtesy of Cayuga Museum
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Harriet Tubman
"The Conductor"
By Carl A. Pierce
(click picture to enlarge)

In Memory of Harriet Tubman
(click picture to enlarge)

Dear Senator Carper:  

Greetings from The Harriet Tubman Historical Society, Wilmington, Delaware.

The society is the voice/advocate for the preservation and recognition of  Harriet Tubman, and the Underground Railroad in the state of Delaware.    

Your comments, suggestions, and support are needed in a proposal idea:  The construction of a replica “freedom schooner” for Delaware’s Underground Railroad waterway freedom trail. For purposes: To expand the knowledge and participation in the state and Mid-Atlantic region’s Underground Railroad. The Delaware freedom schooner would provide an excellent supplement for the state and regional educational curriculum, and a traveling classroom similar to La Amistad. Families throughout the country, who make the pilgrimage of La Amistad are eternally grateful for the rebuilding of the historic replica, because it provides an unforgettable spiritual and social experience for the general public of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures.  

La Amistad is unique and captivates the suffering, struggle, and human drama of a real life story, and the extent of human sacrifice and courage to overcome insurmountable odds for freedom. It is a mirror reflection and microcosm of the past minus the estimated 54,000 voyages of horror during the “middle passage”, and the inhumane treatment during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The ideals of freedom are universal and applicable to all human beings regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin noted in the Declaration of Independence. WE hold these Truths to be Self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…  

It further demonstrates heroic acts of resistance, perseverance, determination, bravery, and faith, to conquer tyranny and enslavement; principles and values documented throughout the Underground Railroad. The Honorable Sengbe Pieh (Joseph Cinque) leader of the La Amistad freedom revolt and the 53, which only 35 survived are martyrs, lest we forget the lessons of history, and hope for the future. Delaware’s “Freedom Schooner” is not designed to replace La Amistad, or the rare exclusive artifacts recovered from The Henrietta Marie, A Slave Ship Speaks; a sunken slave ship discovered in 1972 on the coast of Key West, Florida. But, it is the first concept of the “flight-to-freedom-schooner” echoing the voices of “freedom seekers” from the past, engineered by captains guiding their boats at risk of life, imprisonment, punishment, and loss of personal possessions.  

Much of the success of Delaware’s Underground Railroad can be credited to the state’s location at the headwaters of the seventeen rivers of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Many slaves from further south came as stowaways up these waterways and landed in the state of Delaware where they were given passage to stations in Pennsylvania. Some were transported at night across the Delaware River from the vicinity of Dover, in boats marked by a yellow light hung below a blue one, and were met some distance out from the New Jersey side by boats showing the same light. Others crossed that same open bay without help… The Underground Railroad by Charles L. Blockson. 

In the 1850’s, fugitives traveled by foot from Cumberland to Cape May County. Lenni Lenape guides assisted runaway slaves through the swamps and bogs at night, avoiding slave catchers out for bounty. A boat operated between Cape May and Lewes, Delaware then, as it does currently. At night, local mariners operated a route across the Delaware Bay, ferrying slaves across. Turner may have assisted Harriet Tubman with moving escaped bondsmen through Cape May County…“others were said to have hidden slaves in a cave near Cape May Point and on Edward Turner’s farm”. Cape May’s Role in History: Pathway to Freedom. 

Harriet Tubman often followed the route of the Choptank River into the state aided by Delaware’s free African community, stationmasters, pilots, agents, and captains who played a major role in the state’s Underground Railroad.   

 “Joe Finney of Kent County who was part of an organized network of small crafts that operated in small inlets near Little Creek and may have carried away dozen of runaways to freedom”. The Growth of Delaware Antebellum Free African American Community by Peter Dalleo. 

“Escaping slaves also boarded boats that sailed up the Chesapeake Bay. They could sail from the many towns located directly on the Bay or from cities that were on rivers that flowed into the Bay. Baltimore was the largest such city. The Chesapeake Bay was a main route to freedom. Many ship pilots were African Africans who hid fugitives and helped them on their way…” Pathways to Freedom: Maryland & the Underground Railroad   

“Just imported from the Coast of Africa, in the Brig Nancy, and to be sold at Wilmington, in New Castle County (where Attendance is given) by Willing, Morris, and Company, Of PHILADELPHIA, ONE Hundred and Seventy fine Gold Coast NEGROES”. (The Pennsylvania Gazette, May 6, 1762) 

In the fall of 1763 the schooner Africa landed in Wilmington with 80 to 100 slaves. However, thirty-three others had died of “the flux” on the long voyage from Africa and some of those waiting to be purchased were very ill. These alien newcomers left indelible impressions on the memories of some of Wilmington’s whites. One older resident recalled “when he was young (probably about 1760)…seeing a vessel of two masts anchored in the Christiana Creek with the deck full of negro slaves from Africa.”  

Another Wilmingtonian remembered “a gang or drove of slaves, numbering twenty or thirty…passing by my father’s door, driven by owners for sale” in 1761.” Slavery and Freedom in Delaware, 1639-1865, William H. Williams. 

Thomas Garrett recorded in letters to William Still, captains in Wilmington, who owned schooners and steamboats that brought “freedom seekers” to the rock by Old Swedes. Captain (F) Fountain and Captain Lambdin (Lambson) are mentioned by Garrett in several letters. The story of Delaware’s Maritime Industry during the18th & 19th century are filled with the talented skills of artisans, ship builders Jeremiah Shadd, Gabriel Jackson, seamen, watermen, bargemen, oystermen in the Wilmington community.  

“Gabriel Jackson, a free Black, was the only man to build a Brig on the Brandywine”. Peter Dalleo.    

The maritime industry in Wilmington provided free blacks and slaves the opportunity to learn a trade and excel in an important and prominent lower Delaware Valley occupation, and several of the town’s Afro-American shipbuilders can be identified. The most detailed information about the life of one of Wilmington’s Afro-American maritime carpenters concerns Gabriel Jackson, whose history was recorded by members of the Delaware Abolition Society in 1787, in a letter to the Pennsylvania Abolition Society…The letter also shows the importance of ship building for the Delaware River economy, as well as illustrating the process of apprenticing and hiring out of slaves common in the northern sea coast towns. From deed records, it appears that Gabriel Jackson was the first black to buy land in Wilmington, purchasing a lot of land on French above Kent (now 8th) Streets on December 18, 1777, less than four months after receiving his freedom. Jackson’s son also named Gabriel later built the brig Kesiah. SLAVES, FREE BLACKS, AND FRENCH NEGROES: AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON WILMINGTON’S FORGOTTEN FOLK by WADE PAUL CATTS, MAY 1988. 

The replica freedom schooner, first-of-its-kind is significant, and would encourage collaborative opportunities for the state to further expand interpretive waterway themes and programs unexplored in Sussex, Kent, and New Castle County. Each county is filled with stories, sites, individuals, and families who may have aided and escaped via the rivers and waterways, crossing geographical boundaries. A feasibility study to build the replica of Captain Fountain’s or Captain Lambdin’s schooners/ships are an incentive for educational, social, economic, and cultural enrichment programs in the Delaware Valley region. The rewards for future generation are enormous and one that requires considerably serious planning. Delaware’s Freedom vessel-in-travel on the waterways of the Mid-Atlantic have the possibility of reaching the demographics of 358 counties, and 35.2 million people; 95% under the age of 65. The design and construction should include Historians, Skilled Craftmen, Laborers, Maritime Professionals, Consultants and trained Vocational Tech students.   

A larger concept is being considered that includes construction of a “middle passage” slave vessel. The Delaware freedom vessel is not in competition with any other, because the potential ownership is the state and/or partnership with the Delaware River and Bay Authority, the Bi-State Agency with Delaware and New Jersey operating the Delaware Memorial largest twin span bridges in the nation. Cooperative ventures and partnership with Mid-Atlantic regional states are enormous and the potential greater. It will require exploring the economic, social, and cultural impact.  

The Underground Railroad includes (29) states identified in NPS Underground Railroad Special Resource Study 1995. Throughout the country states are filled with mutual cooperation stories involving land and water routes and the aid of Native Americans.  

These historical stories embrace multi-cultural values, perquisite for reconciliation and healing in today’s society and future generations. Enclosed are several letters by Thomas Garrett referring to acts of heroism by Captain Fountain & Captain Lambdin. Delaware’s story is filled with the names of African American captains in Wilmington. Captain Paul Cuffe, sea captain and ship owner, one of the richest black men in the country sailed the seas promoting the back-to-Africa movement, and “joined a Quaker meeting in Wilmington where he sometimes spoke.”  (William H. Williams)  

Names of Passengers 

PETER HEINES, Eatontown, North Carolina; MATTHEW BODAMS, Plymouth, North Carolina; JAMES MORRIS, South End, North Carolina; CHARLES THOMPSON, CHARITY THOMPSON, NATHANEIL BOWSER, and THOMAS COOPER, Portsmouth, Virginia; GEORGE ANDERSON, Elkton, Maryland. 

Their arrival was announced by Thomas Garrett as follows:
Wilmington, 7th mo., 19th, 1856.

RESPECTED FRIEND, WILLIAM STILL:--I now have the pleasure of consigning to thy care four able-bodied human beings from North Carolina, and five from Virginia, one of which is a girl twelve or thirteen years of age, the rest all men. After thee has seen and conversed with them, thee can determine what is best to be done with them. I am assured they are such as can take good care of themselves.  

Elijah Pennypacker, some time since, informed me he could find employment in his neighborhood for two or three good hands. I should think that those from Carolina would be about as safe in that neighborhood as any place this side of Canada. Wishing our friends a safe trip, I remain thy sincere friend. Thos Garrett

After conferring with Harry Craige, we have concluded to send five or six of them tonight in the cars, and the balance, if those go safe, to-morrow night, or in the steam-boat on Second day morning, directed to the Anti-Slavery office.

The Underground Railroad by William Still

Wilmington, 3rd mo. 23rd, 1856. DEAR FRIEND, WILLIAM STILL: --Captain Fountain has arrived all safe, with the human cargo thee was inquiring for, a few days since.  

I had men waiting till 12 o’clock till the Captain arrived at his berth, ready to receive them; last night they then learned, that he had landed them at the rocks, near the old Swedes church, in the care of our efficient Pilot, who is in the employ of my friend, John Hillis, and he has them now in charge. As soon as my breakfast is over, I will see Hillis and determine what is best to be done in their case. My own opinion is, we had better send them to Hook and there put them in the cars to-night and send a pilot to take them to thy house. As Marcus Hook is in Pennsylvania, the agent of the cars runs no risk of the fine of five hundred dollars our state imposes for assisting one of God’s poor out of the state by steamboat or cars.

As ever thy friend,   Thos. Garrett
The Underground Rail Road by William

Comments about Captain Lambdin by Thomas Garrett. The tragic tale of Captain Lambdin (also referred to as, “Lambson”--…a young schooner captain who was arrested and jailed in Norfolk, Virginia, for helping 21 slaves escape aboard his ship…” Station Master of the Underground Railroad. The Life and Letters of Thomas Garrett, James A. McGowan.  

(By Schooner
Major Latham, William Wilson, Henry Gorham, Wiley Maddison, and Andrew Shepherd.

The above named passengers were delivered into the hands of Thomas Garrett by the Captain who brought them, and were aided and forwarded to the Committee in Philadelphia, as indicated by the subjoined letter:

Wilmington, 11th mo., 6th, 1856. 

Respected Friend: --WILLIAM STILL:--Thine of yesterday, came to hand this morning, advising me to forward those four men to thee, which I propose to send from here in the steam boat, at two o’clock, P.M. to day to thy care; one of them thinks he has a brother and cousin in New  Bedford, and is anxious to get to them, the others thee can do what thee thinks best with, after consulting with them, we have rigged them up pretty comfortably with clothes, and I have paid for their passage to Philadelphia, and also for the passage of their pilot there and back…

Wilmington, 11th, mo. 4th, 1856. ESTEEMED FRIENDS, J. Miller McKim and WILLIAM STILL:--Captain F., has arrived  here this day with four able-bodied men. One is an engineer, and has been engaged in sawing lumber, a second, a good house carpenter, a third a blacksmith, and the fourth a farm hand…” Thomas Garrett. 

Wilmington, 8th mo. 25th, 1859. ESTEEMED FRIEND, Wm. STILL: --The brig “Alvena”, of Lewistown, is in the Delaware opposite here, with four females on board, the colored man, who has them in charge, was employed by the husband of one of them to bring his wife up.  When he arrived here, he found the man had left. As the vessel is bound to Red Bank, I had advised him to take them there in the vessel, and to-morrow take them in the steamboat to the city, and to the Anti-slavery office, I have a man here, to go on to-night; that was nearly naked; shall rig him out pretty comfortably, poor fellow, he has lost his left hand, but he says he can take care of himself. In haste, thy friend, Thos. Garrett.  

Dover: HENRY PREDO broke jail, jumped Out of the Window and made his Escape. Henry fled from Bucktown, Dorchester Co., Md., March 10, 1857. Physically he is a giant. About 27 years of age, stout and well-made, quite black, and no fool, as will appear presently. Only a short time before he escaped, his master threatened to sell him south. To avoid that fate, therefore, he concluded to try his luck on the Underground Rail Road, and in company with seven others—two of them females—he started for Canada.  For two or three days and nights they managed to outgeneral all their adversaries, and succeeded bravely in making the best of their way to a Free State.  There was a reward of $3,000 offered for their arrest. The Underground Rail Road by William Still.

Thomas Otwell, a black conductor betrayed the Dover nine and lead them into the Dover Jail where the sheriff was waiting having been notified by the betrayer. Henry Predo resisted with all force and fought until he broke out, making his way out of the jail and finally escaped.  

Following the outbreak at Dover Jail, William Brinkley, Black Stationmaster, Kent County, wrote William Still the following letter. Camden, Delaware.  

March 23, 1857. Dear Sir: I tak my pen in hand to write to you, to inform you what we have had to go throw for the last two weeks. Thir wir six men and two women was betraid on the tenth of this month, thea had them in prison but thea got out, was conveyed by a black man, he told them he wood bring them to my hows, as he was told, he had been there befor, he has come with Harr(iet), a woman that stops at my hous when she passes tow and throw yau…A Biography of Harriet Tubman by Earl Conrad


William Thomas Cope, John Boice Grey, Henry Boice and Issac White. These young bondmen, whilst writhing under the tortures heaped upon them, resolved, at the cost of life, to make a desperate trial for free land; to rid themselves of their fetters, at whatever peril they might have to encounter. The land route presented less encouragement than by water; they knew but little, however, concerning either way.  

After much anxious reflection, they finally decided to make their Underground Rail Road exit by water. Having lived all their lives not far from the bay, they had some knowledge of small boats, skiffs in particular, but of course they were not the possessors of one. Feeling that there was no time to lose, they concluded to borrow a skiff, though they should never return it. So one Saturday evening, toward the latter part of January, the four young slaves stood on the beach near Lewes, Delaware, and cast their longing eyes in the direction of the Jersey shore. A fierce gale was blowing, and the waves were running fearfully high; not daunted, however, but as one man they resolved to take their lives in their hands and make the bold adventure. With simple faith they entered the skiff; two of them took the oars, manfully to face uncertain dangers from the waves. But, they remained steadfast, oft as they felt that they were making the last stroke with their oars, on the verge of being overwhelmed with the waves. At every new stage of danger they summoned courage by remembering that they were escaping for their lives. Late on Sunday afternoon, the following day, they reached their much-desired haven, the Jersey shore.

The Underground Rail Road by William Still Pg. 502-3. 

FUNDING: Federal, State, Corporate and Private funding resources including a community based funding-raising campaign are a few possibilities. Delaware received a $250,000 Network to Freedom Federal grant for the state’s Underground Railroad administered by the City of Wilmington.  

Cincinnati, Ohio plan to open the Freedom Center fall 2004, and their fundraising efforts totaled over 100 million dollars. The Northeast Corridor is the birthplace for the restoration of the Underground Railroad initiated by Charles L. Blockson, Curator of the Blockson Collection, Temple University. The loss of Underground Railroad treasures, Thomas Garrett’s home & store, The Shadd’s, Brinkley’s, Webb’s home, Issac Flint’s store, Rev. Spencer’s first independent African church, John Hunn’s farm, Middletown, Delaware, and the list continues, remains forever unexplainable. Today, the ancestral home of the Hunn family Wildcat Manor, and Daniel Corbit’s Clearfield Farm, Smyrna, Delaware are endangered.

The Northeast corridor lags behind in historic preservation, national initiatives, such as the $100,000,000 freedom center, and the restoration of authentic Underground Railroad structures promised in (HR 4578) U.S. Congress, and believe it or not, Delaware is the only state in the nation without a National Park. This oversight was recognized during National Park Service Underground Railroad Special Resource Study 1993-95, and information reached Senator Thomas R. Carper. Hopefully, Senator Carper, who has supported the Underground Railroad throughout the years will fast forward Delaware’s First National Park, and the state’s first-time proposal to the U.S. Congress will include, not one, but at least three National Park Units for each of the state’s three counties.    

BACKGROUND: Blockson’s July, 1984 article in the National Geographic titled, “Escape From Slavery, The Underground Railroad”, launched the present-day involvement and popularity of programs and activities. His trek throughout the country documenting sites and the history of his own family’s escape from Seaford, Delaware received international attention, and a meeting with former Congressman Peter Kostmayer (PA), January 1990, Mother Bethel AME Church. After consulting with Blockson, Kostmayer sponsored the initial legislation January 23, 1990 (HR 3863). To amend the National Trails System Act to provide for the study and designation of the Underground Railroad Historic Trail.  

A series of legislation led to the signing of PL 105-203. To establish within the United States National Park Service the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program, and for other purposes, signed by President William Jefferson Clinton July 21, 1998. Attachment: NPS Underground Railroad Special Resource Study 1995. Purpose and Background.   

I look forward to hearing from you in regards to the Delaware Freedom Schooner. Kindly accept thanks and appreciation for your continued support.   

SB 186 sponsored by Senator Margaret Rose Henry and supported by the General Assembly signed by Governor Ruth Ann Minner. AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 29 OF THE DELAWARE CODE ESTABLISHING FREEDOM TRAIL HISTORICAL MONUMENTS May 2001. The legislation has provided funding resources for Delaware’s freedom trail in addition to markers previously installed for African Americans in the state by Delaware Public Archives and Delaware Division of Historical & Cultural Affairs:  

Historical Markers: Black Anthony, Delaware’s First Known Black Settler, Howard High School, Mount Olive Cemetery, Delaware State College, Delaware State College High School, *Loockerman Hall, Gravesite of Bishop Peter Spencer, Bethel AME Church, Delaware City School #118C, South Wilmington, Scott AME Zion Church, Saint Joseph Church, Macedonia AME Church, William Julius “Judy” Johnson, *Bishop Richard Allen, *Absalom Jones, *Star Hill AME Church, *Appoquinimink Friends Meeting, *Thomas Garrett, *Wilmington Friends Meeting, *John Hunn, *Camden Friends Meeting, *Daniel Corbit’s Clearfield Farm, *The Reverse Underground Railroad, Morning Star Institutional Church of God In Christ, and Governor Ruth Ann Minner dedicated two new historical markers commemorating Brown v. the Board of Education during the 2004 anniversary celebration.  An extensive list for future historical markers has been developed to continue the freedom trail in the state of Delaware.    


Vivian Abdur-Rahim
Forrest Dixon
Beatrice Patton Dixon
Willis & Patricia Phelps
Phyllis Phelps Davis

The Harriet Tubman Historical Society
P.O. Box 1144
Wilmington, Delaware 19899
(302) 762-8010
Nomination Letter: 
Senator Tom Carper
Public Workshop
Del Tech
Wilmington Campus
October 30, 2003

  Heritage Production Company
Buffalo Soldier
Harriet Tubman, The Conductor.
The Rest of The Story

(302) 429-0525


The Resurrection of Harriet Tubman
By Vivian Abdur-Rahim

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