As we didn’t make it to the Dorchester Visitor’s Center on Sunday we got there by noon yesterday. I was already armed with a list of places I’d found on-line of Underground Railroad sites, needless to say, a very condensed list. I’d been to the place in Africa where kidnapped people were put onto the slave ships so now was the day to come full circle, where they ran for their freedom.
The Visitor’s Center is a great place to start; the docent’s will direct you to the closest sites, just blocks away. They also have a nice interpretive section downstairs. This is the place to start.
The docent directed us to the court house where people were sold into slavery on the courthouse steps, just up the street from the docks. The original courthouse was destroyed and then destroyed a 2nd time, but the front of the 2nd rebuild is still in the front. It was here that Ms. Tubman’s niece and 2 children were to be sold; Ms. Tubman helped with this rescue in which the niece’s husband, a free black, bought his wife and 2 children. But before he paid anything he left with them, sailing up the Chesapeake Bay to freedom. I love this story!!!!
Across the street from the courthouse you will find a very old, wonderful church with graves from the 1700’s. Some graves are above ground and some below with the very old ones right next to the church.
Next stop I’d found just poking around online was the Old Trinity Church, built in 1750. The exterior is original but the interior has been remodeled as per the info. The church was locked so we couldn’t peak inside but we enjoyed the quiet of the outside. The church is not visible at all from the road, but the road is marked by a sign. As with most churches here, graves surround the church, with one important grave belonging to Anna Ella Carroll, a successful war strategist for President Lincoln.
We had the brilliant idea that we’d go have a quick and very late lunch at Old Salty’s only to find the restaurant closed on Monday’s. We had to settle for nutrition bars as we went on to our next stop, the canal built by hand. This is a 7 mile canal built by slaves and free people. You take a little road that drives along the canal but it is not marked.
From the canal it is an easy drive, or it should be, to the Bucktown Store. Our problem was that we didn’t read the maps, (yes maps) properly since GPS doesn’t work in those parts. So if you are going to do this I suggest you MapQuest first and have a good idea of your route or you will end up like we did; driving in circles for a couple of hours.
The waste of driving time, however, turned out to be in our favor. But 1st a very brief statement on the Bucktown Store: this store is where Ms. Tudjman was hit on the head by an overseer when she attempted to stop that overseer from hurting a slave. She was 13 years old.
We found the store, having read that if you are lucky you will get to go inside the store so I had only hoped to get inside. So we arrived but were unsure that this was the place; 1st the guide called the store the Blacktown Village Store and this Blacktown Store looks all spiffy plus has a sign “Blackwater Paddle and Pedal”. We started to drive on but then stopped just to make sure.
I went to the door and looked thru the glass to find the most amazing sight; what appeared to be original store, right from Ms. Tubman’s time. I noted that the floor had dips in it, thinking about the women who must have shopped at this store so many years ago. I called Dale to come look.
Dale was looking in the window when a van up pulled up with kayaks on a trailer; a sign that maybe this was associated with the store. A woman was driving then she pulled around to the back of the store and was unhitching her trailer. I asked if she was by chance someone who could let us see the inside of the store and she said “yes”.
As it turns out we had just met Susan Meredith, co-owner of the store; her husband is several generations from the original owner. Wow! Susan let us in and gave us lots of history, more than we could have imagined.
I’d love to go back and do some major photos shoots; I missed a major opportunity to shoot Susan in her environment and could kick myself. I’d also love to just spend a bunch of time taping her stories in the store, but since I’m not a professional that probably won’t happen. But still I’d love to just get some of this down. www.blackwaterpaddleandpedal.com
We’d hoped to make it to the Mason-Dixon line but it got dark as we were driving.
We didn’t make it to the Mason-Dixon line but the visit in that little store was so amazing that we didn’t care. And really it is the people that make the area.