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A Brief Chronology of Harriet Tubman's Life

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Cambridge,
Maryland (National Park Service).

This chronology was developed with the assistance of Kate Clifford Larson, whose biography, Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero, was published in 2004.

1822 - Araminta "Minty" Ross born to Harriet (Rittia or Rit) Green and Benjamin Ross, in Dorchester County, Maryland. She was one of nine children. (She took the name "Harriet" later.)

1820s - To recoup his financial losses, owner Edward Brodess hired out young Minty to a succession of masters, including a weaver and farmers for field work and hunting and trapping.

1835 - As a young adolescent, Minty received a brutal head injury caused by a crushing blow from a heavy weight thrown by an overseer, who was targeting an enslaved young man.

1836-1844 - Minty was hired out to several masters including John T. Stewart, a local merchant and shipbuilder.

1840 - Ben Ross was freed by a provision in the will of his deceased enslaver, Anthony Thompson.

1844 - Minty married freeman, John Tubman, and began to use the name Harriet.

1847-1849 - Harriet Tubman was hired out to Dr. Anthony C. Thompson

1849 - Edward Brodess died. On hearing that she and two brothers were to be sold to the Deep South to settle debts of her deceased owner, Tubman escaped to Philadelphia

1850 - Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law. In December Tubman went to Baltimore and brought out her niece and family for resettlement in Canada.

1851 - Working as a cook and domestic in hotels and private homes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Cape May, New Jersey, Tubman saved money to escort other freedom seekers north to freedom. She first brought away her brother and two other men. In late fall she returned to bring her husband north, but discovered he had left her for another woman. She brought away another party of freedom seekers to Canada, instead.

1852-1860 - Tubman made several trips back to Maryland. Populated by free blacks and white abolitionists, her preferred escape route took her through dangerous slaveholder territory in Maryland and Delaware, then on to Philadelphia, New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Auburn, Rochester, and finally St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. She was also known to escape by water.

1854 - At Christmastime, Tubman brought away three of her brothers, stopping at her parents’ home at Poplar Neck, Caroline County, to hide before running to freedom. They received help along the way from abolitionists and Underground Railroad operators Thomas Garrett of Wilmington and William Still of Philadelphia.

1855 - Ben Ross purchased Rit's freedom for twenty dollars from Eliza Brodess, Edward Brodess's widow.

1857 - After her father was implicated in aiding the escape of a group of self-liberators, Tubman returned to Maryland to help her parents Rit and Ben secretly leave their home. With help from Thomas Garrett and William Still, Tubman took them to St. Catharines, Ontario, for two years, later moving them to Auburn, New York.

1858-1859 - Tubman met with John Brown in Canada and agreed to help him gather recruits for his planned raid in the South.

1859 - Tubman contracted with William Henry Seward to buy seven acres of land and a house in Auburn (Town of Fleming), New York, on a long-term lease-purchase agreement.

- John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry Armory; Tubman was probably in New Bedford, Massachusetts, detained by illness.

1860 - Tubman made her last visit to Maryland to bring out 7 fugitives, one of them an infant.

- Tubman attended a Women's Rights Convention in Boston, the first of many that she would attend over the next fifty years.

- In an event famous at the time, Tubman rescued runaway slave Charles Nalle in Troy, New York, as he was about to be extradited to Virginia.

1861 - Civil War began April 12, with Confederates firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.

1862 - Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew sent Tubman to Hilton Head, South Carolina to aid hundreds of enslaved people, called contrabands, fleeing nearby plantations to find freedom and safety at Union Army camps. Tubman soon became an active scout and spy for General Stevens’ headquarters.

1863 - Emancipation Proclamation issued; William Seward was co-author

- Tubman executed her first official raid, under the command of Col. Montgomery, on the Combahee River, South Carolina, helping to liberate more than 700 slaves from nearby plantations.

- The first published biographical sketch of Tubman was written by Franklin B. Sanborn and published in his anti-slavery newspaper The Commonwealth.

1863-1865 - Tubman worked for the Union army in South Carolina, Virginia, and Florida, providing badly needed nursing and cooking services, in addition to spying and scouting.

1865 - The 13th Amendment banning slavery in the United States was adopted. "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

- The New England Freedman’s Aid Society hired Tubman to teach marketable skills to newly freed women in the South and provide nursing services to wounded and sick soldiers at Fortress Monroe.

1867 - Harriet Tubman’s husband, John Tubman, died in Dorchester County.

1868 - Tubman entered a $1,800 claim for three years of military services as a nurse, a cook in hospitals, and as a commander of male scouts; it was rejected at the time, but paid later.

1869 - Harriet Tubman married Nelson Davis at Central Presbyterian Church in Auburn, New York.

- Sarah H. Bradford's biography of Tubman, called Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, was published.

1870 - The 15th Amendment gave black American men the right to vote, effectively making them citizens for the first time.

1871 - Ben Ross, Tubman's father, died about this time.

1880 - Rittia Green, Tubman's mother, died.

1886 - Sarah Bradford published her second Tubman biography, Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People.

1888 - Nelson Davis died; was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, New York

1895 - With a mortgage Tubman purchased 25 acres (including two houses, barns, and outbuildings) adjoining her property to open her Home for the Aged.

1896 - Tubman was the oldest attendee at the organizing meeting of National Association of Colored Women in Washington, DC

1903 - Tubman deeded 25 acres with buildings to AME Zion Church to be continued as a home for aged.

1913 - Harriet Tubman died at the Home for the Aged. Her funeral was held at Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church and burial was at Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, New York.

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