The National Park Service (NPS) has just designated four new Maryland sites as important connections in the Underground Railroad freedom trail.
The four sites are part of the NPS Network to Freedom, and each has a verified tie to the Underground Railroad. The program intends to designate sites that ” provide insight into the experiences of freedom seekers who bravely escaped slavery and those who assisted them.”
Elkridge Furnace at Patapsco Valley State Park (Howard County), Eliza Parker Escape Site at Belle Vue Farm (Harford County), Henry Massey Escape Site at Stoopley Gibson Manor (Kent Island), and Mount Clare Railroad Station (Baltimore City) are all newly designated.
Mount Clare is the nation’s oldest rail station, and freedom-seekers traveled through it concealed or in disguise to a new life. Elkridge Furnace, now a high-end restaurant, was one of the largest operating iron furnaces in colonial Maryland. It used labor from enslaved and indentured people as well as convicts. At least five people escaped from the site. At the circa-1661 Belle Vue Farm in Havre de Grace, Eliza Howard Parker, her mother and siblings escaped to freedom. And 14-year-old Henry Massey escaped enslavement from the Stoopley-Gibson Plantation in 1849, making it to Harrisburg, Penn., before he was recaptured as a runaway five years later.
Three of the four sites were researched by the state tourism office’s “Four Fellowships for 400: Sharing Maryland’s Underground Railroad Stories” project, together with the Maryland State Archives’ Legacy of Slavery program. The research was funded by a grant from the 400 Years of African American History Commission.
Governor Larry Hogan says Maryland is the most powerful Underground Railroad storytelling destination. The state has 92 total designated Network to Freedom sites, from the newly designated locations to the famous childhood home of Harriet Tubman and the escape route of abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass.
“The successful partnerships between federal, state, and local agencies has allowed this important research to showcase these powerful Maryland Underground Railroad stories,” said Governor Larry Hogan.
To explore and learn more about the 92 sites, visit Maryland’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Visitor Guide.
The Network to Freedom currently represents over 695 locations in 39 states, plus Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are 38 sites in Virginia, from Tangier Island to Harper’s Ferry and the Norfolk waterfront.
“The stories of freedom seekers, who risked everything to claim their liberty, inspire us every time we review Network to Freedom applications,” says National Park Service Deputy Director Shawn Benge.
-Meg Walburn Viviano