Childhood

Boyhood

Struggle

Douglass Returns

childhood

Approximate drive time is one hour.

Begin tour: Frederick Douglass Statue, dedicated in 2011, Talbot County Courthouse, 11 N. Washington Street, Easton, Maryland.

The first courthouse was built on this site in 1712, but the central redbrick structure you see today was completed in 1794, and the wings were added in the 1950s. The Talbot County Courthouse today houses many administrative offices, as well as the District Court of Maryland for Talbot County and the County Council chambers.

A statue of Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) by Jay Hall Carpenter stands on the courthouse lawn. Douglass is depicted as the fiery orator he became after leaving Talbot County. He spoke at this very courthouse during his 1878 visit, 42 years after he was jailed here for attempting to escape from slavery. Slaves were once bought and sold on the front steps of this building.

Douglass was jailed just west of this memorial in 1836 following an escape attempt intercepted by his master’s father-in-law. In 1878, he returned to Easton for the first time since he was jailed in 1836. On that trip, he revisited the place of his birth — 12 miles east of here in the region called Tuckahoe.

Take Goldsborough Street to U.S. Route 50. Proceed straight six miles on Maryland Route 328 (Matthewstown Road). Turn left on Lewistown Road. The first stop is Covey’s Landing. Turn right off Lewistown Road at Covey’s Landing Road.

“The first experience of life with me that I now remember — and I remember it but hazily — began in the family of my grandmother and grandfather, Betsey and Isaac Baily. They were quite advanced in life, and had long lived on the spot where they then resided. They were considered old settlers in the neighborhood, and, from certain circumstances, I infer that my grandmother, especially, was held in high esteem, far higher than is the lot of most colored persons in the slave states.” — Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom

PLEASE NOTE: These tours will take you on busy roads as well as many rural back roads. Use caution when pulling off the road to view a site or read from the guide. Many of the buildings associated with Frederick Douglass in Talbot County are no longer standing and their exact locations are unknown. This guide will be directing you to the approximate vicinity of the actual sites. In addition, most of the sites included are private property. Please respect property owners and do not trespass or use private lanes and driveways. In Talbot County, road names with green signs are public. Roads name with blue signs are strictly private.

Self-Guided Driving Tour #1

Site #1 – Covey’s Landing and Boat Ramp

32559 Covey’s Landing Road, Cordova, Maryland 21625

Douglass’s birthplace is less than a mile north of here on Tuckahoe Creek. In his books, he describes his first six years in great detail. The Tuckahoe and its surroundings were his first classroom. He roamed from here north to the town of Hillsborough (now the towns of Queen Anne and Hillsboro) and may have gone to Denton with his grandmother, who raised him, and who sold her fish and produce there. For a water view of Douglass’s childhood neighborhood, launch canoes or kayaks here at the public landing and head north to the Hillsboro Landing.

She was a gardener as well as a fisherwoman, and remarkable for her success in keeping her seedling sweet potatoes through the months of winter, and easily got the reputation of being born to “good luck.” In planting-time Grandmother Betsey was sent for in all directions, simply to place the seedling potatoes in the hills or drills; for superstition had it that her touch was needed to make them grow. This reputation was full of advantage to her and her grandchildren, for a good crop, after her planting for the neighbors, brought her a share of the harvest. Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

Driving Note: Pull to the side of the road at the Tappers Corner intersection. Look southeast towards the treeline on your right.

Site #2 – Tappers Corner at Lewistown Road

Site of Aaron Anthony’s Farm, Birthplace of Frederick Douglass
Site Only – no buildings remain

In February 1818, Frederick Douglass was born in a cabin near here occupied by his grandmother, Betsy Bailey, and her free husband, Isaac Bailey, a sawyer. Betsy was enslaved by Aaron Anthony, who owned the farm. Slave status ran with the mother; Betsy’s children and grandchildren were therefore all owned by Anthony, who mostly rented his land and slaves to tenant farmers. The Bailey’s cabin was on a part of the farm known as Kentucky Ravine in the wooded area just southeast of Tappers Corner.

By the time Douglass returned here in 1878, the cabin was long gone.

He knew that the cabin stood near a large cedar tree, in a clearing a short way from the steep bank of the Tuckahoe near the “muddy shore” where he had played and fished. Near some large cedar trees, Douglass collected soil to take back to Cedar Hill, his new Washington, D.C., home. The place of his beginning, this is also where his mother, Harriett Bailey, died. His father was unknown to him.

To me it has ever been a grief that I knew my mother so little, and have so few of her words treasured in my remembrance. I have since learned that she was the only one of all the colored people of Tuckahoe who could read. How she acquired this knowledge I know not, for Tuckahoe was the last place in the world where she would have been likely to find facilities for learning. I can therefore fondly and proudly ascribe to her an earnest love of knowledge. That in any slave State a field-hand should learn to read is remarkable, but the achievement of my mother, considering the place and circumstances, was very extraordinary. Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Site #3 – Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe

13213 Lewistown Road, Queen Anne, Maryland 21657

Dedicated in 2018 to Talbot County’s most famous native son, this park allows visitors to see the region’s unspoiled natural condition that Douglass likely knew. The park spans more than 107 acres and encompasses a high ridge overlooking a wide bend in Tuckahoe Creek. In the coming months, interpretive panels, walking trails, and scenic overlooks will be added.

“Living thus with my grandmother, whose kindness and love stood in place of my mother’s, it was some time before I knew myself to be a slave. I knew many other things before I knew that. … The squirrels, as they skipped the fences, climbed the trees, or gathered their nuts, were an unceasing delight to me. … At a little distance stood Mr. Lee’s mill, where the people came in large numbers to get their corn ground. I can never tell the many things thought and felt, as I sat on the bank and watched that mill, and the turning of its ponderous wheel. The mill-pond, too, had its charms; and with my pin-hook and thread-line, I could get amusing nibbles if I could catch no fish. Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

Site #4 – Hillsboro Boat Ramp

Main Street, Hillsboro, Maryland 21641

Our Douglass tour intersects here with the Civil War Trail. You are now two-plus miles north of Frederick Douglass’s birthplace as the crow flies and about four miles north as the river winds.

The view directly across the river is a 40-acre tract donated by the George C. and Naomi H. Moore family, which is now part of Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe. The circa 1790 Federal-style brick house behind you on the hill was there in Douglass’s childhood.

Note the interpretive sign depicting both Douglass and his wife Anna Murray Douglass, who was born free near Denton, Maryland. Though they were neighbors in youth, Douglass’s three narratives relate that he met Anna in Baltimore. They were married in New York after his escape, which she helped to fund, in 1838, and settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Rev. J.W.C. Pennington, who was also born enslaved on the Eastern Shore in nearby Queen Anne’s County, performed the ceremony. By 1849, the couple had five children: Rosetta Douglass, Lewis Henry Douglass, Frederick Douglass, Jr., Charles Remond Douglass, and Annie Douglass.

Canoes and kayaks may be put in here for a river tour of Douglass’s childhood neighborhood. Navigate south to Covey’s Landing. 

“Upon receiving this [marriage] certificate … I shouldered one part of our baggage, and Anna took up the other, and we set out forthwith to take passage on board of the steamboat John W. Richmond for Newport, on our way to New Bedford.”— Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave 

Tour 1 ends here. Proceed west on Maryland Route 404 to Maryland Route 309/Cordova Road which you will follow approximately 10 miles, bearing right at Black Dog Alley to U.S. Route 50. To return to Easton, take U.S. Route 50 East. To continue with Tour # 2, cross U.S. Route 50 and turn right at the Maryland Route 622/Longwoods Road intersection with Airport Road.

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