Site #5 — Freeland Farm & Old Martingham

Pull to the roadside 0.15 mile past Broad Creek Road. Old Martingham, to your left on the Miles River, was the seat of the Hambleton family since 1663. The Hambleton family was important in the War of 1812. In Douglass’s time, a large contingent of brothers and sisters controlled most of the land from Emerson Point to Perry Cabin in St. Michaels.

Look to the right and you can see Broad Creek, part of the Choptank River with the abandoned train bridge crossing the creek. (Douglass rode a train across this bridge on his last visit to Talbot County in 1893). The farmland on the Broad Creek side is the site of the Freeland Farm, where young Douglass was hired out from Jan. 1, 1835 to spring 1836. William Freeland’s wife was one of the Hambleton sisters.

“I found myself in congenial society, at Mr. Freeland’s,” Douglas wrote. “There were Henry Harris, John Harris, Handy Caldwell, and Sandy Jenkins.” Douglass considered William Freeland to be a “well-bred southern gentleman … the best master I ever had until I became my own master.” During his time at the Freeland farm, Douglass learned that he was gaining a reputation among the whites as a troublemaker and among the blacks as a hero and leader. He was quick to take advantage of his role as a leader by organizing another school for blacks, but this time the school was kept secret.

On New Year’s Day, 1836, Douglass resolved that this was the year he would become free and began planning his escape. On Easter weekend, with the branches of the Hambleton family gathered at Old Martingham, he and four others (including his uncle Henry Bailey) would take one of William Hambleton’s two sailing log canoes from Emerson Point, round Kent Point and head up the Bay. It would take a full crew to handle the vessel. William Hambleton got wind of the plot. Sandy Jenkins (the “root man”) became frightened and was suspected of leaking some detail. On the morning of their planned escape, they were arrested and forced to walk more than 20 miles tied behind a mounted horse to the jail in Easton. Word spread quickly; at every village along the way, the men were jeered and harassed. Tour #4 includes the site of the Easton jail where Douglass spent a harrowing week, uncertain of his fate.