Saturday, February 1, 2014

In Honor of Harriet Tubman: A Hero For All Generations

Harriet Tubman has been a hero of mine since childhood.
 As a student,I did several book reports on her life and achievements.
I wanted to refresh my memory about her and so I decided to approach the research 
in the same way I would if I wanted to learn more about my own relatives.
 I went to and input her given name of Arminita Ross and 
her aka Harriet Tubman, and received zero search results. Next I looked for her in the 
public member tree section and found only a handful of rather barren trees. From 
those trees and several other sources online, I discovered that her father was Ben 
Ross and her mother was Harriet Greene and that they hailed from , 
Maryland. I learned that she was married twice, first to John Tubman and later to  
Nelson Davis, a Civil War soldier from Company G,8th U.S Colored Infantry.
Arminita Harriet Ross and First Husband John Tubman.
I then went to Genealogy Bank and did an newspaper and historical document search. 
This was a treasure trove of information and I learned many things about her that was 
"new to me".Although well known as the engineer of the Underground Railroad and Civil 
War spy, she was also a nurse in the Civil War and paraphrasing statements by 
officers who vouched for her in pension applications, did so at great risk as she 
personally saved mens' lives. In 1888, her spouse Nelson Charles Davis died and in 
1890, Harriet applied for a pension as his widow. She received the standard $8 per 
month. She applied for and received her nurses pension of $12 per month. In 1899, a 
petition was submitted in her behalf to make an exception and raise her monthly 
pension to a total of $25 per month. This was an unprecedented request. Illustrious 
individuals wrote letters of commendation including William Seward, General Rufus 
Saxton and Colonel James Montgomery. These letters described her as having worked for 
Govenor Andrew who sent her to the front where she worked as "nurse, cook and 
spy".She nursed men as the musket balls flew past. It is stated that she worked for 
Major General Hunter,General Stephens, and General Sherman.

In the newspaper section, I found fascinating articles about her work in helping to 
free slaves after she escaped her own slave master in 1849.She was said to be pure 
African and from the Ashantee tribe and was described by many as having a great 
physical strength and stamina.It was said that in rescuing slaves that she had gone 
hand to hand with some slave masters and was the victor. I read current articles 
which credit her with helping to free 70-80 slaves however that does not match up 
with the articles of that time which credit her with assisting as few as 300 or as 
many as 1000 slaves via the underground Railway. Rewards were offered for her capture 
"Dead or Alive" and the combined $40,000. bounty reward might lead one to believe in 
the higher number of escaped slaves.She was also an active committee member of The 
Canadian Fugitive Aid Society of St. Catherines' which offered assistance to sick or 
indigent slaves who had fled to Canada.

Amongst all of the adventures, intrigue and travels, there seems to have been a space 
of time when she lived a somewhat average life living on a farm and engaged in brick 
making with her husband Nelson and her parents whom she had bought from 
slavery.Although her life was more normal than it had been when she traversed swamps 
and rugged terrain helping slaves escape, she was now known around the world.Even 
Queen Victoria had read her book and sent her a commemorative medal.
After her husbands death in 1888, her philanthropy continued and she turned her own 
small home in Auburn N.Y,into the Harriet Tubman Home for Aged Negroes, where she 
ended her days at the age of 98 in 1913. She was said to be quick witted and with a 
healthy appetite even to her end days. She died a free woman and a land owner having 
purchased the house with the proceeds of a biography written about her by Mrs. Sarah H.
Bradford called Scenes From The Life of Harriet Tubman.

I am glad that the internet allows so many avenues for research and am amazed at the 
details I collected in one hours time. Having said that, my admiration for Harriet 
Tubman is again inflated beyond all measure.I see a picture of a woman who truly 
rolled up her sleeves and personally put herself in harms way for the sake of others on many occasions. 
Harriet Tubman far left with adopted Daughter Gerttie and husband Nelson Davis. The elderly people of the right are assumed to be her parents whom she bought out of slavery.
Photo from the Library of Congress

Here are some links if you would like to do further research on Black Soldiers in The Civil War.



Harriet Tubman. An Hour With Harriet Tubman

 Saturday, September 30, 1911 The Indianapolis Freeman  

Harriet Tubman Timeline

Thanks for stopping by!

1 comment:

  1. Beginning Family Tree DNA Y dna 111 - match surname "Braxton" surname "Blakey" back to a Thomas Blakey 1454 - found through a Quaker Latitia Paxson m. Thomas Blakey - close back almost to 1455 "Edward" Paxson (or Paxton) - still exploring and searching. Connection Quaker lines currently states Kentucky and where I grew up, Chatham County, NC (South Fork / Cane Creek / Snow Camp / Spring Garden / Guilford, NC)