PRESTON — Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, on Thursday, Oct. 10, time traveled in the footsteps of Harriet Tubman along one of the most famously trafficked stretches of her Underground Railroad in Caroline County.
In a string of visits to three historical sites in the area, Rutherford stopped at Linchester Mill, one of the oldest operating mills in the United States; James Webb Cabin, a home built in 1852 by a free African-American farmer; and William Still Interpretive Center, an 1820s slave cabin stained with stories of bravery and perseverance.
Rutherford dove deep into the history of each site as Historical Society President J.O.K. Walsh and Project Manager Kathy Mackel walked him through a timeline of significant events dating as far back as three centuries ago.
Rutherford called the sites “fascinating” and underlined the importance of seeking history as a means to understanding the centuries-long plight of African Americans.
“We need to always hear our history and not be afraid to explore,” he said. “(It) shows the resilience of people who were enslaved and those who desired to escape, and what they had to go through.”
Rutherford nodded to the story of James Webb, who was freed from slavery and worked to buy his enslaved family members’ freedom. He said it’s important to hear the accounts of “those who had to buy their own freedom and what they had to sacrifice to do that.”
During his visit, Rutherford climbed into a food pit underneath the floorboards of Webb’s cabin, where Walsh explained escaping slaves would hide from kidnappers and slave traders.
The pit was a small hole in the dirt beneath the cabin, and Rutherford said he was amazed people could fit in there.
Mackel, who organized the lieutenant governor’s tour of these historical sites, said the plan came about during Caroline Summerfest, which he attended alongside Gov. Larry Hogan in August.
Mackel said Rutherford expressed an interest in learning more about the Underground Railroad in Caroline County, so they arranged a tour of three sites along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway.
She said it was “a tremendous honor to showcase the assets that Caroline County has” to Rutherford.
“We have some of the nation’s best Underground Railroad sites,” she said. “So it was an honor to share this with (Lt. Gov. Rutherford) and have him see the work Caroline Historical Society is doing and preserving.”
Rutherford urged Maryland residents to come to Caroline County and “see these sites and understand the history of our state.”