Citations from Young Frederick Douglass, The Maryland Years

By Dickson J. Preston


Kentucky Ravine

[Isaac and Betsey Bailey, Douglass's grandparents] set up housekeeping, not in the communal quarter, but in a little cabin in a woods clearing not far from the bank of the Tuckahoe... Outside was a shallow well into which a bucket was dipped by means of a wooden beam suspended in the fork of a dead tree. There was also a nearby spring, in a wild ravine known as "Kentucky", and a path that led down to the creek bank at a spot called "muddy shore", the fishing ground where shad and herring were trapped in seine nets during ther annual spring runs to spawn in the fresh upper reaches of the Tuckahoe. [p. 17; see also note 52]

In 1806 [Anthony] acquired the 41 acres of wild and untillable land called "Kentucky", near where Betsey Bailey's cabin stood, for virtually nothing. (p. 27)

Douglass Returns

[Douglass] had sailed from Baltimore aboard the overnight steamer Highland Light, on which he had also set a precedent by being assigned a stateroom, and arrived at Easton Point early on the morning of Saturday, November 23, 1878. After breakfast at the hotel and a stroll through Easton's streets, he spoke to assembled blacks at the newly built Bethel A.M.E. Church, giving them his standard lecture about working hard and saving their money. In the afternoon he made a similar appearance at the Asbury A.M.E. Church. Between times he held court in his hotel suite, receiving white callers among whom were, according to the Gazette, "Some of our citizens who were acquainted with him in early life."

On Monday he traveled in a hired rig the twelve miles up to Tuckahoe Creek, to the crossroads known as Tappers Corner, and to the farm, once owned by Aaron Anthony, where his grandmother's cabin had stood. Nothing remained of the little log hut; even the well that he remembered was gone. The old overseer's house was also gone, and a new house had been built by the current owners, Mr. and Mrs. Ebenezer Jackson. So it was difficult to reconstruct the place as it had been when he had last seen it half a century earlier.

Frederick and Louis Freeman, who had been a slave on this farm when it was owned by Aaron's grandson, John P. Anthony, studied the lay of the land. Where a deep, curving gully ran up toward the road from Tuckahoe Creek, Freeman pointed out the spot known in his time as "Aunt Bettie's lot." It looked right, and Frederick, searching in his memory, recalled a big cedar tree that should be a little deeper in the woods, near the edge of the ravine. He plunged into the underbrush for a look.

The tree was there, and Frederick solemnly declared that he had found the exact spot where he was born. The site Douglass pointed out is at the edge of a wooded ravine a few hundred yards east of the Kingston Landing Road [correction - Lewistown Road - ed.], 2.2 miles south of Queen Anne, and just south of the junction called Tappers Corner, where Md. Route 303 turns west. No marker commemorates it. Nearly 7 miles away, at a location on Md. Route 328 that has no known connection with Douglass, is a roadside marker summarizing his career that has been erected by the Maryland Historical Society. No structure dating from Douglass's time remains on the old Anthony farm, nor are the locations of the white and black graveyards known. (p. 219, footnote 6)

Ebenezer and Martha Jackson bought the farm from John P. Anthony in 1866 and sold it to James P.J. Hubbard in 1891. The house built by Jackson is still standing. Talbot Land Records 72:549; 115:131. (p. 232, footnote 14.) (This white farmhouse and farm are now (1996) called "No-No Acres" .)

The account of Douglass's rediscovery of his birthplace is pieced together from several sources: The Easton Gazette of November 30, 1878; notes by Lucretia Anthony in margins of her copy of Bondage and Freedom, Dodge Collection, Hall of Records, Annapolis; and an article, "Birthplace of Frederick Douglass is Confirmed," in the Easton Star-Democrat, May 13, 1970. The Gazette in its account erroneously located the birthplace as being on land owned by Nehemiah C. Fitzjarrel. His farm was south of the one the Jacksons had bought from Anthony.

Levi Lee's Mill

Just north of Holme Hill farm stood Levi Lee's mill and mill pond, on a site that had been occupied by water mills for more than a century. The stream below it, trickling down to the Tuckahoe, separated Aaron Anthony's two farms. It was a busy place; there little Frederick spent coutnless carefree hours, watching the wagons come and go as farmers brought corn to be ground into meal, gazing with fascination at the turning of the ponderous wheel, feeling the tug of sinfish as they nibbled at the worms he used as bait on the bent-pin and tow thread fishing line Grandmamma Betsey rigged up for him... A water mill on this site had existed at least as early as 1704. Levi Lee became its owner in 1822. Later it was known as Satterfield and Moore's Mill. Remains, probably dating from after Frederick's time, still are visible west of Md. Route 303 a short distance north of Tappers Corner. (p. 36, p. 219 footnone 12)

Holme Hill Farm

Aaron Anthony, who had grown up in the district east of the Tuckahoe, regarded the land he acquired [Holme Hill Farm] as nothing but an investment and a place to keep his slaves. He and his family never lived on the Tuckahoe property; their home was a rent-free house on Colonel Edward Lloyd's palatial estate, a dozen miles westward on Wye River, where Anthony served as overseer. Anthony paid only five dollars an acre for his farm. He equipped it with secondhand farming tools, put some battered furniture in the small house, added a few head of livestock, and hereafter either leased it--and the slaves on it--to tenants or had it farmed by a hired overseer. When he bought more land just to the north of the Tuckahoe property a few years later, he daubed the house on it with red clay from a nearby hill, named the new place the Red House Farm to distinguish it from the Holme Hill Farm, and leased it out also. (p. 21)

Lloyd's Mansion

From the Tuckahoe to the Wye, as Betsey and Frederick traveled it, is a distance of twelve miles. You can make the journey yourself today, over much the same roads they used, in twenty-five minutes or so by car. Your will not find the scenery greatly changed, except that the roads now are of blacktop, and corn and soy beans have replaced wheat as major crops. The route runs from Tappers Corner, which faces the old Anthony place, to Cordova, once called Thimbletown, and on to the hamlet of Skipton. Near there it crosses the great slashing scar of U.S. Route 50 and veers through territory, still largely forested, that in those times was called "Lloyd's Long Woods." That was where Frederick's fearsome monsters doubtless lived.

Eventually, after the road swings westward toward Bruff's Island, you will find on your right two long, parallel lanes. The more westerly of these if for the gentry. It has a handsome ornamental gate and runs for half a mile under magnificent trees to en in a graceful loop before a noble white Georgian mansion that looks almost exactly as it did when Frederick first beheld it in 1824. This is Wye House, home since the 1780s of the Lloyds of Wye.

The eastward land is a service road,and it was the one into which Betsey and Frederick turned when they finally reached their destination in the sweltering heat of midafternoon. Then it was called the Long Green Lane; it ran through the heart of the working plantation, past a long, low "quarter" of rough brick that teemed with slaves, to end at the wharf on Lloyd's Cove. The Long Green, from which it took its name, was a grassy expanse of twenty acres or so.

Some of the building Frederick saw that day are gone; the slave quarters in particular have been removed as insightly relics of the dead past. The ancient icehouse, carpenter's shop, blacksmith's shop, and other working structures that stood near the Long Green have been replaced by more modern barns and sheds, or have been remodeled out of recognition. But sufficient buildings remain to give the modern visitor a sense of how the great plantation must have appeared to the wondering eyes of a six-year-old boy. Off to the left he caught a glimpse of the stately white mansion, ringed with magnificent trees; then his grandmother led him to a neat house of red brick, plain bu substantial, that faced the lane. That, she told him, was where "Old Master" lived; the separate kitchen beside it was the domain of his slaves.