My Bondage and My Freedom Map Assignment: Chapters I-II

I examined the locations Frederick Douglass mentions in chapters I and II, “Childhood” and “Removed from My First Home.” Below is the map of Talbot County and Caroline County, Maryland I created using the platform, ZeeMaps.

Map of several locations in Talbot County and Caroline County, Maryland Douglas mentions in Chapters I-II. Please click the image to enlarge.

Map of several locations in Talbot County and Caroline County, Maryland Douglas mentions in Chapters I-II. Please click the image to enlarge.

Key to the locations marked in the map above. Please click the image to enlarge.

Key to the locations marked in the map above. Please click the image to enlarge.

 

Here is the link to further explore the interactive map I built using ZeeMaps: http://www.zeemaps.com/view?group=830961&x=-75.935657&y=38.934627&z=7.

Analysis of the Map

My ultimate goal in constructing this map is to attempt to place the general area of Frederick Douglass’ birthplace in a geographical and historical context. When Douglass proudly describes his grandmother’s fishing and farming activities in “Tuckahoe”, he identifies the nearby towns of Hillsboro and Denton (ch. I). Interestingly, Douglass also mentions that Choptank River runs through his birthplace of “Tuckahoe” (ch. I). “Tuckahoe,” of course, is not an actual city in Maryland, but the area Douglass describes is, indeed, near Easton, Maryland. The historians at Frederick Douglass Heritage speculate that the actual location of Douglass’ birthplace, Captain Aaron Anthony’s Holme Hill Farm, is near the meeting point of Tappers Rd. and Lewiston Rd. (about two miles south of Queen Anne). Douglass explains that Colonel Edward Lloyd’s plantation is located along the Wye River (ch. II). He also explains that the distance between “Tuckahoe” and Wye River is about twelve miles (ch. II). Upon closely examining the map of Talbot County, the distance between the Wye House –the main house on Lloyd’s plantation– is, indeed, roughly twelve miles from the speculated location of Holme Hill Farm.

I would now like to focus on examining Choptank River and Tuckahoe Creek (a body of water that Douglass does not explicitly mention in his autobiography) in relation to his birthplace.  I found that Tuckahoe Creek is a tributary of Choptank River. Tuckahoe Creek runs closely by Holme Hill Farm and has its own tributary, Highfield Creek that runs even closer through Tappers Corner Rd. and Lewiston Rd. Perhaps, during his lifetime, Douglass incorrectly called Tuckahoe Creek by the name of Choptank River and thus refers to both the creek and the river in chapters I and II.

Then and Now: Frederick Douglass’ Birthplace, Choptank River and Tuckahoe Creek

Holme Hill Farm

Holme Hill Farm was Frederick Douglass’ birthplace, a location that still cannot be identified with certainty. As I mentioned earlier in this blog post, grandma Betsey Bailey’s cabin was located on Holme Hill Farm, Captain Aaron Anthony’s property. According to the historians who maintain the Frederick Douglass Heritage site, the present-day general area of the property –the area where Tappers Corner Rd. and Lewiston Rd. intersect– is now mostly farmland interspersed with large houses. By examining recently published street views of the area with Google Maps, I found that this area mostly contains corn and wheat fields. Current information on the Historical Society of Talbot County’s website confirms that Talbot County is currently about eighty percent farmland; corn and wheat are among its main staples. The continuing prevalence of corn growing in this area speaks to the area’s undeniable relationship with the agricultural activities of the brutally oppressed “negro” slaves who resided in the Holme Hill Farm area in the 18th century. Douglass remembers as a boy that he and other “negroes” would travel to Mr. Lee’s mill to grind the corn they harvested (ch. I). While these Maryland “negro” slaves were viewed as non-human chattels only useful for hard labor, they still helped maintain the agricultural and economic foundations of Maryland while sustaining their own livelihoods.

Fishing Industries and Agriculture

Since its establishment in the late 17th century, Talbot County’s economic activity has focused on the seafood industries, manufacturing of maritime products (mostly shipbuilding) and the planting and harvesting of a variety of crops (Historical Society of Talbot County). The details about Mr. Lee’s nearby water mill and grandma Bailey’s keen ability for the “preservation of seedling sweet potatoes”  alludes to the rich agriculture of Talbot County (ch. I). The Historical Society of Talbot County states that today, corn, soybeans, wheat, peaches and tomatoes are prominent crops harvested in the area. Before the American Revolution, however, tobacco dominated Talbot County’s agriculture (Historical Society of Talbot County). Douglass also speaks to the vast sources of fish present in Choptank River and Tuckahoe Creek when he states that his grandmother was a “capital hand at making nets for catching shad and herring…” (ch. 1). According to the historians at Choptank River Heritage, residents in the valleys of both the Choptank River and Tuckahoe Creek utilized the water sources for different types of fish. Today, the various bodies of water in Talbot County contain rockfish, oysters and crabs (Historical Society of Talbot County). Talbot County’s abundant seafood sources remind me of when Douglass states in chapter I that his grandmother’s “nets were in great demand, not only in Tuckahoe, but at Denton and Hillsboro” (ch. I). The present-day prevalence of piers and fish canneries along the Tuckahoe Creek and Choptank River echo the constant fishing activities of the “Tuckahoe” residents Douglass describes in chapter I (Choptank River Heritage).

What is interesting is that the initial slaves in Maryland were brought over in the 1600s to toil on the tobacco fields (Historical Society of Talbot County). During Douglass’ life time in the 1800s, supposedly racially and intellectually inferior “negro” residents of “Tuckahoe,” such as Grandma Bailey, were making fishing tools that were in high demand in other areas; Grandma Bailey’s knack for constructing tools with rich benefits attests to the fact that some slaves could in some way rise above the dehumanizing oppression imposed upon them by whites. “Negroes” and slaves back then were unknowingly participating in Talbot County’s booming industries that are just as fruitful today.

 Works Cited

Choptank River Heritage. Choptank River Hertiage, 1999-2012. Web. 5        Feb. 2014.

http://www.choptankriverheritage.org/

Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom. Prod. Mike Lough and David Widger. Project Gutenberg, 2013. Digital file.

Frederick Douglass Heritage: The Official Website. University of Massachusetts History Club, n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2014.

http://www.frederick-douglass-heritage.org/

The Historical Society of Talbot County. The Historical Society of Talbot County, 2002. Web. 31 Jan. 2014.

http://www.hstc.org/frederickdouglass.htm

“Tuckahoe State Park.” Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Web. 5 Feb. 2014.

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/eastern/tuckahoe.asp

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