Touring the Byway
7 Days / 6 Nights | Gateway City: Washington, DC
We recommend starting your journey in Washington D.C. to tour some of the most important African American locations, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the African American Civil War Museum, and the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. Spend your first evening in a restored historic hotel.
Leaving Washington, this itinerary includes the Harriet Tubman Byway in Maryland, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway in Delaware, and the now proposed Harriet Tubman Byway in Pennsylvania, which continues from the Delaware state line. Locations important to the story continue to and within Philadelphia.
On Day Two, as you drive into Maryland, your first stop will be Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center which commemorates Tubman, her legacy, and her connection to rural Maryland. The center is surrounded by the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, one of the marshes Tubman moved through by night. Continue to Cambridge, viewing exhibits at the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center, and murals painted by her relative at the Harriet Tubman Memorial Garden, before relaxing on the porch of another historic inn.
You’ll be heading north on Maryland-16 on Day Three, with stops at the Faith Community United Methodist Church, a congregation established in 1844 by a free Black woman; Linchester Mill, a hub of Underground Railroad activity, the James Webb Cabin, the 1852 log home of a free Black farmer; the Museum of Rural Life in Denton, which offers a glimpse of the agricultural economy in Maryland 200 years ago, and the Tuckahoe Neck Meeting House, one of five Quaker meeting houses in Caroline County whose members sustained a local Underground Railroad network.
As you cross the border into Delaware, take note of the small village of Sandtown, Tubman’s first stop in the state after leaving Maryland. You’ll be continuing to Camden, a city on the National Register of Historic Places, where several free Black communities found shelter and protection in the antebellum era. Visit the Camden Friends Meeting House and Star Hill African Methodist Episcopal Church and Museum, two locations that played an integral role in the Underground Railroad.
Your journey along the Delaware portion of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway continues on Day Four as you travel to Dover, the capital of Delaware and home to The Green, a public square that has been the state’s political center for centuries. Visit the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center for exhibits on Delaware history and a peek into the Delaware Public Archives. You an also tour the John Bell House, Dover’s oldest wooden building and visit the Old State House, interpreting the Samuel D. Burris Underground Railroad story of arrest, conviction, sale, and pardon, where the abolition of slavery was often debated and defeated, although Delaware did end up with a strange law that said a slave was only a slave if they could be proven to be one. Discover some of the landscapes that freedom seekers and their guides would have encountered on their journey through Delaware in the Blackbird State Forest, then visit Middletown, an Underground Railroad stronghold, and home to a vibrant downtown of 19th century historic buildings and shops. Pause at the historic markers and memorials that commemorate abolitionists and Underground Railroad Agents like John Hunn, John Alston, and Samuel D. Burris at Middletown High School, the former site of the Hunn farm.
In Odessa, explore 18th-and 19th-century domestic life, economics, and politics at the Appoquinimink Friends Meeting House, the 1769 Wilson-Warner House, 1770 Collins-Sharp House, and 1772 Corbit-Sharp House, the home of Mary and Daniel Corbit who cleverly hid freedom seeker Sam from an entire sheriff’s posse. Afterwards, enjoy an evening in a charming local bed and breakfast.
Drive deeper into the heart of Delaware on Day Five as you head first to Delaware City, the location of Fort Delaware and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, a Network to Freedom site. Tubman traveled through the remaining lock that is preserved in Battery Park when she boarded a steamer to Baltimore. From there, it’s on to New Castle and the New Castle Court House Museum, the site of several trials of Thomas Garrett and John Hunn, two prominent abolitionists and Underground Railroad stationmasters. Hunn pled guilty and was not tried, while Garrett was found guilty of violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 by a proslavery judge. Next, visit Wilmington, the largest city in Delaware. Hear the stories of freedom seekers and conductors of the Underground Railroad who risked their lives to help others to freedom at the Center for African American Heritage at the Delaware History Museum, visit the Old Town Hall where abolitionists’ and pro-slavery meetings took place, and relax in the Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, which honors Harriet Tubman and Thomas Garrett, revered as a statesman in Delaware, who ultimately helped an estimated 2,700 freedom seekers escape over four decades. At night, step back in time at the historic Hotel DuPont.
Before leaving Wilmington on Day Six, stop at the village of Centreville’s Canby Grove Park to read the story of the Cambridge 28, who were nearly captured at this spot on their way to freedom. In Chester County, Pennsylvania (where the largest concentration of Quakers in the United States lived) you’ll be traveling the Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway which showcases some of the most beautiful and historically significant sites in the mid-Atlantic, which runs over the same route as the proposed Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. Stops along this bucolic stretch of road include the Longwood Progressive Meetinghouse, formed in 1855 by progressive Quakers, including the Garretts and Coxs, advocating for abolition and women’s rights who had split off from a more conservative Quaker meeting, Hamorton Village, a collection of brick, frame, and stone residences constructed between 1780 and 1930, considered by some to be the example of freedom seeker sites in Chester County, Additional stops include the Quaker meeting houses of Old Kennett Meetinghouse, Providence Friends Meeting House, and Darby Friends Meeting House; the Upper Darby Underground Railroad Quaker Walking Tour, and Eden Memorial Cemetery, the oldest existing Black-owned cemetery in the United States.
On Day Seven, your journey ends in Philadelphia filled with more than 30 historic markers related to the Underground Railroad, abolitionists, slavery, and African Americans and five locations to visit featuring more of the story.
From there, we wish you a safe passage if you’re continuing on another Scenic Byway, or a safe and pleasant journey home.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
Tour an enclave of beautifully detailed and preserved 18th and 19th century structures including the Corbit-Sharp House, a National Park Service Network to Freedom site, built in 1774; the Wilson-Warner House dating from 1769; the Collins-Sharp House, built in 1700 and the former Odessa Bank, dating from 1853 that is now the Visitors Center of the Historic Odessa Foundation. Exhibits within the buildings feature over 4,500 decorative arts pieces from 1760-1850. Many pieces of the original family furniture on display, made by prominent Delaware 18th century cabinet makers, are complemented with paintings, prints, textiles, and silver, pewter pieces, plus maps and photographs. Exhibits include “Freedom Seekers: The Odessa Story” highlighting the role of Underground Railroad operatives here who assisted freedom seekers to escape. Sam, a fugitive slave who approached the Corbit-Sharp House for help in the mid-19th century, was hidden so cleverly by Mary Corbit that sheriff’s posse failed to discover him. At dusk, Daniel Corbit provided food and money and sent him north.
Few know that this area, once known as the “Lower Three Counties on the Delaware” was under the control of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, when Dover was established as the court town of Kent County in 1683. The city was laid out in 1717, and the Delaware State Capital moved here in 1777, to place it in a central location. The Green, Dover’s center square, was the location of rallies, troop reviews, and other patriotic events during the American Revolution, and today, is still the heart of the historic district and the location of the Delaware Supreme Court and the Kent County Courthouse.
Delaware’s most prominent abolitionists and Underground Railroad stationmasters, Thomas Garrett and John Hunn, were tried and convicted here, for aiding the successful 1845 escape of the Hawkins family from slavery in Maryland. Proslavery judge, Roger B. Taney, Chief Justice of the United States, presided over the trial and would later deliver the controversial opinion in the Dred Scott case of 1857, denying African Americans citizenship. At the close of the trial Garrett defiantly told the crowded courtroom, “if anyone knows a fugitive who wants a shelter, and a friend, send him to Thomas Garrett.”
The Wilmington campus of the Delaware Historical Society features the stories of the Underground Railroad at Old Town Hall and the Mitchell Center for African American Heritage, including “Journey to Freedom,” with two thematic sections: “Slavery in Delaware and the Struggle for Freedom,” and “Beyond Bondage—Breaking Down Barriers,” introduce key Delaware figures and experiences, from the founding of African Methodist churches to the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and beyond.
The main location of First State National Historical Park tells the unique story of the early settlement of the Delaware Valley by the Dutch, Swedes, Finns, and English.