Coming of Age and Marriage

Tubman was weak and frail in her early childhood however she became a strong woman, at five foot tall, she was even stronger than some men. Hard labor at a young age made her mind resilient and her body strong.

She was hired by a man named John Steward. His father and some of her siblings were also hired by him to chop timber and ship it to Baltimore for the shipbuilding industry, one the major industries in the state of Maryland. Minty worked hard and longer than required earning more money than she had to give back to Brodess. She was able to save enough to by a span of oxen and hired her labor ploughing the fields. The money she saved would be put to use when she was ready to escape.

Shipbuilding industry in Baltimore

 Harriet Tubman and his family worked chopping wood for the shipbuilding industry in Baltimore.


Freedom to Harriet’s father

In 1840 her father, Ben Ross, was manumitted but he continued to work for Thompson though he complemented his income by hiring out his work during his days off. At this time Minty paid a lawyer $5 to find out her mother’s status. A provision in Atthow Pattison’s will stated that her mother, Rit, be manumitted when she turned 45years of age. The same clause applied to any of her children. Any children born after the age of 45 were free born. Rit and her children were passed on from Atthow to Mary and from Mary to Edward. Edward, son of Mary Pattison Brodess, had no intention to honor his grandfather’s will. Slaves were his most valuable asset.

Example of manumission certificate

This is an example of a manumission certificate from the State of Maryland. From the digital collection of the New York Public Library.


Marriage to John Tubman

In 1844 Minty married John Tubman, a free African American. He was born in Dorchester County. It is no known if he was born free or in slavery. Little is known of how they met and of their relationship.

Marriage between a slave and a free man was not uncommon in this part of the country. Over half the African American population was free. However their marriage was not a legally bound union but an informal arrangement. These unions were unstable as there was always the risk of the slave being sold. Any children from the union would follow the mother’s status. If the mother was free, the child would be free. If Minty and John would have had children, they would have been born slaves.

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Category: Biography