Choptank stone joins UGRR site in Canada

Submitted to Dorchester Banner Elaine Palmer-McGill, left, traveled to Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, with Mar’Leta Jones, third from the left, to attend the Emancipation Festival on Aug. 3-5. The two women, with George Harding, second from left, and Terry Harding, seated, presented a Choptank River stone to be included in a monument marking the northernmost stop on the Underground Railroad.

Submitted to Dorchester Banner
Elaine Palmer-McGill, left, traveled to Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, with Mar’Leta Jones, third from the left, to attend the Emancipation Festival on Aug. 3-5. The two women, with George Harding, second from left, and Terry Harding, seated, presented a Choptank River stone to be included in a monument marking the northernmost stop on the Underground Railroad.

OWEN SOUND, Ontario – There’s now a little bit of Dorchester County in Canada.

A delegation traveled to the Emancipation Festival in Owen Sound, Ontario, in early August. They presented a Choptank River stone to the Sheffield Park Black History and Cultural Museum, to be part of an exhibit marking the northernmost stop on the Underground Railroad.

“The festival celebrates the descendants of slaves, many from Maryland, who escaped via the Underground Railroad and made it to Canada,” Elaine Palmer-McGill told the Banner. “Many of the slaves who left from Dorchester County settled in various parts of Canada.”

Ms. Palmer-McGill traveled with Mar’Leta Jones, and was joined at the presentation ceremony by descendents of the escaped slave Francis Molock. Among them were Canadians George Harding and Terry Harding, great-great grandsons of Mr. Molock. Ms. Jones is the great-great niece of Mr. Molock. Ms. Palmer-McGill is also a distant relative of Mr. Molock.

The group also carried with them proclamations from Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

“The significance of the stone relates to a party of five slaves,” Ms. Palmer-McGill wrote. “One of the five, Francis Molock, who was enslaved by James Alexander Waddell in Vienna, settled in Owen Sound, and has a large, extended family there and in Dorchester County.”

The other members of the party were Cyrus Mitchell, Joshua Handy, Charles Dutton and Ephraim Hodson or Hudson. Ms. Palmer-McGill said the men decided on the hazardous journey for various personal reasons. Mr. Mitchell, for instance, chose to escape because his master rented his labor to whomever paid the highest price, no matter how brutal the assignment.

The stone is more than a reminder of the slaves’ home county. It recalls the river’s direction – from Cambridge, it extends many miles almost due north. This provided a guide to help the escapees on the first stage of their long journey to Canada or other points in the North.

The Sheffield Park Black History Museum is located in Clarksburg, Ontario. The town is about 125 miles northwest of Niagara Falls, New York.

“Sheffield Museum is the telling of a community’s life, of whites and blacks co-existing from Africa to America, from slavery to freedom, from the past to the future,” museum curator and co-owner Carolynn Wilson says on the facility’s website.

The Choptank stone joins other artifacts from many sources.

“Upon visiting Sheffield Museum, community families have graciously donated items that they felt would fit right in with the early pioneer lifestyles of the area,” co-owner Sylvia Wilson wrote. “Other visitors to the site have traveled to other countries and returned with authentic mementos that they donate for display purposes. All of our displays reflect history, family, community and love.”

To learn more about the museum, visit www.sheffieldparkblackhistory.com.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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