Saturday, May 15, 2021

Sojourner Truth Driving Tour

Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist and advocate for rights for women, endured slavery in New York from 1797 to 1828 when she was emancipated based on the law gradually ending slavery in New York. She lived almost her entire life in Ulster County, NY. She was a woman of determination, who pulled herself out of enslavement several months before she would have been legally freed, by walking 11 miles away from where she was being enslaved to the home of Quakers, who were able to protect her.

It is likely Truth would have been familiar with the Persen House at 74 John Street, in the Stockade Historic
District of Kingston; the Mathewis Persen House was built in 1661 and served as doctors offices, tailors,
druggists, grocers, among others. Visitors are able to tour this historic building.

There's a four mile (plus) walking tour, called the Sojourner Truth Life Walk, which you can find here. We modeled this driving tour on that walk. To be honest, we'd spent the morning hiking, about 5 miles in all. We weren't about to do an 8-mile walk (out and back). But we could do an 8-mile driving tour. So we did. This tour takes you to public art honoring Truth as well as a few important sites in the story of her life. Ironically, the tour will take you about as long to drive as to walk (or at least, that's how long it took me, because we didn't go in the optimal order -- I've written this article and listed the stops below in what I believe are the optimal order -- AND I got out and tried to capture some decent photos for this article).

This photo of a photo shows the house and farm of Johannes Hardenbergh --
where Truth was born 
in 1797 in Rifton/Esopus. The photo appeared in
Images of America: Esopus, by Karl R. and Susan B. Wick (Arcadia, 2003)

Because she was born in 1797, two years before the Act For The Gradual Elimination of Slavery, she was to be “slave for life.” The same applied to her parents: James Baumfree, who was kidnapped from the location of modern-day Ghana and Elizabeth Baumfree, also known as Mau-Mau Bet, who was the daughter of individuals kidnapped into slavery from Guinea. (In 1817 New York state had amended the Graduate Emancipation Act to provide that persons who were enslaved before 1799 were not be be “slaves for life” but rather would become free in 1828.)

The Old Dutch Church in Kingston, NY would have been a familiar sight to Truth.

Her parents named her "Isabella Baumfree." She changed her name to Sojourner Truth after she gained her freedom. After Hardenbergh's death in 1799, his son inherited Truth, James and Betsey, along with up to 12 other enslaved individuals. When he died too, she was about nine years old and was auctioned off to John Neely, a storekeeper who lived in the area; he paid $100 for her and a herd of sheep. Her new enslaver severely beat her because of her inability to understand English -- having been raised in a Dutch Reformed household, she had only learned to speak the language of her first enslavers: Dutch.

Truth prayed for her father to come and he not only made his way to see her but also helped by arranging her sale to Martinus Schryver, a fisherman and tavern keeper, in what is now Port Ewen. Although Schryver was rude and crude -- Truth later recalled she learned to swear there -- he was decent to her. She had time to watch the white-sailed sloops on the Hudson River and roam about. 

Please keep in mind that this is a private residence.

This is the first stop on the driving tour: 1 River Road, Ulster Park, NY the tavern where Schryver had enslaved her.

The next stop is 172 Broadway, Port Ewen, NY, just a half mile down the road. When plans to improve New York Route 9W revealed Martinus Schryver's name as owner of a plot at the corner of of Salem Street and 9w (i.e., Broadway) in Port Ewen, community activists lobbied for the site to be dedicated to Truth. The bronze sculpture is by a local artist, Trina Green, depicting Truth as a young girl carrying jugs. Dedication took place in Port Ewen on September 21, 2013.

A GoogleMaps rendition of the Kingston part of the driving tour.

When Truth was 13, Schryver sold her to John Dumont, who owned a farm on the banks of the Hudson River in what is now the village of Esopus. Truth worked both on the land and in the house. She fell in love with Robert, who was beaten for visiting her, eventually married Tom and bore 3 daughters: Dinah, Elizabeth, and Sophia, and 2 sons--Peter and James, who died in infancy.

The next stop is the first of two murals, "Ain't I a Woman?" *, by mural artist Chip Thomas and collaborator Jess X Snow, located on the corner of Furnace Street and Franklin Street, Kingston, across from the Kingston Library. Featuring portraits of poets Mahogany Browne and T'ai Freedom Ford with Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I A Woman" text, this mural honors 150 years of the oral tradition of Black women advocating for their own self care and empowerment. 

The next stop is the Pine Street African Burial Ground, at 157 Pine Street, Kingston. Although a house was built on top of the site, which probably extends into the adjacent lots, the site is now protected and will serve as a memorial to those who were buried there. This would have been an important site for those enslaved in Kingston, who may have had loved ones interred there.

Truth and her husband were promised freedom on July 4, 1826, one year before all New York adult slaves would be freed, for faithful service. Dumont retracted his promise. After Truth finished the fall work and spun 100 pounds of wool, she decided to escape, even though Tom decided to stay. She took only the infant, Sophia, and a cloth with clothes and provisions, but left the 3 other children. She walked away but she did not go far. She walked from the farm in Esopus to Poppletown, to the home of Levi Rowe, a Quaker, who then sent her on to the Van Wagenens who took her in. Although not Quakers, they did not believe in enslaving other human beings. Later the same day Dumont went to Van Wagenens to claim her. Truth refused to return. The Van Wagenens paid him $20 for Isabella and $5 for Sophia and he left. At the Van Wagenens, she was not enslaved, but rather, treated as a guest.

Pictured above is the Ulster County Courthouse, at 285 Wall Street, Kingston a building Truth entered numerous times in 1827 and 1828 while fighting to recover her son, Peter. Early in 1827, he had been sold and sent to Alabama illegally. On July 4, 1827, all adult enslaved individuals in New York State were freed. Children became bonded servants for a period of years, depending upon their ages, but eventually were to be freed.


Truth was awarded custody of her son, but Peter had been beaten badly while in Alabama. The commemorative plaque notes that her victory is the first where a black woman triumphed over a white man.

The next stop is another mural at 289 Fair Street, Kingston -- and probably my favorite mural of all I've photographed while writing MidatlanticDayTrips. Pronkstilleven is simply gorgeous. Created by Gaia, this piece depicts portraits of Sojourner Truth and John Vanderlyn (an American neoclassicist painter). In case you're wondering, pronkstilleven is Dutch for "ornate still life."

The tour's last stop is at 35 Pearl Street, Kingston, the St James Methodist Church. On March 27, 1993, the fifth annual Symposium on Sojourner Truth was held at the church. This was not the same building of rough hewn timber built in the mid 1820s that she attended, but it is on the same site. She joined it late in that decade, at the time that she was legally freed from slavery and living in Kingston as a domestic servant.

Looking for more Sojourner Truth? Check out the Sojourner Truth Discovery Trail in Shaupeneak Ridge Park, an area she probably walked through on her way from the Dumont farm in Esopus to Levi Rowe's home and the lovely Sojourner Truth statue at the Highland's entrance to the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Site.

Getting there: 

Hours: Dawn through dusk

* The text of Truth's "Ain't I a Woman" speech. For the record, I believe Truth was prescient in her words, and they still hold power, almost 200 years later!

Well children … Well there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that betwixt the Negroes of the South and the women at the North all talking about rights these white men going to be in a fix pretty soon.

But what’s all this here talking about? That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helped me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place. Ain’t I a woman?

Look at me, look at my arms, I have plowed, and planted, and gathered in the barns, and no man can head me. And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much, and eat as much as a man when I could get it, and bear the lash as well. And ain’t I a woman? I have borne 13 children and seen most all sold off to slavery. And when I cried out with my mother’s grief none but Jesus heard me. And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head … What’s this they call it? What’s this they call it?

Intellect, that’s it honey. Intellect. What’s that got to do with women’s rights and Negroes’ rights? If my cup will hold but a pint, and yours will hold a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure fool?

And then that man back there in the black … That man back in the black says that women can’t have as much rights as men because Christ wasn’t a woman. Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman. Man had nothing to do with him. Now if the first woman that God ever made was strong enough to turn this world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again. And now they is asking to do it and you men better let them.

Obliged to you. Thank you for letting me speak to you this morning. Now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

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The Sojourner Truth statue at the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Site.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Maryland's Amazing Rock Maze

Get lost in Maryland's very own rock maze!

No, I'm kidding -- you can't get lost in Maryland's rock maze, but you can definitely have a lot of fun exploring all the cracks and crevices.

This short hike -- not even a mile total there and back -- is at first a lovely walk (slightly up) in an old growth forest, which means in the height of summer, there are trees, and then there are the lovely ferns, lending a prehistoric feel to the walk. We kept waiting for a raptor to emerge (thankfully neither a dinosaur nor a bear appeared).

At the end of the hike, big boulders emerge from the forest floor, stacked on top of each other and adjacent to each other like the devil's own building blocks.

Except it's peaceful and cool to walk in between the rocks and beneath the canopy of wild rhododendron, which grow through the rocks.

The trees roots -- their grip on the rocks and the earth itself -- was amazing and wonderful to contemplate.

Several other families were there at the same time as us -- we went on a Sunday morning in July. Despite 90 plus degree weather near Baltimore, it was a cool 78 and probably even cooler in the rock maze itself.

Did I mention how kid-friendly this little hike is? It's a perfect hike to introduce the little ones to nature's amazing wonders!

The kids' voices were delightful as they enjoyed climbing in between and around the rocks in the maze. Even my husband and I delighted in exploring between the crevices, sudden mysterious rooms opening up, cavelike, among the boulders.

And that's the point of this incredibly short and fun hike. We enjoyed the fun of the maze, we enjoyed being out and about in a lovely forest, and then we turned around and headed back to the vehicle.

Know before you go: There's parking for about 8 vehicles at the trail head. Although the trail itself isn't well marked, the path in the ground is well worn and impossible to miss. Swallow Falls State Park is nearby -- chances are you'll pass it on the way to the Rock Maze trailhead -- so consider doubling up on the hikes to make a full day of it. The elevation gain is minimal at 150 feet.

Getting there: 3739 Snaggy Mountain Road, Oakland, MD / Garrett State Forest

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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Following in the Footsteps of a Virginia Pioneer Woman: The Ann Bailey Trail

The hike begins and ends with an outstanding view.

With delight, we realized we were the only ones on the Ann Bailey Trail, which carries hikers 3 miles to a scenic view overlooking the Greenbrier River valley. This delightful trail in Watoga State Park almost guarantees you solitude as you follow an old roadbed across the top of Pyles Mountain and Workman Ridge to, appropriately, the Ann Bailey Lookout Tower. This is an out and back trail, so you'll hike a total of 6 miles (which we figured out only after we were a third of the way in).

There are benches and inside the tower itself, a picnic table that offers a magnificent view with your repast. I recommend bringing a light picnic to enjoy with that million dollar view! Instead, we munched on dry granola bars for a little bit of energy.

You start at the top of a mountain (you follow a road straight past the Watoga State Park headquarters, past the Bucks Run cabin group, up past the TM Cheek Memorial Overlook, to the trailhead at the top of the mountain. 

Alarmingly, from the trailhead, the trail heads down the side of the mountain, which promises a heart-pounding workout on the way back, when you're most tired, and you wonder if the last half of the hike back is going to be entirely up hill and strenuous. But although the trail heads mostly down, there are ups and downs along the way, which allow you to catch your breath. 

Even as out of shape as I am, I'd say this trail was moderate at most, and the walking was easy, without having to scamper around rocks waiting to trip you up. The roadbed is wide, and although scarred by rain and some erosion, made for easy going. Although we had our walking poles with us, we didn't really need them.

Although the payoff is a great view, not to be overlooked is the walk in the woods itself, as you follow the old road up and down the ridges. 

You'll notice a variety of deciduous trees as well as stands of magnificent mountain rhododendron, in addition to mountain laurel. It would be quite pretty to hike this in May or early June, when these native shrubs are in bloom. This would also be incredibly beautiful in the fall, with autumn leaves changing color.

We were there in mid-April, before spring had really sprung in the area. Most of the trees remained obstinately unleafed, although a few were budding, and the service berry trees were in gorgeous bloom, showing off their pretty white blooms. With leaves not yet obscuring the views, every once in a while as we walked the ridges, we could see some breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain tops.

The park's trail map promises that the trail is blazed with blue squares, but we saw nary a one. It's clear that the trail is the old road bed, and just over 1 mile in, you start seeing a few rock cairns along the side of the road, which lend reassurance you're on the correct trail. 

There are signs along the trail whenever another trail meets it, pointing out clearly the way to go and distances -- you're not going to get lost.

About halfway to the overlook on Workman Ridge, you'll encounter an old family cemetery -- the Workman Family Cemetery, which looks as it's being restored. We wondered if the mountain top meadow nearby was part of an old farm, and looked for remains of a house or cabin, but saw nothing that indicated such. 

After we returned to our cabin, we read that you can see the old Workman cabin if you turn onto Jesse's Cove Trail and go for a bit (distance isn't indicated); the Workmans were apparently one of the pioneering families in the area. (Also interesting, in our drives out and about Watoga State Park, we noticed the Workman name on several mailboxes, indicating that descendants are still in the region; we also saw numerous Pyles'.)

We enjoyed seeing the service berry blooms.

Hiking this trail made us want to know more about Ann (alternately spelled Anne) Bailey. She was born in England in 1742 but immigrated to America, possibly as an indentured servant. By all accounts, she was a colorful figure -- her life is proof that well-behaved women rarely make history. She was a scout for the Americans, a spy, and fought Native Americans during various colonial wars against the native population, and fought on the side of Americans during the American Revolutionary War. 

When her husband, Richard Trotter, a settler of the Shenandoah Valley, was killed in 1774 during the Battle of Point Pleasant in Dunmore's War, a conflict between the Virginia colony and the Shawnee and Mingo tribes, she vowed to take revenge -- she had a wicked temper which had earned her the nickname of "Mad Ann" -- and left her son with a neighbor and adopted male clothing, arming herself with both a rifle and a tomahawk. During this "revenge period," she served as a frontier scout and spy, and unfortunately killed several Native Americans. 

In 1785, she married John Bailey, and together they moved to Charleston, WV (then Virginia), where she continued her military service at Fort Lee, patrolling the frontier against Native Americans and serving as a messenger between Fort Lee and other frontier posts. When she was 49 years old, she rode her horse for 100 miles to obtain much-needed gunpowder so Fort Lee could defend itself against an pending attack of Native Americans. She returned in 3 days with the gunpowder, and the fort was saved.

There is no indication that Ann Bailey had ever stood in the location of the lookout tower named in her honor, or indeed, even ever walked the mountains we just hiked over, but we suppose it's possible. Regardless, the hike is a pleasant walk in the woods to a wonderful scenic view, and well worth the three hours of your time it'll take to complete the hike, and the rustic, two-story lookout tower pays homage to colonial times.

Getting there:

Hours: Dawn through dusk


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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Northern Carroll County Barn Quilt Driving Tour

This Sunflower quilt block is “set on point” on a small bank barn that dates to the mid 1800s.
The owner chose this pattern because volunteer sunflowers will occasionally appear on the property.

I love barns -- and if you're reading this, I bet you do too! A good barn tour will carry you through rolling farmland countryside, and this barn tour, which leads you through barns in the north part of Carroll County (about 30 minutes northeast of Frederick and about 1 hour north of Baltimore), offers beautiful old barns and some gorgeous countryside, as well as old churches and their burial grounds, and cute farm animals.

Carroll County's Barn Quilt Trail honors the county’s farming roots, as well simpler times of yesteryear with the quilt blocks that depict both classic patterns reflecting life in a rural society as well as original designs created by the farm owners.

 This tulips in a basket quilt block design were popular in quilts in the early twentieth
century and created beautiful intricate quilts that were serviceable enough to be used as bed covers.

Although the website below doesn't provide a recommended order, we've developed a suggested 45-mile route that will bring you to 11 of the barns in the southern portion of the county. If you go to all 11 barns listed below, you can plan to be out and about between 90 minutes to 2 hours (which allows time for finding a good place to pull over to photograph the barns).

In between barns, keep your eyes open -- you're likely to see many more barns or cool things to photograph along the way!

Because we were daytripping in a time of COVID-19, we carried along our own picnic, but there are restaurants in New Windsor, Taneytown, and Westminster (which the tour carries you around). Speaking of these towns -- their main streets are cute and quaint and worth a stroll to enjoy the small town charm!

Bixler Church Road, where one of the barns is located, also brings you past Jerusalem Lutheran Church, which we had fun photographing.

If you go a half mile beyond the barn on the barn quilt tour, you'll find the Methodist church for which the road is named. Multiple Bixlers rest within the church yard.

Keep in mind that most, if not all, of these barns are on working farms. Don't pull in or obstruct the drives leading to the farms. And don't trespass. All of these are visible from the road. Which leads to our next tip -- carefully consider where you pull over, as some of the roads don't have wide shoulders and inevitably, there always seems to be a vehicle right behind you when you arrive at one of the barns!

 The owner of this farm chose the Stairway to the Stars quilt block on her early 1800s bank
barn to honor the quilting legacy of her great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother.

1. 1401 New Windsor Road, New Windsor, MD (Barn #12 on the barn quilt tour.)

2. 750 Green Valley Road, New Windsor, MD (Barn #11 on the barn quilt tour.)

3. 3201 Uniontown Road, Westminster, MD (Barn #12 on the barn quilt tour.)

 The wedding ring quilt block is a classic pattern that has appeared in quilts for more
than a century. The barn was built on existing foundations by Amish craftsmen in the 1950s.

4. 2401 Old Taneytown Road, Westminster, MD (Barn #7 on the barn quilt tour.)

5. 2221 Crouse Mill Road, Taneytown, MD (Barn #9 on the barn quilt tour.)

6. 301 East Mayberry Road, Westminster, MD (Barn #8 on the barn quilt tour.)

7. 4320 Littlestown Pike, Westminster, MD (Barn #19 on the barn quilt tour.)

8. 1733 Littlestown  Pike, Westminster, MD (Barn #18 on the barn quilt tour.)

9. 3261 Bixler Church Road, Westminster, MD (Barn #20 on the barn quilt tour.)

This Dresden Plate quilt block is installed on a beautiful brick
end barn that incorporates an open brickwork pattern, built in 1843. 

10. 2351 N. Old Bachman Valley Road, Westminster, MD (Barn #34 on the barn quilt tour.)

11. 1436 Sullivan ROad, Westminster, MD (Barn #6 on the barn quilt tour.)


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This Star of Bethlehem quilt block is installed on a Pennsylvania bank barn with narrow German
siding that dates to 1863. This alpaca (or llama??) looks at two weird barn tour
photographers curiously. The barn is l
ocated on Bixler Church Road in Westminster