Harriet Tubman is one of the most well-known figures in the history of the Underground Railroad. After freeing herself from slavery in 1849 and resting in the safety of the Philadelphia Black community, she made 13 confirmed trips back to Maryland to help members of her family escape, bringing them back through Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York and, after 1850, to Canada. Part of her route through Delaware can be traced from the evidence contained in 19th century publications such as William Still’s Underground Rail Road (1872) and Professor Wilbur Siebert’s interview with Tubman in 1897 for his book, The Underground Railroad, From Slavery to Freedom (1898). Tubman mentioned “Sandtown” and “Will Grove” as two of the Delaware places important to her.
Strangely, Sandtown was also the home of two supposed violent kidnappers named Wicks and Dorrity who kept a store there and made it their business to entice enslaved people away in order to collect the subsequent reward. Their exploits, as noted in The Friend, A Religious and Literary Journal (September 11, 1852, quoting the Easton Gazette), may have resulted in their arrest and “retirement” early in the 11-year period of Tubman’s rescue missions.
The crossroads of Sandtown, also known as Petersburg, still exists although few vestiges of antebellum 19th century architecture are visible.