Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park and Market Street Bridge

The unique partnership between Harriet Tubman and Quaker abolitionist Thomas Garrett is commemorated in this park with interpretive signage and an engaging sculpture dedicated in 2012.  The Market Street Bridge over the Christina River was frequently used by Tubman, freedom seekers, enslavers and bounty hunters to enter the city of Wilmington.

While it is unclear when Harriet Tubman and Thomas Garrett met, they were collaborating by 1854 and had developed mutual admiration and trust. Garrett was a Quaker abolitionist who became well-known as an Underground Railroad “stationmaster” for his role in raising funds, providing legal assistance, letter writing and personally aiding freedom seekers. Harriet Tubman regularly stopped at the home and business of Thomas and Rachel Garrett as she passed through Wilmington. Some of Thomas’ letters to supporters and fellow operatives give unparalleled glimpses into the mysterious personality of Harriet Tubman.

In November of 1856, Tubman returned to Maryland to attempt to bring away her sister. Unable to accomplish that, she guided a group of four who had been expecting her – Joe Bailey and brother, Bill, Peter Pennington, and Eliza Manokey. With their enslavers and bounty hunters in hot pursuit, this trip took the group two weeks, easily three times as long as it normally took Tubman.  She used all of her tactical skills, including disguises, roundabouts, hiding in potato holes, etc., to reach Wilmington without capture.  When she found that their enslavers, men named Hughlett, Wright and Henry, had arrived three days before them, she hid the men on the south side of the Market Street Bridge and sent word to Garrett for help. In Sarah Bradford’s book, “Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman” (1869:31), she described the story as Tubman told it to her:

“As soon as Thomas Garrett heard of the condition of these poor people, his plan was formed. He engaged two wagons, filled them with bricklayers, whom of course he paid well for their share in the enterprise, and sent them across the bridge. They went as if on a frolic, singing and shouting. The guards saw them pass, and of course expected them to re-cross the bridge. After nightfall (and fortunately it was a dark night) the same wagons went back, but with an addition to their party. The fugitives were on the bottom of the wagons, the bricklayers on the seats, still singing and shouting; and so they passed by the guards, who were entirely unsuspicious of the nature of the load the wagons contained, or of the amount of property thus escaping their hands. And so they made their way to New York.”

Tubman accompanied the four freedom seekers to Philadelphia, New York City, Albany, Syracuse and eventually to freedom in Ontario, Canada. 

This commemorative park is featured in the National Park Service app,  Travel with Tubman (U.S. National Park Service) itinerary, along with only 12 other sites in the nation interpreting aspects of the life of Harriet Tubman. Thirteen sites were chosen in honor of her thirteen documented missions.

The sculpture, entitled “Unwavering Courage in the Pursuit of Freedom” is a 360-degree bronze work, filled with symbolism and emotion. It is the work of a diverse committee and artist, Mario Chiodo of ChiodoArt, Napa, California.It was unveiled in October, 2012, anticipating the Centennial of Harriet Tubman’s death in 2013.


  • Kate Clifford Larson, Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero (New York: Ballantine Books, 2004), 133-137.
  • James A. McGowan,Stationmaster on the Underground Railroad, The Life and Letters of Thomas Garrett, (Moylan, PA: Whimsie Press, 1977).
  • Priscilla Thompson, “Harriet Tubman, Thomas Garrett and the Underground Railroad,” Delaware History, 22, No. 10 (1986).
  • Sarah H. Bradford, Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman. (Auburn, New York: W.J. Moses, 1869), 31.
  • William Still, The Underground Rail Road (Philadelphia: Porter and Coates,1872). Journal C, November 26, 1856 (Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania online).