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Stitching Stories of Freedom

A Byway Quilt Trail Honoring the Underground Railroad

The Byway Quilt Trail, a public art project, includes 16 quilt block replicas, on (or near) historic structures along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway in Caroline County through, in honor of the centennial celebration of Harriet Tubman.

The Byway Quilt Trail is a collaborative public art project supported by the Caroline County Council of Arts, the Caroline County Office of Tourism, and the Maryland State Arts Council.


Download the Stitching Stories of Freedom Brochure and Driving Guide



Explore each block on the Byway Quilt Trail.

Click on the arrows to scroll through the images below, then click on the image to find out more about a specific block.

  • chips-and-whetstones
    Chips and Whetstones
    Named for the sharpening stone used on knives, sickles, and other sharp farm implements. Some slaves were selected to learn traditional skilled arts and were often apprenticed to neighboring farms to learn their craft. During their time away, slaves were able to connect with people who could help them to escape.
  • hole-in-the-barn-door
    Hole in the Barn Door
    Occasionally runaways were able to find lodging during the day on farms with sympathetic owners who allowed them to sleep in barns and hidden rooms. These were often the famous stations of the Underground Railroad.
  • tobacco-leaf
    Tobacco Leaf
    The first African American slaves were brought to colonial America to work on the tobacco farms of the Mid-Atlantic region. Strong labor was needed to grow and process tobacco leaves that were a major export for the colonies.
  • log-cabin
    Log Cabin
    A hand-hewn, one-room log home made from materials found at hand or nearby represents the kind of housing that sheltered many African-American and poor white families during the early and mid-19th century. The Webb Cabin which sits on a one-acre plot of land in Caroline County, is one of the oldest surviving structures of this type.
  • north-star
    The North Star
    “The North Star” newspaper was edited by Fredrick Douglas and represented the abolitionist movement that became a guiding light for others to follow. Former slaves and freemen worked together to help free their fellow man.
  • whigs defeat
    Whigs Defeat
    Politicians also played an important role on the road to freedom. Whig party senator Henry Clay introduced the Compromise of 1850, which established the creation of both free and slave states in the growing western expansion of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln was originally a member of the Whig party before it was disbanded in 1856.
  • underground-railroad
    Underground Railroad
    In the post war civil war period discussion of the Underground Railroad became common knowledge with the publication of materials such as the diary of William Still. This block became a popular symbol for quilters to show the fight against slavery.
  • children of israel
    Children of Israel
    Religion also played an important role in the Underground Railroad. The Quakers were among the first to establish systems of moving people to “free” states. Exodus 3:10 from the Bible says “…  bring forth the people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” which refers to the people in bondage as “children”.
  • sailboat
    Sail Boat
    Operators of the Underground Railroad were often cultivating relationships with ship captains to help guide their passengers to “free” states and Canada. Others became stowaways on ships in desperate hope to gain their freedom.
  • lincolns-platform
    Lincolns Platform
    In 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Abraham Lincoln. As union troops moved south they brought the news of freedom to the slaves they encountered. The Proclamation turned foreign popular opinion in favor of the Union by gaining the support of anti-slavery countries.
  • cotton-boll
    Cotton Boll
    Cotton was the major crop of the southern states. Often slaves were threatened with being sold south to work on these types of plantations. Many slaves jumped the Underground Railroad to escape this fate.
  • garden maze
    Garden Maze
    The journey along the Underground Railroad was long and hard. Freedom seekers would sometimes lose their way, both physically and spiritually. They often travelled by night and, when it was cloudy, they could not see the stars, and would get way off track.  It was frightening times.
  • wagon-wheel
    Wagon Wheels Carry Me Home
    Operators of the Underground Railroad used the wagon as a common way to move people; by hiding them in the back or under cover of darkness. They would also purchase tickets on trains to move fugitives to the next stop on the journey.
  • maple-leaf
    Maple Leaf
    The final destination for many runaways, Canada represented the land of freedom and equality. The Canadian government welcomed runaways, and several communities of former slaves were established along the border. During the civil war many of these men would return to join the union army.
  • pine-tree
    Pine Tree
    In the ninetieth century the timbering industry dominated the economic wealth of the Eastern Shore. Slaves like Harriet Tubman and her family worked in the various aspects of the trade. Mills in the area became a source of employment for both slave and freemen of color. The timber was then transported around the area to support the shipbuilding industry.
  • wildgoosechase
    Wild Goose Chase
    Nature played a significant role in the Underground Railroad. The terrain of the Eastern Shore provided both natural guides for slaves and also presented obstacles for escaping. Slaves hid in the woods during the day and escaped at night as they migrated north.
  • quilt block hop
    Harriet Tubman Center Medallion
    The center medallion of Harriet Tubman was sketched by a local artist, based on an original photograph of the famous freedom seeker. Find the pattern, as well as the commemorative label, for sale at FACES in Denton, MD, for $18.

Make your own Byway Quilt 

Create a commemorative quilt based on the Byway Quilt Trail!
Kits based on the 16 blocks are available for purchase. they include patterns for the sixteen blocks, the center medallion of Harriet Tubman, and a the commemorative quilt label, will be available for sale at the Fiber Arts Center of the Eastern Shore.

Buy a Set of the Patterns and Center Medallion

Download Stitching Stories of Freedom Quilt Block Stories

Special thanks to our Byway Quilt Trail committee:
Marina Dowdall, Kathy Mackel, Danielle Darling, Christina Lippincott, Amy Jacocks, Donna Hayes and Mick McCrea

This project has been funded, in part, by the Caroline County Council of Arts, the Caroline Office of Tourism, and the Maryland States Arts Council, agencies dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. Funding for the Maryland State Arts Council is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.