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Harriet (Greene) Stewart (abt. 1790 - abt. 1880)

Harriet "Rit, Ritta" Stewart formerly Greene aka Ross
Born about in Dorchester County, Maryland, United Statesmap [uncertain]
Daughter of [father unknown] and
[sibling(s) unknown]
Wife of — married 1808 in Dorchester, Maryland, United Statesmap
Descendants descendants
Died about at about age 90 in Fleming, Cayuga, New York, United Statesmap [uncertain]
Problems/Questions Profile manager: Erin Casner private message [send private message]
Profile last modified | Created 30 Oct 2009
This page has been accessed 4,165 times.



US Black Heritage Project
Harriet (Greene) Stewart is a part of US Black heritage.

Harriet "Rit/Ritta," Green was born around 1790 in Maryland,[1] Probably in Dorchester County. Her mother, Modesty, was believed to have been born in Africa before she came to be enslaved in Dorchester County, Maryland in the United States of America. At her birth, Rit was enslaved by Atthow Pattison.[2][3] Around 1797, Atthow Pattison died and left Rittia, "a girl", to his granddaughter Mary (Pattison) Brodess. His will instructed that the enslaved females, including Rit, were to be enslaved along with their children until the age of 45.[4]

By approximately 1808, Rit was married to Benjamin "Ben" Ross and they had begun having children. Ben was enslaved by Anthony Thompson, who married Mary (Pattison) Brodess in 1803, which had brough Ben and Rit into the same household.[2][5] Ben and Rit had nine children, the first born about 1808.[6] Their daughter Harriet (born Araminta) Ross Tubman is famous for her work on the Underground Railroad to help fleeing slaves to safety. Their children were:

  1. Linah Ross Jolly, born about 1808
  2. Mariah Ritty, born about 1811
  3. Soph, born about 1813
  4. Robert Ross, born about 1816
  5. Araminta Ross, aka Harriet Tubman Davis (~1822-1913)
  6. Ben Ross, Jr, born about 1823
  7. Rachel Ross, born about 1825
  8. Henry Ross, aka William Henry Stewart (~1830-1912)
  9. Moses Ross, born 1832

Mary (Pattison Brodess) Thompson died in 1809 and her son, Edward Brodess inherited Rit and her children. Until he became an adult, around 1822, his step-father Anthony Thompson managed his estate and kept Rit and her children at his property. This meant their family was able to stay together with Rit's husband Ben. When Edward began to manage his own estate around 1822, Rit and most of her children were moved to his property several miles away. Edward eventually sold two of Rit's daughters south. At one point, he planned to sell her youngest son, Moses, but Rit was able to hide him in the woods until the slave trader, who was from Georgia, left. During this time period, Rit and her children were frequently hired out to work for other people in the area.[2][7]

Rit's husband Ben was freed from slavery around 1840, as stipulated in Anthony Thompson's will.[8] After being freed, Ben seems to have been able to pay Edward Brodess to allow Rit and some of the children to live with him.[9] In 1840, they lived in Parsons Creek in Dorchester County, Maryland[10] and by 1850, they had moved to neighboring Caroline County.[11] Ben worked as a timber estimator and foreman, and by 1855, he was able to purchase Rit. However, Ben was unable to legally free Rit because a Maryland law did not allow slaves over 45 to be freed.[2]

Rit's husband Ben was a part of the Underground Railroad in Maryland. In 1856, he helped the "Dover Eight" escape and as a result came under suspicion himself. At that point, Ben and Rit's daughter Harriet Tubman came and quickly helped them escape, eventually making their way to St. Catharine's in Ontario, Canada where they lived for several years. Several of their children and grandchildren were already living there.[2][12] By 1865, Rit, her husband, and many of their children had begun to use the surname Stewart and were living right outside of Auburn, New York in Fleming.[13][14] Rit's husband Ben died in 1871. After his death, Rit continued living with her daughter Harriet.[15]

It is not known exactly when Rit died. In 1880, she was not enumerated in the census in her daughter Harriet's household,[16] so she seems likely to have died before 1 Jun 1880, when the census was taken. Some biographical accounts say she died in Oct 1880[2] or 1881,[3] with no source given for these dates.

Research Notes

  • Birth date: Rit's census records list birthdates between 1790 and 1796. Most enslaved persons did not have a record of their birth and didn't know exactly when they were born. Since Ben and Rit began having children in 1808, it seems like a birthdate closer to 1790 would be more likely, although she could have been younger than 18 when she started having children. Many biographical accounts of Harriet Tubman and her family give 1786 or 1787 as an estimated birth date for Rit. This profile uses 1790 as an estimated birth date because it's within the range of dates on her census records and puts her at about age 18 when she began having children.
  • Photograph: There is a photograph of woman on pages for Rit (Green Ross) Stewart on FamilySearch[17] and Find A Grave[18] (and probably elsewhere). This is almost certainly not a photograph of her. It comes from a tintype in the Randolph Linsly Simpson African-American Collection, part of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection in the Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. The library does not identify the woman in the image.[19]

Slave Owners


  1. See census records.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 David Armenti, "Harriet "Rit" Ross (b. circa 1787 - d. 1880)" Biographical Series, Archives of Maryland, 2011, : accessed 16 Nov 2022.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kate Clifford Larson, Harriet Tubman Underground National Monument Historic Resource Study (National Park Service, Department of the Interior, 2019), page 13-14, : accessed 8 Nov 2022.
  4. Larson, 2019, page 100-101.
  5. Kate Clifford Larson, Bound For The Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero (New York: Random House, 2004), pages xvi-xviii & 9-10.
  6. Kate Clifford Larson, Harriet Tubman Underground National Monument Historic Resource Study (National Park Service, Department of the Interior, 2019), page 13, : accessed 8 Nov 2022.
  7. Larson, 2019, pages 127-128, 132, 143-145.
  8. Larson 2019, pages 166-169.
  9. Larson, 2019, page 172.
  10. "United States Census,1840," Parsons Creek, Dorchester, Maryland, USA; Page 92, 4th line from bottom, Benjamin Ross; Ancestry Sharing Link - Ancestry Record 8057 #2174255.
    Household includes the following persons, all "free colored persons": 1 male under 10, 2 males 10-23, 1 male 36-54, 1 female 24-35, 1 female 36-54.
  11. "United States Census, 1850," Caroline County, Maryland, USA; sheet 162b, family 1409, lines 30-34, Henrietta Ross in Benjamin Ross household;
  12. Larson, 2019, page 244.
  13. "New York State Census, 1865," Fleming, Cayuga County, New York, USA; page 5, family 37, lines 9-17, Ritta Stewart in Benjamin Stewart household;
  14. "United States Census, 1870", Fleming, Cayuga County, New York, USA; page 30, family 262, lines 3-7, Ritta Steward in Chas Davis household;
  15. "New York State Census, 1875," Fleming, Cayuga County, New York, USA; page 25, family 240, lines 14-21, Hariet Stewart in Nelson Davis household;
  16. Daughter Harriet's 1880 census record:
    "United States Census, 1880," ED 20, Fleming, Cayuga County, New York, USA; page 4, family 43, lines 31-33, Harriet Davis in Nelson Davis household;
  17. Harriet Green profile, FamilySearch, ID: 9M5Z-ZRF,
  18. Find a Grave, database and images ( accessed 16 November 2022), memorial page for Harriet “Rit” Greene Ross (1804–1880), Find A Grave: Memorial #174643509; Maintained by Correct Genealogy (contributor 49096026) Burial Details Unknown.
  19. "Bust portrait, woman with "Afro" hair dressing. Tintype, sixth plate," Yale University Library, : accessed 16 Nov 2022.

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