Poems Shared…

Two of my poems have recently been selected for inclusion in new publications. It is an honor and a joy to share my poems with a wider audience.

The Writer’s Gravevine, Spring 2023, includes my poem, “Winter Walk: a Haibun (pgs 66-67) A haibun is a 2-part poem. The first is prose, and the second part a traditional poem echoing the first part.

Winter Walk

It’s a sunny, winter’s day in Michigan. Bundle up the babies, load them in a car; let’s head off for a walk at Kensington.  Let’s take one of the familiar trails through the oaks, elms, maples and evergreens and along the lake; it might be frozen today. The snow’s been tramped down by early risers, except for a few bunny and squirrel tracks. We’ll be the first footsteps in the glistening snow. There’s a deer, oh, and a fox in the distance. And here are our dear songbirds. The Juncos, Titmice, and Chickadees are such little beggars.  They know we’re carrying treats. Look. The Chickadees and Nuthatches are on those branches just ahead. Such squealing from you, Babies.  We know you’re delighted with the songbirds’ chirruping.  Softly now; don’t frighten the birds.  Birds and humans, we all know the routine.  First, here are your goldfish crackers, Kiddos. Oh, my; very little of the crackers are reaching those tiny mouths. You’re like the children in “Hansel & Gretel,” leaving a trail of cracker crumbs behind you. What fun! The wrens, finches, and sparrows are swooping in to glean the tidbits. Okay, time to open our little sack of sunflower seeds. I’ll put a small mound in my hand. Watch, a hand filled with fragrant seeds is irresistible to our feathered followers, I whisper.  After a moment, a tiny, warm ball of feathers lands delicately on my palm and selects a plump seed.  Then, so quickly, our little visitor flies up, onto a nearby branch. The feeling is exquisite. The warmth of that tiny creature, the softness of those gray feathers, the delicacy of those tiny toes, grasping my finger, resting on my palm – the jolly children and trusting birds, a gift that will stay with me as long as I live.

Winter Walk

Young mothers eager for an outing,

sunshine beyond the window pane,

babies bundled for a snowy day

out of doors.

The crunch of snow beneath our boots,

hunting for her young, a solitary hawk.

Women with babies on their backs

beneath blue skies.

New snow upon old trees,

Old trails to new vistas.

Welcoming songbirds

romp among the branches –

shared joy.

Glistening, black seeds

held high on steady palm.

A heartbeat in silver down

perches to feed. Silent,

we pause.

  • Janice F. Booth

The second publication, S/He Speaks: Voices of Women & Trans Folx is publishing my poem “Counterpane” is its new book, being launched June 3, 2023.


Precious quilt, lush and richly hued,

of discarded pieces; lost velvet, worn silk.

Threaded with loss and suffering,

plump with filling of her fabrication – my daughter.

Like Shahrazad, she weaves her own life’s story,

fitting and folding-in her needs.

Looking within her zōētrope –

spinning visions.

There is no yesterday, no treasured

snippets of former garb.

Only today, this vision, this fashion

fits her image now.

My daughter’s guises

stitched from threads of sweetness

and regret, hope and grief.

I fold away discarded specters of my child.

Janice F Booth

Posted in Life Lessons, Memories, Poetry, Published articles, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Tips & Tricks Revisited


by Janice F. Booth May 2023


Some years ago I wrote a column on clever, little tricks and ways we can make our work in the garden easier and thus more fun. Since that column, kind readers have shared with me additional tips. My “Tips” file is bursting, notes sliding out a plump folder. So, here I go, with tips and tricks redux.

It’s amazing how many of our kitchen products and tools can also help in the garden. For example:

Unhappy with the rabbits and deer nibbling away at your tender flowers, herbs, and veggies? Gather those plastic forks from take-out (black or clear ones will be unobtrusive) and stick them, tines up, in the ground, forming a short, prickly fence around your young plants. Your fuzzy and furry visitors will look elsewhere for their greens.

Don’t throw away those coffee grounds; sprinkle them under your plants. They help provide nutrients and discourage cats from relieving themselves beneath your zinnia and begonias. Use coffee filters in the bottom of flower pots to catch soil, roots, moisture, and nutrients and keep them in the pots.

Cayenne pepper and cinnamon are gardeners’ friends too. Sprinkle the pepper to deter pesky animals and insects. The cinnamon kills fungus that might form from over-watering.

White vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and water sprayed on salt-stained clay pots will remove the stains with a bit of scrubbing.

After boiling vegetables or eggs, save the cooled water to use on your potted plants. There are helpful nutrients in that water, and your potted plants will appreciate the boost.

Those kitchen sponges can help in the garden too. Cut pieces of sponge to fit in the bottom of flowerpots. The sponge will absorb water and release it gradually into the soil, thus helping you avoid overwatering or arid soil. (Start with a clean sponge to avoid any bacteria that might harm the plant’s roots.)

Mosquitoes too are susceptible to oil, particularly olive oil. Sprinkle olive oil over the surfaces of that fountain, birdbath, or pond. Oil will discourage mosquitoes from laying their eggs there. 



There are some clever ways to maximize other garden and household supplies, making your gardening tasks easier. Try the following:

The thought of hanging pots can cause me to bolt upright in the middle of a summer’s nap; “You haven’t watered me in 24 hours!” Oops. There’s a remedy for that. Cut up bio-degradable disposable diapers. Place a piece of diaper in the bottom of a hanging pot; sprinkle some fertilizer on the diaper, then add soil and the plant. Like the sponge, the diaper will absorb and release moisture evenly over several days, usually. The fertilizer just adds a little boost. Your hanging pots will look lush and happy, with the added bonus of not dripping down onto your patio or porch floor leaving an ugly water mark. 

Save the hair clippings when you cut your children’s hair or trim your mate’s. Sprinkle the hair around the garden. The scent will discourage all the wild critters: deer, rabbits, raccoons from hanging around. (Sadly, squirrels are not intimidated by the scent of humans.) 

And speaking of odors. Hang bars of Irish Spring soap from tree limbs or stake them to fence posts. Deer do not like the scent and will stay away—usually. 



Fleas and ticks hate the smell of cedar chips; you and your pets will love them in your flowerbeds.

Having trouble keeping track of your small garden tools? Find an interesting mailbox—perhaps something dented and rusty or maybe a shiny, red beauty. Use it as your toolbox. It can sit along the garden path or in a flower bed and look pretty, while you can avoid running around looking for that favorite trowel or your gardening gloves. 

Paint the handles of your favorite tools a bright color so you can find them when you drop them in the flowerbeds. The bright handles will help friends or neighbors remember which tools are yours.

Small clay pots can be useful as hose-guides, or to cover fragile seedlings when frosts or windstorms threaten. Put that ball of garden twine in a small pot with the free end running out the drain hole. Easy to keep the twine tidy and measure out the amount you want. 

Speaking of measuring, I’m always running around looking for my tape measure or yardstick. Gather up your long-handled garden tools. Measure off and mark with permanent ink, a foot in inches and a yard in feet. You won’t have to look far to find a reliable measuring tool. 

You may want to see the potential of your hot car in late summer, when you need to dry those lovely garden herbs. Lay out paper towels or newsprint on your car’s seats and floorboards. When you’re leaving the car alone for 5–6 hours, spread your herbs on the paper; close the doors and windows of your car, and leave. When you return the next day, the car will smell divine, and the herbs will be beautifully dried in their natural formations.

Planning a garden party but wondering where you’ll place drinks and plates? Hose off those large flowerpots and unused saucers in the potting shed. Turn them upside down; set a clean pot-saucer on top, and you have a chair side-table that will be just the right height and hold a glass of lemonade and a plate of sandwiches. 

One final tip that doesn’t really involve household material: An easy and budget-friendly way to keep your garden borders bright and beautiful, is to plant self-seeding flowers like Marigolds, Cosmos, Sweet Alyssum, Candytuft, and Larkspur. (Just writing their names brings lovely images of lush, colorful blooms along the walkways of our gardens.) Hopefully, some of these tips will make your work in the garden easier. 

Posted in Nature, Published articles | 2 Comments

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies:

Part 2: They May Be Toxic

by Janice F. Booth

Apr. 25, 2023


Last month I wrote about some of the tastier plants we can grow in our own gardens—plants offering us both beauty and benefits. This month, I want to warn you about some of the plants that may be lovely to look at, or not, but can cause you, your child, or your pet to get a tummy ache, a rash, a racing heartbeat, or worse. 

I’ll begin with a review of some of the most common poisonous plants, and some less common toxic ones. I’ll note plants that are dangerous for pets too. Then, I’ll give you a few rules-of-thumb for identifying dangerous plants. And finally, some first aid options that might help you avoid a trip to the clinic or ER.

When it comes to health and poisonous plants the best idea is to familiarize ourselves with the appearance of the most common and prolific plants that can cause pain or a rash. There are lots of sites, including Pinterest and the CDC, that have charts we can print out and thumbtack to our garden shed or backdoor as handy reminders of the most common poisonous plants. (Remember: some of us are more sensitive to toxins than the general population. If you have a sensitive tummy or delicate skin, you want to really study this list.

Common Plants Poisonous/Toxic to Humans 


Poison Ivy: clusters of three leaves, each pointed, green, and glossy with white berries in autumn. The vines can be tricky, snaking among leaves and plants and popping up “suddenly” anywhere. You might pull out a pop-up cluster, only to find the vine goes on-and-on through your flower bed and up a tree. Stay alert! Do not work to remove the leaves or vines without first protecting your hands, arms, and legs with washable coverings. (Even if you have previously touched poison ivy with no ill effects, your body loses resistance, and next time you may develop a nasty reaction.) 


Poison Oak: prevalent in wooded areas; shiny, lobed leaves—rounder than poison ivy. Three-leaf clusters cause rashes and respiratory complications. Both stems and leaves are poisonous. 


Oleander: tall, bushy, dramatic shrubs with slender leaves and blousy blossoms of tiny, clustered flowers in gorgeous pinks, rose, and white. Oleanders are evergreen. Both the stems and leaves are poisonous, even when dead and fallen among dry leaves in autumn. So, be careful when raking if you have beautiful oleanders in your flowerbeds. 


Poison Sumac: large shrubs with fuzzy green stems and leaves and bunches of green berries that just beg to be used in a pretty arrangement in your house. Don’t fall for it! The berry clusters and leaves are likely to cause a rash or worse. (Sumac with red berries are not poisonous.)


Common Plant Seeds Poisonous/Toxic 

Less dangerous seeds of some plants are still poisonous. We probably won’t pop a few unidentified seeds into our salads or our trail mix, but, just in case, here are some of our favorite garden flowers whose seeds are going to make you sick if you ingest them:

Four O’clocks: With trumpet-like red or yellow flowers. They grow to be 1–4 feet tall. 

Foxglove: Tall, elegant plants with bell-shaped flowers clustered around the top of the stalk. Every part of the foxglove is poisonous! 

Jack-In-the-Pulpit: Yes, those old-fashioned darlings with creamy pitcher-shaped flowers produce toxic seeds. 

Lily-of-the-Valley: Our fragrant, little flowers that fill in beneath the oaks and maple trees, produce small orange seeds in late summer. Leave them alone. 

Morning Glory: Another old-fashioned favorite, vining around our fences and porches, with blue and purple blooms peeking out at every turn. Those black seeds are toxic.

Sweet Peas: With the prettiest slender vines and curly-cues and those clusters of 4–5 lavender blossoms, the seeds are still going to make you ill if eaten.



Mildly Toxic Plants to Pets 

We know our furry friends often let their curiosity get them into trouble, and they rub against almost anything, eating and chewing on everything they encounter. So, beware. (Check out the American Kennel Club’s web site for helpful advice on keeping your dogs safe.)

House plants:

Aloe (ironically, what is healing to our skin makes cats and dogs ill, if ingested) • Corn plant • Dieffenbachia • Fichus • Peace Lily • Poinsettia  • Snake plant

Outdoor plants: 

Keep your dog from digging up and gnawing on your bulbs; they’ll give him/her a tummy ache! Most of the flowers we rely on to bring color to our gardens, if eaten, will make dogs and pussy cats sick! For example:

Begonia • Chrysanthemums • Daffodils • Foxglove • Geranium • Hyacinth • Iris • Lily • Lily of the Valley • Tulips

And if your dog is a chewer, ready to gnaw on any branch that he or she can reach, be aware of these toxic shrubs:

Azalea • Holly • Hydrangea • Ivy • Oleander • Peony • Rhododendron • Sago palm

Moderately Toxic Plants to Pets:

Azalea • Holly • Ivy • Norfolk pine • Rhododendron 

Extremely Toxic Plants to Pets:

Calla lily (actually, most types of lilies) • Hydrangea • Mistletoe • Oleander • Sago palm • Skunk cabbage 



To prevent the adverse effects (rash, nausea, vertigo, or more severe):

1. Familiarize yourself with the appearance of common toxic plants. 2. When working in areas of the garden that may contain toxic plants, wear clothing that covers exposed skin and is washable. 3. Wash clothing and any contaminated skin if you suspect exposure. 4. Avoid petting until you have washed the fur of any pet that may have been in contact with toxic plants. 5. Do not burn toxic plants or parts of toxic plants; the smoke will still be poisonous.

Quick first aid—if the suspected contamination is to a person whose health is already compromised, go immediately to a medical provider for care. For less vulnerable exposures:

1. Remove any contaminated clothing. 2. Wash contaminated skin, fur, clothing, and equipment with soap and water. Tecnu soap is noted for its effectiveness. For mild exposure, rubbing alcohol can be used to cleanse skin.  3. For a mild rash, cold compresses and antihistamines and/or Calamine lotion may work.

Now that we’re all eager to get out there and dig in the dirt, I hope we can avoid an unpleasant bout of nausea or itchy rash to start the gardening season.

by Janice F. Booth

Posted in Nature, Published articles | 1 Comment

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies: Dining on Your Garden’s Flowers

Mar. 08, 2023


“You are what you eat” is a familiar adage. If that viewpoint makes sense to you, why not add flowers to your diet? Flowers are serene and lovely and we all can use a bit more serenity and beauty in our lives. Let’s also consider our gardens’ beautiful blooms for their flavor and health benefits. 

There are two basic groups of edible flowers, those that are nutritious adding proteins, vitamins and/or minerals, and those recognized as herbs adding flavor and aroma. Both types of edible flowers provide specific taste enhancements and many offer potential health benefits. Since herbs are more familiar, I’ll save them for last, and begin with the nutritious flowers.

Nutritious Bloomers


Borage: also known as Starflower, has a slightly sweet flavor, a cross between honey and cucumber, if you can imagine that. Both its flowers and leaves can be eaten to treat coughing and sore throat. Borage can be used in salads, or in soup.


Chamomile: a pretty, daisy-like flower with fern-like foliage, has a mildly sweet and earthy flavor that makes a popular tea or smoothie. It can also enhance baked goods and other desserts. For centuries, chamomile has been used to treat fever and cure all sorts of conditions, including anxiety, stress, and insomnia.


Dandelions: those ubiquitous beauties get a pretty bad rap. Every part of the dandelion is edible—roots, stems, leaves, and flowers. Their flavor is honey-like, and they provide antioxidants that help protect us from heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses.


Daylilies: are hardy and prolific; you’ll have no trouble gathering unopened buds. Fry or stir-fry the buds. The result will be a sweet, crunchy fritter that provides a healthy dose of protein and vitamin C. Daylily fritters treat constipation as well as colds and swelling/edema.


Hibiscus: those colorful, blousy beauties taste sweet and slightly acidic, and can be brewed as tea, and added to salad or cocktails for beauty and taste. Hibiscus can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.


Honeysuckle: is a bit tricky. As the name suggests, the flower has a sweet taste, which makes excellent tea or lemonade. The blossoms can even be used as a sugar substitute. But a caution: Do Not Eat the berries, leaves, or stems which are toxic!


Hostas: our grow-anywhere darling of low-maintenance flower beds is more than just a pretty puff of variegated green. Their leaves and the mid-season flowers are tasty, rather sweet. In addition to being a great source of minerals, hostas’ leaves reduce inflammation and pain. Caution: While hostas leaves are good for people, they are toxic to dogs and cats, causing vomiting and diarrhea.


Marigolds: are those easy-to-grow, little fuzzy-headed blossoms. Not only do they repel mosquitoes and other insects, but they can be made into ointments for abrasions, burns, and wounds, and as extracts they help with fever and ulcers. Their scent and flavor are citrusy, and, get this, the petals can be ground and used as a substitute for saffron (which you may not keep on hand.)


Nasturtium: once known as Indian Cress, have colorful autumnal blossoms of yellow, orange, and gold. They taste peppery and spicy when garnishing a salad. Indigenous people recognized the nasturtium’s antibiotic properties as well as its ability to stave off scurvy. (Just in case you haven’t kept up with your vitamin C.)


Pansy: these tough, little cuties are more than just a pretty face. They add a minty zing to fruit salad or cocktails. You might try mixing them with a soft cheese for a delicious spread. Pansies provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.


Roses: Rose petals can add a floral flavor and fruity scent to jam, tea, soup, and even popsicles. You may find you’re a bit less stressed and even losing some of those unwanted pounds…okay, ounces perhaps. 

That list is not exhaustive, but it does cover quite a few flowering plants that are easy to grow as well as attractive in flowerbeds. But, let me offer just a few of the herbs that are attractive in the garden as well as in the soup or on the roast.

Blooming Herbs


Chicory: has a long and honorable resume as a filler with or replacement for coffee beans. During both World Wars, chicory was the only “coffee” available to folks at home, while the real stuff was kept for the soldiers and sailors. Chicory leaves can be brewed as tea, and the delicate, blue flowers are a pretty addition to salads. Medicinally, chicory can calm an upset stomach and cure constipation, among other uses.


Fennel: has a rather bulbous base with feathery greens, and every bit of the plant is edible. It tastes something like licorice. It’s an antioxidant to keep us young. Fennel seeds can be chewed to aid digestion.


Lavender: lovely in our gardens, it can be equally endearing in our kitchens. With a citrusy flavor, lavender is recognized for its capacity to ease anxiety and help with sleep or depression. Serve it as tea or add to baked goods and sorbet. Beautiful for the eye and good for the body.


Sage: is sweet and savory. Crushed it can be sprinkled on almost any dish, and it’s particularly tasty on eggs. Sage is noted to reduce blood sugar levels, sharpen memory and brain health, lower cholesterol levels, and provide antioxidants to keep us feeling younger.

Finally, I feel I must add a quick warning about eight flowers you definitely SHOULD NOT EAT; they’re toxic

• Azalea     • Daffodil     • Dogbane     • Hyacinth    • Hydrangea     • Oleander     • Wisteria

While I trust that the information in this article is accurate, if you or others for whom you might prepare food have any likelihood of an allergic reaction, do not use flowers or plants in your food preparation. It is possible that ingesting any plant or plant product could cause illness.

Posted in Nature, Published articles, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What’s Up? magazine’s article on the Underground Railroad in the February issue:

A History of Darkness & Light: Tales and Exploration of Maryland’s Underground Railroad

by Janice F. Booth

Feb. 07, 2023


“Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity.” —Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States


Changing the world for the better begins with each small act of courage. Samuel Green had that courage. He was born into slavery in 1802 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Green learned to read and write and trained as a blacksmith. In his early thirties, he bought his freedom and freedom for his wife, Kitty, from Dr. James Muse, acknowledged in Maryland as owner of human beings. Muse refused to permit Green to purchase the freedom of their two children. Both son and daughter remained enslaved, ensuring that Samuel and Kitty would continue to work for Dr. Muse’s profit. 

Samuel Green turned his grief and frustration to action. He became a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, building a congregation of blacks both free and enslaved. He and Kitty also began assisting those seeking freedom, including Harriet Tubman. Under Green’s guidance, the little clapboard church became an early station along what became known as the Underground Railroad (UGGR). Via this road to freedom, Green’s son escaped to Canada in his early twenties. In retribution, Dr. Muse sold their daughter, Susan, and her two children into the Deep South; they were never heard from again. 

Because Muse and others suspected the Green Family was involved with escaping slaves, Rev. Green was threatened and persecuted. On unsubstantiated evidence, Rev. Green was imprisoned for 10 years for having in his possession a copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was illegal for any black person, enslaved or free. But Samuel and Kitty Green’s legacy prevailed. Today, Faith Community United Methodist Church in East New Market, Maryland, continues as a viable congregation, as established by Rev. Green and is an honored site in the National Underground Railroad Network.

Samuel Green’s church is one of 90 sites recognized and honored as part of Maryland’s Underground Railroad. The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom was established in 1998, as a coalition of national, state, and local organizations working to recover, preserve, and honor the history of slavery and freedom seekers throughout the United States. 

There are more than 900 sites nationwide recognized and honored as associated with the UGRR. No other state has as many sites as Maryland. 

The Network to Freedom Underground Railroad Guide describes the courageous, secret escape network this way: 

The Underground Railroad was a system of support for freedom seekers that got its start in the 1700s, providing resources for the enslaved to reach freedom. It was a system of secrets and whispers. It was hidden spaces carved out by free and enslaved African Americans and by sympathetic whites…There were people who acted as guides (The most famous was Harriet Tubman), people who arranged for safe houses, people who hid freedom seekers on their property, and those who transported them in wagons or ships or paid for their travel…Vigilance committees in northern cities coordinated the elaborate communication and relief networks that served fleeing slaves.



Maryland was the birthplace (and/or the home) of five of the most famous figures in the Underground Railroad, helping freedom seekers or self-liberators reach states that welcomed them. →


Maryland’s population of enslaved people grew rapidly. The first 13 kidnapped and enslaved Africans grew to 25,000 blacks by 1700, and 130,000 by 1750. According to statistics from the Maryland Department of Commerce, Office of Tourism, “There were more successful self-liberators from Maryland than any other state.” In addition to the incredible courage, determination, and skill of these conductors and freedom seekers, Maryland’s terrain offered advantages to the establishment of this road to freedom. As a border state on the Mason-Dixon Line, self-liberators need not travel far to find safe havens in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. The journeys could be made along woodland trails, via creeks, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. Additionally, Maryland’s labor requirements provided opportunities for enslaved people to learn trades and to read and write. In 1860, prior to the Civil War, 49 percent of blacks in Maryland were free. Ships, wagons, and railroads traversed the state. Free men and women of color often moved independently from town to town, “hired out” by the slave owners. 


A copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, circa 1800s. When the book was published in 1852, it was illegal for any black person, enslaved or free, to possess. Courtesy Boston Public Library.

Men and women of conscience, both black and white, struggled to end slavery and lessen the suffering of the men, women, and children held in this barbarous servitude. In a small, tidy house behind a white picket fence, Quakers Hannah and Jacob Leverton sheltered escaping freedom seekers. The Levertons provided food, fresh clothing, and safe rest. One slave owner seeking the “return of his property” sued Leverton. Forced to pay a huge fine, Jacob’s health failed, and he died; his widow, Hannah, and her children maintained their home as part of the UGRR. The Leverton cottage in Preston, Maryland, is privately owned today, but is honored as one of the historic sites of the UGRR. 

Recognizing that the cruelty of slavery and the injustice suffered by so many must be acknowledged, there have been funded initiatives to preserve places where slavery has cast its dark shadow and where freedom seekers have journeyed to freedom. In 2019, September was designated as the annual International Underground Railroad Month. In Maryland, private and public agencies, and organizations, including Preservation Maryland, Maryland’s Office of Tourism Development, Maryland’s Commission of African American History and Culture, and the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom regularly provide research grants and fellowships. 

The 400 Years of African American History Commission oversees many projects. Recently, it collaborated with Adkins Arboretum in Ridgely, Maryland, to develop a program entitled “Rooted Wisdom: Nature’s Role in the Underground Railroad.” The program includes a series of five short videos, narrated by renowned author and historian, Anthony Cohen. In the videos, Cohen shows and explains the experience of being a freedom seeker traveling along the Underground Railroad. 

Another of the UGGR projects includes the designation of Annapolis as one of Maryland’s five “Sites of Memory,” a “slave port” or place of arrival for captured, kidnapped, and enslaved Africans who had survived the “Middle Passage,” that unbearably brutal sea voyage by which 12 million men, women, and children were brought to America to become human property.



Located in Preston, Maryland, the Leverton family home was a “main stopping place,” along the Underground Railroad. Quakers Jacob and Hannah Leverton aided escapees moving under cover to freedom in the North. It is a designated site of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program. Image courtesy Caroline County Office of Tourism.


 From ports like Annapolis and St. Mary’s City, Africans were sold into slavery and transported to plantations, farms, and towns throughout Maryland and beyond. One such destination was a tobacco farm in southern Maryland, the Sotterley Plantation, which is now one of the designated sites on the Underground Railroad. For 300 years, enslaved men, women, and children planted, tended, and harvested tobacco there. In the 1950s, the main house and what remained of the plantation were designated a museum, and visitors toured the home and grounds. 

In the 1960s, Agnes Cane Callum discovered that her ancestors had been enslaved on Sotterley Plantation. She brought family and friends to tour the property, and found the decaying slave quarters that still stood on the plantation. Eventually, Agnes Callum met John Briscoe, a descendent of the original family owners of Sotterley. Together, Callum and Briscoe worked together to have Sotterley plantation designated a National Historic Landmark. Since then, the slave cabin has been restored, and a registry established to collect the names of all the men and women, enslaved and free, who spent their lives working the land of Sotterley. 


was the key to the success of the Underground Railroad in the 19th century. In addition to the conductors who led individual and groups of “self-liberators” to safe havens in the north, there was also an Under-Underground Railroad composed of people, black and white, who passed information and messages between and among the enslaved people and their friends and relatives in Free states and Canada. Vigilance Committees also arose, locally organized, to support conductors and those escaping enslavement. Both the “Under-Underground” and the Vigilance Committees provided food, shelter, and even transportation as well as conveying important messages. 



Renowned historian Anthony Cohen explains the experience of being a freedom seeker traveling along the Underground Railroad in a video series produced for “Rooted Wisdom: Nature’s Role in the Underground Railroad” project. Image screenshot from “The Importance of Language in Understanding the History of the Underground Railroad.”

Deep Roots: 

It is, perhaps, the saga of the Still family that best encapsulates the struggles and triumphs transported by the Underground Railroad in Maryland and beyond. Levin and Charity Still were enslaved in adjacent plantations on the Eastern Shore. Levin purchased his freedom and moved to New Jersey. Charity’s owner would not “sell” or free her, so she attempted escape and was captured along with her two sons. Desperate, she fled again, this time leaving behind her two sons, who were also enslaved. Via the Underground Railroad she reached her husband in New Jersey, however, she was wracked with grief for her two lost sons. The Stills had 14 more children. 

Their son James Still became a successful doctor of herbal medicine and a key conductor in the Underground Railroad, where he eventually met his long-lost brother, Peter. Peter Still had been enslaved for 40 years before escaping on the UGGR and eventually reuniting with his family. Charity and Levin Still’s first son, however, died in slavery. 

To discover these harrowing stories for yourself and your family, plan your own exploration of Maryland’s historic Underground Railroad and paths to freedom. Begin your journey by learning more at the following online resources:

Explore Maryland’s Underground Railroad

Ultimate Guide to Underground Railroad Sites in Maryland

Rooted Wisdom: Nature’s Role in the Underground Railroad

by Janice F. Booth

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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