My Georgia History

Emily Tubman


Emily Tubman at 16

She was born on March 21, 1794 when George Washington was our President.  Her name was Emily Harvey Thomas.  She was born in Ashland, Virginia.  Her father was Edward Pendleton Thomas,  her mother, Ann Chiles Thomas.   Edward Thomas sold land in Kentucky before it became a state in 1792.  Edward Thomas packed his family up, and moved to the new capital of Kentucky, Frankfort.  As land register, he had personally acquired more than 17,000 acres. But it ended when Edward suddenly died in 1803.  Anne Thomas was left with five children.  Emily, almost ten, was the oldest child.  Before his death, Edward Thomas had worked it out with the great American orator and statesman, Henry Clay.  If something happened to him, Henry Clay would become the legal Guardian of his children.

It was from the most picturesque section of Kentucky Emily had her first memories.  Her mother did not remarry.  Emily lived a very secure life, thanks to her father, his money and pre- planning.  She did not attend school, but must have had private tutoring.  By now you’re probably asking, what has Emily Thomas got to do with Augusta?  Well, Mr. And Mrs. Nicholas Ware, who lived in Augusta, invited a cousin of Mrs. Wares,  Emily Thomas, to visit. Emily’s mother would not allow her travel alone, so Nicholas traveled to Kentucky and brought Emily back to Augusta.   They rode horses, and the return trip took two weeks.  The Wares had invited Emily to visit them as a companion of their adopted daughter, Mary Ariuton Ware.  When Emily came   in 1818, she was 24 years old.   Mary Ware was engaged to William White Holt.  While Emily was visiting, she met and fell in love, with Richard C. Tubman. Richard Tubman was very wealthy.  He owned three plantations in the Augusta area, as well as being on the board of a bank.

Emily’s mother in Kentucky was too far away so she asked Mr. Ware if she could marry. He said yes.  So Emily Thomas, 24 of Kentucky, and Richard Tubman, 52, were married. Emily had money, and Richard Tubman had even more money. They were a very wealthy family.  That spring, Emily took her husband Richard, to meet her family. Things went well, and Richard was introduced.  During her life, every summer Emily would go to Kentucky, and every winter, she would come back to Augusta. Richard and Emily did not have  children, of their own. They lived in a beautiful home on Broad Street, where the Augusta Chronicle building stands today.

The Tubman marriage was fantastic. Richard Tubman died in the arms of his wife, in 1836. They had been married eighteen years. He was 70 years old when he died. At 44, Emily Tubman found herself a widow. Emily was a great entrepreneur.  During the next year, she tripled her net worth. Richard Tubman, had put in his will, that he wanted his slaves released. Emily talked to the state of Georgia, and they said she could not release her slaves in Georgia. So Emily contacted the Maryland Colonization Chapter. They had just started the country of Liberia,West Africa, for released slaves.  In 1844, Emily talked to her 140 slaves.  She said she would be willing to pay their fare, if they wanted to go. Half of them said yes, but the other half, said no. The half that said no, were willing to stay here inAugusta, and remain her slaves. The slaves that left took her last name in thanks for releasing them. That’s why, some, three generations later, the President of Liberia, was William S. Tubman.  He was from a family of one of Emily’s released slaves.

It is estimated that Emily gave $25,000.00 a year to charities. If you want to know what Emily Tubman did in

Emily Tubman later in life

Augusta, just look around you.

Written by Mark Woodard

Research resources:

  1. The Story of Augusta. Cashin, Edward J. Spartanburg, SC. The Reprint Company Publishing. (1996)
  2. Augusta, A Pictorial History. Callahan, Helen. Richmond County Historical Society Publisher. (1980)
  3. Confederate City, Augusta Georgia 1860-1865. Corley, Florence Fleming. (1995)
  4. Memorial History of Augusta, Georgia. Jones, Charles C. Spartanburg, SC. The Reprint Publishers. (1890)
  5. The Brightest Arm of the Savannah, the Augusta Canal. Cashin, Edward J. (2002)
  6. Articles from the Augusta Chronicle.

1 Comment

  1. i am a member of First Christian Church of Augusta, Georgia. If you have more information or pictures
    of Emily Tubman could you inform me or e-mail. Thanks

Leave a Response