Emily Thomas Tubman was born March 21, 1794, in Ashland County, Virginia. When she was a child, her father became registrar of the Kentucky Land Office, and the family moved to the infant state, settling between Lexington and Paris, a popular travel route. Her father passed away when she was ten years old, and Henry Clay, a good friend of her family, agreed to become her legal guardian. Clay saw that she was well cared for and educated by private tutors, possibly in Frankfort.
Emily moved to Augusta, Georgia in 1818 to visit with cousins and live with Col. Nicholas Ware’s family for the winter. It was during that visit that she would meet her future husband, Richard Tubman. Tubman was a businessman from England. The two were wed and she made a move to Georgia. He passed away in 1836, leaving her with a vast fortune and estate. She ran her plantations with efficiency and even owned a textile mill.
Emily was faced with a decision. Would she accept Southern convention and own slaves to work on her plantations, or would grant their freedom. In 1842, she let her slaves decide. She gave them the option of staying with her or being freed to join a colony that emancipationists had created in western Africa called Liberia, of which Henry Clay was in favor. Of her 144 slaves, seventy-five chose to stay and the remainder opted for the freedom of the Liberia colony. The freed slaves set sail to Liberia from Baltimore and settled at Harper, in Maryland County, Liberia. For her efforts, a city in Liberia was named in honor of the Tubman family.
Emily Tubman was very generous with her fortune. She donated money to several Kentucky schools including Midway Orpahn School, Kentucky University (which merged with Transylvania,) and Millersburg College. She even donated $30,000 to help rebuild Frankfort Christian Church after it had been destroyed by fire. She as very influential in the Christian Church.
She passed away on June 9, 1885, in Augusta and was buried next to her husband in the Frankfort Cemetery.