Iowa Attractions February 28, 2018
5 Incredible Places Around Iowa That Were Once Part Of The Underground Railroad
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Iowans were thrown into the middle of the country’s greatest conflict. After all, the state was young, and had only joined the Union 15 years prior. The population of Iowa consisted of farmers from both Northern and Southern states, looking for new land to settle. The state remained a free state – making it the westernmost free state – and was an important destination for slaves moving out of Missouri. The underground railroad network in Iowa was thorough, radical, and successful in helping thousands of enslaved men, women and children find the road to freedom. Today, there are five preserved homes that remain a tribute to the history of the underground railroad in Iowa, and you can tour each of them.
1. George B. Hitchcock House, Lewis
Reverend George B. Hitchcock was an outspoken abolitionist, and he eagerly outfitted his own home to create a safe space along the Underground Railroad. The home's basement had several entrances, and a hinged cupboard separated the main room from a small, secret room. Here, fugitive slaves could hide if the home were to be raided.
George B. Hitchcock House is located at 63788 567th Ln., Lewis, IA. It’s open for tours from 1pm to 5pm, Tuesday through Sunday in May through September. Tours cost $5, and proceeds are used to keep up the museum.
2. Lewelling House, Salem
Henderson Lewelling was a Quaker from Indiana who helped establish the first Quaker community in Salem, Iowa. In 1843 members of the Salem Monthly Meeting established the Abolition Friends Monthly Meeting in an effort to oppose the institution of slavery. This home was only 25 miles from the Missouri border, making it an important destination for fugitive slaves seeking freedom.
You can find the Henderson Lewelling House and Quaker Museum at 401 South Main Street in Salem, Iowa. It is open to the public May through September on Sundays from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. You can also call the Museum at 319-258-2000 to make an appointment for a tour.
3. Franklin Pearson House, Keosauqua
The funny looking Benjamin Franklin Pearson House wasn't exactly hard to spot in Kenosauqa. It's half stone, and half brick, and a style that Pearson brought with him from his native Maryland. Regardless of the lack of subtlty, Pearson was an abolitionist who made his home a stop on the Underground Railroad. He even built a secret level that was accessible through a trap door.
The Pearson House is located at 718 Dodge St.
Keosauqua, IA 52565, and is open on Sundays 1-4 p.m. Call 319-293-3311 to make an appointment for a different day or time.
4. Jordan House, West Des Moines
The Jordan House is the oldest building in West Des Moines, and it is loaded with local history. James C. Jordan was an outspoken abolitionist who eagerly allowed his home to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. In fact, the radical abolitionist John Brown stayed at the Jordan House at least twice with slaves he was bringing to freedom.
Tour the Jordan house on Friday and Sunday, from 11 am - Noon, or 1 pm - 2 pm.
5. John Todd House, Tabor
Reverend John Todd's house in the community of Tabor was another spot where John Brown himself escaped, bringing slaves on their way to freedom after his famous "invasion of Missouri. The town of Tabor itself was perhaps the most important town along the Underground Railroad in Western Iowa, and to this day, they are proud of their abolitionist history.
The Todd House is open for tours by appointment. Call 712.629.3164 to schedule.
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