THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IN IOWA
Reprinted and revised from 1973-1974 edition of the Iowa Official Register
Iowa had many stations on the underground railroad, an organization of men and women, many of them Quakers, who actively assisted runaway slaves to reach Canada and freedom.
Many of these stations still stand. In bars, houses, and cellers, devoted men and women found a few hours of security and rest for the fleeing slaves. One of the best know stations is Salem's Lewelling House in Henry County. Its settlers were predominantly Quakers who at the risk of their own lives and property befriended slaves. Armed Missourians with baying bloodhounds often rode close behind escaping slaves. Irate slave owners threatened to shoot or hang those helping the slaves and/or burn their buildings.
John Brown, the noted abolitionist, had many friends on the underground railroad and was often in Iowa. After his Kansas battles, he fled to the Quakers in this state. While these men of peace did not condone Brown's shedding of blood, they agreed with his anti-slavery stand.
In Tabor, West Liberty, and Springdale, Brown was a frequent visitor. Tabor, nearest underground station to the south, was settled by Ohio abolitionists, and in the late 1850's its square was often crowded with covered wagons loaded with immigrants bound for Kansas. Many of these men and women were abolitionists, and around the campfires discussions of slavery raged far into the night.
In Tabor, John Brown drilled his followers for the fighting ahead and stored arms and ammunition. To Tabor came the sick and wounded from his Kansas battles. Brown himself sought the peace and quiet of Iowa firesides to rest and brood and talk with his friends.
The old stone Lewelling House still stands in Salem and is open to the public. In its kitchen, furnished as in Civil War days, the stone steps into the cellar which slaves followed to their hiding place may be seen.