Freedom Seeker Stories From Tabor

Underground Railroad | FIND Iowa
Jul 25, 2024 | 2:26

Recall the document stories of how Reverend Todd and the people of Tabor helped freedom seekers.

John Todd and his neighbors took huge risks to help freedom seekers.


(A white single-story, square, wood-frame house. The house has a black door in the center with two rectangular windows, one on each side of the door. There is a ground-level porch that runs the length of the front of the house. Holding up the porch are four, evenly-spaced, white rectangular pillars.)

[Abby Brown] Tell me a story about a freedom seeker that is documented.

[Harry Wilkins, Tabor Historical Society] Todd wrote about a young woman who had escaped and showed up at his front door unexpectedly. It was broad daylight, and he needed to get her out of town as quickly as he could, like with all runaways. He came up with the idea of basically dressing her up as his wife. He put a veil over her head and gloves on her hands and put her in the family buggy. And then he drove the buggy out of town. If anybody saw them, they'd say, “Well, there goes Reverend Todd with his wife.”

[Abby] I wonder if he was terrified?

[Harry] That's a good question. Todd, we do know from his writings, was keenly aware of the risks he was taking.

[Abby] Sure. But the idea that he hid a freedom seeker in broad daylight.

All right. Tell us another story that we know for sure is documented.

[Harry] Well, in 1859, John Brown and several of his men helped a group of enslaved people find freedom in Missouri. He brought 11 of them north through Kansas and into Nebraska and brought them to Tabor. Tabor welcomed them, put these people up in their schoolhouse, fed them, gave them bedding, and Brown stayed in town with these people for several days. Now, with this group, we say that there were 11 that he had rescued. Well, it turned out that one in the group was a pregnant woman, and she gave birth on the trail up to Tabor. So when they got to town, the woman — her name was Narcissa Daniels — had a small baby. Couldn't have been more than about a week, maybe ten days old. And the baby was named by the Daniels family. It was named John Brown.

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(Text on screen - The Coons Foundation, Pella, Gilchrist Foundation)

(Text on screen - Iowa PBS Education)