Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad wasn't underground and it wasn't a railroad. It was a network of people who supported freedom seekers,
the routes they traveled and the places they stayed. Let's learn more about Iowa's role.

Iowa’s Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad in Iowa was a network of secret locations where freedom seekers were supported by Iowans on their journey northward.


Why was this network called the Underground Railroad if it wasn’t a railroad and it wasn’t underground?

The Todd House

Reverend John Todd and his neighbors worked to move freedom seekers through Tabor, Iowa.


Why was the location of the Todd House so valuable to freedom seekers leaving slavery in the south?

The Hitchcock House

The Hitchcock House has unique characteristics that may have helped freedom seekers.


What leads us to believe the Hitchcock House was a station on the Underground Railroad?   

The Jordan House

James Jordan was a rule maker and a rule breaker.


How and why did James Jordan break the law?

The Lewelling House

The Lewelling House is the oldest house still in existence that was considered part of the Underground Railroad in Iowa.


How did Henderson and Elizabeth Lewelling support freedom seekers?


Take a virtual look around some of the houses that were part of Iowa's Underground Railroad.

Explore the Hitchcock House Grounds

Located on a high hill and between two major trails, the Hitchcock House was an ideal location for helping freedom seekers.

What characteristics of the Hitchcock House would lead us to believe the home was part of the Underground Railroad?

Explore the Jordan House Grounds

The Jordan property included several buildings and huge trees for freedom seekers to hide and stay.

Why wouldn’t freedom seekers stay in the main Jordan House?

Explore the Lewelling House Grounds

The Lewelling House is one of several homes in the Quaker community of Salem where freedom seekers were welcome.

How did freedom seekers identify the Lewelling House as a safe place?

Explore the Todd House Grounds

The Todd House and the entire town of Tabor helped freedom seekers.

If the entire town was working together to help freedom seekers, why was it still important to keep their work secret?

Underground Railroad Field Trip Locations

We visited four of the Underground Railroad locations in Iowa that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Why do you think these four locations are in the southern half of Iowa instead of the northern half?


Listen to more stories about the underground railroad in Iowa.

Code Words

Code words and phrases were used to keep the activities of the Underground Railroad a secret.

Give examples of code words and phrases used to keep the Underground Railroad a secret.

Freedom Seeker Stories From Salem

Freedom seekers found ways to find people they could trust to help them. Some even became friends and family.

Recall the documented stories of freedom seekers that are relevant to the Lewelling House.

Freedom Seeker Stories From Tabor

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

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

The Church Community

Pastors at Black churches and white churches worked together to support freedom seekers.

Why did freedom seekers stop at white churches instead of Black churches?