Fremont County, Iowa

Reverend John Todd
by Wanda Ewalt

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of 13 October 2008

You may know that the home of the Reverend John Todd, and the Tabor City Park, are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. What you may not know is that the citizens of mid-nineteenth-century Tabor, played an important role in our nation’s history involving the way the states came into the union. If all happenings of those times were told, we might almost say with St. John “I suppose that even the world itself cannot contain the books that should be written.”

Back in the early history of our country, when the people of a territory wanted to join the nation as a state, it was declared either free or slave by a vote of its inhabitants. The government intended for the nation to be balanced, a free state would be accepted, followed by a slave state, or vice versa.

In 1856, Kansas was embroiled in the argument. The decision that slavery might be introduced there led to conflicts between settlers from the Northern States and armed parties from the adjoining slave State of Missouri. An organized effort had been made by the antislavery societies of the North to secure Kansas by colonization with emigrants of abolition sentiments. Missouri made an equally strong effort to secure it to slavery, but by violence rather than by colonization. People who wanted Kansas to be a slave state prevented the northern abolitionists from reaching that state by the Missouri River by blocking their way. This was important because the abolitionists wanted Kansas to enter as free state.

To try and get more free-thinking settlers into Kansas, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe set out to find a practical land route and a safe place for emigrants to gather and prepare to enter Kansas. He found the perfect place in Tabor, because of its location and the 100% antislavery sentiment of the people.

Tabor’s citizens opened their homes, and when their houses overflowed with the pioneers moving south and west, they let the travelers stay in their barns and sheds. Soldiers set to escort them into Kansas camped in the city Park. John Brown and his men, along with other abolitionists, came and went. Sporadic battles continued until Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state in 1861.

Of course, all of this time the citizens of Civil Bend (Percival), Tabor, and the town of Lewis, were escorting escaped slaves in the direction of Canada and safety, an illegal and dangerous activity. Some of the Underground Railroad stories as recounted by the Rev. John Todd can be found in libraries or on the internet.

Not only is Tabor’s story a thriller on many levels, but it is a story of a people of strength, intelligence, courage, and selflessness. It is the story of how people ought to behave.

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Page updated on November 1, 2020 by Karyn Techau