Fremont County, Iowa

Slavery in Fremont County
by Walter Farwell
View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
March 21, 2016

In researching Black history in the Midwest a person is startled to find that Fremont county held a unique position.

Slavery existed in the southern half of Fremont County for the simple reason that we were then part of Missouri which was a slave state. The Joseph Brown survey done n 1837 ran across the middle of Fremont County, so the southern half was part of Missouri. Here is where the McKissick brothers came and settled a bit east of where Hamburg is now. “...Jacob McKissick kept a woman and several of her children as slaves on his land having brought them up from Clay County Missouri.” or you could have read “...Cpt. Whitehead brought with him as part of his household as the first slaves on soil of southwestern Iowa two in number....later when the border was disputed in 1848 he “removed to ST. Joseph Missouri where he could legally keep his slaves as chattle property.”

Research has found other examples of slavery in Fremont County. In February 1846 Thomas Farmer of McKissick’s Grove said that Frank McClannister and John Freemn were in debt to the Mobley estate for the hire of slave labor. An appraiser of the same estate delivered Lucy, a14-year-old Black girl worth $300.00, to Elizabeth Mobley, the widow. In Nov of 1846 Margaret Eberman of Austin brought a Black slave named Betsy from Nathan Meeks. Undoubtedly other stories of slaves in Fremont County remain undiscovered.

When Missoui acquired the Platte Purchase in 1837 the slave territory in the most northwestern limits in the United States.--namely the southern half of Fremont County. (Nebraska and Kansas eventually came in as free states.)

Today Fremont countians are surprised (shocked) to realize that they are living on land once slave territory. One place is near Big Springs (out by Knox) where Mr. Whitehead lived with his slaves on the bluff road that has seen so much history in this area. Perhaps they lived near McKissick’s Grove east of Hamburg with its slavery history. This was, indeed, the northernmost line of slavery in the united States.

Editor’s note:
Walter Farwell, now no longer living, was one of the historians that brought a great deal of Fremont County history into newspaper articles. Much of his work is in the research department of the Fremont County Historical and Rodeo Museum in Sidney. We hope to develop more of his work for Attics in the future..... Editor Evelyn Birkby

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Page updated on June 20, 2017 by Karyn Techau