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Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Research Shows County Had Some Anti-slavery Roots

The role of the LESAN family in the settling of Ringgold county is the subject of an article in the new issue of Iowa Heritage Illustrated, a journal of the State Historical Society.

In doing some background research on the RAMSEY Farm, historian Tom MORAIN of Graceland University discovered a thread of an early Ringgold county incident and became fascinated as he dug deeper.

"There were two separate facts," MORAIN relates. "I wanted to see if I could connect the dots between them."

MORAIN read that the Littleton ALLEN family moved to Iowa from North Carolina in 1853. The southern boundary of their land was the Iowa-Missouri border. They brought with them two teenaged slaves, which was illegal because Iowa law did not permit slavery. Confronted by local authorities, ALLEN sold the slaves in Missouri.

At the same time, members of a strongly anti-slavery family began moving into the eastern part of Ringgold county from Illinois.

With the help of very complete family trees that MORAIN found on the internet, he was able to establish a complex web of famly relationships among the LESAN, IMUS and TERWILLIGER families. They all settled in the same area and helped each other build homes and get started.

John LESAN had been attacked by a mob in Illinois for speaking out against slavery. Hirum (sic) IMUS whose niece had married a LESAN, was elected Ringgold county sheriff in 1855.

Were the LESANS and their in-laws the ones who had forced ALLEN to sell his slaves once he arrived in Iowa? MORAIN wondered.

The search took him deep into the details of the early settlement of the county and early history of the Lesanville neighborhood. What he found was not what he had started looking for.

The article, "A History Mystery in Ringgold County," is available in the summer 2009 issue of Iowa Heritage Illustrated, available at the Mount Ayr Public Library.

The magazine which also notes that Ringgold county was in the area slaves used in the Underground Railroad, can also be ordered from the State Historical Society.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2010


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