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Underground Railroad through Dallas County, Iowa

The Underground Railroad was a system of stopping points and safe houses for runaway slaves coming from the Southern Slave States to the Northern States and into Canada. Here, they would be free people. This system ran through most of southern Iowa ranging from Fremont County all the way to Clinton County with some northern counties being involved as well. One of the many counties that were involved in the Underground Railroad was Dallas County. Dallas County was where many fugitive slaves had passed while escaping to freedom. Just because the fugitive slaves made it to Iowa didn't mean they were completely safe. Fugitive slaves had to be just as careful hiding in Iowa as they did in the Southern States of America due to slave hunters. There are some stories where masters came to Iowa in search of runaway slaves. If someone is caught harboring slaves, they could be fined up to one thousand dollars and sentenced to six months in jail (iptv.org). Many Iowans still took this risk and housed, protected, and transported fugitive slaves. The Cook family was one of them. Many families took part in the Underground Railroad, but the Cook family was the most famous in Dallas County. They were Quakers and abolitionists. They made it their mission to house, protect, and transport fugitive slaves to their next stop on the trail. The Cook family transported many slaves from the Quaker Divide near Redfield to their next stop, usually the Des Moines area. (iowaculture.gov) The Cook family tried as hard as they could to protect and transport these fugitive slaves. They had a few occasions where they almost got caught, but managed to escape without any fugitive slaves being returned down to the Southern States of America. One near-capture story comes from Darius B. Cook’s book on the History of the Quaker Divide. One day, Mr. Cook’s grandfather was harboring fugitive slaves in his house. The fugitive slaves’ master got a tip claiming the runaway slaves were at Darius’ grandfather’s house. The slave master came up to the house and was greeted by Darius’ grandfather. The slave master demanded that he be allowed to search the house for his slaves. Darius’ grandfather refused, until Darius’ grandmother came to the door and agreed to let the men search the house. The grandfather finally allowed the slave master to search the house. While the slave master and Darius’ grandfather were arguing, the grandmother had warned the two fugitive slaves that their master was here. She then hid them underneath a bed mattress. The grandmother then made the bed so it looked like nobody had been there. The slave master searched the house, but didn't find his slaves. The Cooks and two fugitive slaves survived being caught. (darcymaulsby.com) John Brown came to Iowa while he was recruiting men throughout the U.S. to take part in his raid on Harpers Ferry. While in Iowa, he helped with the Underground Railroad as much as he could. He had a meeting with one of the Cooks, Darius B. Cook, on Murray’s Farm in Redfield. Cook had recently almost got captured by slave hunters, but managed to escape. John Brown was angry at Mr. Cook, and told him to be more quiet or else people could get hurt if they were caught (Cook, 1914). The Underground Railroad operations continued until the end of the US Civil War which brought the final end of the “peculiar institution” in the U.S. For any use other than instructional resources, please check with the organization that owns this item regarding copyright restrictions.
Iowa History Eras
Early & Late Date
1820 to 1860
Resources & Additional Info
For additional information, use the resources below: Iptv Resource and Additional Information: Click Here Iowa Culture Resource and Additional Information: Click Here Iowa Culture 2nd Resource and Additional Information: Click Here Darcy Maulsby Resource and Additional Information: Click Here History of the Quaker Divide by Darius B. Cook This story can be like with the following standards to create a lesson: Standard SS-Gov.9-12.27 Unique Iowa Systems: A lesson about the Underground Railroad and its significance in Iowa and the U.S. could be created. Standard SS-Gov.9-12.28 Iowa Issues and Policy: A lesson about how the Underground Railroad was an issue to Iowa's Government can be created. Standard SS-US.9-12.2 Iowans influence US History: A lesson could be created about Iowa's involvement in the Underground Railroad, specifically the Cook family. The lesson could discuss how they impacted the Underground Railroad throughout America.