Rachel Kellum remembers the Daggs Fugitive Slaves


Notes from "Western Work"

Taken from a transcribed hand copy by Lewis D. Savage from the original Western Work:

Vol.12 1-1908

"A brief account of Iowa Friends"  -Rachel Kellum

(In this issue we begin a series of articles by Rachel Kellum of Salem, Iowa who although past 80 years old recalls the beginnings of the Friend Church in Iowa with remarkable accuracy.  If health & strength permits she will prepare other articles.  The account of the part some Iowa Friends had in connection with slavery and war times will be read with special interest.) G.


"Reminiscences" by Rachel Kellum   WW-3-1908

"Samuel Kellum and family came to Salem in the spring of 1839 from near New Port Indiana, now Fountain City.  His wife was a sister of Levi Coffin and was in sympathy with his anti-slavery work.

The work of assisting fleeing slaves began here as soon as any called for it.  Remaining near Salem the fist summer, they permanently located the following year, twelve miles southeast, near the Lone Tree, one of the marks that travelers were told to look for on the road from Ft. Madison to Salem.  The tree was a very large cottonwood and while it served as guide for so many people, few if any, left the road to go nearer, as a thicket of thorn bushes would prevent their seeking its shade, and the spring of cool water was a quarter of a mile distant on the other side of the road.  During all the years of the anti-slavery work the Lone Tree, with the thorn thicket at its base and prarie grass on the outside of that, made a hiding place for the fugitive slave that was never penetrated by his pursuer.  Next in importance was the task of getting him there without arousing the suspicion of neighbors, as well as the stranger that came in pursuit, and offered money to any that would betray their slaves."

"Reminiscences", WW 4-1908  by Rachel Kellum:

"Fugitive Slaves   By this time Daggs slaves had made their escape, and several families that believed in "free soil" had been added to the band already here, and the slaves were coming in larger number. Seventeen [9] in this company successfully crossed the Des Moines river and got within a mile of Salem before they became aware that they were followed. They scattered so quickly that none of them were taken just at the time, and one old man full of faith in God and the Quakers ran into town asking for help about the middle of the afternoon. He was gotten out of sight for a few minutes until men could think. Paul Way solved the problem by coming to the door and calling out, if any body wanted to follow him they would have to be in a hurry as he was going. He went to the hitch rack, untied his horse, sprang into the saddle and started home at full speed. Two men who understood his action got the negro out and onto another horse, gave him the little grand son he was carrying and away he went fast enough to keep in sight. The Missourians came in time to see him leave and started in pursuit, but Paul Way made too many turns and they lost them and returned to watch for others. This one was taken in an old lime kiln about three miles north east of town and hidden. He was fed and kept that night and another day. Two of my sisters and myself sat up until near morning making clothes for the child. On the second night the old man and child were taken to the Kellum home, but so near morning that they could not safely take them to the "lone tree," so the conductor went to the nearest neighbor, Francis Shelldan's and they made a rail pen just high enough so that the man could hold his head up straight when sitting on the ground. Straw was hastily thrown over it and the man and child out in. In a very short time one of the Missourians was along the road inquiring of they had seen any colored people pass that road. All day the man and his wife cleaned wheat with a fanning mill set so the chaff fell in the pen, and that night men from Denmark came for him.

Just before dark one evening a young man lightly tapped on door of the Joel Garretson home four miles east of Salem. The wife cautiously opened it, and by waving her hand showed him the way to the orchard, where he went and found a hiding place underneath a bushy peach tree that had tall grass meeting the limbs. In a little while the men were there hunting him, and as they thought went all over that orchard. When they were tired and left Joel Garretson took him to where Joseph D. Hoag would expect to find any one that needed help. (Which was a certain thicket) and took him food and returned to the hose to see what would come next. They did not have to wait long until some one came with the wife and babe of the young man, and they were taken ti him in the thicket during the night. J. D. Hoag conveyed them to a hiding place near his home where they remained during the day. At night the conductor on the underground railroad came, riding as though going to a wolf chase, but the returns had to be different. With the woman for the horse and the two men walking they proceeded. The moon was shining and enough of the slave holders and their men were there so that their patrols passed over the road every thirty minutes. Under these conditions the trip was made by keeping sufficient distance from the road, only when it must be crossed, and then wait for a cloud in the clear sky to cover the moon, but it came and while not large was thick enough to make a deep shadow in which they crossed the road and thanked God for it and took courage. When they met the man from Denmark, it was so late at night they had to secrete the slaves in a ravine, three miles this side of Denmark. Then the race for safety and perhaps life began. The distance of seven miles home was covered at a speed that no one timed. The father who was up watching, took Nathan Kellum's horse to the back stall, hid the saddle and bridle, gave the horse a few rubs to even up the hair, and fed all the horses in the stable, when approaching footsteps warned him, and he concealed himself while the salve holders examined the horses. They said none of them had been run or they had not been sweating, and were breathing evenly, so they left, not wanting to waste their time.

Cannon Brought From

Returning to Salem, they or their men watched the town for three days, searching houses without any warrant of law whatever. They found the cannon had arrived which they had sent to Missouri for and also reinforcements of men. In all they number about seventy.

The citizens thought they had endured enough from them and started a messenger to Mt. Pleasant, ten miles to notify the sheriff and ask his assistance. During the forenoon the men from Missouri, placed their cannon in front of a two-story stone house, built by one Henderson Lewelling, a nursery man. This house had dark rooms in the cellar, also a pit for storing grafts, but as he was a staunch abolitionist, slaves might have been hid there. While the Missourians went all over houses and turned everything upside down, they were afraid to enter a cellar, for they were too cowardly, and would not go unless they could make the owner go first, and this man would not go. They gave out the word that if their slaves were not brought out during the afternoon, they would raze the home to the ground, and all the rest of Salem as well. But the old stone house still stands.
The writer had a married sister living in
Salem at the time and her house was searched in common with the rest. We were watching it with an ocean pilot's glass from an upper window in the Maxwell home five miles north east of Salem and could see distinctly.

Sheriff Arrives With Armed Men

When the sheriff arrived the Missourians had their dinners cooked and on the table at the hotel. The dinner was paid for before it was cooked. The sheriff gave them just fifteen minutes to leave town. They swore that would have their dinners. He said that one blast of his bugle would bring on the company of well armed men, and if they came at his command, they would come to shoot, and shoot to kill. "Now, gentlemen, you have your choice to clear the town in fifteen minutes, or take the consequences." They went. They did not stand on the order of going, but went, took their cannon and ll their belongings, and went, grabbing what dinner they could carry.
After that a long law suit ensued. It was not taken out of court until after the war closed, and then was compromised."

WW 5-1908 "Reminiscences" -Rachel Kellum 

"Nine of out seventeen of Dagg's slaves got to Canada. The rest were returned to slavery.
From this time on the slaveholders adopted the plan of guarding the river to prevent the slaves getting across, so that from 1848 the number that came were less, but as the laws became more pro-slavery the danger to be met was greater. This work proved a very severe test to the pioneer church. Composed of members from different states and educated differently, there were three opinions to be harmonized"
1. Let them alone in slavery: that they were better off there than in
2. Render them all the assistance possible when they came to us, and advocate emancipation.
3. We ought to go to them and show them the way to freedom.

The following extract is found in page 13 of First Book of Record of Salem Monthly Meeting held 8th month 28, 1841. The representatives report they all attended the Quarterly Meeting (Western Quarterly Meeting now Bloomingdale, held at Bloomingdale, Indiana) and had given them in charge fifty-four extracts of our last Yearly Meeting's minutes, with an epistle on Slavery attached to each extract, and fifty-five of said epistles separate from said extracts, and seventy-six copies of an address on Civil Government, which they produced to this Meeting. The epistle and address were read to edification and after a time of deliberation the Meeting united in appointing Thomas Frazier and Jacob Maxwell to wait on our governor with said epistle and address on behalf of this Meeting and report when complied with. 9th month 25th 1841, Those appointed to wait on the governor, report they have attended. He received them with much kindness and expressed his gratification at the reception of the documents.

The advice from the Quarterly Meeting clearly pointed out there should be something done, the Meeting took the middle ground, but an Indiana Yearly Meeting separated in 1842 on the question, so in 1842 Salem Monthly Meeting separated. Those going out calling themselves Abolition Friends, built a meeting house, brought land for burying ground, etc. Thos. Frazler and Elwood Osbun being of those that separated. In a short time, the fact that one person could not know all that another was doing, caused some to realize that the difference was only in how the work should be done, and that a great amount of the assistance that was being rendered to the slaves could not wisely be reported in the meetings for business. Before the close of 1843 Elwood Orsbun had returned and Joseph D. Hoag was added to the church by certificate from Middleton Monthly Meeting, Ohio. Joseph Hoag, father of Joseph D. Hoag, spent the winter of 1843 and '44 as a visiting minister to the edification of the church. One of the sources of strength and encouragement to the church during the forties was the company and labors of visiting ministers, the first being Isom Puckett, uncle of our Isom P. Wooten. Then came Jno. D. Long and Sam'l Taylor, not a minister. Under appointment of New England yearly Meeting, the two attended the treaty with the Indians for their lands, held at Agency City, Iowa territory, going to Washington, D. C., for legal permission to attend the treaty. They were also chosen and commissioned to represent the United States government, which they did. They stopped at Salem, going and and returning from Agency City, and we young people felt it a great privilege to have them in our home. They told us of life in the east as well as their experiences in the west, and it meant more than it would in these days of daily newspapers."

"Western Work"  was a regional publication
of the Society of Friends
published in Oskaloosa, IA, from 1894 - 1912
The first editor was Absalom Rosenberger,
David M. Edwards the editor for the last three years.

Magazines of the late 19th and early 20th century

frequently published reminiscence of the pioneer

generation,  knowing that an era was closing and the

eye-witnesses were leaving then too.