The conclusion, from conducting the railroad in our own experience: that the fugitives of the slave era could not have done this without the concerted help of many people along the way who came forward out of principle. This was true in our own experience now and it was evidently true then.

By example, there must have been a lot of people who helped fugitives in the fugitive slave era as there were people helping our fugitives today. It stands as a statement of character then and it did now, as we saw it in our experience.



The Scattergood School Fugitive Slave Runaway from Missouri to Salem, 2002:

Spring rains, high water and mud roads. It was of a 19th century experience. Our own experience with the runaway slaves was more real than we expected.


There were moments of our fugitive weekend which were vivid in mind with insight. The 2am rain. It poured. The rain and lightening again at dawn. The rising river. Conducting our travelers across the river in a break for the other side. Seeing the fugitives assemble in silhouette on the river bank of the other side, and then watching them from Missouri as they melted into the woods bound for Croton and then Salem to freedom.


In vivid reflection, we watched this repeat again in later morning as our fugitives filed out of Croton and walked up into the woods disappearing on to forest trails bound for Salem.


Then came rains again and more storm. Mud trails to traverse and more high water crossings. Hail. It was a vivid 19th century mirage, these 'sufferings of exposure', as it was called in the era.


The help we received was determined.


"We will do what we need to do to make it happen." "Call me and we will be there when you are ready…"


In making this happen for these fugitives, several people were instrumental in conducting the escape. I am sure that a similar energy to theirs was also there in the fugitive slave era. Our boatman who was there in the rain and storm and high water of the early morning. Our horsemen who were there to relay our exposed fugitives beyond the reach of the river and forests up to Salem. This help being there, regardless, is part of what made this happen.


The conclusion in our own experience: the fugitives could not have done this without the help of many people along the way who came forward out of principle. That was true now and it tells us that it was evidently true then.

There must have been a lot of people who helped fugitives in that era as there were today. It stands as a statement of character then and now. It is high in my appreciation and regard that these people worked with us to make this happen in our own time, and of course before.


Conductor on the Railroad, Doug Hamilton






In parallel:


There are many parallels to the original era in our present-day attempt to walk the path of the underground rail road to freedom. Many people had to have helped on the underground then as did many people in our Salem runaway today. Secure protective shelter, rest, hydration, food, clothing and travel.


In Reflection:


In reflection, it is with much gratitude that we recognize the generous nature of so many people along the way who helped with our present day runaway of fugitives along the underground rail road of old. Historians, conductors, property owners, the Athens State Historical Site, The Shimek State Forest, the Primrose Saddle Club, the Salem Lewelling House, our river boatman Mike Saltzgaver, our teamsters, the Steve Prickett family from Salem, Heather Godley who at Scattergood Friends School doggedly taught her history classes towards this runaway, the students, staff and the administration of Scattergood Friends School


With Kind Regards to Thee, -Doug Hamilton, Conductor






By way of record, let me share this with you:


Iowa Journal of History and Politics, v24-1924

Owen Garretson, remembering:


"… the spirit of liberty is implanted in every human soul and can not be eradicated. Ruel Daggs finally realized the difficulty of holding slaves so near the free State of Iowa and contemplated selling his slaves south so that he would be free from the necessity of keeping a constant guard on valuable property. Nothing was more repugnant to the Negroes of the border States than the thought of being "sold South" and as soon as the slaves of Mr. Daggs learned that their master was planning to dispose of them in this manner, nine of them- three men, four women, and two children- determined to make an attempt to escape from Iowa before it was too late."…


"To this lonely dwelling (near Athens, Mo.) on Thursday night or Friday morning early in June 1848, came the nine Negroes from the plantation of Ruel Daggs. Without doubt they had been informed that if they could reach Salem, twenty five miles north of the Missouri border, they would receive assistance."


"No sooner had they arrived at this home, than a terrific rain set in and they were compelled to stay all the next day and part of the following night."


"Sometime Friday night, the rains having ceased, the Negroes started for the north accompanied by their host. On reaching the Des Moines River, however, the stream was found to be so swollen that its passage was difficult and a long delay ensued." "by assistance of Mr. Leggens, they procured or constructed a raft and successfully passed to the northern shore," How the fugitives reached Salem is not known, "but in all probability they were in touch with sympathizing friends who aided in their transportation."


"On Monday, following the escape of the Negroes, two men,…who were searching for the Negroes and heading their course toward Salem, saw a covered wagon being driven rapidly several miles ahead of them. They increased their speed and on arriving at the woods, about a mile south of Salem, they found the wagon in the bushes near the roadside, while scattered through the near-by woods were the supposed slaves of Ruel Daggs. The horses hitched to this wagon were the property of John Pickering, an active worker in the anti slavery cause, and the team was driven by Jonathan Frazier, a son of Thomas Frazier, the son of a noted pioneer preacher and leader of the anti-slavery Friends of Iowa…"


(This material quoted here from the research notes of Lewis D. Savage of Salem, Iowa who in the later 20th Century was so instrumental in helping re-tell the stories of the fugitive slave era and the Underground Railroad running through Iowa.)




Itinerary for the Scattergood School Runaway Slave Escape to Salem



Friday, May 10, 2002


Students drive to the area. The very Northeast corner of Missouri. About two hours from Scattergood Friends School in West Branch, Ia.


Drive to Memphis, Mo. 1) look at a plantation house that was built by slaves. Go to the neighborhood of the Daggs slave farms. Church with a grave for a woman who was a slave, in the neighborhood of the Daggs farms. These are just short looks to establish where the slaves are running from.


2) Drive a few short miles over to Athens, Missouri State Historical site. A known transit point for runaway slaves to Iowa. Runaways walk into the village. Tour the park. Receive a presentation from the site historians about the slave era there at the park site. Also the history of the civil war battle fought there.


3) Camp and sleep in the park, on the ground there at Athens looking across Des Moines River at Croton to freedom preparing for the runaway…



Saturday, May 11th


Pre-dawn, cross the Des Moines river before sunrise to Croton. Either wade the low river or boat across it. Some runaways pushing a boat for those who do not want to wade the river. Or local fisherman helping.


Breakfast in Croton at a small park on the Iowa side of the river. Dry clothes for those who need them.


The runaway starts in Iowa. Hike through Shimek State Forest on woodland trails. Two choices of route for two groups. 1) for Missouri slaves, and 2) Southern plantation slaves.


Miles later, meet on the north side of the Shimek State Forest, camp on the ground. Runaways fed by conductors on the railroad. Wooded secluded campsite in the forest. Or sleep in the Primrose community hall.



May 12th, Sunday morning early, runaway north to Salem. This will take much of the day. Sunday afternoon, arrive in Salem. Walking the whole way or met by horses and wagons. Sunday evening, Hosting at the underground station in Salem by local Quaker conductors.

Sunday night sleep in the underground railroad station or with local Quakers in homes used to hide slaves historically? Runaways fed dinner & hosted in Salem.


Monday morning, slaves return either to Missouri as slaves or as students to Scattergood Friends School for morning gathering. Or alternatively, on late Sunday, students return to Scattergood School as runaway students found.