New Garden Iowa UGRR & the “Lone Tree” Safe-drop


Different from Pilot Grove, Ia.


The New Garden UGRR "Lone Tree":


"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 prairie 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 Sheldon'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.”




Locating the ‘Lone Tree’


A strong likely site as the candidate for the 'Lone Tree' safe place of the UGRR stories there in  New Garden is within  Twp. 69 - 5w  NE Q    The watering spring on the border of sections 17-18,   the lone tree in the swail below in Section 19.    The old pioneer-era road passed through diagonal-ing on the NW between Sheldon farmstead and Nathan Bond farmstead.  The old trail running from Ft. Madison towards Salem came through there after coming across the prairie top before.  In the drawn detailed 1838 survey map a very definite spring was drawn there as the first or last obvious watering place in a long ways distance across the prairie top along that roadway for horses, oxen, livestock and people coming along that trail.


That would put the tree about less than a mile from all the known New Garden Iowa UGRR conductors:  Kellums, Sheldons, Bonds, and Pickards.   The public spring to the Northeast of the roadway and the ‘lone tree away southwest of the Bond and Sheldon farmsteads on the otherside.  This also locates the pro-slavery Berry brothers on the other side of the neighborhood a good safe distance. 


Examining the original drawn survey map and also the survey hand-written description, it makes a lot of sense when you look at it.


-Doug Hamilton