New Garden Iowa UGRR &
the “Lone Tree” Safe-drop
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:
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  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
Examining the original drawn
survey map and also the survey hand-written description, it makes a lot of
sense when you look at it.