Myth of the escape tunnel

In Nebraska City, Nebraska there is a well known historic site called  the Mayhew Cabin and John Brown’s Cave. The myth of secret tunnels, caves,  trap doors and secret compartments hiding slaves is common. Most of these have been debunked or are obvious romancing the reality of travel on the Underground Railroad. Primary source documents like a letter written by Clarina Nichols tell the real story. Clarina tells about hiding a Freedom Seeker in an empty cistern that was under a room of her house. I have found a documented special  hiding place in Topeka. In the Scales house at 427 Quincy, Mr. Scales had left a large sugar barrel in the basement as it was being built. Topeka UGRR conductor, John Armstrong wrote about hiding a  Freedom Seeker named Ann Clarke in that barrel. He said this was a boarding house and Ann would come out during the day when the boarders were gone.

The cave at the Mayhew Cabin is a good example of the myth of the secret hiding place. In letter written in 1890 by Edward  Mayhew, he tells us he grew up on this farm and the only “cave” was a root cellar and it was not connected to anything. He does not remember any slaves hiding in this root cellar nor does he ever remember John Brown being at the cabin. He did remember his Uncle, John Kagi, bringing 14 Freedom Seekers there for a  meal before continuing north. This visit probably is the famous trek north by John Brown and the topic of my book, John Brown and the Last Train.



5 Responses to “Myth of the escape tunnel”

  1. Dee Puff says:

    TOPEKA also had another well documented John BROWN CAbinIt had a cellar and tunnels. IT was located at now address on 23 rd Pennsylvania. I have these documents and info if anyone is interested.

  2. Gary Jenkins says:

    Dee also reports Topeka had a JOHN BROWN CABIN included the cellar and tunnel. I HAVE DOCUMENTED THIS, It was a tour site prior to WW ll Cost was 25 cents and tourists visited the cellar and 100 feet of the tunnel was safely available it was lighted and a great experience. The last remains of the cellar wall and logs were destroyed recently by the city, I have some really good pictures and a picture of the signage on the site and flyiers advertising the attraction.

  3. Gary Jenkins says:

    Dee, Who lived in the cabin with access to the tunnel?

  4. Dee Puff says:

    Daniel SHERIDAN NOW ADDRESS OF CABIN 2308 PENNSYLVANIA. cal me I have pictures and documents.

  5. Dee Puff says:

    Another item of interest about this site Brown used this place to set up his first meeting with some men of his army including KAGI and COOK to begin plans for the evential HARPERS FERRY RAiD

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