A local historian and writer has organized a two-day trip that will take guests on a tour of several sites of the Underground Railroad in Southeast Iowa. Valerie Van Kooten, of Pella, is leading the trip, which will highlight Iowa’s significance in American history during the Civil War era and will take guests to some of the few remaining sites in the state, including stops in Keosaqua, Bonaparte, Salem, and another small Iowa community of particular interest.
“Probably the most interesting stop is going to be Denmark, Iowa, which is a town near Burlington – where almost every house in the town was a stop on the Underground Railroad,” said Van Kooten. “We’re going to be getting into some houses that are not usually open to the public, and we’re going to be worshiping with a congregation there on Sunday morning – which in the 1840s was a very strong abolitionist congregation.”
Van Kooten says that local museum directors will help guide the tour and explain the significance of the history of the abolitionist movement and Underground Railroad in Southeast Iowa.
“We think of the Underground Railroad sometimes as actually being an underground tunnel, and it wasn’t. It was a series of houses and barns and haystacks that people would use,” said Van Kooten. “I think what they’re going to be sharing with us is a lot of the local history, how slaves were smuggled out, what sort of things happened, daring escapes, and slave owners who came back from Missouri to take their property. I think we’re going to be hearing a lot of those stories.”
Space is limited on the trip, which will take place on October 2nd and 3rd and does have costs associated with transportation and lodging. To register or find out more, contact Valerie Van Kooten at 628-9789.