Built with stacked logs, the snug cabin is certainly not much to look at.
Looking at the interior, comfortably housing one person almost seems like a stretch, much less the four people who stayed here. After relocating from Ohio, the Mayhew family called this log cabin near the Missouri River home.
Nebraska City, part of then Nebraska Territory, was just starting to grow. Because of being located near Missouri, the town had one feature that set them apart from the other area locations. Slaves. Ten of them were noted on the census. This did not set well with Mrs. Mayhew. Or especially with her brother, John Kagi, who dwelt with them for several months.
About this time, Kagi became a companion of John Brown. You may recognize him as the one who eventually led a raid Harper’s Ferry to make a statement against slavery. This event was a precursor that helped to catapult our nation into a Civil War. Before all this, Kagi was an active abolitionist and was doing what he could to help end slavery, including using his sister’s cabin as at least a temporary Underground Railroad Station. This is where his association with Brown causes history to be a bit fuzzy.
Some newspaper clippings tell of Brown visiting this site himself. Others imply that only Kagi was acting as the Underground Railroad Conductor. The name game does come into play here, and possibly the wrong man was given the credit. Rather than being called Kagi cave in honor of the man who definitely found himself at home there, the more notorious man gets the name of the cave. Was Brown ever even in Nebraska? No one is completely sure. Why? Being involved with the Underground Railroad was not exactly something a person would announce at the town square. Even after the Civil War, Southern Sympathizers were still around and many just wanted to move past the heartache. Either way, proof does exist that a group of at least one dozen slaves passed through the cabin at one point, at least long enough to eat breakfast.
The exact details of what all happened are definitely sketchy. Yet I still feel that my knowledge of the underground railroad increased by visiting the Mayhew Cabin and John Brown’s Cave. Understanding the impact that Nebraska had on this network is also interesting. Tomorrow I plan on telling a bit more about this place, and the lessons that I learned.
Why is this timing of this post significant? I mentioned in my post yesterday that June 19th happens to be an important holiday. Especially for the ancestors of slaves in this country. Juneteenth is the celebration of the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas. This celebration of freedom has caught on and spread to other states. Including Nebraska who hosted one event in Omaha earlier this week and will have celebrations in Lincoln and in Nebraska City tomorrow. The latter is the place where I will “take you” again tomorrow, exploring anew the part that Nebraska played in the Underground Railroad.