Runaway slaves from Missouri and Kansas found refuge here as they made their way across Iowa, generally crossing into Canada in the Detroit area.
The house, now a National Historic Landmark, was built in 1856 by Congregational minister George Hitchcock. Its sandstone walls are 20 inches thick. It was restored by visionary citizens from Cass County and is part of a 65-acre park.
Hitchcock House is closed on Mondays, the day we took our Road Trip, but Paula had been there before. She told of being in the cellar, where a hinged cupboard provided access to a secret room where the runaways hid.
She described the eerie sensation of being in that dark room and hearing footsteps on the floor above, trying to imagine how slaves had felt if the footsteps had been those of bounty hunters trying to put an end to their journey to freedom.
This content previously appeared in the popular “Road Trip” series in Our Iowa Magazine. Learn more about the publication at www.OurIowaMagazine.com.