WHTC explores Underground Railroad Sunday

For immediate release January 30, 2008


Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – The Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs will take visitors back in time Sunday when it hosts a presentation about the George Hitchcock House, an Underground Railroad site at Lewis, Iowa.

Dana Kunze, a Hitchcock House Advisory Board member, will speak at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Western Historic Trails Center, 3434 Richard Downing Avenue in Council Bluffs. The presentation is free and open to the public. Call 712-366-4900 for more information.

The Hitchcock House was declared a National Landmark in 2006, and Kunze has been associated with it since its restoration began in the early 1980s. His volunteer work there includes local history research, acquisition of exhibits, and tour guide. Kunze is currently superintendent of the Griswold School District.

The home of Reverend George B. Hitchcock was a welcome respite for runaway slaves and abolitionists who traveled through the state. A minister of the Congregational Church, Hitchcock was an ardent abolitionist and an agent for the Underground Railroad.

Born in Massachusetts in 1812, Hitchcock became a student of ministry and in 1844 was ordained a minister in the Congregational Church. He worked as a traveling “circuit” preacher in the frontier country of western Iowa following his ordination.

Settling in Lewis in the mid-1850s, Hitchcock built a log cabin where he lived until the completion of his stone house around 1856. From this house, Hitchcock carried out his Underground Railroad activities, providing shelter to fugitive slaves on their way north.

In 1865, Hitchcock was called by the Congregationalist Church to work in Missouri, where he was given the opportunity to educate and minister to freed blacks. Two years later he moved to Kansas to carry out similar duties in that frontier area.

An ardent abolitionist virtually his entire adult life, Hitchcock died in 1872 in Kansas. His home in Iowa stands as a testament to his role in the antislavery movement and his involvement in the Underground Railroad.

The George B. Hitchcock House is located 1.5 miles west of Lewis, Iowa, on Nishna Valley Road, south of U.S. Hwy. 6. It is open for tours 1-5 p.m. May-September, and is closed on Mondays. Call 712-769-2323 or visit www.hitchcock.org for more information.

The State Historical Society of Iowa is a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa’s past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. SHSI is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


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