Tabor City Park and the Tabor Antislavery Historic District
This city park covers ten acres and is part of the Tabor Antislavery Historic District. The citizens of Tabor hosted and supported radical abolitionists John Brown on multiple occasions, and the community would go on to play an important role in the western antislavery movement as a hub on the Underground Railroad. Bordering the park is the Todd House, an important link in the town's history and part of the Antislavery Historic District. The park itself has had various purposes over the years, serving as the town square after the town was incorporated in 1858.
Backstory and Context
The area that would become Tabor, Iowa was became home to a group of antislavery settlers led by missionary George B. Gaston and Reverend John Todd in the 1850s. This land was acquired by Gaston who soon donated the acreage to town as a commons that hosted various events that included meetings where the townspeople expressed their antislavery convictions with speeches. Among those who attended anti-slavery gatherings was John Browns and several of his sons and future abolitionist raiders. The ten acres were used by Brown to both camp and drill his men in preparation for the raid on Harpers Ferry with his last visit to the town in September 1859, only a few weeks prior to the raid in October, 1859.
Brown had earlier used Tabor as a base to launch a raid into nearby Missouri, where he freed a number of enslaved persons and killed a slave master. This band returned to the safety of Tabor soon after the raid where they were sheltered.
The home of Reverend John Todd, which was constructed in 1853, was a station on the Underground Railroad. Todd not only assisted runaway slaves, he had previously served as an agent to the Pawnee Native American Tribe from 1837 to 1842. During these years, Todd gained an appreciation for the land and first thought of building a settlement in the area. Todd went on to help build the network for the Underground Railroad in western Iowa. During the era known as Bleeding Kansas, Todd's basement was used to store around two hundred rifles for Free State men. The barn was used to store an old canon.
History of Fremont County, Iowa: Containing a History of the County. Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa Historical Company, 1881.
Tabor Antislavery Historic District, Aboard the Underground Railroad. Accessed September 28th 2019. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/underground.ia1.htm.
Todd, J. E. "John Brown's Last Visit to Tabor." The Annals of Iowa 3 (1898), 458-461.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.17077/0003-4827.2338
Todd, John. Early Settlement and Growth of Western Iowa; Or, Reminiscences. Ceder Rapids, Iowa. Republican Printing, 1906.