Peter Collin's Underground Railroad House
402 South Main Street, Salem, Iowa
© 2010 by Jean Leeper and the Lewelling Quaker Museum
Updated September 26, 2011
New counter on September 13, 2011
It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Plaque to come soon and maybe someday it can be restored.
Peter Collins purchased this property from William Lewelling in September 1842 having moved here from New York. He and his family was received into membership at Salem Monthly Meeting on April 22, 1843. Peter's wife Sarah's sister Amelia C. Hall was received into membership on October 22, 1842. The property transferred to Amelia C. Hall in 1844 and then back to Peter Collins on May 10, 1849, Amelia marrying Brinton Darlington in August 1849. In 1851 the property is transferred to Eli and Mary Bond. The Collins's daughter Amelia having married Titus Bond son of Eli and Mary. Titus Bond died in 1852 and Eli Bond died in 1859. Their dates of death are recorded in the Salem Monthly Meeting Death Records, so they were not members of the Anti-Slavery Meeting but of the Salem Monthly Meeting, where they brought their membership from Chester Monthly Meeting, Indiana in 1847. We do not know if the Bond family continued helping the runaway slaves after Peter Collins moved away. The two story, three-bay, brick house appears to have been built around 1843 by Peter and Sarah Collins.
Peter and Sarah Collins and family are charter members of Red Cedar/Springdale Meeting in Cedar County Iowa in 1853, as are Brinton and Amelia C. Darlington. Did they work with the underground railroad when living here and the Muscatine area? Brinton and Peter and Peter's sons helped start many stores in North Central and North East Iowa in the next ten to twenty years. Wagons carrying good to and from the stores might have been a good way to move slaves but nothing to show that they did.
There was printed an autobiography of Mahlon Day Collins, the son of Peter and Sarah, in the Iowa Journal of History and Politics. From Iowa Journal of History and Politics 1930, page 60, “Salem figured largely in the growing anti-slavery agitation throughout the West. It was one of the first stations by which escaped slaves made their way to Canada on the “Underground Railway” of that day. Being but thirty-three miles north of the line which separated slave from free territory, it was often the “point of hope” where fugitive slaves began to experience “their first breath of liberty.” My father was one of the pioneer “conductors” on this “subterranean” path to freedom.”
Peter Collins may have been involved with a similar incident as the one concerning the Daggs slaves. His son Mahlon recounts the involvement of his father Peter Collins in an incident involving fugitive slaves. He recalls that 14 fugitive slaves escaped to Salem around 1850, and a group of nearly 100 men entered town to look for them. Mahlon was at school when the men were spotted, and the children were quickly sent home. The men had warrants to search through town. The Friends were adept at hiding fugitives and "father helped them to hunt most carefully and thoroughly, where he knew there were no fugitives" (page 61)
"The men were successful in capturing an old man and child, and a court hearing was held at the anti-slavery meeting house. A man rode into the meeting with a horse, and the two fugitives rode off with him. The next day, the slave hunters returned but a number of men from the surrounding area had arrived in Salem to assist the local residents, and the men returned to Missouri at night." (Mahlon was born in 1838 so would have been ca. 10- 12 years of age so may not have remembered everything correctly.)
Is this the same story Lindsey Coppock recalls or a similar one? The conductors and depot owners keep no books or records of run-a-way slaves, or their numbers, for should such records fall into the hands of those who tried to enforce the fugitive slave law they would constitute most incriminating evidence. Enough of its story is known, however, to show that as an institution the Underground Railroad has played its part in the history of Salem.
Here is a current picture of the house. It currently is a residence. Our president, Faye Heartsill once lived with her parents Elmer and Edna Lamb and siblings in this house. The house having transferred from Alice Stansbury Bond to her great niece Edna Lamb in 1941. Alice's sister was Florence Isabelle (Belle) Stansbury Hart Pinkerton. Belle's daughter Ethel was the mother of Edna Lamb. Belle lived with the Lamb family for several years in the house, above mentioned.
Alice Stansbury Bond's husband William M. Bond was the son of Mordecai Bond and you must go back all the way to the early 1700s for a common ancestor to Eli Bond. Mordecai in 1843 became part of the Separatist movement/Anti-Slavery meeting in Indiana but asked to rejoin the Salem MM of Friends in Salem, Iowa in 1848, not the Anti-Slavery meeting and they accepted him.
House probably built ca 1842/1845. A turn of the century picture.
second picture from Faye Heartsill