In Nebraska City, Nebraska there is a well known historic site called the Mayhew Cabin and John Brown’s Cave. The myth of secret tunnels, caves, trap doors and secret compartments hiding slaves is common. Most of these have been debunked or are obvious romancing the reality of travel on the Underground Railroad. Primary source documents like a letter written by Clarina Nichols tell the real story. Clarina tells about hiding a Freedom Seeker in an empty cistern that was under a room of her house. I have found a documented special hiding place in Topeka. In the Scales house at 427 Quincy, Mr. Scales had left a large sugar barrel in the basement as it was being built. Topeka UGRR conductor, John Armstrong wrote about hiding a Freedom Seeker named Ann Clarke in that barrel. He said this was a boarding house and Ann would come out during the day when the boarders were gone.
This photo of Mayhew Cabin with John Brown’s Cave is courtesy of TripAdvisor
The cave at the Mayhew Cabin is a good example of the myth of the secret hiding place. In letter written in 1890 by Edward Mayhew, he tells us he grew up on this farm and the only “cave” was a root cellar and it was not connected to anything. He does not remember any slaves hiding in this root cellar nor does he ever remember John Brown being at the cabin. He did remember his Uncle, John Kagi, bringing 14 Freedom Seekers there for a meal before continuing north. This visit probably is the famous trek north by John Brown and the topic of my book, John Brown and the Last Train.