There isn't much in in Springdale, Iowa other than nicely maintained modest homes, sprawling corn fields, a United Methodist Church that doesn't show up on the denomination's website and a historical marker at the site where the legendary abolitionist John Brown spent two winters.
Actually, unless I missed something, there literally isn't anything else in Springdale, a Cedar County town so small the Census bureau doesn't give it a distinct listing and so well put together that there was nary a single abandoned storefront. My guess is that viewing a grandchild's Christmas pageant is Springdale's biggest tourist attraction.
I was recently in Springdale, however, to see the site where Brown has spent the 1855-1856 and 1857-1858 winters. It was during those periods that Brown stayed at the houses of William Maxson and John Hunt Painter. These two gentlemen were abolitionists in a largely Quaker community that, not surprisingly was very much anti-slavery. Maxson, who was not a Quaker himself, was a conductor on the Underground Railroad and his home in Springdale would serve as a station on the way towards freedom.
Heading east from Kansas, as was I when visiting Springdale, Brown no doubt found this community welcoming even if his tactics were not identical to those of most Quaker abolitionists. He would pick up two recruits –brothers Barclay and Edwin Coppock- that would take part in the Harper's Ferry Raid. During his second stay, many of the raiders of Harper's Ferry would also reside and train there.
The only sign that John Brown was there is a marker put up by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1924. It currently guards a cornfield.
The monument reads:
HERE WAS THE HOME OF WILLIAM MAXON [sic],
A STATION ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
WHERE JOHN BROWN OF OSSAWATOMIE
RECRUITED AND TRAINED 11 MEN FOR THE
ATTACK ON HARPER'S FERRY.
----LET SOME POOR SLAVE MOTHER WHOM HAVE
STRIVEN TO FREE
WITH HER CHILDREN, FROM THE GALLOWS-STAIR PUT
UP A PRAYER FOR ME. ----WHITTIER
THE IOWA SOCIETY
DAUGHTERS OF THE
As I admired this monument, I wondered if the people who regularly pass by this site, or even work on it, appreciate the significance. Probably not, but then again they haven't removed the monument and there must be at least a few annoying sojourners who come by each year. So I'll give the Emily Gilmore's organization credit for putting the plaque on a heavy rock.