"An essential work
revealing both the
liberator and the
The Twelve: A Unique Underground Railroad Saga Spanning 150 Years
Including the History of the Mayhew Cabin with John Brown's Cave Museum in Nebraska City
In December of 1858, John Brown and a group of his loyal followers, including my personal hero John Henri Kagi, rode into Missouri under the cover of darkness from a very violent and “Bleeding Kansas” and at gunpoint took eleven slaves from their masters, including one heavily pregnant woman. The goal was to take the slaves to Canada to freedom. For weeks, the “fugitives” were hidden in various locations in northeast Kansas Territory. During that time, the pregnant woman gave birth to a son, who was named after John Brown. In early 1859, the then group of twelve were led out of Kansas Territory and taken north through Nebraska. In February of 1859, the twelve freedom seekers were given food and shelter at the modest home of John Kagi’s sister, Barbara Mayhew, at the now historical Mayhew Cabin in Nebraska City. The notorious reputation of John Brown and the murder of one of the slave owners in Missouri when the slaves were taken made the taking and the trek northward publicized. Despite an armed posse attempting to take John Kagi at his sister’s cabin, the group of slaves made it safely across the river into Iowa and they eventually reached freedom in Windsor, Ontario, Canada in March of 1859. It was because of this event (and possible other times when the cabin was used as part of the Underground Railroad) that the Mayhew property became known locally as “John Brown’s Cave” and the property was eventually turned into a nonprofit museum.
As Vice President of the now Mayhew Cabin with John Brown’s Cave museum in Nebraska City, I began to realize that the museum focused solely on the rescuers (John Brown, John Kagi, and the Kagy/Mayhew families) and not on those that were aided. The names and identities of the twelve freedom seekers were unknown to us. To rectify that situation, beginning in the fall of 2013, I began the process of uncovering the identities of the former slaves. Because Underground Railroad activity was illegal and highly secretive, no records were kept, so uncovering information was difficult at best. I spent hundreds of hours researching utilizing various historical resources. As I identified ten of the twelve names, I found myself becoming extremely attached to these people and their families. To me, they became affectionately known as “The Twelve.” After that was accomplished, I then began to track the families forward in time with the ultimate goal of locating a living descendant. It is safe to say that this goal became an obsession.
This book details the history of a true American Hero, John Kagi, his involvement in Bleeding Kansas, the rescue of The Twelve, how the John Brown’s Cave site turned into the Mayhew Cabin with John Brown Cave Museum, my research into discovering the identities of The Twelve, and my successful search for living descendants. It is truly a unique Underground Railroad saga. I hope it touches your heart as much as this rewarding journey of discovery has touched mine.
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