Ever heard of the Todd House in Tabor, Iowa? How about the Rev. John Todd, who owned it?
His 1853 house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was a stop on the Underground Railroad and was a weapons storehouse for the Kansas Free State Movement.
Todd’s home was fashioned from native lumber, including internal uprights of braced oak timbers and siding of cottonwood. Sashes and doors were of black walnut.
A portion of the basement’s adobe walls is still visible. A stone foundation was laid five or six years after the house was finished.
“The foundation has bits of dried grass sticking out of the adobe — grass that grew in the 1850s. Grass from the time of slavery. That seemed pretty amazing,” said Joseph Janowski, who recently toured Tabor House.
The house’s rear L-shaped addition came in 1868. The old siding was replaced with pine, and a porch and bay window were added in 1890. At the same time, the L was lengthened by 6 to 8 feet.
Many of Tabor’s founding fathers, including Todd and missionary George B. Gaston, were educated and inspired at Oberlin (Ohio) College. It was the first U.S. college to admit both women and African-Americans. Oberlin also welcomed the most radical abolitionists.
This heritage of equality defined Tabor.
“Standing in the basement looking up at the hand-hewn floor joists, in one place I saw a wooden peg — that made me feel the presence of those people, how they worked so hard to build the settlement of such high ideals,” Janowski said.
Todd, like other Tabor residents, was a friend and supporter of abolitionist and Free Kansas-backer John Brown.
Todd filled his cellar with clothing, ammunition, muskets, sabers and 20 boxes of Sharps rifles. He stored one brass cannon in his haymow and another on wheels in his wagon shed.
“For me, it brings history to life to say it happened right here. John Brown must have stood right here. Maybe sat in this chair,” Janowski said.
The Tabor Historical Society, caretaker of the Todd House, offers tours of this former residence. There are no set times. Call 712-629-3164 to make an appointment.