Mayhew Cabin

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Mayhew Cabin
Mayhew Cabin from S 1.JPG
Front (south) of Mayhew Cabin.
Mayhew Cabin is located in Nebraska
Mayhew Cabin
Location 2012 4th Corso, Nebraska City, Nebraska
Coordinates 40°40′24″N 95°52′12.1″W / 40.67333°N 95.870028°W / 40.67333; -95.870028Coordinates: 40°40′24″N 95°52′12.1″W / 40.67333°N 95.870028°W / 40.67333; -95.870028
Area less than 1 acre (0.40 ha)[2]
NRHP Reference # 11000013[1]
Added to NRHP February 11, 2011[1]

Built in 1855, the Mayhew Cabin and Historic Village in Nebraska City, Nebraska is the only Underground Railroad site in Nebraska officially recognized by the National Park Service.[3] It is included among the sites of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.


The Mayhew Cabin, also known as John Brown's Cave, in Nebraska City, Nebraska was built in 1855.[2] In 1854 Allen and Barbara (Kagi) Mayhew moved to Nebraska and built the cabin in 1855. Barbara’s younger brother John Henry Kagi came to stay with the Mayhew's in 1855 and taught Phonography. Kagi, having already earned a law degree, had strong anti-slavery views. By 1856, he had moved to Kansas Territory and became an ally of the famous abolitionist, John Brown.

John Kagi would become John Brown's most trusted advisor and his "Secretary of War." John Brown knew that slavery would not end without bloodshed. Brown had for years been formulating a plan that he was convinced would end slavery forever - a raid on the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. This effort was supposed to arms slaves who would in turn hold an armed uprising against their masters. Once free, they would form a community where they could live peacefully. But, before he move forward with that plan, Brown, Kagi, and the rest of John Brown's followers were dealing with anti-slavery efforts in "Bleeding Kansas." By December 1858, they were at Bain's Fort, having freed an anti-slavery friend from captivity.

At the behest of a slave named Jim Daniels, on December 20, 1858, John Brown and a group of his loyal men, including John Henri Kagi, rode into Vernon County, Missouri from “Bleeding Kansas” with the intention of taking Daniels and other slaves from their masters and taking them all the way to Canada to freedom. When they neared their destination they split into two groups. John Brown’s group set off to free the Daniels family first. Jim Daniels, his pregnant wife, and their two children were owned by the James Lawrence Estate and were at the home of Lawrence’s son-in-law, Harvey Hicklin and his wife. At gunpoint, the Daniels family was taken along with another male slave named Sam Harper.

Brown’s group then went to the home of Isaac Larue and at gunpoint took several slaves consisting of Sam Harper’s mother, little sisters, little brother, and an unrelated male slave. Simultaneously, the group led by John Kagi and Colonel Whipple (Aaron Dwight Stevens) raided the home of David Cruise and took a slave named Jane, with Whipple killing Cruise in the process. The two groups met back up and headed for Kansas Territory with their eleven fugitives. For weeks, the escaping slaves were hidden, receiving aid at various locations in northeast Kansas Territory. Mrs. Daniels gave birth to a son, who was named after John Brown.

In early 1859, the then group of twelve were led north through Nebraska. In February 1859, “The Twelve” stayed at the cabin of John Kagi’s sister, Barbara Mayhew. The group was continually hounded by an armed posse. Despite a posse attempting to take John Kagi at his sister’s cabin, they made it safely across the river into Iowa and then eventually reached freedom in Windsor, Ontario, Canada on March 12, 1859.

The Twelve consisted of the 11 slaves plus 1 child born during the trek. The Twelve consisted of 3 families, the Harper family, the Daniels family, and one unrelated male.[4]

According to the National Park Service:

The Mayhew Cabin was built in 1855 from hand hewn cottonwood trees and served as the home of the Mayhew family until 1864, when the cabin and surrounding property were first sold. The property continued to change hands through the end of the 19th century until 1937, when owner Edward Bartling had the cabin moved to prevent its destruction by a highway project. During the move, the cabin underwent restoration, exposing its original 1850s exterior materials. The authentic “old fashioned” look facilitated Bartling’s desire to open the cabin to the public and develop his property as a tourist park. In addition to restoring the cabin, Bartling had a cave built underneath the cabin to help interpret the Mayhew family’s rumored association with the Underground Railroad. The cave consists of a cellar and connecting tunnels, sleeping quarters, and a tunnel exiting to a nearby ravine. The cabin remained open to the public from 1938 to 2002 as the “John Brown’s Cave” tourist attraction.[5]

Metal sign on stone pier, reading "Historic Site - John Brown's Cave - 1851"
"John Brown's Cave" sign near cabin.

The cabin was moved in 1937 from its original location. From 1938 to 2002 it was open as John Brown's Cave tourist attraction. A hollowed-out area beneath the new location was created and represented as a place where escaping slaves were hidden.[2]

The building was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on February 11, 2010.[1] The listing was announced as the featured listing in the National Park Service's weekly list of February 18, 2011.[6]


In 2005 the Mayhew Cabin was restored and the site began operating as a non-profit foundation. The foundation acquired a new museum space in 2010 just to the west of the Mayhew Cabin. The foundation also maintains on the site an historic Mt. Zion AME Church, one of the first black congregations established west of the Missouri River.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Announcements and actions on properties for the National Register of Historic Places for February 18, 2010". Weekly Listings. National Park Service. February 18, 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-04. 
  2. ^ a b c Bill Hayes and Jessie Nunn (August 2010). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Mayhew Cabin / John Brown's Cave; OT06-D-219" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2011-03-04.  (58 pages, including 16 photos from 2010)
  3. ^ "Mayhew Cabin and Historic Village Website, accessed 27 January 2011". Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  4. ^ Miller, Diane. "National Program Director". National Park Service. 
  5. ^ "Weekly Highlight: Mayhew Cabin, Otoe County, Nebraska". 
  6. ^ [1] Archived December 7, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]