Home  >  Campus Services  >  Library  >  Quindaro  


In Union There Is Strength!

"Quindaro is the Canada of the escaped slave..."

Clarina Irene Howard Nichols

This site has been established to encourage a wider awareness of the historical significance of the Free State town of Quindaro, Kansas Territory and the Underground Railroad that operated there from 1857 till the end of the Civil War. The first conductors in the Underground Railroad in Kansas Territory and elsewhere were themselves escaped slaves who risked their lives to return to slave territory and help rescue other captives of the "curious institution." Some, like William Wells Brown, left written records, but thousands of others, including the majority of those who escaped through Quindaro, remain unidentified by documents left in their own handwriting, (after all the legal status of slaves as mere 'property' precluded their being offered a formal education). Some have been documented through their descendants as is the case for Mr. James S. 'Jimmie' Johnson. Through Johson's research of slave bills and Civil War military records, we learn about the escape of his great grandfather George Washington through Quindaro and his contribution to history. Others are remembered through oral histories, such as the story told by Jesse Hope about his great great grandfather, Robert Monroe. Many other stories are being compiled about these unsung 'fugitives' from the peculiar institution.

From 1844 the interracial European/Wyandot couple Abelard and Quindaro Guthrie offered slaves shelter on their farmland playing an early role in Underground Railroad on the frontier, and later in making Quindaro history in Kanzas Territory. Their farmland and those of 12 other Wyandot Indian families would be purchased for the townsite of Quindaro through the assistance of Mrs. Guthrie. Quindaro's location, just across the Missouri River from the proslave state of Missouri made it an ideal station for escaping slaves on their route to freedom. Slaves crossed where ever the opportunity presented itself, but conductors from Quindaro had close relationships with Parkville, Missouri sympathizers to a Free Kanzas. Especially close were relationships to George S. Park, the founder of Parkville. The Parkville escape route was one of the most practical routes to the network of terminals on the eastern Kanzas underground network. From Quindaro well traveled roads, paths, and forest covered lands lead inland to the stations at Lawrence, Leavenworth, Topeka, and finally to Lane's trail north to freedom.

Quindaro resident and the first well known feminist of Kansas Territory, Clarina Nichols, called Quindaro "the Canada of the escaped slave." The Quindaro ruins represent a link with other underground railway destinations which helped free over 70,000 slaves throughout the country. Mrs. Nichols's 1882 account of life in Quindaro which outlined operations of the underground railroad there, including her own home, a bluff top safe house called 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and other locales, could have been at first doubted and considered a series of highly articulate and 'romantic' recollections. However, the discovery of the Benjamin Franklin Mudge letter and most especially Richard Sheridan's re-discovery of the Samuel F. Tappan letter have reinforced her account. Nichols's writings are not only articulate and entertaining, they are generally reliable historical resources. Certainly her 1882 letter to the Gazette is one of the most, (perhaps 'The' most), colorful and accurate descriptions of Quindaro's life and times that survive. Clarina Nichols's complete contribution to abolitionism and feminism is yet to be fully appreciated.

The mystery, drama, and excitement surrounding this once booming Missouri River freeport is captured in the story of the Underground Railroad which operated there; European, Native American, and African Americans joined together to free slaves from bondage. Quindaro is a significant model of courage, commitment and community for our common future together on the planet.