You may be wondering, how do the researchers know this stuff? The group has been amazed at what information has been available locally. Here is a list of our primary resources and what they provided.

Appreciation goes to the following researchers who have spent hours documenting important discoveries:

Molly Clause
Beth Gray
Roslea Johnson
Brenda Hollingsworth
Jean Sherrard-Fifo
Linda Smith
Deb Taylor
JoAnne Walker
Doug Jones, State Historic Preservation Office

Madison County Written Histories

Books of county and family history were published in 1869, 1879, 1915 (two volumes!), and 1984. They provide a glimpse into families as well as political parties, church organizations, neighborhoods, and civic organizations. If you like to read about history, these are well-written accounts of events right here in Madison County.  Other communities within the county have also published their local histories.  All can be access at the Winterset Pubic Library or the Madison County Historical Museum, plus other libraries in the county.

Madison County Newspapers

Madison County has always been interested in its history and often printed memories and reminiscences around the anniversaries of Iowa, Madison County and Winterset plus for Old Settlers’ celebrations in various communities. The Winterset Madisonian, The Winterset News, The Winterset Review and other newspapers throughout the years provide many details.  They are held on microfilm at the Winterset Public Library and are also online and searchable at

“Boyhood Memories of an Old Hawkeye” by Calvin Ogburn

Cal Ogburn was born in southeastern Scott Township in 1855 and knew many of those who were involved in Underground Railroad activities from that area. He was well-education and served as a pastor in California until his death at the age of 90 in 1945. He wrote several books of sermons plus his Boyhood Memories, which were salvaged by a real estate agent cleaning out a California apartment in 2003. A history buff herself, she felt that the memories should be back in Madison County, for which we are eternally grateful.  They can be accessed at the Madison County Historical Museum.


Many books have been written about the Underground Railroad, starting in the late 1800’s.  Some are available locally or through Interlibrary Loan.  Many can be accessed online for free and downloaded to your tablet for reading. Here are our recommendations:

Cook, Darius. History of Quaker Divide: Struggles and Accomplishments of Settlers. Iowa: The Dexter Sentinel, 1914.
Quaker Divide is the land between waters of the North Branch, Madison County and the Raccoon River, Dallas County, where many of the Quaker faith settled and assisted in the Underground Railroad.

Morgans, James P. The Underground Railroad on the Western Frontier. North Carolina: McFarland & company, Inc., 2010.
Describes escapes from Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa and the Territories of Kansas, Nebraska and the Indian Nations, 1840-1865.

Siebert, Wilbur H. The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom.  Massachusetts, Norwood Press, 1898.
One of the earliest and most comprehensive writings on the Underground Railroad.

Silag, Bill; Koch-Bridgford, Susan; Chase, Hal. Outside In: African-American History in Iowa – 1838-2000. Iowa: State Historical Society Of Iowa, 2001.
Chapter 3, “The Underground Railroad in Iowa,” was written by Galin Berrier, former Des Moines Area Community College instructor.

Soike, Lowell. Busy in the Cause. Iowa, the Free-State Struggle in the West, and the Prelude to the Civil War. Nebraska; University of Nebraska Press, 2014.
The Underground Railroad in Iowa was a direct result of Bleeding Kansas, abolitiomnis, and the settling of the Louisiana Purchase.

Soike, Lowell. Necessary Courage: Iowa’s Underground Railroad in the Struggle against Slavery. Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2013.
The most comprehensive study of the Underground Railroad in Iowa.

Stalcup, Clarence E. Frontiers Calling. Florida:, 2009.
Written by Union County, Iowa farmer/author describing the lives of three of his ancestors.  One is Mary Spurgin, whose father Philip left Kentucky and slavery to settle here in Madison County.

Wubben, Hubert H. Civil War Iowa and the Copperhead Movement. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1980.
Not all Madison County residents were in support of slavery’s elimination or the Civil War. Read of their adventures here.


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