Dorrington home

The Underground Railroad site in Falls City recognized by the National Park Service

LINCOLN — There was a terrifying annual chore for Robert Nelson throughout his growing-up years in Falls Metropolis.

Simply earlier than Memorial Day, he and a cousin needed to clear an enormous stone mausoleum constructed by his great-great-great-great-grandparents, David and Ann Dorrington.

Their resting locations had been in crypts, down a set of deep stairs the place bedbugs, mud and mildew had gathered.

Falls Metropolis native Robert Nelson has researched the story of a neighborhood couple who sheltered runaway slaves in the course of the “Bleeding Kansas” interval earlier than the Civil Struggle. (Courtesy of Robert Nelson)

“It was scary,” Nelson stated. “The scent was most likely mildew, however when you’re a baby, you assume it is the corpses.

However curiosity lastly bought the higher of the previous Omaha World-Herald columnist, now a Virginia-based freelance author.

His grandmother had spoken of the well-known abolitionist John Brown staying with the Dorringtons between 1856 and 1859. However he needed to know extra in regards to the individuals who constructed such an imposing construction, with its stained glass home windows and its church-like pulpit.

A narrative of bravery and crafty

The journalist’s analysis added wealthy element and documentation to an astonishing story of bravery and crafty related to the Underground Railroad in his hometown.

Risking their lives, the Dorringtons offered shelter for dozens of runaway slaves in the course of the tense pre-Civil Struggle clashes between pro-slavery forces and abolitionists alongside the Nebraska Territory border with Kansas. This era was generally known as the “Kansas Bleeding” due to the raids and murders in locations like Lawrence.

(The Dorringtons) had been two of dozens of patriots who selected to construct a metropolis on this prairie hillside whereas working to disrupt and dissolve the establishment of slavery they hated.

– freelance author Robert Nelson

His analysis additionally led Nelson to write down an in depth request to acknowledge the location of the Dorringtons’ home and barn as a part of the Nationwide Park Service’s Nationwide Underground Railroad “Community to Freedom” program.

On Friday evening, a ceremony was held on Essential Avenue within the southeastern Nebraska city. A bronze plaque, citing the work of the Dorringtons, was unveiled in a program held along with the annual Falls Metropolis Christmas Parade.

Amongst 700 Community to Freedom websites

Dorrington Home and Barn Be part of greater than 700 different websites, services and applications acknowledged by the Network to Freedom program, which seeks to acknowledge freedom seekers and people who have assisted them. There are 14 such websites in Nebraska.

City of the Falls Plaque
This plaque was offered Friday in Falls Metropolis in honor of a household that helped slaves flee north. A signing program was organized by Brock Cadle, a neighborhood teenager on the lookout for his Eagle Scout badge. (Courtesy of Robert Nelson)

“It is a actually cool story,” Nelson stated. “And one which had by no means been suited to Kansas’ bloody historical past.”

The Dorringtons, he says, had been two patriots amongst dozens” who construct a metropolis “whereas working to disrupt and dissolve the establishment of slavery they hated”.

Falls Metropolis, his analysis confirmed, was a key stopover for slaves fleeing slave states like Missouri and avoiding pro-slavery Kansas militias as they headed north to freedom. It was additionally a stopover for abolitionists earlier than crossing the border.

David and Ann Dorrington
David and Ann Dorrington emigrated from England to New York, then to Kansas and at last to Falls Metropolis.
(Courtesy of Robert Nelson)

David and Ann Dorrington constructed a home in Falls Metropolis in 1857, the yr town was based. One of many founders was James Henry Lane, who turned a frontrunner of the Free State motion in Kansas, then a fierce battleground between pro-slavery and abolitionist forces.

“Abolitionist Gap”

By 1859, town was already generally known as a “closely armed port for these fleeing slavery”, Nelson stated.

The brand new colony was marked as an “abolitionist gap” by pro-slavery newspaper editor J. Sterling Morton, greatest generally known as the founding father of Arbor Day. He known as it “the well-known city based by Jim Lane and populated by him with a scurvy horde of rapscallions…”.

David Dorrington secured the federal contract to hold mail from Rulo to Topeka, Kansas, a hotbed of free state and abolitionist exercise. The route handed by means of Falls Metropolis, and the job, which additionally included two sons as drivers, offered the right technique of transporting runaway slaves.

Protected postal wagons

Obstructing the mail was a federal crime, so the mail automotive, with a secret compartment to hide fugitives, might cross with out being stopped by bounty hunters and pro-slavery militias.

The route he took turned generally known as the “Lane Path”, so named after James Lane as a result of it prevented pro-slavery forces stationed to the east and since settlers alongside the street had been principally sympathetic to frightened freedom seekers.

Falls City Underground Railroad
David Kentopp, a descendant of Dorrington who lives in Lincoln, made indicators commemorating the household’s function within the Underground Railroad that are displayed within the window of the previous Falters clothes retailer. The constructing, now a “collections museum” of native artifacts, is the place Dorrington Home and Barn as soon as stood. (Courtesy of Robert Nelson)

In Falls Metropolis, escaped slaves took refuge in a barn behind the Dorringtons’ home.

David Dorrington, as a federal mail contractor, was sworn to not violate federal legal guidelines, which prohibit harboring runaway slaves, so even in later years he didn’t reveal the household’s actions . However his spouse had no such restrictions and she or he introduced meals to these sheltering within the barn, generally at nice danger.

One of many Dorringtons’ daughters, Annie Dorrington Reavis, reported on her dad and mom’ actions in a Lincoln Sunday Star story in 1922. She stated they felt sorry for runaway slaves who had been “hunted like wild animals “. and when caught, severely crushed or killed.

Hayloft by day

The slaves, she stated, hid within the hayloft of the Dorrington barn in the course of the day, then slipped away at evening, generally “underneath a corn cart.”

“My father did not dare go to the barn in any respect, as a result of he was watched intently,” the daughter informed the newspaper, “however my mom, who was one of many bravest ladies I’ve ever recognized , was taking scorching espresso and bread and butter from these niggers after midnight, with no glimmer of sunshine to information her in. There have been some fairly slender escapes generally.

The Community to Freedom plaque will probably be put in on the Collections Museum on Stone Avenue in Falls Metropolis. The museum, housed within the former Falter clothes retailer, stands on the location of Dorrington Home, which was demolished after a devastating fireplace in 1877 destroyed a number of different wood buildings alongside the excessive road.


Nelson stated throughout a go to this spring to Falls Metropolis, he observed the Dorrington exhibit on the Collections Museum and determined it was time to hunt extra recognition for the story.

This led him to scour newspaper information, together with the Falls Metropolis Journal, and the archives of the Kansas Historic Society. One other assist was Barry Jurgensen, a former Arlington trainer who’s now regional director of the Community to Freedom program.

Jurgensen stated it was essential to acknowledge such tales as a result of many native residents “do not realize they’re strolling in the identical space as these heroes.”

Nelson stated Historical past Nebraska might publish his story of the Dorringtons in an upcoming subject of his journal. And, he says, there could be sufficient materials for a e book about this turbulent time in US historical past.

That is how he put it in an tackle learn on the ceremony on Friday:

“The story of Falls Metropolis is exclusive on this state, uncommon on this nation…a research in braveness triumphing over oppression.”

“(It is) vastly instructive for a greater understanding of a darkish time when our greatest and worst instincts fought for management of this nation.”

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