Woodland Cemetery Recognized as Underground Railroad Site10/5/2021
The National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom accepted Woodland Cemetery, owned and managed by the City of Des Moines, as a site in the Network. It joins 18 new listings from the 42nd round of Network to Freedom applications. This new listing, one of over 695 others already in the Network, provides insight into experiences of freedom seekers who bravely escaped slavery and those who assisted them.
The successful nomination was presented by students and mentors who are part of the Forever Free Pilot Mentoring Program, managed by the West Des Moines Historical Society and funded through a grant from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).
Drake University student Allie Shambaugh-Miller and University of Iowa student Maddie Cason, along with mentor, genealogist Ricki King, documented the gravesites 15 Underground Railroad operatives and freedom seekers. For example, Isaac Brandt was active in the Underground Railroad. Jefferson Logan, a freedom seeker from Missouri who Brandt aided, became a well-known Underground Railroad operative in the area. Another notable operative buried here is Delia Webster, whose activity took place elsewhere, but passed away in Des Moines.
“The stories of the Freedom Seekers and those who were part of the Underground Railroad are a powerful reminder of the fight for freedom and equality,” says West Des Moines Historical Society Executive Director Gale Brubaker. “The Forever Free Pilot Program is a valuable and unique way for young people interested in history to learn about these stories and present them for national recognition.”