Mahlon Haworth - of Iowa

(click on thumbnail to enlarge it)

Based on recent research, the correct  family is Mahlon S. HAWORTH and Mary HOCKETT. 

(earlier, we made an error in identifying the family as Mahlon HAWORTH and Rachel HAWORTH).

Mahlon S Haworth descends from the following Haworth line:

Mahlon S Haworth, #646 SQF (Some Quaker Families - Scarbrough/Haworth)

John B. Haworth,  #220 SQF

George H. Haworth, #63 SQF

James Haworth, #63 SFQ

George Haworth, the immigrant.


Note:  A researcher is currently studying this safe house.  ANY information you might have on this family, or other Haworth families, that participated in the underground railway will be very appreciated.

I would note here that at our 305 year reunion, one of the attendees described how they found a safe room, with food still on the table, in a hidden basement area under their farm barn.  Ron Haworth, editor June 2004



The article, below, was submitted by Kellam Rigler, who wrote that his mother would pass the Mahlon house on her way to school. Kellam descends from George Haworth and Sarah Scarborough in two ways:

A Kellam Rigler - Beverly A. Balmer.

Lola Dora Kellam - Dwight Rigler

Hannah Jane Haworth - Alpha Kellam

George Sanders Haworth - Mary Louise Hicks

Dillon Haworth - Mary Meyers

George H. Haworth - Susanna Dillon

James Haworth - Sarah Wood

George Haworth (the immigrant) - Sarah Scarborough

Kellam's grandfather, Alpha Kellam, descended from Mary Scarborough, Sarah's sister.

Additional contributions in the form of pictures, articles, or other data will be very well received.

The article is transcribed below.   Ron Haworth, editor


Title: Find Secret Tunnels in Indianola House

Sub title: Slaves Hid there in days of the Underground Railway

Date line: George Shane, Des Moines Sunday Register, August 4, 1929

A house in Indianola, once one of the most important links in the underground railroad system, was torn down last week in order that the world may have another filling station. Where bright and shinny red gasoline pumps soon will be erected for the benefit of tourists who drive along this elm shaded bit of the Jefferson highway, Mahlon Hayworth, a Quaker and advocate of liberty, built the dwelling seventy-one years ago.

Facts Are Few

There are obscure legends in Indianola about the house; but facts are not numerous. It is established, however, that fugitive slaves were hidden there when pursuit from the south grew warm. This Quaker residence was a vital point in the southern branch of the underground railroad. Mahlon Hayworth was an avowed abolitionist; he was willing to speak freely on the impositions of slavery, but his activities in abating the system he believed evil were affairs he declined to mention in conversation. Were his acts known, he could have been sent to prison for six months and fined $1,000 under the federal fugitive slave law.

Trap Door Hidden

The house was constructed to aid him in carrying out his beliefs. The basement was divided into two compartments-one of them a secret chamber. Runaway Negroes, bound for Canada, found shelter in the underground room. Entrance was made through a trap door. The opening was hidden by rugs on the floor above. No pursuing federal officer would have suspected the hiding place of slaves-in fact, from the outside, the rear part of the dwelling that covered the room seemed to have no basement.

Negroes Easily Pleased

At night a wagon would arrive from Winterset and a few dark figures would enter the house. Hayworth would lead his fugitive guests to the kitchen, open the trap door, and help them down a ladder to the room below. There the escaping slaves found a neat chamber with plastered walls, chairs and beds. The place was no more than sixteen or eighteen feet long and a dozen feet wide. But cramped quarters did not trouble the Negroes. They were in one of the most carefully designed underground railroad stations on the route from the south to Canada and detection was a negligible danger.

Much Hidden History

This much is known of Hayworth’s abolitionist activities. A far greater amount of slave running history has died with him and his brother Quakers. The stations southwest of Indianola on this particular line were Winterset, Lewis, Tabor and Percival. Where the fugitives were taken for the next stop after they climbed out of the subterranean room is unknown. It is possible that the next station on the route was at Des Moines or Grinnell, but there are no records to tell. "The damn niggers get away like there is a railroad with fast trains running underground from here to Canada," the southern slave owners shouted as their human wealth diminished.

Remains a Mystery

And Hayworth and his friends did their worst for the southerners. They kept no schedules of arrivals and departures. The trail north from Indianola was their secret, and it still remains a mystery. Object lessons had taught Hayworth that precautions were necessary. He built his house so that every protection was available. Leading from the secret chamber was one exit in addition to the trap door. It was a tunnel running through a double wall in the other part of the cellar. This exit had been arranged to allow the fugitives a means of escape should slave chasers or federal officers find the upper trap door and climb down the ladder. Few stations in Iowa were so cleverly arranged for hiding and escape. This was the reason, possibly, that Hayworth’s dwelling never yielded a capture to raiders.

Buildings Ransacked

Often the homes of other abolitionists were turned topsy turvy by raiding officers. Farm buildings were ransacked, Negroes were arrested and searches conducted without warrants or proper information. One historian in writing of such events said "federal marshals empowered by congress to enter free states and seize slaves and the activities of federal agents, embittered men. Citizens were tired of compromising and became abolitionists."

Like Modern Bootleggers.

Congregationalists and Methodists were inclined to sympathize with the Negro’s cause and joined the Quakers in the operation of the underground railroad. None of these faiths was safe from raids. Their homes were searched at all hours of the night. Frequently it was proved that the slave hunting officers were intoxicated at the time of their ransacking. Those who aided the Negro in escaping often had no more approval than the bootlegger of today. When the question was debated it was insisted that the abolitionists should respect the law though they did not believe in it. It was the will of the majority, it was said. But the slave sympathizers argued in the name of personal liberty and continued to aid the Negro in his attempt to reach Canada.

Risked Suffocation

Hayworth, to be sure, escaped detection but one of his brother Quakers, Benjamin Henshaw, received a violent visit from the slave raiders. A group of officers had heard slaves were in hiding on the Henshaw farm, a mile east of Indianola. The officers rode out to the farm and demanded that Henshaw turn over the fugitives. The Quaker denied knowledge of runaway slaves and went about his work peacefully. The house and farm buildings were searched. Everything on the place where a human might be in hiding was pulled apart. But no slaves were found. When the raiders departed, Henshaw scooped seed corn from three barrels and helped three Negroes out. The fugitives had been willing to risk suffocation in order to escape.

"Disrespect for Laws"

Such incidents were not uncommon near Indianola. From time to time the penalties were made more severe. Those who encouraged as well as those who aided a slave to run away from his master were liable to punishment. But abolitionists increased in numbers and invariably there was someone willing to warn of impending raids. A southern congressman lamented, saying that disrespect for law increased though the penalties became more drastic. A northern member of the legislature insisted that the illegal activities of the underground railroad were grossly misrepresented and, in reality, the fugitive slave law was respected.

The Rebellion Began

The debate over the prohibition of aiding escaping slaves became intense and as the abolitionist sentiment grew, underground railroad stations in Iowa increased. John Brown, with twelve slaves, had made his famous trip safely from Tabor through Iowa on the way to Chicago. The rebellion began and the secret basement in the house at Indianola was destined to be no longer a hiding place of fugitives but for seventy-one years a cellar where jellies, jams, fruits and potatoes were stored. End of transcription.

Here is the picture of a portion of the transcribed article. "Secret Tunnel" .

And here is a picture of the sketch of the house from the article.


Family History Information

John Zeller, State Historical Society of Iowa, writes (June 23, 2004):

My job at the State Historical Society of Iowa is to track down anything findable about the "conductors and engineers" on the "underground railroad" which moved fugitive slaves from Missouri to Illinois and on to Canada before the abolition of slavery.

Mahlon Hayworth, as the readers of your fine Haworth family website know, hid freedom seekers in a specially built secret room in the basement of the log house built around 1852 on the southern edge of Indianola, Warren Co. Iowa. He platted this farm into "Haworths Addition" town lots and sold the last lot with the house on it in 1864. Later occupants added another story and an addition to what later was known as the "Spray House".

Today this location is the S. E. corner of the intersection of N/S highway 65/69 and E/W highway 92. The house was razed in 1929 for a gas station. Today a small insurance co. business occupies the spot.

Mahlon moved out near his relatives between Ackworth and Palmyria where he farmed next door to his son Mahlon T. On the fourth of July 1876 a tornado demolished his barn, unroofed his house and flattened his son's farmhouse.

Sometime between the 1870 census and 1873 his wife Mary dies and he gets remarried (to another Mary) and has two more children. Land entries indicates that he sells the farm around 1882. He dies in 1885 and is buried at Hawk's Cemetery at Cuba, Kansas, along with two sons and a daughter.

Mahlon's family as I know it is as follows:

Mahlon Hayworth born 1-22-1808 at Clinton Co. Ohio -died June18,1885, buried Hawks cemetery Cuba, Kansas, Parents both born in Ohio don't know their names. Maybe also Mahlon? Marries his first wife Mary Hockett around 1828, probably in Illinois near the Vermillion monthly meeting where on Jan. 3,1829 he is "disowned" for "marrying contrary to the faith". Moves to Warren Co Iowa before the 1850 census. He farms for a couple of years near his relatives (uncles, aunts and cousins I think) near the present town of Ackworth. Moves his farm to the south edge of Indianola in 1852. Returns to Palmyria township and farms until about 1882 when he joins his children who have left Iowa prior to 1880. Buried Cuba Kansas.

1st WIFE - Mary Hockett Haworth born in Ohio @ 1810 - Buried at the Ackworth Cemetery - died "1st month, 19 day" (what year?)


1. William P. - Born in Illinois @1830 - Marries twice (?) 1st Mary Mordock Sept. 8, 1851/ 2nd Nancy Cosand Sept. 28 1873- both Warren Co. Iowa Died? Buried?

2. George C. - Born in Ohio @1832 - Buried Cuba Kansas date? Marries Ann (surname?) - children; Phoebe E. 1859, Hannah 1860, Ira E. 1862, May 1867, Ida D. 1869, Flow B. 1871, Rosetta n. 1874, Elva 1879.

3. Mahlon T. Born Sept. 16, 1835 in Indiana - Dies Jan. 2 1910 - Buried Cuba Kansas - Marries Phebe A. Barnthouse June 25, 1857 - Warren Co. Iowa Wife - Phebe A. - Born Aug. 7, 1837, dies Feb. 1,1908 - buried Cuba, Kansas - children: Mary 1865, Martha 1867, William 1869

4. Sarah E. Born in Indiana 1838 dies 1905 -Buried Cuba, Kansas - never marries, listed as "Idiotic" 1870 census

5. Mary A. - Born in Indiana @ 1841- Dies?, Buried? Marries Ashbury D. McCarty July 9, 1857 - Children L. Leander 1858, Mahlon D. 1860, Atlantic 1866, Charlie 1867

6. Atlantic A. - Born in Indiana @ 1845 - Dies? Buried Ackworth Cemetery - Marries Zackary Sexton April 20, 1871 - Children?

7. Rachel J. - Born in Iowa @1849

2nd WIFE - Mary A. Moorehouse - Born Mississippi @ 1839 -Children: died?, Buried?

8. Emma, Born in Iowa @ 1873

9. John H., Born in Iowa @ 1878

We are hoping to find some living decedents of Mahlon who might have letters or diaries or the family bible along with photographs. We would like to know how closely he was related to the other Haworth families farming near Ackworth. (When he died in 1885 the two papers in Indianola had no mention of it, and the "local" from Ackworth does mention a Haworth family going out of town to a funeral) Who was his father? Was there a family tradition of helping fugitive slaves in Ohio, Indiana or Illinois. Did the issue divide the family? What happened to the children and grandchildren. Were there stories of Mahlon handed down in the family? Shamefully, I guess we want to know about everything.


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