Marker Monday: Mayhew Cabin, 1855

Marker Text

This cabin, one of Nebraska’s oldest structures, was built in the summer of 1855 as the home of Allen B. Mayhew, his wife, Barbara Ann (Kagy) Mayhew, and their sons, Edward and Henry. John Henry Kagi, Barbara Mayhew’s brother, lived briefly with the Mayhews before joining abolitionist John Brown in Kansas. In February 1859 Kagi helped Brown lead eleven Missouri slaves to freedom in Iowa via Nebraska City. During the trek Kagi narrowly avoided arrest while at the cabin. He was killed in October 1859 during Brown’s raid on the Harpers Ferry, Virginia, arsenal to seize weapons for a slave uprising. Beginning in the 1870s, stories and recollections about this turbulent era credited the cabin as an Underground Railroad station. Edward Mayhew recalled Kagi once bringing fourteen black persons (possibly escaping slaves) to the cabin for breakfast. When the cabin was moved several feet in the 1930s due to highway construction, a “cave,” allegedly used to hide freedom-seeking slaves, was recreated nearby. Legends connecting John Brown to the Mayhew cabin made it a popular tourist attraction devoted to the antislavery cause.



2012 4th Corso, Nebraska City, Otoe County, Nebraska


Further Information

Nebraska State Historical Society historian, James E. Potter, investigates the connection of John Brown to the Mayhew Cabin in an article published in Nebraska History. The article examines available evidence in order to determine the extent to which John Brown’s Cave and the adjacent Mayhew log cabin in Nebraska City may or may not have contributed to the escape of fugitive enslaved people. It has been alleged that through Brown’s direct involvement, the “cave” was an important Underground Railroad station, sheltering scores if not hundreds of black fugitives who were making their way out of bondage. The article debunks the story of the cave, concluding that it is an example of folklore that demonstrates how generations of Nebraskans have come to regard the crusade against slavery as a meaningful part of their past.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

The Story of Richi Ugai:  Making the American Dream Possible for Future Generations of Japanese-Americans

The Story of Richi Ugai: Making the American Dream Possible for Future Generations of Japanese-Americans

Decoration Day

Decoration Day

Nebraska’s Japanese American History

Nebraska’s Japanese American History

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.