Sandstone house built in 1856 by Rev. George Hitchcock. The secret room in the basement was used to hide runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad.
Rev. George Beckwith Hitchcock-Jan. 9,1812 to Aug. 4,1872
The great, great, great grandfather of Rev. Hitchcock was Matthias Hitchcock, who was born in England in 1606. Along with his wife, Elizabeth Perry, and son, Eliakim, he came to America in 1635 on the bark “Susan and Ellen.”
David Hitchcock, Rev. Hitchcock’s grandfather was born May II, 1745, and was one of five children. He was an honest, industrious shoemaker but a series of misfortunes reduced the family to the lowest state of poverty. He was determined that his eldest son, David Jr., should be educated, having shown an early inclination to learn. When money and clothing permitted, David Jr. attended school between his 5th and 12th year, at which age his father died.
At the age 17, David Jr. was apprenticed to a shoemaker at $1 a month plus board. At age 20, he moved to West Stockbridge, Massachusetts to be employed as a shoemaker at $3.33 per month. He later became a journeyman and at age 26 he married Sarah Swan. They had eleven children of which George was the middle child. David Jr. authored three religious books that are on microfilm at the New York Historical Library. His last years were spent in Fairfield, Iowa, as a shoemaker and died there in 1847.
The eldest of David Jr. children was Harvey Rexford Hitchcock who became a missionary to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). The eldest daughter was a teacher and one of the youngest sons, Allen, graduated from Yale Divinity School and organized and preached at a Congregational Church in the Davenport area.
George Hitchcock’s life seemed to be plagued by illness. He was attending college at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Ill. In 1835, at age 23, he was unable to continue due to illness, one of the many recorded periods of incapacity.
He married Carolyn Grossman at Jacksonville in that same year and began farming in Scott Co., Iowa. In 1841, he was pastor of a church in Oskaloosa, Iowa, although his first commission from the Home Missionary Society is dated Nov. 14, 1844. In 1847, he was a stone mason and was preaching in both Oskaloosa and Eddyville and while working in the quarry, a particle of stone flew into one eye and destroyed his sight.
Move to Lewis
In the fall of 1853, the family moved to the Lewis area and lived in a log cabin west of town. The land on which the stone house was built in 1856 had been deeded by the U.S. Government to Henry Bunn and the deed was recorded on Feb. 25, 1854. Mr. Bunn sold 120 acres (W 112 of SE 1/4 and SE 1/4 of See. 9) to George B. Hitchcock, recorded on June 21, 1854. The house was built in 1856 using sandstone quarried at Jester’s quarry about a mile east of the Nishnabotna River. Ox teams hauled the rock to the river where it was floated across on a raft and then hauled up the steep hill to the high, level site of the house.
Rev. Hitchcock organized the Congregational Church in his cabin on April 11, 1855. There were eleven charter members including his wife and eldest daughter, Mary Tucker.
The joy of moving into the new home was dampened by a tragedy in that same year. The Hitchcock’s son, 19 year old Leang, was shot by a friend who thought that his gun was not loaded. The young men were part of a group that had volunteered to escort a group of settlers going to Kansas during the time of turmoil about whether Kansas should be a slave or a free state. The Rev. John Todd, abolitionist minister of the Tabor Congregational Church, wrote that Mrs. Hitchcock never seemed to recover from the shock of the death.
Rev. Hitchcock frequently wrote to the Society Office, begging them to send out more ministers. In 1856, he pleaded with them again “not for missionary ministers, but for missionary families to come and settle and illustrate the Gospel in their lives, and to establish customs in these new communities.”
In 1860, in another letter to the Society, he complained that many of the men of his church were following the lure of the mines in Colorado. He resigned his commission in 1861 but remained at the Stone House. In May of 1863, he received a commission for Olmstead and Exira and at Big Grove and in Adams County. And, in May of 1864, he was given a commission for Exira and the people in Cass, Shelby, Pottawattamie, and Adams Counties; a vast area.
It was during his twelve years at Lewis that Rev. Hitchcock was involved in the Underground Railroad movement, the house having been built with the care and protection of travelers in mind. The Civil War ended in 1865 and the Hitchcock’s moved to Kingston, Missouri, where he would have an opportunity to minister to blacks as well as whites. He organized churches in Kingston, Brookfield, and Laclede. He wrote again to the Society imploring them to send more ministers.
In 1869, Rev. Hitchcock was given a commission for Lowell and Petersville, Kansas, preaching also at Baxter Springs and Tennessee Prairie in extreme southeast Kansas.
In 1872, Rev. Hitchcock applied for an appointment to some frontier field and was asked by the Society to explore Howard County. He left home on the 30th of May, traveled on horseback from 250 to 300 miles, finding places favorable for organizing churches that could be supplied by one man. After 6 weeks absence, he returned home to make arrangements for the move. He was not quite well, and after 2 weeks, a doctor was called who found no reason for concern. On the morning of August 4th, he began to fail rapidly and expired at two in the afternoon. His widow was left with four young grandchildren largely dependent on her care. Rev. Hitchcock is buried in Baxter Springs, Kansas.