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Davenport man learns of link to Underground Railroad

September 20, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Kory Darnall of Davenport is always up to something.

Kory Darnall, of Davenport, left, and Rick Breeding unveil a new tombstone for their common relative, James Farris, an abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor.

Kory Darnall of Davenport is always up to something. Through the years I've written about his leading role in the 20-year restoration of Davenport's once-forgotten Schuetzen Park, the founding of the German American Heritage Center in what was a rundown hotel and the one-by-one replacement of some 44 tombstones for military war dead in Davenport City Cemetery. He also is the only person I know who has ever traveled to Namibia.

(Nine times, in fact. ) He may be the only person I know who can even identify where Namibia is. Most recently I received a news release from the Madison County (Iowa) Historic Preservation Commission about another Darnall project: he and a second cousin helped pay for and dedicate a new gravestone for a common ancestor, James Farris, who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Farris is buried in a pioneer cemetery in Madison County — south of Des Moines and famous for its covered bridges — but his 1870 headstone had deteriorated so much over the years that it was almost unidentifiable. Although Darnall has uncovered the history of numerous Davenport residents and led the way on restorations at the city's oldest cemetery, he knew nothing of this relative — a great-great-great-great-great-grandfather on his mother's side — until about two years ago. That's when a Madison County woman who was seeking a grant to help restore the pioneer cemetery named after Farris researched his genealogy, down to living descendants. And needing as much financial help as she could muster, she asked Darnall if he and his relatives could pay for the replication of Farris' headstone.

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