Ohio History Journal







"John Brown's body lies moldering in the grave

But his soul goes marching on."

So sang the Twelfth Massachusetts Regiment as it

marched south to put down the rebellion and so have

sung other regiments and men who never belonged to

any military organization in almost every part of the

North and West since the outbreak of the Civil War.

It is remarkable how old John Brown holds his place

in the history and literature of his country. His name

and deeds have been the theme of divided opinion and

heated disputation, of eloquence and song, of eulogy

and detraction, of generous praise and scathing crit-

icism. If his spirit could speak today he might truth-

fully say, "I came not to send peace but a sword."

Those who comment upon the part that he acted in the

"storm of the years that are fading" find themselves

arrayed one against another when they come to pass

judgment upon his deeds, and not infrequently the critic

exemplifies "a house divided against itself" and ex-

presses in the same estimate opinions condemnatory and


In undiminished measure his fame endures, however.

Even at this late day interest in "Old John Brown of

Osawatomie" persists, and since the beginning of the

new century at least four pretentious volumes have


John Brown 185

John Brown                 185

been devoted to his life and character. His name occurs

at frequent intervals in current periodical and news-

paper literature and a place for him in the history of the

Republic seems to be assured.

In Ohio a distinct revival of interest in this re-

markable man has followed the transfer of rare relics,

which once belonged to John Brown and his warrior

sons, to the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical

Society. These include guns, swords, uniforms, survey-

ing instruments, autograph letters, photographs and

other items ranging from bullet molds to locks of the

hair and beard of this sturdy old warrior in the anti-

slavery cause.

These papers and relics are duly authenticated.

They were for a long time in the possession of Captain

John Brown, Jr., the eldest son of John Brown, who

lived after the war at Put-in-Bay, Ohio, where he died

in 1895. They then passed into the possession of his

daughter who married Mr. T. B. Alexander and who

still resides at Put-in-Bay. She and her husband trans-

ferred these rare and precious relics to the custody of

the Society. The numerous visitors who almost daily

come to the museum and library building of the Society

invariably pause to view these souvenirs of the stirring

times in Kansas and at Harper's Ferry.

This manifestation of interest has led the writer to

attempt a series of articles for the QUARTERLY on "John

Brown and His Men From Ohio." Of John Brown

himself little remains to be written. His entire life from

birth to execution has been subjected to the searching

investigation of friend and foe. It is really remarkable

with what patient research the different steps in the

career of this man have been followed and with what

186 Ohio Arch

186     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

wealth of detail they have been recorded. It remains

for the writer only to present that record in outline and

emphasize such portions as relate to John Brown's life

in Ohio. This is the necessary background for the con-

templated sketches of his men from this state. A gen-

eral knowledge of the character and purposes of the

leader is essential to an understanding of the motives

and actions of his followers.

Fortunate is the man who has a sympathetic biog-

rapher. Autobiography not infrequently leaves a more

satisfactory impression with the casual reader than does

biography.  Someone has observed that Benjamin

Franklin showed his wisdom in leaving to posterity a

carefully prepared record of his life which has become

a classic in our language. Other writers have been less

classic and some of them less lenient. The first biog-

raphy of the subject of this sketch, entitled The Public

Life of Captain John Brown, was written by James Red-

path, a man in hearty sympathy with Brown and so

closely associated with him in Kansas that he may be

classed among John Brown's men. His book bears the

copyright date of 1860, had a wide sale and produced a

profound impression. The author in a brief period col-

lected a wealth of material favorable to his hero whom

he valiantly defends against attack from whatever

quarter. It is difficult even at this late day to read this

record without living again in the times in which it was

written and yielding to the fervent appeal presented by

the author. To Redpath, John Brown was always right

and the sainted martyr of his generation.

Redpath was a newspaper correspondent and a man

of considerable literary ability. He witnessed the stir-

ring scenes in Kansas but was not at Harper's Ferry.

John Brown 187

John Brown                  187

A poem entitled "Brown's Address to His Men," evi-

dently written by himself, reveals something of the

spirit of the anti-slavery warriors in Kansas. We quote

here the introductory and the concluding stanzas:

They are coming--men, make ready;

See their ensigns- hear their drum;

See them march with steps unsteady;

Onward to their graves they come.


We must conquer, we must slaughter;

We are God's rod, and his ire

Wills their blood shall flow like water:

In Jehovah's dread name-Fire!

While Redpath's book is a valuable contribution to

the history of the times, it was written too soon and in

the midst of an excitement so intense that inaccuracies

naturally occur and it cannot claim the highest authority.

In another volume, Echoes From Harper's Ferry,

issued in the same year, this author has performed a

valuable service by collecting and publishing in perma-

nent form the expressions of eminent men and women

on the tragedy that closed with the execution of Brown

and a number of his followers. This includes the views

of Thoreau, Emerson, Theodore Parker, Henry Ward

Beecher, James Freeman Clarke, William Lloyd Garri-

son, Victor Hugo, Mrs. M. J. C. Mason of Virginia and

Rev. Moncure D. Conway of Cincinnati. There are

quotations from scores of others almost equally promi-

nent and a collection of the correspondence of John

Brown. Ohioans will find interest in the fervid and

prophetic address of Conway, which is full of the senti-

ment that pervaded the ranks of anti-slavery men in

Ohio under the stress of the times.

In John Brown, Liberator of Kansas and Martyr of

Virginia, F. B. Sanborn, the contemporary and associate

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188     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

of Brown, has presented in over 600 compactly printed

pages the life and the most complete collection of the

letters of Brown that has been published. This work

has gone through four editions, the last of which bears

the date of 1910. Mr. Sanborn was the well known

writer of Concord, and no study of the life and times of

Brown can satisfactorily be made without frequent ref-

erence to this book, written by his associate and friend.

Like the work of Redpath, this volume has been pre-

pared by one in thorough sympathy with the purposes

and achievements of Brown and must be regarded as

the testimonial of a devoted lifetime friend.

Richard J. Hinton, another associate of Brown's, in

1894 published a most interesting volume entitled John

Brown and his Men. The appearance of this contribu-

tion was most fortunate. In Kansas and at Harper's

Ferry, Brown was so completely the dominating figure

of the tragic scenes through which he passed that sight

is almost lost of his followers. It is fortunate that one

of these followers who personally knew the men that

served under John Brown should collect all the avail-

able material in regard to the lives of these associates.

We are apt to think of them sometimes as men like

Brown himself, to overlook the fact that they were all

much younger, in fact a majority of them might be

termed boys, for some of them were not out of their

teens and most of them had not reached their thirties.

Though younger they were in thorough sympathy with

Brown. Seven of them were his own sons. Almost

without exception they had acquired the rudiments of

an education in the common schools of their day and

some of them, like Kagi and Cook, were men of wide

reading and some literary ability, while Richard Raelf,

John Brown 189

John Brown                   189

a wayward son of genius, was a poet whose writings

are altogether worthy of the attractive volume in which

they have been published with a memoir of his life. For

our purpose this volume by Hinton has an especial value

as it contains matter and references that will be very

helpful in contemplated sketches of Kagi, the Coppoc

brothers and John Brown's sons, six of whom were born

in Ohio.

In 1911 Houghton Mifflin and Company issued a

substantial and attractive volume of 738 pages entitled

John Brown, a Biography Fifty Years After, by Oswald

Garrison Villard, a grandson of William Lloyd Garri-

son. This work is the result of research study extend-

ing over more than three years. The author seems to

have consulted every available source in his industrious

quest and he came into contact by personal visit or letter

with practically all of the survivors who had been asso-

ciated with Brown or had been present at the time of the

Harper's Ferry raid and the execution that followed it.

In the preface of his book he states his purpose in lan-

guage that needs no explanation. He says in part:

"Since 1886 there have appeared five other lives of Brown,

the most important being that of Richard J. Hinton, who in his

preface glories in holding a brief for Brown and his men. The

present volume is inspired by no such purpose, but is due to

a belief that fifty years after the Harper's Ferry tragedy the

time is ripe for a study of John Brown, free from bias, from

the errors in taste and fact of the mere panegyrist and from the

blind prejudice of those who can see in John Brown nothing but

a criminal. The pages that follow were written to detract from

or champion no man or set of men, but to put forth the essential

truths of history as far as ascertainable, and to judge Brown,

his followers and associates in the light thereof."

There can be no doubt that Mr. Villard labored

assiduously to bring his book up to the high standard set

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190     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

forth above. His bibliography of manuscripts, books,

documents and papers consulted covers twenty royal

octavo pages of closely printed matter - a list of refer-

ences so complete that it will probably not be extended.

In dealing with the character of John Brown he most

seriously criticises the warfare waged by him in Kansas

prior to 1857. He especially condemns what he terms

"Murder on the Pottawatomie" as without provocation

or extenuating cause. There are other portions of the

book that attest pretty clearly the declaration of the

author that he is not holding a brief for John Brown.

Like his grandfather Garrison, Mr. Villard finds it

difficult to justify the taking of human life or participa-

tion in deeds of bloodshed and violence. While he seeks

to be rigidly just and to take into account the spirit of

the times in which John Brown lived, his task is not

an easy one and his conclusions invite criticism. When

John Brown appealed to arms and ruthless warfare

against the ruffian invaders, violence was manifest in

legislative halls, on the plains of Kansas and wherever

the burning question of slavery had divided the people

into hostile parties. While Villard finds much to criti-

cise in John Brown's eulogists, in the concluding chapter

of his book entitled "Yet Shall He Live," he pays just

tribute to the heroic qualities that Brown manifested

while in prison and when with triumphant step he

mounted the scaffold and took his place among the

martyrs of history. The conclusion of his exhaustive

study is presented in the last four sentences of his book:

"And so, wherever there is battling against injustice and

oppression, the Charlestown gallows that became a cross will help

men to live and die. The story of John Brown will ever con-

front the spirit of despotism, when men are struggling to throw

John Brown 191

John Brown                  191


off the shackles of social or political or physical slavery. His

own country, while admitting his mistakes without undue pal-

liation or excuse, will forever acknowledge the divine that was

in him by the side of what was human and faulty, and blind

and wrong. It will cherish the memory of the prisoner of

Charlestown in 1859 as at once a sacred, a solemn and an inspir-

ing American heritage."

In no other part of the United States, perhaps, has

there been more controversy over the subject of this

sketch than in the state of Kansas. Here he first ap-

pealed to arms and here his friends claim that he struck

the first telling blow which turned back the tide of Pro-

Slavery invasion and ultimately made Kansas a free


When the war was on in the Territory of Kansas

between the Free-State men and the Border Ruffians

from Missouri and the South, the settlers who were

opposed to slavery compromised their differences and

fought shoulder to shoulder to make Kansas free.

When they had triumphed and Kansas took her place in

the Union without slavery, divisions began to spring up

among the Free State men themselves, divisions which

present the phenomenon not infrequently witnessed of

factional differences in a triumphant party after a polit-

ical campaign. Governor Robinson led one of the Free

State factions, General Lane and the followers of John

Brown united in another. The controversy raged over

the question as to who had done most to save Kansas to

freedom. The conflict was fanned to furious heat

through political campaigns that followed the Civil

War. Of course neither John Brown nor his sons were

present to take part in the controversy, but the friends

and enemies of Robinson and Lane waged with each

other a long and bitter war of words, the echoes of

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which come down to the present time. Governor Rob-

inson became one of the wealthiest men in Kansas and

it was asserted by his opponents not only that he had

acquired his wealth unjustly but that he never hesitated

to use it to advance his interests in the acrimonious con-

tests that he waged. As an outgrowth of this contro--

versy we have a life of John Brown written by William

Elsey Connelley, a well known historian and at present

Secretary of the Kansas Historical Society. After a

careful survey of the Kansas field, Connelley took his

place in the ranks of the friends of John Brown. While

in his biography he admits the imperfections and mis-

takes of the hero of Black Jack and Osawatomie, he

finds upon careful investigation extenuating circum-

stances that go far toward justifying all that John

Brown did in Kansas. He stoutly defends the "Potta-

watomie executions" and quotes eminent men to sustain

his view. Among those quoted are Senator John J.

Ingalls* and Professor L. Spring,+ of the University

of Kansas.

The appearance of Mr. Connelley's book stirred up

Governor Robinson and his friends who raised many

questions in regard to the authority of the work and

rather severely criticised the author because of the con-

* Senator Ingalls, in the North American Review, of February,

1884, wrote: "It was the 'blood and iron' prescription of Bismarck. The

Pro-Slavery butchers of Kansas and their Missouri confederates learned

that it was no longer safe to kill. They discovered, at last, that nothing

is so unprofitable as injustice. They started from the guilty dream to

find before them, silent and tardy, but inexorable and relentless, with up-

lifted blade, the awful apparition of vengeance and retribution."

+ On the Pottawatomie affair Professor Spring wrote: "Was the

fanatic's expectation realized? Did the event approve his sagacity? I

think there is but one answer to questions like these. After all, the fanatic

was wiser than the philosopher. The effect of this retaliatory policy in

checking outrages, in bringing to a pause the depredations of bandits, in

staying the proposed execution of Free State prisoners was marvelous."

John Brown 193

John Brown                 193

clusions that he had drawn from the study of his subject

and the stirring times in which Kansas was born. If

the critics thought that Connelley would calmly submit

to their estimate of his work and be silent, they were

seriously mistaken. Mr. Connelley wields a trenchant

pen in dealing with the detractors of John Brown. The

pamphlet in which he replied to their criticisms bears

the title An Appeal to the Record. Those who had at-

tacked him and his work assuredly discovered when this

pamphlet of 130 pages appeared that they had caught a

Tartar. He retaliated by holding up to public condem-

nation Governor Robinson, G. W. Brown and Eli

Thayer. Their private lives are brought into serious

question by sweeping general condemnations and with

the promise to furnish detailed particulars for the in-

dictment if occasion requires. Their public records are

excoriated so mercilessly that their friends to this day

must feel their blood tingle as they peruse the pages of

the Record. His critics must have felt when this publi-

cation appeared much as did those of Byron when they

read English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.

There appears never to have been a reply to the in-

dignant "appeal," but its appearance was probably re-

sponsible for the publication in 1913 of a volume entitled

"John Brown, Soldier of Fortune, A Critique," by Hills

Peebles Wilson. This work is the most condemnatory

that has been published on John Brown. It scoffs at his

religious pretense, questions whether Brown ever really

desired to liberate the slaves and hurls anathemas at all

of his biographers who have said a word in his support.

The author, however, gives Brown the credit of having

carefully planned the Harper's Ferry raid which in his

opinion almost succeeded. He scouts the contention that

Vol. XXX - 13.

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194     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

he was insane. At the climax of his tirade he denounces

Brown as "Grafter! Hypocrite! Fiend! MONSTER!"

In the closing pages of his book he declares that Brown

was "crafty in the sublimest degree of the art." He

concludes his "critique" of 407 pages with these lines,

quoting as a text the caption of the final chapter in Vil-

lard's book:

" 'Yet Shall He Live': but it will be as a soldier of fortune,

an adventurer. He will take his place in history as such; and

will rank among adventurers as Napoleon ranks among marshals;

as Captain Kidd among pirates; and as Jonathan Wild among


Assuredly here is fierce denunciation. This book for

a time was read with much satisfaction by the critically

inclined who place a low estimate upon humanitarian

endeavor and reluctantly accord unselfish motives to

others. Mr. Wilson places much stress on the word

"grafter" throughout his work.

This book was widely circulated; but the effort thus

to blacken the name of Brown in history came to a some-

what ignominious end. The widow of Governor Rob-

inson, in the spirit of her husband, continued the war-

fare against the friends of Lane and Brown. Shortly

after she died Wilson appealed for the money due him

for writing the book. He had to produce his contract

in court to get his pay. This he did, took the contract

price, $5000, and at latest reports was no longer a citizen

of Kansas. This revelation detracted from the influence

of the book and took much of the sting out of "grafter"

and other epithets that the author so liberally hurled at

old John Brown.

Peace now seems to reign among the history writers

John Brown 195

John Brown                 195

of Kansas, with Connelley and his friends triumphant

and the fame of John Brown again in the ascendant.

There is a life of John Brown by W. E. B. DuBois,

the colored scholar and author, which is well worth

reading. It may be regarded as an index of the ultimate

attitude of the race for which Kansas bled and the gal-

lows of Virginia ushered in the tragic drama of the

Civil War. DuBois's book does credit to himself and

his people. It reflects their gratitude for liberation from

bondage, and the estimate of Brown's followers who

fought to accomplish this is thoughtful and conserva-

tive. It is evident, however, that the author has in mind

the present and future of his race and a somber appre-

ciation of prejudices to be overcome and wrongs to be

righted. He insists that the negro still suffers grievous

injustice; that the times call for another John Brown

to batter down the walls and break the fetters that de-

prive his people of the rights and opportunities which

should be theirs under our institutions.  He has a

grievance to present and a purpose to accomplish; he

gets a hearing through his ably written biography of

John Brown, even as Charles Sumner in his scholarly

lecture on Lafayette found an avenue for an attack on

the institution of slavery.

John Brown appears to have appealed strongly to

literary men of other lands. Victor Hugo, perhaps the

greatest writer of his age, himself an exile at the time

of the raid, was quick to express eloquent appreciation.

Later he joined with French republican associates in

striking a gold medal for the widow of John Brown and

sending it to her with the remarkable letter which is

found elsewhere in this issue of the QUARTERLY. Dr.

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Hermann von Hoist, the gifted and cultured German,

who came to the United States and attained eminence

as a historian of our institutions, has left a tribute to

Brown in an extended essay which was brought out in

a separate publication by Frank Preston Stearns in


There are other biographies and monographs; there

are pamphlets and periodical articles almost without

number. Reference to the foregoing works is made for

the convenience of the average reader who may wish to

know something of the books that will most likely be

within his reach, their authors and the purpose for which

each was written.

In this connection it may be worth while to bear in

mind that the writer of this contribution and others that

are in contemplation was born and reared under Quaker

influences and that as he writes memory frequently

reverts to a Quaker grandfather who, like others of his

faith, was valiant in the war of words against the insti-

tution of slavery but deplored the shedding of blood and

the clash of arms that came as the result of the agitation.

His sympathy with Brown was heightened by the fact

that two Quaker boys from a neighboring farm went to

Harper's Ferry and one of them followed his chief to

the gallows at Charlestown. The story of this youth,

his tragic fate and the outpouring of people to attend his

funeral is still rehearsed in the little community where

Edwin Coppoc was born and near which his mortal

remains are at rest. If bias marks aught that is here

written, may it be credited to the influence of those fire-

side memories.

Any adequate estimate of the character and career of

John Brown should, of course, take into consideration

John Brown 197

John Brown                 197

the record and spirit of the times in which he lived.

This seems to be conceded by all who have seriously

written on the subject and they have collected and pub-

lished materials that make unnecessary extended addi-

tional research. Mr. Villard in his exhaustive work has

stated in consecutive order the cumulative offenses on

both sides of the controversy over slavery. It is difficult

to read these without reaching the conclusion that deeds

of violence and the bloody sequel of Civil War were

inevitable. In the light of what he himself has written,

some of his judgments against John Brown's operations

in Kansas may seem unduly severe. To anti-slavery

settlers conditions had become intolerable. Reprisals

and retribution were the results.

A review of the long controversy over slavery need

not be presented here. It is sufficient to know that when

Brown and his sons went to Kansas hostile thoughts

were finding expression in action - that violent words

were emphasized by cruel blows - that heated appeals

from the rostrum were marshalling the hosts for ensan-

guined battle fields.

Years before this in the state of Illinois Lovejoy

had been shot while defending his right through his

paper to oppose slavery, and for a similar offense Gar-

rison had been mobbed in the streets of Boston. It is

difficult for the rising generation to understand that

men are still living who can remember the raid of anti-

slavery newspapers, even in Ohio, and the treatment of

at least one editor to a liberal coat of tar and feathers.

As early as 1830 the condition of affairs in Kentucky

was set forth in a message of the governor of that state

in which he declared that "men slaughter each other

almost with impunity" and urged the legislature to take

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action to prevent a condition that made Kentucky still

the "dark and bloody ground." John Quincy Adams

was denounced for his anti-slavery utterances and this

toast was offered at a southern banquet: "May we never

want * * * a hangman to prepare a halter for

John Quincy Adams." On more than one occasion the

pistol and the bowie knife were brandished in the Con-

gress of the United States and Pro-Slavery newspapers

put a price on the heads of their eminent opponents:

"Five thousand dollars for that of William H. Seward

and ten thousand dollars for the delivery in Richmond

of Joshua R. Giddings," the representative in Congress

of the Ohio Western Reserve, the homeof John Brown

and his family.

The Pro-Slavery men who rushed to Kansas in order

to fix upon it their "peculiar institution," were not less

violent than the extremists of the states from which

they came. Before John Brown reached the Territory

it had been the scene of strife and bloodshed over the

question of slavery. The invasion from Missouri and

the South was in full sway. His sons who had preceeded

him were already involved in the controversy. They

were outspoken in their attitude of hostility to slavery.

John Brown, Jr., on June 25, 1855, was chosen vice-

president of the Free State Convention held in Lawrence

on that day. He was on the committee that reported

among other resolutions one containing this "defy" to

the Missourians: "In reply to the threats of war so fre-

quently made in our neighbor state, our answer is, 'WE

ARE READY'."     For this attitude the Browns were

"marked men," long before their father appeared on the


At previous elections the state had been overrun by

John Brown 199

John Brown                 199

Missourians, and the most flagrant frauds had been

openly perpetrated. At the election for delegate to Con-

gress November 29, 1854, they cast 1729 fraudulent

votes. In one district where the census three months

later showed only 53 voters, 602 votes were cast and

counted. At the election of members of the Territorial

Legislature, March 30, 1855, this outrage was even

more brazenly repeated. "Of 6307 votes cast, nearly

five-sixths were those of the invaders."  The Pro-

Slavery party by intimidation and violence elected all

the members of the legislature except one and he after-

ward resigned. This was the famous Lecompton Legis-

lature which forced upon the people of Kansas the Mis-

souri code, including the institution of slavery.* It even

went farther and made it a criminal offense for anyone

to entertain and express opinions hostile to that


There had been a number of "killings," how many

is not definitely known. Some who met this fate are

specifically named in the report of the Howard Congres-

sional Committee on which John Sherman, of Ohio, was

a member. Others are reported, among them the shoot-

ing of Charles Dow, a Free State man from Ohio. Prac-

tically every person in Kansas went armed and the seeds

of civil war were freely sown. The fact that the Pierce

administration at Washington was doing about every-

thing in its power to help fasten the institution of slavery

on Kansas made the situation doubly irritating for the

Free-State settlers. There was elected by votes from

Missouri a sheriff of Lawrence County, Kansas, who

at the same time held the position of postmaster in

* This is the "Kansas Legislature" referred to by John Brown in his

letter of February 20, 1856, to Joshua R. Giddings.

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200      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

Westport, Missouri.    It is needless to  say that this

sheriff was a source of trouble in this stronghold of the

Free-State men.

The early part of the winter 1855-1856 passed rather

quietly. The Free State men were gathering strength

and organizing for the admission of Kansas without

slavery. Their convention adopted a constitution and a

Free State legislature was chosen. John Brown, Jr.,

was elected to the latter.+

On January 24, 1856, President Pierce sent to Con-

gress a message that fanned to flaming heat the resent-

ment of the Free State men. It characterized their acts

in attempting to organize the state as revolutionary and

likely to lead to "treasonable insurrection." This mes-

sage was followed by a proclamation placing the United

States troops at Fort Riley at the service of Governor

Shannon, who was in complete sympathy with the move-

ment to make Kansas a slave state. This proclamation

foreshadowed the dissolution of the Free State Topeka

Legislature by the military forces of the United States.

The feelings that this aroused in John Brown are fully

revealed in the following letter to Joshua R. Giddings,

then representing the Western Reserve District of Ohio

in Congress:




Washington, D. C.


I write to say that a number of the United States Soldiers

are quartered in this vicinity for the ostensible purpose of re-

moving intruders from certain Indian Lands. It is, however,

believed that the Administration has no thought of removing

+ The Free State legislature was chosen by the Free State party.

The Pro-Slavery party did not participate in the election.

John Brown 201

John Brown                      201

the Missourians from the Indian Lands; but that the real object

is to have these men in readiness to act in the enforcement of

those Hellish enactments of the (so called) Kansas Legislature;

absolutely abominated by a great majority of the inhabitants of

the Territory; and spurned by them up to this time. I con-

fidently believe that the next movement on the part of the Ad-

ministration and its Proslavery masters will be to drive the

people here, either to submit to those Infernal enactments; or

to assume what will be termed treasonable grounds by shooting

down the poor soldiers of the country with whom they have

no quarrel whatever. I ask in the name of Almighty God; I ask

in the name of our venerated fore-fathers; I ask in the name of

all that good or true men ever held dear; will Congress suffer

us to be driven to such "dire extremities"? Will anything be

done? Please send me a few lines at this place. Long ac-

quaintance with your public life, and a slight personal ac-

quaintance incline and embolden me to make this appeal to


Everything is still on the surface here just now. Circum-

stances, however, are of a most suspicious character.

Very respectfully yours,


This letter received prompt attention at the hands of

the militant Congressman who replied in part:

"You need have no fear of the troops. The President will

never dare employ the troops of the United States to shoot the

citizens of Kansas. The death of the first man by the troops

will involve every free state in your own fate. It will light up

the fires of Civil War throughout the North, and we shall stand

or fall with you. Such an act will also bring the President so

deep in infamy that the hand of political resurrection will never

reach him."

On the day that Brown wrote the letter to Joshua R.

Giddings, February 20, 1856, The Squatter Sovereign

said editorially:

"In our opinion the only effectual way to correct the evils

that now exist is to hang up to the nearest tree the very last

traitor who was instrumental in getting up, or participating in,

the celebrated Topeka Convention."

202 Ohio Arch

202     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

More than a month previous the Pro-Slavery men

had acted in the spirit of this advice. Captain Reese P.

Brown (not related to the subject of this sketch) shortly

after he had been elected a member of the Topeka Free-

State Legislature, was brutally murdered by Pro-

Slavery men who rushed around him and "literally

hacked him to death with their hatchets." When his

bleeding body, from which life was not yet extinct, was

thrown at the feet of his wife she swooned and awoke

a raving maniac. The morning following this deed The

Kansas Pioneer came out with this lurid appeal:

"Sound the bugle of war over the length and breadth of

the land and leave not an abolitionist in the territory to relate

their treacherous and contaminating deeds. Strike your piercing

rifle balls and your glittering steel to their black and poisonous


The killing of Reese P. Brown was scarcely more

gruesome than others occurring about the same time.

It is here given because the victim was elected to the

Topeka Legislature in which John Brown, Jr., later

(March 8, 1856) acted on a committee that condemned

the "cold blooded murder" of their fellow member.

For his activity in this Legislature, John Brown, Jr.,

was made to pay a terrible penalty as will be shown later

in a sketch of his life. From the little that has here been

said it may be seen that the subversion of the ballot-box

was complete and that violence was rife in Kansas be-

fore the affair at the Pottawatomie.

In the meantime the war of words on the hustings

and in legislative halls was not less violent than deeds

on the plains of Kansas. At times it is difficult to say

which was echo of the other. In Congress the speeches

turned more and more upon the struggle to fix slavery

John Brown 203

John Brown                   203

on Kansas Territory and the parties to the fray on that

western frontier were stirred to more desperate action

by the charges and counter-charges, denunciations and

appeals of their friends back east.

Excitement went up to fever heat when Preston

Brooks, a member of the House of Representatives from

South Carolina, accompanied by a colleague from that

state and one from Virginia, made a violent attack upon

Charles Sumner, a senator from the state of Massachu-

setts. Sumner on the 19th day of May, 1856, delivered

a notable speech in the Senate in which he most severely

arraigned the slave power and its defenders in Congress.

He was eloquent in his defense of the Free State settlers

of Kansas and contrasted their spirit with that exhibited

by the people of South Carolina. He compared the

women of Lawrence with "the matrons of Rome who

poured their jewels into the treasury for the public


"It would be difficult to find anything in the history of

South Carolina," said he, "which presents as much heroic spirit

in an heroic cause as shines in that repulse of the Missouri in-

vaders by the beleaguered town of Lawrence, where even the

women gave their effective efforts to freedom."

And in conclusion, turning to Senator Butler, he


"Ah, sir, I tell the senator that Kansas, welcomed as a free

state, 'a ministering angel shall be' to the Republic, when South

Carolina, in the cloak of darkness which she hugs, 'lies howling'."

There were bitter personalities exchanged in the

course of this debate. Two days afterward Brooks of

South Carolina with his two confederates approached

Sumner where he was sitting at his desk in the senate

chamber. As he raised his cane he shouted to Sumner,

204 Ohio Arch

204     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

"I have read your speech over twice carefully; it is a

libel on South Carolina and Mr. Butler who is a relative

of mine." With these words he rained blow upon blow

upon Sumner's head and arms. The senator struggled

to rise, but before he could successfully defend himself

he fell bleeding from more than twenty wounds on the

floor of the senate chamber.  Senator Crittenden of

Kentucky started to assist Sumner but was prevented by

Representative Keitt, of South Carolina, Representative

Edmundson, of Virginia, and others who shouted:

"Let them alone." "Don't interfere." "Go it, Brooks."

"Give the Abolitionist h-l." With shouts like these, in-

terspersed with oaths, the senate chamber rang as the

confederates of Brooks with raised canes prevented any


The subsequent history of this outrage is too well

known to be repeated here.  For almost four years

Sumner was unable to return to the Senate.

The news of this disgraceful affair reached John

Brown's men on their way to the Pottawatomie. It

spurred them on to action swift and terrible. The blows

struck in the Senate of the United States reached to

Kansas - and farther. The memory of the Sumner

assault is revived here simply to show the unfortunate

condition into which the whole country had drifted as

a result of the anti-slavery controversy. When such

a deed of violence could occur in broad daylight in the

highest legislative body of our land, what might not be

expected, under the then existing conditions, when the

news of it reached the Kansas frontier?

Shortly after the Pottawatomie tragedy and before

authentic account of it had reached the East, Abraham

Lincoln caught the spirit of the hour and in his famous

John Brown 205

John Brown                   205

speech at Bloomington, Illinois, May 29, 1856, pro-


"We must highly resolve that Kansas must be free * * *

let us draw a cordon so to speak around the slave states, and the

hateful institution, like a reptile poisoning itself, will perish

by its own infamy."

He reached the climax in this speech in these words:

"There is a power and a magic in popular opinion. To

that let us now appeal; and while, in all probability, no resort

to force will be needed, our moderation and forbearance will

stand us in good stead when, if ever, we must make an appeal

to battle and the God of hosts."

Quotations might be extended almost without limit

to show that the spirit of war was in the air throughout

our land when the first red drops of the approaching

storm were falling on the plains of Kansas.

The affair for which John Brown has been most fre-

quently and seriously criticised was preceded, it should

always be remembered, by the burning and sacking of

the town of Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free

State men in Kansas territory. To avenge wrongs done

the "highly honorable Jones" who was at the same time

holding the position of postmaster of Westport, Mis-

souri,and sheriff of Lawrence County, Kansas, a band

of border ruffians numbering about 1200 and led by

former United States Senator Atchison of Missouri

appeared before the town. The citizens determined to

offer no resistance and to put up to the authorities of the

United States the responsibility for what might follow.

After they had surrendered Atchison in a fiery speech

said to his followers among other things:

"And now we will go with our highly honorable Jones, and

test the strength of that damned Free State Hotel. Be brave,

206 Ohio Arch

206     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

be orderly, and if any man or woman stand in your way, blow

them to hell with a chunk of cold lead."

The border ruffians, many of whom were inflamed

by drink, sacked the town, destroyed two newspaper

offices and threw the types, papers, presses and books

into the river. A number of cannon shots were then

fired into the Free State Hotel which was soon on fire

and went up in flames. When it lay in ruins the "highly

honorable Jones" shouted in glee: "This is the happiest

moment of my life. I have done it, by God I have done


It has been sometimes claimed that John Brown was

in Lawrence at the time its destruction began. This is

hardly true, however, as there would have been resolute

resistance if he had been there. Some of his friends

have claimed that what he saw at Lawrence was his

excuse for the act of vengeance on the Pottawatomie,

but Villard marshals a lot of evidence to show that John

Brown was probably not present and that therefore he

could not offer what he saw in excuse for what he later

did. It seems very inconsequential whether he was

present or not. He certainly heard of what occurred on

the 21st of May before the action of his followers on the

Pottawatomie on the night of the 24th of that month.

And the conclusion cannot be escaped that he and his

followers, with this fresh demonstration that the gov-

ernment of the United States would do nothing to pre-

serve life and the semblance of civilization in Kansas,

resolved to take the law into their own hands and by a

terrible reprisal notify the Border Ruffians that hence-

forth they would send their hordes into Kansas at their

own peril, that their armed assassins coming over the

John Brown 207

John Brown                   207

border would, in the language of Corwin, "be welcomed

with bloody hands to hospitable graves."

The Pottawatomie affair, as Villard states, has

caused perhaps more discussion than any other event in

the history of Kansas Territory. Upon this the enemies

of John Brown invariably dwell at length, while his

friends are equally explicit with their apologies and

defenses. Five Pro-Slavery men were killed on the

night of May 24, 1856, and it is now generally admitted

that they met their fate at the hands of John Brown and

his followers. John Brown himself killed no one, it is

claimed, but he was present and later assumed full re-

sponsibility for what was done. John Brown, Jr. was

some distance away and did not learn of the tragedy

until some time after it had occurred. Colonel Richard

J. Hinton in his John Brown and His Men fully justifies

what was done and terms it the "Pottawatomie execu-

tions." Villard strongly condemns the participants in

what he terms the "Murder on the Pottawatomie."

The five Pro-Slavery men on Pottawatomie Creek

were seized without warning and ruthlessly slain. Full

particulars are given by Villard, Sanborn and Hinton.

Although this action is strongly condemned by Villard,

in his analysis of the motive of Brown, he says:

"He believed that a collision was inevitable in the spring,

and Jones and Donaldson proved him to be correct. Fired with

indignation at the wrongs he witnessed on every hand, impelled

by the Covenanter's spirit that made him so strange a figure

in the nineteenth century, and believing fully that there should

be an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, he killed his men

in the conscientious belief that he was a faithful servant of

Kansas and of the Lord. He killed not to kill, but to free; not

to make wives widows and children fatherless, but to attack on

its own ground the hideous institution of human slavery, against

which his whole life was a protest. He pictured himself a

208 Ohio Arch

208     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


modern crusader as much empowered to remove the unbeliever

as any armored searcher after the Grail."

Villard also states that the action of John Brown

on the Pottawatomie was generally approved in after

years by the Free State men of Kansas and that many of

them went on record to the effect that it was necessary

for the protection of the Free State settlers and prepared

the way for the final deliverance of Kansas from the

institution of slavery.

In this introductory paper no attempt will be made

to differentiate the conscientious convictions that the

North and the South brought to the controversy. At this

late day no serious effort will be made, it is presumed, to

prove that the institution of slavery was fundamentally

right and that it should have been perpetuated under our

flag. At the time of John Brown's activity in the anti-

slavery cause, however, the people of the South believed

that their "peculiar system" could be justified on the

highest moral grounds and their ministers of the gospel

eloquently defended it from the pulpit, basing their con-

clusions on extended quotations from Holy Writ. An

overwhelming majority of the white citizens of the

United States who lived south of the Mason and Dixon

line regarded the abolition movement as an attack upon

them and their property, designed to incite a servile in-

surrection with horrors similar to those that signalized

the uprising of the blacks against their masters in San

Domingo. In view of this fact, the excesses of the slave

power and its agents in Kansas and Virginia are self-


The action of the people of Virginia at Harper's

Ferry and Charlestown has been criticised, ridiculed and

John Brown 209

John Brown                209

bitterly condemned. The treatment of the prisoners

who were captured at Harper's Ferry, however, stands

out in redeeming relief. The jailer, Captain Avis, and

Sheriff Campbell were so considerate that the prisoners

paid frequent tribute to their kind and chivalrous con-

duct. Much must be said also to the credit of Governor

Wise whose testimony to the high character and sterling

qualities of John Brown was truly remarkable when we

consider the circumstances under which it was uttered.

It must also be remembered that he was so impressed

by the conduct of Edwin Coppoc and his Quaker

friends that he desired to commute the sentence of this

youth to imprisonment for life and was only dissuaded

by action of the Legislature of Virginia. In spite of

the excitement attending the raid and the excesses inci-

dent to its suppression Virginia maintained and exhib-

ited a degree of her traditional chivalry.

Elsewhere will be presented a statement of the won-

derful change in popular opinion that was wrought in

large measure by John Brown and his men. The Civil

War soon followed and the leaders who were prominent

in opposing John Brown by force of arms at Harper's

Ferry to maintain the supremacy of the laws of the

United States and Virginia were soon afterwards them-

selves in uniforms of gray fighting to overthrow the

Republic that they had sworn to defend; while the fol-

lowers of John Brown who survived the raid and the

gallows were in uniforms of blue fighting to preserve

the Union.

Of special importance, as we have already intimated,

to all readers of the QUARTERLY is Ohio's relation to the

work of John Brown and his men. Brown himself

came to the village of Hudson, "the capital of our West-

Vol. XXX - 14.

210 Ohio Arch

210     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

ern Reserve," when he was only five years old and grew

up to manhood with the pioneers of our state. Of seven

sons that aided him in his warfare against slavery six

were born in Ohio and all were reared in this state. Of

other followers John Henri Kagi, who was killed at

Harper's Ferry, was born in Trumbull County, Ohio,

and Edwin Coppoc, who was executed at Charlestown,

Virginia, was born in Columbiana County, Ohio, as was

his brother Barclay who escaped from Harper's Ferry

and afterwards lost his life while serving his country as

lieutenant in a Kansas regiment of volunteers.

Lewis Sherrard Leary, who was killed at Harper's

Ferry, and John A. Copeland, who was executed at

Charlestown, were both colored, born in other states but

Ohioans by adoption, and went from their homes in

Oberlin to join John Brown at Chambersburg, Pennsyl-


Wilson Shannon and Samuel Medary at different

times served as governor of Kansas Territory. The

former was appointed by President Pierce and the latter

by President Buchanan. Both were from Ohio and

had been prominent in the political annals of this state.

Shannon had been its governor.

Other Ohio men less prominent were not less pow-

erful in shaping the destiny of Kansas in the days of

stress and controversy over slavery.  They were so

numerous that they were the dominating influence in

the convention that gave Kansas her free constitution.

The census of 1860 shows that Ohio had at that time

contributed more than any other state to the population

of Kansas.

One of the men who at Harper's Ferry plied old John

Brown with questions for the evident purpose of impli-

John Brown 211

John Brown                 211

eating prominent anti-slavery statesmen in the raid,

was Clement L. Vallandigham, the congressman from

Ohio, destined himself to lose the road to eminence in

the mighty conflict soon to follow.

One of the youthful followers of Brown, as will later

be seen, lost his life through the burning of a bridge by

Quantrill, the Confederate guerrilla chieftain, who was

also born in Ohio.  Assuredly in this labyrinth of

tragedy Ohioans were conspicuously involved.




Biographies of John Brown properly and necessarily

start with Plymouth Rock. His ancestor, Peter Brown

the carpenter, came over in the Mayflower with the Pil-

grims in December, 1620.

Detailed information is available in a number of

works relative to the descendants of this ancestor. It is

unnecessary to repeat here all that has been written.

Peter Brown died in 1633 and his remains were buried

at Duxbury near those of the famous Captain Standish

whose monument now rises from the little promontory

that faces the sea.

Peter Brown of the Mayflower left a son named

after himself who moved to Windsor, Connecticut,

shortly prior to 1658. He here became the father of

thirteen children, one of whom, John Brown, was born

January 8, 1668. He grew to manhood and was the

father of eleven children, one of whom, John Brown

second, was born in 1700 and died in 1790. His son, Cap-

tain John Brown of West Simsbury, was the grandfather

of John Brown of Osawatomie and Harper's Ferry

fame. This grandfather was a soldier in the Revolution

and died in the service, leaving a widow and eleven chil-

212 Ohio Arch

212     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

dren, one of whom was born after he entered the army.

This widow's maiden name was Owen and one of her

sons named Owen was the father of John Brown,

the militant opponent of slavery. A detailed account of

his ancestry shows that Welsh, Dutch and English blood

mingled in his veins. Both of his grandfathers were

officers in the Revolution and one of them, as we have

seen, died in the service.

Owen Brown lived for a time in the town of West

Simsbury, now Canton, Connecticut. "Town" is used

here in the New England sense and means township.

Later he moved to Torrington, Connecticut, where his

son John was born May 9, 1800. In 1804 he made a

journey to what was then the far West and visited Hud-

son, Ohio, with the thought of locating there. One year

afterward he brought his family in a wagon drawn by

an ox team, chose his place of habitation and became a

citizen of the young state, Ohio.

The maiden name of John Brown's mother was

Ruth Mills.  Her father, Lieutenant Gideon Mills,

moved to Ohio in 1800, five years before Owen Brown

and his family came to the state.

Fortunately for those interested, Owen Brown when

nearly eighty years old and while living at Hudson

wrote a biography covering rather fully the events of

his life. This autobiography has a general interest for

the reader as it details the experiences, the trials, re-

verses and triumphs of the pioneers of our state and

especially those who came over from Connecticut and

settled on the Western Reserve. This brief narrative is

taken up largely with the things that interested the

average emigrant from the East who settled in this

section. Much of it is devoted to family interests, the

John Brown 213

John Brown                     213

record of the births and deaths of numerous children,

the pursuits of the pioneers, efforts to get the merest

rudiments of an education and the religious experiences

which made up a prominent part of the history of Hud-

son and the surrounding country.

Omitting the larger portion of this autobiography be-

cause it is readily accessible in The Life and Letters of

John Brown by F. B. Sanborn, we here quote some of

the paragraphs that relate especially to that portion of

the life of Owen Brown that was spent in Ohio:

"We arrived in Hudson on the 27th of July, and were re-

ceived with many tokens of kindness. We did not come to a

land of idleness; neither did I expect it. Our ways were as pros-

perous as we had reason to expect. I came with a determination

to help build up and be a help, in the support of religion and

civil order. We had some hardships to undergo, but they appear

greater in history than they were in reality. I was often called

to go into the woods to make division of lands, sometimes sixty

or seventy miles from home, and be gone some weeks, sleeping

on the ground, and that without serious injury.

"When we came to Ohio the Indians were more numerous

than the white people, but were very friendly, and I believe were

a benefit rather than an injury. In those days there were some

that seemed disposed to quarrel with the Indians, but I never

had those feelings. They brought us venison, turkeys, fish, and

the like; sometimes they wanted bread or meal more than they

could pay for at the time, but were always faithful to pay their

debts. In September, 1806, there was a difficulty between two

tribes; the tribe on the Cuyahoga River came to Hudson, and

asked for assistance to build them a log-house that would be a

kind of fort to shelter their women and children from the fire-

arms of their enemy. Most of our men went with teams, and

chopped, drew, and carried logs, and put up a house in one day,

for which they appeared very grateful. They were our neigh-

bors until 1812, but when the war commenced with the British,

the Indians left these parts mostly, and rather against my


A glimpse of what the second war with England

meant to this pioneer community may be had from the

following quotation:

214 Ohio Arch

214      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

"In July, 1812, the war with England began; and this war

called loudly for action, liberality, and courage. This was the

most active part of my life. We were then on the frontier, and

the people were much alarmed, particularly after the surrender

of General Hull at Detroit. Our cattle, horses, and provisions

were all wanted. Sick soldiers were returning, and needed all

the assistance that could be given them. There was great sick-

ness in different camps, and the travel was mostly through Hud-

son, which brought sickness into our families. By the first of

1813 there was great mortality in Hudson. My family were

sick, but we had no deaths."

John Brown inherited his opposition to slavery.

This is clearly set forth in a statement by his father

written about 1850:

"I am an abolitionist. I know we are not loved by many;

I have no confession to make for being one, yet I wish to tell

how long I have been one, and how I became so. I have no

hatred to negroes. When a child four or five years old, one

of our nearest neighbors had a slave that was brought from

Guinea. In the year 1776 my father was called into the army

at New York, and left his work undone. In August, our good

neighbor, Captain John Fast, of West Simsbury, let my mother

have the labor of his slave to plough a few days. I used to go

out into the field with this slave, - called Sam, - and he used

to carry me on his back, and I fell in love with him. He worked

but a few days, and went home sick with the pleurisy, and died

very suddenly. When told that he would die, he said that he

should go to Guinea, and wanted victuals put up for the journey.

As I recollect, this was the first funeral I ever attended in the

days of my youth. There were but three or four slaves in West

Simsbury. In the year 1790, when I lived with the Rev. Jere-

miah Hallock, the Rev. Samuel Hopkins, D. D., came from

Newport, and I heard him talking with Mr. Hallock about slav-

ery in Rhode Island, and he denounced it as a great sin. I

think in the same summer Mr. Hallock had sent to him a sermon

or pamphlet-book, written by the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, then

at New Haven. I read it, and it denounced slavery as a great

sin. From this time I was anti-slavery, as much as I be now."

In 1857 when John Brown was in the midst of war-

fare against slavery and stationed at Red Rock, Iowa,

he wrote in fulfillment of a promise a sketch of his life

John Brown 215

John Brown                  215

for Henry L. Stearns, a boy only thirteen years old.

The occasion of the writing of this sketch was the grat-

itude of Brown to Mr. George Luther Stearns, a

wealthy merchant and manufacturer of Boston whom

Brown visited shortly after Christmas in 1856. Stearns

had a beautiful home at Medford and here he enter-

tained his guest, with whose anti-slavery views he was

in cordial sympathy. The oldest son of the family was

much interested in Brown and gave him some money

that he had been saving to buy shoes for "one of those

little Kansas children." When Brown left the boy ex-

acted from him a promise that he would write the story

of his boyhood days. This he did later at Red Rock,

Iowa, and sent it to the Stearns family. The manuscript

is still in existence. It has been published many times

and we quote from it simply within the limitations of

what may especially interest Ohio readers. He speaks

of the long journey to Ohio which he distinctly remem-

bered, always referring to himself in the third person:

"When he was five years old his father moved to Ohio,

then a wilderness filled with wild beasts and Indians. During

the long journey, which was performed in part or mostly with an

ox team, he was called by turns to assist a boy five years older,

who had been adopted by his father and mother."

It is rather remarkable that no difference how large

these pioneer families were they always seemed to have

room for additions by adoption. The doors were usually

open to a child or youth for varied periods of time as

we shall see later. Again Brown in speaking of his

coming to Ohio says:

"After getting to Ohio in 1805 he was for some time rather

afraid of the Indians and their rifles, but this soon wore out and

he used to hang about them quite as much as was consistent with

good manners and learned a trifle of their talk."

216 Ohio Arch

216      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

He then proceeds to tell how he learned the tanner's

trade under the direction of his father and to detail his

youthful experiences, his association with Indian chil-

dren and his fondness for pets. Of schooling he re-

ceived very little. He says:

"Indeed when for a short time he was sometimes sent to

school, the opportunity it afforded to wrestle and snowball and

run and jump and knock off old seedy wool hats offered him al-

most the only compensation for the confinement and Restraints

of school."

As he grew older larger responsibilities came to him

and he drove cattle, sometimes a distance of a hundred

miles. His experiences at this period are the founda-

tions from which Elbert Hubbard built up much of his

interesting novel, Time and Chance.      As set forth in

that story, Zanesville, Ohio, was the destination of this

boy herdsman. We quote from what he has to say in

regard to the war with England, as he saw it, and the

influences that made him a foe to slavery:

"When the war broke out with England, his father soon

commenced furnishing the troops with beef cattle, the collecting

and driving of which afforded him some opportunity for the

chase (on foot) of wild steers and other cattle through the

woods. During this war he had some chance to form his own

boyish judgment of men and measures and to become somewhat

familiarly acquainted with some who have figured before the

country since that time. The effect of what he saw during the

war was to so far disgust him with military affairs that he would

neither train or drill but paid fines and got along like a Quaker

until his age finally has cleared him of military duty.

"During the war with England a circumstance occurred that

in the end made him a most determined abolitionist and led him

to declare or swear eternal war with slavery. He was staying

for a short time with a very gentlemanly landlord, since a United

States Marshal, who held a slave boy near his own age, very

active, intelligent and good feeling and to whom John was under

considerable obligation for numerous little acts of kindness. The

master made a great pet of John, brought him to table with his

John Brown 217

John Brown                    217


first company and friends, called their attention to every little

smart thing he said or did and to the fact of his being more

than a hundred miles from home with a company of cattle alone,

while the negro boy (who was fully if not more than his equal)

was badly clothed, poorly fed and lodged in cold weather and

beaten before his eyes with iron shovels or any other thing that

came first to hand. This brought John to reflect on the wretched,

hopeless condition of fatherless and motherless slave children,

for such children have neither fathers or mothers to protect and

provide for them. He sometimes would raise the question, is

God their Father?"

Of his early religious experiences he says:

"John had been taught from earliest childhood to 'fear God

and keep His commandments;' and though quite skeptical he

had always by turns felt much serious doubt as to his future

well being and about this time became to some extent a convert

to Christianity and ever after a firm believer in the divine authen-

ticity of the Bible. With this book he became very familiar and

possessed a most unusual memory of its entire contents."

Again he reverts to his work at Hudson. He says:

"From fifteen to twenty years old, he spent most of his

time at the tanner and currier's trade, keeping bachelor's hall

and he officiating as cook and for most of the time as foreman

in the establishment under his father."

While this youth was working in his father's tan-

nery, another boy by the name of Jesse Grant, whose

parents had come from Connecticut to Pennsylvania

and later to Ohio, came to the Brown home and was

admitted to the family. He and young John Brown

worked side by side daily and became much attached to

each other. Little did either dream of the future before

him. John was to become the father of sons who should

give their lives in an effort to overthrow the institution

of slavery, and Jesse was to become the father of the

general who should lead armed hosts to bind the states

closer together and make freedom universal in America.

218 Ohio Arch

218      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

Ulysses S. Grant, the son of Jesse, in his memoirs com-

pleted at Mt. McGregor July 1, 1885, has this to say of

his father's apprenticeship in the tannery of Owen


"He went first, I believe, with his half-brother, Peter Grant,

who, though not a tanner himself, owned a tannery in Maysville,

Kentucky. Here he learned his trade, and in a few years re-

turned to Deerfield and worked for, and lived in the family of

a Mr. Brown, the father of John Brown-'whose body lies

mouldering in the grave, while his soul goes marching on.' I

have often heard my father speak of John Brown, particularly

since the events at Harper's Ferry. Brown was a boy when

they lived in the same house, but he knew him afterwards, and

regarded him as a man of great purity of character, of high

moral and physical courage, but a fanatic and extremist in what-

ever he advocated. It was certainly the act of an insane man

to attempt the invasion of the South, and the overthrow of

slavery, with less than twenty men."

In the War of 1812, Owen Brown contracted to fur-

nish beef to Hull's army, which with his boy John he

followed to or near Detroit. Though John was but

twelve years old, in after years he recalled very dis-

tinctly the incidents of the long march, the camp life of

the soldiers and the attitude of the subordinate officers

toward their commander. From conversations that he

overheard he concluded that they were not very loyal to

General Hull. He remembered especially General Lewis

Cass, then a captain, and General Duncan McArthur.

As late as 1857 he referred to conversations between the

two and among other officers that should have branded

them as mutineers. How much of this has foundation

in fact and how much is due to erroneous youthful im-

pression, must of course remain a matter of conjecture.

Like most children of his day John Brown had very

meager educational opportunities at Hudson. He sup-

John Brown 219

John Brown                 219

plemented the rudiments that he there acquired in the

schools and the church by reading such standard books

as Eosop's Bables, Life of Franklin and Pilgrim's


At the age of sixteen years he joined the Congre-

gational Church at Hudson and later thought seriously

of studying for the ministry. With this purpose in

view he returned to Connecticut and entered a prepar-

atory school at Plainfield, intending later to take a course

at Amherst College. Inflammation of his eyes, how-

ever, prevented him from continuing his studies and he

soon returned to Hudson. Later at odd moments he

studied surveying and attained skill and accuracy in its

practice. In 1820 he owned a copy of Flint's Survey.

Some of his surveying instruments are in the Museum

of the Ohio State Archaeological anJ Historical Society,

including his pocket and his field compasses, both in

excellent state of preservation. His chief occupation,

however, from  1819 to 1839 was the tanning of


That John Brown was a normal youth is attested by

the fact that he early fell deeply in love. This was not

reciprocated and he wrote in a letter about forty years

afterward that as a result he "felt for a number of

years in early life a steady, strong desire to die." That

he was normal is also proven by the fact that he was

later comforted and married Diantha Lusk of Hudson,

Ohio, June 21, 1820. She was an excellent woman, very

devout and fully shared her husband's faith and enthu-

siasms. On July 25, 1821, the first child of this union,

John Brown, Jr., was born. Among his earliest recol-

lections was the presence in the home one night of some

fugitive slaves that his father was helping on their way

220 Ohio Arch

220      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

to freedom. This was about the year 1825. Further

details of this reminiscence are reserved for a future

sketch of John Brown, Jr.

Anticipating for the moment events extending over

a number of years, the names of the first and second

wives of John Brown and of his children are here given

with dates of births and deaths so far as known:

John Brown's first wife, as we have learned, was Diantha

Lusk. They were married June 21, 1820. She died August 10,

1832. The children of this union were born, married and died

as follows:

John Brown, Jr., born July 25, 1821, at Hudson, Ohio; died

May 2, 1895; married Wealthy C. Hotchkiss, July, 1847.

Jason Brown, born January 19, 1823, at Hudson, Ohio; died

December 24, 1912; married Ellen Sherbondy, July, 1847.

Owen Brown, born November 4, 1824, at Hudson (never


Frederick Brown (1), born January 9, 1827, at Richmond,

Pa.: died March 31, 1831.

Ruth Brown, born February 18, 1829, at Richmond, Pa.;

married Henry Thompson, September 26, 1850.

Frederick Brown (2), born December 31, 1830, at Rich-

mond, Pa.; murdered at Osawatomie by Rev. Martin White,

August 30, 1856.

An infant son, born August 7, 1832; was buried with his

mother three days after his birth, at Richmond, Pa.

John Brown married Mary Anne Day, July 11, 1833. She

died February 29, 1884. The children of this union were born,

married and died as follows:

Sarah Brown, born May 11, 1834, at Richmond, Pa.; died

September 23, 1843.

Watson Brown, born October 7, 1835, at Franklin, Ohio;

married Isabella M. Thompson, September, 1856; killed at

Harper's Ferry, October 17, 1859.

Salmon Brown, born October 2, 1836, at Hudson, Ohio;

married Abbie C. Hinckley, October 15, 1857.

Charles Brown, born November 3, 1837, at Hudson, Ohio;

died September 11, 1843.

Oliver Brown, born March 9, 1839, at Franklin, Ohio;

married Martha E. Brewster, April 7, 1858; killed at Harper's

Ferry, October 17, 1859.

John Brown 221

John Brown                   221


Peter Brown, born December 7, 1840, at Hudson, Ohio;

died September 22, 1843.

Austin Brown, born September 14, 1842, at Richfield, Ohio;

died September 27, 1843.

Anne Brown, born December 23, 1843, at Richfield, Ohio.

Amelia Brown, born June 22, 1845; at Akron, Ohio; died

October 30, 1846.

Sarah Brown, born September 11, 1846, at Akron, Ohio.

Ellen Brown, born May 20, 1848, at Springfield, Mass.;

died April 30, 1849.

Infant son, born April 26, 1852, at Akron, Ohio; died May

17, 1852.

Ellen Brown, born September 25, 1854, at Akron, Ohio.

In 1825 John Brown moved from Hudson to Ran-

dolph (now Richmond), Pennsylvania. Here he estab-

lished a tannery and pursued his calling, at the same

time serving as postmaster of the village. In his ample

log dwelling house a room was set aside for the local

subscription school. Here he remained ten years, mod-

estly prosperous in business and comparatively happy

in the midst of his large and increasing family. Here

his first wife died and about a year later he was married

again. While in Pennsylvania his antagonism to slavery

continued and the liberation of the bondmen through

the agency of education became with him a favorite

theme of speculation. His life at Richmond is reviewed

in interesting and satisfactory details by Sanborn and

Villard. The latter quotes from the recorded recollec-

tions of James Foreman who worked in the tannery of

Brown. This record reveals Brown's devotion to his

family, his sterling Puritanism and his zeal for universal

liberty. While in Pennsylvania on January 11, 1832,

he organized an Independent Congregational Society,

"its articles of faith being written out in his hand as

clerk of the Society." Here he maintained a station on

222 Ohio Arch

222      Ohio Arch. and list. Society Publications.

the Underground Railroad and aided negroes on their

way to Canada and freedom.

From Randolph, Pennsylvania, in 1834 he wrote a

letter to his brother in which he bore testimony to his

interest in the liberation of the slaves. At this time it will

be seen that he favored universal emancipation but there

is no intimation that he had concluded that it was to be

brought about by force of arms.     We quote from    his

letter as follows:

"Since you left here I have been trying to devise some means

whereby I might do something in a practical way for my poor

fellow-men who are in bondage, and having fully consulted the

feelings of my wife and my three boys, we have agreed to get at

least one negro boy or youth, and bring him up as we do our

own, - viz., give him a good English education, learn him what

we can about the history of the world, about business, about

general subjects, and, above all, try to teach him the fear of

God. We think of three ways to obtain one: First, to try to

get some Christian slave-holder to release one to us. Second,

to get a free one if no one will let us have one that is a slave.

Third, if that does not succeed, we have all agreed to submit to

considerable privation in order to buy one. This we are now

using means in order to effect, in the confident expectation that

God is about to bring them all out of the house of bondage.

"I will just mention that when this subject was first intro-

duced, Jason had gone to bed; but no sooner did he hear the

thing hinted, than his warm heart kindled, and he turned out to

have a part in the discussion of a subject of such exceeding

interest. I have for years been trying to devise some way to

get a school a-going here for blacks, and I think that on many

accounts it would be a most favorable location. Children here

would have no intercourse with vicious people of their own kind,

nor with openly vicious persons of any kind. There would be

no powerful opposition influence against such a thing; and should

there be any, I believe the settlement might be so effected in

future as to have almost the whole influence of the place in favor

of such a school. Write me how you would like to join me, and

try to get on from Hudson and thereabouts some first-rate

abolitionist families with you. I do honestly believe that our

united exertions alone might soon, with the good hand of our

God upon us, effect it all.

John Brown 223

John Brown                    223

"This has been with me a favorite theme of reflection for

years. I think that a place which might be in some measure

settled with a view to such an object would be much more favor-

able to such an undertaking than would any such place as Hud-

son, with all its conflicting interests and feelings; and I do think

such advantages ought to be afforded the young blacks, whether

they are all to be immediately set free or not. Perhaps we might,

under God, in that way do more towards breaking their yoke

effectually than in any other."

In 1835 he returned to Ohio to enter the tanning

business with Zenas Kent at Franklin Mills (now the

village of Kent) Portage County, Ohio. Scarcely had

he finished the tannery at that place when the firm dis-

posed of the.property to Marvin Kent, the son of Zenas.

John Brown then took the contract for the construction

of that portion of the Ohio and Pennsylvania canal

between Franklin Mills and Akron. Believing that a

large city was destined to spring up at Franklin Mills

on the completion of the canal, he entered into extensive

land speculations, making purchases entirely on his

credit with   practically  no  capital.  Unfortunately

shrewder business men were planning that the city

should spring up at Akron rather than Franklin Mills

and the diversion of the waters of Cuyahoga River to

that site doomed the investments of Brown to a dis-

astrous failure. The building in which he lived at

Franklin Mills is still standing. A farm that he pur-

chased in partnership with a Mr. Thompson was laid

out in lots and platted by Brown. A few years ago the

original plat in the handwriting of Brown was in the

possession of the Kent family. The hard times of 1837

hastened the financial disaster which was assured when

the water of the river was largely diverted to the rising

town of Akron. The failure of Brown involved to some

224 Ohio Arch

224      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

extent his father who had advanced money in aid of the

project along with other creditors. As a result he was

ultimately forced to bankruptcy. This led some who lost

money through him to raise questions as to his honesty.

Heman Oviatt of Richfield, Ohio, however, who lost

money and became involved in law suits as a result of

Brown's failure, bore willing testimony to his integrity

as did other of his creditors.

After his failure in business at Franklin Mills and

other failures later in life, he made a statement to his

son John in which he clearly set forth the fact that his

great mistake was due to his attempt to speculate on

credit. His son quotes him as follows:

"Instead of being thoroughly imbued with the doctrine of

pay as you go, I started out in life with the idea that nothing

could be done without capital, and that a poor man must use

his credit and borrow; and this pernicious notion has been the

rock on which I, as well as many others, have split. The practi-

cal effect of this false doctrine has been to keep me like a toad

under a harrow most of my business life. Running into debt in-

cludes so much evil that I hope all my children will shun it as

they would a pestilence."

The purchase of four farms on credit is declared "to

have been a chief cause of Brown's collapse." If the

city had been built at Franklin Mills instead of Akron,

however, John Brown's financial career might have been

very different. It is true nevertheless that a fatality

seems to have followed practically all of his business

ventures and the fundamental cause he seems at last to

have fully realized as stated above.

His failure at Franklin Mills was followed by fre-

quent shiftings from place to place and experiments in

new ventures. He first returned to Hudson in 1837;

went back to Franklin Mills later and again to Hudson.

John Brown 225

John Brown                 225

In 1838 he traveled about the country making a trip to

New York and Connecticut. For a time he was inter-

ested in the breeding of race horses; he drove cattle to

Connecticut; he arranged to act as agent of a New York

firm in the selling of steel scythes; he purchased Saxony

sheep at West Hartford, Connecticut, on the 18th of

January, 1838; subsequently made other purchases,

shipped the sheep to Albany and thence drove them

overland to Ohio. In June, 1839, his interest shifted to

cattle; on the 15th of June, 1839, he received from the

New England Woolen Company at Rockville, Connec-

ticut, the sum of $2800 for the purchase of wool. This

money he appears to have used to relieve financial dis-

tress. He sincerely regretted his inability to meet his

obligations as evidenced in letters written at the time

and in others written when he was in prison in Charles-

town in 1859.

In 1840 he and his father arranged to invest in Vir-

ginia (now West Virginia) lands. These belonged to

Oberlin College and were located partly in the present

counties of Dodridge and Tyler, West Virginia. John

Brown on April first of that year entered into an agree-

ment with the Trustees of Oberlin College to purchase

some of these lands. He was to make a survey of the

same, report to the Board of Trustees and receive one

dollar a day and necessary expenses for his work. At

this time he contemplated not only making a purchase of

a portion of the lands but also moving his family

to them.  His surveys and reports were made in

accordance with the agreement and he proposed to pur-

chase 1,000 acres. Negotiations were delayed, however,

and the Trustees seem to have concluded the agreement

at an end. In a letter written from Hudson, February

Vol. XXX-- 15.

226 Ohio Arch

226     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

5, 1841, John Brown seemed to regret that he could not

go to Virginia as he had planned, but credited the cir-

cumstances that prevented his going, as usual, to the

intervention of Providence.

In 1841 he turned his attention wholly to the raising

of sheep, taking charge "of the flocks of Captain Oviatt

at Richfield, Ohio." In this occupation he was success-

ful for a time and developed great skill as a shepherd

and judge of wool. While in Richfield four of his chil-

dred died and three of them were buried at one time.

In 1842 he received his discharge from bankruptcy re-

sulting from the speculations at Franklin Mills, but

practically all of his possessions were taken from him.

He was permitted to keep "a few articles which the

court had decided September 28, 1842, were absolutely

necessary to the maintenance of the family, -among

them eleven bibles and testaments, one volume entitled

Beauties of the Bible, one Church Members' Guide, be-

sides two mares, two cows, two hogs, three lambs, nine-

teen hens, seven sheep and * * * three pocket knives

valued at .37-1/2."

He succeeded so well in raising sheep and cattle

that he became well known in Summit County. On

April 10, 1844, he moved from Richfield to Akron

where he established a tannery which was prosperous

from the beginning. His disposition, however, to be

dissatisfied with a modest degree of prosperity at his

regular trade led him to form a co-partnership with

Simon Perkins, Jr., a successful business man of Akron.

The firm of Perkins and Brown continued for a period

of ten years. The family resided in a cottage on what

is known as Perkins Hill. A portion of the building is

still standing.

John Brown 227

John Brown                 227

Many writers have detailed at length the home life

of John Brown. His disposition to seek new fields and

experiment with new enterprises took him frequently

from his home but he was at all times deeply interested

in his family as his letters and the uniform testimony

of his neighbors clearly show. He was a strict discipli-

narian and required unquestioning obedience from his

numerous children. He at first used the rod somewhat

freely but according to the testimony of his sons always

justly, never in wrath. He had a habit of frequently

inflicting punishment upon himself at the same time, on

the ground that the child's offense had probably been

due in a measure to his own neglect of duty as a father.

After punishing the boy he would bare his own shoul-

ders and require the boy to use the lash on him. With

the residence at Akron came better educational advan-

tages for his children, especially John Brown, Jr., and

his sister Ruth.

John Brown's financial failures and lack of judg-

ment in business matters brought him frequently into

the courts of Portage and Summit Counties, a detailed

account of which is set forth by Villard (pages 36-41).

In 1846 Brown had ventured upon the enterprise of

wool merchant in Springfield, Massachusetts, for the

firm of Perkins and Brown. Hither he moved his

family. Here he met Frederick Douglass who has given

an interesting picture of Brown and his family as he

saw them there. The object of the venture of Perkins

and Brown at Springfield was the establishment of an

office to classify wools for wool growers in order that

they might be able to command a fair price for their

product. The purpose was somewhat akin to the co-

operative market projects of the present day. Brown

228 Ohio Arch

228      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

and Perkins probably hoped to do for the infant wool

industry of this country what associations have accom-

plished so successfully for the fruit growers of Cali-

fornia and other states. The letter-book covering many

pages, the greater portion of it in the handwriting of

John Brown, and the remainder written by his son John

Brown, Jr., who had a good education, is now in the

museum of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical

Society and gives a very satisfactory insight of the work

of the representatives of this firm through many busy

months. An export trade to England was inaugurated

and for a time the prospect was very bright for the

building up of a flourishing business. It appears that

the firm received by consignment large quantities of

wool which they sometimes had difficulty in marketing.

To one of their patrons who complained of the delay in

remitting for his wool John Brown sent the following

explanation which is here reproduced because of its Ohio


"We have at last found out that some of the principal manu-

facturers are leagued together to break us down, as we have

offered them wool at their own price & they refuse to buy.

We hope every wool-grower in the country will be at Steu-

benville (Ohio) 2d Wednesday of Feb'y next, to hear statements

about the wool trade of a most interesting character. There is

no difficulty in the matter as we shall be abundantly able to show,

if the farmers will only be true to themselves. . . Matters of

more importance to farmers will then be laid open, than what

kind of Tariff we are to have. No sacrifise kneed be made, the

only thing wanted is to get the broad shouldered, & hard handed

farmers to understand how they have been imposed upon, & the

whole matter will be cured effectually." *

This proposed meeting was held and Brown appeared

according to agreement and made an address that satis-

*Copied literally.

John Brown 229

John Brown                  229

fled the Ohio wool growers. The manufacturers in the

East, however, continued to make trouble for him and

he found it difficult to dispose of the wool. He con-

ceived the idea that by making a trip to Europe he could

find market for his product. Accordingly he sailed

August 15, 1849, in the steamer Cambria and arrived

in London on the 27th of that month. He failed, how-

ever, to find sale for the wool in either London or Paris.

He had shipped wool to London and was forced to

accept a much lower price than he could have gotten in

America. This meant disaster for his venture as a wool

merchant. While abroad he visited not only London

and Paris but Calais, Hamburg and Brussels. From

the last named city he made a side trip to the battle field

of Waterloo. Evidence is not lacking that even at this

time battle fields had an attraction for him and he was

interested in the plans of the great combats of history.

The final winding up of the wool business extended over

a number of years and led to much litigation. It ap-

pears, however, that in spite of the losses sustained

Colonel Perkins continued to entertain a friendly feeling

for Brown. In a letter to Oswald Garrison Villard of

December 26, 1908, Mr. George T. Perkins of Akron


"My father, Simon Perkins, was associated with Mr. Brown

in business for a number of years, and always regarded him as

thoroughly honest and honorable in all his relations with him.

Mr. Brown was, however, so thoroughly impractical in his busi-

ness management as he was in almost everything else, that the

business was not a success and was discontinued. Their relations

were afterwards friendly."

The senior member of the firm did not sympathize

with Brown's extreme anti-slavery views.    In 1878

230 Ohio Arch

230     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

Colonel Perkins said to Mr. F. E. Sanborn, "Do you

mean to connect me with that Virginia affair? I con-

sider him and the men that helped him in that the big-

gest set of fools in the world."

Many interesting stories have been recorded of his

residence in Springfield, among others, the account of

his experience with LaRoy Sunderland, a famous hyp-

notist, in 1848 or 1849. Brown was very skeptical in

regard to the claims of Sunderland and insisted upon

putting them to the test. While in Springfield he was

identified with Zion Methodist Church, made up largely

of those who had withdrawn from other congregations

because of their pronounced anti-slavery views. He

became deeply interested in the plan of Gerrit Smith,

the famous anti-slavery leader, who had offered to give

120,000 acres of land in northern New York to worthy

colored people. Early in 1848 Brown decided to move

his family and establish his home among the negro col-

onists. He visited Smith on April 8, 1848, and entered

into an agreement to move his family to North Elba

and aid in directing the negroes, who settled on the land

offered by Smith, in clearing away the forest and estab-

lishing homes of their own. He moved to North Elba

in the spring of 1849. Here he engaged again in stock

raising. The original white settlers in the North Elba

region were not pleased by the coming of the blacks and

the success of the experiment of Brown and Smith was

not especially encouraging.

That the experiment of establishing a colony of free

blacks in the rugged and somewhat inhospitable climate

of northern New York should prove a disappointing and

visionary enterprise was not surprising. No wonder

that Brown in actual experience with the colored freed-

John Brown 231

John Brown                   231

men became a little impatient at times and realized the

importance of teaching these people lessons of thrift and

industry. To meet the needs of the situation he wrote in

1848 or 1849 for the Ram's Horn, an abolition paper,

a contribution entitled "Sambo's Mistakes." It purports

to be from the pen of a colored man by the name of

Sambo and is divided into three chapters. A sample of

this contribution to which reference is often made is

here given:

"Another error into which I fell in early life was the notion

that chewing and smoking tobacco would make a man of me

but little inferior to some of the whites. The money I spent in

this way would with the interest of it have enabled me to have

relieved a great many sufferers, supplied me with a well selected

interesting library and paid for a good farm for the support and

comfort of my old age; whereas I have now neither books, cloth-

ing, the satisfaction of having benefited others nor where to

lay my hoary head. But I can see in a moment where I missed


In the year 1851 he organized in the city of Spring-

field a branch of the "United States League of Gilead-

ites." This was an organization of colored people for

the purpose of defending themselves and advancing

their interests. The principles of the League were em-

braced in the "Words of Advice" written by Brown.

They counseled self defense and resistance of arrest by

force of arms. "Let the first blow be the signal for all

to engage," so runs the advice, "and when engaged do

not do your work by halves; but make clean work with

your enemies and be sure you meddle not with any

others. Your enemies will be slow to attack you if you

have done up the work nicely."

It will be remembered that a little earlier the Com-

promise of 1850 was enacted, including the famous Fu-

gitive Slave Law. It is needless to say that Brown, like

232 Ohio Arch

232     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

other abolitionists, was very hostile to this law and that

he began about this time to meditate an armed attack

upon the institution of slavery. Late in the year 1854

or early in 1855 he is reported to have had in mind an

attack on Harper's Ferry: "First, to frighten Virginia

and detach it from the slave interest; second, to capture

the rifles to arm the slaves; and third, to destroy the

arsenal machinery so that it could not be used to turn

out more arms for the perhaps long guerrilla war that

might follow." In the meantime Brown continued in the

partnership of Perkins and Brown. In 1851 he moved

his family again to Akron where he took up once more

sheep raising and pursued it with success to his satis-

faction and that of his partner, Mr. Perkins.

After the removal of his family to North Elba, New

York, in 1854, and his withdrawal from the firm of Per-

kins and Brown, he found himself comparatively free to

venture upon some new enterprise. His sons had grown

up; some of them remained in Ohio; he could leave his

family in New York with his son Watson who was then

a young man and choose his field of action. About this

time five of his sons decided to leave Ohio and seek a

new home in Kansas, then the western frontier of Amer-

ican civilization.  The impelling motive is set forth

pretty clearly in the statement of one of the sons. In

the years 1853 and 1854 many Ohio newspapers con-

tained glowing accounts of the extraordinary climate,

healthfulness and fertility of the Territory of Kansas.

The efforts of northern men to make this a free state

also had its appeal for the Browns. In the month of

October, 1854, three of the sons of John Brown, -

Owen, Frederick and Salmon, left their homes in Ohio

and started on the western journey. They took with

John Brown 233

John Brown                233

them eleven head of cattle, three horses, two small tents,

a plow and other farm tools. They proceeded by way

of the lakes to Chicago and thence to Meridosa, Illinois,

where they remained for the winter. Early the next

spring they proceeded with their cattle and horses to

Kansas and settled about eight miles from Osawatomie.

As soon as the rivers were navigable, John, Jr. and

Jason proceeded by way of the Ohio, Mississippi and

Missouri rivers to join the three brothers who had pre-

ceded them. At St. Louis when they took passage on a

steamboat up the Missouri they found themselves in

company with a large number of men, mostly from the

South on their way to help make Kansas a slave state.

It is needless to say that the Brown boys found little

sympathy with their fellow passengers whose "drinking,

profanity and display of revolvers and bowie-knives,-

openly worn as an essential part of their make-up-

clearly showed the class to which they belonged."

"A box of fruit trees and grape vines," said John

Brown, Jr., "which my brother Jason had brought from

Ohio, our plow and the few agricultural implements we

had on the deck of that steamer looked lonesome; for

these were all we could see which were adapted to the

occupations of peace."

Jason Brown's little son, aged four years, fell a vic-

tim to the scourge of cholera on this trip and was buried

at night near Waverly, Missouri, where the boat had

stopped for repair. As the two brothers took him to his

last resting place, their way "illumined only by lightning

and a furious thunder storm, the captain of the steamer

without warning embarked again on the river leaving

them as best they could to find their way to Kansas City."

The unpleasant journey, however, was at last completed

234 Ohio Arch

234     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

and the brothers arrived in Kansas, whose "lovely prai-

ries and wooded streams seemed *   * * indeed like

a haven of rest." The five brothers were finally re-

united and entered with enthusiasm upon the building

of new homes on these fertile prairies of the West.

There were, however, drawbacks to this seeming

paradise. Settlements were made usually along the

flowing streams, the lurking places of malaria, and the

new settlers were soon shaking with the ague. Contro-

versies sprang up among them on the question of slavery

and divided them into hostile camps.

On October 1, 1855, occurred the Pro-Slavery elec-

tion for territorial delegate to Congress. At this elec-

tion 2721 votes out of 2738 were cast for General J: W.

Whitfield, the Pro-Slavery candidate. The Free State

electors did not go to the polls. Eight days later they

had their election in which they cast 2849 votes for their

candidate, former Governor Reeder. The Pro-Slavery

governor of Kansas, Wilson Shannon, recognized the

election of Whitfield and the United States House of

Representatives gave him his seat in that body Feb-

ruary 4, 1856. Upon the report of an investigating

committee, however, he was afterwards unanimously

ousted, but Reeder was not given the place.

It was not John Brown's intention originally to go to

Kansas. This is clearly indicated in a letter that he

wrote to his son John August 21, 1854. In this he said:

"If you or any of my family are disposed to go to Kansas

or Nebraska, with a view to help defeat Satan and his legions

in that direction, I have not a word to say; but I feel committed

to operate in another part of the field. If I were not so com-

mitted, I would be on my way this fall."

John Brown 235

John Brown                 235

In May of the following year, however, he received

a letter from this same son describing terrible conditions

that had developed in Kansas as a result of the effort

to make it a slave state. The appeal in this letter was so

strong that Brown decided he would join his sons and

lend every possible aid to those who were struggling to

make Kansas free. He began at once to plan for col-

lecting arms, ammunition and other supplies that might

be helpful in his latest enterprise. Money was raised

for this purpose in the anti-slavery convention at Syra-

cuse on the 28th of June and later in Akron, Ohio,

where his appeal met a generous response. On August

15, 1855, he reported his success in obtaining "guns,

revolvers, swords, powder, caps and money." He pro-

ceeded by way of Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago and

after a number of interesting experiences in his over-

land journey, reached the family settlement near Osa-

watomie October 7, 1855.

Life in Kansas wrought a pronounced change in

John Brown. This western border offered the oppor-

tunity for the warfare that he desired to wage against

slavery. "The staid, somber merchant and patriarchal

family head was ready to become Captain John Brown

of Osawatomie, at the mention of whom Border Ruffians

and swashbuckling adherents of slavery trembled and

often fled."*

While he was pleased with Kansas, he did not go

there to make it his permanent home. He went to fight

slavery, to aid his sons and others of their faith to make

Kansas a free state. The contest had begun long before

he went west. Letters from his sons and newspaper

accounts carried to him information of Border Ruffian

*Villard, p. 77.

236 Ohio Arch

236     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

invasions and outrages months before he decided to

answer the call to this new field of action.

The Free State men of the Territory had called a

convention which met at Topeka, October 23, 1855,

framed a constitution that prohibited slavery and sub-

mitted it for popular approval. It provided for the elec-

tion of state officers and members of the legislature and

fixed the place and date of the meeting of that body at

Topeka, March 4, 1856.

The Free State men had been outvoted a number of

times by invaders from Missouri and the South with

whom the election officers and the national administra-

tion were in sympathy. They were thus forced to hold

elections of their own as a safeguard against fraud.

This finally resulted in dual legislatures, dual constitu-

tions, dual officers and dual laws - an ideal condition

for the strife and bloodshed that attracted the attention

of the whole country.

The opposition of the Pierce administration to the

free state movement, the excesses of the Pro-Slavery

party at Leavenworth, the threats of raiders from Mis-

souri and the invasion of a large armed force from that

state for the avowed purpose of destroying Lawrence

aroused the Free State men to armed resistance and

"minute men" were hastily organized and hurried to the

defense of that town. Among these was a company

known as the "Liberty Guards," commanded by John

Brown with the rank of captain, a title that followed

him for the remainder of his life. His company be-

longed to the Fifth Regiment of Kansas Volunteers,

under the command of Colonel George Smith, in the

army of General James H. Lane, "called into the service

of the people of Kansas to defend the city of Lawrence

John Brown 237

John Brown                 237

*   *   *  from   threatened demolition by foreign


This army at once threw up defenses about the

threatened town. In this work Captain Brown became

conspicuous for his energy and resourcefulness. "His

presence," said an eye witness, "lightened up the gloom

of the besieged in their darkest hour."

In the operations about Lawrence one Free State

man, Thomas W. Barber of Ohio, was killed. His body,

which was brought to a building occupied by Brown's

company, was viewed by the wife and friends of the

murdered man. Of this sad affair Brown wrote:

"I will only say of this scene that it was heart-rending and

calculated to exasperate the men exceedingly; and one of the sure

results of civil war."

The pitched battle that seemed imminent did not

occur. Governor Wilson Shannon effected a compro-

mise between the contending parties by the terms of

which the invaders were to leave Kansas Territory.

The Free State men were encouraged to believe that in

armed resistance they had an effective defense. Brown

wrote hopefully: "Free State men have only hereafter

to retain the footing they have gained, and Kansas is

free." This defense, which is known as the "Wakarusa

War," ended with the signing of the terms of compro-

mise, December 8, 1855.

The truce, however, was of short duration. John

Brown, Jr., who had been active in the preliminary meet-

ings that resulted in the "Topeka movement" to make

Kansas a free state, was elected a member of the legis-

lature. The radical anti-slavery views of the Browns,

which had perhaps been intensified by the coming of the

238 Ohio Arch

238     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

father, made them increasingly obnoxious to the Pro-

Slavery party.

The Topeka Legislature met March 4, 1856, and was

continuously in session until March 15, when it recessed

to July 4 of that year. On that national anniversary

it was dissolved by military authority of the United

States government. John Brown, Jr., was an active and

fearless member and was one of the fifteen legislators

who signed the memorial to Congress asking for the

admission of Kansas as a free state under the Topeka

constitution. For his political activity he was after-

wards made to suffer an awful penalty.

In May Kansas was again invaded. Lawrence sur-

rendered to the Border Ruffians and on the morning of

the 21st of that month was sacked and burned. The

Free State Hotel, a substantial structure of stone, was

battered down by cannon shots and fierce flames swept

the ruins.

Three days later, on the night of May 24, occurred

the Pottawatomie affair in which five Pro-Slavery men

were slain by a detachment of John Brown's men re-

turning from their unsuccessful expedition to save the

doomed town of Lawrence. One of the participants in

this raid declares that it was Brown's purpose by this

stern act to strike terror to the hearts of the invaders

- that he insisted it was better "that a score of bad men

should die than that one man who came here to make

Kansas free should be driven out."

The killings on the Pottawatomie startled the inhabi-

tants of Kansas and aroused the Pro-Slavery party to

retaliatory activity. Captain Pate, of Missouri, has-

tened with a company of volunteers on a mission of ven-

geance. He assisted in the capture of John Brown, Jr.,

John Brown 239

John Brown                239

and his brother Jason. Neither of these men had par-

ticipated in the Pottawatomie affair, but the former was

driven chained in front of horsemen over the burning

Kansas plains and subjected to such harsh treatment

that he became insane. In this condition he was thrown

into prison. The homes of the two brothers were burned

by the invaders.

In the meantime, Captain Pate had turned his at-

tention to John Brown and his party, expecting soon to

capture them. Brown heard of this and prepared to

meet the Missourians. The two parties met June 2 at

Black Jack, where the first pitched battle was fought

between Pro-Slavery and Anti-Slavery forces. At its

conclusion, Pate and all of his men surrendered uncon-

ditionally to John Brown. The Missourians were as-

tounded when they heard that their company which had

gone to avenge those who fell on the Pottawatomie, had

themselves fallen into the hands of Brown, whose name

had now become a terror to Pro-Slavery men on the

border. The battle of Black Jack was the most complete

victory scored by Brown in Kansas, though it is not so

famous as his defense of Lawrence and Osawatomie.

It remains for some literary genius to describe it as the

first battle of the Civil War, for here the North and the

South met to settle the issue of slavery in open combat

by force of arms.

Shortly afterward John Brown gave up his prisoners

and captured arms to Colonel Edwin V. Sumner, in

command of the United States troops in this district and

afterward a noted Union general in the Civil War.

The Topeka Legislature had adjourned to meet July

4, 1856. John Brown and his men were encamped near

that city to be at hand if the threatened clash of arms

240 Ohio Arch

240     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

should attend the opening of the session. Seventeen

members answered to the roll call. John Brown, Jr.,

could not be present as he was at that time in prison.

Other members were in the city, but before they could

assemble Colonel Sumner appeared with government

troops and ordered the Legislature to disperse, declar-

ing, "This is the most disagreeable duty of my whole


Later Brown and his men left Kansas, but he and

his son Frederick soon returned. Free State men from

the northern states began to pour into the Territory by

way of Nebraska. This immigration was encouraged

and financially assisted by various organizations in the

East and powerfully stimulated by the eloquence of

James H. Lane, whose appeal to northern audiences

turned many liberty loving, adventurous spirits toward

the Territory that was struggling to become a free state.

In the presidential campaign of 1856 the admission

of Kansas was made a political issue. The Republican

party in its first national convention, June 17, 1856,

adopted a resolution declaring that "Kansas should be

immediately admitted as a state with her present free

constitution." In the House of Representatives at

Washington Galusha M. Grow, of Pennsylvania, pre-

sented a bill for the admission of Kansas as a free state

under the Topeka constitution, and it passed that body

by a vote of 99 to 97 on July 3, 1856. The attention of

the entire country with increasing interest now turned

to Kansas. The crystallization of public sentiment and

the tide of immigration to the Territory was rapidly giv-

ing the Free State forces the ascendancy.

Disregarding his son's protest that his father should

not come to Lawrence for fear of arrest, John Brown

John Brown 241

John Brown                 241

accompanied by Lane arrived in that city. The Free

State forces now prepared for aggressive war against

their foes. As the Border Ruffians pushed the fighting

in the earlier struggles of "Bleeding Kansas," their ad-

versaries now rallied to the attack. Their policy, which

earlier was purely and at times feebly defensive, had

changed and their object now seemed to be to drive the

Pro-Slavery element out of the Territory. The southern

colonists of southeastern Kansas trembled with dread

at the news of the approach of John Brown. Their

startled imagination placed him at the head of every

movement of the Free State forces and every rumored

raid in the Territory. The correspondent of the New

York Times referred to him as "the old terrifier" and

"the terror of all Missouri."

For a time the Free State bands swept southward,

driving the Pro-Slavery men before them. Franklin,

"Fort" Saunders and "Fort" Titus successively fell into

their hands with arms and ammunition. In the attack

on "Fort" Titus the Free State men brought into requi-

sition a cannon that they had previously captured and

fired into the doomed fort shots moulded from the type

of one of their newspaper offices.  They gleefully

shouted that they were delivering to Colonel Titus "a

second edition of the Herald of Freedom." It is doubt-

ful whether John Brown participated in any of these

fights, but the vanquished saw his uncanny and ghostly

presence in all of them.

In the midst of this strife and confusion, after giving

up a number of Free State prisoners in exchange for

Pro-Slavery men -held by Lane and his lieutenants, Gov-

ernor Shannon resigned his office. President Pierce

refused to accept the resignation but peremptorily re-

Vol. XXX - 16.

242 Ohio Arch

242     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

moved Shannon from office. His administration had

been a stormy one and he withdrew with relief to him-

self and to the evident satisfaction of the contending

parties who had filled the record of his brief term of

office with turmoil and confusion. The governorship of

Ohio has not always been a pleasing job, but Governor

Shannon could certainly bear testimony that it is a

position under all circumstances much to be preferred

to the governorship of the Territory of Kansas in the

days of "Jim" Lane, John Brown and "Dave" Atch-

ison. Wilson Shannon, who had previously served as

governor of Ohio, spent his last days peacefully as a

citizen of Lawrence, Kansas, and re-established himself

in the good will of many who had been his critics and


John Brown was not long inactive. He was now

prepared to give the Pro-Slavery settlers some of their

own medicine. With a company of thirty or forty men,

which was soon increased by union with another com-

pany, he added to his equipment by contraband seizures

until his force was well mounted, well armed and well

supplied with food and ammunition. He was getting

ready to meet another invasion from Missouri.

After capturing a number of prisoners and about

one hundred and fifty cattle, John Brown entered the

town of Osawatomie for the purpose of defending it

against the invading army under Atchison. His arrival

was now marked by a cloud of dust that enveloped his

captured herd and motley troopers, giving to the column

an imposing and forbidding aspect. The number of his


* Wilson Shannon was born in Belmont county, Ohio, February 24,

1802. He was Governor of Ohio 1838-40 and 1842-44. Failing to restore

order in Kansas, he incurred the hostility of Pierce and Buchanan. Hence

his summary dismissal. He died in Lawrence, Kansas, August 31, 1877.

John Brown 243

John Brown                 243

men was comparatively small, not over one hundred

effectives, and against them was now marching an in-

vading army from Missouri one thousand strong, under

the command of General David R. Atchison, formerly

a United States Senator from that state.

Atchison assembled his army about forty miles from

Osawatomie. He sent forward General John W. Reid

with two hundred and fifty men and a cannon to destroy

that town. On his way Reid was joined by other Pro-

Slavery men; including Rev. Martin White. As they

approached in the dawning twilight, White met Fred-

erick Brown and before the latter could grasp the situa-

tion shot him through the heart. He afterward tried to

excuse his sanguinary act on the ground that his home

had been attacked. He said:

"The same day I shot Fred, I would have shot the last devil

of the gang that was in the attack on my house, if I had known

them and got a chance."

It will thus be seen that in these stirring times even

the ministers of the gospel in Kansas had their blood

up to the fighting temperature.  John Brown coolly

commented on this act as follows:

"Old preacher White, I hear, boasts of having killed my son.

Of course he is a lion."

After the killing of Frederick Brown the forces

under General Reid advanced to the attack on Osa-

watomie. Brown with about forty resolute men pre-

pared to defend the place. One of his followers said

to him, "What do you want me to do?" "Take more

care to end life well than to live long," was the grim

answer. The Missourians opened fire on the town and

Brown's men replied with spirit. When men and horses

244 Ohio Arch

244     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

in the advancing column were struck with balls from

the Sharpe rifles there was confusion in the advancing

line. Their leader, however, with drawn sword led

them to the charge. The Free State men were grad-

ually driven out of the town but held their position along

the stream.   From  the underbrush and rocks they

poured a hot fire into the ranks of the Missourians.

Reid brought his cannon into action and Brown's men

were finally driven across the Marias des Cygnes which

runs near the town. As soon as the Border Ruffians

entered the place they commenced plundering and burn-

ing it. General Reid claimed that in this battle about

thirty Free State men were killed, including "a son of

old Brown and probably Brown himself."      In John

Brown's report of the battle he says:

"The loss of the enemy, as we learned by different state-

ments of our own as well as other people, was some thirty-one

or two killed, and from forty to fifty wounded."

He speaks of his own loss as two killed in battle;

three missing, probably captured, and two wounded. On

their part the Missourians claimed that they had none

killed and five wounded. Just what the losses were in

the engagement will perhaps never be known.

As John Brown and his son Jason stood on the bank

of the stream watching the smoke and flames of burn-

ing Osawatomie against the horizon, Brown is reported

by his son to have said:

"God sees it. I have only a short time to live -only one

death to die, and I will die fighting for this cause. There will

be no more peace in this land until slavery is done for. I will

give them something else to do than to extend slave territory.

I will carry the war into Africa."

John Brown 245

John Brown                245

The attitude of the government at Washington while

war was in progress between the Pro-Slavery and Free

State men of Kansas is significant.  United States

troops were there ostensibly to keep the peace and main-

tain the authority of the general government, but for

the most part, due to political considerations perhaps,

they were inactive. While the Pierce and Buchanan

administrations were frankly favorable to the Pro-

Slavery party and the agents that they sent were under-

stood to reflect the Washington view, after experience

on the soil of Kansas, some of them materially revised

their conclusions on the situation and sympathized with

the Free State cause. This was notably true of Gov-

ernors Reeder and Geary and even the attitude of Gov-

ernor Shannon was at times disappointing to the Pro-

Slavery party.

Although John Brown was defeated at Osawatomie

the stand that he made there added immensely to his

reputation. General James H. Lane, "Jim Lane," as

he was popularly called, and some of his Free State

associates were holding a "council of war" in Lawrence

on September 7, which was interrupted by loud cheering

in the streets. The bent form of old John Brown as he

rode into the town with a rifle across his saddle bow,

aroused wild enthusiasm. The cheering was declared by

an eye witness to have been "as great as if the President

had come to town, but John Brown seemed not to hear

and paid not the slightest attention."

He next proceeded to the home of Ottawa Jones, a

friendly educated Indian, and found it in ruins. On

September 10 he was joined by his son, John Brown,

Jr., who had been imprisoned by the territorial agents

of the Pierce administration without even the form of

246 Ohio Arch

246     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

an indictment. He was finally released on bail, but was

never afterward brought to trial. While in prison he

had regained his reason, but he never fully recovered

from the effects of the brutal treatment to which he

was subjected immediately following his capture. He

hurried at once to Lawrence where an enthusiastic

meeting of Free State men was in progress. He brought

with him the chains with which he had been bound and

which had been worn bright during his long imprison-


About this time the new territorial governor, John

W. Geary, appointed by Buchanan, arrived and made

a sincere effort to end the civil war that had been raging

in Kansas. He was supposed to have come with Pro-

Slavery inclinations, but, like some of his predecessors,

he gradually swayed so far in favor of the Free State

cause that he found it expedient to resign.

Governor Geary began his administration by a vig-

orous restoration of order in the Territory. He played

no favorites. While he captured and threw into prison

over one hundred Free State men, he was equally zealous

in his efforts to stop invasions from Missouri. Not long

after he assumed the duties of his office another army

from that state, more formidable than any previously

sent, came to make one more desperate effort to capture

Kansas for the slave power. Under the leadership of

Reid, Heiskel, Stringfellow and Whitfield, this well

organized and equipped force of two thousand five

hundred men moved forward with Lawrence, the Free

State stronghold, as their objective. Governor Geary

ordered Lieutenant Colonel Joseph E. Johnson, now a


* These chains are now in the Museum of the Ohio State Archaeo-

logical and Historical Society.

John Brown 247

John Brown                    247

United States army officer but later a famous Confed-

erate general, to defend the town. This pleased the Free

State men, as they began to feel that they would be

protected in their constitutional rights by the new


In the meantime, in the presence once more of immi-

nent danger, the citizens of Lawrence threw up rude

works and prepared for a siege. The ruined walls of

the old Free State Hotel were used in building breast-

works. John Brown was again there, giving directions,

moving among the defenders and urging them to resist

to the death the advancing host.. It was on this occa-

sion that he mounted a dry-goods box in the main street

of the town and delivered the following characteristic


"GENTLEMEN-It is said there are twenty-five hunderd Mis-

sourians down at Franklin, and that they will be here in two

hours. You can see for yourselves the smoke they are making

by setting fire to the houses in that town. This is probably the

last opportunity you will have of seeing a fight, so that you had

better do your best. If they should come up and attack us, don't

yell and make a great noise, but remain perfectly silent and still.

Wait until they get within twenty-five yards of you, get a good

object, be sure you see the hind sight of your gun, then fire.

A great deal of powder and lead and very precious time is wasted

by shooting too high. You had better aim at their legs than at

their heads. In either case, be sure of the hind sight of your

gun. It is for this reason that I myself have so many times

escaped, for, if all the bullets which have ever been aimed at me

had hit me I would have been as full of holes as a riddle."

The invaders, however, did not attack the town.

Governor Geary gave the Missourians to understand

that they must quit the Territory or face the United

States troops.  They reluctantly concluded to retire.

This ended the invasions by the Border Ruffians. As

they withdrew they realized, as the whole country was

248 Ohio Arch

248     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

coming to realize, that the effort to make Kansas a slave

state had ended in failure. The tide of immigration

was steadily adding strength to the Free State party

and its ultimate complete triumph could not long be


With the restoration of peace and the liberation of

his son, John Brown decided to leave Kansas. He no

longer had any incentive to stay. One of his sons had

lost his life. Another had been severely wounded.

Another had been driven into temporary insanity and

imprisoned. Their homes had been burned. There was

little to hold them in Kansas. John Brown, though he

kept his own counsel, was thinking of operations in

another field - he was planning "to carry the war into

Africa." If the freedom of Kansas was assured, as he

was still disposed to doubt, that would be very good so

far as it went, but he was dreaming of nothing less than

liberating the bondmen in all slave states of the Union.

He would still keep a very watchful eye on Kansas, and

if occasion seemed to demand it, would again appear in

the Territory where his name was known to every in-

habitant and was still an asset to the militant element of

the Free State party.

On October 10, 1856, he and his four sons had

reached Tabor, Iowa, a frontier town settled chiefly by

immigrants from Oberlin, Ohio. Here he found the

people kindly disposed and sympathetic with his views.

The anti-slavery sentiment was strong and they had

followed with absorbing interest the news from Kansas.

Here Brown and his men rested for a time, but he could

not long remain inactive. Later in the month he went

to Chicago with his sons Jason and John. Here he met

Horace White, afterward editor of the Chicago Tribune

John Brown 249

John Brown                  249

and the New York Evening Post and now Assistant

Secretary of the National Kansas Committee. Brown

at the request of friends in the East assisted in forward-

ing arms to Tabor to be used in Kansas if occasion

should require. Two hundred rifles in this shipment

afterward went for use to Harper's Ferry.

From Chicago Brown proceeded to Ohio. It was

probably on the occasion of this visit to the state that

his half-sister, Mrs. S. C. Davis of Grafton, Ohio, said

to him:

"John, isn't it dreadful that Fremont should have been de-

feated and such a man as Buchanan put into office?"

"Well, truly," answered Brown, "as I look at it now, I

see that it was the right thing. If Fremont had been elected, the

people would have settled down and made no further effort.

Now they know they must work if they want to save a free


He proceeded east, meeting Gerrit Smith, Frank B.

Sanborn, Dr. Samuel G. Howe, Thomas Wentworth

Higginson, Theodore Parker, George L. Stearns, Wen-

dell Phillips, Henry D. Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson

and other prominent anti-slavery men. These all be-

came his stanch friends and enthusiastic supporters.

Among the recommendations that Brown carried with

him was one from Governor Salmon P. Chase of Ohio.*

On the 18th of February he appeared before the

Joint Committee on Federal Relations of the Massachu-

setts Legislature and delivered an address recounting

his experiences in Kansas. On this occasion he held up

before the committee the chains by which his son John

had been bound. His stirring appeal brought applause

but no financial support.

*Governor Chase's recommendation bore date of December 20, 1856.

He gave Brown $25 at that time.

250 Ohio Arch

250     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

After visiting many persons in the East in an effort

to raise money for his anti-slavery warfare, he came to

Cleveland May 22, to Akron the day following and

spent several days in his old home town of Hudson.

On June 24 he attended the semi-centennial of the

founding of Talmadge, Ohio. A message was here

handed to the chairman of the meeting, stating that

John Brown was present and "would like to speak about

Kansas." This privilege the chairman refused on the

ground that it would be "entirely inconsistent with the

occasion." By August 7 he had returned to Tabor,


In the meantime, Kansas, under the administration

of Governor Geary, had been peaceful.  His even-

handed justice, however, did not suit President Bu-

chanan or the South. They wished to have more favor

shown their friends within the Territory. The gov-

ernor received so little assistance from Washington that

he felt constrained to resign in March. He was suc-

ceeded by Robert J. Walker of Mississippi, former

United States Senator from that state and Secretary of

the Treasury. The South felt that now they had one

of their own men in office and could have matters in

Kansas administered to their liking. In this they were


Governor Walker began by promising both parties

absolutely fair treatment and a fair election. They

accepted this assurance and went to the polls together.

The Free State party won a big victory, electing their

delegate to Congress by a majority of 4089 and choosing

thirty-three members of the Legislature to nineteen for

the Pro-Slavery party. The result was anything but

pleasing to the Washington administration.

John Brown 251

John Brown                251

As soon as it became apparent that Walker was pur-

suing a policy similar to that of Geary, he incurred the

hostility of the Pro-Slavery party. Buchanan, who had

appointed him six months before, accepted his resigna-

tion. It is significant that Governors Reeder, Geary and

Walker, all Democrats and appointed as men of Pro-

Slavery views, when on the ground where they could

judge the situation from first hand knowledge, so far

swayed to the favor of the Free State party that they

were given to understand that their resignations would

be acceptable.

Brown returned to Kansas in 1857 and recruited a

few men for the warfare against slavery. On Novem-

ber 17, he started with his men for Tabor and from this

village he soon set out for Springdale, Iowa, a Quaker

community thoroughly in sympathy with his anti-slavery

views, but opposed to warfare and the use of "carnal

weapons" to liberate the bondmen. The trip overland

was performed through the storms and drifting snows

of winter. The little band included Luke F. Parsons,

Richard Raelf, John E. Cook, William H. Leeman,

Charles P. Tidd, and John Henri Kagi. To these fol-

lowers he declared, "God has created me to be the de-

liverer of slaves as Moses delivered the children of


"They found nothing in this statement," declares

Villard, "to make them doubt his sanity, or that seemed

inherently impossible. A fanatic they recognized him

to be; but fanatics have at all times drawn satellites to

them, even when the alliance meant certain death."

On the dreary journey they trudged over the snow,

from December 4, arriving in Springdale shortly after

Christmas. They whiled away the evenings in debating

252 Ohio Arch

252     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

various questions and singing, in which John Brown

heartily joined. "The Slave has seen the Northern Star"

and "From Greenland's Icy Mountains" were among his


Their journey at last ended, they found a very hos-

pitable reception in Springdale. Located here in com-

parative comfort, they spent the remainder of the long

winter very pleasantly. They kept up and conducted

with decorum their debates. A mock legislature was

organized,* bills were introduced, discussed and enacted

into laws. Cook, Kagi and Raelf were men of much

more than ordinary ability and developed into speakers

of power and eloquence. At Springdale Brown added

two Quaker youths, of Ohio birth, to his company -

Edwin and Barclay Coppoc.

Leaving his men in Springdale, John Brown pro-

ceeded to the East, stopping to visit his son John at Lin-

denville, Ohio. It was on this trip, at the home of Gerrit

Smith in Peterboro, New York, that Brown divulged

his remarkable plan for a constitution to govern the

territory captured from the slave power. Chimerical

as this seemed, his friends in the East, after full expla-

nations from him, approved the general plan. As

Brown had by-laws for the government of his men in

Kansas, he felt that he must have an ambitious consti-

tution for the larger project that was now absorbing his

thought. After visiting Canada he returned to Spring-

dale and with his men went to Chatham, Canada, where

a convention of colored freedmen and his followers

from Springdale united to form the constitution. The

details of the proceedings and the full text of this doc-


*In the school house.

John Brown 253

John Brown                  253

ument are elsewhere available to interested readers.

The preamble only is here reproduced:

"Whereas, Slavery, throughout its entire existence in the

United States is none other than a most barbarous, unprovoked,

and unjustifiable War of one portion of its citizens upon another

portion; the only conditions of which are perpetual imprisonment,

and hopeless servitude or absolute extermination; in utter disre-

gard and violation of those eternal and self-evident truths set

forth in our Declaration of Independence:

Therefore, we CITIZENS of the UNITED STATES, and











Whatever may be the opinion of this constitution as a

whole, it must be admitted that the preamble sets forth

pretty clearly Brown's view of slavery and the Dred

Scott decision. The former he considered "most bar-

barous, unprovoked and unjustifiable war." The latter

stripped one portion of our population of all rights and

reduced them to a condition of "perpetual imprisonment

and hopeless servitude." Against both he and his fol-

lowers took up the gage of battle.

John Brown was fast maturing plans for "carrying

the war into Africa," for making a descent upon the in-

stitution of slavery in Virginia. These plans, however,

for a time were frustrated by Hugh Forbes, a soldier

of fortune who had served under Garibaldi, the liber-

ator of Italy, and now attached himself to the payroll

of Brown and his financial supporters. He at first en-

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254     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

tered with enthusiasm upon the service, with dreams

of becoming the Garibaldi of the colored race in

America. When the term of his employment ended and

no additional funds for his pay were in sight, he made

all sorts of trouble for Brown. Whenever he could get

an influential hearing he revealed the arrangements for

the intended attack. This caused a temporary aban-

donment of plans and the return of Brown to Kansas

for his spectacular invasion of Missouri.

In the latter part of June, 1858, John Brown re-

entered Kansas. He returned in the disguise of a patri-

archal beard, almost white, which he wore for the re-

mainder of his days, and under the assumed name of

Shubel Morgan. From Lawrence he proceeded to

southeastern Kansas where there had been considerable

excitement as the result of the brutal killing of five

inoffensive Free State settlers who had been captured

by the Pro-Slavery leader, Charles A. Hamilton, after-

ward a Confederate colonel, who "had boasted that if

Pro-Slavery men could not make headway in the Terri-

tory, abolitionists should not live there."

In the vicinity of Fort Scott, Brown and his men

remained for a time and kept in close touch with James

Montgomery, a militant Free State leader, who after-

ward rose to the rank of colonel in the Union army.

It was while Brown, or "Shubel Morgan," was here

that he wrote to his son John in Ohio of an anti-slavery

lecture that he gave a pro-slavery settler who came to

his camp. It was here also that he began a sketch of

his life, "as connected with Kansas; by one who knows."

It was never finished.

In the latter part of this summer with some of his

followers he made a short trip over the line into Mis-

John Brown 255

John Brown                    255

souri, taking with him   his surveying instruments to

avoid suspicion. When they came within sight of the

house of Rev. Martin White, who had killed his son

Frederick, he was asked to look through a field glass

at a man sitting in a distant yard under a shade tree.

"'I declare, that is Martin White," said Brown. At the

suggestion that they go and talk to the old man he said,

"No, no, I can't do that." When others proposed to go,

he said, "Go if you wish, but don't you hurt a hair of his

head." In speaking of White, he is reported to have

said to James Hanway:

"People mistake my objects. I would not hurt one hair

of his head. I would not go an inch to take his life; I do not

harbor the feeling of revenge. I act from principle. My aim and

object is to restore human rights."

In December occurred his famous "foray" into Mis-

souri. The historian, William E. Connelley, thus sum-

marizes it:

"On Sunday, December 19, 1858, a negro man came from

Missouri to Brown's camp and begged that his wife and family

be rescued from slavery before they were sold to be carried

South. The following Monday night Brown, with a number of

men from his company, made a foray into Missouri, and secured

these slaves, eleven in number, and carried them into Kansas.

They were carried to the Pottawatomie and kept in a cabin on

the open prairie for more than a month, while every ravine and

thicket swarmed with people searching for them. No one thought

of their being concealed in the deserted old cabin in plain view

of a number of houses, and they escaped without detection."

This raid created much commotion in Kansas and

Missouri. The governor of the latter offered a reward

of $3000 for the capture of Brown, to which President

Buchanan added $250. To show his contempt for their

efforts, Brown, according to Connelley, "immediately had

printed a small handbill in which he publicly proclaimed

256 Ohio Arch

256     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

that he thereby offered a reward for Buchanan, de-

claring that if any lover of his country would deliver

that august personage to him, well tied, at Trading

Post, he would willingly pay such patriot the sum of

two dollars and fifty cents. It is said that reflection

upon the matter afterwards convinced him that this

sum was more than the President was actually worth

for any purpose."

The eleven slaves were now free and temporarily

concealed in Kansas, but the enterprise that John Brown

had on his hands was about as unpromising and vi-

sionary as any that he had ever conceived. These slaves

were to be provisioned and conveyed through the dead

of winter over one thousand miles to freedom under

the British flag. He started with a plodding ox team,

almost alone, poorly clothed and confronted at every

town on the way with premium notices posted for his

arrest.  Many dangers confronted him and the diffi-

culties to be overcome seemed almost insurmountable;

but the stern old Puritan did not falter. Over frozen

roads and through blinding blizzards the wagons moved

slowly toward the goal of freedom.

Samuel Medary,* from Ohio, had been appointed

governor of Kansas by President Buchanan and was

now striving to arrest Brown as he moved northward

with his liberated slaves. The sudden rising of a stream

halted Brown and his charges and Medary gleefully

notified Buchanan that the capture of Brown was

assured. On January 31, 1859, the men sent to make


* Samuel Medary was born in Pennsylvania, February 25, 1801, and

moved to Clermont county, Ohio, in 1825. He served in both branches

of the legislature of Ohio, and by appointment was governor of the

Territory of Minnesota and the Territory of Kansas. He was editor

of the Ohio Statesman and the Crisis, both published in Columbus.

John Brown 257

John Brown                257

the arrest were suddenly fired upon by Brown and some

reinforcements sent to his aid from Topeka. At the

first volley the posse sent by Medary were panic stricken

and fled in confusion to escape "the old terror," some

leaping on behind their mounted comrades and others

clinging to the horses' tails in their wild scramble to

get away. Brown captured three of the men sent to

arrest him, four horses and abandoned arms, while

Medary and Buchanan were left empty-handed. Col-

onel Richard J. Hinton facetiously called this final fight

of John Brown's on Kansas soil the "Battle of the

Spurs," and it has ever since been so known in the his-

tory of that Territory.

Brown proceeded on his journey by way of Nebraska

City, Tabor, Aurora, Des Moines, Grinnell, Iowa City

and Springdale to West Liberty, where he boarded a

train with his colored cargo for Chicago. Then they

proceeded to Detroit and crossed to Windsor, Canada,

where the slaves were finally delivered from the land of

bondage. They had come in eighty-two days a distance

of 1100 miles, 600 of which had been covered in wagons

through the rigors of a northwestern midwinter.

From Canada Brown went to Cleveland, Ohio, where

he sold the horses that he had captured at the "Battle of

the Spurs." In offering them for sale he explained that

"the title might be a little defective" but that they were

"abolition horses." Asked how he knew this, he an-

swered that he was certain of it because he had "con-

verted" them. They brought a good price, however, as

there were purchasers in Cleveland who were eager to

get Buchanan horses from Kansas that had been "con-

verted" by John Brown.

Vol. XXX -17.

258 Ohio Arch

258      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

Arrangements had been made in Cleveland for a

lecture in Chapin's Hall. This was well advertised in

an announcement published in the Cleveland Leader of

March 18, 1859. The meeting was to be held on the

evening of that day. A violent storm prevented the

attendance of many people and the lecture was post-

poned to March 21. The Leader again published a lib-

eral and attractive notice. The meeting, however, was

poorly attended. Representatives from the Leader and

the Plain Dealer published rather full accounts of it.

Artemus Ward reported this meeting      for the Plain

Dealer. The following characteristic excerpt is quoted

from the account of "Ward" who had not at that time

achieved great fame as a humorist but who was earn-

ing $12 a week as a reporter:

"He is a medium-sized, compactly-built and wiry man, and

as quick as a cat in his movements. His hair is of a salt and

pepper hue and as stiff as bristles; he has a long, waving, milk-

white goatee, which gives him a somewhat patriarchal appear-

ance; his eyes are gray and sharp. A man of pluck is Brown.

You may bet on that. He shows it in his walk, talk, and actions.

He must be rising sixty, and yet we believe he could lick a yard

full of wild cats before breakfast and without taking off his coat.

Turn him into a ring with nine Border Ruffians, four bears, six

Injuns and a brace of bull pups, and we opine that 'the eagles of

victory would perch on his banner.' We don't mean by this that

he looks like a professional bruiser, who hits from the shoulder,

but he looks like a man of iron and one that few men would like

to 'sail into'."

The report of the Leader is devoted about equally to

the addresses of Kagi and Brown. It is complimentary,

and somewhat extended. The following is a brief


"Mr. Brown remarked that he was an outlaw, the governor

of Missouri having offered a reward of $3000 for him and the

president $250 more for him. He should never submit to an

John Brown 259

John Brown                   259

arrest, as he had nothing to gain from submission, but he should

settle all questions on the spot if an attempt was made to take

him. The liberation of those slaves was meant as a direct blow

to slavery and he laid down his platform that he considered it his

duty to break the fetters from any slave when he had the oppor-

tunity. He was a thoroughgoing abolitionist. He stated many

incidents in Kansas affairs and conveyed much information on

territorial affairs.

"Mr. Brown is a man apparently sixty years old, and full of

nerve and boldness. His narrative was highly interesting and


While the people of Cleveland did not flock out to

hear Brown neither did his most rabid opponents in

that city make any effort to have him arrested. He and

Kagi here saw posted up in numerous places the offer

of the rewards by the governor of Missouri and by Pres-

ident Buchanan for the arrest and detention of Brown.

The opportunity to earn this reward, however, was not

sufficiently tempting to lead any patriot to make the

attempt. The fact was well understood that any effort