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1800 1859 
: a 33tOrapf)p jftft? gears after 


A.M., LITT.D. 











"THERE never was more need for a good life of any man 
than there was for one of John Brown," wrote Charles Eliot 
Norton in March, 1860, in expressing in the Atlantic Monthly 
his dissatisfaction with the first biography of the leader of 
the attack upon Harper's Ferry. Twenty-six years later, in 
the same publication, Mr. John T. Morse, Jr., wrote that "so 
grand a subject cannot fail to inspire a writer able to do jus- 
tice to the theme; and when such an one draws Brown, he 
will produce one of the most attractive books in the lan- 
guage. But meantime the ill-starred 'martyr' suffers a pro- 
longation of martyrdom, standing like another St. Sebastian 
to be riddled with the odious arrows of fulsome panegyrists." 
Since 1886 there have appeared five other lives of Brown, the 
most important being that of Richard J. Hinton, who in his 
preface gloried 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. How successful this attempt has been is for the 
reader to judge. That this volume in nowise approaches the 
attractiveness which Mr. Morse looked for, the author fully 
understands. On the other hand, no stone has been left un- 
turned to make accurate the smallest detail ; the original docu- 
ments, contemporary letters and living witnesses have been 
examined in every quarter of the United States. Materials 
never before utilized have been drawn upon, and others dis- 
covered whose existence has heretofore been unknown. Wher- 
ever sources have been quoted, they have been cited verbatim 
et literatim, the effort being to reproduce exactly spelling, 


capitalization and punctuation, particularly in John Brown's 
own letters, which have suffered hitherto from free-hand 
editing. If at times, particularly in dealing with the Kansas 
period of John Brown's life, it may seem as if there were a 
superfluity of detail, the explanation is that already a hun- 
dred myths have attached themselves to John Brown's name 
which often hinge upon a date, or the possibility of his pre- 
sence at a given place at a given hour. Over some of them have 
raged long and bitter controversies which give little evidence 
of the softening effects of time. 

So complex a character as John Brown's is not to be dis- 
missed by merely likening him to the Hebrew prophets or to 
a Cromwellian Roundhead, though both parallels are not 
inapt; and the historian's task is made heavier since nearly 
all characterizations of the man have been at one extreme or 
another. But there is, after all, no personality so complex that 
it cannot be tested by accepted ethical standards. To do this 
sincerely, to pass a deliberate and accurate historical judg- 
ment, to bestow praise and blame without favor or sectional 
partisanship, has been the author's endeavor. 

His efforts have been generously aided by the friends, rela- 
tives and associates of John Brown, whenever approached, 
and by many others who pay tribute, by their deep interest, 
to the vital force of John Brown's story. It would be impos- 
sible to mention all here. But to Salmon Brown and Henry 
Thompson is due the writer's ability to record for the first 
time the exact facts as to the happenings on the Pottawatomie, 
and the author is also particularly indebted to Jason Brown, 
Miss Sarah Brown, Mrs. Annie Brown Adams, and Mrs. 
John Brown, Jr. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, F. B. San- 
born, Horace White, George B. Gill, Luke F. Parsons, Mrs. 
Emma Wattles Morse, Mrs. Rebecca Spring, Jennie Dunbar 
(Mrs. Lee Garcelon) and R. G. Elliott, of Lawrence, are a few 
of the survivors of John Brown's time who have aided by 
counsel or reminiscence. Special thanks are due to George 
W. Martin, Miss Adams and Miss Clara Francis, of the Kan- 
sas Historical Society, for valuable assistance, as well as to 
the Historical Department of Iowa, the Western Reserve 
Historical Society, the Department of Archives and History 
of the Virginia State Library, the Pennsylvania and Massa- 


chusetts Historical Societies, and to Louis A. Reese, lately of 
Brown University, who generously placed at the author's 
disposal the manuscript of his admirable work on "The Ad- 
mission of Kansas as a State." Mrs. S. L. Clark, of Berea, 
Kentucky, Mrs. S. C. Davis, of Kalamazoo, Miss Leah Talia- 
ferro, of Gloucester County, Virginia, Miss Mary E. Thomp- 
son, Mrs. Ellen Brown Fablinger, Mrs. J. B. Remington, of 
Osawatomie, Kansas, Dr. Thaddeus Hyatt, the family of the 
late Joshua R. Giddings, Dr. Frederick C. Waite, of Western 
Reserve University, Dr. Henry A. Stevens, of Boston, Cleon 
Moore, of Charlestown, West Virginia, William E. Connel- 
ley, of Topeka, Kansas, and Edwin Tatham, of New York, 
have placed the author under special obligations here grate- 
fully acknowledged. 

Dr. Thomas Featherstonhaugh, of Washington, has been 
most generous in giving the author free access to his rich 
collections of books, pamphlets and photographs, and they 
have been largely drawn upon. The author also gladly records 
his lasting indebtedness to Miss Katherine Mayo, whose jour- 
neys in search of material for his use have covered a period of 
more than two years and many thousands of miles. But for 
her judgment, her tact and skill, and her enthusiasm for the 
work, it could hardly have approached its present compre- 
hensiveness. Finally, without the approval, generous aid and 
encouragement of his uncle, Francis Jackson Garrison, of 
Boston, the author could not have undertaken or completed 
this book. 

NEW YORK, August i, 1910. 

















NOTES 591 


A. " Sambo's Mistakes," by John Brown 659 

B. John Brown's Covenant for the Enlistment of his Volunteer- 

Regular Company, August, 1856 66 I 

C. John Brown's Requisition upon the National Kansas Com- 

mittee, for an outfit for his proposed Company, January, 
1857 664 

D. John Brown's Peace Agreement 665 

E. Shubel Morgan's Company 666 

F. John Brown's Wills 667 

G. John Avis's Affidavit as to his Association with John Brown 670 
H. A Chronology of John Brown's Movements from his depar- 
ture for Kansas, August 13, 1855, to his death, December 

2, 1859 672 

I. John Brown's Men at Arms 678 



I. Manuscript Collections 689 

II. Biographies 689 

III. Magazine and Other Articles 690 

IV. Authorities on the Kansas Period 694 

V. Books, Pamphlets and Periodicals relating particularly to the Har- 
per's Ferry Raid 697 

VI. Reports of Important Meetings dealing with the Raid and Execu- 
tion 700 

VII. Important Speeches and Addresses on John Brown, as separately 

published 701 

VIII. Some Typical Sermons 702 

IX. Biographies, Autobiographies and Reminiscences of Correlated or 

Important Persons 703 

X. Local and General Histories with Special References to John Brown 

and his Men 77 


JOHN BROWN Frontispiece 

From a painting by Nahum B. Onthank in the Boston Athenaum. This 
was based on a photograph from life by J. W. Black, of Boston, in May, 
1859, and the artist had the benefit of the criticisms and suggestions of Mrs. 
Brown, John Brown, Jr., and other members of the family. Onthank made 
two paintings, one of which was purchased by Thaddeus Hyatt and presented 
by him to the People of Hayti, through President Geffrard. The second was 
purchased by subscription and given to the Athenceum. 


From a photograph 


From photographs. 


From a photograph. 


From a photograph. 


From a photograph. 


From a photograph. 


Photogravure from a daguerreotype (1857?) kindly loaned by Mrs. Charles 
Fairchild, Cambridge, Mass. 


Where John Brown stored his guns and ammunition. 
From a photograph. 


Where the Mock Legislature met. 
From a photograph. 


Photogravure from a photograph taken (probably in June, 1858) by J. J. 
Hawes, of Boston 


From photographs. 



From a woodcut. 


From a woodcut. 


From a woodcut. 



From a photograph kindly furnished by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. 


From a woodcut. 


From photographs. 


From a woodcut. 


From a woodcut. 


Fac-simile from the original in possession of Mr. Theodore P. Adams, of 
Plymouth, Mass. 


Fac-simile from the original in possession of Mr. Frank G. Logan, of 


From a photograph. 


From a photograph. 

NOTE. The Osawatomie and Black Jack battlefields, the Todd house at 
Tabor, and school-house at Springdale, were photographed by the author in 
1908; the views of Kennedy Farm, of the fighting at Harper's Ferry, and of the 
Charlestown Court-House and Prison are reproduced from woodcuts in Frank 
Leslie's Illustrated Paper (New York) for October and November, 1859; the por- 
traits of Owen Brown (father of John Brown), Kagi, Stevens, Oliver and Watson 
Brown, and the views of the Farmhouse and Grave at North Elba, are from 
photographs kindly lent by Dr. Thomas Featherstonhaugh, of Washington, D. C.; 
the portraits of John Brown, Jr.. and of Salmon and Owen Brown are from photo- 
graphs belonging to Mrs. John Brown, Jr., Put-in Bay, Ohio; that of Jason Brown, 
from a photograph made in 1908, for Mr. Earl E. Martin, editor of the Cleve- 
land Press. 


All through the conflict, up and down 
Marched Uncle Tom and Old John Brown, 

One ghost, one form ideal; 
And which was false and which was true, 
And which was mightier of the two, 
The wisest sibyl never knew, 

For both alike were real. 




RED ROCK, IOWA isth July, 1857 


MY DEAR YOUNG FRIEND I have not forgotten my pro- 
mise to write you ; but my constant care, & anxiety : have 
obliged me to put it off a long time. I do not flatter myself 
that I can write anything that will very much interest you : 
but have concluded to send you a short story of a certain boy 
of my acquaintance : & for convenience & shortness of name, 
I will call him John. This story will be mainly a naration of 
follies and errors ; which it is to be hoped you may avoid; but 
there is one thing connected with it, which will be calculated 
to encourage any young person to persevereing effort ; & that 
is the degree of success in accomplishing his objects which to 
a great extent marked the course of this boy throughout my 
entire acquaintance with him ; notwithstanding his moderate 
capacity ; & still more moderate acquirements. 

John was born May Qth, 1800, at Torrington, Litchfield Co. 
Connecticut ; of poor but respectable parents : a decendant on 
the side of his Father of one of the company of the Mayflower 
who landed at Plymouth 1620. His mother was decended 
from a man who came at an early period to New England from 
Amsterdam, in Holland. Both his Fathers and his Mothers 
Fathers served in the war of the revolution : His Father's 
Father ; died in a barn at New York while in the service, in 

I cannot tell you of anything in the first Four years of 
John's life worth mentioning save that at that early age he 
was tempted by Three large Brass Pins belonging to a girl who 
lived in the family & stole them. In this he was detected by 
his Mother ; & after having a full day to think of the wrong ; 


received from her a thorough whipping. When he was Five 
years old his Father moved to Ohio ; then a wilderness filled 
with wild beasts, & Indians. During the long journey which 
was performed in part or mostly with an Oxteam; he was 
called on by turns to assist a boy Five years older (who had 
been adopted by his Father & Mother) & learned to think he 
could accomplish smart things in driving the Cows ; & riding 
the horses. Sometimes he met with Rattle Snakes w r hich were 
very large ; & which some of the company generally managed 
to kill. After getting to Ohio in 1805 ne was for some time 
rather afraid of the Indians, & of their Rifles; but this soon 
wore off : & he used to hang about them quite as much as was 
consistent with good manners ; & learned a trifle of their talk. 
His father learned to dress Deer Skins, & at 6 years old John 
was installed a young Buck Skin. He was perhaps rather 
observing as he ever after remembered the entire process of 
Eieer Skin dressing; so that he could at any time dress his 
own leather such as Squirel, Raccoon, Cat, Wolf or Dog Skins; 
and also learned to make Whip Lashes : which brought him 
some change at times ; & was of considerable service in many 
ways. At Six years old John began to be quite a rambler in the 
wild new country finding birds and Squirrels and sometimes a 
wild Turkeys nest. But about this period he was placed in the 
School of adversity; which my young friend was a most neces- 
sary part of his early training. You may laugh when you come 
to read about it ; but these were sore trials to John : whose 
earthly treasures were very few, & small. These were the be- 
ginning of a severe but much needed course of dicipline which 
he afterwards was to pass through ; & which it is to be hoped 
has learned him before this time that the Heavenly Father 
sees it best to take all the little things out of his hands which 
he has ever placed in them. When John was in his Sixth year 
a poor Indian boy gave him a Yellow Marble the first he had 
ever seen. This he thought a great deal of ; & kept it a good 
while ; but at last he lost it beyond recovery. // took years to 
heal the wound & I think he cried at times about it. About 
Five months after this he caught a young Squirel tearing off 
his tail in doing it ; & getting severely bitten at the same time 
himself. He however held on to the little bob tail Squirrel ; & 
finally got him perfectly tamed, so that he almost idolized his 


pet. This too he lost; by its wandering away; or by getting 
killed ; & for a year or two John was in mourning; and looking 
at all the Squirrels he could see to try & discover Bobtail, if 
possible. I must not neglect to tell you of a verry bad & foolish 
habbit to which John was somewhat addicted. I mean telling 
lies ; generally to screen himself from blame ; or from punish- 
ment. He could not well endure to be reproached ; & I now 
think had he been oftener encouraged to be entirely frank; 
by making frankness a kind of atonement for some of his faults ; 
he would not have been so often guilty in after life of this 
fault ; nor have been obliged to struggle so long with so mean 
a habit. 

John was never quarrelsome ; but was excessively fond of the 
hardest & roughest kind of plays ; & could never get enough [of] 
them. Indeed when for a short time he was sometimes sent 
to School the opportunity it afforded to wrestle, & Snow ball 
& run & jump & knock off old seedy Wool hats ; offered to 
him almost the only compensation for the confinement, & re- 
straints of school. I need not tell you that with such a feeling 
& but little chance of going to school at all : he did not become 
much of a schollar. He would always choose to stay at home 
& work hard rather than be sent to school; & during the 
Warm season might generally be seen barefooted & bareheaded : 
with Buck skin Breeches suspended often with one leather 
strap over his shoulder but sometimes with Two. To be sent 
off through the wilderness alone to very considerable distances 
was particularly his delight ; & in this he was often indulged 
so that by the time he was Twelve years old he was sent off 
more than a Hundred Miles with companies of cattle ; & he 
would have thought his character much injured had he been 
obliged to be helped in any such job. This was a boyish kind 
of feeling but characteristic however. At Eight years old, 
John was left a Motherless boy which loss was complete & 
permanent for notwithstanding his Father again married to 
a sensible, inteligent, and on many accounts a very estimable 
woman; yet he never adopted her in feeling; but continued 
to pine after his own Mother for years. This opperated very 
unfavorably uppon him ; as he was both naturally fond of 
females; &, withall, extremely diffident; & deprived him of a 
suitable connecting link between the different sexes ; the want 


of which might under some circumstances, have proved his 
ruin. When the war broke out with England : his Father soon 
commenced furnishing the troops with beef cattle, the collect- 
ing & driving of which afforded him some opportunity for the 
chase (on foot) of wild steers & other cattle through the woods. 
During this war he had some 'chance to form his own boyish 
judgment of men & measures : & to become somewhat famil- 
iarly acquainted with some who have figured before the coun- 
try 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; & got along like a 
Quaker untill 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 A bolitionist : & led him 
to declare, or Swear : Eternal war with Slavery. He was stay- 
ing for a short time with a very gentlemanly landlord since a 
United States Marshall who held a slave boy near his own age 
very active, inteligent, and good feeling; & 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 first company ; & friends ; called their atten- 
tion to every little smart thing he said or did : & to the fact of 
his being more than a hundred miles from home with a com- 
pany of cattle alone ; while the negro boy (who was fully if not 
more than his equal) was badly clothed, poorly fed ; & lodged 
in cold weather ; & 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 
& Motherless slave children: for such children have neither 
Fathers or Mothers to protect & provide for them. He some- 
times would raise the question is God their Father ? At the age 
of Ten years, an old friend induced him to read a little history, 
& offered him the free use of a good library; by; which he 
acquired some taste for reading: which formed the principle 
part of his early education : & diverted him in a great measure 
from bad company. He by this means grew to be verry fond of 
the company & conversation of old & inteligent persons. He 
never attempted to dance in his life ; nor did he ever learn to 
know one of a pack of Cards from another. He learned nothing 
of Grammer ; nor did he get at school so much knowledge of 


comm[on] Arithmetic as the Four ground rules. This will give 
you some general idea of the first Fifteen years of his life; 
during which time he became very strong & large of his age & 
ambitious to perform the full labour of a man ; at almost any 
kind of hard work. By reading the lives of great, wise & good 
men their sayings, and writings ; he grew to a dislike of vain & 
frivolous conversation & persons; & was often greatly obliged 
by the kind manner in which older & more inteligent persons 
treated him at their houses: & in conversation; which was 
a great relief on account of his extreme bashfulness. He very 
early in life became ambitious to excel in doing anything he 
undertook to perform. This kind of feeling I would recom- 
mend to all young persons both Male &Jemale: as it will cer- 
tainly tend to secure admission to the company of the more 
inteligent; & better portion of every community. By all 
means endeavour to excel in some laudable pursuit. I had 
like to have forgotten to tell you of one of John's misfortunes 
which set rather hard on him while a young boy. He had by 
some means perhaps by gift of his Father become the owner 
of a little Ewe Lamb which did finely till it was about Two 
Thirds grown ; & then sickened and died. This brought an- 
other protracted mourning season : not that he felt the pecun- 
iary loss so heavily : for that was never his disposition ; but so 
strong & earnest were his attachments. John had been taught 
from earliest childhood to "fear God & keep his command- 
ments;" & though quite skeptical he had always by turns felt 
much serious doubt as to his future well being ; & about this 
time became to some extent a convert to Christianity & ever 
after a firm believer in the divine authenticity of the Bible. 
With this book he became very familiar, & possessed a most 
unusual memory of its entire contents. 

Now some of the things I have been telling of; were just such 
as I would recommend to you : & I would like to know that you 
had selected these out ; & adopted them as part of your own 
plan of life ; & I wish you to have some definite plan. Many 
seem to have none ; & others never to stick to any that they do 
form. This was not the case with John. He followed up with 
tenacity whatever he set about so long as it answered his gen- 
eral purpose : & hence he rarely failed in some good degree to 
effect the things he undertook. This was so much the case 


that he habitually expected to succeed in his undertakings. With 
this feeling should be coupled; the consciousness that our plans 
are right in themselves. 

During the period I have named, John had acquired a kind 
of ownership to certain animals of some little value but as 
he had come to understand that the title of minors might be a 
little imperfect : he had recourse to various means in order to 
secure a more independent; & perfect right of property. One 
of these means was to exchange with his Father for some- 
thing of far less value. Another was by trading with other per- 
sons for something his Father had never owned. Older persons 
have sometimes found difficulty with titles. 

From Fifteen to Twenty years old, he spent most of his 
time working at the Tanner & Currier's trade keeping Bach- 
elors hall ; & he officiating as Cook ; & for most of the time 
as foreman of the establishment under his Father. During 
this period he found much trouble with some of the bad hab- 
its I have mentioned & with some that I have not told you 
of : his conscience urging him forward with great power in this 
matter: but his close attention to business; & success in its 
management ; together with the way he got along with a com- 
pany of men, & boys ; made him quite a favorite with the seri- 
ous & more inteligent portion of older persons. This was so 
much the case ; & secured for him so many little notices from 
those he esteemed ; that his vanity was very much fed by 
it : & he came forward to manhood quite full of self-conceit ; 
& self-confident ; notwithstanding his extreme bashfulness. A 
younger brother used sometimes to remind him of this: & 
to repeat to him this expression which you may somewhere 
find, "A King against whom there is no rising up." The habit 
so early formed of being obeyed rendered him in after life 
too much disposed to speak in an imperious or dictating way. 
From Fifteen years & upward he felt a good deal of anxiety 
to learn ; but could only read & studdy a little ; both for want 
of time ; & on account of inflammation of the eyes. He how- 
ever managed by the help of books to make himself tolera- 
bly well acquainted with common Arithmetic ; & Surveying ; 
which he practiced more or less after he was Twenty years old. 
At a little past Twenty years led by his own inclination & 
prompted also by his Father, he married a remarkably plain; 


but neat industrious & economical girl ; of excellent character ; 
earnest piety; & good practical common sense; about one 
year younger than himself. This woman by her mild, frank, 
& more than all else; by her very consistent conduct ; acquired 
& ever while she lived maintained a most powerful ; & good 
influence over him. Her plain but kind admonitions generally 
had the right effect ; without arousing his haughty obstinate 
temper. John began early in life to discover a great liking to 
fine Cattle, Horses, Sheep, & Swine; & as soon as circum- 
stances would enable him he began to be a practical Shep- 
herd : it being a calling for which in early life he had a kind of 
enthusiastic longing : together with the idea that as a business 
it bid fair to afford him the means of carrying out his greatest 
or principal object. I have now given you a kind of general 
idea of the early life of this boy ; & if I believed it would be 
worth the trouble ; or afford much interest to any good feeling 
person ; I might be tempted to tell you something of his course 
in after life ; or manhood. I do not say that I will do it. 

You will discover that in using up my half sheets to save 
paper ; I have written Two pages, so that one does not follow 
the other as it should. I have no time to write it over ; & but 
for unavoidable hindrances in traveling I can hardly say when 
I should have written what I have. With an honest desire for 
your best good, I subscribe myself, 

Your Friend, 


P. S. I had like to have forgotten to acknowledge your con- 
tribution in aid of the cause in which I serve. God Allmighty 
bless you; my son. 

J. B. 

In this simple, straightforward, yet remarkable narrative 1 
John Brown of Osawatomie and Harper's Ferry outlined his 
youth to the thirteen-year-old son of his benefactor, George 
Luther Stearns. It remains the chief source of knowledge as to 
the formative period of one who for a brief day challenged the 
attention of a great nation, compelled it to heart searchings 
most beneficent in their results, and through his death of ap- 
parent ignominy achieved not only an historical immortality, 


but a far-reaching victory over forces of evil against which he 
had dared and lost his life. John Brown, a Puritan in the aus- 
terity of his manner of living, the narrowness of his vision and 
the hardships he underwent, came of a family of pioneers. But 
he was not of those adventurers into the wilderness who are 
content, after carving out with the axe a little kingdom for 
themselves, to rule peacefully to the end of their days. His 
early adventures, his contact with the American aborigines, 
his boyish experiences with the flotsam and jetsam of armies 
in the field, all bred up in him a restlessness not characteris- 
tic of the original Puritans, but with him a dominant feature of 
his whole career. To John Brown life from the outset meant 
incessant strife, first against unconquered nature, then in the 
struggle for a living, and finally in that effort to be a Samson to 
the pro-slavery Philistines in which his existence culminated. 
"I expect nothing but to endure hardness," he wrote to a 
friend in an attempt to enlist him in the Harper's Ferry enter- 
prise. It would have been surprising, indeed, had he expected 
anything else, for to nothing else was he accustomed. From 
the " school of adversity" in which he was placed, as he wrote, 
at the age of six years, he graduated only at his death. 

The picture which John Brown drew of his experiences in 
the early settlement of Ohio, just a century ago, was by no 
means over-colored. The American public is apt to think that 
pioneering was difficult only in New England in the seven- 
teenth century, in Kentucky and Tennessee in the eighteenth, 
and in the far West in the nineteenth. But the story of the 
settlement of the Middle West reads in no essential differ- 
ently, if perhaps less dramatically, than the better known ex- 
tensions of the ever-expanding frontier. There were the same 
hardships, the same facing of death by disease or, at times, in 
ambush, the same exhausting toil, the same terrifying loneli- 
ness, the same never-ending battling against relentless ele- 
ments. This struggle for existence Brown's family shared 
with those fellow emigrants who ventured with them into the 
Ohio forest primeval, destroying it with great labor, driving 
the wolves, panthers and bears from their rude cabin doors, 
and subsisting, penuriously enough, on the wild game of the 
woods and such scanty crops as the squirrels, blackbirds, rac- 
coons and porcupines permitted to grow to maturity among 


the stumps of the cleared tracts. As late as 1817 there were 
bears who helped themselves in this district of Ohio to the 
settlers' pigs, and in 1819, in a great hunt, no less than one 
hundred deer and a dozen and a half bears and wolves were 
corralled and shot down by the hunters of four townships 2 
around Hudson. These wild animals of the forest not only 
supplied meat for the scantily furnished larders, but skins 
wherewith to make clothing and caps for others besides John 
Brown. Farms were bought and paid for in hard and bitter 
experiences. The roads were but a pretence, rough log bridges 
led across the swamps, and the only means of transportation 
which could survive long were the roughest sleds, ox-carts 
and stone-boats. In the summer of 1806, the year after John 
Brown arrived, there were, according to an old settler, 3 frosts 
every month, "no corn got ripe, and the next spring we had 
to send to the Ohio river for seed corn to plant." This was 
the beginning of the "school of adversity" for John Brown, 
and the next summer's session was one of the hardest that the 
pioneers ever stored away in their recollections. But not the 
worst; that John Brown thought the summer of 1817, which 
he described as a period " of extreme scarcity of not only money, 
but of the greatest distress for want of provisions known 
during the nineteenth century." 4 He and three others were 
destitute "between the seaside and Ohio," but they had 
learned not to be afraid of "spoiling themselves by hard work," 
and they managed to keep body and soul together. Even in 
times of plenty, provisions were hard to get, and were best 
purchased by labor of those fortunate enough to have an 
abundance, the rate being three and a half pounds of pork for a 
day's service. Fortunately, the neighboring Indians, Senecas, 
Ottawas and Chippewas, were well behaved and friendly, 
rarely sinning, but often sinned against. It was in this atmos- 
phere so friendly to the steeling of muscles, the training of eyes 
and hands, the enduring of arduous labor and the cultivation 
of the primal virtues, that John Brown grew up to self-reliant 
manhood. Under these conditions was his character moulded 
and forged, until there emerged a man of singular natural force, 
direct of speech, earnest of purpose, and usually resolute, with 
the frontiersman's ability to shift readily from one occupation 
to another and an incurable readiness to wander. 


' ' Although the time when a man comes into the world and the 
place where he appears are in certain ways important and may 
well begin his story," declared Professor N. S. Shaler in his all 
too brief autobiography, " the really weighty question concerns 
his inheritances and the conditions in which they were devel- 
oped. That he brings with him something that is in a mea- 
sure independent of all his progenitors, a certain individuality 
which makes him distinct in essentials from like beings he 
succeeds, is true vastly true ; but the way he is to go is, to 
a great extent, shaped by those who sent him his life." 5 The 
conditions of early life in Ohio were precisely those for which 
John Brown's inheritances should best have fitted him. He 
came of simple, frugal, hard-working folk, deeply interested 
in religion and the church into which they sent some of their 
best, and, above all, imbued with a strong love of liberty. 
His father's father, who died "in a barn in New York" while 
a captain of the Ninth Company, or Train-band 9, in the 
Eighteenth Regiment of the Connecticut Colony, likewise 
bore the name of John Brown, and on the other side the 
tradition of arms came down to him from his maternal grand- 
father. The Revolutionary Captain John Brown was the son 
and grandson of men of the same name, likewise citizens of 
Connecticut, the senior of whom, born February 4, 1694, was 
the son of Peter Brown, of Windsor, Connecticut. Through 
this Peter Brown, John Brown of Osawatomie, like many 
another of his patronymic, believed himself descended from 
Peter Brown of the goodly Mayflower company, errone- 
ously, for modern genealogical research has proved that the 
Mayflower Peter Brown left no male issue. 6 But the posses- 
sion of an actual Mayflower progenitor is not indispensable 
to the establishment of a long line of ancestry, and so Peter 
Brown of Windsor, born in 1632, can surely lay claim to being 
among the earliest white colonists on this continent, early 
enough at least to make it plain that in John Brown of Osa- 
watomie's veins ran the blood of solid middle-class citizens, 
the bone and sinew of the early colonies, as of the infant 
American republic. 

It is not related of any of the colonial John Browns that 
they were especially distinguished. When Captain John 
Brown, of the Eighteenth Connecticut, gave his life for the 


independence of his country, he left a wife and ten children 
at West Simsbury, now Canton, Connecticut, and a posthu- 
mous son came into the world soon after his father perished, 
the oldest child, a daughter, being then about seventeen. 
"The care and support of this family," wrote his son Owen 
many years later, " fell mostly on my mother. The labor- 
ing men were mostly in the army. She was one of the best 
mothers; active and sensible. She did all that could be ex- 
pected of a mother ; yet for the want of help we lost our crops, 
then our cattle, and so became poor." In the "dreadful hard 
winter" of 1778-79 they were deprived of nearly all their 
sheep, cattle and hogs, and the spring found them in the 
greatest distress. This was the "school of adversity" in which 
John Brown's father was trained, he also beginning at the age 
of six the lessons in hardship which made of him a sturdy, 
vigorous, honest pioneer, and hardened his body for its long 
existence of eighty-five years. In the autobiography 7 which 
he wrote at his children's request, when nearly eighty years 
of age, Owen Brown summed up his career in this sentence : 
"My life has been of little worth, mostly filled up with van- 
ity." In this harsh judgment his neighbors would not have 
concurred. Owen Brown stood well with everybody, even 
with those who had no liking for his militant son. Yet this 
sentence gives a key to the piety which filled Owen's life, and 
explains, too, whence the son received his own strong religious 
tendency. In Owen Brown's last letter to his son, penned only 
six weeks before his death, occurs this wish : " I ask all of you 
to pray more earnestly for the salvation of my soul than for the 
life of my body, and that I may give myself and all I have up 
to Christ and honer him by a sacrifise of all we have." 8 

Similar pious expressions are to be found in almost every 
one of John Brown's letters to the members of his family. 
Their salvation, their clinging to the orthodox Congregational 
faith to which he held so tenaciously, their devotion to the 
Scriptures, these are things which ever concerned him. 
Indeed, the resemblance of John Brown to his father appears 
in many ways, not the least in their respective biographies. 
Owen's is as characteristic a document as the one which 
begins this volume. In it he relates his wanderings as an 
apprentice and later as a full-fledged shoemaker and tanner. 


But if he moved about a good deal in the struggle to sup- 
port himself, learn a trade and relieve the heavily burdened 
mother of his support, when he finally reached Ohio, in 1805, 
Owen Brown remained in one locality for fifty-one years, until 
his death, May 8, 1856. Owen received, he narrates, consid- 
erable instruction from the Rev. Jeremiah Hallock, the min- 
ister of Canton, who was a connection of many of the Browns, 
hiring out to this worthy pastor for six months in 1790. In 
the spring of 1791 the family fortunes were again in the 
ascendant. One brother, John by name, was for many years 
an honored citizen of New Hartford, Connecticut; another, 
Frederick, after serving in the Connecticut Legislature during 
the War of 1812, moved to Wadsworth, Medina County, Ohio, 
where he was long a highly respected county judge. Of this 
Frederick's sons, two became successful physicians and one 
a minister. 

In the fall of 1790, Owen Brown became acquainted with 
his future wife, Ruth Mills, "who was the choice of my affec- 
tions ever after, although we were not married for more than 
two years." He was, at this time, it appears, "under some 
conviction of sin but whether I was pardoned or not God only 
knows this I know I have not lived like a Christian." The 
beginning of his married life Owen Brown described thus : 

" Feb I3th 1793 I was married to Ruth Mills in March begun to 
keep House and here I will say was the begining of days with me. 
I think our good Minister felt all the anxiety of Parent that we 
should begin wright, he gave us good counsel and I have no doubts 
with a praying spiret, here I will say never had any Person such an 
assendence over my conduct as my wife, this she had without the lest 
appearence of userpation, and if I have been respected in the World 
I must ascribe it more to her than to any other Person. We begun 
with but very little property but with industry and frugality, which 
gave us a very comfortable seport and a small increas. We took in 
children to live with us very soon after we began to keep House.* 
Our first Child was born at Canton June 29th 1794 a son we called 
Salmon he was a very thrifty forward Child, we lived in Canton about 
two years, I worked at Shoemaking, Tanning and Farming we made 
Butter and Chees on a small scale and all our labours turned to good 
account, we had great calls [cause] for thanksgiven, we were at peace 
with all our Neighbours, we lived in a rented House and I seamed 

* Levi Blakeslee, early adopted by Owen and Ruth Brown, became the head 
of a highly respected Ohio family. 


to be called to build or moove. I thought of the latter and went 
directly to Norfolk as I was there acquainted and my wife had kept 
a school there one summer, the People of Norfolk incoureged me and 
I bought a small Farm with House and Barn, I then sold what little 
I had, and made a very suddon move to Norfolk, we found Friends 
in deed and in kneed. I there set up Shoemaking and tanning, hired 
a journaman did a small good business and gave good sattisfac- 
tion. ... In Feb, 1799 I had an oppertunity to sell my place of Nor- 
folk which I did without any consultation of our Neighbours who 
thought they had some clame on my future servises as they had been 
very kind and helpfull and questioned weather I had not been hasty 
but I went as hastely to Torrington and bought a place, all though 
I had but very little acquantence there. I was very quick on the 
moove we found very good Neighbours I was somewhat prosperus 
in my business. In 1800, May 9th John was born one hundred 
years after his Great Grand Father nothing very uncommon. . . . 
my determination to come to Ohio was so strong that I started 
with my Family in Comp[any] [with] B Whedan Esq and his Family 
all though out of health on the 9th of June 1805 with an Ox teem 
through Pennsylvania here I will say I found Mr. Whedan a very 
kind and helpfull Companion on the Road, we arived at Hudson on 
the 27 of July and was received with many tokens of kindness we did 
not come to a land of idleness neither did I expect it. Our ways were 
as prosperious as we could expect. I came with a determination to 
help to build up and be a help in the seport 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 calld to go into woods to make 
devisians of lands sometimes 60 or 70 Miles [from] home and be gone 
some times two week and sleep on the ground and that without in- 
jery. When we came to Ohio the Indians were more numorous than 
the white People but were very friendly and I beleave were a benifet 
rather than injery there [were] some Persons that seamed disposed 
to quarel with the Indians but I never had, they brought us Venson 
Turkeys Fish and the like sometimes wanted bread or meal more 
than they could pay for, but were faithfull to pay there debts. . . . 
My business went on very well and was somewhat prosperious in 
most of our conceirns friendly feelings were manfest the company 
that called on us was of the best kind the Missionarus of the Gos- 
pel and leading men traviling through the Cuntry call on us and I 
become acquaint with the business People and Ministers of the 
Gospel in all parts of the Reserve and some in Pennsilvany 1807 Feb 
I3th Fredrick my 6th Son was born I do not think of anything to 
notice but the common blessings of health peace and prosperity 
for which I would ever acknowledge with thanksgiven I had a very 
pleasent and orderly family untill December 9th 1808 when all my 
earthly prospects appeared to be blasted My beloved Wife gave 
birth to an Infent Daughter that died in a few ours as my wife 
expresed [it] had a short pasage through time My wife followed in 


a few ours after these were days of affliction I was left with 
five (or six, including Levi Blakesley, my adopted son) small Chil- 
dren the oldes but a little one 10 years old this scan all most makes 
my heart blead now these were the first that were ever buried in 
ground now ocupide at the Centre of Hudson." 

Owen Brown was subsequently married twice, his second 
wife being Sallie Root, and his third Mrs. Lucy Hinsdale. He 
was the father of ten sons and six daughters, the most distin- 
guished of them, next to John Brown, being Salmon Brown, 
who died in New Orleans September 6, 1833, a lawyer of 
standing, the editor of the New Orleans Bee, and a politician 
bitterly opposed to President Jackson and his methods. Owen 
Brown was early in life an Abolitionist, and in a quaint manu- 
script left the story of his becoming one. A Mr. Thomson, a 
Presbyterian or Congregational minister of Virginia, brought 
his slaves to New Canaan, Connecticut, for safety during the 
Revolution. In 1797 or 1798 he returned to move them back 
to Virginia, at which they rebelled, one married slave run- 
ning away. The owner declared that he would carry the wife 
and children back to bondage without him. The situation was 
complicated by Mr. Thomson's having been asked to preach. 
He was finally requested not to appear in the pulpit; the 
matter then came before the assembled church, and there 
was a vigorous debate in Mr. Thomson's presence. What 
happened is thus told by Owen Brown : 9 

" An old man asked him if he could part man and wife contrary 
to their minds. Mr. T. said he married them himself, and did not 
enjoin obedience on the woman. He was asked if he did not consider 
marriage to be an institution of God ; he said he did. He was again 
asked why he did not do it in conformity of God's word. He ap- 
peared checked, and only said it was the custom. He was told that 
the blacks were free by the act of the Legislature of Connecticut ; 
he said he belonged to another State, and that Connecticut had no 
controle over his property. I think he did not get his property as 
he calljed] it. Ever since, I have been an Abolitionist ; I am so near 
the end of life I think I shall die an Abolitionist." 

And this he did, as consistently as he had lived a voluntary 
agent of the Underground Railroad, never failing to aid a 
fugitive slave who appealed to him for food and forwarding 
toward the North Star. 10 Thus his son John had every incen- 
tive to follow in his footsteps. How deeply Owen Brown felt 

Father of John Brown 


appears from his withdrawal of his long-sustained and active 
interest in Western Reserve College, when that institution 
refused admission to a colored man. 11 He then became a 
supporter of Oberlin College, of which he was a trustee from 
November 24, 1835, until August 28, i844. 12 

Of Ruth Mills, John Brown's mother, it is to be noted, 
besides her premature death when her famous son was but 
eight years old, that her ancestry goes as far back in the 
colonial records as does her husband's. The Mills family is 
descended from Peter Wouter van der Meulen, of Amsterdam, 
whose son Peter settled in Windsor, Connecticut. He refused 
to Anglicize his name, but his son Peter, born 1666, became 
plain Peter Mills. Of the next generation, the Rev. Gideon 
Mills graduated from Yale College, but died before the Revo- 
lution, in which his son, Lieutenant Gideon Mills, served well. 
When fifty-one years of age, in 1800, the latter removed to 
Ohio, five years before his daughter Ruth and her husband, 
Owen Brown, followed him into that wild territory. Through 
his maternal grandmother, Ruth Humphrey, John Brown 
of Osawatomie was connected with a well-known divine, the 
Rev. Luther Humphrey, and was cousin also to the Rev. Dr. 
Heman Humphrey, sometime president of Amherst College, 
as well as to the Rev. Nathan Brown, long a missionary in 
India and Japan. There was thus on both sides a family con- 
nection of which John Brown might well be proud, that war- 
ranted, in later Kansas days, his introduction to a committee 
of the Massachusetts Legislature as a representative of the 
best type of old New England citizenship. It is undeniable, 
too, that the influence of his ancestry was a powerful one 
throughout Brown's entire life. In some respects, as has been 
often suggested, he seems to have belonged to the eighteenth 
rather than to the nineteenth century, if not to a still earlier 
one. It can hardly be doubted that, had he been brought face 
to face with his ancestors, there would have been discovered 
a marked resemblance in character, if not in looks; for the 
main traits which marked the frugal, sober-minded, religious, 
soil-tilling farmer-folk of New England were all in that de- 
scendant who, so far as history records, was the first member 
of the family to go to what is usually considered an infamous 
death, as he was the first American to be hanged for treason. 


Of John Brown's boyhood but few incidents remain to be 
told ; his early maturity is, perhaps, partly a reason for this. 
For boys who at twelve assume such duties and responsibili- 
ties as were his, there is but a brief childhood. He seems to 
have had to his credit or discredit the usual number of rough 
pranks. There is a story that he tried to explode some powder 
under his step-mother, and that, when his father attempted 
to punish him for this offence, a sheepskin carefully tucked 
away in his clothes protected him from the force of the blows. 
Again, it is variously said that he precipitated his father, or 
his step-mother, from the hay-mow of the barn to the floor 
beneath, by placing loose planks over an opening and then 
enticing the victim across it. But these and even less authen- 
ticated stories emanate often from prejudiced sources, 13 and 
if John Brown was guilty of unduly rough or dangerous horse- 
play, it is a fact that he was always on the best of terms with 
his father, as their letters show, and with his step-mother. It 
is said of him that he was early one of the best Bible teachers 
available, and therefore in demand in the Sunday Schools of 
the communities in which he lived. To his steadfast perusal 
of the Bible is undoubtedly due most of the directness, the 
clearness and the force of his written English. It was, declared 
in after years his daughter, Ruth Brown Thompson, 14 his 
favorite volume, "and he had such a perfect knowledge of it 
that when any person was reading it, he would correct the 
least mistake." His range of reading was, however, at no time 
wide ; his taste was for historical works. Franklin's writings, 
Rollin's Ancient History, ^Esop's Fables, Plutarch's Lives, 
a life of Oliver Cromwell, and one of Napoleon and his Mar- 
shals, all had their influence upon him. His Pilgrim's Progress 
he naturally knew well, and Baxter's Saints' Rest was to him 
a safe and sure guide to devout Christianity, while the works 
of Edwards and Witherspoon were always on his shelves. In 
all his letters, there is hardly a reference to any book save 
the Bible. 

As for John Brown's schooling, as his autobiography records, 
it was fitful and scanty. The public schools of a newly occu- 
pied region are not often of the best. The first one in Hudson 
was established in 1 80 1, in a log-house near the centre of the 
Hudson township, and it is probable that John Brown at- 


tended this school, as Owen Brown's home was in this vicinity. 
The Rev. Dr. Leonard Bacon, of New Haven, was a school- 
mate of Brown's at Tallmadge, Ohio, in 1808, in a school 
founded by Bacon's father. An old lady, years afterwards, 
when Bacon shortly before his death revisited Tallmadge, 
reminded him of a curious dialogue at a school exhibition 
between himself as William Penn and John Brown as Pi- 
zarro. 15 When a tall stripling, either in 1816 or 1819, Brown 
revisited Connecticut with his brother Salmon and another 
settler's son, Orson M. Oviatt, with the idea of going to 
Amherst College and entering the ministry. During his brief 
stay in the East, he attended the well-known school of the 
Rev. Moses Hallock at Plainfield, Massachusetts, and Morris 
Academy in Connecticut. 16 A son of Mr. Hallock, in 1859, 
remembered him as a "tall, sedate and dignified young man. 
He had been a tanner, and relinquished a prosperous business 
for the purpose of intellectual improvement. He brought with 
him a piece of sole leather about a foot square, which he him- 
self had tanned for seven years, to resole his boots. He had 
also a piece of sheepskin which he had tanned, and of which 
he cut some strips, about an eighth of an inch wide, for other 
students to pull upon." The schoolmaster confidently tried to 
snap one of these straps, but in vain, and his son long remem- 
bered "the very marked, yet kind, immovableness of the 
young man's [Brown's] face on seeing his father's defeat." 17 
But an attack of inflammation of the eyes put an end to 
Brown's dream of a higher education, and he returned to 
Hudson and the tanning business, living in a cabin near the 
tan -yard, at first keeping bachelor's hall with Levi Blakeslee, 
his adopted brother. John Brown was early a remarkably 
good cook, with a strong liking for this part of housekeep- 
ing which lasted throughout his life. 18 The neatness of his 
kitchen was surpassed by that of no housewife, and the pains 
he took to sweep and sand the floor are still remembered. 

It was while he was living thus that there occurred another 
incident to confirm his opposition to slavery. To John Brown 
and Levi Blakeslee came a runaway slave begging for aid. He 
was at once taken into the cabin, where John Brown stood 
guard over him while Blakeslee, when evening had come, went 
up to the town for supplies. Suddenly the slave and his Sa- 


maritan heard the noise of approaching horses. John Brown 
motioned to the slave to go out of the window and hide in the 
brush. This he did. Soon the alarm proved to have been occa- 
sioned only by neighbors returning from town, and Brown 
went out into the dark to look for the negro. " I found him 
behind a log," he said in telling the story, "and I heard his 
heart thumping before I reached him. At that I vowed eternal 
enmity to slavery." 19 Another story of John Brown's kind- 
ness of heart probably belongs to this period. His uncle, 
Frederick Brown, then judge of Wadsworth County, obtained 
a requisition from Governor Trimble, of Ohio, on the Governor 
of New York for the arrest of a young horse thief, and gave it 
to his nephew in Hudson to serve. John Brown found the boy 
and arrested him. Then Brown managed, because it was a 
first offence and the boy was repentant, and because the peni- 
tentiary would ruin his character, to save him from that fate, 
and to have him, instead, indentured till his twenty-first year 
to the man whose horse he stole. He got the neighbors to go 
bond for the boy's good behavior during the period. This 
was done, the boy reformed, and died a respected citizen in 
old age. 20 These and other incidents would seem to show that 
when John Brown professed religion in 1816 and joined the 
Congregational Church, to which he was ever after so devoted, 
he had made up his mind to try to practise as well as to 
profess the doctrines of Christianity. 

Good cook that John Brown was, he had been having his 
bread baked by Mrs. Amos Lusk, a widow living near by. 
Soon he decided that it would be better if she moved into his 
log-cabin with her daughter and took charge of the entire 
housekeeping, now become serious by reason of the growth 
of his tanning business and the increase in the number of 
journeymen and apprentices. The propinquity of the young 
home-maker and of the " remarkably plain " daughter of Mrs. 
Lusk led promptly to matrimony. They were married June 
21, 1820, when the husband lacked nearly eleven months of 
being of age. If Dianthe Lusk was plain and rather short in 
stature, she attracted by her quiet, amiable disposition. As 
deeply religious as her husband, she was given to singing well, 
generally hymns and religious songs, was neat and cheerful, 
and without a marked sense of humor. In the twelve years of 


their married life, Dianthe gave birth to seven children, dying 
August 10, 1832, three days after the coming of a son. Of her 
other six children, five grew to manhood and womanhood, all 
of marked character and vigorous personality : John Brown, 
Jr., Jason, Owen, Ruth and Frederick, the last named meeting 
a cruel death in Kansas in his twenty-sixth year. Of these, 
Jason alone survives at this writing, at the age of eighty-six. 
Dianthe Lusk, too, could boast of an old colonial lineage, for 
her ancestry traced back to the famous Adams family of Mas- 
sachusetts. There was, however, a mental weakness in the Lusk 
family which manifested itself early in her married life, as 
it did in her two sisters. 21 In two of her sons, John Brown, 
Jr., and Frederick, there was also a disposition to insanity. 
Devoted as he was to his wife, John Brown ruled his home 
with a strong hand, in a way that seemed to some akin to 
cruelty; but his children and an overwhelming mass of evi- 
dence prove the contrary. He did not get on well with his 
brother-in-law, Milton Lusk, who refused to attend the wed- 
ding because John Brown the Puritan had asked him to visit 
his mother and sister on some other day than the Sabbath. 22 
They were at no time congenial, though in later years Milton 
Lusk bore no ill-will to his brother-in-law ; yet he always 
disliked the rigor imposed upon his sister's household. But 
the Brown children were devoted to both parents, and revered 
always the memory of their mother. They remembered, too, 
when symptoms of mental illness appeared, the kindliness and 
tenderness with which the husband shielded and tended and 
watched over his wife. 

As to his children, John Brown at first believed in the use of 
the rod, and he was particularly anxious that they should not 
yield to the "habit of lying" which had worried him so much 
in his own boyhood. "Terribly severe " is the way his punish- 
ments were described, and he made no allowance for childish 
imaginings. Once when Jason, then not yet four years old, told 
of a dream he had had and insisted that it was the reality, his 
father thrashed him severely, albeit with tears in his eyes. 23 
But in later years, it is pleasant to record, John Brown, after 
travelling about the world, came to realize that there were 
other methods of dealing with children, and softened consider- 
ably, even expressing regret for his early theory and practice 


of punishments. There are instances in number of touching 
devotion to this or that child ; of his sitting up night after night 
with an ailing infant. Once he hurried to North Elba from 
Troy on the rumor that smallpox had broken out in a near-by 
village, in order that he might be on hand to nurse if the 
scourge entered his family. He nursed several of his children 
through scarlet fever without medical aid, and in consequence 
became in demand in other stricken homes in the neighbor- 
hood. " Whenever any of the family were sick, he did not often 
trust watchers to care for the sick ones, but sat up himself and 
was like a tender mother. At one time he sat up every night 
for two weeks, while mother was sick, for fear he would over- 
sleep if he went to bed, and the fire would go out, and she take 
cold. No one outside of his own family can ever know the 
strength and tenderness of his character," wrote Mrs. Ruth 
Brown Thompson in her reminiscences of her father. His 
character was not an unusual one in this respect ; the combi- 
nation of iron discipline with extreme tenderness of heart is 
often the mark of deep affection and high purpose in men of 
power and rigid self-control, and so it was with him. Not 
unnaturally, his children reacted from "the very strict con- 
trol and Sunday School rules" under which they lived, and 
used, as Salmon puts it, " to carry on pretty high," as some of 
the neighbors who still live can tell the tale. 

Sabbath in the Brown family had all the horrors of the New 
England rest day of several generations ago. There were strict 
religious observances, and there was no playing and no pre- 
tence at playing. Visiting was discouraged, as well as receiving 
visits. The head of the family was not without humor, but as 
Fowler, the phrenologist, correctly said of him, his jokes were 
"more cutting than cute." He inclined to sarcasm, and "his 
words were as sharp as his eyes to those who did not please 
him." In the final drama at Harper's Ferry, Watson Brown 
said to his father: "The trouble is, you want your boys to be 
brave as tigers, and still afraid of you." "And that was per- 
fectly true" is Salmon Brown's confirmation of the remark. 
Similarly, John Brown wanted his children to be as true as 
steel, as honest as men and women possibly can be and as 
truthful, and yet afraid of him. As was often the case, the 
intense religious training given to his children in the broaden- 


ing period of the first half of the nineteenth century resulted 
in a reaction. All his sons were strangers to church-ties. In 
this their strong feeling in regard to slavery, to which they 
came naturally from grandfather and father, played a great 
part. Yet this dislike of slavery was never beaten into them ; 
nor is it true that John Brown ever forced a son into one of 
his campaigns. It is doubtful if he could often have com- 
manded such strong natures. Dislike of human bondage, as the 
children grew up, became as much a factor in the family's life 
as the natural desire for food and clothing and shelter. It was 
no more assumed than inculcated ; they hated it with a hatred 
greater in some cases than their wish to live. Whatever else 
may be said of the Brown family life, or of the father as a dis- 
ciplinarian, it is a fact that the children grew up into honorable 
men and women, not successful in accumulating worldly goods 
in any degree, but as illustrative of the homely virtues as their 
father and their grandfather. Temperate they all of them 
were, like their father, yet not all or always total abstainers. 
John Brown himself, though an abstainer after 1829, firmly 
believed that "a free use of pure wines in the country would 
do away with a great deal of intemperance, and that it was a 
good temperance work to make pure wine and use it." 2 * For 
a time two of his sons devoted themselves to grape-growing 
for wine purposes, until they finally came to have scruples 
against it. 

Of John Brown's early life after his marriage there is, for- 
tunately, a reliable record. James Foreman, one of his jour- 
neymen in 1820, wrote down his recollections of his employer 
shortly after the latter's death in i859, 25 for the benefit of 
Brown's first biographer, who did not, however, utilize them. 

"It was John Brown's fixed rule," wrote Mr. Foreman, "that 
his apprentices and journeymen must always attend church every 
Sunday, and family worship every morning. In the summer of 1824 
a journeyman of his stole from him a very fine calfskin. Brown dis- 
covered the deed, made the man confess, lectured him at length and 
then told him he would not prosecute him unless he left his place ; 
but, that, if he did leave, he should be prosecuted to the end of the 

"The journeyman staid about two months, through fear of pro- 
secution ; and in the meantime all hands about the tannery and in 
the house were strictly forbidden speaking to him, not even to ask a 


question ; and I think a worse punishment could not have been set 
upon a poor human being than this was to him: But it reformed 
him and he afterward became a useful man. 

" In the fall of the same year his wife was taken sick under pecul- 
iar circumstances, and Brown started for the Dr. and some lady 
friends, from his residence i miles to the centre of Hudson. On his 
way he espied two men tying up two bags of apples and making 
ready to put them on their horses. Brown immediately tied his own 
horse, went to the men and made them empty their apples, own up 
to the theft, and settle up the matter before he attended to the case 
of his wife. Such was his strict integrity for honesty and justice." 

Once, Mr. Foreman remembered, Brown fell into a discus- 
sion with a Methodist minister, who, being flippant and fluent, 
seemed to talk the tanner down. 

" [Brown] afterward commented on the man's manners and said he 
should like a public debate with him. Soon after the preacher came 
to enquire whether Brown desired, as was reported, a public debate, 
and whether, also, if he had said the speaker was ' no gentleman, let 
alone a clergyman.' Brown replied : ' I did say you were no gentle- 
man. I said more than that, sir.' 'What did you say, sir? ' enquired 
the preacher. 'I said, sir,' replied Brown, 'that it would take as 
many men like you to make a gentleman as it would take wrens to 
make a cock turkey ! ' The public debate, however, came off, con- 
ducted in questions and answers, Brown first to ask all his questions, 
which the other should answer and then the reverse. But John 
Brown's questions so exhausted and confused his opponent, that the 
latter retired without opening his side of the debate. ... So strict 
was he that his leather should be perfectly dry before sold, that a 
man might come ten miles for five pounds of sole leather and if the 
least particle of moisture could be detected in it he must go home 
without it. No compromise as to amount of dampness could be 
effected. . . . He was jocose and mirthful, when the conversation 
did not turn on anything profane or vulgar, and the Bible was almost 
at his tongue's end. . . . He considered it as much his duty to help 
a negro escape as it was to help catch a horse thief, and of a new 
settler . . . [his] first enquiry . . . was whether he was an observer 
of the Sabbath, opposed to slavery and a supporter of the gospel and 
common schools ; if so, all was right with him ; if not, he was looked 
upon by Brown with suspicion. In politics he was originally an 
Adams man and afterwards a Whig and I believe a strong one. Yet 
I do not believe the time ever was that he would have voted for 
Henry Clay, for the reason that he had fought a duel and owned 
slaves. . . . His food was always plain and simple, all luxuries being 
dispensed with and not allowed in his family, and in the year 1830 
he rigidly adopted the teetotal temperance principle. 

" Hunting, gunning and fishing he had an abhorrence of as learn- 


ing men and boys to idle away their time and learn them lazy habits, 
and it was with the greatest reluctance that he would trust a man 
with a piece of leather who came after it with a gun on his shoulder. 
. . . He took great pains to inculcate general information among 
the people, good moral books and papers, and to establish a reading 

In May, 1825, despite the success of his Hudson tannery 
and his having built himself a substantial house the year 
before, John Brown moved his family to Richmond, Crawford 
County, Pennsylvania, near Meadville, where with note- 
worthy energy he had cleared twenty-five acres of timber 
lands, built a fine tannery, sunk vats, and had leather tan- 
ning in them all by the 1st of October. 26 The virgin forests 
and cheap cost of transportation lured him to his new home. 
Here, like his father at Hudson, John Brown was of marked 
value to the new settlement at Richmond by his devotion to 
the cause of religion and civil order. He surveyed new roads, 
was instrumental in erecting school-houses, procuring preach- 
ers and "encouraging everything that would have a moral 
tendency." It became almost a proverb in Richmond, so Mr. 
Foreman records, to say of an aggressive man that he was 
"as enterprising and honest as John Brown, and as useful to 
the county." This removal of his family gave its young mem- 
bers just such a taste of pioneering as their father had had at 
Hudson, and was the first of ten migrations under the lead- 
ership of their restless head, prior to the emigration to Kansas 
of the eldest sons in 1854-55. I n Richmond the family dwelt 
nearly ten years, until for business reasons the bread-winner 
felt himself compelled to return to Ohio. 27 

In the year 1828 John Brown brought into Crawford County 
the first blooded stock its settlers had ever seen. Being in- 
strumental in obtaining the first post-office in that region, 
he received this same year the appointment of postmaster 
from President John Quincy Adams, January 7, serving until 
May 27, 1835, when he left the State; and there are letters 
extant bearing his franks as postmaster of Randolph, as the 
new post-office was called. The first school was held alternately 
in John Brown's home and that of a Delamater family, con- 
nections of Dianthe Lusk, the Delamater children boarding 
for the winter terms in Brown's home, and the Brown chil- 


dren spending the summer terms at the Delamaters', for 
a period of four years, only a few other children attending. 
George B. Delamater, one of the scholars, retained a vivid 
impression of the early winter breakfasts in the Brown family, 
"immediately after which Bibles were distributed, Brown 
requiring each one to read a given number of verses, himself 
leading ; then he would stand up and pray, grasping the back 
of the chair at the top and inclining slightly forward," which 
solemn moment, so Salmon Brown remembers, the elder chil- 
dren frequently utilized for playing tricks on one another. 
Sunday religious exercises were at first held in Brown's barn. 
Of them Mr. Delamater says, "everything seemed fixed as 
fate by the inspiring presence of him whose every movement, 
however spontaneous, seemed to enforce conformity to his 
ideas of what must or must not be done. . . . He was no 
scold, did nothing petulantly ; but seemed to be simply an 
inspired paternal ruler ; controlling and providing for the circle 
of which he was the head," - testimony of value as showing 
that even at this early age Brown had the compelling power 
of masterful leadership. 

Here in Richmond the first great grief came into John 
Brown's life in the death of a four-year-old son, Frederick, on 
March 31, 1831, and the demise in August, 1832, of Dianthe 
Brown and her unnamed infant son who also had such a ' ' short 
passage through time." 28 Their graves are still to be found 
near the old, now rebuilt, tannery, and are cared for and pro- 
tected out of regard for John Brown. Nearly a year later he 
was married for the second time, to Mary Anne Day, 29 daugh- 
ter of Charles Day, of Whitehall, New York, who was then 
a resident of Troy township, Pennsylvania. Her father was 
a blacksmith, who had been fairly well-to-do, but had lost his 
property by endorsing notes, so that Mary Day grew up with 
narrow means and almost no schooling. For a time after the 
death of Dianthe Brown, Mary's elder sister went to John 
Brown's as housekeeper, and Mary, presently, was engaged to 
come there to spin. She was then a large, silent girl, only six- 
teen years of age. John Brown quickly grew fond of her, per- 
haps saw the staying powers in her, and one day gave her a 
letter offering marriage. She was so overcome that she dared 
not read it. Next morning she found courage to do so, and 


when she went down to the spring for water for the house, he 
followed her and she gave him her answer there. A woman of 
rugged physical health and even greater ruggedness of nature, 
she bore for her husband thirteen children within twenty-one 
years, of whom seven died in childhood, and two were killed 
in early manhood at Harper's Ferry. Besides the lives of the 
latter, Oliver and Watson, Mary Day Brown made cheerfully 
and willingly many other sacrifices for the cause to which her 
husband also gave his life, as will appear later. No one but a 
strong character could have borne uncomplainingly the hard- 
ships which fell to her lot, particularly in her bleak Adirondack 
home in the later years. But she was as truly of the stuff of 
which martyrs are made as was her husband even if she had 
had less advantages and opportunities for learning and culture 
than he. If there ever was a family in which the mother did 
her full share and more of arduous labor, it was this one. No- 
thing but the complete faith he had in her ability to be both 
mother and guardian of his flock made possible for John Brown 
his long absences from home year after year, both when in 
business and when warring against slavery in Kansas and 
Virginia. And Mary Day Brown was a woman of few words, 
even after the catastrophe at Harper's Ferry. 

During part of the interval between Dianthe Brown's 
death and her husband's remarriage, John Brown boarded 
with Mr. Foreman, who had just married. Even in his first 
grief, Mr. Foreman remembers, John Brown had a deep 
interest in the welfare of his neighbors. Others remember 
Brown as the organizer of an Independent Congregational 
^-Society, which came into being on January n, 1832, its arti- 
cles of faith being written out in his hand as clerk of the 
society. It is recalled, too, that besides being postmaster he 
had for some years the carrying of the mails between Mead- 
ville and Riceville, a distance of twenty miles. Politically, he 
was at this time an Adams man, and he was still as interested 
in the fugitive slave as he had been in Hudson. There was 
in the haymow of his barn a roughly boarded room, entered 
by a trap-door, and ventilated and equipped for the use of 
escaping slaves. The whole was always so cleverly concealed 
by hay that a man might stand on the trap-door and yet 
see no signs of the hiding-place. In striking contrast to John 


Brown's later development into a man of disguises, assumed 
names and many plots, was his dislike of the Masonic orders. 
He became a member of a lodge while residing either in Hud- 
son or in Richmond, and for a while was an ardent disciple. 
Then, however, he rebelled and withdrew. "Somewhere," so 
John Brown, Jr., told the story in after years, "in an historical 
museum, I think, is the first firearm that father ever possessed. 
The way he came to get it was this: Father had been a Free 
Mason for years. You have read about the great excitement 
over the disappearance of Morgan, who had threatened to 
expose the secrets of Masonry? Well, father denounced the 
murder of Morgan in the hottest kind of terms. This was 
when we lived over in Pennsylvania. Father had occasion to go 
to Meadville. A mob bent on lynching him surrounded the 
hotel, but Landlord Smith enabled him to escape through a 
back entrance. Father then got a sort of pistol that was about 
half rifle, and he became very adept in its use, killing deer with 
it on several occasions." 30 It was in September, 1826, that 
the country was so excited over the anti-Masonic revelations 
of William Morgan which resulted in his murder. 

After just ten years of residence in Richmond, John Brown 
removed to Franklin Mills, Portage County, Ohio, to go into 
the tanning business with Zenas Kent, a well-to-do business 
man of that town. In a letter written to him on April 24, 1835, 
John Brown thus details the financial distress he found him- 
self in, which no doubt accentuated his desire for a new field 
of activity: 31 

"Yours of the I4th was received by last Mail. I was disappointed 
in the extreme not to obtain the money I expected ; & I know of 
no possible way to get along without it. I had borrowed it for a few 
days to settle up a number of honorary debts which I could not 
leave unpaid and come away. It is utterly impossible to sell any- 
thing for ready cash or to collect debts. I expect Father to come out 
for cattle about the first of May and I wish you without fail to send 
it by him. It is now to late to think of sending it by mail. I was 
intending to turn everything I could into shingles as one way to real- 
ize cash in Ohio, before you wrote me about them. 25, dollars of the 
money I want is to enable me to carry that object into effect. ..." * 

* In spelling and punctuation these earlier letters are superior to the later 
epistles; the handwriting is by this time the familiar one, full of character and 


The partnership of Kent & Brown was not destined to be of 
long duration, for the latter had no sooner completed the 
tannery at Franklin than it was rented by Marvin Kent, a 
son of the senior partner, even before the departments were 
ready for operation and the vats in place, so that the business 
of tanning hides was never actually carried on by the firm. 32 
John Brown then secured a contract for the construction of 
part of the Ohio and Pennsylvania Canal, from Franklin Mills 
to Akron, during which time he dealt chiefly with the Kents. 
It was a year later that John Brown began some land specu- 
lations which proved quite disastrous and did much to injure 
his standing and business credit. With a Mr. Thompson he 
purchased a farm of more than a hundred acres owned by a 
Mr. Haymaker, which then adjoined Franklin village (now 
the prosperous town of Kent), believing that the coming of 
the canal and other changes would make Franklin a great 
manufacturing town. For this -farm there was paid $7000, 
mostly money borrowed of Heman Oviatt, who had acquired 
large means as a trader with the Indians, and of Frederick 
Wadsworth. The farm was quickly plotted by Brown as 
" Brown and Thompson's addition to Franklin Village." But 
he was far ahead of his time in this scheme, and within a 
couple of years the land was foreclosed by Oviatt and Wads- 
worth. This tract, crossed by three trunk-line railroads, is 
now of great value, containing as it does an island park, the 
shops of the Erie Railroad and some large manufactories. The 
Haymaker house in which Brown lived is still standing. 
About the same time, John Brown, with twenty-one other 
prominent men of Franklin, Ravenna and Akron, formed the 
Franklin Land company, and purchased of Zenas Kent and 
others the water-power, mills, lands, etc., in both the upper 
and lower Franklin villages. Through the cooperation of the 
canal company, the two water-powers were combined mid- 
way between the two villages. A new settlement was then 
laid out between both places, and would undoubtedly have 
been a successful enterprise, had the canal company lived up 
to its agreement. Instead, it drew off largely the waters of 
the Cuyahoga River, ostensibly for canal purposes, but in 
reality, in the opinion of John Brown and his partners, for the 
purpose of pushing Akron ahead at the expense of the new 


village, to which the Brown and Thompson addition was 
planned before the town itself was well under way. 

In these and other schemes John Brown became so deeply 
involved that he failed during the bad times of 1837, lost 
nearly all his property by assignment to his creditors, and 
was then not able to pay all his debts, some of which were 
never liquidated. His father also lost heavily through him. 
While he says in his autobiography that he "rarely failed in 
some good degree to effect the things he undertook," this can- 
not apply to his business affairs in the 1835 to 1845 period of 
his life, or even later, but must be taken as referring to those 
philanthropic or public-spirited undertakings in which he had 
won a name for himself a short time previous to that story of 
his life. In 1842 he was even compelled to go through bank- 
ruptcy. Naturally, all this greatly damaged Brown's business 
standing, and created with some people who had lost money 
through him that doubt of his integrity which so often follows 
the loss of money through another. But the final verdict in 
the vicinity of Franklin was summed up recently by the late 
Marvin Kent. To him Brown was at this early period a man 
of "fast, stubborn and strenuous convictions that nothing 
short of a mental rebirth could ever have altered ; " a "man of 
ordinary calibre with a propensity to business failure in what- 
ever he attempted." * There is no allegation of dishonesty, 
despite the unpaid accounts and protested notes still on 
the books of Marvin Kent and his father. Heman Oviatt, of 
Richfield, Ohio, who lent John Brown money and became in- 
volved in lawsuits in consequence, testified to his integrity, 
and so do many others. But there can be no question that 
after leaving Richmond, Pennsylvania, he was anything but 
successful in business, and his affairs became so involved as 
to make it a matter of regret that he could not have devoted 
himself exclusively to tanning and farming in Richmond. To 
his son, John Brown, Jr., he in after years explained his mis- 
fortunes by saying that these grew out of one root doing 
business on credit. 38 "Instead of being thoroughly imbued 
with the doctrine of pay as you go, I started out in life with 

* "It is a Brown trait to be migratory, sanguine about what they think they 
can do, to speculate, to go into debt, and to make a good many failures." Jason 
Brown, December 28, 1908. 


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 practical effect of this false doctrine has been 
to keep me like a toad under a harrow most of my business 
life. Running into debt includes so much evil that I hope all 
my children will shun it as they would a pestilence." The 
purchase of four farms on credit seems to have been a chief 
cause of Brown's collapse. 34 Three of these Franklin farms 
were said to be worth twenty thousand dollars before the 
financial crash of 1837. 

Brown quitted Franklin Mills in 1837, returning with his 
family to Hudson, but only for a brief period. He seems to 
have alternated between the two places until 1841. One of 
his ventures at this period was breeding race-horses. In 1838 
began his long years of travelling about the country. His first 
recorded visit to New York, after reaching manhood, was on 
December 5, 1838, when he drove some cattle from Ohio to 
Connecticut. "My unceasing & anxious care for the present 
and everlasting welfare of every one of my family seems to be 
threefold as I get seperated farther and farther from them," he 
wrote home from the metropolis. 35 On this trip he negotiated 
for the agency of a New York steel scythes house, and on 
the 1 8th of January, at West Hartford, Connecticut, made 
a purchase of ten Saxony sheep for one hundred and thirty 
dollars, this being the beginning of his long career as John 
Brown the Shepherd. 36 Other purchases of Saxony sheep fol- 
low in quick succession, according to the entries in the first of 
a series of notebooks which often did duty as rough diaries. 
The sheep he seems to have taken by boat to Albany and 
driven thence to Ohio; his notebook teems at this time with 
hints for the care of sheep and such quaint entries as the fol- 
lowing: "Deacon Abel Hinsdale left off entirely the use of 
Tobacco at the age of 66 now 73 & has used none since that 
time. No ba[d] consequnses have followed. Qery When will a 
man become to old to leave off any bad habit." 

In June, 1839, when his family was again in Franklin Mills, 
he made another trip to the East on cattle business, the fol- 
lowing being a typical home letter of this, for him, so trying 
and disastrous period: 3V 


NEWHARTFORD i2th June 1839 

I write to let you know that I am in comfortable health & that I 
expect to be on my way home in the course of a week should nothing 
befall me If I am longer detained I will write you again. The cattle 
business has succeeded about as I expected, but I am now some' what 
in fear that I shall fail of getting the money I expected on the loan. 
Should that be the will of Providence I know of no other way but 
we must consider ourselves verry poor for our debts must be paid, 
if paid at a sacrifise. Should that happen (though it may not) I hope 
God who is rich in mercy will grant us all grace to conform to our 
circumstances with cheerfulness & true resignation. I want to see 
each of my dear family verry much but must wait Gods time. Try 
all of you to do the best you can, and do not one of you be discour- 
aged, tomorrow may be a much brighter day. Cease not to ask Gods 
blessing on yourselves and me. Keep this letter wholly to yourselves, 
excepting that I expect to start for home soon, and that I did not 
write confidently about my success should anyone enquire Edward 
is well, & Owen Mills. You may shew this to my Father, but to no 
one else. 

I am not without great hopes of getting relief I would not have 
you understand, but things have looked more unfavourable for a few 
days. I think I shall write you again before I start. Earnestly com- 
mending you every one to God, and to his mercy, which endureth 
forever, I remain your affectionate husband and rather 


The friends here I believe are all well. 

J. B. 

Three days after writing this letter, John Brown received 
from the New England Woolen Company, at Rockville, Con- 
necticut, the sum of twenty-eight hundred dollars through 
its agent, George Kellogg, for the purchase of wool, which 
money, regrettably enough, he pledged for his own benefit and 
was then unable to redeem. 38 Fortunately for him, the Com- 
pany exercised leniency toward him, in return for which 
Brown promised, in 1842, after having passed through bank- 
ruptcy, to pay the money from time to time, with interest, as 
Divine Providence might enable him to do. This moral obli- 
gation he freely recognized, as will appear from the follow- 
ing letter to Mr. Kellogg, written in 1840, when Brown was 
temporarily in Hudson again, and in such distressing cir- 
cumstances that he had not the means to pay the postage for 
forwarding two letters from Mr. Kellogg which had been 
sent to him at Franklin Mills: 39 


"That means are so very limited is in consequence of my being 
left penyless for the time being, by the assignment and disposal of 
my property with no less than a family of ten children to provide for, 
the sickness of my wife and three of my oldest children since that 
time, and the most severe pressure generally for want of money ever 
known in this Country. Specie is almost out of the question and no- 
thing but specie will pay our postage. ... I learned a good while 
after the delivery of the Flour and Wool, to my further mortification 
and sorrow that they had not been forwarded when I expected, but 
was assured they should be immediately. I hope they have been 
received safe, and I most earnestly hope that the Devine Providence 
will yet enable me to make you full amends for all the wrong I have 
done, and to give you and my abused friend Whitman (whose name 
I feel ashamed to mention) some evidence that the injury I have 
occasioned was not premeditated and intentional at least." 

In pledging himself to pay, John Brown promised to prove 
"the sincerity of my past professions, when legally free to act 
as I choose." 40 At his death in 1859, this debt like many 
another was still unpaid, and John Brown bequeathed fifty 
dollars toward its payment by his last will and testament. 
It was not only that he was visionary as a business man, but 
that he developed the fatal tendency to speculate, doubtless 
an outgrowth of his restlessness and the usual desire of the 
bankrupt for a sudden coup to restore his fortunes. 

In the intervals of sheep and cattle trading, he and his 
father conceived the idea in 1840 of taking up some of the 
Virginia (now in Doddridge and Tyler counties of West Vir- 
ginia) land belonging to Oberlin College. He appeared April I , 
1840, before a committee of Oberlin trustees and opened nego- 
tiations with it for the survey and purchase of some of the 
Virginia possessions. 41 Two days later, the full board con- 
sidered a letter from John Brown in which he offered "to 
visit, survey and make the necessary investigation respecting 
boundaries, etc, of those lands, for one dollar per day, and a 
modest allowance for necessary expenses." This communica- 
tion also stated frankly that this was to be a preliminary step 
towards locating his family upon the lands, "should the open- 
ing prove a favorable one." The trustees promptly voted 
to accept the offer, and the treasurer was ordered to furnish 
John Brown with "a commission & needful outfit." This 
was promptly done the same day, and by the 27th of April, 
Brown thus wrote from Ripley, Virginia, to his wife and chil- 


dren: " I have seen the spot where, if it be the will of Provi- 
dence, I hope one day to live with my family." He liked the 
country as well as he had expected to, "and its inhabitants 
rather better." Were they, he believed, "as resolute and in- 
dustrious as the Northern people, and did they understand 
how to manage as well, they would become rich; but they are 
not generally so." That John Brown did not subsequently 
settle on these Virginia lands is not, however, to be charged 
to the will of Providence, but to himself. His surveys and 
reports were duly received by the Oberlin trustees on July 
14, 1840, and on August n they voted to address a letter 
to him on the subject. Through his own fault, however, nego- 
tiations dragged so that the whole plan fell through. This 
appears from John Brown's letters to Levi Burnell, the trea- 
surer of Oberlin, who had duly notified him that the Pruden- 
tial Committee of the trustees had been authorized by the 
board to perfect negotiations and convey to "Brother John 
Brown of Hudson One Thousand acres of our Virginia Land 
on conditions suggested in the correspondence . . . between 
him and the Committee." On October 20, Mr. Burnell wrote 
to Owen Brown asking for the status of the negotiations. He 
received no answer from John Brown until January 2, 1841. 
This reply shows that the latter had been vacillating through- 
out the fall as to whether he should or should not move to 
Virginia, and runs in part thus: 

" I should have written you before but my time has been com- 
pletely taken up, and owing to a variety of circumstances I have 
sometimes allmost given up the idea of going to the south at all ; but 
after long reflection, and consultation about it, I feel prepared to 
say definitely that I expect Providence willing to accept the pro- 
posal of your Board, and that I shall want every thing understood, 
and aranged as nearly as may be, for my removal in the next Spring. 
I would here say that I shall expect to receive a thousand acres of 
land in a body that will includ a living spring of water dischargeing 
itself at a heighth sufficient to accommodate a tanery as I shall 
expect to pursue that business on the small scale if I go. It is my 
regular occupation. I mentioned several such springs in my report, 
but found them very scarce." 

Meanwhile, the college had experienced a change of heart, 
apparently, because of Brown's procrastination, as appears 
from his letter of Februarys, 1841, to Mr. Burnell: 


HUDSON sth Feby 1841 

DR SR: I have just returned from a journey to Pa, and have read 
yours of 2Oth Jany, & must say that I am somewhat disappointed 
in the information which it brings ; & considering all that has passed, 
that on the part of the Institution I had not been called upon to 
decide positively nor even advised of any hurry for a more definite 
answer ; & that on my part I had never intimated any other than an 
intention to accept the offer made ; nor called for my pay, I should 
think your Committee would have done nearer the thing that is 
right had they at least signified their wish to know my determina- 
tion, before putting it out of their power to perform what they had 
engaged. Probably I was not so prompt in makeing up my mind 
fully, & in communicating my determination as I had ought to 
be, & if Providence intends to defeat my plans there is no doubt 
the best of reasons for it, & we will rejoice that he who directs the 
steps of men knows perfectly well how to direct them ; & will most 
assuredly make his counsel to stand. A failure of the consideration 
I do not so much regard as the derangement of my plan of future 
opperations. If the Virginia lands are, or are not disposed of, I wish 
you would give me the earliest information, & in the event of their 
still remaining on hand I suppose it not unreasonable for me still 
to expect a fulfillment of the offer on the part of the Institution. 
Should the land be conveyed away perhaps your Committee or 
some of the friends might still be instrumental in getting me an 
employment at the south. Please write me as soon as you have 
any information to give 

Respectfully your friend 


To this letter no answer was returned. On March 26, 
Brown again wrote from Hudson asking whether the lands 
had been sold. If the committee no longer wished to nego- 
tiate with him, they need only say so frankly and send him 
thirty dollars (for which he had waited nearly a year), 
upon receipt of which he would "consider the institution 
discharged from all further obligation." Thus ended the first 
plan for an exodus of the John Brown family. 

As a result of this disappointment, Brown was compelled 
to turn to sheep-herding, taking charge in the spring of 1841 
of the flocks of Captain Oviatt at Richfield, Ohio, and speed- 
ily becoming known as a remarkable shepherd, able to tell 
at a glance the presence within his flock of a strange animal. 
This partnership arrangement proving satisfactory, Brown 
again moved his family, in 1842, to Richfield, where he had 


the great misfortune to lose, in 1843, four of his children, aged 
respectively, nine, six, three and one years, three of them 
being buried at one time, a crushing family calamity. 
The beginning of the family's stay in Richfield was marked, 
too, by Brown's discharge as a bankrupt, stripped of every- 
thing but a few articles which the court had decided on Sep- 
tember 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 
Member's Guide,' besides two mares, two cows, two hogs, 
three lambs, nineteen hens, seven sheep, and, last of all, three 
pocket knives valued at 37^/2 cents. 42 Gradually, Brown be- 
came well known as a winner of prizes for sheep and cattle 
at the annual fairs of Summit County, and before his removal 
-from Richfield to Akron, April 10, 1844, he had established 
a tannery which, at the beginning of that year, was unable 
to keep up with the business offered to it. This change of 
residence was due to the establishment of a new business 
partnership, the longest and the final one of John Brown's 
career. It was, to quote him: 43 

" a copartnership with Simon Perkins, Jr., of Akron, with a view to 
carry on the sheep business extensively. He is to furnish all the feed 
and shelter for wintering, as a set-off against our taking all the care 
of the flock. All other expenses we are to share equally, and to divide 
the profits equally. This arrangement will reduce our cash rents at 
least $250 yearly, and save our hiring help in haying. We expect 
to keep the Captain Oviatt farm for pasturing, but my family will 
go into a very good house belonging to Mr. Perkins, say from a 
half a mile to a mile out of Akron. I think this is the most com- 
fortable and most favorable arrangement of my worldly concerns 
that I ever had, and calculated to afford us more leisure for im- 
provement, by day and by night, than any other. I do hope that 
God has enabled us to make it in mercy to us, and not that he 
should send leanness into our souls. . . . This, I think, will be con- 
sidered no mean alliance for our family, and I most earnestly hope 
they will have wisdom given to make the most of it. It is certainly 
indorsing the poor bankrupt and his family, three of whom were 
but recently in Akron jail, in a manner quite unexpected, and proves 
that notwithstanding we have been a company of ' Belted Knights,' 
our industrious and steady endeavors to maintain our integrity 
and our character have not been wholly overlooked. Mr. Perkins 
is perfectly advised of our poverty, and the times that have passed 
over us." 


John Brown was within bounds in thus exulting; the most 
trying financial periods of his life were now behind him, even 
though the Perkins partnership resulted eventually in severe 
losses and dissolution. At least it was a connection with a 
high-minded and prosperous man, and it lasted ten years. 
When it was over, the partners were still friends, but Mr. 
Perkins did not retain a high opinion of John Brown's ability 
or sagacity as a business man. 

It was a lovely neighborhood, this about Akron, to which 
Brown now removed his family. They occupied a cottage 
on what is still known as Perkins Hill, near Simon Perkins's 
own home, with an extended and charming view over hill 
and dale, an ideal sheep country, and a location which 
must have attracted any one save a predisposed wanderer. 
Here the family life went on smoothly, though not without 
its tragedies, notably the death of his daughter Amelia, acci- 
dentally scalded to death through the carelessness of an elder 
sister. This brought forth from the afflicted father, who was 
absent in Springfield, the following letter: 44 

SPRINGFIELD 8th Nov 1846 
Sabbath evening 

I yesterday at night returned after an absence of several days from 
this place & am uterly unable to give any expression of my feelings 
on hearing of the dreadful news contained in Owens letter of the 
3Oth & Mr. Perkins of the 3ist Oct. I seem to be struck almost 

One more dear little feeble child I am to meet no more till the 
dead small & great shall stand before God. This is a bitter cup 
indeed, but blessed be God : a brighter day shall dawn ; & let us not 
sorrow as those that have no hope. Oh that we that remain, had 
wisdom wisely to consider ; & to keep in view our latter end. Divine 
Providence seems to lay a heavy burden ; & responsibility on you 
my dear Mary ; but I trust you will be enabled to bear it in some 
measure as you ought. I exceedingly regret that I am unable to 
return, & be present to share your trials with you : but anxious as I 
am to be once more at home I do not feel at liberty to return yet. 
I hope to be able to get away before verry long; but cannot say 
when. I trust that none of you will feel disposed to cast an unrea- 
sonable blame on my dear Ruth on account of the dreadful trial we 
are called [to] suffer ; for if the want of proper care in each, & all of 
us has not been attended with fatal consequenses it is no thanks 
to us. If I had a right sence of my habitual neglect of my familys 


Eternal interests ; I should probably go crazy. I humbly hope this 
dreadful afflictive Providence will lead us all more properly to ap- 
preciate the amazeing, unforseen, untold, consequences; that hang 
upon the right or wrong doing of things seemingly of trifling account. 
Who can tell or comprehend the vast results for good, or for evil ; 
that are to follow the saying of one little word. Evrything worthy 
of being done at all ; is worthy of being done in good earnest, & in the 
best possible manner. We are in midling health & expect to write 
some of you again soon. Our warmest thanks to our kind friends 
Mr. & Mrs. Perkins & family. From your affectionate husband, & 


While Brown's self-accusation of "habitual neglect" is 
no more to be borne out than his father's charging himself 
with a wasted life, it is true that some of his neighbors won- 
dered that he did not give more time to his family. That 
Akron home he ruled, as he did the later one at Springfield, 
with iron firmness and complete mastery, and as long as the 
children were with him they were under strict discipline, 
although the cane figured now but little. This was a relief to 
him as well as to his sons, for it is related of him that after 
he had given only a certain part of some blows he meant to 
bestow, he gave his whip to his son and bade him strike his 
father. 45 Yet he exacted loyalty of his children as he did 
fealty from his animals. It is a widely believed story in Akron 
to this day that John Brown once shot to the horror of 
the children a valuable shepherd dog, because it was so 
fond of the Perkins children as to be unwilling to stay at 
home. It is similarly narrated that he compelled his wife to 
ride to church with him on a pillion on a young and unbroken 
horse he wished to tame, with the result that she was twice 
thrown. 46 One thing is beyond doubt: but little reference 
to his children's schooling appears in his letters, if we except 
those written to his daughter Ruth while she was away at 
school. Only John Brown, Jr., obtained special educational 

While the family life flowed on in this wise, the aftermath 
of its head's business failure remained to plague him in the 
shape of many lawsuits. On the records of the Portage 
County Court of Common Pleas at Ravenna, Ohio, are no 
less than twenty-one lawsuits in which John Brown figured 


as defendant during the years from 1820 to i845. 47 Of these, 
thirteen were actions brought to recover money loaned on 
promissory notes either to Brown singly or in company with 
others. The remaining suits were mostly for claims for wages 
or payments due, or for non-fulfilment of contracts. Judg- 
ment against Brown was once entered by his consent for a 
nominal sum, and another case was an amicable suit in debt. 
In ten other cases he was successfully sued and judgments 
were obtained against him individually or jointly with others. 
In three cases those who sued him were "non-suited" as 
being without real cause for action, and two other cases were 
settled out of court. Four cases Brown won, among them 
being a suit for damages for false arrest and assault and bat- 
tery, brought by an alleged horse-thief because Brown and 
other citizens had aided a constable in arresting him. A num- 
ber of these suits grew out of Brown's failure and his real 
estate speculations. A serious litigation was an action brought 
by the Bank of Wooster to recover on a bill of exchange drawn 
by Brown and others on the Leather Manufacturers Bank of 
New York, and repudiated by that institution on the ground 
that Brown and his associates had no money in the bank. 
During the suit the original amount claimed was rapidly re- 
duced, and when the judgment against Brown and his associ- 
ates was rendered, it was for $917.65. In June, 1842, Brown 
was sued by Tertius Wadsworth and Joseph Wells, in partner- 
ship with whom he had been buying and driving cattle to 
Connecticut. In 1845, Daniel C. Gaylord, who several times 
had sued Brown, succeeded in compelling Brown and his as- 
sociates to convey to him certain Franklin lands which they 
had contracted to sell, but the title for which they refused 
to convey. The court upheld Gaylord's claim. The only case 
in which Brown figured as plaintiff was settled out of court 
in his favor. 

But the most important suit of Brown's business life, and 
the one which has been oftenest cited to injure his business 
reputation, was a complicated one which grew out of one 
of these Ravenna cases. 48 On July n, 1836, he applied to 
Heman Oviatt, Frederick Brown, Joshua Stow and three 
brothers of the name of Wetmore, to become security for him 
on a note to the Western Reserve Bank for $6000. The note 


not being paid, the bank sued and obtained judgment against 
all of them in May, 1837, and on August 2, 1837, they all 
gave their joint judgment bond to the bank, payable in sixty 
days. This not being paid, the bank again sued, and, an 
execution being issued, Heman Oviatt was compelled to pay 
the bank in full. He then in turn sued John Brown and 
his fellow endorsers. The litigation which followed was 
greatly complicated by Brown's actions in connection with 
a piece of property known as Westlands, for which he had at 
first not the title, but a penal bond of conveyance. Brown 
gave this bond to Oviatt as collateral for Oviatt's having en- 
dorsed the judgment bond to the bank. When the deed for 
the Westlands property was duly given to Brown, he recorded 
it without notifying Oviatt of this action. Later, he mortgaged 
this property to two men, again without the knowledge of 
Heman Oviatt. Meanwhile Daniel C. Gaylord had recovered 
judgment against Brown in another transaction, and to sat- 
isfy it, caused the sale of Westlands by the sheriff. At John 
Brown's request, Amos P. Chamberlain, heretofore a warm 
friend and business associate of Brown's, bought in the pro- 
perty at the sheriff's sale, doubtless with the idea that Brown 
would presently find the money to buy it back for himself. 
But as soon as Oviatt was compelled to pay off the judgment 
bond at the Western Reserve Bank, he naturally wished to 
reimburse himself by the penal bond of conveyance of West- 
lands, which, he felt, gave him the title to the property. Find- 
ing that, through the land transactions already related, the 
penal bond had become valueless, he brought suit to have 
the sale of Westlands to Chamberlain set aside as fraudulent. 
The Supreme Court of Ohio held that Chamberlain had a 
rightful title and dismissed the suit. John Brown himself was 
not directly sued by Oviatt, being, to use a lawyer's term, 
"legally safe" throughout the entire transaction. From the 
point of view of probity and fair play he does not, however, 
escape criticism. He was morally bound to reimburse those 
who had aided him to obtain the money from the bank and 
had suffered thereby. Even after this lapse of years, his action 
in secretly recording the transfer of the land and then mort- 
gaging it bears an unpleasant aspect. It is quite probable that 
this complication was due to the great confusion of Brown's 


affairs, and his own poor business head. Moreover, it may 
well be that in due course Oviatt and the other securities 
were repaid in full by Brown during his period of prosperity 
with Mr. Perkins. Certainly, as already stated, Heman Oviatt 
bore Brown no grudge in after years. On the other hand, 
Brown may have taken advantage of the bankruptcy pro- 
ceedings to escape liability for these debts. 

The story of this case does not, however, end here. John 
Brown refused for a time to give up Westlands to Amos Cham- 
berlain, believing that he had the right to pasture his cattle 
there temporarily, and still, apparently, thinking that Cham- 
berlain had purchased the farm not for occupancy but for 
the purpose of turning it back to him. After having repeat- 
edly summoned Chamberlain for trespass on the land which 
Chamberlain had actually purchased, John Brown and his 
sons held a shanty on the place by force of arms until com- 
pelled to desist by the arrival of the sheriff summoned by 
Chamberlain. According to the Chamberlain family, John 
Brown ordered his sons to shoot Chamberlain if he set foot 
on the farm, a statement vigorously denied by John Brown, 
Jr. Jason Brown recollects that "father put us all in the 
cabin on the farm with some old-fashioned muskets and we 
stayed in it night and day. Then Mr. Chamberlain sued 
father and sent a constable and his posse to drive us out. 
We showed them our guns. Then he got the sheriff of Port- 
age County to come out and arrest us. Of course we could 
not resist the sheriff." Finally the sheriff arrested John Brown 
and two sons, John and Owen, who were thereupon placed 
in the Akron jail. Chamberlain, having destroyed the shanty 
which Brown had occupied and obtained possession of the 
land, allowed the case to drop, and Brown and his sons were 
released. 49 

Fortunately for John Brown's side of the case, there has 
just come to light a letter he wrote to Mr. Chamberlain in 
order to prevent, if possible, the carrying on of a long litigation. 
It records the spirit in which John Brown acted, and proves 
him to have been sincerely of the opinion that he had been 
gravely wronged, and that, in holding his farm as he did, Mr. 
Chamberlain not only injured Brown, but also the latter's 
innocent creditors. No one can maintain, after the perusal 


of this communication, that Brown was unreasoning in the 
matter, or that he was deliberately trying to defraud a neigh- 
bor of land righteously purchased. It is altogether likely that 
if similar documents in regard to the other cases cited, which 
appear, on the surface, to make against John Brown's probity, 
could be found, these other entanglements would also be 
susceptible of a far better interpretation. The letter to Mr. 
Chamberlain, offering peace or arbitration before war, reads 
as follows: 50 

HUDSON 27th April 1841 



I was yesterday makeing preparation for the commencement 
and vigorous prosecution of a tedious, distressing, wasteing, and 
long protracted war, but after hearing by my son of some remarks 
you made to him I am induced before I proceed any further in the 
way of hostile preparation: to stop and make one more earnest 
effort for Peace And let me begin by assureing you that notwith- 
standing I feel myself to be deeply and sorely injured by you, (with- 
out even the shadow of a provocation on my part to tempt you 
to begin as you did last October;) I have no conciousness of wish 
to injure either yourself or any of your family nor to interfere with 
your happiness, no not even to value of one hair of your head. I 
perfectly well remember the uniform good understanding and good 
feeling which had ever (previous to last fall) existed between us 
from our youth. I have not forgotten the days of cheerful labour 
which we have performed together, nor the acts of mutual kindness 
and accomodation which have passed between us. I can assure you 
that I ever have been and still am your honest, hearty friend. I 
have looked with sincere gratification uppon your steady growing 
prosperity, and flattering prospects of your young family. I have 
made your happiness and prosperity my own instead of feeling 
envious at your success. When I antisipated a return to Hudson 
with my family I expected great satisfaction from again haveing 
you for a neighbour. This is true whatever you may think of me, or 
whatever representation you may make of me to others. And now 
I ask you why will you trample on the rights of your friend and of his 
numerous family? Is it because he is poor? Why will you kneed - 
lessly make yourself the means of depriveing all my honest creditors 
of their Just due? Ought not my property if it must be sacrifised to 
fall into the hands of honest and some of them poor and suffering 
Creditors? Will God smile on the gains which you may acquire at 
the expence of suffering families deprived of their honest dues? And 
let me here ask Have you since you bid off that farm felt the same 
inward peace and conciousness of right you had before felt? I do 
not believe you have, and for this plain reason that you have been 


industrious in circulateing evil reports of me (as I believe) in order to 
prevent the community from enquiring into your motives and con- 
duct. This is perfectly natural, and no new thing under the sun. If 
it could be made to appear that Naboth the Jezreelite had blas- 
phemed God and the King, then it would be perfectly right for Ahab 
to possess his vineyard. So reasoned wicked men thousands of years 
ago. I ask my old friend again is your path a path of peace ? does 
it promise peace? I have two definite things to offer you once and 
for all. One is that you take ample security of Seth Thompson for 
what you have paid and for what you may have to pay (which 
D. C. Gaylord has ever wickedly refused) and release my farm and 
thereby provide for yourself an honorable and secure retreat out of 
the strife and perplexity and restore you to peace with your friends 
and with yourself. The other is that if you do not like that offer, 
that you submit the matter to disinterested, discreet, and good men 
to say what is just and honest between us. 

You may ask why do not you go to Thompson for your relief. I 
answer that I should do so at once, but I cannot recover anything of 
Thompson but the face of the note and interest, nothing for all the 
costs, and expences, and penalties and sacrifise of my property. 
All Thompson is either morally or legally bound to pay is the note 
and interest. He is an inocent and honest debtor and when in his low 
state of health, and the extreme pressure he could not pay the money 
promptly came forward [and] offered his land as security. That 
security is still kept for the purpose, as I positively know any state- 
ments to the contrary notwithstanding. 

I now ask you to read this letter calmly, and patiently, and often, 
and show it to your neighbours, and friends, such as Mr. Zina Post 
and many other worthy men and advise with them before you at- 
tempt to force your way any further. I ask you to make it your first 
business and give me without delay your final determination in 
regard to it. 

Respectfully your friend 


This appeal to reason and friendliness ought to have soft- 
ened Mr. Chamberlain's heart. No one now knows just what 
the result was; but since there is no evidence of a "tedious, 
distressing, wasteing, and long protracted war" between the 
neighbors, it is likely that it had its effect. At any rate, it 
closes a chapter of John Brown's business life which, besides 
occasioning him deep and poignant distress, left its marks 
upon him. Had he not, however, been withal a strong, seri- 
ous and fundamentally honest character, he must have been 
completely wrecked upon the shoals out of which, with Mr. 
Perkins's aid, he was now to find his way. 


WHEN was it that John Brown, practical shepherd, tanner, 
farmer, surveyor, cattle expert, real estate speculator and 
wool-merchant, first conceived what he calls in his autobio- 
graphy "his greatest or principal object" in life the forci- 
ble overthrow, of slavery in his native land? The question 
is not an idle one, since the object adopted as the magnetic 
needle to guide his destiny eventually resulted in the rousing 
of a nation to its smallest hamlet, and beyond doubt pre- 
cipitated the bloody civil war which others besides John 
Brown clearly foresaw. The mystery of individuality does 
not lose anything of its spell with the passage of time; in 
the case of this strongly marked character, there is nothing 
concerning it of greater interest than the transformation of 
the simple guardian of flocks and tiller of the soil, Spartan 
in his rugged simplicity of living, into an arch-plotter, a 
man of many disguises, a belligerent pioneer, a fugitive be- 
fore the law at one moment and an assailant of a sovereign 
government in the next. Psychologists must find in such an 
evolution of spirit a field for inquiry and speculation without 
end. Why should one who so hated the profession of arms be 
the first to take it up in order to free the slave from his chains? 
What was there in the humdrum life of an Ohio farmer to 
cause him to espouse the role of a border-chieftain in the 
middle of the nineteenth century? From what midnight star 
did this shepherd draw his inspiration to go forth and kill? 
What was there in the process of tanning to make a man who 
had never seen blood spilt in anger ready to blot out the lives 
of other beings whose chief crime was that they differed with 
him as to the righteousness of human bondage? Why should 
the restless iron spirit of the Roundhead suddenly have mani- 
fested itself in this prosaic seller of town lots when he had 
spent more than five decades in peace and quiet? Doubtless 
the answer to some of these questions must be left to the new 
science which would plot and chart the soul, and measure to 


the hundredth of a degree each quivering emotion. But the 
historian may properly inquire when it was that the "greatest 
or principal object" of this militant reformer's life first began 
to manifest itself in his acts and deeds. 

John Brown's horror of the South's "peculiar institution," 
as it affected individuals, we know to have come to him, as 
the autobiography again testifies, at^ the age of twelve, when, 
he says, he declared, or swore, "eternal war with slavery." 
But the oaths of a lad of such tender years do not often be- 
come the guiding force of maturity; in John Brown's case, 
not even his constant friendliness to fugitive slaves permits 
the assumption that early in his manhood he had definitely 
resolved upon the plan of overthrowing slavery by men and 
arms which he finally chose. Not until his thirty-fifth year 
is there direct documentary evidence that his mind was espe- 
cially concerning itself with the welfare of the black man in 
bondage, that is, to any greater extent than were the minds 
and consciences of hundreds, if not thousands, of Ohio farmers 
who were later among the strongest enemies of human bond- 
age, and even then were dauntless station-masters and con- 
ductors on the rapidly expanding Underground Railroad. In 
November, 1834, when John Brown's stay in Pennsylvania 
was actually within six months of its close, when he was, 
however, apparently to remain in Richmond as a successful 
tanner and farmer, he first expressed on paper a wish to aid 
his fellow- Americans in chains. It is in the following epistle 
to his brother Frederick, unstamped because it bears the 
frank of John Brown, then still postmaster at Randolph, of 
which Richmond was a part: l 

RANDOLPH, Nov. 21, 1834. 

DEAR BROTHER, As I have had only one letter from Hudson 
since you left here, and that some weeks since, I begin to get uneasy 
and apprehensive that all is not well. I had satisfied my mind about 
it for some time, in expectation of seeing father here, but I begin to 
give that up for the present. 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 youthjlan^-britig him up-as_te~k> 
our own, viz., give him a goooTEhglish 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 con- 
fident 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 introduced, 
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 settle- 
ment might be so effected in future as to have almost the whole in- 
fluence 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 there- 
abouts some firstrate 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. 

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 favorable to such 
an undertaking than would any such place as Hudson, 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. If the young blacks of our country could once be- 
come enlightened, it would most assuredly operate on slavery like 
firing powder confined in rock, and all slaveholders know it well. 
Witness their heaven-daring laws against teaching blacks. If once 
the Christians in the free States would set to work in earnest in 
teaching the blacks, the people of the slaveholding States would 
find themselves constitutionally driven to set about the work of 
emancipation immediately. The laws of this State are now such 
that the inhabitants of any township may raise by a tax in aid of 
the State school-fund any amount of money they may choose by 
a vote, for the purpose of common schools, which any child may 
have access to by application. If you will join me in this under- 
taking, I will make with you any arrangement of our temporal 
concerns that shall be fair. Our health is good, and our prospects 
about business rather brightening. 

Affectionately yours, JOHN BROWN. 


It will be noticed, as has heretofore been pointed out, 2 that 
there is here a total absence of any belligerent intention 
on the writer's part; he who afterwards became disgusted 
with the Abolitionists because their propaganda involved talk 
alone, and no violent physical action against slavery, was 
planning, when nearly thirty-five, nothing more startling than 
a school for blacks, confident in the belief that their educa- 
tion in the North would shatter the whole system of slavery in 
the South, and turning for aid exclusively to friends in his 
former Ohio home. Again, he shows no knowledge of the pre- 
judice in the North against teaching blacks which had resulted 
in his native State in the suppression of schools for them in 
New Haven in 1831, and in Canterbury in 1834. Throughout 
his correspondence of these years, and later, there is little 
to indicate that Brown was in touch with much of what was 
going on in the nation. Indeed, as late as June 22, 1844, he 
wrote to his family, "I am extremely ignorant at present of 
miscellaneous subjects." 3 It is the recollection of the family, 
however, that before this time they were called upon by their 
father to take a solemn oath to do all in their power to abolish 
slavery, after hearing from him of his purpose of attacking 
the institution. Jason Brown fixes the date of this event at 
1839, the place as Franklin, and those who were party to it 
as Mrs. Brown, a colored preacher, Fayette by name, and 
the three sons, John, Jr., Jason and Owen. He specifies merely 
that they were sworn "to do all in their power to abolish 
slavery," and does not use the word " force." John Brown, Jr., 
writing to F. B. Sanborn in December, 1890, thus expressed 
his opinion : 4 

"It is, of course, impossible for me to say when such idea and 
plan first entered his [John Brown's] mind and became a purpose; 
but I can say with certainty that he first informed his family that 
he entertained such purpose while we were yet living in Franklin, 
O. (now called Kent), and before he went to Virginia, in 1840, to 
survey the lands which had been donated by Arthur Tappan to 
Oberlin College; and this was certainly as early as 1839. The place 
and the circumstances where he first informed us of that purpose 
are as perfectly in my memory as any other event in my life. Fa- 
ther, mother, Jason, Owen and I were, late in the evening, seated 
around the fire in the open fire-place of the kitchen, in the old 
Haymaker house where we then lived ; and there he first informed 


us of his determination to make war on slavery not such war as 
Mr. Garrison* informs us 'was equally the purpose of the non- 
resistant abolitionists,' but war by force and arms. He said that 
he had long entertained such a purpose that he believed it his 
duty to devote his life, if need be, to this object, which he made us 
fully to understand. After spending considerable time in setting 
forth in most impressive language the hopeless condition of the 
slave, he asked who of us were willing to make common cause with 
him in doing all in our power to 'break the jaws of the wicked and 
pluck the spoil out of his teeth,' naming each of us in succession, 
Are you, Mary, John, Jason, and Owen? Receiving an affirmative 
answer from each, he kneeled in prayer, and all did the same. This 
posture in prayer impressed me greatly as it was the first time I 
had ever known him to assume it. After prayer he asked us to raise 
our right hands, and he then administered to us an oath, the exact 
terms of which I cannot recall, but in substance it bound us to 
secrecy and devotion to the purpose of fighting slavery by force 
and arms to the extent of our ability. According to Jason's recol- 
lections, Mr. Fayette, a colored theological student at Western 
Reserve College, Hudson, Ohio, was with us at the time but of this 
I am not certain." 

It must be noted here that in this letter John Brown, Jr., 
gives the date of the oath as 1839; in his lengthy affidavit in 
the case of Gerrit Smith against the Chicago Tribune, he 
gave the date as 1836, three years earlier, and in an account 
given in Mr. Sanborn's book he placed it at 1837; three dis- 
tinct times for the same event. It can, therefore, best be 
stated as occurring before i84O. 5 At this time, John Brown, 
Jr., was in his nineteenth year, Jason about sixteen years 
old, and Owen between fourteen and fifteen. The only tes- 
timony as to an early project akin to that of the final raid, 
available from any one else outside the family, is that of 
George B. Delamater, 6 who says, "Having spent several days 
and nights with Old John Brown at various times between 
1840 and 1844, I enjoyed his society and was made acquainted 
with his views in regard to American slavery and its rela- 
tions at that time from various standpoints, and also with 
the scheme which he had under consideration for freeing 
persons held in bondage." Mr. Delamater at this period was 
a mere stripling; it is an interesting contrast to his recollec- 
tions that Mr. Foreman, in his long account of John Brown's 

* Wendell Phillips Garrison, in The Preludes of Harper's Ferry. 


stay at Richmond from 1825 to 1835, makes no mention of 
having heard of any deliberate project; yet he was much 
older and more intimate with Brown than was Mr. Delamater, 
who, in this earlier Richmond period, was only a school-boy. 
That the subject was undoubtedly much in his mind prior 
to this appears again from an anecdote related by General 
Henry B. Carrington, and placed by him in the year 1836, 
although probably occurring in 1838, when there is the first 
definite record of John Brown's having been in Connecticut 
after his school days. General Carrington thus tells this inci- 
dent of his boyhood: 7 

"When I was a boy and went to school in Torrington, there came 
into the school room one day a tall man, rather slender, with gray- 
ish hair, who said to the boys : ' I want to ask you some questions 
in geography. Where is Africa?' 'It is on the other side of the 
ocean, of course, 'said a boy. 'Why "of course," ' asked the man. 
The boy could n't say why 'of course.' Then the man proceeded to 
tell them something about Africa and the negroes, and the evil of 
the slave trade, and the wrongs and sufferings of the slaves, and 
then said, 'How many of you boys will agree to use your influence, 
whatever it may be, against this great curse, when you grow up?' 
They held up their hands. He then said that he was afraid that 
some of them might forget it, and added, 'Now I want those who 
are quite sure that they will not forget it, who will promise to use 
their time and influence toward resisting this evil, to rise.' Another 
boy and I stood up. Then this man put his hands on our heads 
and said, 'Now may my Father in Heaven, who is your Father, and 
who is the Father of the African; and Christ, who is my Master 
and Saviour, and your Master and Saviour, and the Master and 
Saviour of the African; and the Holy Spirit, which gives me strength 
and comfort, when I need it, and will give you strength and com- 
fort when you need it, and which gives strength and comfort to 
the African, enable you to keep this resolution which you have 
now taken.' And that man was John Brown." 

Most important after that of the Brown family is the tes- 
timony of Frederick Douglass, the colored leader, who states 
in his autobiography 8 that Brown confided the Virginia plan 
to him, without specifying Harper's Ferry or speaking of the 
arsenal, "about the time" he began his newspaper enterprise 
in Rochester in 1847, and among other details added that 
Brown explained his frugal manner of living by his wish to 
lay by money for this abolition project. Frederick Douglass 


visited Brown in his home in Springfield on this occasion. 
" From this night spent with John Brown," said Mr. Douglass, 
"... while I continued to write and speak against slavery, 
I became all the same less hopeful of its peaceful abolition. 
My utterances became more and more tinged by the color 
of this man's strong impressions. Speaking at an anti-slavery 
convention in Salem, Ohio, I expressed the apprehension that 
slavery could only be destroyed by blood-shed, when I was 
suddenly and sharply interrupted by my good old friend 
Sojourner Truth with the question, ' Frederick, is God deadZl 
'No/ I answered, 'and because God is not dead, slavery can 
only end in blood.' ' 

If this testimony seems to show that the plan of using force 
was then, in i8d7. taking shape in Brown's mind, it may 
have been delayed in coming to earlier maturity by his bank- 
ruptcy and financial distress, there is nothing in John 
Brown's letters or diary to indicate so early an all-ruling 
plan of applying force to slavery as John Brown, Jr., records. 
It is said that his father first conceived the idea of using the 
Allegheny Mountains as the scene for an armed attack on 
slavery, and a means of running off freed slaves to the North, 
when he surveyed the Oberlin lands. 9 But his letter to his 
family from Ripley, Virginia, April 27, 1840, 10 already cited, 
is peaceable enough, and his hope of settling his family there 
is hardly consistent with his anti-slavery policy of later years. 
Indeed, while recording his pleasure that the residents of the 
vicinity were more attractive people than he had thought, 
he had nothing to say about the institution of slavery which 
he then, for the first time, really beheld at close range. So 
far as the evidence of contemporary documents goes, until 
1840, at least, there is nothing to show that there was any- 
thing more than a family agreement to oppose slavery, with- 
out specification as to the precise method of assault. 

The transformation of the peaceful tanner and shepherd 
into a man burning to use arms upon an institution which 
refused to yield to peaceful agitation would seem to have 
taken place in the latter part of his fourth decade, as Mr. 
Douglass testified. Gradually his plan took final shape. There 
was nothing in the surroundings of pastoral Richfield or 
Akron to suggest narrow defiles and mountainous passes 


teeming with sharpshooters. But, little by little, visions of 
this kind came into Brown's brain more and more as the years 
passed, until in the early fifties his plan was clear to him in 
its outlines, much as actually put into execution. Thejsalient 
idea was. that mountains had throughout history Been the 
means of enabling a few brave souls, whether gladiators, or 
slaves, or free men, Swiss, Italians, or Spaniards, or Circas- 
sians, to defy and sometimes to defeat armies of their op- 
pressors. Into the mountain fastnesses regular troops pene- 
trated, it was thought, with difficulty, and the ranges them- 
selves afforded an easy line of communication even through 
a wholly hostile country. Moreover, mountains were just 
the place to assemble bondmen and to give them arms with 
which to fight for liberty. For the project was now far dif- 
ferent from that John Brown described to his brother in 1834; 
slavery, it appeared, was, after all, not to be undone by edu- 
cating the negroes already freed, but by the sword of Gideon 
and a band as carefully chosen as was his. Gradually the 
practical shepherd felt his blood stirring within him, but not 
until after removal to Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1846, 
when he had the opportunity to come into closer knowledge 
of the militant Boston Abolitionists, is there written evi- 
dence of this. He had seen the Liberator in his father's home, 
for Owen Brown early became a subscriber to this and other 
vigorous anti-slavery journals. John Brown's children also 
remember to have received the Liberator in Ohio, when it 
was still a youthful publication, 11 and later in North Elba. 
The Tribune, too, as it attained fame under Greeley, was as 
welcome a visitor to this home as to so many thousands of 
others. Its approval of the doctrine of opposing slavery with 
Sharp's rifles commended it particularly in the Kansas days 
to John Brown, who was by nature unable to sympathize 
with the Garrisonian doctrine of non-resistance to force, 
although there are some who would believe Brown to have 
been a non-resistant as late as 1830. They cite in support 
of their contention a garbled anecdote, according to which 
he permitted himself to be cowhided without resisting his 
assailant's fury. 12 Brown's residence in Springfield gave him 
the opportunity not only to attend anti-slavery meetings, 
but also to meet many colored people; in the first written 


evidence of his growing aggressiveness towards slavery there 
is reference to enlightenment at the hands of Abby Kelley 
Foster,* Garrison "and other really benevolent persons." 
This curious production of Brown's bespeaks the influence 
upon him of Franklin's writings; throughout, it is an admo- 
nition to the negroes to avoid their besetting sins, an incen- 
tive to thrift, frugality and solidarity, and it is written as if 
from the pen of a black man, Sambo. Contributed in 1848 
or 1849 to a little-known Abolition newspaper, The Ram's 
Horn, published and edited by colored men in New York, 
this essay denounces the negroes for their supineness in the 
face of wrong, instead of their "nobly resisting" brutal ag- 

But for all its denunciation of the negro's "tamely sub- 
mitting to every species of indignity, contempt and wrong," 
it cannot be maintained that this satirical article indicated 
that Brown had gone very far along the path toward an armed 
attack on slavery, although started in that direction. Nor 
does it appear from this that he had as yet reached the 
conclusion that the New England Abolitionists were to be 
shunned because they were all talk. In 1851, however, the 
policy of armed resistance becomes much more clearly de- 
veloped; the man of war is now emerging from the chrysalis 
of peace. On January 15 of that year there was organized in 
Springfield a branch of the United States League of Gilead- 
ites the first and apparently the only one. It was Brown's 
idea; he chose the title, and it was his first effort to^>rganize 
the colored people to defend themselves and advance Uieir 
interests. It was a practical application of the teachings ~of- 
Sambo, and was inspired by the passage of the Fugitive 
Slave Law, which made legal in the North the rendition of 
negroes who had found their way to free States. The "Words 
of Advice" for the Gileadites, "as written and recommended 
by John Brown" and adopted as the principles of the new 
organization, begin with the motto "Union is Strength," 

* "John Brown was strong for women's rights and women's suffrage. He 
always went to hear Lucretia Mott and Abby Kelley Foster, even though it cost 
him considerable effort to reach the place where they spoke." Annie Brown 

t See Appendix. 


and declare in the first sentence that "Nothing so charms 
the American people as personal bravery." 13 The object of 
the Gileadites was not, however, to attack slavery on its 
own territory, but to band the colored people together to re- 
sist slave- catchers and make impossible the returning to the 
South of a fugitive who had reached Northern soil. Brown 

"No jury can be found in the Northern States, that would con- 
vict a man for defending his rights to the last extremity. This is 
well understood by Southern Congressmen, who insisted that the 
right of trial by jury should not be granted to the fugitive. Col- 
ored people have more fast friends amongst the whites than they 
suppose. . . . Just think of the money expended by individuals 
in your behalf in the past twenty years! Think of the number 
who have been mobbed and imprisoned on your account. Have 
any of you seen the Branded Hand ? Do you remember the names of 
Love joy and Torrey? Should one of your number be arrested, you 
must collect together as quickly as possible so as to outnumber your 
adversaries who are taking an active part against you. Let__np~ 
able-bodied man appear on the ground,,,un.equipped, or with, his 
weapons exposed" to view; let that be understood beforehand. Your 
plans must be known only to yourself, and withftKe understanding 
that all traitors must die, wherever caught and proven to be guilty. 
'Whosoever is fearful or afraid, let him return and depart early 
from Mount Gilead.' (Judges, VII chap., 3 verse; Deut. XX Chap. 
8 verse.) Give all cowards an opportunity to show it on condi- 
tion of holding their peace. Do not delay one moment after you 
are ready; you will lose all your resolution if you do. Let the first 
blow be the signal for all to engage; 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 after you have once done up the work 
nicely. . . ." 

All this has the characteristic ring of John Brown the 
Kansas fighter, particularly the admonition to make "clean 
work with your enemies." Here is the stern Puritan parent, 
intolerant of childish fault, developed into a man urging not 
only shedding the blood of one's enemies, but the making of 
"clean work" of it, much as pirate captains advocated the 
walking of the plank as a sanitarily satisfactory way of dis- 
posing of one's captives. This advice, as will be seen later in 
this narrative, recurs frequently in the days when the Round- 
head was in the field at work. Certainly, when engaged, 


he always lived up to his doctrine of going at once to close 
quarters with his enemy, after the manner of John Paul Jones. 
The transformation of the practical shepherd was thus coming 
on apace. 

Characteristic, too, is Brown's suggestion in the "Words 
of Advice," that a lasso might be "applied to a slave-catcher 
for once with good effect." "Stand by one another, and by 
your friends, while a drop of blood remains; and be hanged, 
if you must, but tell no tales out of school," this is another 
solemn admonition which smacks of the Spanish Main, yet 
accurately foreshadows his own conduct when overcome by 
his enemies. Original is the hint to the colored people to 
embroil their white friends in the event of trouble: "After 
effecting a rescue, if you are assailed, go into the houses of 
your most prominent and influential white friends with your 
wives, and that will effectually fasten upon them the suspi- 
cion of being connected with you, and will compel them to 
make a common cause with you, whether they would other- 
wise live up to their profession or not. This would leave them 
no choice in the matter." These "Words of Advice" were 
followed by an agreement and nine resolutions which practi- 
cally restate the agreement. This was signed by forty-four 
colored men and women of Springfield. It is typical of other 
documents John Brown drew up on, to him, serious occa- 
sions, and is in his best style : u 


As citizens of the United States of America, trusting in a just 
and merciful God, whose spirit and all-powerful aid we humbly 
implore, we will ever be true to the flag of our beloved country, 
always acting under it. We, whose names are hereunto affixed, 
do constitute ourselves a branch of the United States League of 
Gileadites. We will provide ourselves at once with suitable imple- 
ments, and will aid those who do not possess the means, if any 
such are disposed to join us. We invite every colored person whose 
heart is engaged for the performance of our business, whether male 
or female, old or young. The duty of the aged, infirm, and young 
members of the League shall be to give instant notice to all mem- 
bers in case of an attack upon any of our people. We agree to 
have no officers except a Treasurer and Secretary pro tern., until 
after some trial of courage and talent of able-bodied members shall 


enable us to elect officers from those who shall have rendered the 
most important services. Nothing but wisdom and undaunted cour- 
age, efficiency, and general good conduct shall in anyway influence 
us in electing our officers. 

It is not of record that any members of the Gileadites 
actually took a hand in a slave-rescue "with suitable imple- 
ments." There is, on the other hand, no doubt that the de- 
termined Springfield wool-merchant, in drafting these reso- 
lutions in his fifty-first year, meant them to contain advice 
which may briefly be summed up as forcible resistance to the 
officers of the law, and an admonition to shoot to kill on all 
such occasions. As long as he was in Springfield, John Brown 
continued to concern himself with these colored friends. On 
November 28, 1850, just before he organized the Gileadites, 
he wrote to his wife: 15 "I of course keep encouraging my 
colored friends to 'trust in God and keep their powder dry.' 
I did so today, "at Thanksgiving meeting, publicly." 

From the Gileadites to plans for guerrilla warfare was an 
easy step. In his second memorandum- book, preserved in the 
Boston Public Library, there is an entry which was probably 
recorded early in 1855. It reads thus: 

"Circassia has about 550,000 

Switzerland 2,037,030 

Guerilla warfare see Life of Lord Wellington Page 71 to Page 75 
(Mina). See also Page 102 some valuable hints in same Book. See 
also Page 196 some most important instructions to officers. See 
also same Book Page 235 these words Deep and narrow defiles 
where 300 men would suffice to check an army. See also Page 236 
on top of Page." 

The book in question is Joachim Hayward Stocqueler's 
two- volume 'Life of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington,' 
published in London in 1852, and the activity of the Spanish 
guerrillas under their able leader Mina was what attracted 
Brown's attention. The "most important instructions to 
officers" related to discipline and cooking, and page 235 fur- 
nished a description of the mountainous and broken topogra- 
phy of Spain. Directly opposite the entry quoted above is a 
list of Southern towns, with four Pennsylvania cities mixed in, 
as if Brown were considering such strategic points as Little 
Rock, Arkansas; Charleston, South Carolina; San Antonio, 


Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; Augusta, Georgia, and others, in 
an elaborate plan -for assailing the slave-power and running 
off its much cherished property. Some Ohio friends of Brown, 
Colonel Daniel Woodruff, an officer of the War of 1812, his 
son-in-law, Mr. Henry Myers and his daughter, according to 
the recollections of the two latter (Colonel Woodruff having 
died soon after), learned from John Brown the details of his 
Virginia plan as early as the late fall of 1854 or the beginning 
of 1855. 16 According to Mr. Myers, who heard the discussion 
between John Brown and his father-in-law, the former's ob- 
ject in visiting Colonel Woodruff was to persuade him to join 
in a raid on Harper's Ferry, to take place at that time, if 
it could be organized. He had seen active military service, 
and Brown wanted the aid of his practical experience. Dur- 
ing his stay, which he spent in urgent endeavor to persuade 
Colonel Woodruff, Brown detailed his whole scheme, so that 
all the Woodruff household came to understand it. He spoke 
of the evil days in Kansas, then existing, and he wished to 
relieve Kansas and to retaliate by striking at another point. 
He wanted to attack the arsenal at 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; and to destroy whatever guns were already store^T 
there that he could not carry away. 

That this revelation of his plan is not improbable appears 
from other testimony. In August, 1854, John Brown wrote 
to his sons, who were then planning to combat slavery by 
settling in Kansas as Free State men, that he could not join 
them because he felt a call to duty in another section of the 
country. 1T Evidently, the practical shepherd now clearly real- 
ized what was his greatest object in life and was devoting 
himself to it. His daughter, Annie Brown Adams, says that 
she first learned the plan of the raid the winter she was eleven 
years old (in 1854) ; and then she heard of it as to take place 
at Harper's Ferry. 18 Later, in hearing other people's stories, 
she found other places mentioned. Salmon explained this to 
her by saying that their father several times changed his 
plans, and that he had spoken of them to various other people 


at these different times. "I think I may say," writes Mrs. 
Adams, "without any intention of boasting, that I knew 
more about his plans than anyone else, or at least anyone 
else who 'survived to tell the tale.' He always talked freely 
to me of his plans, from the time he first explained them to 
me, the winter before he went to Kansas, when I was eleven 
years old. He would say as if for a sort of apology to himself, 
perhaps, 'I know I can trust you. You never tell anything 
you are told not to,' after talking with me of his affairs." 

During all the North Elba period from 1849 to 1851, so 
Miss Sarah Brown thinks, she and all the children knew 
that a blow was to be struck at Harper's Ferry. She clearly 
remembers how, when Harper's Ferry came into the lesson 
at school, her heart hammered and she shivered as with cold. 
Yet she cannot recall that any of them were ever cautioned 
to keep silence as to this. She thinks they all understood 
the necessity of secrecy as to all their father's plans so well, 
that warnings were known to be superfluous. She clearly 
recalls standing behind her father's chair and watching him 
draw diagrams of log forts, explaining how the logs were to be 
laid, how the roofs were to be made, and how trees were to 
be felled without, and laid as obstacles to attacking parties. 
This was to be in the mountains near Harper's Ferry, and her 
father was making the pictures and explaining his plans to one 
Epps, a negro neighbor, who was looking on, and whom her 
father was endeavoring vainly to induce to join the raid- 
ers. Her father was so ready to trust others with his plans, with 
sublime faith in their ability to keep a secret, that his visit 
to Colonel Woodruff would have been entirely in keeping. It 
is related, too, that he confided in Thomas Thomas, a negro 
porter in the employ of Perkins & Brown in Springfield, 
soon after his arrival there in i846, 19 but there is no direct 
confirmatory evidence of his having laid his plan before some 
of the Gileadites. Thomas Thomas took no active interest in 
Brown's plans, being neither conspicuous in the League, nor 
a member of his employer's Chatham convention in 1858, 
preceding the raid on Harper's Ferry. 

As to the purposes behind the plan and the objects to be 
obtained, it is probable that they may have varied as the 
years passed, precisely as did the details of the programme 


and the actual place of starting his revolt. Thus, while he 
first thought of Harper's Ferry, as Mrs. Annie Brown Adams 
testifies, 20 other places were at times discussed ; even up to the 
raid, it was thought by some of the Boston backers of Brown 
that the place of striking the first blow would be some other 
locality than Harper's Ferry, 21 which, by its nearness to the 
capital of the nation and its being on a railroad, was ren- 
dered much less desirable for the purpose in hand than some 
place nearer the Ohio boundary. So, too, the prime object 
was at one time the terrorizing of the slaveholders and the 
making of slaveholding less profitable, by reducing the value 
of slaves along the border. Not until later was there thought 
out a plan for capturing, controlling and governing a whole 
section of the United States. Again, in the Kansas years, a 
prime motive was to relieve the pro-slavery pressure upon 
Kansas by attacking slavery elsewhere. At one time, as his 
son Salmon points out, John Brown hoped to force a settle- 
ment of the slavery question by embroiling both sections. 
This was in line with his whole Kansas policy of inducing a 
settlement by bringing armed pro-slavery and Free State forces 
to close quarters, and letting them fight it out. After the 
Kansas episode, John Brown planned agitation for the pur- 
pose of setting the South afire. The Southern leaders in Con- 
gress having continually threatened secession, John Brown 
hoped to help them carry out their threat or force* them into 
it, saying that the "North would then whip the South back 
into the Union without slavery." Salmon Brown declares 
that he heard his father and John Brown, Jr., discuss this by 
the hour, and insists that "the Harper's Ferry raidjiad^that 
idea behind it far more than any- ,o ther^ "_ ,tbe hi ogra rrtiersjjf 
his father having failed heretofore to bring out this centraT 
far-reaching idea to the extent it merits. 22 But the main 
motive was, after all, to come to close quarters with slavery, 
and to try force where argument and peaceful agitation had 
theretofore failed to break the slaves' chains. And so, shortly 
before he reached the age of fifty, this unknown and incon- 
spicuous wool-merchant and cattle-raiser had fully resolved 
to be the David to the Goliath of slavery. He entertained 
no doubt that he could accomplish that end, if he could but 
command the funds necessary for the purchase of arms. 


While all this metamorphosis of the man was going on, 
John Brown's new business venture had really brought him 
into smoother waters, even though it was not destined to be 
lasting or a financial success. After tending the Perkins flocks 
for two years, it was decided to establish a headquarters in 
Massachusetts for the sale of the wool, and there followed 
the residence in Springfield which meant so much for Brown's 
development. It was in 1846 that he opened the office, and 
the next year his family joined him there. Frederick Douglass, 
after seeing the fine store of Perkins & Brown, was prepared 
to find Brown's residence in Springfield similarly impressive. 
"In fact," he wrote, 23 "the house was neither commodious 
nor elegant, nor its situation desirable. It was a small wooden 
building, on a back street, in a neighborhood chiefly occupied 
by laboring men and mechanics; respectable enough to be 
sure, but not quite the place, I thought, where one would look 
for the residence of a flourishing and successful merchant. 
Plain as was the outside of this man's house, the inside was 
plainer. Its furniture would have satisfied a Spartan. . . . 
There was an air of plainness about it [the house] which almost 
suggested destitution." The meal was "such as a man might 
relish after following the plow all day, or performing a forced 
march of a dozen miles over a rough road in frosty weather." 
Everything in the home implied to Mr. Douglass "stern 
truth, solid purpose, and rigid economy." "I was not long," 
he added, "in company with the master of this house before 
I discovered that he was, indeed, the master of it, and was 
likely to become mine too if I stayed long enough with him. 
He fulfilled St. Paul's idea of the head of the family. His wife 
believed in him, and his children observed him with reverence. 
Whenever he spoke his words commanded earnest attention. 
. . . Certainly I never felt myself in the presence of a stronger 
religious influence than while in this man's house." 

As for John Brown the man, he was then in his forty-eighth 
year, without the stoop that a few years later made him seem 
prematurely old. His attire, however simple, was always neat 
and of good materials; in Ohio, the testimony is, he dressed 
like a substantial farmer in the woolen suits of the time and 
wore cowhide boots. Physically strong and sinewy, he was 
not five feet eleven in height, with a disproportionately small 


head, an inflexible and stern mouth and a prominent chin. 
His hair, already tinged with gray, was closely trimmed and 
grew well over his forehead. But his bluish gray eyes were 
what held and won people; they fairly shone when he talked. 
Mr. Douglass remembers that they were "full of light and 
fire." 24 His nose was somewhat prominent and of what is 
known as the Roman type. With all, the face was vigorous, 
shrewd and impressive. Once a visitor to the North Elba 
homestead remarked to a family group: "I think your father 
looks like an eagle." " Yes," replied Watson Brown, "or some 
other carnivorous bird." 25 But the comparison was not meant 
to be unflattering; it was the keenness of the eagle's looks, 
the sharp watchfulness of his glance, even with half-shut eyes, 
that suggested the comparison. On the prairies, those who 
rode with John Brown were struck with the range and the 
alertness of his vision, from which nothing escaped, while 
those who saw him in the cities noticed the long springing 
step and apparent deep absorption in his own reflections. 
Yet all agreed upon the impressiveness of John Brown's bear- 
ing; even in later years, when his appearance was so rural as 
to attract attention on the streets of Boston, the earnestness 
of his face and the vigor of his form prevented any disposition 
to ridicule. 

The object of the establishment of Perkins & Brown's 
office in Springfield was to classify wools for wooT : grower^7in 
order that they might thus obtain a better value for their 
product than had been the case up to that time, and to 
sell it on a commission of two cents per pound. 26 Having 
warehouses, Perkins & Brown received large shipments of 
wool from farmers known to them, and then by carefully 
sorting the fleeces were able to approach manufacturers of 
cashmere, broadcloth, jeans or satinette, with the wools of the 
grade they desired. In the first Springfield letter- book of 
the firm, into which were laboriously copied in long-hand all 
its letters, 27 the first epistle bears the date of June 23, 1846, 
and is a tribute to John Brown's probity in that it notifies 
Mr. Marvin Kent that, if he should send wool to the firm to 
sell, the amount of the commissions earned would be used to 
liquidate John Brown's old debts to himself and his father. 
The times were not, however, propitious for the new enter- 


prise. The Walker tariff was just being passed by Congress, and 
the war with Mexico was on. The legislative uncertainty made 
the wool market dull and unstable, and when the Walker bill 
was signed, the price of Saxony wool, in which Perkins & 
Brown were especially interested, dropped from seventy-five to 
twenty-five cents. Perkins & Brown were, however, able to 
start off by selling the splendid wool of their own flocks for the 
good price of sixty-nine cents, and early in July, in a letter in 
Brown's handwriting, they asserted that "we receive at this 
place more of the first class of American wools than any other 
house in the country." 28 Many of the firm's letters are in 
the handwriting of John Brown, Jr., who, having finished 
an excellent schooling and being ready for business life, be- 
came a clerk in the Springfield office, in which Jason Brown 
also served. By August 26, John Brown was able to report, 
cheerfully, to the senior partner in Ohio, as follows: 29 "We 
are getting in wool rapidly, generally from 50 to 80 bales per 
day. We are selling a little and have very frequent calls from 
manufacturers. Musgrave paid up our note at the Agawam 
[bank] yesterday so that I now have our name clear of any 
paper in this country. . . . We have had a big wool-growers 
meeting at Springfield; Bishop Campbell presiding, in refer- 
ence to sending wool hereafter to Europe." 

This project of exporting wool to England and the Conti- 
nent deeply interested Brown from the beginning of his 
Springfield residence, particularly as he found himself, in the 
fall of 1846, loaded up with other people's wool, unable to sell 
it for them at fair figures, and quite unwilling to sacrifice it 
at forced sales. On November 27, 1846, he wrote to a client 30 
that he would have gone across the Atlantic with a quan- 
tity of wool save for unforeseen hindrances. He had sent to 
England in 1845, from Ohio, some fleeces "which received 
unqualified praise both for condition and quality," and, as he 
said in this letter, the firm was bent on encouraging exporta- 
tion "and in giving character to American wools in Europe." 
Indeed, the sale of their higher grades of wool to an English- 
man for export on December 21, 1846, was all that saved 
Perkins & Brown from a disastrous ending to their first 
season's business. They were being hard pushed by those who 
had sent the wool and were in need of money, and who could 


not understand why the firm had not been able to sell a single 
pound of fine wool from July to December. Moreover, some 
customers had just grievances, for the letter-book contains far 
too many apologies for failure to acknowledge letters and 
shipments and to make out accurate accounts, for so young 
a firm. To one of the protestants, John Brown explained the 
situation thus: 31 

" 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 Steubenville [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 Tarriff 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 

At this convention Brown made his peace with the Ohio 
wool-growers who had shipped to him, but he did not find a 
means of checkmating the cloth manufacturers. He read to 
the convention a report on the best mode of making wools 
ready for market and kindred subjects. It was resolved that 
better care should be taken in preparing and washing the 
wools, that commission-house depots be appointed, East and 
West, for the sale of wools, Perkins & Brown to be the East- 
ern house, and a committee of five, of which John Brown was 
one, was appointed to obtain a foreign market for American 
wools. 32 The wicked manufacturers continued, however, to 
make trouble for the wool-growers and the commission house 
of Perkins & Brown, whose eventual retirement from the 
wool business is still laid at their doors. They did not wish 
the wool-growers to organize and unite ; but in all fairness to 
the manufacturers, the final failure should as well be shared 
by Perkins & Brown themselves. 33 For, though the Spring- 
field business continued in 1848 and 1849, as time passed it 
was evident that John Brown, wholly lacking as he was in a 
merchant's training, was not fitted for the work. He did not 


know how to trade, being far too rigid in his prices. He waited 
to make them until he had all his wool sorted ; then, when 
the prices were finally fixed, the manufacturers had bought 
elsewhere. It is related 34 that John Brown once declined 
sixty cents a pound for the firm's own splendid Saxony fleeces 
and insisted on shipping them to England for sale. The North- 
ampton, Massachusetts, manufacturer who made the offer 
bought this shipment in England, had it returned to Spring- 
field, and showed it in triumph to John Brown as having cost 
him in freight and all only fifty-two cents a pound, eight cents 
less than he had first offered for it. Brown had apparently 
put no restriction of price upon his London agent. 

The idea of checkmating the manufacturers by sales abroad 
continued to engross Brown, and he was finally able to carry 
out his idea of a trip taJEuropeJinj^49. He sailed August 15, 
1849, by the steamer CamBHaTarriving in London on the 27th, 
on a journey which afterwards played a great part in his dis- 
cussions of his military plans, for, aside from his business ven- 
ture, he was by this time particularly anxious to study some 
European fortifications. Finding on his arrival in London that 
no sales could be effected until the middle of September, he 
left for Paris on the 29th of August. Some of his first impres- 
sions of England are thus set down in a letter to his son : 35 

"England is a fine country, so far as I have seen; but nothing 
so very wonderful has yet appeared to me. Their farming and 
stone-masonry are very good ; cattle, generally more than middling 
good. Horses, as seen at Liverpool and London, and through the 
fine country betwixt these places, will bear no comparison with 
those of our Northern states, as they average. I am here told that 
I must go to the Park to see the fine horses of England, and I sup- 
pose I must ; for the streets of London and Liverpool do not ex- 
hibit half the display of fine horses as do those of our cities. But 
what I judge from more than anything is the numerous breeding 
mares and colts among the growers. Their hogs are generally good, 
and mutton-sheep are almost everywhere as fat as pork." 

Of the people and their institutions John Brown recorded 
no impressions in the letters of this period now extant. Nor 
is his entire Continental itinerary known. According to care- 
fully saved hotel bills, 36 he was in Calais on August 29 and 30, 
and in Hamburg on September 5. Between these two dates 


he was in Paris, going thence to Brussels, where he visited 
the battlefield of Waterloo on his way eastward. Various 
surmises have been made as to where the other eleven or 
twelve days between his visit to Hamburg and his return to 
London were spent, but there is no documentary evidence 
to prove the number of battlefields he visited, or that he 
actually penetrated in so brief a time into Switzerland and 
Northern Italy, as is sometimes alleged. As already stated, 
this short trip to the Continent played a great part in his later 
conversations, when he was called upon to defend the peculiar 
features, from the military point of view, of his Harper's Ferry 
plans. But obviously, no thorough military studies were pos- 
sible in so scant a time as John Brown had in Europe. 

He was in London again not later than September 17, when 
an auction sale of some of his wool took place that set the seal 
of disaster upon his business venture. The story was thus 
related to his son by the traveller: 37 

LONDON [Friday] 2ist Sept 1849 


I have nothing new to write excepting that I [am] still well & 
that on Monday last a lot of No. 2 wool was sold at the auction sale 
at * to 2} or i n other words at from .26 to .29 cents pr Ib. This 
is a bad sale, & I have withdrawn all other wools from the public 
sales. Since the other wools have been withdrawn I have discov- 
ered a much greater interest amongst the buyers, & I am in hopes 
to succeed better with the other wools but cannot say yet how it 
will prove on the whole. I have a great deal of stupid, obstinate, 
prejudice, to contend with as well as conflicting interests; both in 
this country, & from the United States. I can only say that I have 
exerted myself to the utmost ; & that if I cannot effect a better sale 
of the other wools privately; I shall start them back. I believe that 
not a pound of the No 2 wool was bought for the United States, 
& I learn that the general feeling is now; that it was quite under- 
sold. About 150 Bales were sold. I regret that so many were put 
up; but it cannot be helped now, for after wool has been subjected 
to a London examination for a public sale it is very much injured 
for selling again. The agent of Thirion Maillard & Co has been 
looking at them today, & seemed highly pleased, said he had never 
seen superior wools; & that he would see me again. We have not 
yet talked about price. I now think I shall begin to think of home 
quite in earnest at least in another fortnight possibly sooner. I do 
not think the sale made a full test of the opperation. 

Farewell Your Affectionate Father 



On October 5, Brown had again returned to London, after 
visiting "Leeds, Wortley, Branley, Bradford & other places," 
and wrote thus to his son John, Jr. : 38 " I expect to close up the 
sale of wool here today, & to be on my way home One week 
from today. . . . It is impossible to sell the wool for near its 
value compared with other wools, but I expect to do better 
some than in the first sale. I have at any rate done my utmost, 
& can do no more. I do not expect to write again before I 
leave. . . . My health is good but I have been in the midst 
of sickness and death." During this interval, too, John Brown 
visited in London the first of the long series of world's fairs, 
and took advantage of it to exhibit some of the beautiful 
Saxony wool he had brought with him. Long after his return 
to his home, he received a bronze medal which the wool judges 
awarded him for his exhibit. Here, too, must be recorded the 
story early recorded by Redpath, of the attempt of some 
English wool-merchants to play a trick on the rustic Yankee 
farmer who came to them with wool to sell, by handing him 
a sample and asking him what he would do with it: " His eyes 
and fingers were so good that he had only to touch it to know 
that it had not the minute hooks by which fibres of wool are 
attached to each other. 'Gentlemen,' said he, 'if you have 
any machinery that will work up dogs' hair, I would advise 
you to put this into it.' The jocose Briton had sheared a 
poodle and brought the hair in his pocket, but the laugh 
went against him ; and Captain Brown, in spite of some pecul- 
iarities of dress and manner, soon won the respect of all he 
met." It is also said that if given samples of Ohio and Ver- 
mont wool, he could readily distinguish them when blind- 
folded or in the dark. 

Apparently he was able to despatch his business about as 
he had hoped to, for he was in New York by the end of Octo- 
ber, bringing back the wool that he was unable to sell. The 
loss on this venture was probably as high as forty thousand 
dollars. 39 Not unnaturally this added neither to the standing 
nor the progress of the firm, and the skies were much dark- 
ened for the partners. Even before the trip to Europe, they 
had talked of giving up the business. Nearly a year later, 
John Brown thus described an interview with his financial 
backer and partner: 40 


BURGETTSTOWN PA I2th April 1850 


When at New York on my way here I called at Mess Fowlers 
& Wells office, but you were absent. Mr. Perkins has made me a 
visit here, & left for home yesterday. All well in Essex when I left. 
All well at Akron when he left one week since. Our meeting to- 
gether was one of the most cordial, & pleasant, I ever experienced. 
He met a full history of our difficulties, & probable losses without 
a frown on his countenance, or one sylable of reflection, but on the 
contrary with words of comfort, & encouragement. He is wholly 
averse to any seperation of our business or interests, & gave me 
the fullest assurance of his undiminished confidence, & personal 
regard. He expressed a strong desire to have our flock of sheep 
remain undivided to become the joint possession of our families 
when we have gone off the stage. Such a meeting I had not dared 
to expect, & I most heartily wish each of my family could have 
shared in the comfort of it. Mr. Perkins has in this whole business 
from first to last set an example worthy of a Philosopher, or of a 
Christian. I am meeting with a good deal of trouble from those 
to whom we have over advanced but feel nerved to face any diffi- 
culty while God continues me such a partner. Expect to be in New 
York within 3 or 4 weeks.* 

By November the firm's situation was much worse. "We 
have trouble," wrote John Brown to his son on the 4th of 
that month, 41 "with Pickersgills, McDonald, Jones, Warren, 
Burlington & Patterson & Ewing. These different claims 
amount to $40 M ; [$40,000] & if lost will leave me nice & flat. 
(This is in confidence.) Mr. Perkins bears the trouble a great 
deal better than I had feared. I have been trying to collect 
& am still trying." Just a month later, he informed his sons 
that the prospect for the fine-wool business was improving. 
"What burdens me most of all is the apprehension that Mr. 
Perkins expects of me in the way of bringing matters to a 
close what no living man can possibly bring about in a short 
time, and that he is getting out of patience and becoming 
distrustful. . . . He is a most noble-spirited man, to whom 
I feel most deeply indebted ; and no amount of money would 
atone to my feelings for the loss of confidence and cordiality 
on his part." That this loss did not come to pass is attested 
by a letter from Mr. Perkins's son, George T. Perkins, who 
writes: f " My father, Simon Perkins, was associated with Mr. 

* Signature missing. 

t To the author, from Akron, Ohio, December 26, 1908. 


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 imprac- 
tical in his business management, as he was in almost every- 
thing else, that the business was not a success and was dis- 
continued. Their relations were afterwards friendly." On 
the other side, the Browns felt that too much responsibility 
had been put upon their father. While most successful as a 
railroad man, Mr. Perkins was not as well fitted by experience 
and aptitude for the wool business. But despite John Brown's 
failures, he gave him one chance after another. "John Brown 
was, however, entirely obstinate, insisted always on having 
his own way, and at last Mr. Perkins broke the connection." 42 
The senior partner did not, moreover, share the junior's antip- 
athy to slavery. 

The final winding up of the firm's affairs lasted for some 
years, because of prolonged litigation growing out of the 
trouble with some of the houses and customers John Brown 
mentioned. Against one of them, Warren, his indignation 
was never checked. As late as April 16, 1858, he warned his 
family, when purchasing land from his daughter and son-in- 
law, against the possibility of trouble from creditors of Per- 
kins & Brown: 43 

" Since I wrote you, I have thought it possible; though not prob- 
able; that some persons might be disposed to hunt for any property 
I may be supposed to possess, on account of liabilities I incurred 
while concerned with Mr. Perkins. Such claims I ought not to pay 
if I had ever so much given me; for my service in Kansas. Most of 
you know that I gave up all I then had to Mr. Perkins while with 
him. ... I also think that . . . all the family had better decline 
saying anything about their land matters. Should any disturbance 
ever be made it will most likely come directly or indirectly through 
a scoundrel by the name of Warren who defrauded Mr. Perkins 
and I out of several thousand dollars." 

The trial of the Perkins & Brown suit against Warren took 
place in Troy, New York, late in January, 1852; from a re- 
port of John Brown to Mr. Perkins on the 26th of January, 44 
it looked as if the suit were going in the firm's favor. He did 
obtain a verdict in this lower court, only to have it appealed 
to a higher court, with the result, according to John Brown, 


that Warren was successful in his attempt to defraud the 
firm. A more serious suit was one brought against Perkins 
& Brown for no less than sixty thousand dollars damages, 
for breach of contract in supplying wool of certain grades 
to the Burlington Mills Company of Burlington, Vermont. It 
finally came to trial January 14, 1853, and after progressing 
somewhat it was settled out of court, his counsel deeming 
it wiser to compromise than to face a jury. 45 There were still 
other suits brought by or against the firm to vex John Brown 
during these years 1850 to 1854, and to add by their costli- 
ness and tedious delays to the financial losses. This was the 
unfortunate wind-up to John Brown's career as a wool-mer- 
chant. Thereafter he lived first on the products of his farm- 
ing in Ohio or in the Adirondacks, and then on gifts made to 
maintain him as a guerrilla leader in Kansas, or as a prospective 
invader of Virginia. From August, 1856, when he first re- 
turned from Kansas, until October, 1859, he was thus main- 
tained, without a regular business or regular labor of any 
kind, while part of his family obtained a penurious living 
in the Adirondacks, and the grown sons shared their father's 
poverty and hardships in Kansas or worked and farmed at 
intervals in Ohio, until the final disaster at Harper's Ferry. 
Although unable to impress others with his fitness as a busi- 
ness man, when he finally abandoned the career of a mer- 
chant for that of a warrior against slavery, he had so little 
difficulty in convincing friends and acquaintances of his abil- 
ity, usefulness and sagacity as a guerrilla chief and leader of 
a slave revolt, that he readily obtained thousands of dollars to 
maintain him and his followers during at least three years of 
their warring upon the South's cherished ownership of human 

It is only just to add that, while the financial losses of 
Perkins & Brown's mercantile business were heavy, Mr. Per- 
kins was not only willing to continue in the farming and 
sheep-raising part of it with Brown, but insisted on it until 
well into the spring of 1854. The last year of this phase of 
their joint enterprise was "quite successful." "We have 
great reason to be thankful," wrote John Brown in February, 
" that we have had so prosperous a year, and have terminated 
our connection with Mr. Perkins so comfortably and on such 


friendly terms." 46 Early in April, 1854, he again wrote: "I 
had a most comfortable time settling last year's business and 
dividing with Mr. Perkins and have to say of his dealings 
with me that he has shown himself to be every inch a gen- 
tleman." 47 The only drawback, in John Brown's mind, was 
his inability to move his family back to North Elba. This he 
had to put off for another year, during which he rented and 
worked three farms near Akron, meanwhile turning every- 
thing into cash that he could in preparation for the final 
settlement in his new home in the Adirondacks. 

For John Brown was content to stay neither in Akron nor 
anywhere else in Ohio. The residence of his family in Spring- 
field had lasted, all told, but two years, from 1847 to 1849; 
then the restlessness of his nature dictated another move. 
While in Springfield he occupied the house at number 31 
Franklin Street, where Frederick Douglass found him, and in 
which his daughter Ellen was born on May 20, 1848, only to 
die a year later in her sorely tried father's arms. Still another 
child, an infant son, he was yet to lose, the seventh of the 
thirteen children of his second marriage to die in childhood, 
while two more were destined to perish at Harper's Ferry 
before his eyes. It is still remembered that the parlor of this 
Springfield house was not furnished, that the money it would 
cost might be given to fugitive slaves. 48 Indeed, Springfield 
still abounds in anecdotes of the wool-dealer in whom, at the 
time of his residence there, no one saw any signs of greatness. 
The best known one concerns his attempt to prove that the 
hypnotism practised by La Roy Sunderland, a well-known 
hypnotist of this period, 1848 or 1849, was a fraud. So many 
garbled versions of this story have appeared from time to 
time that it is best to give it in Mr. Sunderland 's own words, 
as he described it on December 9, 1859 : 49 

"His conduct in one of my lectures on Pathetism, in Springfield, 
Mass., some twelve years since, has been referred to in the papers, 
lately. That occasion offered a grand opportunity for the exhibi- 
tion of his real character, as, at that time, he had not- engaged in 
the defence of Kansas, and he had had no personal encounters 
with Slavery. He had witnessed the surgical operation performed 
on a lady whom I had rendered insensible to pain, as she alleged, 
by Pathetism. This, with the other phenomena which he witnessed 
in my lectures, was beyond his comprehension; and so he arose one 


evening, and pronounced my lectures a humbug, and he offered to 
prove it, if I would only allow him to come upon my platform, 
and test the consciousness of one of my patients. To this proposal- 
I consented, on two conditions, namely, that his tests should not 
endanger the health of my patient; and this to be determined by 
the physicians of the town; and secondly, that Brown himself 
should submit to the same processes which he should inflict upon 
the entranced lady. To this he readily agreed, although it was 
quite evident that when he at first proposed his test he had no idea 
of going through with it himself. He had consulted a physician for a 
process which should, beyond all doubt, demonstrate the conscious- 
ness of pain, if any such consciousness existed in the lady who was 
entranced. And so the next night, Brown and his physicians were 
on hand, with a vial of concentrated ammonia and a quantity (q. s.) 
of dolichos pruriens (cowhage). This 'cow itch,' as it is sometimes 
called, is the sharp hair of a plant, and when applied to the skin, it acts 
mechanically for a long time, tormenting the sufferer like so many 
thistles or needles being constantly thrust into the nerves. No one, 
I am sure, would willingly consent to suffer the application of cow- 
hage to his body more than once. Brown bore it like a hero. But, 
then, he had the advantage of the entranced lady the skin of his 
neck looking like sole leather; it was tanned by the sun, and looked 
as if it was impervious. Not so, however, when the ammonia was 
held to his nose; for then, by a sudden jerk of his head, it became 
manifest that he could not, by his own volition, screw up his nervous 
system to endure what I had rendered a timid lady able to bear 
without any manifestation of pain. The infliction upon Brown was 
a terrible one, for he confessed, three days afterwards, that he had 
not been able to sleep at all since the cowhage was rubbed into his 
neck. In submitting himself to that test, the audience declared him 
'foolhardy,' as it proved nothing against the genuineness of my 
experiments. It would not follow, that because he could endure 
an extraordinary amount of physical pain, therefore another per- 
son could do the same. The degree of COURAGE manifested by 
John Brown made him the extraordinary man he was. ..." 

The church Brown attended while in Springfield was natu- 
rally the Zion Methodist, for it was formed by dissenters from 
an older church because of their anti-slavery views. John 
Brown found also a congenial friend in a Mr. Conkling, a 
clergyman, who later became estranged from his congregation 
by reason -of his Abolition opinions. 50 While John Brown 
himself never faltered in his religious faith, the backsliding 
of his sons disturbed him not a little, so that he wrote to them 
a number of pathetically earnest letters, endeavoring to recall 
them to the ways of godliness. It was characteristic of him 


that, strong as was his nature and intense as was his belief 
in the orthodox Congregational faith, this difference of reli- 
gious conviction never interfered with the affection which 
existed between father and sons. To some of his children he 
addressed the following letter on this subject while in Troy, 
New York: 51 

TROY, N. Y., 23 Jan. 1852 

I returned here on the evening of the I2th inst. and left Akron 
on the I4th, the date of your letter to John. I was very glad to 
hear from you again in that way, not having received anything from 
you while at home. I left all in usual health and as comfortable as 
could be expected; but am afflicted with you on account of your 
little Boy. Hope to hear by return mail that you are all well. As 
in this trouble you are only tasteing of a cup I have had to drink of 
deeply, and very often ; I need not tell how fully I can sympathize 
with you in your anxiety. My attachments to this world have been 
very strong, and Divine Providence has been cutting me loose one 
bond after another, up to the present time, but notwithstanding 
I have so much to remind me that all ties must soon be severed ; I 
am still clinging like those who have hardly taken a single lesson. I 
really hope some of my family may understand that this world is 
not the home of man; and act in accordance. Why may I not hope 
this of you? When I look forward as regards the religious prospects 
of my numerous family (the most of them) I am forced to say, and 
to feel too ; that I have little, very little to cheer. That this should 
be so, is I perfectly well understand, the legitimate fruit of my own 
planting; and that only increases my punishment. Some ten or 
twelve years ago I was cheered with the belief that my elder chil- 
dren had chosen the Lord to be their God; and I valued much on 
their influence and example in attoning for my deficiency and bad 
example with the younger children. But, where are we now? Sev- 
eral have gone to where neither a good or a bad example from me 
will better their condition or prospects, or make them the worse. 
The younger part of my children seem to be far less thoughtful and 
disposed to reflection than were my older children at their age. I 
will not dwell longer on this distressing subject but only say that 
so far as I have gone; it is from no disposition to reflect on anyone 
but myself. I think I can clearly discover where I wandered from 
the Road. How to now get on it with my family is beyond my abil- 
ity to see; or my courage to hope. God grant you thorough conver- 
sion from sin, and full purpose of heart to continue steadfast in his 
ways through the very short season of trial you will have to pass. 

How long we shall continue here is beyond our ability to foresee, 
but think it very probable that if you write us by return mail we 
shall get your letter. Something may possibly happen that may 


enable us, or one of us, to go and see you but do not look for us. I 
should feel it a great privilege if I could. We seem to be getting 
along well with our business, so far ; but progress miserably slow. 
My journeys back and forth this winter have been very tedious. 
If you find it difficult for you to pay for Douglas paper, I wish you 
would let me know as I know I took some liberty in ordering it con- 
tinued. You have been very kind in helping me and I do not mean 
to make myself a burden. 

Your Affectionate Father 


On the 6th of August of the same year he again took up the 
religious question with his son John in this fashion: 52 

AKRON, Ohio 6th Aug 1852 

One word in regard to the religious belief of yourself, & the ideas 
of several of my children. My affections are too deep rooted to be 
alienated from them, but 'my Grey Hairs must go down to the grave 
in sorrow,' unless the 'true God' forgive their denyal, & rejection 
of him, & open their Eyes. I am perfectly conscious that their ' Eyes 
are blinded' to the real Truth, & minds prejudiced by Hearts un- 
reconciled to their maker & judge; & that they have no right appre- 
ciation of his true character, nar of their Own. 'A deceived Heart 
hath turned them aside.' That God in infinite mercy for Christs 
sake may grant to you & Wealthy, & to my other Children 'Eyes 
to see ' is the most earnest and constant prayer of your Affectionate 


Just a year later, John Brown returned to the charge and 
spent a month writing a letter of pamphlet length, mostly 
composed of Scriptural quotations strung together. 53 "I do 
not feel 'estranged from my children,' " he wrote, "but I cannot 
flatter them, nor cry peace when there is no peace." He was 
particularly pained because, as he said of his younger sons: 
"After thorough and candid investigation they have discovered 
the Bible to be all a fiction ! Shall I add that a letter received 
from you sometime since gave me little else than pain and 
sorrow? 'The righteous shall hold on his way:' 'By and by 
he is offended." 

It was his all-impelling desire to help the colored people 
that led him early to plan for the removal of his family to the 
Adirondacks. Gerrit Smith, of Peterboro, had offered to give, 


on August I, 1846, no less than one hundred and twenty 
thousand acres of land of his vast patrimony in northern 
New York to worthy colored people, whom he aided in many 
other ways as well. 54 By April 8, 1848, John Brown had fully 
decided to settle his family in the midst of the negro colonists, 
in order to aid them by example and precept. He later visited 
his brother-in-law, Orson Day, who was then living in White- 
hall, New York, and from Mr. Day's home went on into the 
Adirondack wilderness as far as the little negro settlement 
of North Elba, where he became convinced that this was the 
place for him to settle. He was at once charmed with the 
superb scenery which has made this region of late such a 
highly prized summer resort. The great mountains appealed 
irresistibly to him, and the negro colony offered an opportu- 
nity for training men in the armed warfare against slavery 
which was now taking shape in his mind. Gerrit Smith, whom 
Brown had visited on April 8, 1848, before seeing North Elba, 
was greatly pleased at the prospect of having so sturdy and 
experienced a farmer settle on his land, and became forthwith 
a warm friend of his visitor from Springfield. 55 Thus began a 
relationship of enormous value to John Brown as the years 
passed, without which it is by no means certain that he could 
have obtained the "greatest or principal object" of his life to 
the extent he did. No one in the North was more earnest in 
his opposition to slavery than Gerrit Smith, and none could 
reinforce their opinions with such princely generosity, or gave 
as readily and as unselfishly. Chosen a member of Congress 
in 1852, as an independent candidate, Gerrit Smith had long 
been no mean figure in State politics. Indeed, in commenting 
on his going to Congress, Horace Greeley thus described Mr. 
Smith to his readers: 56 "We are heartily glad that Gerrit 
Smith is going to Washington. He is an honest, brave, kind- 
hearted Christian philanthropist, whose religion is not put 
aside with his Sunday cloak, but lasts him clear through the 
week. We think him very wrong in some of his notions of 
political economy, and quite mistaken in his ideas that the 
Constitution is inimical to slavery, and that injustice cannot 
be legalized ; but we heartily wish more such great, pure, loving 
souls could find their way into Congress. He will find his seat 
there anything but comfortable, but his presence there will do 


good, and the country will know him better and esteem him 
more highly than it has yet done." Of this philanthropist 
Brown purchased several farms, paying for them as rapidly as 
his circumstances permitted. 

The first removal of his family to North Elba or Timbucto, 
as it was called in its early days, occurred in the spring of 1849, 
the year of his European trip. As there was no home on his 
land and he could not himself reside much in North Elba, 
because of the necessity of carrying on the business in Spring- 
field, John Brown hired for two years the farm of a Mr. Flan- 
ders, on the road from Keene to Lake Placid. 57 It had a good 
barn on it, but only a tiny one-story house. " It is small," said 
Brown to his family, "but the main thing is all keep good 
natured." Some fine Devon cattle bought in Connecticut 
were driven to the new home by three sons, Owen, Watson and 
Salmon, and with these animals Brown won, in September, 
1850, a prize at the Essex County Fair by an exhibition of cat- 
tle which, according to the annual report of the exhibition so- 
ciety in control, "attracted great attention and added much 
to the interest of the fair." 88 He was able, also, to buy an ex- 
cellent pair of horses; the driver, Thomas Jefferson, a colored 
man, who at the same time moved his family from Troy to 
North Elba, was in Brown's employ until the first stay in this 
bleak mountain home came to an end. That Brown felt deeply 
his responsibility towards his negro neighbors appears from 
the following extract from a letter, one of many written to 
Willis A. Hodges, who was likewise active in settling negroes 
on the Smith lands: 59 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS. January 22, 1849. 

FRIEND HODGES DEAR SIR: Yours of the nth January reached 
me a day or two since. We are all glad to hear from you again and 
that you were getting along well with the exception of your own 
ill health. We hope to hear better news from you in regard to that 
the next we get from you. . . . 

Say to my colored friends with you that they will be no losers by 
keeping their patience a little about building lots. They can busy 
themselves in cutting plenty of hard wood and in getting any work 
they can find until spring, and they need not fear getting too much 
wood provided. Do not let anyone forget the vast importance of 
sustaining the very best character for honesty, truth, industry and 
faithfulness. I hope every one will be determined to not merely 


conduct as well as the whites, but to set them an example in all 
things. I am much pleased that your nephew has concluded to hang 
on like a man. 
With my best wishes for every one, I remain, 

Yours in truth 


P. S. I hear that all are getting through the winter middling well 
at Timbucto, for which I would praise the Lord. J. B. 

The original settlers were not particularly pleased at the 
arrival of so many colored people, and were reluctant at first 
to supply them with provisions, charging, when they did 
so, exorbitant prices. So rapidly were the new arrivals' 
means exhausted that there was some danger of famine. When 
John Brown came on the scene, he at once defended them 
against those who sought to injure them, saving to one col- 
ored man the farm of which he was being cheated. Seeing 
their destitution, he sought in every way to provide work 
for them, and on each Sabbath when he was there, he called 
the negroes together for instruction in the Scriptures. On 
October 25, 1848, before he had moved to North Elba, he 
bought five barrels of pork and five of flour, and shipped 
them to Mr. Hodges; the contents of at least four of these 
barrels were distributed among the needy colored at Tim- 
bucto. 60 But even with all of the supervision and aid John 
Brown and Hodges gave, these settlements were not a success. 
Beautiful as the region was and is, it is not a farming coun- 
try. To live required the most arduous labor in the brief 
summer season. There were few tourists to help out the set- 
tlers' income, and the cold, desolate and bleak winters bore 
heavily upon all, but particularly upon the negroes, many of 
whom were there by virtue of their having fled from slavery 
in the warm Southern States, where they had known hitherto 
no stimulus to labor save the lash. There were good common 
schools, and a church at which, in summer, visiting ministers 
of note preached. 61 But with all that, North Elba was a dreary 
and an inaccessible place, particularly in winter. On one occa- 
sion, strong as he was, John Brown nearly lost his life in the 
deep snow in endeavoring to walk in from Keene. "Before he 
came within several miles of home," so his daughter Ruth re- 
membered the story, 62 " he got so tired and lame that he had to 


sit down in the road. The snow was very deep and the road but 
little trodden. He got up again after a little while, went on as 
far as he could, and sat down once more. He walked a long 
distance in that way, and at last lay down with fatigue, in the 
deep snow beside the path, and thought he should get chilled 
there and die. While lying so, a man passed him on foot, but 
did not notice him. Father guessed the man thought he was 
drunk, or else did not see him. He lay there and rested a while 
and then started on again, though in great pain, and made out 
to reach the first house, Robert Scott's. ..." 

Shortly after the Brown family moved into the Flanders 
house at North Elba, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., of Boston, and 
two friends came to their home, June 27, 1849, in a state 
of utter exhaustion, having lost their way in the woods and 
been for twenty-four hours without food. They were kindly 
received and cared for. Fortunately, Mr. Dana kept an exten- 
sive diary, which enabled him in after years to publish the fol- 
lowing account from it of his impressions of the Brown family 
in the Adirondacks : 63 

"The place belonged to a man named Brown, originally from 
Berkshire in Massachusetts, a thin, sinewy, hard-favored, clear- 
headed, honest-minded man, who had spent all his days as a frontier 
farmer. On conversing with him, we found him well informed on 
most subjects, especially in the natural sciences. He had books, 
and had evidently made a diligent use of them. Having acquired 
some property, he was able to keep a good farm, and had confess- 
edly the best cattle and best farming utensils for miles around. 
His wife looked superior to the poor place they lived in, which was a 
cabin, with only four rooms. She appeared to be out of health. He 
seemed to have an unlimited family of children, from a cheerful, 
nice healthy woman of twenty or so, and a full sized red-haired son, 
who seemed to be foreman of the farm, through every grade of boy 
and girl to a couple that could hardly speak plain. . . . June 29, 
Friday After breakfast, started for home. . . . We stopped at 
the Browns' cabin on our way, and took affectionate leave of the 
family that had shown us so much kindness. We found them at 
breakfast, in the patriarchal style. Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their 
large family of children with the hired men and women, including 
three negroes, all at the table together. Their meal was neat, 
substantial, and wholesome." 

John Brown was at North Elba in January, 1851, soon after 
the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, which stirred him to 


the depths and had just led him to organize his Springfield 
Gileadites. He at once went around among his colored friends 
who were fugitives and urged them to resist the law at all costs. 
Men and women, he declared, should arm themselves and re- 
fuse to be taken alive. He told his children of this wicked bill, 
and commanded them to join in resisting any attempt that 
might be made to drag back into Southern chains their neigh- 
bors who had been slaves, and to give no thought to possible 
fines and imprisonment. "Our faithful boy, Cyrus," wrote 
Mrs. Ruth Brown Thompson afterwards, "was one of that 
class and it aroused our feelings so that we would all have 
defended him, if the women folks had had to resort to hot 
water. Father said 'Their cup of iniquity is almost full.' ' 

The reasons for John Brown's abandonment of North Elba 
in 1851, after only two years there, were the burden of the law- 
suits of Perkins & Brown, which kept him travelling about 
from one place to another, and the necessity of continuing in 
partnership with Mr. Perkins in the farming and sheep-raising 
side of their business. It was in March, 1851, that he again 
moved his family, now so accustomed to shifting its domicile, 
back to Akron, the sons driving overland the prize Devon cat- 
tle. 64 As we have seen, the partnership with Mr. Perkins could 
not be terminated as quickly thereafter as John Brown had 
hoped, and when it was, he was compelled to work the three 
hired farms for another year before he had accumulated suffi- 
cient money to move back to North Elba and to make possible 
his venture to Kansas. Throughout 1854 he was busily plan- 
ning for his removal to North Elba and for the purchase of an- 
other small farm there. The record-breaking drought of 1854 
ruined many farmers in Ohio, but he fared much better, accord- 
ing to a letter to his children of August 24, 1854, than most 
people. His two sons, Jason and Owen, were living on a large 
farm belonging to Mr. Perkins near Tallmadge; they with 
John Brown, Jr., had, as already stated, made up their minds 
to seek new homes in Kansas, in order to help stem the slave- 
power which, with the opening of that Territory by the Kan- 
sas and Nebraska act of May 30, 1854, was now seeking to 
make Kansas its own. On February 13, 1855, John Brown 
felt certain that he could get off to North Elba with his 
immediate family in March; to accomplish this purpose he 


was willing, if necessary, to sacrifice some of his Devon cat- 
tle. 65 Not until June, 1855, however, was he able to make the 

ROCKFORD ILL 4th June 1855 

I write just to say that I have finally sold my cattle without mak- 
ing much sacrifise; & expect to be on the way home Tomorrow. 
Oliver expects to remain behind & go to Kansas. After I get home 
I expect to set out with the family for North Elba as soon as we 
can get ready: & we may possibly get off this Week; but hardly 
think we can. I have heard nothing further as yet from the Boys 
at Kansas All were well at home a few days since. 

Your Affectionate Father 


When he and his charges finally arrived at North Elba, they 
moved into an unplastered four-room house, the rudest kind 
of a pioneer home, built for him by his son-in-law, Henry 
Thompson, who had married his daughter Ruth. Here the 
family still lived when the disaster at Harper's Ferry deprived 
it of its head and two of his most promising sons. But though 
John Brown was so attracted by North Elba as to buy three 
farms there, 67 and though the very pioneering aspect of the 
new life appealed to him, his restlessness left him no peace. 
He was now ready to abandon the field to which in the year 
before he had felt himself committed to operate, and to follow 
his sons to Kansas. So strong was the call to duty there that 
he was impelled to leave everything at North Elba, the un- 
completed house, the newly arrived family with no fixed means 
of support and the severest of winter climates to contend with, 
his activity among his colored neighbors, and his still unpaid 
debts in Ohio and elsewhere. Besides his sons, Owen, Oliver, 
Salmon, Frederick, Jason and John Brown, Jr., Henry Thomp- 
son, too, yielded to the desire to aid in carving out with axe 
and rifle Kansas's destiny. There remained at North Elba 
of the grown sons only Watson, then in his twentieth year, to 
aid their brave mother and home-keeper. But she was quite 
ready to fight cold and privation, if thereby her husband and 
sons could live up to what they as truly considered the call of 
duty as did their Revolutionary ancestor, who gave up his life 
in New York City, the appeal to arms in 1777. 


Thenceforth John Brown could give free rein to his Wander- 
lust; the shackles of business life dropped from him. He was 
now bowed and rapidly turning gray; to everyone's lips the ad- 
jective " old " leaped as they saw him. But his was not the age 
of senility, nor of weariness with life ; nor were the lines of care 
due solely to family and business^anxieties, or the hard labor of 
the fields. They were rather the marks of the fires consuming 
within ; of the indomitable purpose that, was the mainspring of 
every action; of a life devoted, a spirit inspired. Emancipa- 
tion from the counter and the harrow came joyfully to him at 
the time of life when most men begin to long for rest and the 
repose of a quiet, well-ordered home. Thenceforth he was free 
to move where he pleased, to devote every thought to his bat- 
tle with the slave-power he staggered, which then knew no- 
thing of his existence. 

The metamorphosis was now complete. The staid, sombre 
merchant and patriarchal family-head was ready to become 
Captain John Brown of Osawatomie, at the mere mention of 
whose name Border Ruffians and swashbuckling adherents 
of the institution of slavery trembled and often fled. Kansas 
gave John Brown the opportunity to test himself as a guerrilla- 
leader for which he had longed; for no other purpose did he 
proceed to the Territory ; to become a settler there, as he had 
hoped to in Virginia in 1840, was furthest from his thoughts. 
Leadership came readily to him; to those who fell under his 
sway, it seemed as natural that he should become the com- 
mander as that there should be a President in Washington. 
Even those who walked not in his ways respected him as a 
captain of grim determination, of iron will. Of no particular 
distinction as an executive in his business enterprises, he had 
somehow or other acquired in the home circle, in the marts 
of trade, in the quiet fields and woods, that something which 
makes some men as inevitably leaders as others are predes- 
tined to become satellites or lieutenants of those of stronger 
will, greater imagination and clearer prevision. Imagination 
our wool-merchant had, even if its range was not great; for 
when the hour came to act, he was on hand with his nerves 
under control, his head clear, his courage unbounded, ready 
to meet emergencies. Indeed, one may ask if he really had 
nerves, so complete was their subordination to the ego, to the 


will that forced its own way, either when it was a matter of 
convincing rebellious followers of the wisdom of the plan they 
revolted against, or of standing steadily on the scaffold trap- 
door to eternity. Yet this man was the product of piping 
times of peace; of the counting-room and the petty life of the 
rural follower of a trade, which are so widely supposed to 
weaken the fibre, attenuate the blood and develop the craven. 
The secret of this riddle lies not merely in the Puritan inher- 
itances of John Brown, nor in his iron will, nor in his ability 
to visualize himself and his men in a mountain stronghold of 
the Alleghenies. To all these powers of an intense nature were 
added the driving force of a mighty and unselfish purpose, 
and the readiness to devote life itself to the welfare of others. 
However one may dislike the methods he adopted or the 
views he held, here is, after all, the explanation of the forging 
of this rough, natural leader of men. "Why," said one of his 
abolition co-workers, who believed in very different means 
of attacking slavery, "it is the best investment for the soul's 
welfare possible to take hold of something that is righteous 
but unpopular. . . . It teaches us to know ourselves, to know 
what we are relying on, whether we love the praise of men, 
or the praise of God." The essentially ennobling feature of 
John Brown's career, that which enabled him to draw men 
to him as if by a magnet, was his willingness to suffer for 
others, in short, the straightforward unselfishness of the 

As John Brown left for Kansas, he turned once more 
to the members of his family and said: "If it is so painful 
for us to part with the hope of meeting again, how of poor 
slaves?" 68 


"Ir 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," thus it was that 
John Brown wrote to his son John on August 21, 1854.* The 
latter and his brothers had, as we have seen, grown restless 
in Ohio, where they then resided with but indifferent prospects 
for material success, particularly because of the great damage 
done by the drought of 1 854 ; 2 and the emigration of their 
uncle, the Rev. Samuel Lyle Adair, to Osawatomie, Kansas, 
had determined their settling in that locality. 3 To Kansas 
they would, however, have gone had he not preceded them, 
for their inherited antipathy to slavery made them earnest 
observers of the exciting political conditions resulting from 
the Kansas-Nebraska bill, which left to the settlers them- 
selves the decision whether slavery should or should not exist 
within those Territories. This abrogation of the Missouri 
Compromise of 1820, which had prohibited slavery north of 
36 30' north latitude, roused its enemies in the North to 
unwonted efforts. If, they reasoned, the South could thus 
abrogate a sacred agreement which had for thirty-four years 
prevented the growth of slavery toward the North, it might 
within a few years permit the extension of its favorite institu- 
tion to still other portions of the original Louisiana purchase 
acquired from France in 1803. Only seven years had then 
elapsed since the unholy war with Mexico had made possible 
the annexation of the great State of Texas and the other Terri- 
tories acquired by the peace treaty of 1848. That tremendous 
expansion to the south and southwest would, it was thought, 
satisfy the slaveholders for years to come. But the wasteful- 
ness and short-sightedness of their methods of cotton-culture, 
the uneconomic and shiftless character of slave labor itself, 
made the appetite for virgin lands insatiable. 


Moreover, Southern leaders were blind neither to the danger 
to their political supremacy involved in the carving of new 
free States out of the great West, whose possibilities were now 
beginning to be understood because of the rush to Califor- 
nia, nor to the peculiarly dangerous position of their outpost 
State, Missouri. 4 With Illinois on the east and Iowa on the 
north, if Kansas and Nebraska should become free territory, 
Missouri would be surrounded on three sides by Abolitionists, 
and the safety of her unpaid labor system would be gravely 
menaced. Since the popular indignation in the North had 
failed to prevent the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, 
for which forty-four Northern Democrats voted in the House 
and fourteen in the Senate, under the lead of Stephen A. 
Douglas, the North could revenge itself only by preventing 
the return to Washington of thirty-seven out of the forty- 
four Congressmen, 5 and by throwing itself heartily into the 
work of beating the South at its own game of colonization. 
By emigrant aid societies, by widespread appeals to the 
liberty-loving citizens of the North to settle Kansas, by mass 
meetings and public subscriptions to the funds raised to for- 
ward settlers in large parties to the new Territories, in a 
hundred different ways, some of the necessary thousands were 
induced to become a living bulwark to the extension of slav- 
ery. Fortunately for them, the propagandists were aided enor- 
mously by the rich character of the Kansas soil, the beauty 
of its prairies, the charm of its climate, and the promise of its 
streams. Had there been no question of slavery or freedom 
involved, there must have been the same prompt taking up 
of the public lands which has inevitably followed the throwing 
open of new territory to settlement. The sons of John Brown 
were no more unmoved by the "glowing accounts of the 
extraordinary fertility, healthfulness and beauty of the terri- 
tory of Kansas," than were thousands of others who sold off 
their homes in New York, Ohio and Illinois to better their 
fortunes beyond the Missouri River. To many of them, as to 
the Browns, the opportunity to help save Kansas from the 
curse of slavery was heartily welcome; to multitudes of others 
this was a subsidiary issue, which interested them but little 
until they suddenly found themselves in the maelstrom of 
Kansas political passions and compelled to take sides, what- 
ever their original opinions or desires. 


Owen, Frederick and Salmon Brown left Ohio for Kansas, 
all unsuspicious of the tragedies before them, in October, 1854, 
taking eleven head of cattle and three horses, their joint 
property, to Chicago by water, and driving them thence to 
Meridosia, Illinois. Here men and animals wintered until the 
arrival of spring made it possible for them to cross the Mis- 
souri. 6 On April 20, 1855, they entered Kansas, and on May 
7, Jason and John were also at Osawatomie, 7 having left Ohio 
with their families at the opening of navigation.* Theirs was 
a typical Kansas settler's journey; to hundreds of other 
Kansas home-seekers would John Brown, Jr.'s narrative of 
this migration read almost as if written of their own experi- 
ences after leaving St. Louis : 

"At this period there were no railroads west of St. Louis; our 
journey must be continued by boat on the Missouri at a time of 
extremely low water, or by stage at great expense. We chose the 
river route, taking passage on the steamer 'New Lucy,' which too 
late we found crowded with passengers, mostly men from the South 
bound for Kansas. That they were from the South was plainly in- 
dicated by their language and dress; while their drinking, profanity, 
and display of revolvers and bowie-knives, openly wearing them as 
an essential part of their make-up, clearly showed the class to which 
they belonged and that their mission was to aid in establishing 
slavery in Kansas. 

"A box of fruit-trees and grape-vines which my brother Jason 
had brought from Ohio, our plow and the few agricultural imple- 
ments 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. Then for the first time arose in our mind the query: Must 
the fertile prairies of Kansas, through a struggle at arms, be first 
secured to freedom before free men can sow and reap? If so, how 
poorly were we prepared for such work will be seen when I say that 
for arms for five of us brothers we had only two small squirrel rifles 
and one revolver. But before we reached our destination other 
matters claimed our attention. Cholera, which then prevailed to 
some extent at St. Louis, broke out among our passengers, a num- 
ber of whom died. Among these, Brother Jason's son, Austin, aged 
four years, the elder of his two children, fell a victim to this scourge, 
and while our boat lay by for repair of a broken rudder at Waverley, 
Mo., we buried him at night near that panic-stricken town, our 

* Mrs. Annie Brown Adams states that Salmon and Oliver Brown, as well as 
their father and Henry Thompson, went to Kansas only to fight, not to settle; 
the others were home-seekers. (See her letter of September 5, 1886, to the Kan- 
sas Historical Society.) 


lonely way illumined only^by the lightning of a furious thunder- 

"True to his spirit of hatred of Northern people, our captain, 
without warning to us on shore, cast off his lines and left us to make 
our way by stage to Kansas City, to which place we had already 
paid our fare by boat. Before we reached there, however, we be- 
came very hungry, and endeavored to buy food at various farm- 
houses on the way; but the occupants, judging from our speech 
that we were not from the South, always denied us, saying, 'We 
have nothing for you.' The only exception to this answer was at 
the stage-house at Independence, Mo. 

"Arrived in Kansas, her lovely prairies and wooded streams 
seemed to us indeed like a haven of rest. Here in prospect we saw 
our cattle increased to hundreds and possibly to thousands, fields 
of corn, orchards, and vineyards. At once we set about the work 
through which only our visions of prosperity could be realized. Our 
tents would suffice for shelter until we could plow our land, plant 
corn and other crops, fruit-trees, and vines, cut and secure us hay 
enough of the waving grass to supply our stock the coming winter." 8 

But if they were thus apparently bent on the occupations of 
peace, they were from the beginning keeping an eye out for 
the clash of arms. In his very first letter from the Territory 
to his father, dated " Brownsville," May 21, 1855, Salmon, 
while mentioning his "very pleasant trip through Missouri," 
added : 

"We saw some of the curses of slavery and they are many. . . . 
The boys have their feelings well worked up so that I think that 
they will fight, there is a great lack of arms here in Brownsville. 
I feel more like fight now than I ever did before and would be glad 
to go to Alabama." 

He reported further that he had no doubt of the success of 
their emigration, for they had as many as five good claims, 
had planted considerably and could already behold the first 
tender shoots pushing their way into the air. Their claims 
were eight miles from Osawatomie, on the very outskirts of 
which stood and yet stands the picturesque log-cabin which 
for nearly fifty years served as the homestead of the Adair 
family, and is still prized by them beyond all other earthly 
possessions. Here the Browns were certain of a hearty wel- 
come from their father's half-sister Florilla and her husband, 
the Rev. Mr. Adair. 

On May 20 and 24, John Brown, Jr., wrote a long, 


minutely detailed letter to his father, in which appear clearly 
the mixed motives that had led to the emigration. The char- 
acter of the country, the weather encountered, the planting 
operations and the implements in use are all set forth, as well 
as the low financial condition to which their frontier venture 
had already brought them, and their almost general satisfac- 
tion with the change: 9 

"... Salmon Fredk and Owen say that they never was in a coun- 
try that begun to please them as well. And I will say, that the 
present prospect for health, wealth, and usefulness much exceeds 
even my most sanguine anticipations. I know of no country where 
a poor man endowed with a share of common sense & with health, 
can get a start so easy. If we can succeed in making this a free State, 
a great work will be accomplished for mankind." 

But the really important part of the letter deals with the 
political impressions already acquired by the new settlers of 
four weeks' standing: 

"And now I come to the matter, that more than all else I intended 
should be the principal subject of this letter. I tell you the truth, 
when I say that while the interest of despotism has secured to its 
cause hundreds and thousands of the meanest and most desperate 
of men, armed to the teeth with Revolvers, Bowie Knives, Rifles 
& Cannon, while they are not only thoroughly organized, but 
under pay from Slave-holders the friends of freedom are not one 
fourth of them half armed, and as to Military Organization among 
them it no where exists in this territory unless they have recently 
done something in Lawrence. The result of this is that the people 
here exhibit the most abject and cowardly spirit, whenever their 
dearest rights are invaded and trampled down by the lawless bands 
of Miscreants which Missouri has ready at a moment's call to 
pour in upon them. This is the general effect upon the people here 
so far as I have noticed, there are a few, and but a few exceptions. 
Of course these foreign Scoundrels know what kind of 'Allies' they 
have to meet. They boast that they can obtain possession of the 
polls in any of our election precincts without having to fire a gun. 
I enclose a piece which I cut from a St. Louis paper named the St. 
Louis 'Republican;' it shows the spirit which moves them. Now 
Missouri is not alone in the undertaking to make this a Slave State. 
Every Slaveholding State from Virginia to Texas is furnishing men 
and money to fasten Slavery upon this glorious land, by means no 
matter how foul. . . . 

"Now the remedy we propose is, that the Anti slavery portion 
of the inhabitants should immediately, thoroughly arm and organize 


themselves in military companies. In order to effect this, some per- 
sons must begin and lead in the matter. Here are 5 men of us who 
are not only anxious to fully prepare, but are thoroughly deter- 
mined to fight. We can see no other way to meet the case. As in 
the language of the memorial lately signed by the people here and 
sent to Congress petitioning help, ' it is no longer a question of negro 
slavery, but it is the enslavement of ourselves.' 

"The General Government may be petitioned until the people 
here are grey, and no redress will be had so long as it makes slavery 
its paramount interest. We have among us 5, I Revolver, I Bowie 
Knife, I middling good Rifle I poor Rifle, I small pocket pistol 
and 2 slung shot. What we need in order to be thoroughly armed 
for each man, is I Colts large sized Revolver, I Allen & Thurbers' 
large sized Revolver manufactured at Worcester, Mass, I Minnie 
Rifle they are manufactured somewhere in Mass or Connecticut 
(Mr. Paine of Springfield would probably know) and I heavy Bowie 
Knife I think the Minnie Rifles are made so that a sword bayo- 
net may be attached. With these we could compete with men who 
even possessed Cannon. The real Minnie Rifle has a killing range 
almost equal to Cannon and of course is more easily handled, per- 
haps enough so to make up the difference. Now we want you to 
get for us these arms. We need them more than we do bread. Would 
not Gerrit Smith or someone, furnish the money and loan it to us 
for one, two or three years, for the purpose, until we can raise 
enough to refund it from the Free soil of Kanzas? ..." 

This appeal for arms John Brown could not have resisted 
had he desired to. He subsequently recorded that on the 
receipt of this letter he was "fully resolved to proceed at once 
to Kansas; and join his children." 10 The wish to "operate 
elsewhere" had disappeared early in 1855. Indeed, before the 
second detachment of his sons had started, he had begun to 
arrange his affairs so that he too might emigrate. On February 
13 he notified John W. Cook, of Wolcottville, Conn., of his 

"Since I saw you I have undertaken to direct the opperations of 
a Surveying, & exploring party, to be employed in Kansas for a 
considerable time perhaps for some Two or Three years; & I lack 
for time to make all my arrangements, & get on to the ground in 
season." n 

Labor as he might, he was not able to dispose of his cattle, 
wind up odds and ends of his business in Illinois, Ohio and 
New England, collect arms for his sons, take leave of his 
family at North Elba and start for the West, until the middle 


of August. On June 28 he was at Syracuse, attending a con- 
vention of anti-slavery men who called themselves Radical 
Political Abolitionists. Frederick Douglass, Gerrit Smith, 
Lewis Tappan and Samuel J. May were among the speakers, 
as well as John Brown, and the convention unanimously 
resolved that its members should do what they could to 
prevent the return of fugitives. There was, however, con- 
siderable difference of opinion in consequence of the proposal 
to raise money for John Brown, that he might collect arms 
for his sons. Douglass, of course, spoke earnestly in Brown's 
behalf. Others were unwilling to encourage violence, but, as 
Douglass afterwards reported : "The collection was taken up 
with much spirit, nevertheless; for Capt. Brown was present 
and spoke for himself; and when he spoke men believed in the 
man." 12 He received in all about sixty dollars in cash, twenty 
dollars being from Gerrit Smith, and five dollars from an old 
British Army officer, Charles Stuart. By April 24 he was able 
to ship from Springfield to Cleveland a box of firearms and 
flasks, which he subsequently picked up in Cleveland on his 
way West. 13 

Ex-Sheriff S. A. Lane, of Akron, testified, in an interview 
printed in the Akron Beacon-Journal of February I, 1898, 
that during his visit to Akron, on his way West in August, 
Brown held open meetings in one of the public halls of the 
village. Because of their interest in the Kansas crisis, and 
in the Browns, their former neighbors, the people were quickly 
roused by Brown's graphic words, and liberally contributed 
arms of all sorts, ammunition and clothing. Committees of 
aid were appointed, and Lane was deputed to accompany 
Brown in a canvass of the village shops and offices for contri- 
butions. Several cases of guns belonging to the State of Ohio, 
then being collected from the disbanded militia companies 
of Akron and Tallmadge, were "spirited away" to the same 
end. General Lucius V. Bierce later testified to his own gift 
of broadswords, the property of a defunct filibustering com- 
pany. On the 1 5th of August, Brown reported to those remain- 
ing at North Elba that he was leaving Cleveland via Hudson, 
and would have been off before had he not met with such suc- 
cess in obtaining "Guns Revolvers, Swords, Powder, Caps, 
& money, " that he thought it best to "detain a day or Two 


longer on that account." He had raised nearly two hundred 
dollars in that way in the two previous days, principally 
in arms and ammunition. 14 But the harvest being gathered, 
he and his son-in-law, Henry Thompson, arrived in Chicago 
August 18, after stopping at Cleveland and Detroit, where they 
met Oliver Brown and at once prepared for the overland jour- 
ney by buying a "nice young horse for which we paid here 
$120, but have so much load that we shall have to walk a good 
deal; enough probably, to give opportunity to supply our- 
selves with game. We have provided the most of what we need 
on our outward march " so Brown wrote to his " Dear Wife 
and Children; every one" on August 23, the day of leaving 
Chicago, with solemn injunctions to write often and to direct 
the letters to Oliver, since Oliver's name was "not so common 
as either Henry's or mine." 15 The heavily loaded one-horse 
wagon was in obedience to advice from John Brown, Jr., who 
opined that his father would find it just what he wanted in 
Kansas to carry on the business of surveying. Moreover, this 
method of reaching Osawatomie was, if the slowest, the best 
and cheapest way of travelling, particularly because the 
navigation of the Missouri River was, as the son put it, "a 
horrid business in a low stage of water which is a considerable 
portion of the year." 16 

Not that roughing it could discourage John Brown, as we 
know. There was found, after his capture in Virginia, in his 
papers, the beginnings of an autobiographical volume en- 
titled: ' A brief history of John Brown, otherwise (old B) and 
his family: as connected With Kansas ; By one who knows.' n 
This was composed early in August, 1858, for on the 9th 
of that month he wrote to his son John from Moneka, Kansas, 
asking that certain letters and other material be sent him 
for this book, which, had it been completed, would have been 
sold for "the benefit of the whole of my family, or to promote 
the cause of Freedom as may hereafter appear best for both 
objects." * 18 In this all too brief fragment, written in the third 
person, appears the story of his trip to Kansas, including 

* "I am certain," he added, "from the manner in which I have been pressed 
to narrate, and the greedy swallowing everywhere of what I have told, and com- 
plaints in the newspapers voluntarily made of my backwardness to gratify the 
public, that the book would find a ready sale." 


fresh assurance from his own pen that "with the exposures, 
privations, hardships, and wants, of pioneer life he was 
familiar; & thought he could benefit his Children and the 
new beginners from the older parts of the country and help 
them to shift." 

The nice, stout young horse had all he could do, so Brown 
records, to drag the load when he and his son and son-in-law 
left Chicago behind them. Hence, continues his own narra- 
tive, just cited: 

"Their progress was extremely slow; & just before getting into 
Missouri their horse got the distemper: after which for most of 
the journey they could only gain some Six to Eight miles in a day. 
This however gave them great opportunity for seeing & hearing 
in Missouri. Companies of armed men, and individuals were con- 
stantly passing and repassing Kansaswise continually boasting of 
what deeds of patriotism; & chivalry they had performed in Kansas; 
& of the still more mighty deeds they were yet to do. No man of 
them would blush when telling of their cruel treading down & ter- 
rifying of defenceless Free State men ; they seemed to take peculiar 
satisfaction in telling of the fine horses, & mules they had many 
of them killed in their numerous expeditions against the d d 
Abolitionists. The -coarse, vulgar, profane, jests, & the bloodthirsty 
brutual feelings to which they were giving vent continually would 
have been a most exquisite treat to Ears; and their general appear- 
ance to the Eys of the past and the present Administration. Of 
this there cannot be the slightest doubt or of the similiarly refined 
feeling amongst their truly Democratic supporters and the dough 
faces. Witness the rewards of such men as Clark and others. 

" On the way at Waverly Missouri he took up the body of his little 
grandson who had died of cholera . . . thinking it would afford 
some relief to the broken hearted Father and Mother they having 
been obliged to leave him amidst the ruffian-like people by whom 
(for the most part) they were themselves so inhumanly treated in 
their distress. The parents were almost frenzied with joy on being 
told that the body of their dear child was again with them. On his 
arrival at the place where his sons had located he found all the com- 
pany completely prostrate with sickness (Chill fever, and Fever 
and Ague) except the wife of John Jr and her little boy of some three 
years old. The strongest of all the five men scarcely able to bring 
in their Cows, cut their fuel, bring the water, and grind the little 
corn which with a little dried fruit they had left ; a very few Potatoes 
they had raised and a small supply of milk. ..." 

One picturesque and characteristic incident of the crossing 
of the enemy's territory John Brown himself did not record, 


since fate intervened here and prevented the addition of 
another word to what was to have been his first venture 
into literature. His son-in-law, Henry Thompson, relates that 
when they reached the Missouri River at Brunswick, Missouri, 
they set themselves down to await the ferry. There came to 
them an old man, frankly Missourian, frankly inquisitive after 
the manner of the frontier. "Where," said he, "are you go- 
ing?" "To Kansas," replied John Brown. "Where from?" 
asked the old man. " From New York," answered John Brown. 
" You won't live to get there." "We are prepared," said John 
Brown, "not to die alone." Before that spirit and that eagle 
eye, the old man quailed ; he turned and left. 19 

It was on October 6 that the advance guard of the car- 
avan reached the family settlement at Osawatomie. Brown 
himself, being very tired, did not cover the last mile or two 
until the next day. They arrived in an all but destitute con- 
dition, with but sixty cents between them, to find the little 
family settlement in great distress, not only because of the 
sickness already noted, but because of the absence of any 
shelter save tents. The bitterly cold and cutting winds, which 
did much to disillusionize so many of the emigrants, kept 
the Browns shivering over their little fires, and the exposure 
added to their ill-health. The crops that had been raised were 
not cared for; there was no meat, little sugar, and nothing 
to make bread with, save corn ground by great labor in a 
hand mill two miles off. 20 The men, enfeebled by the chills 
and ague which racked, sooner or later, all the new arrivals 
in Kansas, had lost their initiative and vigor, and needed the 
resolute sternness of the head of the family to stimulate them 
to new efforts. By postponing the building of cabins, they 
had been able to devote themselves to the crops; and the 
abundance of excellent corn, potatoes, pumpkins, squashes, 
melons, beans, etc., which had earlier constituted their fare, 
compensated them for most of the inconveniences they had 
been compelled to put up with, so wrote Mrs. John Brown, Jr., 
to her mother-in-law at North Elba. 21 

But the time had more than arrived when they should 
devote themselves to home-building. On October 25 there 
was the "hardest freezing" John Brown had ever witnessed 
south of North Elba at that season of the year, as he reported 


to his wife, in order that she should know, "in that misera- 
ble Frosty region" of North Elba, that "those here are not 
altogether in Paradise." 22 Indeed, nobody in Kansas that 
unusually cold winter of 1855-56 knew what comforts were. 
Had there been no political anxieties to vex them, the frightful 
hardships of pioneering and the acclimating sicknesses would 
have made that period truly dreadful to look back upon. 
While the Browns paid the penalty for living on low ground 
in a ravine and in tents, that first summer, their bitter experi- 
ence was yet vastly better than that of many another family. 
Starvation and death looked in at many a door where parents 
lay helpless, while famished children crawled the unbearded 
floors crying for food, shrieking with fear if any footstep 
approached, lest the comer be a Border Ruffian instead of a 
friend. For pure misery and heart-breaking suffering, these 
pioneer tales of Kansas in 1855-58 are not surpassed by any 
in the whole history of the winning of the West.* 

By November 2, Jason's and John's "shanties" were well 
advanced; by the 23d, their father reported these two fam- 
ilies so well sheltered that they would not suffer any more, 
and that he had made some progress in preparing another 
house, in the face of icy rains and freezing nights. "Still," 
wrote the indomitable directing spirit, "God has not 'for- 
saken us;' & we get 'day by day our dayly Bread;' & I wish 
we had a great deal more gratitude to mingle with our unde- 
served blessings." 23 One dread that had worried them prior 
to their departure from home proved unnecessary. "You 
recollect we used to talk a great deal about the Indians," 
wrote Mrs. John Brown, Jr., "and how much I feared them 

- they are the least of my troubles there is scarcely a day 
but they go along in sight of us in droves of from 30 to 40, 
sometimes more and sometimes less, and frequently four or 
five of them will come galloping up to see us; they have always 
treated us perfectly civil and I believe if we treat them the 

* See, for instance, Mrs. M. D. Colt, Went to Kansas, Watertown, New York, 
1862; Mrs. Sara T. L. Robinson's Kansas, its Interior and Exterior Life, Bos- 
ton, 1858; Thaddeus Hyatt's MS. Journal of Investigations in Kansas, 1856-57, 
Kansas Historical Society; Six Months in Kansas, by a Lady (Hannah Anderson 
Ropes), Boston, 1856; ' Memoir of Samuel Walker,' in Kansas Historical Society 
Collections, vol. 6, pp. 249-274; Three Years on the Kansas Border, by a Clergy- 
man of the Episcopal Church, New York, 1856. 


same they will do us no harm." 24 Her prophecy was a correct 
one. It was not the red but the white men of the border they 
had to fear. Terrified as they were when the first big band 
of Sacs and Foxes in war-paint surrounded their tents, whoop- 
ing and yelling, the Browns had the good sense to ground their 
arms, and the Indians did likewise. Thereafter both sides were 
great friends. John, Jr., went often to visit their old chief; 
once, when, in the following summer, the Indians came to call 
in numbers, they were "fought" with gifts of melons and 
green corn. "That," says Jason Brown, "was the nicest party 
I ever saw." 

John Brown, Jr., used to ask the old chief questions, as: 
"Why do you Sacs and Foxes not build houses and barns like 
the Ottawas and Chippewas? Why do you not have schools 
and churches like the Delawares and Shawnees? Why do you 
have no preachers and teachers?" And the chief replied in a 
staccato which summed up wonderfully the bitter, century- 
long frontier experience of his people: "We want no houses 
and barns. We want no schools and churches. We want no 
preachers and teachers. We bad enough now." 25 

The men really to be feared were not long in putting in 
appearance. A few days after the arrival of the Brown ad- 
vance guard in April, six or eight heavily armed Missourians 
rode up and inquired if any stray cattle had been seen in that 
neighborhood. On receiving a prompt negative, in the ver- 
nacular of the border they inquired how the newcomers were 
"on the goose." "We are Free State," was the answer, "and 
more than that, we are Abolitionists." The visitors rode away 
at once and, says Jason Brown, "from that moment we were 
marked for destruction. Before we had been in the Territory 
a month, we found we had to go armed and to be prepared 
to defend our lives." The leader of that band of Missourians 
might not have been allowed to ride away, had the outspoken 
Northerners before them realized the sinister part the Rev. 
Martin White was to play in their lives, if they could have 
dreamed that he was to shoot down one of their number in 
cold blood within a twelvemonth. 26 

It must be said, however, that the Browns were aggressive 
from the beginning. They not only nailed their colors to the 
mast and let all who would behold them, but they gave play 


to those feelings which, as Salmon reported, had been so well 
worked up in crossing Missouri. John Brown, Jr., Jason, 
Frederick and Owen eagerly attended Free State settlers' 
meetings, 27 and the first-named figured soon in the political 
history of the Territory. On the afternoon of Monday, June 
2 5 J 855, he was elected a vice-president of the Free State 
convention which, then in session at Lawrence, solemnly 
urged all the people of Kansas to throw away their differences 
and make the freedom of Kansas the sole issue. Its mem- 
bers called upon Free State representatives to resign from 
the bogus Shawnee Legislature chosen by Missouri votes, 
declared that the convention did not feel that its members 
should obey any laws of the Legislature's exacting, and finally 
resolved, with a spirit that must have gratified every Brown, 
''That in reply to the threats of war so frequently made in our 
neighbor state, our answer is, 'WE ARE READY.' " 28 Natu- 
rally, John Brown, Jr.'s participation in this expression of 
feeling he was a member of the committee on resolutions 
- did not improve his standing with his Southern neighbors, 
of whom a good many were soon to be free with their threats 
and boasts that they would drive off every Yankee. 29 But 
this did not deter him in the least from attending the radical 
Lawrence gathering of August 15, in which, according to the 
Herald of Freedom, he was a member of the steering, or busi- 
ness committee, nor from becoming a member of the first 
Territorial Executive Committee, an outgrowth of the Big 
Springs convention of September 5. 30 

When the fraudulent Pawnee Legislature convened, July 
2, 1855, it enacted, true to its lawless inception, a code of 
punishments for Free State men that must always rank as 
one of the foremost monuments of legislative tyranny and 
malevolence in the history of this country. Under that code 
no one conscientiously opposed to slavery, or who failed to 
admit the right of everybody to hold slaves, could serve as a 
juror; and the right to hold office was restricted to pro-slavery 
men. Five years at hard labor was to be the fate of any one 
introducing literature calculated to make a slave disorderly 
or dangerous or disaffected. Death itself was the penalty for 
raising a rebellion among slaves or supplying them with 
literature which advised them to rise or conspire against any 


citizen. The mere voicing of a belief that slavery was illegal 
in Kansas was made a grave crime, in the following words: 

"Sec. 12: If any free person, by speaking or writing, assert ormain- 
tain that persons have not the right to hold slaves in this Territory, 
print, publish, write, circulate, or cause to be introduced into the 
Territory, any book, paper, magazine, pamphlet or circular, con- 
taining any denial of the right of persons to hold slaves in this 
Territory, such persons shall be deemed guilty of felony, and pun- 
ished by imprisonment at hard labor for a term of not less than 
five years." 31 

This clause was obviously aimed at the New York Tribune 
and other anti-slavery journals, and was meant to be an 
effective padlock upon free speech. General J. H. String- 
fellow, a resident of Atchison and the Speaker of the House 
that passed this gag-law, boasted that it and other legislation 
"will be enforced to the very letter." 32 This challenge John 
Brown, Jr., promptly accepted. The code from which we 
have quoted became operative on September 15, 1855. What 
he did on that day, John Brown, Jr., recorded on the next in 
a letter to his mother: 

"Yesterday I told a man who I since learn has a slave here that 
no man had a right to hold a slave in Kansas, that I called on him 
to witness that I had broken this law and that I still intended to 
do so at all times and at all places, and further that if any officer 
should attempt to arrest me for a violation of this law and should 
put his vilainous hands on me, I would surely kill him so help me 
God. He made no reply but rode off. Nothing is now wanting 
but an attempt to enforce this Law with others of like import, which 
Gov. Shannon has declared he will do, and we shall have war here 
to the knife." 33 

"Perhaps," wrote Mrs. John Brown, Jr., to her brother-in- 
law, Watson, then at North Elba, "we shall all get shot for 
disobeying their beautiful laws, but you might as well die here 
in a good cause as freeze to death there." 34 The belligerent 
attitude of the men of her party might well have given her 
anxiety. It was as if they had intended from the first to make 
Osawatomie the storm centre of southeastern Kansas, and 
to bring down upon them the special attentions of the most 
radical men on the other side of the border, men of the type 
of General Stringfellow, a brother of B. F. Stringfellow, who 


declared on August 28, 1855, in his newspaper, the Squatter 
Sovereign, published at Atchison, Kansas, on the Missouri line: 

' ' We can tell the impertinent scoundrels of the [New York] Tribune 
that they may exhaust an ocean of ink, their Emigrant Aid Societies 
spend their millions and billions, their representatives in Congress 
spout their heretical theories till doomsday, and his excellency 
Franklin Pierce appoint abolitionist after free-soiler as governor, 
yet we will continue to tar and feather, drown, lynch and hang 
every white-livered abolitionist who dares to pollute our soil." 35 

With those and other threats ringing in their ears, the sons 
of John Brown unloaded the arms donated by friends of free 
Kansas in the East and hauled by that stout young horse 
across Illinois and Missouri, while John Brown himself sur- 
veyed the settlement of Osawatomie, whose name was hence- 
forth to be linked with his and thus obtain an imperishable 
place in American history, although his own stay in the simple 
frontier settlement was to be brief indeed, not eleven 
months in all. 

To Kansas John Brown came with no thought of settling. 
Surveying was to give him a livelihood while he remained, 
but he came to fight, prepared to battle along that Kansas- 
Missouri line for two or three years, by which time he felt 
the victory should be won, and he be free to assail slavery at 
another point. 36 The Kansas country delighted him. Indeed, 
he told his children that, if a younger man, he would certainly 
stay with them, but that so long as he had a good farm at 
North Elba, he felt that by common industry he could main- 
tain his wife and daughters there while his sons settled where 
fancy led them. 37 He went so far, on his arrival, as to think 
of taking a claim near his sons' settlement, but the battles 
and tragedies of the immediate future prevented his consider- 
ing the matter further. 38 In March, 1859, he wrote to John 
Teesdale that "it has been my deliberate judgment since 1855 
that the most ready and effectual way to retrieve Kansas 
would be to meddle directly with the peculiar institution." 
He arrived ready to grapple with it, to meet violence with 
violence, to do to the Border Ruffians what they were doing 
to Free Soilers. To accomplish this, he was ready to take from 
the pro-slavery men their chattels, whether living or immo- 
bile, and even their lives. 


Until well into the spring of 1855 the drift of affairs in 
Kansas had been wholly against the Free Soilers, despite the 
emigration from New England. 39 Bona fide Missouri settlers 
were naturally first in the field, by reason of their proximity 
to the newly opened lands, and were quicker in organizing, 
under the leadership of Atchison and of the Stringfellow 
brothers and their allies. They were on hand at the first elec- 
tion held in the Territory, November 29, 1854, for a delegate 
to Congress, and to their aid came hundreds of residents of 
Missouri, on horseback and in wagons, with guns, bowie- 
knives, revolvers and plenty of whiskey. Encamping near the 
polling places, 40 on election day, these visitors cast 1729 fraud- 
ulent votes 41 to the satisfaction of their leaders, thus electing 
the pro-slavery candidate, General J. W. Whitfield. Atchi- 
son, on November 6, had pointed out in a speech at Weston, 
Missouri, how easily the trick could be turned: "When you 
reside in one day's journey of the Territory, and when your 
peace, your quiet and your property depend upon your action, 
you can without an exertion send five hundred of your young 
men who will vote in favor of your institutions. Should each 
county in the State of Missouri only do its duty, the question 
will be decided quietly and peaceably at the ballot-box. If we 
are defeated, then Missouri and the other Southern States 
will have shown themselves recreant to their interests and 
will deserve their fate." 42 As it happened, "some of the lead- 
ing men of Missouri, comprising merchants, doctors and law- 
yers, were recognized among the ballot-box stuffers." Judges, 
too, were there, and the city attorney of St. Joseph. There 
was nothing concealed about the transaction. The coming 
of the Missourians was foretold by Free Soil correspond- 
ents. 43 When the visitors had closed the polls, they gayly 
shouted, "All aboard for Kansas City and Westport," and 
drove or rode away. 44 In one district, the seventh, seventy- 
five miles from the Missouri line, which had three months 
afterward only 53 voters according to the official census, - 
there were cast 604 votes. The Howard Committee * reported 
that fully 584 of these were illegal. 45 

* Authorized by the House of Representatives, March 19, 1856, to investigate 
the Kansas situation. It consisted of William A. Howard, of Michigan, John 
Sherman, of Ohio, and Mordecai Oliver, of Missouri. 


This invasion, curiously enough, was quite unnecessary 
to carry the day for Missouri, for the Free Soilers were then 
in a numerical minority to the bona fide Missouri settlers, as 
also when the official census was taken three months later, 
in February, 1855. 46 Indeed, for fully eight months after the 
opening of the Territory on July I, 1854, the Missourians 
bade fair to overrun Kansas. Moreover, at the time of the 
election, the Free Soilers were divided in their counsels, with- 
out recognized leaders or a definite policy, and took little inter- 
est in the voting, not one-half of them going to the polls. 47 But 
the appetite for illegal interference in a sister State grew with 
its indulgence. The victory of November 29 was proclaimed 
as a great and lasting triumph for the slavery forces. The 
Kansas Herald of Leavenworth announced that "the triumph 
of the pro-slavery party is complete and overwhelming, . . . 
Kansas is saved," 48 and its jubilation was echoed throughout 
Missouri. The St. Louis Pilot rejoiced "at this decisive result, 
as well on account of the success of General Whitfield, 
as that it will tend to quiet the fear and anxiety pervading 
the Western frontier, that this State would be flanked on the 
west with an unprincipled 'set of fanatics and negro-thieves, 
imported expressly to create annoyance, and disturb the social 
relations of the people of the frontier counties." 49 The friends 
of liberty in the East were correspondingly depressed. "We 
believe that there are at this hour four chances that Kansas 
will be a Slave State to one that she will be Free," wrote Hor- 
ace Greeley in the Tribune of December 7. In Washington it 
was generally thought that the South had possessed itself of 
Kansas, 50 even though the February, 1855, census showed that 
only 192 slaves had been taken into the Territory, in which 
there were also 151 free negroes. "Some of the Southern men 
coolly say they have taken Kansas so easily that they think 
it may be worth while to take Nebraska also," reported 
Greeley 's Washington correspondent on February 13, 1855. 

Naturally, in the East the November invasion was used by 
the Tribune and other backers of the Emigrant Aid Societies 
to stimulate recruiting for the Kansas holy war. 51 On the 
'other hand, the arrival of bands of New Englanders sent out 
by the Emigrant Aid Societies, the first of which reached Law- 
rence August i, i854, 52 na -d intensely inflamed the Missouri- 


ans, and continued to do so for the next two years. "Shall 
we allow such cut-throats and murderers, as the people of 
Massachusetts are, to settle in the territory adjoining our own 
state?" asked the Liberty Platform, a Missouri border news- 
paper, in June, 1854; and it answered its own question thus: 
"No! If popular opinion will not keep them back, we should 
see what virtue there is in the force of arms." 53 In August, 
on hearing of the arrival of the first Emigrant Aid party, the 
Platte County Argus declared that: "It is now time to sound 
the alarm. We know we speak the sentiments of some of the 
most distinguished statesmen of Missouri when we advise that 
counter-organizations be made both in Kansas and Missouri 
to thwart the reckless course of the Abolitionists. We must 
meet them at their own threshold and scourge them back 
to their covers of darkness. They have made the issue, and 
it is for us to meet and repel them." 54 To the Missourians 
in 1854 and later, their fellow countrymen from the historic 
Bay State appeared the scum of Northern cities, hired to vote, 
and not intending to settle Kansas in a normal way; "the 
lowest class of rowdies;" "the most unmitigated looking set 
of blackguards;" "hellish emigrants and paupers whose 
bellies are filled with beggars' food;" men of "black and 
poisonous hearts," 55 thus had one section of Americans 
been set against their brothers by the divine institution of 
slavery. "Riff-raff," "scoundrels" and "criminals" were 
mild adjectives applied to Eastern settlers, in whose eyes the 
Border Ruffians were an equally low and degraded set of 
beings, drunken bandits "armed to the teeth" and revelling 
in cruelty, in brief, fiends incarnate. "Rough, coarse, 
sneering, swaggering, dare-devil looking rascals as ever swung 
upon a gallows," was the way Dr. J. V. S. Smith, of Boston, 
characterized them. 56 

"Reader," asked William A. Phillips, the Kansas corre- 
spondent of the Tribune, "did you ever see a Border Ruffian? 
. . . Imagine a fellow, tall, slim, but athletic, with yellow 
complexion, hairy-faced, with a dirty flannel shirt, or red 
or blue, or green, a pair of common-place, but dark-colored 
pants, tucked into an uncertain altitude by a leather belt, in ' 
which a dirty-handled bowie-knife is stuck rather ostenta- 
tiously, an eye slightly whiskey-red, and teeth the color of a 


walnut. Such is your Border Ruffian of the lowest type." 
"In a representation," he added, "of the 'Forty Thieves,' 
they would have been invaluable, with their grim visages, 
their tipsy expression, and, above all, their oaths and unap- 
proachable swagger." 57 To Thomas H. Gladstone, a relative 
of the great statesman of that name, the Border Ruffians 
seemed to be "wearing the most savage looks and giving 
utterance to the most horrible imprecations and blasphemies. 
. . . Looking around at these groups of drunken, bellowing, 
blood-thirsty demons, who crowded around the bar of the 
house shouting for drink, or vented their furious noise on the 
levee without, I felt that all my former experiences of border 
men and Missourians bore faint comparison with the spec- 
tacle presented by the wretched crew, who appeared only the 
more terrifying from the darkness of the surrounding night." 58 
This of the men he met in Kansas City after they returned 
from the sacking of Lawrence in 1856. The earlier invaders 
of Kansas Mrs. Charles Robinson described as "rough, bru- 
tal-looking men, of most nondescript appearance ;" "bands of 
whiskey-drinking, degraded, foul-mouthed marauders." 59 

Undoubtedly their ranks did include the scum of the bor- 
der; that was inevitable. But, aside from their desire to foster 
slavery in Kansas, they had been easily convinced by their 
leaders that the coming by droves of New England Yankees 
actually menaced their homes, their wives and children, their 
property, human or otherwise. As soon as Kansas was sub- 
merged by the incoming tide of Abolition, the anti-slavery 
attack was to be directed against Missouri and Texas, and 
then the fall of slavery would be certain. Senator Atchison, 
in his speech at Weston which has already been cited, de- 
clared that "if we cannot do this [take Kansas], it is an omen 
that the institution of Slavery is to fail in this and the other 
Southern States." As late as July, 1856, the Charleston, S. C., 
Courier affirmed that: "Now, upon the proposition that the 
safety of the institution of Slavery in South Carolina is de- 
pendent upon its establishment in Kansas, there can be no 
rational doubt." "The touchstone of our political existence 
is Kansas that is the question," wrote the Washington cor- 
respondent of the Charleston Mercury, January 5, 1856, six 
months earlier. 60 For what other purpose could the Yankees 


be carrying arms, was asked after the election in 1855, when 
Charles Robinson succeeded, through his agent, George W. 
Deitzler, in obtaining Sharp's rifles from the officers of the 
Emigrant Aid Society in Boston, they being shipped to him 
labelled "Revised Statutes" and " Books." 61 

Elated as they were by their triumph at the polls in the first 
election, the Missourians were disposed to take no chances of 
defeat when the second one took place. This was called by 
the first Territorial Governor, Andrew H. Reeder, for March 
30, 1855, 62 and in preparing for it the Missouri pro-slavery 
men displayed that talent for rapid military organization 
which was so evident in the South in 1861. Since this elec- 
tion was for the choice of the first Territorial Legislature, its 
importance was far greater than the mere selection of a dele- 
gate to Congress. Both sides felt that whoever chose the Legis- 
lature settled the destiny both of the Territory and of the 
future State of Kansas as well. No one could accuse the Free 
Soilers of lacking interest this time. But they were still too 
young upon the soil, and had not suffered enough indigni- 
ties, to make them united for a common cause. Moreover, 
the winter of 1854-55 had been not only unusually mild, but 
politically quiet as well. 63 Hence the Missourians again car- 
ried everything before them when they invaded Kansas for 
the second time to deny to its citizens of Northern and 
Eastern origin the votes to which they were rightfully enti- 
tled. They came by companies, each assigned to its special 
field of activity, and overawed every election district save 
one. 64 One thousand men devoted their attention to Lawrence 
as the home of the most Abolitionists. 65 Some of these had 
belonged to the then disbanded Platte County, Missouri, 
"Self- Defensive Association," which by formal vote of its 
members was pledged to "bring to immediate punishment 
all Abolitionists," and to remove from Kansas Territory on 
demand of any citizen of that Territory, "any and all emi- 
grants who go there under the auspices of the Northern Emi- 
grant Associations." 66 The Blue Lodges, similar organizations 
for the protection of Missouri by making Kansas impossible 
to all save emigrants from the South, were well in evidence. 
Each wagon of the raiders bore the designation of an order 
or lodge. 67 What happened on March 30 was merely a repe- 


tition of November 29 on a larger and bolder and more flagrant 
scale. The violations of law and order, the stuffing of the 
ballot-boxes, the terrorizing of the Free Soilers, the expelling 
of Northern election officials, in brief, the subversion of the 
most precious of our free institutions was complete. The 
sacredness of the ballot was nowhere respected. Of the 6307 
votes cast, nearly five-sixths were those of the invaders. 68 
The thirty-nine men who were elected were all representatives 
of the South, with one exception. Seven of the pro-slavery men 
Governor Reeder unseated, not because of the frauds, but be- 
cause of technical flaws in their election. He later explained 
his not declaring more seats vacant, although he knew that 
the whole election was a fraud, by stating that no other com- 
plaints had been filed, and that he thus lacked official infor- 
mation, a valid technical excuse. Complaints were not 
readily made because the Missourians threatened with death 
any who might venture to file them. Indeed, the Governor 
deserves some credit for unseating those legislators he did. 
He rendered his decision in a room crowded by fourteen of 
his friends, all armed, and by the thirty-nine successful can- 
didates, veritable walking arsenals! 69 But no shooting oc- 
curred. The Missourians were well content with the dis- 
qualification of only seven of their number. Subsequently, 
they summarily ousted the seven Free Soilers legally elected 
to fill these vacancies, and the remaining Free Soil member 
promptly resigned. 70 The Legislature was thus pro-slavery 

It must not be thought that this high-handed outrage, 
which fairly set the North aflame with indignation, went 
without reprobation from the soberer elements in Missouri. 
The exultant Stringfellows and Atchisons represented the 
blood and thunder pro-slaveryites ; but there were other 
voices. To their credit be it recorded that the Parkville 
Luminary, Boonville Observer, Independence Messenger, Jef- 
ferson City Inquirer, Missouri Democrat, St. Louis Intelli- 
gencer, Columbia Statesman, Western Reporter, Glasgow Times, 
Fulton Telegraph, Paris Mercury and Hannibal Messenger 
spoke out bravely against the invasion of Kansas by mobs and 
the frauds at the polls. 71 For its conscientious scruples the 
Parkville Luminary promptly met an unmerited fate. It was 


completely destroyed on April 14, its plant being thrown into 
the river and its editors warned that, if found in town three 
weeks later, they would follow their type into the Missouri. 
If they moved to Kansas, the mob assured them, they would 
be followed and hanged wherever found. 72 If a citizens' meet- 
ing at Webster, Missouri, highly approved of this action and 
asserted that they had "no arguments against abolition papers 
but Missouri River, bonfire and hemp rope," 73 there were 
plenty of more conservative citizens. Unfortunately, they 
remained in the minority ; but to them appealed the argument 
that if the entire border population of Missouri were to move 
into Kansas, the injury to Missouri's progress and prosperity 
would be great. They felt, all the more as they were attached 
to their own homes, that upon the States farther South rested 
the duty of colonizing Kansas. 74 

The first Territorial Legislature, which so thoroughly mis- 
represented Kansas, met at Pawnee on July 2. After un- 
seating the Free Soil delegates and organizing, it adjourned 
to meet again at Shawnee on July 16. This change of location 
gave Governor Reeder the opportunity which he had been 
seeking. He had vetoed the removal bill, only to have it 
passed over his veto. 75 He then declared that the Legislature 
was no longer a legal body. In this contention he was not 
upheld by the Chief Justice of the Territory, S. D. Lecompte, 
the Associate Justice, Rush Elmore, and the United States 
District Attorney, A. J. Isacks, 76 and the Legislature there- 
after went its own way and had little to do with the Execu- 
tive. It did, however, petition President Pierce for Reeder's 
removal. Its messenger learned on his way that Reeder had 
been dismissed from office on July 28, ostensibly not because 
of the quarrel with the Legislature, but because of his specu- 
lations in Indian lands near Pawnee. 77 The underlying reason 
was, none the less, the pro-slavery party's hatred of him. 78 
As for his land speculations, he openly stated to the Howard 
Committee the circumstances connected therewith, and they 
have not been held to reflect on his character. 79 Governor 
Reeder at once became a valuable leader of the Kansas Free 
Soilers, being thus forcibly converted into an Abolitionist from 
a sympathizer with the Squatter Sovereignty policy, and was 
regarded in the East as a martyr to the Abolition cause, 


particularly after he was compelled to flee from Kansas in 
disguise, in May, 1856, never to return to that State. As for 
the Legislature, it spent July and August in authorizing a 
militia, appointing a full staff of pro-slavery military and civil 
officers, in establishing a complete code of laws for the gov- 
ernment of the Territory, based on the Missouri code, and 
in passing those extreme Black Laws which John Brown, Jr., 
was so quick to violate. On the last day of its session, the 
Speaker, General J. H. Stringfellow, offered a characteristic 
resolution, which was readily adopted: "It is the duty of the 
Proslavery Party, the Union men of Kansas Territory, to 
know but one issue, Slavery; and that any party making or 
attempting to make any other, is, and should be, held, as an 
ally of abolitionism and disunion." 80 For all this, no genuine 
attempt was made to enforce the Black Laws ; they were dead 
letters from the time of enactment. If they were intended to 
frighten off further emigration from free States, they failed 
miserably; if they were intended to terrorize those already in 
the Territory, they were an even more dismal failure. On the 
other hand, reprinted in pamphlet form and widely circulated 
throughout the North and East, the Black Laws added fuel 
to the already intense flame of Northern indignation, and 
became an unanswerable demonstration of the intolerance 
of the pro-slavery domination of Kansas and the lengths to 
which it would go. 

The Free State men, especially those in Lawrence, among 
whom Charles Robinson, the agent of the New England Emi- 
gration Society, and Martin F. Conway were beginning to 
stand out as leaders, as soon as they could calmly consider 
the situation, decided that the bogus Legislature and its laws 
must be repudiated. 81 It soon became their policy to call a 
Constitutional convention, frame a Constitution and then 
apply to Congress for admittance as a free State. As has 
already been pointed out, they were not united among them- 
selves. If there were ardent Abolitionists among them, there 
were also many who were unfriendly to the free negro, even 
when they wished slavery excluded from the Territory. The 
men who had settled Kansas represented every state of politi- 
cal belief, for the magnet of free land was all that had drawn 
many of them there. In the summer of 1855 they might 


roughly have been classed as moderates and radicals; there 
existed, too, considerable jealousy on the part of the other 
emigrants toward those New Englanders who came out under 
the auspices of the Emigrant Aid Societies. 82 The first of six 
conventions to meet in Lawrence on or before August 15, in 
order to repudiate the Legislature, was composed of citizens 
of that settlement. It assembled June 8 and decided to issue 
a call for a State convention, to be made up of five delegates 
from each of the eighteen election districts in Kansas. This 
convention was to have as its purpose the taking "into con- 
sideration the relation the people of this Territory bear to the 
Legislature about to convene at Pawnee." 83 It was to this 
gathering that John Brown, Jr., came on June 25, to help 
to draft the announcement that the Free State men answered 
"Ready" to the threats of war from Missouri. This conven- 
tion further resolved that it was in favor of making Kansas 
a free Territory and in consequence a free State. Finally, 
since the Pawnee Legislature "owed its existence to a com- 
bined system of fraud and force," the members of the conven- 
tion resolved that they were bound by no laws whatsoever 
of its creation. 84 

Two days later, June 27, James H. Lane made his first 
appearance in Kansas history as chairman of the abortive 
attempt to organize the National Democratic party in the 
Territory, this failure soon bringing Lane into the ranks of 
the Free Soilers. Unlike all the other conventions of this 
period, it in no wise attempted to repudiate the Legislature. 85 
The next gathering, that of July n, w T as attended by the 
expelled Free State members of the Legislature and other citi- 
zens. In it the conflict of opinion between radicals and mod- 
erates was very marked, the repudiation of the Legislature 
and the call for a mass meeting in Lawrence on August 14, 
to consider the government of the Territory, alone being 
unanimous. 86 The August 14 convention, in which Lane par- 
ticipated, turned out to be ready for a fairly radical stand. 
Dr. Charles Robinson was chairman of the committee on 
resolutions, which roundly denounced the bogus Legislature, 
repudiated its authority, and committed the Free State party 
to the forming of a State Constitution of their own with a view 
to admission to the Union, but provided no machinery by 


which this should be done. If the resolutions were radical, 
the net result was conservative. On the second day there was 
also adopted a call for a convention at Big Springs, to be held 
on September 5. Delegates to it were to be appointed at a 
meeting on August 25, and the purpose of these gatherings 
was to be left largely to what the hour might demand. 

Curiously, as if the specific relationship and purpose of 
these gatherings were not puzzling enough, a second conven- 
tion also met in Lawrence on August 15, while the first was 
still in session. This second body was presided over by Dr. 
A. Hunting, and comprised the radicals of the Free State 
party, some of whom, like Charles Robinson and M. F. Con- 
way, were actually members of both conventions. John 
Brown, Jr., was one of the committee on "business," which 
turned out to be a call for a constitutional gathering at Topeka 
on October 19, for the "speedy formation of a State consti- 
tution, with an intention of immediate application to be 
admitted as a State into the Union of the United States of 
America." The distinction between these two simultaneous 
conventions of August 15 may be stated thus: The first and 
larger one, of six hundred members, had as its aim the organi- 
zation of the Free State political party by means of the Big 
Springs convention ; the second and radical one looked to the 
immediate establishment of a Free State government, to be 
set up in opposition to the pro-slavery Legislature still sitting 
at the Shawnee Mission, and now presided over by the second 
Territorial Governor, Wilson Shannon, of Ohio, a Governor, 
in truth, to please the most violent Border Ruffian or pro- 
slavery agitator. 87 

Out of these numerous meetings came the Big Springs 
convention on September 5, which adopted a platform - 
the first one for the Free State party, and nominated ex- 
Governor Reeder as delegate to Congress. The platform was 
a great disappointment to the radical Abolitionists of the 
John Brown type, both in Kansas and New England, for 
while it resolved that slavery was a curse and that Kansas 
should be free, it announced that it would consent "to any 
fair and reasonable provision in regard to the slaves already 
in the Territory." More than that, it specifically voted that 
Kansas should be a free white State, and recorded itself as 


being in favor of "stringent laws excluding all negroes, bond 
and free, from the Territory." Indeed, as if to answer the 
Southern charge that the Free Soil citizens of Kansas were 
radical, no-union-with-slaveholders, anti-slavery men, the 
convention denounced attempts to interfere with slavery and 
slaves, and declared "that the stale and ridiculous charge of 
Abolitionism so industriously imputed to the Free State party 
. . . is without a shadow of truth to support it." 88 It is 
hardly surprising that to those men who, like the Browns, had 
come to Kansas to wage war with slavery, this policy of com- 
promise a last attempt to head off a violent conflict be- 
tween the two forces contending for control of the Territory 
should have smacked of the cowardly. Nor did the vigorous 
denunciation of the Shawnee Legislature in the resolutions 
passed by the convention mollify men of this type. Charles 
Stearns, the only Lawrence representative of the Liberator 
school of Abolitionists, denounced the proceedings with the 
vigor of language characteristic of that school, and was in turn 
reprobated as an impossible Garrisonian of the deepest dye. 
"All sterling anti-slavery men, here and elsewhere, cannot keep 
from spitting upon it [the platform]," wrote Stearns to the 
Kansas Free State of September 24, 1855, "and all pro-slavery 
people must, in their hearts, perfectly despise the base syco- 
phants who originated and adopted it." 89 In the East, Horace 
Greeley reluctantly accepted the platform in the following 
words: "Why free blacks should be excluded it is difficult to 
understand; but if Slavery can be kept out by a compromise 
of that sort, we shall not complain. An error of this character 
may be corrected; but let Slavery obtain a foothold there 
and it is not so easily removed." 90 

Doubtless when Lawrence was threatened with destruc- 
tion less than three months later, by the pro-slavery forces 
encamped on the Wakarusa River, Mr. Stearns cited their 
presence as proof that the Big Springs platform had utterly 
failed to mollify the hostile Missourians or to lessen their con- 
tempt for the Free Soilers, whom they still despised as arrant 
cowards. Certain it is that the trend of events speedily 
forced the Free State party itself into an entirely different 
attitude from that it sought to maintain at Big Springs. The 
anti-negro attitude of the party was, however, upheld at the 


Topeka convention, which met at Topeka on October 23 to 
form a Constitution in obedience to the decision of the earlier 
delegate convention of September 19 (ordered by the radical 
Lawrence convention of August 15). The Topeka Constitu- 
tional convention of thirty-four members, presided over by 
James H. Lane, consisted of four physicians, twelve lawyers, 
thirteen farmers, two merchants, two clergymen and one 
saddler; a majority favored the exclusion of free negroes, 
but finally decided to submit this question to the people. 91 
By 1287 ballots to 453, the voters of the Territory upheld 
the negro exclusion policy on December 15, and made it clear 
to the rest of the country that, if slavery in Kansas itself was 
opposed by the Free Soil party, it was not in the least due to 
any liking for negroes, or any desire to extend to those who 
were free the opportunities afforded by the opening of the 
Territory, or to any belief that the continuance of human 
bondage was inconsistent with American institutions. Three- 
fourths of the Free State settlers were in favor of a free white 
State, and the heaviest voting against the free negro was in 
Lawrence and Topeka. 92 Obviously, those who had come to 
Kansas with the purpose of opposing the extension of slavery 
were in a small minority, just as the scanty slave population 
shows either that few of the Missouri settlers came solely for 
slavery's sake, or else that, if they had such a purpose, they 
feared to bring their slaves with them. 93 

On the credit side of the record of the Big Springs conven- 
tion must be noted its denunciation of the bogus pro-slavery 
Legislature, its demand for the sacredness of the "great 
'American Birthright '-- the elective franchise," and its 
endorsement of the coming Topeka convention to consider 
the adoption of a Constitution. There was, moreover, a se- 
rious threat in one of its resolutions that there would be 
submission to the Legislature's laws no longer than the 
Territory's best interests required, when there would follow 
opposition "to a bloody issue as soon as we ascertain that 
peaceable remedies shall fail, and forcible resistance shall fur- 
nish any reasonable measure of success." 94 All of this threat- 
ening of fire and slaughter was placed not in the platform, 
but in the resolutions ; it was obviously an attempt at facing 
both ways, and as such is justified by men who subsequently 


became radical antagonists of all who favored slavery.* The 
convention also ignored the Legislature's action in appoint- 
ing October i as the day for the election of a Territorial dele- 
gate to the Thirty-fourth Congress, and fixed upon October 9 
as the proper day for this election ; the returns from this vot- 
ing were subsequently ordered turned over to the "Territorial 
Executive Committee," instead of to the Legislature. This 
"Executive Committee," also a creation of the Big Springs 
Convention, and the first Free State steering committee 
appointed by a delegate convention to take charge of Free 
State affairs, was headed by Charles Robinson as chairman, 
with Joel K. Goodin as secretary, and had among its twenty- 
one other members Martin F. Conway and John Brown, Jr. 95 
Finally, it was at this Big Springs meeting that James H. 
Lane first made his mark as a Kansas political leader; to his 
eloquence is attributed the saving of the convention from 
a dangerous split, in that he brought about its approval of 
the preliminary Constitutional convention at Topeka. 96 As to 
Lane's attitude on the negro, John Brown, Jr., has testified 
to Lane's saying in Lawrence, about this time: "So far as the 
rights of property are concerned I know no difference between 
the negro and a mule." 87 Later, however, Lane switched 
about on this as on other issues. 

The two elections for Territorial delegate took place as 
scheduled. At the pro-slavery one on October I , General J . W. 
Whitfield, who had represented Kansas in the national Legis- 
lature during the three months of the Thirty-third Congress 
remaining after his election on November 30, 1854, received 
2721 out of 2738 votes cast, the Free State men abstaining 
from the polls. The Howard Committee pronounced 857 of 
these votes illegal after only a partial examination of the 
returns. 98 Eight days later, with conditions reversed, Reeder 
received 2849 Free Soil votes. 99 His election was, of course, 
ignored by the Territorial Governor, Shannon. When Reeder 
and Whitfield both presented themselves at Washington, the 
latter was given his seat on February 4, 1856, only to be igno- 

* For instance, R. G. Elliott, who played an important part in the Big Springs 
Convention, declares that it faced "an important condition that had to be dealt 
with practically and with conciliatory discrimination." Kansas Historical 
Society Collections, vol. 8, p. 373. 


miniously ousted on August 4, 10 after the report of the How- 
ard Committee had been received by the House of Repre- 
sentatives.* The House could not, however, then bring itself 
to seating Reeder. But his appearance at Washington and 
his vigorous urging of his claims were the reason for the 
appointment of the Howard Committee. This was in itself a 
splendid triumph for the new policy of the Free State leaders 
and their plan of an organized political demand upon Congress 
for recognition. Not only are the majority and minority 
reports of the Howard Committee, with their voluminous 
sworn testimony, an invaluable record for the historian and 
the best source of information as to the period in Kansas 
history covered by its inquiry, but the publication of the 
results thereof made a profound impression upon the country 
at large, at a critical period in the Territory's history. 

From the double election for delegates in October, 1855, 
dates that duality in the political life of the strife-torn Terri- 
tory which lasted for two years thereafter, and adds so much 
to the perplexity of the cursory student of Kansas history 
prior to its statehood. It is not only that there were hence- 
forth two governments, but that they were supported by 
factions bitterly hostile even to the extent of bloodshed. 
There were always separate elections for the same offices at 
separate places, with the double machinery of counting and 
proclaiming the returns, and there was even a duality of man- 
agement on the Free Soil side. The supplemental Topeka 
Constitutional convention met, as determined by the prelim- 
inary one of September 19, on October 23, and remained 
in session until November n. The Constitution it adopted 
followed closely those of the other free States, providing 
that there should be no slavery, and that no indenture of 
any negro or mulatto made elsewhere should be valid within 
the State. It fixed March 4, 1856, as the day for the meeting 
of the General Assembly called for by the document. 101 This 
was submitted to the people on December 15 and ratified by 
a vote of 1731 for, to 46 against. The poll-books at Leaven- 
worth having been destroyed by a pro-slavery mob, its vote is 

* The Howard Committee reported that both Whitfield's and Reeder's elec- 
tions were illegal, but that Reeder had received more votes of resident citizens 
than Whitfield. See Howard Report, p. 67. 


not recorded in the above total. 102 Thereafter the Free Soil 
forces insisted that Kansas was an organized free State, when 
demanding its admission into the Union. The convention, 
before adjourning, appointed another Free State Executive 
Committee, with the same secretary as had the Robinson 
Committee, Joel K. Goodin, but with Lane, already a serious 
rival of Charles Robinson, as its chairman, and five other 
members. Lane, therefore, emerged from the Topeka con- 
vention with additional prestige and thoroughly committed 
to the Free State policies. 

Out of all the meetings and conventions of the nine months 
after the stolen March 30 election, there had come, then, great 
gains to the Free State movement. The liberty party had 
been organized, leaders had been developed, and a regular 
policy of resistance by legal and constitutional measures 
adopted. If counsels of compromise were still entirely too 
apparent and too potent, the train of events which resulted 
in Kansas's admission as a free State was well under way. 
Not unnaturally, the pro-slavery leaders at first regarded this 
growing opposition with amusement or contempt. They were 
still convinced in October, 1855, that Kansas was theirs by 
right of their larger battalions and by right of conquest. 
Moreover, Governor Shannon, with all his authority, was on 
their side, and behind him the Federal Government. The 
adoption of the Topeka constitution did, however, arouse 
their anger; to this their answer was the organization in 
November of their own party, which, with unconscious irony, 
they dubbed the " Law-and-Order Party," at a meeting over 
which Governor Shannon presided. 103 Indeed, as their hitherto 
triumphal overriding of Kansas began to meet a more and 
more compact resistance, their mood began to change. The 
leaders were quick to feel their power slipping from their 
hands, particularly when, the first rush from Missouri being 
over, the steady stream of emigration from the East made it 
evident that they were being outnumbered. Their followers, 
also, began to get out of hand; from overawing by a show 
of force, it was easy to proceed to actual physical violence 
in the hope of terrifying the hated Free Soiler or of driving 
him from the Territory. The temptation to crime was all 
the greater since there was no non-partisan judicial machin- 


ery, and often no machinery at all outside of the Federal 
judiciary. 104 

The Howard Committee found that, of all the crimes testi- 
fied to during its sessions, an indictment had been found in 
but one case. 106 In that, the man charged with murder was 
a Free Soiler, Cole McCrea by name, who had killed a pro- 
slavery man, Malcolm Clark, at Leavenworth, on April 30, 
1855, in a quarrel over certain trust lands and McCrea's right 
to participate in and vote in a squatter's meeting. The first 
of the long series of homicides which was to make of the Ter- 
ritory in very truth a "bleeding Kansas," was not a political 
one. It occurred near Lawrence on the first election day, 
November 30, 1854, Henry Davis, a Border Ruffian from 
Kentucky, being killed by Lucius Kibbey, of Iowa. Davis, in 
an intoxicated condition, had assailed Kibbey with a knife. 106 
Such an election-day crime might easily have occurred any- 
where. The killing of Clark, 107 in the following spring, be- 
came, on the other hand, of marked political significance, 
because of the treatment of his slayer, McCrea. The latter 
was imprisoned at Leavenworth until late in November. The 
injustice of his case lay in the court's denying to McCrea his 
counsel, James H. Lane, because the latter would not take 
the oath of allegiance to the pro-slavery Legislature, and in 
McCrea's subsequent treatment, on September 17, when he 
was brought before the grand jury of nineteen men sum- 
moned by Chief Justice Lecompte and picked by him. Sixteen 
were openly selected and three in private ; one of the nineteen 
had been engaged with Clark in the attack on McCrea. For 
a whole week Justice Lecompte endeavored to induce the jury 
to indict McCrea, but in vain; the evidence was too strongly 
in favor of McCrea for even this picked jury to find a true 
bill against him. As the foreman refused to bring in a verdict 
of "not found," Justice Lecompte adjourned the court until 
the second Monday of November, when McCrea was finally 
indicted, after having been illegally deprived of liberty during 
the intervening period. When, in November, he was able to 
make his escape from jail and leave the Territory by way of 
Lawrence, the inability of its citizens to offer him protection 
added greatly to their stress of mind. The whole episode of 
McCrea's confinement had roused the indignation of the Free 


Sellers everywhere, convinced as they were that McCrea 
had shot in self-defence. 108 

Even more stirring to the friends of liberty was the ill- 
treatment of William Phillips, an active Free State lawyer 
of Leavenworth, and a friend of Cole McCrea's, who was 
present when Clark was killed. Phillips received notice on 
April 30, from the pro-slavery vigilance committee appointed 
on that date, to leave the Territory. On his refusal to go or 
to sign a written agreement that he would leave Kansas, a 
majority of the committee, so one of its members testified, 
"voted to tar and feather him. The committee could get no 
tar and feathers this side of Rial to; and we took him up there 
and feathered him a little above Rialto, Missouri." 109 This 
witness forgot to add that one side of Phillips's head was 
shaved ; that after his clothes were stripped from him and the 
tar applied, he was ridden on a rail for a mile and a half, and 
then sold for one dollar by a negro auctioneer at the behest 
of his tormentors. A public meeting at Leavenworth on May 
19 heartily endorsed this treatment of "William Phillips, the 
moral perjurer." no The next day the Leavenworth Herald 
said of the mob's work: "The joy, exultation and glorification 
produced by it in our community are unparalleled." This out- 
rage failed to daunt Phillips's courage ; he stayed in Kansas, 
only to die later at the hands of his pro-slavery enemies. As 
John Brown was leaving Ohio for Kansas, a similar experience 
befell the Rev. Pardee Butler at Atchison. His pro-slavery 
fellow citizens, on August 16, placed him on a raft and shipped 
him down the Missouri, throwing stones at him and his 
queer craft as the current bore him away. His forehead 
was ornamented with the letter R; and the flags on his raft 
bore the inscriptions, " Greeley to the rescue, I have a nigger; " 
"Eastern Aid Express;" and "'Rev. Mr. Butler,' agent to 
the Underground Railroad." m The Squatter Sovereign, the 
Stringfellow newspaper, notified all the world that "the same 
punishment we will award to all free-soilers, abolitionists and 
their emissaries." In fact, one J. W. B. Kelly had already 
encountered the hatred of the pro-slavery leaders, for in the 
first week of August he was severely thrashed and ordered 
out of town for holding Abolition views. 112 Yet Butler re- 
turned to Atchison, as Phillips did to Leavenworth, only to 


meet a graver fate. Another clergyman, the Rev. William C. 
Clark, was assaulted on a Missouri river steamer in Septem- 
ber, for avowing Free State beliefs that seemed to his assail- 
ants to call for physical punishment. 113 

As John Brown crossed the boundary between Missouri 
and Kansas, on October 4, these outrages were still agitating 
the Territory and causing men everywhere to arm. That the 
pro-slavery election of October I had passed off peacefully, 
although fraudulently, had reassured no one; within five days 
the Free Soilers were to hold their own election and thus 
begin a Free Kansas governmental structure. Would their 
lawless Border Ruffian neighbors permit this without addi- 
tional bloodshed and violence? Many a Free Soil settler who 
had found his way into Kansas only in the face of outspoken 
Missouri hostility, enduring privation if not starvation on the 
way, because of his being a Yankee,* envied the little Brown 
colony their rich supply of arms and ammunition. Upon 
John Brown, the apostle of the sword of Gideon, and his mili- 
tant sons, outspoken in their defiance of slavery and its laws, 
each separate crime by a Missourian made a deep and last- 
ing impression. Without loss of time their settlement was to 
become known on both sides of the border as a centre of 
violent resistance to all who wished to see human slavery 
introduced into the Territory. Indeed, three days after his 
arrival at his destination, October 9, he and his sons went to 
the election for a Free State delegate "most thoroughly armed 
(except Jason, who was too feeble) but no enemy appeared," 
so John Brown wrote his wife on October 14, adding, "nor 
have I heard of any disturbance in any part of the Terri- 
tory." 114 The spirit of the Massachusetts minute-men was 
alive in Kansas. 

* For instance, Samuel Walker, later a leading citizen of Lawrence, was not 
allowed, in April 1855, to take his little girl, who was suffering from a broken 
leg, into the house of a Baptist minister living on the Missouri border, because 
he came from the North. Not until he reached the Shawnee nation could he, a 
Yankee, get shelter at night for his injured child; food was obtained only at night 
and from slaves. Kansas Historical Collections, vol. 6, p. 253. 


FORTUNATELY, the Brown minute-men were not called upon 
for active service for a few weeks after the arrival of their 
arms, so that home-building could progress with some rapid- 
ity, if one can really give the name of home to a shed open in 
front, its roof of poles covered by long shingles, and its three 
sides formed of bundles of long prairie grass pressed close 
between upright stakes. Such a shanty sheltered John Brown, 
Jr., his wife and some of the others, until late in February, 
1856 ; while Jason's mansion during that period consisted only 
of log walls and a roof of cotton sheeting. It had some advan- 
tages, however, for Mrs. Jason Brown wrote, on November 
2 5> l &55i that "the little house we live in now has no floor in 
it, but has quite a good chimney in so that I can cook a meal 
without smoking my eyes almost out of my head." l The per- 
manent house-building was rendered slow and difficult by the 
enfeeblement of two of the new arrivals, for Henry Thomp- 
son and Oliver Brown succumbed to the prevailing ague in 
November, and had not recovered by the end of the month. 2 
Nor had Jason when, late in November, there came the first 
real call to arms of the Brown settlement, to which its poverty- 
stricken owners had given at various times three names, 
Brown's Station, Brownsville and Fairfield. Not one of them 
has survived, and the last, from the beginning a misnomer, 
was particularly so in November, 1855, not only because of 
the exceptionally cold and bleak Kansas winter, but also 
because of the reports of new and alarming crimes of which 
Free State men were the victims. 

The killings began in earnest on October 25, at Doniphan, 
a town near Atchison, when Samuel Collins, owner of a saw- 
mill at Doniphan, was shot by a pro-slavery man, Patrick 
Laughlin by name, for political reasons. Laughlin, having 
betrayed a secret Free Soil society known as the "Kansas 
Legion," of which he had for a time been a member, was de- 


nounced by Collins for his action. Like Montagues and Capu- 
lets, they met armed the next morning, with friends or rela- 
tions about them. When the fight was over, Collins lay dead; 
Laughlin, seriously wounded, recovered and lived on in Atchi- 
son, no effort being made to indict or punish him. 3 If there 
was possibly room for doubt as to whether Collins or Laugh- 
lin assumed the offensive, there was none whatever in the 
case of Charles Dow, a young Free State man from Ohio, who 
was shot from behind and cruelly murdered near Hickory 
Point, Douglas County, by Franklin N. Coleman, of Virginia, 
a pro-slavery settler. This killing was due to a quarrel over 
Coleman's cutting timber on Dow's claim, and was, therefore, 
in its origin non-political. Yet out of it, too, came alarming 
political consequences. After attending a Free Soil settlers' 
meeting, called November 26 to protest against the crime 
and to bring the murderer to justice, Jacob Branson, the Free 
State man with whom Dow had been living, was arrested 
that same night by the pro-slavery sheriff, Samuel J. Jones, 
who resided at Westport, Missouri. Jones was postmaster of 
Westport while also sheriff of Douglas County, Kansas, and 
as will be seen, the gravest menace to the peace of the little 
Lawrence community. The pro-slavery warrants upon which 
Jones arrested Branson charged him with making threats and 
with breaches of the peace. As Sheriff Jones and his posse, 
which had then shrunk to fifteen men, neared Blanton's 
Bridge with their prisoner, after having spent two hours 
carousing at a house on the road, a party of fifteen Free State 
men headed by Samuel N. Wood, of Lawrence, stopped them 
with levelled guns. In the parley which followed, Branson 
went over to his rescuers, who absolutely refused to recognize 
the authority of Sheriff Jones, and told him that the only Jones 
they knew was the postmaster at Westport. The rescuing 
party reached Lawrence with Branson before dawn ; 4 there 
it was at once recognized that the rescue would give the pro- 
slavery men precisely the excuse they needed for an attack 
upon the town. To an excited meeting of citizens held that 
evening, Branson related his story. His auditors were, how- 
ever, calm enough to decline all responsibility for the affair 
in the name of Lawrence. Realizing that this action would 
probably avail them but little, a Committee of Safety was 


organized to form the citizens into guards and to put the town 
into a position of defence. 6 

Meanwhile, Sheriff Jones, after first despatching a messen- 
ger to his own State, Missouri, for aid, appealed on advice 
of others to the Governor of Kansas, who might naturally be 
expected to have a greater interest in the affair than any one 
in Missouri. 6 Governor Shannon's interest was soon suffi- 
ciently aroused for him to issue to the murderer, three days 
after the crime, a commission as justice of the peace. 7 Being 
also of a confiding nature, he was thus doubly prepared to 
believe the exaggerated statements made to him by Sheriff 
Jones, who declared that he must have no less than three thou- 
sand men forthwith in order to carry out the laws, 8 as the Gov- 
ernor might consider an "open rebellion" as having already 
commenced, this as a result of the rescue of a single prisoner, 
in which not a shot was fired. But the Free State men having 
destroyed three cabins, those of Coleman and two settlers 
named Hargus and Buckley, and thereby frightened some 
pro-slavery families into returning to Missouri, Jones was 
easily able to make Governor Shannon think that an armed 
band had burnt a number of homes, destroyed personal 
property, and turned whole families out of doors. 9 The Gov- 
ernor at once ordered Major-General William P. Richardson 
and Adjutant-General H. J. Strickler, of the newly organized 
pro-slavery militia, to repair to Lecompton with as large forces 
as they could raise, and report to Sheriff Jones to aid him 
in the execution of any legal process in his hands. 10 This was 
the beginning of the so-called "Wakarusa War." 

Thus the Branson rescue gave the extreme pro-slavery men 
the opportunity they had been looking for to mass their forces 
against Lawrence. But it is also probably true that, as Sheriff 
Jones declared later in an affidavit, he would have met with 
violence had he attempted to serve any warrant in that town 
where the citizens, armed with the much dreaded Sharp's 
rifles, were daily drilling, and were outspoken in their refusal 
to obey any of the laws enacted by the Pawnee Legislature. 
Governor Shannon, being sworn to enforce the laws of the Ter- 
ritory, had no other course open to him than to give aid to 
Jones. But his pro-slavery feelings led him to swallow every 
statement made to him by Jones. In the number of men he 


called together, his willingness to have Missourians figure as 
Kansas militia, and his readiness to assume that there was 
a serious "rebellion" in Lawrence despite the assertions of 
its citizens, he again showed his bias. Moreover, he cannot 
altogether escape the charge of duplicity, for, while he never 
modified his orders of November 27 to his generals, he wrote 
to President Pierce the next day that the sheriff had called 
on him for more troops than were really needed, that "five to 
eight hundred men" would be enough. If his excuse for this 
inconsistency is his belief that his generals could not raise 
more than five or six hundred men, instead of the three thou- 
sand Jones asked for, he certainly did not make it plain to 
the citizens of Kansas that he wanted the smaller number. 
Again, while he subsequently testified that he had never 
dreamed that any one would go to Missouri for men to rein- 
force Jones, he made not the slightest effort to reprove any one 
for having done so, or to send back those citizens of Missouri 
who were there in the belief that he had summoned them. 
True, he wrote to Pierce that the reinforcing of Jones by 
sufficient citizens of the Territory to enable him to execute 
his processes "is the great object to be accomplished, to avoid 
the dreadful evils of civil war." u But he lifted no finger to 
prevent when there swarmed into Kansas the same men who 
had already invaded Kansas three times in order to stuff or 
steal the ballot-boxes, and were now only too happy to encamp 
near Lawrence with guns in their hands under the sanction 
of the government. His subsequent defence that after the 
arrival of the Missourians he deemed it best "to mitigate an 
evil which it was impossible to suppress, by bringing under 
military control these irregular and excited forces," 12 reads 
oddly enough. He did beg help of Pierce, and did try his best 
to call out the United States troops under Colonel E. V. Sum- 
ner at Fort Leavenworth, to aid him in preventing an attack 
on the citizens of Lawrence, who he had at the same time de- 
clared could best be subdued by citizens of Kansas reinforcing 
Sheriff Jones! In other words, he now asked Colonel Sumner 
to protect Lawrence from Jones and his men. But Sumner 

Altogether, Governor Shannon claimed, two hundred and 
fifty Kansas militia rendezvoused near Franklin on the Waka- 


rusa, a small tributary of the Kansas River, south of Lawrence. 
But this statement rests on his assertion alone; most students 
of this period agree that not many more than fifty Kansans 
joined Major-General Richardson and Adjutant-General 
Strickler. 13 Of the Missourians, the first company to appear 
at Franklin and go into camp as Kansas militia was one of 
fifty men from Westport, Missouri. At Liberty and Lexing- 
ton, Missouri, two hundred men with three pieces of artillery 
and one thousand stand of arms were quickly brought to- 
gether and sent into Kansas. 14 Brigadier-General Lucien J. 
Eastin, commander of the Second Brigade of Kansas Militia, 
was also editor of the Leavenworth Herald, and with the aid 
of his presses not only ordered his own "brigade" to assem- 
ble at Leavenworth on December I , but circulated the follow- 
ing appeal throughout the Missouri border counties: 


It is expected that every lover of Law and Order will rally at 
Leavenworth, on Saturday Dec. 1 , 1855, prepared to march at once to 
the scene of the rebellion, to put down the outlaws of Douglas County, 
who are committing depredations upon persons and property, burn- 
ing down houses and declaring open hostility to the laws, and have 
forcibly rescued a prisoner from the Sheriff. Come one, come all! 
The laws must be executed. The outlaws, it is said, are armed to 
the teeth and number 1000 men. Every man should bring his rifle 
and ammunition and it would be well to bring two or three days' 
provisions. Every man to his post, and do his duty. 15 

Many Citizens. 

A letter purporting to come from Daniel Woodson, the Sec- 
retary of the Territory, urging Eastin to call out the Platte 
County, Missouri, Rifle Company, "as our neighbors are 
always ready to help us," and adding "do not implicate the 
Governor whatever you do," was subsequently denounced 
to the Howard Committee as a forgery by Mr. Woodson 
when under oath. 16 It did much, however, to infuriate the 
Kansans, and was effectively used in the East as proof of 
Shannon's and Woodson's betrayal of Kansas. The highest 
estimate of those who assembled to besiege Lawrence is one 
by Sheriff Jones of eighteen hundred ; it is generally believed 
that twelve hundred is the more accurate figure. 17 Atchison 


was, of course, conspicuous in urging on the invasion. Speak- 
ing at Platte City on December I, in his usual bombastic 
style, he said : 18 

" Fellow Citizens : We have done our duty. We have done nothing 
but our duty. Not you not me but those that have gone into 
Kansas to aid Governor Shannon to sustain the law and put down 
rebellion and insurrection. 250 men are now on the march and 
probably 500 more will go from the County of Platte. Why are you 
not with them you and you? I wish that I was with them at 
their head. ..." 

In St. Louis, on the other hand, the Intelligencer, on Decem- 
ber i, took a very different view of Missouri's duty from that 
of Atchison : 

"... The people of Missouri are not the ones to be called on to 
back up the miserable political puppets that Frank Pierce shall 
send out from the Eastern States to play the fool and introduce 
bloodshed and anarchy in Kansas. Now, let Pierce reap the fruits 
of his imbecility. Let not the people of Missouri, by any urgent 
appeal or cunning device, be drawn into the internal feuds of Kan- 
sas. It looks very much as if there were a preconcerted effort to 
do this very thing. ... It does seem to us that one of the devil's 
own choicest humbugs is exploding in the call on Missouri for 

Naturally, this hastily gathered together "army" lacked 
cohesion and discipline ; according to anti-slavery descriptions, 
its members were far gone in drink and supported themselves 
by pillaging the neighborhood. Andreas, the most reliable of 
Kansas historians, states that they were in the "delirium 
coming from exposure, lack of food, and plentiful supplies of 
strong drink," and this is the tenor of all contemporary Free 
Soil accounts. 19 In the Lexington, Mo., Express of December 
7, on the other hand, two citizens of that town reported, after 
having visited the pro-slavery forces, that all the men were 
"comfortably fixed, with plenty of provisions and all were in 
high spirits and anxious for a fray. . . . The arrangements 
were good, and the most perfect order and decorum were 
preserved at all times. The sale of liquor was prohibited." 
Some of the weapons of this "noble and gallant set of fellows" 
were proved before the Howard Committee to have been 
stolen from the United States Arsenal at Liberty, Mo., which 


arms the Border Ruffians, with surprising carelessness, failed 
to return when the Wakarusa "war" was over. 20 

The citizens of Lawrence, on hearing of the coming of the 
Missourians, were content neither with sending away Branson 
and his rescuers, nor with organizing their citizens as guards, 
nor with fortifying the town and smuggling a howitzer from the 
North through the enemy's lines. A general call was sent out 
in all directions to Free State men in Kansas to come to the 
rescue of Lawrence. 21 The settlers rallied in response, arriving 
alone and in squads, on foot, on horseback and in wagons, regu- 
larly armed companies coming from Bloomington, Palmyra, 
Ottawa Creek and Topeka. Naturally, it was the opportunity 
for which the Brown minute-men had been longing. It was 
not until December 6, however, that authentic news reached 
them of what was going on, and that their aid was asked. 
John Brown, Jr., was on the way to Lawrence on horseback 
to ascertain the facts, when the runner who was summoning 
the countryside met him. What happened then, John Brown 
himself described to his wife and children at North Elba in 
a long letter dated December 16, 1855: 

"On getting this last news it was at once agreed to break up at 
Johns Camp & take Wealthy, & Jonny to Jason's camp (some Two 
Miles off) ; & that all the men but Henry, Jason & Oliver should 
at once set off for Lawrence under Arms ; those Three being wholly 
unfit for duty. We then set about providing a little Corn-Bread; 
& Meat, Blankets, Cooking utensils, running Bullets & loading all 
our Guns, Pistols etc. The Five set off in the Afternoon, & after 
a short rest in the Night (which was quite dark), continued our 
march untill after daylight next Morning when we got our Break- 
fast, started again; & reached Lawrence in the Forenoon, all of us 
more or less lamed by our tramp. On reaching the place we found 
that negotiations had commenced between Gov. Shannon (haveing 
a force of some Fifteen or Sixteen Hundred men) & the principal 
leaders of the Free-State men ; they having a force of some Five 
Hundred men at that time. These were busy Night & day fortify- 
ing the Town with Embankments ; & circular Earthworks up to the 
time of the Treaty with the Gov, as an attack was constantly looked 
for; notwithstanding the negotiations then pending. This state of 
things continued from Friday until Sunday Evening. On the Even- 
ing we left a company of the invaders of from Fifteen to Twenty- 
five attacked some Three or Four Free-State men, mostly unarmed, 
killing a Mr. Barber from Ohio wholly unarmed. His boddy was 
afterward brought in; & lay for some days in the room afterward 


occupied by a part of the company to wh we belong; (it being 
organized after we reached Lawrence.) The building was a large 
unfinished Stone Hotel; in which a great part of the Volunteers 
were quartered ; & who witnessed the scene of bringing in the Wife 
& other friends of the murdered man. I will only say of this scene 
that it was Heart-rending; & calculated to exasperate the men ex- 
ceedingly; & one of the sure results of Civil War. After frequently 
calling on the leaders of the Free-State men to come & have an 
interview with him, by Gov. Shannon; & after as often getting for 
an answer that if he had any business to transact with anyone in 
Lawrence, to come & attend to it; he signified his wish to come into 
the Town; & an escort was sent to the Invaders' Camp to conduct 
him in. When there the leading Free-State men finding out his 
weakness, frailty & consciousness of the awkward circumstances 
into which he had really got himself; took advantage of his Coward- 
ice, & Folly; & by means of that & the free use of Whiskey; & some 
Trickery; succeeded in getting a written arangement with him 
much to their own liking. He stipulated with them to order the pro- 
slavery men of Kansas home; & to proclaim to the Missouri invaders 
that they must quit the Territory without delay ; and also to give up 
Gen. Pomeroy a prisoner in their camp; which was all done; he also 
recognizing the Volunteers as the Militia of Kansas, & empowering 
their Officers to call them out whenever in their discretion the safety 
of Lawrence or other portions of the territory might require it to be 
done. He Gov. Shannon gave up all pretension of further attemp 
to enforce the enactments of the Bogus Legislature, & retired sub- 
ject to the derision & scoffs of the Free-State men (into whose hands 
he had committed the welfare & protection of Kansas); & to the 
pity of some; & the curses of others of the invading force. So ended 
this last Kansas invasion the Missourians returning with flying 
Colors, after incuring heavy expences; suffering great exposure, 
hardships, & privations, not having fought any Battles, Burned 
or destroyed any infant towns or Abolition Presses; leaving the 
Free-State men organized & armed, & in full possession of the Ter- 
ritory; not having fulfilled any of all their dreadful threatening^, 
except to murder One unarmed man; & to commit some Roberies 
& waste of propperty upon defenceless families, unfortunately in 
their power. We learn by their papers they boast of a great vic- 
tory over the Abolitionists; & well they may. Free-State men 
have only hereafter to retain the footing they have gained; and 
Kansas is free. Yesterday the people passed uppon the Free-State 
constitution. The result, though not yet known, no one doubts. One 
little circumstance connected with our own number showing a little 
of the true character of those invaders: On our way about Three 
Miles from Lawrence we had to pass a bridge (with our Arms & 
Amunition) of which the invaders held possession ; but as the Five 
had each a Gun, with Two large Revblvers in a Belt (exposed to 
view) with a Third in his Pocket ; & as we moved directly on to the 


Bridge without making any halt, they for some reason suffered 
us to pass without interruption ; notwithstanding there were some 
Fifteen to Twenty-five (as variously reported) stationed in a Log- 
House at one end of the Bridge. We could not count them. A Boy 
on our approach ran & gave them notice. Five others of our Com- 
pany, well armed; who followed us some Miles behind, met with 
equally civil treatment the same day. After we left to go to Law- 
rence until we returned when disbanded ; I did not see the least sign 
of cowardice or want of self-possession exhibited by any volunteer 
of the Eleven companies who constituted the Free-State force & I 
never expect again to see an equal number of such well-behaved, 
cool, determined men; fully as I believe sustaining the high char- 
acter of the Revolutionary Fathers ; but enough of this as we intend 
to send you a paper giving a more full account of the affair. We 
have cause for gratitude in that we all returned safe, & well, with 
the exception of hard Colds; and found those left behind rather 

it oo 

improving. ' 

It would be hard to add anything to this admirable summary 
of the close of the Wakarusa " war." That it was temperate 
and did not overemphasize the part played by the Missouri- 
ans appears from the opinion of John Sherman and William 
A. Howard, of the Howard Committee, who affirmed that: 

"Among the many acts of lawless violence which it has been the 
duty of your Committee to investigate, this invasion of Lawrence is 
the most defenceless. A comparison of the facts proven with the 
official statements of the officers of the government will show how 
groundless were the pretexts which gave rise to it. A community in 
which no crime had been committed by any of its members, against 
none of whom had a warrant been issued or a complaint made, who 
had resisted no process in the hands of a real or pretended officer, 
was threatened with destruction in the name of 'law and order,' 
and that, too, by men who marched from a neighboring State with 
arms obtained by force and who at every stage of their progress vio- 
lated many laws, and among others the Constitution of the United 

"The chief guilt must rest on Samuel J. Jones. His character is 
illustrated by his language at Lecompton, when peace was made. 
He said Major Clark and Burns both claimed the credit of killing 
that damned abolitionist, (Barber) and he did n't know which ought 
to have it. If Shannon hadn't been a damned old fool, peace would 
never have been declared. He would have wiped Lawrence out. 
He had men and means enough to do it." 23 

John Brown's company 'comprised others than himself and 
his four sons, Frederick, Owen, Salmon and John, Jr., and was 


well named the "Liberty Guards." He himself received here 
for the first time the historic title of Captain, and the original 
muster roll of his company, still preserved, gives the facts as 
to its composition and service: 24 

"Muster Roll of Capt. John Brown's Company in the Fifth Regi- 
ment, First Brigade of Kansas Volunteers, commanded by Col. 
Geo. W. Smith, called into the service of the people of Kansas to 
defend the City of Lawrence, in the Territory of Kansas from 
threatened demolition by foreign invaders. Enrolled at Osawatomie 
K. T. Called into the service from the 2yth day of November, A. D. 
1855, when mustered, to the I2th day of December, when discharged. 
Service, 16 days. Miles travelled each way, 50. Allowance to each 
for use of horse $24. 

"Remark One keg of powder and eight pounds of lead were 
furnished by William Partridge and were used in the service." 


John Brown sen. Capt. 

Wm. W. Up De Graff 

Henry H. Williams 

Jas. J. Holbrook 

Ephraim Reynolds 

R. W. Wood 

Frederic Brown 

John Yelton 

Henry Alderman 

H. Harrison Up De Graff 

Dan'l W. Collis 

Wm. Partridge 

Amos D Alderman 

Owen Brown 

Salmon Brown 

John Brown, jr. 

Francis Brennen 

Wm. W. Coine 

Benj. L. Cochren 

Jeremiah Harrison 





























This muster roll was certified to as correct "on honor" by 
George W. Smith, Colonel commanding the Fifth Regiment 
Kansas Volunteers, but it will be noted that it gives the Lib- 
erty Guards credit for at least nine days more service than 
they were entitled to according to John Brown's own story. 
So does the honorable discharge of John Brown, Jr., which 
was countersigned not only by Colonel Smith, but also by 
J. H. Lane as General, First Brigade, Kansas Volunteers, and 


"C. Robinson, Maj. Gen'l.," in that it dates his service from 
November 27. This apparently was the date of entry into 
service fixed for all the volunteers of this quaint "army," 
with its elaborate organization and high titles. 25 As a matter 
of fact, the active service of the Liberty Guards comprised 
only Friday the 7th and Saturday the 8th of December, dur- 
ing which time the peace negotiations were under way. They 
remained in Lawrence until the I2th or later, when the other 
companies also left for their homes. 

In his narrative of what happened during his brief partici- 
pation in the siege of Lawrence, Brown slurs over his own 
part in the proceedings, which was sufficiently conspicuous 
to make him well known to all who were in the threatened 
town. "I did not see Brown's entry into Lawrence," writes 
R. G. Elliott, at the time an editor of the Kansas Free State, 
"which was the first introduction of the mysterious stranger 
into the Kansas drama, but I do know that his grim visage, 
his bold announcements, with the patriarchal organization 
of his company, gave him at once welcome entrance into the 
military counsels of the defenders, and lightened up the gloom 
of the besieged in their darkest hour." 26 Here in Kansas, too, 
John Brown made upon every one the impression of age, 
owing to the stoop of his shoulders, the measured step, the 
earnestness and impressiveness of his manner, and other 
signs of seniority and natural leadership, even though there 
was in his endurance, the resoluteness of his movements, and 
the promptness of his speech, nothing approaching senility.* 
The title of captain fitted him readily; where he was, he led. 
And so at Lawrence, hardly arrived, he was at the fortifi- 
cations. "There," reports an eye-witness, James F. Legate, he 
"walked quietly from fort to fort and talked to the men sta- 
tioned there, saying to each that it was nothing to die if their 
lives had served some good purpose, and that no purpose could 
be higher or better than that which called us to surrender 
life, if need be, to repel such an invasion." 27 Even though 
the discussion of peace was on, he suggested the gathering of 
pitchforks for use in repelling a possible charge. 28 The peace 
itself produced in him only anger, when first he heard of it. 

* The Lawrence Herald of Freedom reported the arrival on December 7 of 
41 Mr. John Brown, an aged gentleman from Essex County, N. Y." 


It was not only, as he wrote to Orson Day on reaching home, 
that there was ' ' a good deal of trickery on the one side and 
of cowardice, folly, & drunkenness on the other;" 29 there was 
suppression of facts as well. For the actual terms of peace, 
involving as they did a compromise, were at first concealed 
by the leaders in expectation of dissatisfaction. As a matter 
of fact, the agreement pledged the Free State men to "aid in 
the execution of the laws when called upon by proper author- 
ity;" its equivocal concluding sentence read: "We wish it 
understood, that we do not herein express any opinion as to 
the validity of the enactments of the Territorial Legislature." 
This was signed on December 8. 

An open-air meeting was held on Saturday afternoon about 
the still unfinished Free State Hotel, where a box outside the 
door served as a platform and door- sill, there being no steps 
but planks leading to the ground. Shannon, Robinson and 
Lane, fresh from signing the treaty, harangued the crowd. 
What the terms of the treaty were, they would tell no one 
that day. Shannon expressed his satisfaction at the discovery 
that he had misunderstood the people of Lawrence, that they 
were really estimable and orderly persons. He hoped now to 
preserve order and get out of the Territory the Missourians, 
who, he remarked, were there of their own accord. Lane's 
eloquence evoked cheers; he declared that "any man who 
would desert Lawrence until the invaders below had left the 
Territory, was a coward." Governor Robinson was pacific, dis- 
creet and brief. He stated, according to W T illiam Phillips, the 
Tribune's correspondent, that "they had taken an honorable 
position." 30 But the crowd was not so sure of that. A rumor 
had been circulating that the treaty was in reality a complete 
surrender on the part of Robinson and Lane, and an accept- 
ance of the hated pro-slavery laws. John Brown, boiling over 
with anger, mounted the shaky platform and addressed the 
audience when Robinson had finished. He declared that 
Lawrence had been betrayed, and told his hearers that they 
should make a night attack upon the pro-slavery forces and 
drive them out of the Territory. "I am an Abolitionist," he 
said, "dyed in the wool," and then he offered to be one of ten 
men to make a night attack upon the Border Ruffian camp. 
Armed and with lanterns, his plan was to string his men along 


the camp far apart. At a given signal in the early morning 
hours, they were to shout and fire on the slumbering enemy. 
"And I do believe," declared John Brown in telling of it, 
"that the whole lot would have run." 31 Lane, too, had been 
secretly in favor of an attack, but peace councils prevailed. 32 
John Brown was pulled down by friends and foes from the 
improvised rostrum, and, according to one responsible witness, 
it was Robinson who stamped out the incipient mutiny by 
calmly assuring the crowd that the unpublished treaty w r as a 
triumph of diplomacy. 33 

That same evening, Shannon, Lane and Robinson spoke to 
thirteen pro-slavery captains at Franklin, who grumblingly 
accepted the treaty and gave their word that they would 
endeavor to induce the Missourians to return quietly to their 
homes. 34 But the Missouri leaders were not all pleased at 
the outcome. General Stringfellow declared, in a speech in the 
camp near Lecompton, that "Shannon has played us false; 
the Yankees have tricked us." Sheriff Jones's regret that 
Shannon did not wipe out Lawrence has already been recorded. 
Atchison was for peace, there are doubts if he really was 
a fighting man when it came to the point. "If you attack 
Lawrence now," he declared, "you attack it as a mob, and 
what would be the result? You would cause the election 
of an Abolition President and the ruin of the Democratic 
party." 35 If there was some grumbling among the rank and 
file at Shannon's ordering them to return to their homes, the 
cold storm of that Saturday night helped on the dissolution 
of the pro-slavery forces. Many left on Monday morning, 
worn, sleepless and frozen. Moreover, the whiskey had given 
out, and this, with the fear of a possible Free State attack, 
sent more and more home, until on Tuesday only a few par- 
ties remained. Finally, these few gave in to the inevitable and 
departed, says Phillips, "cursing Shannon and the 'cunning 
Abolitionists.' " 36 

As for Shannon, the tricky Robinson had again taken ad- 
vantage of his weakness by inviting him and Sheriff Jones 
to a peace gathering in the Free State Hotel on Sunday even- 
ing, December 9, despite protests from Lane and others that 
no such enemy of Lawrence as Jones should be given the 
right hand of fellowship. In the course of the evening, when 


the Governor was thoroughly enjoying himself, Robinson 
rushed up to him and informed him that the Missourians 
had left the Wakarusa and were marching on Lawrence. He 
insisted that the Governor should at once sign a paper author- 
izing him and Lane to defend the town. The Governor, after 
a little urging, put his name to the following document: 

To C. Robinson and J. H. Lane, commanders of the Enrolled 
Citizens of Lawrence: 

You are hereby authorized and directed to take such measures 
and use the enrolled forces under your command in such manner, 
for the preservation of the peace and the protection of the persons 
and property of the people of Lawrence and its vicinity, as in your 
judgment shall best secure that end. 


LAWRENCE, Dec. 9, 1855. 

His Excellency thereupon returned to the delights of the 
reception and, says Phillips, "on that eventful Sunday, if 
Governors ever get drunk, his supreme highness, Wilson the 
First, got superlatively tipsy." 37 

When he came to his senses and discovered that he had 
given legal authority to arm and fight to the leaders of that 
very mob to suppress which he had called out the Territorial 
militia, he was properly chagrined. The force which he had 
denounced for assembling to upset the laws was now duly 
empowered by him to act at its own discretion without limit 
of time. Naturally, the Governor was indignant. In a long 
letter to the Kansas correspondent of the New York Herald, 
dated December 25, 1855, he sought to justify himself and 
explain his predicament, saying: 38 

"... amid an excited throng, in a small and crowded apartment, 
and without any critical examination of the paper which Dr. Rob- 
inson had just written, I signed it; but it was distinctly understood 
that it had no application to anything but the threatened attack 
on Lawrence that night. ... It did not for a moment occur to me 
that this pretended attack upon the town was but a device to obtain 
from me a paper which might be used to my prejudice. I supposed 
at the time that I was surrounded by gentlemen and by grateful 
hearts, and not by tricksters, who, with fraudulent representations, 
were seeking to obtain an advantage over me. I was the last man 
on the globe who deserved such treatment from the citizens of 
Lawrence." " 


It is evident that the Governor had reason for his anger. 
Dr. Robinson's successful stratagem can best be justified by 
that familiar theory that everything is permissible in war. 
This has excused many a more heinous crime; but Shannon 
could properly have urged that, as peace had been signed, this 
trick was indefensible even as a war measure. 

The treaty was, from the beginning, an ill-fated document, 
and met the destiny double-dealing compromises deserve. 
As events turned out, the Missourians had their revenge on 
Lawrence and Robinson within seven months. Though he 
afterwards became a respected citizen of Lawrence, Shannon 
was, until his removal in 1856, despised by its residents and 
berated by the pro-slavery men in and out of the Territory, 
who sought to saddle upon him the blame for their undeniable 
defeat. "The discomfited and lop-eared invaders," wrote 
Horace Greeley in the Tribune of December 25, in character- 
istic style, "pretend that against their wish they were kept 
from fighting by the pusillanimity of Gov. Shannon." Thus 
ended the Wakarusa "war." It had cost but one life, that of 
Barber, the unexpected sight of whose dead body in the Free 
State Hotel had done much to make Shannon see some justice 
in the Free Soil cause. Barber had been shot from behind, 
probably by the United States Indian agent, Major George 
E. Clarke, for the sole reason that he had been visiting Law- 
rence. " I have sent another of those damned Abolitionists to 
his winter quarters," boasted Clarke. But Colonel James N. 
Burns, of Missouri, disputed his right to this honor, and, since 
both fired at the same moment, no one has ever been able to 
decide to whom Barber owed his death wound. 39 

The night after his abruptly ended speech John Brown 
passed with James F. Legate. He asked Legate for minute 
particulars of the latter's ten years of experience in the South, 
so far as it related to the slaves, asking especially if they 
had any attachment for their masters and would fight for 
liberty. Then they had an argument as to the nature of 
prayer; it ended by Brown's praying for power to repel the 
slaveholders, the enemies of God, and for freedom all over 
the earth. 40 

On December 14, Brown, his four sons and their half- 
starved horse, which dragged the heavily laden wagon, were 


back and settled at Brown's Station, apparently reconciled 
to the treaty, for on that date he wrote to Orson Day of his 
over-sanguine belief that "the Territory is now entirely in 
the power of the Free State men," and of his confident expec- 
tation that the " Missourians will give up all further hope of 
making Kansas a Slave State." 4I 

The result of the vote on the Free State Constitution, on 
December 15, further helped to make John Brown contented 
with the Shannon compromise. Apparently there was a peace- 
ful winter before them, and this proved to be the case. Its 
very inclemency made further hostile operations impossible, 
and left the Kansans free to keep body and soul together as 
best they could. John Brown himself utilized the opportunity 
to go a number of times into the enemy's country in January 
in search of supplies, without meeting with any unpleasant 
experiences. On January I, 1856, he wrote from West Point, 
Missouri, " In this part of the State there seems to be but little 
feeling on the slave question." 42 As the temperature had 
ranged from ten to twenty-eight degrees below zero in the 
week previous to his writing, and there were in places ten 
inches of snow on the ground, it is obvious that the need of 
pork and flour which made Brown venture forth must have 
been pressing. By the 4th he was back in Osawatomie again, 
for on the 5th he was appointed chairman of a convention 
in Osawatomie, called for the purpose of nominating State 
officers. His son, John Brown, Jr., was duly nominated for 
the Legislature, and, so Henry Thompson reported the next 
day, "the meeting went off without any excitement and to 
our satisfaction." 43 This was but an index of the place the 
Browns had already made for themselves, a recognition of 
their dominating characters. Further proof of this is to be 
found in a letter from Mrs. John Brown, Jr., to her mother-in- 
law. Writing on January 6, 1856, she says: "You need not in 
the least feel uneasy about your husband, he seems to enjoy 
life well, and I believe he is now situated so as to do a great 
deal of good ; he certainly seems to be a man here who exhibits 
a great amount of influence and is considered one of the most 
leading and influential minds about here. . . . Our men have 
so much war and elections to attend to that it seems as though 
we were a great while getting into a house." 44 


On the 8th of January, John Brown went back to Missouri 
for more provisions, accompanied by Salmon and driving the 
faithful horse for the last time, since that hard-worked ani- 
mal must needs be sold to a pro-slavery master, that the pro- 
visions might be obtained for the oxen to bring home, and to 
replace moneys belonging to S. L. Adair used by John Brown 
on the road to Kansas. " By means of the sale of our Horse 
and Waggon: our present wants are tolerably well met; so 
that if health is continued to us we shall not probably suffer 
much," wrote Brown to his wife on February I, on his return 
from a third trip to Missouri. He reported also that the 
weather continued very severe: "It is now nearly Six Weeks 
that the Snow has been almost constantly driven (like dry 
sand) by the fierce Winds of Kansas." There were also serious 
alarms of war: "We have just learned of some new; and shock- 
ing outrages at Leavenworth : and that the Free-State people 
there have fled to Lawrence: which place is again threatend 
with an attack. Should that take place we may soon again 
be called upon to 'buckle on our armor;' which by the help 
of God we will do : when I suppose Henry, & Oliver will have 
a chance." 45 He added, however, that in his judgment there 
would be no general disturbance until warmer weather. In 
this view he was as correct as he had previously been wrong 
in estimating the results of the Wakarusa "war." 

The Leavenworth troubles, to which he referred, were so 
serious as to be taken on both sides as ending the truce signed 
by Shannon. They grew out of the election, on January 15, 
of members of the Free Soil Legislature and the State officers 
under the Topeka Constitution. Just as the Missourians had 
refrained from interfering with the Free State voting in the 
adoption of the Constitution, they now permitted the January 
15 election to pass off in peace, except at Leavenworth, where 
the pro-slavery mayor forbade the holding of the election. It 
took place clandestinely and was then adjourned to Easton, 
twelve miles away, where it was again held on the 17th, de- 
spite the disarming and driving away of some of the Free State 
voters. That night there was severe fighting between the two 
sides, in which the pro-slavery men lost one killed and two 
wounded, while two of the Free Soilerswere injured. Later, 
the pro-slavery forces, which had been reinforced by a militia 


company, the Kickapoo Rangers, captured Captain Reese P. 
Brown, the leader of the Free State men, as he was returning to 
Leavenworth. Him the Rangers mortally wounded the next 
day, when he was unarmed and defenceless. 46 "These men, 
or rather demons," reported Phillips to the Tribune, "rushed 
around Brown and literally hacked him to death with their 
hatchets." Not an effort was made to punish the murderers, 
though they were well known to the Territorial authorities. 
Some of the pro-slavery newspapers, like Stringfellow's Squat- 
ter Sovereign, upheld the deed, that journal calling for "War! 
War!! " 47 The Leavenworth Herald justified the murder and 
gave notice to the Free State men that: "These higher-law 
men will not be permitted longer to carry on their illegal and 
high-handed proceedings. The good sense of the people is 
frowning it down. And if it cannot be in one way it will in 
another." 48 The Kansas Pioneer of Kickapoo was an acces- 
sory to Brown's murder before the fact, for on the morning 
of the crime it had published this 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 treach- 
erous and contaminating deeds. Strike your piercing rifle 
balls and your glittering steel to their black and poisonous 
hearts." 49 

But the black-hearted Free Soilers voted nevertheless, cast- 
ing, in the entire Territory, 1628 ballots for Mark W. Dela- 
hay, the candidate for delegate to Congress who had just 
previously, on December 22, 1855, had a taste of Missouri 
intolerance, when the printing-presses of his Leavenworth 
newspaper, the Territorial Register, were thrown into the Mis- 
souri River because of the Free Soil sentiments of its editor. 50 
For Charles Robinson as Governor there were cast 1296 votes. 
This result increased the anger of the pro-slavery men. On that 
day of balloting, Sheriff Jones wrote to Robinson and Lane, 
asking whether they had or had not pledged themselves to aid 
him with a posse in serving a writ. Their answer was only 
that they would make no "further resistance to the arrest 
by you of one of the rescuers of Branson, ... as we desire 
to test the validity of the enactments of the body that met 
at the Mission, calling themselves the Kansas Legislature, by 
an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States." 61 


Jones and the Border Ruffians thereupon insisted that the 
Free State men had violated the truce of Lawrence, and 
deemed themselves no longer bound by it. By February 4, 
ex-Senator Atchison was again threatening the sword of ex- 
termination, or rather the bowie-knife: "Send your young 
men . . . drive them [the Abolitionists] out. . . . Get ready, 
arm yourselves; for if they abolitionize Kansas you lose 
$100,000,000 of your property. I am satisfied I can justify 
every act of yours before God and a jury," 62 words that 
could not have gone unread at Brown's Station, where they 
received and pored over "Douglas newspapers" as well as 
Free Soil ones. The election had passed off quietly enough 
at Osawatomie, John Brown, Jr., being duly elected to the 
Legislature, but shortly afterwards the minute-men led in the 
expulsion of a claim- jumper, as a result of a settlers' meet- 
ing held on January 24 to consider the case. Henry Thompson, 
John Brown, Jr., and his brothers Oliver and Frederick were 
the committee which, well armed, knocked the man's door in 
and threw his belongings out. Henry Thompson's part was 
watching, with a loaded revolver in his hand, every action of 
the claim-jumper until he disappeared in the distance, vowing 
vengeance on each and every Brown. 63 

It was also on January 24, that President Pierce sent a special 
message to Congress which aroused the ire of every Free State 
settler, and of every anti-slavery man the country over. In it, 
yielding to the influence of Jefferson Davis, and of Governor 
Shannon, who was then in Washington, he squarely took the 
side of the South, proclaiming the pro-slavery Shawnee Legis- 
lature legal, whatever election frauds might have been com- 
mitted, and denouncing the acts of the Free State men as 
without law and revolutionary in character, "avowedly so 
in motive," which would become "treasonable insurrection" 
if they went to the "length of organized resistance by force to 
the fundamental or any other Federal law, and to the author- 
ity of the general government." On February n the Presi- 
dent went even further, and issued a proclamation which de- 
prived the Free State forces of all hope of any aid from the 
Federal Government. It placed the entire authority and power 
of the United States on the side of pro-slavery men, and of all 
those persons who opposed the Topeka movement. While 


condemning the lawless acts of both sides, he placed the Fort 
Riley and Fort Leavenworth troops at Shannon's behest, 
except that he was cautioned not to call upon them unless it 
was absolutely necessary to do so to enforce the laws and keep 
peace ; even then this proclamation must be read aloud before 
the soldiers acted. Naturally, the South rejoiced and the 
hearts of the defenders of Lawrence were downcast. The 
Squatter Sovereign was emboldened on February 20 to say: 
"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." 

John Brown had anticipated this action of Pierce's, and his 
feelings sought relief on the same day in the following letter 
to Joshua R. Giddings, the well-known anti-slavery Congress- 
man from Ohio: 



I write to say that a number of the United States Soldiers are 
quartered in this vicinity for the ostensible purpose of removing 
intruders from certain Indian Lands. It is, however, believed that 
the Administration has no thought of removing 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 enact- 
ments 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 confidently believe that the next move- 
ment on the part of the Administration 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 acquaintance with your 
public life, and a slight personal acquaintance incline and embolden 
me to make this appeal to yourself. 

" Everything is still on the surface here just now. Circumstances, 
however, are of a most suspicious character. 

Very Respectfully yours, 



Before this earnest letter was far on its way there came an 
important answer to its appeal, and to the proclamation of 
the President, in the organization of the "National Republi- 
can Party" at Pittsburgh, February 22, 1856, the name of 
Charles Robinson being placed on its National Committee 
as representative of Kansas, on the motion of S. N. Wood, 
leader of the Branson rescuers, who was present as a delegate. 
On account of the terrible weather 55 the snow was often 
eighteen inches deep, and the thermometer as low as twenty- 
seven degrees below zero the mails were slow in leaving 
Kansas, 56 and it was not until March 17 that Mr. Giddings 
assured his Osawatomie correspondent: 

"... you need have no fear of the troops. The President will 
never dare employ the troops of the United States to shoot the citi- 
zens 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. . . ."" 

Governor Shannon returned to Kansas on March 5, ex- 
ulting in his having the regular troops commanded by Colo- 
nel Sumner under him, especially as that excellent officer 
had refused to come to his aid during the Wakarusa "war" 
without express authority from Washington. 58 The day be- 
fore, on March 4, the Free State Legislature had duly as- 
sembled as required by the Topeka Constitution, without 
the slightest regard for Pierce's message or proclamation. 59 
It remained in session only eleven days, receiving Governor 
Robinson's inaugural address, electing Governor Lane and 
ex-Governor Reeder Senators of the United States in the 
event of the State's being admitted to the Union, preparing 
a memorial to Congress begging that admission, and receiv- 
ing the report of the Territorial Executive Committee, headed 
by Lane, which then went out of existence. Adjournment 
was on March 15 until July 4, when it met again, only to 
be dispersed by Colonel Sumner's troopers. John Brown, 
Jr., was in attendance at the session in March; his father 
recorded this in a letter to North Elba on March 6, in 
which he also complained of the lack of any letters or news 
because of deep snows and high water, so that, he wrote, " we 


have no idea what Congress has done since early in Jany : " 60 
John Brown, Jr., did not, however, arrive in Topeka, with 
Henry H. Williams, a fellow Representative, until the morn- 
ing of the 5th, so Mr. Williams wrote on the 7th to a friend. 
His letter shows that there was considerable trepidation 
among the arriving delegates in view of Pierce's position. 
"Shannon," he wrote, "is at the Big Springs on a bender I 
learn. . . . Mr. Brown has been put on a committee to se- 
lect six candidates from which three are to be elected Com- 
missioners to revise and codify the laws and rules of prac- 
tise. . . ." 61 

Only fifteen of the Topeka legislators signed the memorial 
to Congress asking for the admission of Kansas as a Free 
State under the Topeka Constitution, a copy of which was 
attached to their petition. John Brown, Jr., was of course one 
of the fifteen. 62 He was also one of the committee of three 
to draft resolutions in regard to the murder of Captain R. P. 
Brown. He figured also as a member of the standing com- 
mittee on vice and immorality, and presented a petition from 
fifty-six ladies of Topeka praying for the enactment of a law 
prohibiting the manufacture and sale of liquor, 63 for all of 
which legislative service, and for his subsequent partaking in 
the meetings of the committee to select the commissioners 
to codify the laws, 64 this unfortunate man paid a terrible 
price within the next three months. Soon after John Brown, 
Jr., returned, his father, Frederick and Oliver Brown, and 
Henry Thompson went on a surveying tour to the west of 
their settlement, fixing the boundaries of their lands for the 
Indian neighbors they had learned to respect and like. The 
Ottawas, having found that many whites were settling on 
their lands, held a council and asked the Browns to trace their 
southern boundary. "There is a good many settlers on their 
lands," wrote Henry Thompson to his wife, "that will prob- 
ably have to leave mostly proslavery." 65 This prospect 
could hardly have raised the Browns in the esteem of these 
neighbors and their sympathizers. This surveying party was, 
however, one of those experiences in Kansas which made 
Henry Thompson write to his wife a month later, April 16, 
when the outlook for the Free State had grown gloomy 
enough: "It is a great trial to me to stay away from you, but 


I am here, and feel I have a sacrifice to make, a duty to per- 
form. Can I leave that undone and feel easy, and have a 
conscience void of offence? Should I ever feel that I had not 
put my hand to the plough and looked back?" 66 It was 
not only the cause which held Mr. Thompson in Kansas, but 
his very great regard for John Brown. Upon Brown's plans 
he later wrote to his wife, would depend his own, "until 
School is out." 67 

April 1 6 was also the date of a settlers' meeting of momen- 
tous importance to Osawatomie. It attracted widespread at- 
tention elsewhere in the Territory, since it was the first open 
defiance, after the President's proclamation, by any body of 
men, of the Shawnee Legislature's laws. The call for the gath- 
ering was signed by twenty-three citizens, who wished to con- 
fer as to the proper attitude to be taken toward the officials 
appointed by the Shawnee Legislature to assess property and 
collect taxes. Richard Mendenhall presided, and there was 
full discussion of the situation. 68 No less ominous a figure 
than the Rev. Martin White presented the Border Ruffian 
side. The Rev. S. L. Adair, brother-in-law of John Brown, 
recorded many years later that "Martin White stood up for 
the laws, and charged rebellion and treason on all who de- 
clined to obey them. Captain John Brown was for regarding 
the Legislature as a fraud and their laws as a farce and their 
slave code as wicked, and if an attempt was made to enforce 
them to resist it." Martin White put it differently. " I went," 
he declared in a speech to the Kansas Legislature in Febru- 
ary, 1857, when telling of his experiences with the Free State 
men, "to one of their meetings and tried to reason with them 
for peace, but in so doing I insulted the hero [John Brown] 
of the murder of the three Doyles, Wilkinson and Sherman, 
and he replied to me and said that he was an 'Abolitionist 
of the old stock was dyed in the wool and that negroes 
were his brothers and equals that he would rather see this 
Union dissolved and the country drenched with blood than 
to pay taxes to the amount of one-hundredth part of a mill.' " 
As to his own position, Mr. Adair testified: "I had said but 
little. But the question was put directly: was I ready to obey 
the laws or to take up arms against them? I replied I should 
not regard the authority of those laws, yet was not ready 


to take up arms against them but was ready if necessary to 
suffer penalties." This was the spirit in which the Free Soil 
pioneers were meeting the situation created by Pierce's sid- 
ing with the pro-slavery forces. They were willing to "suffer 
penalties" for their beliefs in the good old New England 
fashion, and were in no wise to be swerved from their sense of 
duty by the thundering of the highest authority in the land. 
As a result of the discussion and the appointment of a com- 
mittee of five to prepare them, the following resolutions were 
adopted by the meeting: 

Resolved, That we utterly repudiate the authority of that Legis- 
lature as a body, emanating not from the people of Kansas, but 
elected and forced upon us by a foreign vote, and that the officers 
appointed by the same, have therefore no legal power to act. 

Resolved, That we pledge to one another mutual support and aid 
in a forcible resistance to any attempt to compel us with obedience 
to those enactments, let that attempt come from whatever source it 
may, and that if men appointed by that legislature to the office of 
Assessor or Sheriff, shall hereafter attempt to assess or collect taxes 
of us, they will do so at the peril of such consequences as shall be 
necessary to prevent same. 

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to inform such 
officers of the action of this meeting by placing in their hands a copy 
of these resolutions. 

Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions with the proceedings 
of this meeting be furnished to the several papers of Kansas with 
a request to publish the same. 



One cannot but admire the courage which prompted this 
spreading abroad of the decision of the meeting. It was, how- 
ever, soon to have dire results for the little settlement itself. 

About this same time there had come to a neighboring pro- 
slavery settlement of the Shermans, one of whom was known 
as "Dutch Henry," a Judge, Sterling G. Cato, to hold court 
in the name of the bogus Territorial Legislature. The Browns 
soon heard that he had issued warrants for their arrest, 
either because of their participation in the meeting of April 
1 6, or because of prior dislike of them as Abolitionists. John 
Brown sent to the court his son Salmon and Henry Thompson, 
"to see," so Salmon Brown affirms, "if Cato would arrest us. 
We went over ten miles afoot and stood around to see if they 


would carry out their threat. I did not like it. I did not want 
to be in the middle of a rescue. That's a risky situation. I 
thought father was wild to send us, but he wanted to hurry up 
the fight always." 70 This ruse having failed, Brown himself 
went with his armed company to see what was going on. The 
result of this he described to his brother-in-law, Adair: 

BROWN'S STATION, 22d April, 1856. 

. . . Yesterday we went to Dutch Henrys to see how things were 
going at Court, my boys turned out to train at a house near by. 
Many of the volunteer Co. went in without show of arms to hear 
the charge to Grand Jury. The Court is thoroughly Bogus but the 
Judge had not the nerve to avow it openly. He was questioned on 
the bench in writing civilly but plainly whether he intended to 
enforce the Bogus Laws or not ; but would give no answer. He did 
not even mention the so called Kansas Legislature or name their 
acts but talked of our laws ; it was easy for any one conversant with 
law matters to discover what code he was charging the jury under. 
He evidently felt much agitated but talked a good deal about hav- 
ing criminals punished, &c. After hearing the charge and witnessing 
the refusal of the Judge to answer, the volunteers met under arms 
passed the Osawatomie Preamble & Resolutions, every man voting 
aye. They also appointed a committee of Three to wait on the 
Judge at once with a coppy in full; which was immediately done. 
The effect of that I have not yet learned. You will see that matters 
are in a fair way of comeing to a head. 

Yours sincerely in haste, 


James Hanway, a leading Free State settler, has recorded 
the following additional details of this occurrence: 

"John Brown, Jr. left the court room, and in the yard he called 
out in a loud voice: 'The Pottawattomie Rifle Company will meet 
at the parade ground,' and the company consisting of some thirty 
men, marched off to meet as ordered. There was not a disrespectful 
word uttered, nor were there deadly weapons displayed on the oc- 
casion there were doubtless a few pocket pistols, but they were 
hid from sight. Between dark and daylight, Judge Cato and his 
officials had left; they journeyed toward Lecompton in Douglas 
County, which was the Bastile of the proslavery party. This was 
the first and the last of the proslavery court holding their sessions 
in this section of the country." n 

This incident, Mr. Hanway added, got into the pro-slavery 
newspapers in a magnified and distorted form, and became 


a standing charge against the Free State party of Kansas as 
one of their heinous crimes, for Judge Cato portrayed him- 
self thereafter as a court compelled to flee for safety. 

About the time that Judge Cato's court was in session at 
Dutch Henry's, there arrived in the neighborhood a com- 
pany of Southerners who had come to the Territory from 
Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, in order to make it 
a slave State. John Brown lost no time in discovering their 
objects, and he did it in a manner which has become famous 
in Kansas. "Father," says Salmon Brown, "had taken advan- 
tage of his knowledge of surveying, and, as a surveyor, ran a 
line through their camp. He had been surveying the old In- 
dian lands, previously, for the Indians. The Border Ruffians 
never suspected us to be anything but friends, for only pro- 
slavery men got government jobs then, and surveyors were 
supposed -to be government officers. So they talked freely 
about their plans and one big fellow said : 'We came up here for 
self first and the South next. But one thing we will do before 
we leave, we '11 clear out the damned Brown crowd.' " 73 This 
last was an empty boast, as time showed. But the arrival of 
these men in the neighborhood of Osawatomie was but an- 
other sign of the impending crisis. They were part of the force 
raised by Major Jefferson Buford at Eufaula, Silver Run and 
Columbus, Georgia, and Montgomery, Alabama, as the result 
of an appeal for Southern emigrants to settle in Kansas. 74 
The organization was military, but the men went unarmed as 
far as Kansas City, where they arrived between four and five 
hundred strong, late in April. On May 2 they passed into Kan- 
sas with weapons in plenty, scattering for a time in search 
of homes, only to be called upon in short order as a military 
force. But before this came to pass, they had added greatly 
to the terror of the Free Soil settlers by their swashbuckling 
marches through the Territory. Just as they left Montgomery, 
Buford's men had been marched to the bookstore of the 
Messrs. Mcllvaine in that city, where each man received a 
Bible. "But," says a correspondent of the Tribune, "on the 
trip up the river [from St. Louis] the Bibles were thrown 
promiscuously into a large bucket on the hurricane deck, and 
the company were below handling an article known among 
gamblers as a 'pocket testament.'" 76 "The people of West- 


port were glad to see Buford's men come; they were doubly 
glad when they went away finally," reported an old citizen 
of Westport, and there is little doubt that they got out of 
hand soon after entering Kansas, for as settlers they were 
a dismal failure. When their service in the sack of Lawrence 
was over, after pillaging and roaming for a while, they gradu- 
ally began to return to the South. 

Here those who returned afforded fresh proof of the inabil- 
ity of that section to colonize its favorite institution as far 
North and West as Kansas. A number enlisted in the United 
States troops in Kansas, while others went over to the Free 
State men and thus became traitors to the cause of human 
bondage. Still others stayed for months near Westport, a 
veritable plague to their friends. 76 In short, the expedition 
was a disastrous failure politically, economically and finan- 
cially; it served no other purpose than to aid in the wanton 
destruction of part of the city of Lawrence and the throwing 
into chains of the Free State leaders. 

Beyond doubt the arrival of Buford's men raised high the 
spirits of the Southern leaders, who fondly believed that there 
would now be sufficient emigration of their own people to 
offset the continuing stream of arrivals from New England, 
notably a remarkable colony from New Haven, one hundred 
strong, who settled sixty-five miles above Lawrence on the 
Kansas River and, unlike Buford's men, knew how to plough 
and plant. "Our town," wrote a correspondent of the Trib- 
une from Lawrence on April 19, ."is crowded with immigrants 
from all parts. A number of companies are camping here, 
anxiously awaiting their exploring committees, who have 
gone out to look at different localities. There is a large com- 
pany from Ohio one from Connecticut one from New 
Hampshire, and others are daily arriving. . . . The emi- 
grants of this season are much superior to those of last year. 
They come in the face of difficulties and are prepared to meet 
them." 77 But fears of a similar tide of Southerners impelled 
Horace Greeley to impassioned editorials urging the youth 
of the Northeast to save Kansas, by force of arms and de- 
votion to principle. 78 A correspondent of the Albany Journal, 
writing on March 16 from a steamboat on the Mississippi, 
gave this picture of the outlook: 


" I have just come up from Tennessee and let me assure you that 
the South are now moving in earnest in sending settlers to Kansas. 
I heard a letter from Kansas . . . read at a Kansas meeting, in 
which the South were (sic) urged to send their men immediately. 
'The only hope,' the writer stated, was in sending on enough to 
whip the d d Abolitionists before the 1st of July, or the Territory 
would be lost. The writer says: 'There are now at least three Abo- 
litionists to one friend of the South, and if anything is done it must 
be done quickly.'" 

A Tribune correspondent in Kansas City wrote late in April 
that: "It is unquestionable that the South has gone into the 
' actual settlement ' business to a great extent this Spring." 79 
Horace Greeley himself wrote to his newspaper from Wash- 
ington on March I : 

"The Free-State men of Kansas now in this city have letters from 
various points in that embryo State down to the i8th and iQth ult. 
Their general tone implies apprehension that a bloody collision is 
imminent. The Border Ruffians have been raised entirely off their 
feet by Pierce's extraordinary Messages, which they regard as a com- 
plete endorsement of all their past outrages and an incitement to 
persevere in their diabolical work. It is believed by our friends that 
the organization of the State Government at Topeka the coming 
week will be made the pretext for a raid, and if possible a butchery, 
at the hands of the Slavery party. . . ." 80 

It was only in the time set that this prognostication was 
wrong. But meanwhile, as James Redpath has recorded, 
the acts of the Washington allies of Atchison, Stringfellow 
and Jones were daily making of the Free State pioneers more 
and more ardent advocates of freedom, and unifying them in 
their determination to resist to the last the pro-slavery ag- 
gressions : 

"I have heard men who were semi-Southerners before, declare 
with Garrison: 

'"I am an Abolitionist! 

I glory in the name ! ' 

since Kansas was invaded. I have heard others hint that even 
Garrison himself was rather an old fogy, because he does not go far 
enough in opposition to Slavery. 'The world does move.' " 81 

In April the pro-slavery net began to tighten around Law- 
rence. Sheriff Jones had reappeared there on April 19, 1856, 
to vex anew its citizens. He had decided that it was time for 


him to attempt again the arrest of those persons who five 
months previously had taken from him his prisoner Branson. 
Jones's thumbs had begun to itch for S. N. Wood, the leader 
of the rescuers; he was, therefore, quite willing to take Rob- 
inson and Lane at their word, that they would not resist the 
enforcement of a writ by proper authority, and quite ready 
to take a chance if he did not court it of again em- 
broiling the citizens of Lawrence with the Territorial authori- 
ties. Jones easily found Wood and arrested him, but in the 
crowd which speedily gathered he lost his prisoner. 82 Jones 
reappeared the next day and called on the citizens to help 
him serve the four warrants he had in his hands. The crowd 
refused, saying, 'Take the muster roll, Jones, we all resist.' 83 
Jones then personally laid hands on Samuel F. Tappan, who 
thereupon struck the sheriff in the face. This was sufficient 
resistance to satisfy the sheriff, who forthwith left, returning 
three days later, on April 23, with First Lieutenant James Mc- 
Intosh, of the First Cavalry, and ten troopers. With the aid 
of these regulars he arrested six citizens on the extraordi- 
nary charge of contempt of court, in that they had declined to 
aid him in serving his warrants, an unheard-of form of the 
crime of disrespect to the judiciary. His prisoners were put 
in a tent to await the pleasure of their captor. That evening, 
while Jones was sitting in his tent, with his shadow outlined 
against it by the light within, he was shot from without and 
gravely wounded by James N. Filer, 84 a young New Yorker, 
though the blame long rested on Charles Lenhart, a printer, 
subsequently prominent in the attempt to rescue Brown 
from his Virginia prison. Lenhart was undoubtedly outside 
the tent when Jones was shot, and as he was a reckless fellow, 
suspicion not unnaturally fell upon him. 

Nothing more unfortunate could have happened for the 
citizens of Lawrence than the shooting of Jones, even though 
his life was spared, for the pro-slavery newspapers at once 
announced his death, and called upon their readers to avenge 
his murder. None of the regrets that the citizens of Law- 
rence expressed could undo the injury inflicted by Filer's 
shot. They held a mass meeting on April 24, addressed by 
Reeder, Robinson, Grosvenor P. Lowry and others, who con- 
demned the crime in proper terms as cowardly and dastardly. 85 


But their expressions went for naught. It was precisely the 
overt act needed to give Jones and his men the appear- 
ance of being hindered in the performance of their duty, and 
assaulted because of their devotion to it. The scene of the 
shooting Lawrence was particularly satisfactory to the 
pro-slavery party, since it enabled them to concentrate anew 
their enmity upon that hated town. "We are now in favor 
of levelling Lawrence and chastising the Traitors there con- 
gregated, should it result in total destruction of the Union," 
declared the Squatter Sovereign on April 29, 1856. A week 
later, May 6, still keeping alive the falsehood of Jones's 
death, it thus incited to murder: 

"When a proslavery man gets into a difficulty with an Abolition- 
ist let him think of the murdered Jones and Clark, and govern him- 
self accordingly. In a fight, let our motto be, 'War to the knife, 
and knife to the hilt;' asking no quarters from them and granting 
none. Jones' Murder Must Be Revenged!! " 

Appeals like this speedily bore fruit. On the next day, 
J. N. Mace, a Free State settler, who had testified before the 
Howard Committee then sitting at Lawrence, was shot in the 
leg by two men, who, thinking him dead, went off, rejoicing 
in his hearing that there was "more abolition bait for the 
wolves." 86 At an indignation meeting held in Lawrence on 
May 2 to consider Mace's case, Governor Robinson again 
soothed the perturbed feelings of the multitude, urged his 
listeners to go on- making laws of their own, but not to give 
way to any spirit of revenge, and deprecated the attack upon 
Sheriff Jones as cowardly and base. 87 April 30 had been a 
fateful day for the Rev. Pardee Butler, who, undeterred by 
his being sent down the Missouri on a raft by his neighbors, 
returned then to Atchison. He was immediately stripped and 
cottoned (for lack of feathers), turned loose on the prairie, 
and a committee of three was appointed to hang him the 
next time he came to Atchison. His sole offence, according 
to his own testimony, was his telling the Squatter Sovereign 
that he was a Free Soiler and meant to vote accordingly. 88 
On May 19 there fell, shot in the back near Blanton's 
Bridge, John Jones, who, according to the existing evidence, 
gave up his life merely because he, a boy of twenty, was 


accused of being an Abolitionist. 89 Three young men, Charles 
Lenhart, John Stewart and John E. Cook (who subsequently 
died on a Virginia gibbet, after John Brown), rode out toward 
the scene of this crime as soon as it was reported. On their 
way to Blanton's Bridge they fell in with several Missourians, 
who subsequently testified that they were fired upon first and 
one of them wounded ; that in self-defence they shot and killed 
Stewart. Lenhart and Cook stated that Stewart hailed the 
Missourians by asking them where they were going. Their 
reply was a shot and Stewart fell dead. The Free State men 
with him were convinced that Coleman, the murderer of Dow, 
had in this case also fired the fatal shot. 90 

Judge Lecompte next stirred up the Territory in behalf of 
the pro-slavery cause by charging the grand jury in session at 
Lecompton during the second week in May that all the laws 
passed by the Shawnee Legislature were of United States 
authority and making; that, therefore, all who "resist these 
laws, resist the power and authority of the United States; 
and are therefore, guilty of high treason." * "If," he con- 
tinued, laying down a principle new in American judicial 
procedure, "you find that no such resistance has been made, 
but that combinations have been formed for the purpose of 
resisting them, and that individuals of influence and notori- 
ety have been aiding and abetting in such combinations, then 
must you find bills for constructive treason." At once, with- 
out hearing any 'witnesses, the grand jury indicted Reeder, 
Robinson, Lane, George W. Brown, George W. Deitzler, 
Samuel N. Wood, Gaius Jenkins and George W. Smith on the 
charge of treason. 91 It is in keeping with this performance that 
Governor Robinson, who, with his wife, had left Lawrence at 
its most critical moment, in order to lay the true situation be- 
fore the friends of Free Kansas in the East, should have been 
taken from the steamer Star of the West at Lexington, Mis- 
souri, on May 10, on the charge of fleeing from an indict- 
ment, when that indictment was not reported by the jury until 

* "Section 3, Article 3, of the Constitution of the United States says: "Trea- 
son against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or 
in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No person shall 
be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two witnesses to the same 
overt act, or on Confession in open Court." 


a week after his detention. 92 Better evidence of the way the 
whole machinery of justice was being prostituted to pro- 
slavery ends could hardly be produced; it resulted in Robin- 
son's being taken to Leavenworth, where he remained until 
his release on bail of five thousand dollars, on September 10, 
after four months' confinement. Ex-Governor Reeder escaped 
from Kansas in disguise, after having claimed protection in 
vain as a witness before the Howard Committee, and having 
told the United States deputy marshal that any attempt to 
take him prisoner would be attended with serious results. 93 
Lane escaped Robinson's fate only by happening to be in 
Indiana on a visit. The Free Soil movement was thus deprived 
of its leaders. But the complaisant Lecompton grand jury 
was not content with indictment for treason; it took the still 
more extraordinary course of recommending the abatement 
as nuisances of the Lawrence Free Soil newspapers, The 
Herald of Freedom and The Kansas Free State. Charging that 
the Free State Hotel in Lawrence had been built for use as a 
fortress as well as a caravansary, the jurors expressed their 
opinion that its demolition was desirable. 

Ex-Governor Reeder's refusal to submit to arrest was a 
greatly desired opportunity to another Jones, the United 
States marshal for Kansas Territory, I. B. Donaldson. He at 
once issued (on May 1 1 ) the following proclamation : 

To The People of Kansas Territory : 

Whereas, certain judicial writs of arrest have been directed to me 
by the First District Court of the United States, etc., to be executed 
within the county of Douglas: and, whereas, an attempt to execute 
them by the United States Deputy Marshal was violently resisted 
by a large number of citizens of Lawrence; and as there is every 
reason to believe that any attempt to execute these writs will be 
resisted by a large body of armed men: 

Now, therefore, the law-abiding citizens of the Territory are com- 
manded to be and appear at Lecompton as soon as practicable, and 
in numbers sufficient for the proper execution of the law. 94 

Like Sheriff Jones, Donaldson believed most of the law- 
abiding citizens of Kansas lived in Missouri, for his proclama- 
tion went first to the border towns and to Leavenworth and 
Atchison, the strongest pro-slavery settlements in Kansas. 96 
Before the proclamation was known to the Free Soil settlers, 


the Border Ruffians had begun to assemble in the neighbor- 
hood of Lawrence, stopping travellers, patrolling the roads, 
even pillaging, as if they were a conquering army, and gener- 
ally in high feather, for this time they felt certain of their 
prey, since it had been officially delivered over to them. The 
United States Court had issued the warrants; the United 
States marshal had called out them instead of the United 
States troops, who, after their visit in numbers to Lawrence 
under Colonel Sumner upon the shooting of Jones, had been 
allowed to return to their garrisons. In the Wakarusa " war," 
Shannon, not having power over the regulars, called eagerly 
for their aid; now that they were at his disposal, he refused to 
send them to Lawrence for the protection of its citizens, as 
the latter implored him to, or to urge Donaldson to use them 
as his posse.* Whereas in the previous December Governor 
Shannon had been willing to keep the peace, and eager to 
arrive at a compromise, he was ready now to have the tables 
turned upon those who had tricked him when in his cups, 
well knowing what the outcome would be. "But so long," he 
wrote to the Lawrence committee which begged protection of 
him, "as they [the citizens of Lawrence] keep up a military 
or armed organization to resist Territorial laws and the offi- 
cers charged with their execution, I shall not interpose to 
save them from the legitimate consequences of their illegal 
acts." 96 

It was the van of Donaldson's forces which killed Stewart 
and Jones. His band comprised, first, Buford's newly arrived 
men, whom their leader hastily called together from their easy- 
going search for home-sites, four hundred in all responding. 
They represented in Donaldson's eyes, after being nineteen 
days in Kansas, the "law-abiding citizens of the Territory." 
General David R. Atchison, of Missouri, headed a Missouri 
company, the Platte County Riflemen, with two pieces 
of artillery; while the Kickapoo Rangers, who had hacked 
Captain R. P. Brown to death, and other Kansas pro-slavery 
companies eagerly joined the forces. 97 Both the Stringfellows 

* When President Pierce heard of Donaldson's plans, he was much worried, 
and telegraphed to Shannon suggesting that the United States troops be used, 
and then only after the marshal had met with actual resistance. The telegram 
came too late to be of avail. See Kansas Historical Collections, vol. 4, p. 414. 


were there, ready to be in at the death, and hoping that this 
meant the extermination of the hated Abolitionists. About 
seven hundred and fifty in all, this "swearing, whiskey- 
drinking, ruffianly horde," 98 who were there to uphold the 
majesty of the law, appeared near Lawrence on May 21, 
after a committee from there had vainly tried to induce 
Marshal Donaldson to agree to a compromise by which the 
town should be surrendered to Colonel Sumner and his cav- 
alry regiment, to be held until the writs were served." But 
the serving of the warrants was not Donaldson's real purpose, 
nor that of the men associated with him. The deputy mar- 
shal, Fain, made two arrests in Lawrence without difficulty 
or resistance, on the evening of May 2O. 100 Accompanied by 
ten unarmed men, he returned at eleven o'clock the next 
morning and summoned five citizens of Lawrence to join his 
posse ; they did so, and he then arrested George W . Deitzler, 
George W. Smith and Gaius Jenkins on the charge of treason. 
They submitted cheerfully. While Fain was at the Free State 
Hotel, he received a communication from the eight citizens 
of Lawrence who were acting as a committee of public safety. 
This committee, speaking for the entire town, acknowledged 
the "constituted authorities of the Government," and stated 
that they would "make no resistance to the execution of the 
law National or Territorial." This submission was in vain. 
Fain, having his prisoners in hand, announced to the Bor- 
der Ruffians that he had peacefully accomplished his purpose, 
but added that Sheriff Jones had writs yet to be served, and 
that they could act as his posse if they desired. 

With the utmost alacrity the invitation was accepted, but 
no pretence of serving any writs was made. The Southerners 
were stimulated by the oratory of Atchison, but recently 
presiding officer of the United States Senate, who declared 
among other things: "And now we will go in with our highly 
honorable Jones, and test the strength of that damned Free 
State Hotel. Be brave, be orderly, and if any man or woman 
stand in your way, blow them to hell with a chunk of cold 
lead." But they did not go in until the Free State men 
had surrendered their arms to Jones, as further evidence of 
good faith. Once in, there was no John Brown to counsel 
resistance to them, no Lane to lead, and no Robinson to tern- 


porize. There was no real leader. The military company, 
the Stubbs, was not in evidence. There were only two hun- 
dred rifles and ten kegs of powder in all Lawrence. Many of 
the citizens were either in arrest or in hiding to escape capture. 
Many others had left town to save their families. So no de- 
fence was attempted when the two newspaper offices were 
destroyed and the types, papers, presses and books thrown 
into the river. The Free State Hotel remained, however, 
and the order of the court that it be "abated" was not yet 
enforced. Here Major Buford again protested that he had 
not come to Kansas to destroy property, and Atchison seems 
to have been sobered some. But Jones wanted his triumph 
complete, and the Free State Hotel was soon in flames, after 
the pro-slavery cannon had sent thirty- two shot into it, 
Atchison firing the first shot. 101 "This," said Jones, "is the 
happiest moment of my life." As the walls of the hotel fell, 
he cried out in glee, "I have done it, by God, I have done 
it," 102 and it in no wise troubled him that, when he dismissed 
his drunken posse, as the hotel lay in ruins, it promptly robbed 
the town, winding up by the burning of Governor Robinson's 
house. The majesty of the law was upheld; its flouting by 
Free Soilers avenged. 

The pro-slavery leaders and their disbanded followers left 
the Territory exulting in their victory, and wholly unable to 
realize that it was not only to be their defeat, but that they 
had let loose a veritable Pandora's box of evil passions, and 
finally inaugurated a reign of bloodshed, midnight assassina- 
tion and guerrilla warfare. Besides, they had aroused the 
whole North to fresh anger by the destruction of Lawrence, 
at first reported to have been accompanied by heavy loss of 
life. The inscriptions on their banners, "Southern Rights" 
and "South Carolina" and 

"Let Yankees tremble, abolitionists fall, 
Our Motto is, Give Southern rights to all," 10S 

alone brought dozens of recruits to the Free State cause, 
"From this time no further effort was required to raise 
colonies. They raised themselves," records Eli Thayer, the 
Worcester, Massachusetts, organizer of the Emigrant Aid So- 
cieties. 104 The raiding of Lawrence put an arsenal of argu- 


ments into the hands of the new-born Republican party, and 
fastened the nation's attention on the Territory. On the 
day of the raid, Horace Greeley declared that the "bloody 
collision in Kansas," which seemed to him "almost inevitable," 
would "hardly fail to shake the Union to its center." 105 


To his "Dear Wife and Children Every One," wrote John 
Brown, "near Brown's Station, K. T., June, 1856," as fol- 
lows: 1 

"It is now about five weeks since I have seen a line from North 
Elba, or had any chance of writing you. During that period we 
here have passed through an almost constant series of very trying 
events. We were called to go to the relief of Lawrence, May 22, 
and every man (eight in all) except Orson [Day], turned out; he 
staying with the women and children, and to take care of the cattle. 
John was captain of a company to which Jason belonged ; the other 
six were a little company by ourselves. On our way to Lawrence 
we learned that it had been already destroyed, and we encamped 
with John's company over night. Next day our little company left, 
and during the day we stopped and searched three men. . . . On 
the second day and evening after we left John's men we encountered 
quite a number of proslavery men, and took quite a number of pris- 
oners. Our prisoners we let go; but we kept some four or five horses. 
We were immediately after this accused of murdering five men at 
Pottawatomie, and great efforts have since been made by the Mis- 
sourians and their ruffian allies to capture us. John's company soon 
afterward disbanded, and also the Osawatomie men." 

In this brief, equivocal fashion John Brown reported to the 
absent members of his family that event in his life which made 
him most famous in Kansas and has caused more discussion 
than any other single event in the history of Kansas Territory. 
Upon the degree of criminality, if any, which should attach 
to John Brown for his part in the proceedings, the debate 
in Kansas to-day is almost as bitter as at the time of the 
crime, or when Brown's tragic end kindled the Kansas inter- 
est in it anew. As one views Brown's conduct in the killing of 
the five pro-slavery men on Pottawatomie Creek depends to a 
large degree the place which may be assigned to him in history. 
Certainly, without a clear appreciation of what happened on 
the night of the 24th to the 25th of May, 1856, a true under- 
standing of Brown, the man, cannot be reached. The actual 


details have been veiled for nearly half a century in a mystery 
which the confessions of one of the party only partially dis- 
pelled. Fortunately for the truth of history, there are two other 
participants, Henry Thompson and Salmon Brown, still sur- 
viving after this long stretch of time, who have now set forth 
what happened. There are also many narratives of contempo- 
rary witnesses available which, when weighed together, make 
possible not only a real knowledge of the conditions prece- 
dent to the Pottawatomie massacre, but of its effects upon 
the Free Soil cause. 

John Brown, Jr., was engaged in planting corn when the 
messenger from Lawrence arrived. " Without delay," he re- 
corded in a defence of his father, 2 "I rode to Osawatomie 
with the word and then rallied the men of my company whose 
homes were mostly on Pottawatomie and Middle Creeks." 
His first lieutenant, Henry H. Williams, assisted him in this 
work, and by six o'clock in the evening thirty-four armed 
men met at the rendezvous, the junction of the Osawatomie 
and California roads. "The 'Marion Rifles' and 'Pomeroy 
Guards' from Osawatomie," narrated Williams, 3 in what is 
truly most valuable contemporary testimony, since it was 
written only two months after the event, while Williams was 
still a prisoner at Leavenworth, "had promised to meet us 
here by agreement, but only two men came, who reported 
that another messenger from Lawrence had arrived and con- 
tradicted the former report, and that, therefore, the Osawato- 
mie companies would await further orders. The Pottawato- 
mies, however, agreed to push on to Lawrence and ascertain 
the facts for themselves. Accordingly we moved on, and two 
miles from the Meridezene [Marais des Cygnes] we met a mes- 
senger from near Lawrence who reported that the Border 
Ruffians had taken the town without any resistance and were 
razing it to the ground. This startling news was received in 
silence by the company. Then the word ' onward ' was passed 
along the line and although scarcely a word was spoken the 
thoughts of every one could be read in his countenance. We 
pushed on, and a messenger was dispatched to arouse the 
settlers at Osawatomie. At Prairie City we learned that there 
was no organized Free State force in Lawrence and that the 
' Border Ruffians ' were in possession of Blanton's Bridge, 


and had assembled in force at Lecompton. We concluded 
to encamp at Prairie City and await reinforcements." 

At this camp the company of John Brown, Jr., and Lieuten- 
ant H. H. Williams remained until the next day, the 23d. Cap- 
tain Shore and his Osawatomie company, together with the 
"Pomeroy Guards," joined the camp, bringing details of the 
sack of Lawrence and also the news that a force of four hun- 
dred men under Buford was in camp a few miles to the east. 4 
That evening, hearing that Governor Robinson was being 
taken, a prisoner, from Westport to Lecompton, guarded by 
Border Ruffians, the three companies moved to Palmyra (now 
the prosperous town of Baldwin), then a little near-by settle- 
ment, twelve miles from Lawrence, in order that they might 
rescue the Free State leader if he were brought that way over 
the Santa Fe trail. 5 In their new camp they were joined by the 
Marion Rifles, Captain Updegraff. On the 24th, Captain John 
Brown, Jr., went with a scouting party into Lawrence to view 
the ruins. 6 His report and that of his men, that the citizens 
of that ill-fated town had not united in defending themselves 
against the common enemy, made the four companies at 
Palmyra decide they could not fight Lawrence's battles alone. 
"Accordingly," wrote Mr. Williams, "we broke up our camp, 
each company returning to its respective locality, the men 
dispersing to their homes." This homeward movement was 
hastened by the arrival of thirteen soldiers of the First Cav- 
alry under Second Lieutenant John R. Church, a young West 
Pointer, whose official report of the meeting, dated May 26, 
1856, has fortunately been preserved. Lieutenant Church, 
after a long talk with John Brown, Jr., ordered him to dis- 
band the camp in compliance with his (Church's) orders to 
disperse all armed bodies he encountered, whether pro-slavery 
or Free Soil. 7 

Curiously enough, the Pottawatomies returned to their 
homes the next day under the command of a new captain, 
Henry H. Williams, having deposed John Brown, Jr., on his 
way back from Lawrence, because he had freed two slaves. 8 
"The arrival of those slaves in camp next morning caused a 
commotion," so their liberator has recorded. "The act of free- 
ing them, though attended by no violence or bloodshed, was 
freely denounced, and in accordance with a vote given by a 


large majority of the men, those freed persons, in opposition to 
my expressed will, were returned to their master. The driver 
of the team which carried them overtaking him on his way 
to Westport, received a side-saddle as his reward." There 
was still another reason why the men of John Brown, Jr.'s 
company chose a new captain. On this same day, when the 
company was near Ottawa Creek on its return, a rider came 
tearing into camp his horse panting and lathered with 
foam and without dismounting yelled out: " Five men have 
been killed on Pottawatomie Creek, butchered and most 
brutally mangled, and old John Brown has done it!" 
thus Jason Brown records it. "This information," he states, 
"caused great excitement and fear among the men of our com- 
pany and a feeling arose against John and myself which led 
the men all to desert us." 9 

As John Brown himself wrote to his family, he and a small 
party left his son's company the morning after their long 
night tramp to Prairie City, on Friday, May 23. The cir- 
cumstances leading up to his departure are thus set forth by 
Jason Brown: 

"Father cooked for our company. While he was cooking break- 
fast, I heard him, Townsley and Weiner talking together. I heard 
Townsley say: 'We expect to be butchered, every Free State set- 
tler in our region,' and Townsley pleaded that help should be sent. 
I heard their talk only in fragments. Then I heard father say to 
Weiner: 'Now something must be done. We have got to defend our 
families and our neighbors as best we can. Something is going to 
be done now. We must show by actual work that there are two sides 
to this thing and that they cannot go on with impunity. ' ' 

Weiner also told Martin Van Buren Jackson, in the camp, 
" that he, his man Benjamin and also Bondi, had been insulted, 
abused and ordered to leave the county within three days, by 
the Shermans and other pro-slavery parties living in the 
neighborhood of Dutch Henry's Crossing; and that Dutch 
Bill (Sherman), as he was called, was drunk and very abu- 
sive. He said this was the second time they had been to his 
place in the past few days, and he did not propose to stand 
such treatment much longer." n 

Moved by this and other provocations, John Brown acted 
at once. " Pottawatomie," says Salmon Brown, "was resolved 


upon by father, supported by the leading men in John's com- 
pany maybe a dozen and by his own crowd. The plan 
was thoroughly discussed there in camp, not before the whole 
company, but in the council thus selected." 12 August Bondi, 
a faithful follower of John Brown, remembers the council 
well, for Brown used to him practically the same words 
"Something must be done to show these barbarians that 
we, too, have rights," 13 which he had previously spoken 
to Weiner and Townsley. It is clear that John Brown did 
reveal to the council the general outline of his plan. 14 "It 
was now and here resolved that they, their aiders and abettors, 
who sought to kill our suffering people, should themselves be 
killed, and in such manner as should be likely to cause a re- 
straining fear," declares John Brown, Jr., and Salmon Brown 
testifies : 

"The general purport of our intentions some radical retalia- 
tory measure some killing was well understood by the whole 
camp. You never heard such cheering as they gave us when we 
started out. 15 They were wild with excitement and enthusiasm. 
The principal man the leader in the council that resolved on 
the necessity of Pottawatomie, was H. H. Williams: I do not 
know that I ought to tell this since he himself has not; but it is the 
fact. He was wholly determined that the thing must be done. He 
knew all those men on the Pottawatomie, better than any of us. 
He lived among them was familiar with all their characters. He 
was now the most active of us all in urging this step. And not fif- 
teen minutes before we left to go to Pottawatomie I saw him, my- 
self, write out a list of the men who were to be killed and hand it to 
father. This was on the crest of the wave of enthusiasm. Williams 
was a little cautious, I always thought, even then. He was a first- 
rate fellow; but he was too smart, even in enthusiasm, to go into a 
thing like that, personally, when he could get some one else to do it 
for him. Then, when it was all over, and he found how the people 
down at home took it, he got scared. He had n't the backbone to 
stand by his own mind, against popular opinion, he went back 
on his own radical measures, weakened, did not confess to his own 
share in their origin, and counselled peace. In fact, he got scared. 
Benjamin told me about this afterward. Williams wrote down the 
names of the men whom, he said, it was necessary to pick off to pre- 
vent the utter destruction of the whole community and handed the 
paper to father. We started back, thereupon, for the Pottawatomie 
country, which was the headquarters for the pro-slavery men, under 
Judge Cato, for that region, to pick off the designated men promi- 
nent in enforcing Border Ruffian laws." 16 


About noon, John Brown selected for his party Henry 
Thompson, Theodore Weiner, and four sons, Owen, Frederick, 
Salmon and Oliver. In order to secure the use of his wagon, 
John Brown went to James Townsley, of the Pottawatomie 
Rifles, saying he had just heard trouble was expected- on the 
Pottawatomie. He asked Townsley whether he could not take 
his team of grays and convey him with his sons back to Pot- 
tawatomie. Townsley consented, and the departure was fixed 
for two o'clock. 17 The interim was devoted to the sharpen- 
ing of some of the odd-shaped cutlasses, the gift of General 
Lucius V. Bierce, of Akron, Ohio, that John Brown had brought 
West with him, for use in border warfare. 18 John Brown, 
Jr., and Jason devoted themselves to the cutlasses, while a 
boy, Bain Fuller, turned the grindstone; but Jason insists 
that he had no idea of the real purpose of the expedition. 19 
Seeing the grinding operation, George Grant remarked to 
Frederick Brown: "That looks like business." "Yes," was 
the reply, "it does." When Grant asked whether he might 
not also ride back in Townsley's wagon, Frederick Brown 
consulted his father, only to return and report: "Father says 
you had better not come." 20 Bain Fuller, whose father had 
received John Brown's word that the boy should not get into 
trouble, was told to go home and to be sure to have witnesses 
as to his whereabouts for that night. 21 Before Townsley's 
horses were ready and the cutlasses had received their edge, 
a feeling came over some of the men in the camp that the 
radical leader of the returning party might not act with 
sufficient discretion. One of them went to John Brown, so 
relates Judge James Hanway, and urged "caution." At this, 
Brown, who was packing up his camp fixtures, instantly stood 
erect and said: "Caution, caution, sir. I am eternally tired 
of hearing that word caution. It is nothing but the word 
of cowardice." 22 In the Kansas Monthly, for January, 1880, 
Judge Hanway wrote:"! ventured to approach one of the 
eight, and from him learned the program contemplated. In 
fact, I received an invitation to be one of the party, and 
being unwilling to consent before I learned the object, I 
was made acquainted with the object of the expedition; it 
shocked me.'" 

With the shouts of their comrades in their ears, the party 


set off in Townsley's wagon, except Weiner, who, riding his 
pony, gave them mounted escort as they retraced their way 
over the road they had traversed in such haste and excite- 
ment the night before. "As we turned back with the evil 
news [the fate of Lawrence] and had just got to the top of 
the hill south of the Wakarusa the high ridge," says Salmon 
Brown, "a man named Gardner came to us with the news of 
the assault upon Senator Sumner of Bully Brooks,* carry- 
ing the message hidden in his boot. At that blow the men 
went crazy crazy. It seemed to be the finishing, decisive 
touch." Two men have affirmed that they met the expedition 
as it took its way toward what is now the little hamlet called 
Lane. Captain J. M. Anthony and a squad of Free State men 
encountered it near the residence of Ottawa Jones, and in 
their surprise at seeing fighting men returning when Lawrence 
was in distress, asked eagerly whither the men in the lumber 
wagon were bound. "They gave us," says Captain Anthony, 
"no answer except that they were going to attend to very ur- 
gent business and would be right back to join us on the march 
to Lawrence." 23 Near sundown, between Pottawatomie and 
Middle Creek, James Blood descried a wagon with a mounted 
man alongside, going toward Pottawatomie Creek. As he 
neared the wagon, John Brown rose in it and cried "Halt!" 
Blood remembered afterwards that the men in the wagon 
were armed with rifles, revolvers, knives and General Bierce's 
short heavy broadswords, for John Brown had given him one 
of these cutlasses when in Lawrence during the Wakarusa 
excitement. Brown, Blood found to be very indignant that 
Lawrence had been sacked without a shot being fired in its 
behalf. He denounced the leading Free State men as cowards 
or worse. "His manner," wrote Colonel Blood twenty-three 
years later, "was wild and frenzied, and the whole party 
watched with excited eagerness every word or motion of the 
old man. Finally, as I left them, he requested me not to 
mention the fact that I had met them, as they were on a secret 
expedition and did not want anyone to know that they were 
in the neighborhood." 24 

That night, says Townsley, they "drove down to the edge 

* Congressman Brooks, of South Carolina, assaulted Senator Sumner in the 
Senate on May 22, 1856, striking him on the head with a heavy cane. 


of the timber between two deep ravines, and camped about 
one mile above Dutch Henry's Crossing." 25 And there, 
Townsley asserts, John Brown told him for the first time 
of his bloodthirsty intentions, and refused to let him go 
when he, Townsley, asked to be allowed to take his team 
and return home. All the next day, Saturday, the 24th, the 
little company literally lay on their arms in their open-air 
camp. For it was in the night that John Brown proposed to 
strike his blow, in order, Salmon Brown declares, that they 
might be sure to catch their quarry in their lairs. "Maybe," 
he adds, "Father took into consideration the terrifying ef- 
fect of such a means." Certainly, the hour suited the deed. 
The chase was trapped; save in one instance. Henry Sher- 
man, whose absence in pursuit of wandering cattle saved 
his life for another year, was one of three brothers, German 
in origin, and therefore known in the community as Dutch 
Bill, Dutch Henry and Dutch Pete. Border Ruffians by their 
sympathies and their instincts, their character is painted 
black enough by their Free Soil neighbors, who credited them 
with no honest ways of life, generally thought of them as 
ignorant and drunken, living at the crossing which bore the 
name of Dutch Henry, and subsisting by making money out 
of the emigrants or "lifting" a horse or a cow or two from the 
caravans as they came by. For this well-known ford was the 
point where the much-used road from Fort Scott to the Santa 
Fe trail and the old California road, or road to Oregon, used 
by emigrants going still further west, crossed the Pottawato- 
mie. Weiner's store near-by also drew patronage from these 
emigrant parties, and to it the Shermans and their pro-slavery 
neighbors had carried their drunken threats of extermination 
of the Abolitionists that had so stirred Weiner, Townsley 
and Bondi. Indeed, the two diverse elements had even come 
to blows, as Henry Thompson testifies. For several midwinter 
months he had helped Weiner to keep his store. Returning 
to it on Christmas Day, he found Weiner with an axe handle 
beating "Dutch Bill" Sherman, who fled on the approach 
of Thompson. "He attacked me in my own store," said 
Weiner by way of explanation. 26 "They were brutes and 
bullies," declares one woman who resided at Osawatomie 
at this time, in speaking of the murdered men, and this 


seems to sum up their character accurately, if the adjective 
"ignorant" be added. 27 

The men of the Doyle family, father and two sons, were 
low "poor whites" from Tennessee, who, while sympathizing 
with the pro-slavery element, went to Kansas because, ac- 
cording to Mrs. Doyle, they had found that slavery was 
"ruinous to white labor." 28 Mrs. Doyle herself was illiterate, 
and it is altogether likely that the men were. The family 
seems to have been very intimate with "Dutch Bill," who 
was one of the oldest settlers in the region, and considerably 
under his influence. Allen Wilkinson, on the other hand, 
was a man of some education; he was a member of the pro- 
slavery Legislature, and returned from its meetings at the 
Shawnee Mission more than ever a pro-slavery man. George 
W. Grant and his brother, Henry Grant, have testified that 
Wilkinson was a dangerous man, whom everybody feared; 
"the most evil looking man" they ever saw, "who fearfully 
abused a nice wife, well liked by the neighbors." 29 Wilkin- 
son, too, was free with his threats to the Free Soil settlers, 
urging them to "clear out" and avoid trouble. All of them 
were friendly with the Missourians who passed by, acting 
as their guides and advisers. There is also no doubt that 
when the Browns entered the camp of Buford's men as sur- 
veyors, they found these obnoxious pro-slavery neighbors on 
good terms with the invaders. 30 

Not unnaturally, a different character was assigned after 
their murders to these men by the pro-slavery leaders. Thus, 
Henry Clay Pate, correspondent of the St. Louis Republi- 
can and leader of a pro-slavery company, testified that " they 
had no fault as quiet citizens but being in favor of slavery. 
That was the crime for which they forfeited their lives." 31 
The Rev. Martin White insisted to the pro-slavery Legisla- 
ture that Wilkinson was a noble man, whose "greatest crime " 
was that "he was a member of the first legislature in this 
territory," which crime, White added, was the reason for 
his death. 32 Congressman Oliver, the Democratic member 
of the Howard Committee, was satisfied, after taking testi- 
mony in the case of the murders, that Wilkinson was a quiet, 
inoffensive man. "My husband was a quiet man, and was 
not engaged in arresting or disturbing anybody. He took no 


active part in the pro-slavery cause, so as to aggravate the 
Abolitionists, but he was a pro-slavery man," was Mrs. Wil- 
kinson's characterization of her husband. 33 The Kansas 
Weekly Herald of Leavenworth affirmed on June 7, 1856, that 
Wilkinson was a member of the Legislature, and that the other 
victims were "plain, honest, peaceable farming settlers." 
But the weight of evidence is too strong on the other side to 
make it possible to accept this characterization as correct. 
Excepting perhaps Wilkinson, the others were of the rough, 
brutal, disorderly element to be found in every frontier out- 
post, whether it be mining camp or farmers' settlement. 

During the morning of Saturday, the 24th, when John 
Brown's party of avengers lay in the timber between two 
deep ravines a mile above Dutch Henry's Crossing, Towns- 
ley, so he asserts, did his best to dissuade the leader and his 
sons from carrying out their plans, and to this end "talked 
a good deal." But Brown insisted always that it had be- 
come necessary "to strike terror into the hearts of the pro- 
slavery people." Townsley even avers that the day's delay 
was due to his protests and his refusal to guide the company 
up to the forks of Mosquito Creek, some five or six miles 
above, and point out where pro-slavery men resided, so that 
Brown's men might sweep the creek of them as they came 
down. This Salmon Brow r n declares to be nonsense, a plan 
that "never was dreamed of." Moreover, Weiner, the store- 
keeper, might well have been as efficient a guide as Townsley, 
since he had been in Kansas longer and naturally had a 
wider acquaintance. The delay, too, is not hard to explain. 
The men must have been fairly exhausted when they en- 
camped in the timber, since they had marched all the previous 
night and, after working all the morning, had driven back 
over rough roads between two o'clock and sundown. To 
postpone the raid in order to obtain necessary sleep was most 
natural. Then, since night-time was deemed necessary to 
trap the prey sought, the day in camp was inevitable. But 
on this fateful day the sun finally sank into the prairies, and 
long before it disappeared, Townsley had resigned himself to 
his situation sufficiently to decide that he would go along, 
albeit unwillingly, as he declares. 

As for the rest, aside from Weiner, whom Salmon Brown 


describes as a "big, savage, bloodthirsty Austrian" who 
" could not be kept out of any accessible fight," 34 they needed 
no persuasion. Whether it was the compelling personality of 
their father, whose dominating manner and will-power later 
led men willingly to their death under circumstances against 
which their common sense revolted, or whether there was in 
the sons a sufficient touch of an inherited mental disturb- 
ance to make them less than rational in their reasoning, there 
was no attempt at a filial revolt against a parental decision, 
even when they went unwillingly. Two sons, at least, Freder- 
ick and Oliver, kept their hands unstained, 35 and probably 
protested, only to submit and accompany their father and 
imperious commander as witnesses of the horrors of that 
night, sharing the guilt of all in the eyes of the law. The other 
brothers, then unaccustomed to the sight of blood, who had 
hitherto led the untroubled lives of plain American citizens, 
were exalted or nerved now to deeds at which a trained pro- 
fessional soldier might easily and creditably shrink. The 
sword of Gideon was unsheathed. About the hour of ten 
o'clock the party, armed with swords, revolvers and rifles, 
proceeded in a northerly direction, "crossing Mosquito Creek 
above the residence of the Doyles." Soon after crossing the 
creek, some one of the party knocked at the door of a cabin. 
There was no reply, but from within came the sound of a 
gun rammed through the chinks of the cabin walls. It saved 
the owner's life, for, relates Salmon Brown, "at that we all 
scattered. We did not disturb that man. With some candle 
wicking soaked in coal oil to light and throw inside, so that 
we could see within while he could not see outside, we would 
have managed it. But we had none. It was a method much 
used later." 

Thence it was but a short distance to the ill-fated Doyles'. 
To add to the natural terrors of the night and of the dark 
design, there came to meet them, at the very threshold of the 
house, two dogs "very savage bull dogs." One of these sen- 
tinels Townsley claims to have helped despatch, for though, 
according to his own story, an unwilling abettor under com- 
pulsion, he carried one of the deadly Bierce swords and was 
thus an armed prisoner. It was about eleven o'clock, Mrs. 
Doyle testified, that her family heard a knock. 38 


"My husband got up and went to the door. Those outside in- 
quired for Mr. Wilkson [Wilkinson] and where he lived. My hus- 
band told them that he would tell them. Mr. Doyle, my husband, 
opened the door, and several came into the house, and said that they 
were from the army. My husband was a pro-slavery man. They 
told my husband that he and the boys must surrender, they were 
their prisoners. These men were armed with pistols and large knives. 
They first took my husband out of the house, then they took two 
of my sons the two oldest ones, William and Drury out, and 
then took my husband and these two boys, William and Drury, 
away. My son John was spared, because I asked them in tears to 
spare him. In a short time afterward I heard the report of pistols." 

Thus, without warning or notice, her husband and two sons 
were torn from her and despatched. "When we entered the 
Doyle cabin," says Salmon Brown, "Mrs. Doyle stormed, 
raved at her men, after we had taken them prisoners. ' Haven't 
I told you what you were going to get for the course you have 
been taking?' she screamed. 'Hush, mother, hush,' replied 
her husband." Her two boys, twenty- two and twenty years 
of age, were granted, like her husband, no time to make their 
peace, no time to ask forgiveness of their sins. Townsley af- 
firms that he, Frederick Brown and Weiner were at some dis- 
tance from the house, but near enough to cry out in protest 
if he had wished to, and near enough to see that John Brown 
"drew his revolver and shot old man Doyle in the forehead, 
and Brown's two younger sons immediately fell upon the 
younger Doyles with their short two-edged swords." But in 
this, according to Salmon Brown, Townsley was mistaken, 
just as he erred in insisting that Watson Brown, then at 
North Elba, was present and playing the part of executioner. 
"Not one of the Doyles ran a single step," is Salmon's posi- 
tive statement. "They fell where they stood. I think that 
the father Doyle was not the first of the three to be killed." 

As for John Brown's own part, he killed none of them with 
his own hand; to this both Henry Thompson and Salmon 
Brown bear positive witness, as did John Brown himself. 
But Mrs. Doyle did hear one shot at least. Salmon Brown 
will not positively state that his father fired it, but admits 
that no one else in the party pulled a trigger. He is at a loss 
to explain why the shot was fired. "It did no possible good, 
as a bullet, for Doyle had long been stone dead." And his 


father could therefore truthfully say that he had raised his 
hand against no living man. "I was three hundred yards 
away when the shot was fired," is Henry Thompson's state- 
ment. "Those who were on the spot told me that it was done 
after Doyle was dead." Even with Oliver and Frederick, a 
younger and older son, taking no part, the killings lasted but 
a moment. Doyle and his two sons in an instant lay lifeless, 
a Free State warning to the pro-slavery forces that it was 
to be a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, henceforth, so far 
as one wing of the Free State party was concerned. If pro- 
slavery men had not been made to die when Lawrence fell, 
here were three to even up the score. " My husband, and two 
boys, my sons," testified the simple, untutored, pitiful Ma- 
hala Doyle, "did not come back any more. I went out next 
morning in search of them, and found my husband and Wil- 
liam, my son, lying dead in the road near together, about 
two hundred yards from the house. My other son I did not 
see any more until the day he was buried. I was so much 
overcome that I went into the house. They were buried the 
next day. On the day of the burying I saw the dead body of 
Drury. Fear of myself and the remaining children induced 
me to leave the home where we had been living. We had 
improved our claim a little. I left all and went to the State 
of Missouri." 

"I found my father and one brother, William, lying dead 
in the road, about two hundred yards from the house," tes- 
tified John Doyle. 37 "I saw my other brother lying dead on 
the ground, about one hundred and fifty yards from the 
house, in the grass, near a ravine; his fingers were cut off, 
and his arms were cut off; his head was cut open; there was a 
hole in his breast. William's head was cut open, and a hole 
was in his jaw, as though it was made by a knife, and a hole 
was also in his side. My father was shot in the forehead and 
stabbed in the breast." "Owen and another killed the Doyles," 
says Salmon Brown, and by a process of elimination it is 
apparent that the other could only have been himself. "It is 
not true," Townsley testifies, "that there was any intentional 
mutilation of the bodies after they were killed. They were 
slain as quickly as possible and left, and whatever gashes 
they received were inflicted in the process of cutting them 


down with swords. I understand that the killing was done 
with these swords so as to avoid alarming the neighborhood 
by the discharge of firearms." 

The next man to meet his fate at the hands of John Brown's 
merciless party was Wilkinson. The same procedure was 
adopted. Somewhere between the hours of midnight and day- 
break, "we were disturbed by the barking of the dog," Mrs. 
Wilkinson informed Congressman Oliver, under oath. 38 She 
continued : 

"I was sick with the measles, and woke up Mr. Wilkinson, and 
asked if he heard the noise and what it meant? He said it was only 
someone passing about, and soon after was again asleep. It was not 
long before the dog raged and barked furiously, awakening me once 
more; pretty soon I heard footsteps as of men approaching; saw 
one pass by the window, and some one knocked at the door. I asked, 
who is that? No one answered. I awoke my husband, who asked, 
who is that? Someone replied, 'I want you to tell me the way to 
Dutch Henry's.' He commenced to tell them, and they said to him, 
' Come out and show us.' He wanted to go, but I would not let him ; 
he then told them it was difficult to find his clothes, and could tell 
them as well without going out of doors. The men out of doors, 
after that, stepped back, and I thought I could hear them whisper- 
ing; but they immediately returned, and, as they approached, one 
of them asked of my husband, 'Are you a northern armist?' He 
said, 'I am!' I understood the answer to mean that my husband 
was opposed to the northern or freesoil party. I cannot say that I 
understood the question. My husband was a pro-slavery man, and 
was a member of the territorial legislature held at Shawnee Mission. 
When my husband said ' I am,' one of them said, 'You are our pris- 
oner. Do you surrender?' He said, 'Gentlemen, I do.' They said, 
'open the door.' Mr. Wilkinson told them to wait till he made a 
light; and they replied, 'if you don't open it, we will open it for you.' 
He opened the door against my wishes, and four men came in, and 
my husband was told to put on his clothes, and they asked him if 
there were not more men about; they searched for arms, and took a 
gun and powder flask, all the weapon that was about the house. I 
begged them to let Mr. Wilkinson stay with me, saying that I was 
sick and helpless, and could not stay by myself. My husband also 
asked them to let him stay with me until he could get someone to 
wait on me; told them that he would not run off, but would be there 
the next day, or whenever called for. The old man, who seemed to 
be in command, looked at me and then around at the children, and 
replied, 'You have neighbors.' I said, 'So I have, but they are not 
here, and I cannot go for them.' The old man replied, 'it matters 
not.' I [he?] told him to get ready. My husband wanted to put on 


his boots and get ready, so as to be protected from the damp and 
night air, but they would n't let him. They then took my husband 
away. One of them came back and took two saddles ; I asked him 
what they were going to do with him, and he said, ' take him a pris- 
oner to the camp.' I wanted one of them to stay with me. He said 
he would, but 'they would not let him.' After they were gone, I 
thought I heard my husband's voice, in complaint, but do not know; 
went to the door, and all was still. Next morning Mr. Wilkinson 
was found about one hundred and fifty yards from the house in some 
dead brush. A lady who saw my husband's body, said that there 
was a gash in his head and in his side; others said that he was cut 
in the throat twice." 

"We divided our forces at Wilkinson's, I think, into two 
parties to go on separate errands," is Salmon Brown's testi- 
mony. "Henry Thompson and Weiner killed Wilkinson and 
Sherman. My party was not present when Wilkinson and 
Sherman were killed. Townsley could not have been present 
at each crisis, as he implies. No one else was." Yet Townsley 
attributes Wilkinson's murder to "one of the younger Browns " 
and adds: "After he was killed his body was dragged to one 
side and left." Henry Thompson states that he was not pre- 
sent when the Doyles were killed, but is silent as to the fate 
of Wilkinson and Sherman. 

The "old man" to whom Mrs. Wilkinson's pleading for 
her husband's life had "mattered not" was still unplacated 
when Wilkinson's dead body lay in the brush. The next and 
last man to die was William Sherman. "We then crossed the 
Pottawatomie and came to the house of Henry Sherman," 
is Townsley 's tale. "Here John Brown and the party, except- 
ing Frederick Brown, Weiner and myself, who were left out- 
side a short distance from the door, went into the house and 
brought out one or two persons, talked with them some, and 
then took them in again. They afterward brought out William 
Sherman, Dutch Henry's brother, marched him down into 
the Pottawatomie Creek, where he was slain with swords 
by Brown's two youngest sons and left lying in the creek." 
But Townsley was again wrong as to his details, for the house 
was not Sherman's, but that of James Harris, who promptly 
made affidavit thereto and thus related what befell : 39 

"On last Sunday morning, about two o'clock, (the 25th of May 
last,) whilst my wife and child and myself were in bed in the house 


where we lived, we were aroused by a company of men who said 
they belonged to the northern army, and who were each armed 
with a sabre and two revolvers, two of whom I recognized, namely, a 
Mr. Brown, whose given name I do not remember, commonly known 
by the appellation of 'old man Brown,' and his son, Owen Brown. 
They came in the house and approached the bedside where we were 
lying, and ordered us, together with three other men who were in 
the same house with me, to surrender ; that the northern army was 
upon us, and it would be no use for us to resist. The names of these 
other three men who were then in my house with me are, William 
Sherman, John S. Whiteman, the other man I did not know. They 
were stopping with me that night. They had bought a cow from 
Henry Sherman, and intended to go home the next morning. When 
they [the Browns] came up to the bed, some had drawn sabres in 
their hands, and some revolvers. They then took into their pos- 
session two rifles and a Bowie knife, which I had there in the room 
there was but one room in my house and afterward ransacked 
the whole establishment in search of ammunition. They then took 
one of these three men, who were staying in my house, out. (This 
was the man whose name I did not know.) He came back. They 
then took me out, and asked me if there were any more men about 
the place. I told them there were not. They searched the place, 
but found none others but we four. They asked me where Henry 
Sherman was. Henry Sherman was a brother to William Sherman. 
I told them that he was out on the plains in search of some cattle 
which he had lost. They asked if I had ever taken any hand in aid- 
ing pro-slavery men in coming to the Territory of Kansas, or had 
ever taken any hand in the last troubles at Lawrence, and asked 
me whether I had ever done the free State party any harm or ever 
intended to do that party any harm; they asked me what made me 
live at such a place. I then answered that I could get higher wages 
there than anywhere else. They asked me if there were any bridles 
or saddles about the premises. I told them there was one saddle, 
which they took, and they also took possession of Henry Sherman's 
horse, which I had at my place, and made me saddle him. They 
then said if I would answer no to all questions which they had asked 
me, they would let [me?] loose. Old Mr. Brown and his son then 
went into the house with me. The other three men, Mr. William 
Sherman, Mr. Whiteman, and the stranger were in the house all 
this time. After old man Brown and his son went into the house with 
me, old man Brown asked Mr. Sherman to go out with him, and 
Mr. Sherman then went out with old Mr. Brown, and another man 
came into the house in Brown's place. I heard nothing more for 
about fifteen minutes. Two of the northern army, as they styled 
themselves, stayed on with us until we heard a cap burst, and then 
these two men left. That morning about ten o'clock I found Wil- 
liam Sherman dead in the creek near my house. I was looking for 
Mr. Sherman, as he had not come back, I thought he had been mur- 


dered. I took Mr. William Sherman out of the creek and examined 
him. Mr. Whiteman was with me. Sherman's skull was split open 
in two places and some of his brains was washed out by the water. 
A large hole was cut in his breast, and his left hand was cut off ex- 
cept a little piece of skin on one side. We buried him." 

Here Thompson and Weiner were again the executioners, 
according to Salmon Brown. "Neither of the younger sons, 
nor Owen, was present when William Sherman was killed." 
Then, at last, John Brown was satisfied. He had told Towns- 
ley that he must take matters into his own hands "for the 
protection of the Free State settlers; that it was better that 
a score of bad men should die than that one man who came 
here to make Kansas a Free State should be driven out." 
The rising Sabbath sun shone on five mutilated bodies, their 
very starkness, in their executioner's eyes, a protection to the 
Free State settlers for many miles around. The bloody night's 
work was over. Confusion now had made his masterpiece. 

Three and one half years later, when in jail and under 
sentence of death, John Brown received the following letter 
purporting to come from Mahala Doyle. Mrs. Doyle could 
not write, and the letter is obviously, in its style, beyond her 
homely powers of expression, though she may have signed it, 
and there is nothing in it she might not have said in her own 


JOHN BROWN: SIR, Altho' vengence is not mine I confess 
that I do feel gratified, to hear that you were stopped in your fiend- 
ish career at Harper's Ferry, with the loss of your two sons, you 
can now appreciate my distress in Kansas, when you then & there 
entered my house at midnight and arrested my Husband and two 
boys, and took them out of the yard and in cold blood shot them 
dead in my hearing, you cant say you done it to free slaves, we had 
none and never expected to own one, but has only made me a poor 
disconsolate widow with helpless children, while I feel for your 
folly I do hope & trust that you will meet your just reward. O how 
it pained my heart to hear the dying groans of my Husband & chil- 
dren, if this scrawl gives you any consolation you are welcome to it 


N. B. My son John Doyle whose life I beged of you is now grown 
up and is very desirous to be at Charlestown on the day of your 
execution, would certainly be there if his means would permit it 
that he might adjust the rope around your neck if Gov. Wise would 
permit it. M. DOYLE. . 


Townsley asserts that Brown was intent upon killing 
George Wilson, Probate Judge of Anderson County, whom he 
hoped to find at Sherman's, for the reason that he had been 
warning Free State men to leave the Territory. Townsley 
claimed to have received such a notice himself. But Salmon 
Brown and Henry Thompson deny positively that Wilson 
was on the proscribed list. Be this as it may, there was no 
further search for any one, and the blood-stained party went 
back to the camping-place in the timber between the two deep 
ravines, their swords, "unmannerly breached with gore," 
being first washed in Pottawatomie Creek. Just before day- 
light, Townsley avers, Owen Brown came to him and said, 
"There shall be no more such work as that." In the after- 
noon the eight men started back to rejoin the Pottawatomie 
company under John Brown, Jr. They found it about mid- 
night, encamped near Ottawa Jones's farm, where, as we have 
seen, the news of their awful deed had already preceded 
them, and where John Brown, Jr., had resigned the cap- 
taincy of the company. As soon as Jason Brown, whose 
hatred of blood-letting had deprived him of his father's con- 
fidence when violent deeds were under way, met his father 
face to face, he encountered him tremblingly, for this was 
the "worst shock" that ever came to him in his life. 41 "Did 
you, " he demanded of his father, "have anything to do with 
the killing of those men on the Pottawatomie?" "I did not 
do it," the father replied, "but I approved of it." "I spoke 
to him as I then felt about it," continues Jason; "I did not 
fully understand the cause of it then, and told him I was very 
sorry the act had been done. I said to him : ' I think it was an 
uncalled for, wicked act.' He said: 'God is my judge. It was 
absolutely necessary as a measure of self-defence, and for 
the defence of others.' I cannot give his exact language, but 
this was the purport of it. It seemed to hurt his feelings that 
I felt so about it. He soon after left us, and John and I re- 
turned to Osawatomie." Not, however, until he had sought 
additional information. He inquired of his brother Frederick 
if he knew who the murderers were. "Yes I do, but I can't 
tell you." " Did you kill any of them with your own hands? " 
"No; when I came to see what manner of work it was, I 
could not do it." The tears rolled down Frederick's face as he 


spoke, Jason reports ; and this eye-witness of the tragedy seems 
never to have learned to approve of it. In this he was in marked 
contrast to Townsley, for, unwilling participant as he was, he 
stated that after the event he became convinced that it resulted 
in good to the Free State settlers on Pottawatomie Creek. 

Jason and John Brown, Jr., felt too badly to join forces 
with their father. The Pottawatomie Company started for 
home under H. H. Williams in a very different frame of mind 
toward the men they had so gayly cheered out of camp but 
three days before, either because of a sudden repentance, or 
of their having expected a stand-up fight instead of a slaugh- 
ter, or because the deed in its reality seemed so much worse 
than in anticipation that those in the secret joined the others 
in their detestation of it. John Brown and his fellow execu- 
tioners fell behind the company, after crossing Middle Creek, 
and struck off by themselves in the direction of Jason's and 
the younger John's homes. Jason and John headed not for 
their cabins but for Osawatomie. Already the roads were 
lined with men, so Jason narrates, 42 from Palmyra to Osa- 
watomie, looking for the Browns. The brothers got to the 
Adair cabin, where both their wives had taken refuge during 
their absence, at about 9 P. M. Adair came to the door with 
his gun. "Who's there?" said he. "John and I." "Can't 
keep you here. Our lives are threatened. Every moment we 
expect to have our house burned over our heads." To their 
entreaties, he only repeated: "I cannot keep you." "Here 
are we two alone," pleaded Jason. "We have eaten nothing 
all day. Let us lie on your floor until morning in your 
out-house anywhere." Then Mrs. Adair came and asked, 
"Did you have anything to do with the murders on the 
Pottawatomie?" "I did not," said Jason. "And John had 
no action in it." "Then," said Mrs. Adair, "you may stay. 
But we risk our lives in keeping you." They gave the two 
a mattress on the floor beside the Adairs' bed, and the four 
talked till midnight, Jason telling all he knew of the affair. 
John lay groaning. In the middle of the night John spoke to 
his Aunt Florilla. " I feel that I am going insane," said he, and 
in the morning he was insane. Jason had slept after a while, 
but John could not. His mind was gone, yet not so far gone 
but that he was able to understand and to acquiesce when 





In later years 


Jason advised him to hide, and to act upon it. About two or 
three o'clock that same night, a knock had been heard at the 
door. ' 'Who's there? "called out Adair. "Owen." "Getaway, 
get away as quick as you can! You endanger our lives." Adair 
would not parley or let him in. "You are a vile murderer, 
a marked man!" said he. 43 "I intend to be a marked man!" 
shouted Owen, and rode away on one of the murdered 
men's horses. 

The Rev. Mr. Adair was not the only one to feel outraged 
at first by the murders committed by his relatives. John 
T. Grant and Judge Hanway, two of the best Free State set- 
tlers in that region, talked the matter over, so J. G. Grant, a 
son of the former, recollects, 44 and agreed that John Brown's 
action was inexcusable. He had taken, they said, the mo- 
ment when the families of all the men who had gone to the 
rescue of Lawrence were helpless, to commit a crime which 
invited and provoked a vengeful attack upon the settlement. 
Was that sane or decent, they asked? And was it excusable 
for ;'him, after the murder, to march away from the seat 
of danger and rejoin the company at Ottawa Jones's, thus 
leaving the women and children more than ever helpless? 
Not until some time afterwards did Adair and Hanway, like 
Townsley, come around to an approval of the deed as they 
saw it in retrospect. "Last Sunday or Monday," wrote on 
May 31, 1856, James H. Carruth, another Osawatomie Free 
State settler of character, to the Watertown, New York, Re- 
former, 45 "five pro-slavery men were killed seven or eight miles 
from here. It is said that they had threatened to hang another 
pro-slavery man who had sold provisions to the free state 
men unless he left the territory in a few hours, and that one 
of them had been around the neighborhood brandishing his 
bowie-knife and threatening to kill people. It was murder, 
nevertheless, and the free-state men here cooperate with the 
pro-slavery men in endeavoring to arrest the murderers." 
"Threatened and ordered to leave in given time under pen- 
alty of death, some few persons committed the horrid murders 
at Pottawatomie 10 miles above," was the way O. C. Brown 
described the crime on June 24, 1856, in a letter to a friend. 46 
The writer was no relative of the murderers, but a staunch 
Free State man and a leader at Osawatomie. H. L. Jones, 


another settler, declares that the act was generally believed 
by Free State men to be warranted at the time, but that 
"policy dictated that the deed should be disavowed as having 
general disapproval." 47 George Thompson, a settler who lived 
four miles northeast of the Brown claims, testified, in 1894, 
that "at the time of the executions of the Doyles, Wilkinson 
and Sherman, with many of my neighbors I did not approve 
the act, but since, on more fully understanding the circum- 
stances, I believe the act to have been wise and justifiable." 48 
Three days after the murders, a public meeting was held 
in Osawatomie, of which C. H. Price was chairman and H. H. 
Williams secretary. It adopted unanimously the following 
emphatic resolutions: 

"Whereas, An outrage of the darkest and foulest nature has been 
committed in our midst by some midnight assassins unknown, who 
have taken five of our citizens at the hour of midnight from their 
homes and families, and murdered and mangled them in the most 
awful manner; to prevent a repetition of these deeds, we deem it 
necessary to adopt some measures for our mutual protection and to 
aid and assist in bringing these desperadoes to justice. Under these 
circumstances we propose to act up to the following resolutions: 

" Resolved, That we will from this time lay aside all sectional 
and political feelings and act together as men of reason and common 
sense, determined to oppose all men who are so ultra in their views 
as to denounce men of opposite opinion. 

" Resolved, That we will repudiate and discountenance all organ- 
ized bands of men who leave their homes for the avowed purpose of 
exciting others to acts of violence, believing it to be the duty of all 
good disposed citizens to stay at home during these exciting times 
and protect and if possible restore the peace and harmony of the 
neighborhood ; furthermore we will discountenance all armed bodies 
of men who may come amongst us from any other part of the Ter- 
ritory or from the States unless said parties shall come under the 
authority of the United States. 

" Resolved, That we pledge ourselves, individually and collectively, 
to prevent a recurrence of a similar tragedy and to ferret out and 
hand over to the criminal authorities the perpetrators for punishment. 

C. H. Price, President 
R. Golding, Chairman 
R. Gilpatrick 

H. H. Williams * W. C. McDow 

Secretary S. V. Vandaman 

A. Castele 
John Blunt 

* If Salmon Brown's memory of H. H. Williams's instigation of the murders 



The Kansas Weekly Herald of Leavenworth, on June 14, in 
printing these resolutions, 49 says: "The outlaws that are now 
prowling about over the country and murdering harmless and 
innocent men, it will be seen, have been denounced publicly by 
persons of their own political opinions. The President of the 
meeting is a Pro-slavery man, and the Secretary, Free State." 
"The respectability of the parties and the cruelties attending 
these murders have produced an extraordinary state of excite- 
ment in that portion of the territory, which has, heretofore, 
remained comparatively quiet," Governor Shannon reported 
on May 31, 1856, to President Pierce. 50 "The effect of this 
massacre on the inhabitants of the creeks was greatly to alarm 
both parties. The pro-slavery settlers almost entirely left at 
once and the Free State people were constantly fearful," was 
the statement of George W. and H. C. Grant, also sons of J. T. 
Grant. 51 "No one can defend the action of the marshal's posse 
at Lawrence, in burning the hotel, destroying the printing- 
press and other outrages," wrote Major John Sedgwick, First 
Cavalry, from Fort Leavenworth, on June n, 1856, seven- 
teen days after the Pottawatomie massacre, and just eight 
years before he gave his life for the Union as a distinguished 
major-general of volunteers in the battle of Spottsylvania, 
"but no life was lost, no one was threatened or felt himself 
in danger. In retaliation for this act, inoffensive citizens have 
been plundered, their houses robbed and burned, and five 
men were taken out of their beds, their throats cut, their ears 
cut off, their persons gashed more horribly than our savages 
have ever done. I sincerely think that most of the atrocities 
have been committed by the free-soil party, but I cannot think 
that they countenance such acts that is, the respectable 
class." 52 

If Major Sedgwick was correct in his estimate of the atti- 
tude of the Free State men toward midnight assassination, 
at the hour he wrote, it is undeniable that as time passed, 
opinions about Brown's actions began to change. "I never 
had much doubt that Capt. Brown was the author of the blow 
at Pottawatomie, for the reason that he was the only man 
who comprehended the situation, and saw the absolute neces- 

is correct, his serving at this settler's meeting convicts Williams of almost incred- 
ible hypocrisy and cowardice. 


sity of some such blow and had the nerve to strike it," wrote 
Governor Charles Robinson, Februarys, 1878, nearly two years 
before Townsley's confession was published. 53 Judge Han- 
way, as we have already seen, altered his position radically, 
and in the following statement of February I, 1878, accurately 
summarizes the progress of public opinion in the neighborhood 
of the crime: 

". . . So far as public opinion in the neighborhood, where the 
'affair took place, is concerned, I believe I may state that the first 
news of the event produced such a shock that public opinion was 
considerably divided; but after the whole circumstances became 
known, there was a reaction in public opinion and the Free State 
settlers who had claims on the creek considered that Capt. Brown 
and his party of eight had performed a justifiable act, which saved 
their homes and dwellings from threatened raids of the proslavery 

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, in his 'Cheerful Yester- 
days,' states: 

"In regard to the most extreme act of John Brown's Kansas 
career, the so-called ' Pottawatomie massacre' of May 24, 1856, I 
can testify that in September of that year, there appeared to be but 
one way of thinking among the Kansas Free State men. ... I 
heard of no one who did not approve of the act, and its beneficial 
effects were universally asserted Governor Robinson himself fully 
endorsing it to me. . . ." 55 

How may the killings on the Pottawatomie, this terrible 
violation of the statute and the moral laws, be justified? This 
is the question which has confronted every student of John 
Brown's life since it was definitely established that Brown 
was, if not actually a principal in the crime, an accessory and 
an instigator. There have been advanced many excuses for 
the killings, and a number of them deserve careful scrutiny. 
That there may be times in a newly settled country when it 
becomes necessary for the conservative elements to take the 
law into their own hands, in the absence of proper judicial 
machinery, lest the community fall into a state of utter law- 
lessness and anarchy, has been admitted ever since lynch 
law brought order out of chaos in San Francisco in 1849. But 
it has similarly been recognized that even this wild justice, 
when set afoot, must follow a certain procedure ; that commit- 


tees of safety or vigilance should be formed and a kind of 
drum-head trial be instituted for the purpose of giving the 
accused men some opportunity to be heard in their own de- 
fence. History shows, moreover, that lynch law should only 
be proclaimed and obeyed for the briefest of periods, lest the 
second state be worse than the first; and that, even when in- 
stituted, public proceedings on the part of the self-appointed 
regulators are essential, both in order to make the punish- 
ments as deterrent as possible, and to persuade the commu- 
nity that it is justice, however rude, that is being dispensed. 
In Kansas in 1856 the situation was different from that of 
California in 1849-50, in that most of the existing lawless- 
ness had its origin largely in the national politics of the day. 
That there were the same rude and dangerous characters to be 
found on every frontier is proved by the recital of the crimes 
committed in Kansas prior to the Pottawatomie murders. In 
the case of Kansas, the high character of part of the emigra- 
tion was offset by the lawless character of the Border Ruffians. 
Slavery itself tended to that overbearing lawlessness which 
is inevitable wherever the fate of a dark-colored people is 
placed unreservedly in the hands of whites. It was the spirit 
of intolerance and lawlessness bred by slavery which dictated 
the destruction of Lawrence and made the abuse of the ballot- 
boxes seem proper and justifiable. But, granting that there 
was friction full of grave possibilities between a handful of the 
pro-slavery settlers on the Pottawatomie and their Free Soil 
neighbors, it is by no means clear either that the conditions 
prior to the killings were so grave as to demand the establish- 
ment of martial law, or that they called for the installation 
of vigilance committees to inflict extreme penalties upon 
the desperadoes. Not a single person had been killed in the 
region around Osawatomie, either by the lawless characters 
or by armed representatives of the pro-slavery cause. The 
instances of brutality or murder narrated in the preceding 
chapters all took place miles to the north, in the vicinity 
of Lawrence or Leavenworth. Beyond doubt the publica- 
tion of these atrocities inflamed not only the Browns, but 
kindled the anger and curdled the blood of every Free Soil 
settler who read of them. Yet the companies that set forth 
from Osawatomie to Lawrence deemed it quite safe to leave 


the settlements to themselves, despite the character of the 
Shermans and the Doyles and certain occurrences that might 
well have given ground for uneasiness. 

What those occurrences were becomes of great importance, 
because many loose statements about them have been brought 
forward from time to time as affording ample justification 
for the Pottawatomie blood-letting. The most careful search 
for and weighing of many testimonies, contemporary and 
reminiscent, establishes in the neighborhood of Osawatomie 
only five definite pro-slavery offences, after hearsay recollec- 
tions and wholly unsubstantiated stories are eliminated. It 
seems to be established beyond doubt that Poindexter Manes, 
a Free Soil settler, was knocked down and beaten for having 
a New York Tribune in his pocket. 56 Less well substantiated 
is the case of one Baker, a Vermonter, living on the Pottawato- 
mie, who was taken from his cabin and strung up to a tree, 
but who was cut down in time to save his life. There is no 
record of his assailants, nor can the time be accurately fixed 
beyond that it was in the month of April. 57 To the Doyles 
and Shermans is attributed the frightening of a woman named 
Holmes, who was nearing confinement, by the brandishing 
of a knife and the demand that she reveal the whereabouts 
of the men of her family. It is variously stated that she died 
and that she "came near dying," in consequence. 58 Along the 
same line and more important is the statement that " Dutch 
Bill," in the absence of the men on their trip to Lawrence, 
entered the cabin of John T. Grant and attempted an assault 
upon the person of Mary Grant, his daughter. This story is 
the basis for the allegation that a messenger reached John 
Brown in the first night's camp, near Prairie City, and re- 
ported the attack upon Mary Grant, and that the persons of 
the women of his own family had been threatened. Fortu- 
nately, Mary Grant, as well as Mrs. John Brown, Jr., is still 
alive.* The latter states positively that the women of the 
settlement were never harmed. 59 In this she is emphatically 
borne out by a contemporary declaration of Jason Brown in 
a letter to North Elba on June 28, 1856, a month after the 
killings: "No women have been injured yet; so far as I know. 
Some of the five pro-slavery men who were killed had threat- 

* Since the above was written, Mary Grant Brown has died. 


ened the lives of Free State men near them; and also to cut 
the throat of a young woman, a neighbor." 60 As Jason 
Brown's wife was with him in Kansas, it is only natural to 
suppose that if her safety and that of his sister-in-law had 
been in danger, he would have reported it. Salmon Brown 
affirms that : "The statement that women were in any way 
molested is entirely without foundation." Mary Grant, the 
young woman neighbor, whose throat was threatened at the 
time, a remarkably pretty and attractive young woman, who 
had never feared to go freely to Wilkinson's post-office and 
to meet there the Doyles and Shermans, told recently this 
story of her experience with "Dutch Bill," which experience 
is the sole basis for the fabrication that John Brown was 
recalled because Free State women were in danger: 61 

"Dutch Bill arrived at our house, one day, horribly drunk, with 
a whiskey bottle with a corncob stopper, and an immense butcher 
knife in his belt. Mr. Grant, my father, was sick in bed, but when 
they told him that Bill Sherman was coming, in that state, he said : 
' Put my shot gun beside the bed.' There was also a neighbor pre- 
sent, who was armed. 'Old woman,' said Bill Sherman to my mo- 
ther, ' you and I are pretty good friends, but damn your daughter. 
I'll drink her heart's blood.' Yet my little brother Charley, a mere 
boy of twelve or fourteen, succeeded in cajoling him away without 

This story, says Mary Grant (Mrs. Mary E. Brown, of San 
Jose, California), Frederick Brown asked her for again and 
again, before the men marched to Lawrence. It is thus clear 
that the episode was in itself precisely what might happen 
in any isolated settlement which contained a drunken, worth- 
less settler, and that it was known to at least one Brown long 
before the sudden start for Lawrence. Jason Brown relates 
it in his letter in its proper proportions. Mrs. B. F. Jackson, 
a resident of Osawatomie at the time, also testifies 62 that 
she never heard of any of the women of Osawatomie or 
Pottawatomie being troubled; yet news of attacks on them, 
had such occurred, must have travelled faster and made a 
more lasting impression upon the women of the frontier than 
anything else. In this connection it is interesting to note 
that although Gihon makes wholesale charges of rape against 
the Border Ruffians, 63 Mrs. Charles Robinson, than whom the 


Ruffians have never had a severer critic, states that she knows 
of only a single case of criminal assault upon women during 
Kansas's troubled times. This case she records in her book 
as having occurred in August, 1856, or months after the Potta- 
watomie massacre. 64 Similar favorable testimony is given by 
many other women, who were early settlers, when asked this 
specific question. In all the mass of material accumulated by 
the Kansas Historical Society, there is not a proved instance 
of Border Ruffian misconduct of this kind, unless we except 
that cited by Mrs. Robinson and the case of two sisters who 
lived five miles northwest of Lawrence, which is reported 
in the Tribune of June 9, 1856, on the not always reliable 
authority of James Redpath. What frontier settlement in a 
time of great excitement and unrest can show a better record? 
It must be noted, too, that whereas elsewhere there might 
have been a natural desire to suppress such facts, there were 
plenty of correspondents besides Redpath eager for such ter- 
rible happenings with which to blacken the case against the 
Border Ruffians and stir more Northerners to coming to the 
rescue of Free Kansas. 

A fifth Missouri outrage is directly brought home by the 
Grant family to Wilkinson, the Shermans and Doyles. This 
was the case of an old man named Morse, from Michigan, 
who had sold lead for bullets to the Browns. As George Grant 
narrates the story, 

"The next morning, after the company had started to go to 
Lawrence, a number of these proslavery men, Wilkinson, Doyle, 
his two sons, and William Sherman, known as ' Dutch Bill ' took 
a rope and were going to hang him [Morse] for selling the lead to 
the Free State men. They frightened the old man terribly; and 
finally told him he must leave the country before eleven o'clock, 
or they would hang him. They then left and went to the Shermans 
and went to drinking. About eleven o'clock a portion of them, half 
drunk, went back to Mr. Morse's and were going to kill him with 
an axe. His little boys one was only nine years old set up a 
violent crying, and begged for their father's life. They finally gave 
him until sundown to leave. He left everything and came at once 
to our house. He was nearly frightened to death. He came to our 
house carrying a blanket and leading his little boy by the hand. 
When night came he was so afraid that he would not stay in the 
house, but went out doors and slept on the prairie in the grass. 
For a few days he lay about in the brush, most of the time getting 


his meals at our house. He was then taken violently ill and died 
in a very short time. Dr. Gilpatrick attended him during his brief 
illness, and said that his death was directly caused by the fright 
and excitement of that terrible day when he was driven from his 

It will be noticed that the threats to Morse were made the 
day after the company had gone, or on Friday. It is per- 
fectly plain, therefore, that no news of this could have reached 
John Brown in camp near Prairie City before two o'clock of 
the same day, when he started back in Townsley's wagon, 
bent on the killings. Furthermore, there was no communica- 
tion between his party, as it lay in the timber between the 
ravines on the day of the killing, and the settlements. What- 
ever else may have actuated John Brown, it was not the at- 
tack upon the old man, Morse, of which he knew nothing, not 
even if a messenger bearing stories of threatened outrage on 
the Pottawatomie reached Brown on that one morning in 
camp when the cutlasses were being ground. 

This question of the alleged messenger bringing news of the 
threats against the Free Soil settlers is one that has deeply 
agitated the apologists for and critics of John Brown. The 
identity of this Mercury has never been established. He is 
variously thought to have been "Bondi or some one sent 
by him" - according to George Grant; or Weiner, accord- 
ing to O. C. Brown and John Hutchings. Townsley and Judge 
Hanway were sure that George Grant himself was the mes- 
senger, but as George Grant denies this and points out that 
he marched out with the Pottawatomie Rifles, this guess 
must be eliminated. H. H. Williams, on January 20, 1883, 
wrote to R. J. Hinton that he was the messenger. Unfortu- 
nately for this theory, his own contemporary letter to the 
Tribune, written within two months of the killings, proves 
that he went up toward Lawrence not as a messenger but as 
first lieutenant of the Pottawatomie Rifles, for he relates 
various incidents of the night march. Among others who af- 
firm that there was a messenger are John Brown, Jr., August 
Bondi, J. F. Legate, Samuel Anderson, Mary Grant, J. G. 
Grant and C. S. Adair; but none of them has a clue to his iden- 
tity. Salmon Brown, on the other hand, is positive that there 
was no messenger. So is Colonel James Blood. If there was 


a messenger who reached camp on Friday morning, he could 
only have had later news by two or three hours than the 
men of the Pottawatomie Rifles themselves brought, for they 
marched from the cross-roads near Osawatomie at six p. M., 
and were not much over six hours in camp the next day be- 
fore John Brown left on his way back. If the company had 
received tidings revealing grave danger to their women and 
children at home, it is incredible that they would not have 
returned at once with John Brown, to protect their families. 
Instead, they were content to remain idly in camp for two 
days. If Colonel Blood's narrative of meeting Townsley's 
wagon-load is true, it is again astonishing that John Brown 
never inquired of him what had happened during their twenty- 
four hours' absence. Had they done so, Blood could have 
told Brown that when he himself rode through the Pottawa- 
tomie settlement that afternoon, he found the place perfectly 
quiet, the only excitement relating to Lawrence; that a few 
men were in the fields and the women and children were about 
the cabins. 66 But the height of absurdity is the supposition 
that eight able-bodied men, heavily armed, would spend all 
of one night and the whole of the next day, Saturday, in the 
timber between two ravines near Pottawatomie Creek with- 
out stirring to inquire how the Brown kinsmen and kins- 
women, the Adairs, the Days, Mrs. John Brown, Jr., and 
Mrs. Jason Brown, were faring during the twenty-four hours 
between the return and the murders, if these relatives were 
known to be in danger. If the killings were due to any sudden 
alarm that the creek was to be cleared of all Free State set- 
tlers, then the eight men were craven, indeed, to spend this 
day without scouting the neighborhood. This supposition is 
incredible in view of John Brown's known bravery. His 
men hid because they did not wish their connection with the 
murders known, and after the crime they returned stealthily 
to Ottawa Jones's without having troubled any one with a 
question as to the fate of the unguarded women and children 
of their comrades of the Pottawatomie Rifles. 

The truth must be that John Brown decided on the mur- 
ders because of some general reason or previous conviction 
that it was necessary to remove the victims, and not because 
of any sudden news. As to the messenger, there was none; 


the reports of threats to Free State settlers made by the Sher- 
mans and Doyles, which were undoubtedly talked of in the 
camp and hastened John Brown's action, were brought in 
not by any one man or any two men, but by Bondi, Weiner, 
Townsley and others of the Rifles. H. H. Williams, in his 
contemporary letter, records that he rode ten miles up and 
down the creek to call his company together, and that thirty- 
four men had come from various distances by six p. M. to 
the rendezvous. As they marched that night, they doubtless 
exchanged news and gossip ; the story about " Dutch Bill " and 
Mary Grant may have been magnified in the telling and re- 
telling and reached many ears for the first time as the little 
column stumbled forward over the dark roads, while the excite- 
ment of the hour probably led some of the men to think that 
" Dutch Bill's" drunken threat had just been uttered. 

To find the reason and the excuse for the cold-blooded 
murder of the Doyles, Sherman and Wilkinson, we must, 
therefore, look elsewhere. The Grants 67 and others tell of a 
meeting at "Dutch Henry's," immediately after the depar- 
ture of the Rifles, at which the subsequently murdered men 
swore to drive out all the Free State settlers within a given 
time and reduce their houses to ashes. On the other hand, 
Salmon Brown declares positively that "it was not the re- 
port of any such meeting specifically that started us off to 
Pottawatomie." Nor, as we have seen, could the news of this 
meeting have reached the camp near Prairie City before 
John Brown started for home. That the meeting occurred, 
the Grants are positive, but it, too, must be discarded as a 
motive for the bloody deed on the Pottawatomie. 

There remains, then, the question how far the threats 
against the Browns, heard in the Buford camp, and those 
made against the Free State settlers on the Pottawatomie as 
a whole, were the controlling reason for the crime. It is im- 
possible to avoid the belief that they were a most important 
factor in moving John Brown to adopt Border Ruffian tac- 
tics. Salmon Brown declares that his father and the others 
were well aware that the pro-slavery men of the Doyle-Sher- 
man type had decided on extreme measures against them. 
The stories of Bondi, Weiner, Benjamin and Townsley all 
had their effect upon the Browns. According to Horace Haskell 


Day, son of Orson Day, when his father went to Weiner's 
store, which was just one and a half miles from the Doyles' 
cabin, he found a notice up that all Free State men must get 
off the creek within thirty days, or have their throats cut. 
Weiner said to Mr. Day: "We ought to cut their throats." 
Mr. Day not consenting, Weiner said: "That is the way we 
serve them in Texas," from which place he had come. 68 
Orson Day being a brother-in-law of John Brown and resid- 
ing directly opposite John Brown, Jr., it would have been 
easy for him to repeat this happening to his relatives. There 
are witnesses like Mr. M. V. B. Jackson, who heard from 
Weiner, Bondi and Townsley direct the threats made against 
them. Mr. Jackson testifies that three days was the time of 
grace allowed to Weiner, Benjamin and Bondi, at the expira- 
tion of which they were to leave under pain of lynch law. 69 
John B. Manes is another witness to Benjamin's being warned. 
"I know," he has affirmed, 70 "that there was a reign of ter- 
ror, of which the men who were killed were the authors; and 
I am surprised that any one should believe that the killing of 
these men was without reasonable excuse." He asks whether 
the Free State men were to abandon Kansas, or to fold their 
arms and await martrydom when their days of grace expired. 
Or were they to slay the would-be murderers, to save them- 
selves? Here again the question recurs: If John Brown knew 
of the notice posted in Weiner's store, and was also aware 
that the pro-slavery men had given the Free Soil settlers 
but three or five days in which to leave, why did he march 
off to Lawrence leaving the women and children defenceless 
and the Doyles and Shermans free to do their worst? He 
could not know that he would be free to return within twenty- 
four hours, for the fate of Lawrence was not learned until the 
company had marched twenty-five miles. For all any of the 
men could foresee, they might be going off on a campaign 
that would last for some days perhaps even weeks. 

It must not be forgotten, too, that threats of slicing a man's 
throat, or cutting his heart out, or driving him away, were the 
cheapest and most conspicuous product of Border Ruffian 
activity. Every drunken pro-slavery man had a quiver-full 
of them. The Squatter Sovereign has them on every page; the 
blasphemy and promises of extermination that marked the 


harangues of Atchison, Jones and men of that stamp are to be 
found broadcast in the files of the Tribune and the volumes 
of Gladstone, Redpath, Phillips, Sara Robinson and the other 
contemporary Free Soil writers. The threats uttered on the 
Pottawatomie must have been convincing, indeed, to incite 
John Brown to do what the Border Ruffians only talked of 
doing. But this merely adds to the mystery why the appeal 
of Lawrence should have taken precedence over the safety of 
Pottawatomie, as does the affirmation of Jason Brown that 
a friendly pro-slavery man had given to the Rev. Mr. Adair 
a list of those whose deaths had been agreed upon by his 
pro-slavery friends, a story of which Mr. Adair has left no 
written record to aid his kinsman's reputation. 71 

What did John Brown himself ever assign as the reason? 
According to E. A. Coleman, Brown, by means of his surveying 
disguise, obtained the views of the murdered men and found 
that they "had each one committed murder in his heart and 
according to the Scriptures they were guilty of murder and 
I felt justified in having them killed." These words Cole- 
man places in John Brown's mouth ; 72 they are confirmed by 
Colonel Edward Anderson's report of Brown's statement to 
him that the murdered men were planning to "wipe out the 
Free Soil settlers." 73 According to Coleman's story, therefore, 
Brown, assuming the powers of judge or military autocrat, 
adjudged the Doyles, Shermans and Wilkinson deserving of 
death because they had had murder in their hearts. If this 
version be accepted, we must decide that John Brown be- 
lieved planning murder to be worse than murder itself. We 
have here a most extraordinary confusion of ethics and morals. 
Granting that persecution, and even murders, had followed 
similar threats in other portions of Kansas, and that the ter- 
rible happenings in the Territory were ever present in John 
Brown's brain, one cannot but wonder that he assumed to 
himself the functions of chief executioner and deemed himself 
the one to say just when and how the Sixth Commandment, 
"Thou shalt not kill," should be violated. He was not content 
merely to defend Free State homes and patrol the roads; it 
did not occur to him to form a vigilance committee and warn 
the pro-slavery rascals to cease from troubling and remove 
from the neighborhood, as did in another year James Mont- 


gomery, in Linn County ; he was not even content to leave to 
the Almighty, to. whom he nightly prayed, that vengeance 
which the Lord has reserved as His. 

But there are plenty of other excuses offered for the crime, 
after the various motives we have examined are discarded. 
It is pointed out that there was no law for Free Soil men in 
the Territory, only Catos and Lecomptes on the bench to 
dispense injustice. There was no legal road to safety. It is 
averred that the Free Soil settlers were few, half starved, sick 
and intimidated, grown so spiritless, the lack of resistance at 
Lawrence indicated, as to call for some deed of violence to 
rouse them from their helpless inertia. To prove to the Border 
Ruffians that they could no longer destroy and murder with 
impunity, such a terrible warning as that given at Pottawato- 
mie was, therefore, absolutely necessary. Again, it is insisted 
that John Brown's foresight, his consecrated sagacity and 
devotion to the cause, made him strike the blow in order to 
force men to take sides, in order to bring on the righteous and 
necessary war which, to John Brown, was the sole solution 
of the issue in Kansas. If this conflicts with the widely held 
theory that the Pottawatomie killings, by ending the outrages 
in the neighborhood of Osawatomie and stopping the aggres- 
siveness of the Border Ruffians, was a peace measure, it does 
not deter many from excusing the crime as an act of war exe- 
cuted in war time. The dogs of war, it is argued, had been let 
slip by Jones and Donaldson, and as the Doyles, Shermans 
and Wilkinson were spies and informers in league with the 
enemy, they richly merited their fate, which came only just 
in time to save the Osawatomie settlers from general expul- 
sion, if not murder. Then, too, it was said to be but a just 
act of retaliation for the sack of Lawrence and retribution for 
the killing of R. P. Brown, Dow, Barber, Stewart, Jones and 
Collins; it is even alleged, by miscounting these six victims of 
Border Ruffian violence, that John Brown was not eager to 
kill Dutch Henry, but chose his five victims as a deliberate 
offset to the five Free Soilers killed up to that time. Next, it 
is asserted that John Brown was merely carrying out the 
orders of Free Soil leaders who, for motives of policy, did not 
admit at the time that this killing was done with their con- 
nivance and consent. Finally, it is averred by at least one 

biographer that John Brown was divinely inspired, God- 
driven to this dire act, because the Deity "makes His will 
known in advance to certain chosen men and women who 
perform it consciously or unconsciously." 

Into this field of theological speculation the historian unfor- 
tunately cannot enter; he is limited to judging or recording 
human motives, particularly as this theory of divine inspira- 
tion has for centuries been the excuse for many of the most 
terrible crimes in history. More capable of critical examina- 
tion is the argument that there existed no law and no courts 
for Free State men; but if the absence of law and just courts 
sanctions midnight assassination, the world is far behindhand 
with its canonizations. The road to legal safety under such 
conditions does not lead by the way of private vengeance ; the 
sole substitute is, as has already been pointed out, lynch law 
openly proclaimed and openly administered. That the Potta- 
watomie murders cannot be both a peace and a war measure 
is obvious. Unfortunately, as will be set forth when the conse- 
quences of the crime are examined, the evidence shows that 
it neither ended the attacks upon individuals nor stopped 
the raids of large armed bodies, as has been alleged by many 
writers, including John Speer. He declared, January 30, 1886, 
that "the spirit of murder was checked," 74 while F. G. 
Adams, Secretary of the Kansas Historical Society, on Octo- 
ber 25, 1883, averred of Brown's killings that they "put an 
end to the assassination of Free State men for all time," 75 
as if, for example, Frederick Brown and David Garrison were 
not shot down like dogs on August 30, 1856, to say nothing 
of the cold-blooded murders after Pottawatomie of Hoppe, 
Cantrall, Hoyt, Gay and William Phillips, and almost num- 
berless assaults upon persons and attacks upon private pro- 
perty. These might, it is true, have continued had John 
Brown struck no blow at Pottawatomie, for the Border Ruf- 
fians were drunk with their success in looting Lawrence; but 
it certainly cannot be true that they were "stopped" by the 
assassinations. But as a war measure, John Brown's murders 
were beyond doubt successful; they were actually followed 
by more killings of Free State men than had taken place 
previously in the Territory; they led to the burning of Osa- 
watomie and other settlements, to attacks upon the Border 


Ruffian "forts," and to the stand-up fighting at Black Jack 
and Osawatomie. If John Brown intended to set men at each 
others' throats, to make every man take sides, to bring mat- 
ters in Kansas to a head, he was wholly successful when he 
lived up to the Biblical doctrine he often quoted, that "with- 
out the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin." 

As to the theory that John Brown was directed by higher 
authorities in the Free State ranks, the best evidence is a 
recently discovered letter from Samuel C. Pomeroy to Re- 
becca B. Spring, written in Georgetown, D. C., January 16, 
1860, just after Brown's execution, when the events of 1856 
should have been fresh in his memory, and here first printed : 

"I am waiting here quietly to see the progress of Mason's 'In- 
vestigating Committee.' They have declined to summon me or 
any other man, who dare under oath, defend John Brown! ! I dont 
care what are the consequences to me politically, I will, upon the 
first occasion, at the Capitol of this country defend that old man, 
who offered up himself gloriously from the charge or crime of 
murder ! No blow had been struck by any one of us up to May 
2ist, 1856. I was in command as Chairman of the 'Committee of 
Public Safety,' at Lawrence, upon that memorable occasion. 

"I insisted though our Town was threatened with destruction 

and the invading army was then within 12 miles of Town ! and 
numbered over 1200 men well armed That we should give 
the Government a fair opportunity to protect us, And to this end I 
applied to those in authority. But in the course of that day I found 
that the Government was yielded to the 'border Ruffians.' I still 
insisted (though against the earnest appeal of John Brown & his 
men) that the government should commit the first overt act. And I 
told them, then and there, that so soon as I could demonstrate before 
this Country that the Government was powerless for protection, 
Then I was with them, for taking care of ourselves ! So we stood still, 
upon that day and saw our Presses & buildings madly destroyed. The 
few monuments of our civilization, which had been hastily erected, 
were strewn to the winds, or consumed in the flames ! 

"Upon the morning of the 22nd of May we called a little meeting 

of sad but earnest men. Taking each other by the hand we con- 
venanted, each with the other, that what there was left to us in this 
life, and if need be, all we hoped for in the life to come, should now 
be offered up, to the FREEDOM of KANSAS, and the country. 

"A poorly written badly spelled note, passed round that meeting 
that Doyl, Wilkinson, Sherman, and others upon the Pottawatomie 
Creek, had insulted the females of one family, whose head was then 
present, and warned others under pain of death to leave the Tern- 


tory by the 25th lnst.,that very week! What could I say? Or do? 
I had withheld our impatient men, until before us lay the smoking 
ruins of the home we loved the best, of any spot upon earth. 

"You know what was said and 'did.' As the Government af- 
forded no protection to us, even when we placed ourselves under 
its special protection, it was then and there Resolved that every 
man be [we ?] met that invaded or threatened our lives, or homes, 
or our families & friends, should without delay of law or courts, or 
officers, be driven to Missouri or to death 11 

"We separated that morning, each to the great work of life, viz. 
to do his duty to himself to his country & to his God. John 
Brown did not personly go the whole distance with the party that 
went down upon Pottawatomy creek. But he approved of the course 
decided upon for action, and SO DID I ! And I am not now going 
to repudiate old Brown, or to shrink from the responsibility! 

"He did not commit the 'murders' as they are called, but we all 
then endorsed them, and from that hour the invaders fled. That 
one act struck terror into the hearts of our enemies, and gave us the 
dawning of success! Those deaths I have no doubt saved a multi- 
tude of lives, and was the cheapest sacrifice that could be offered ! " 76 

Unfortunately for the accuracy of this statement, we know 
now that neither the Brown women nor those of the Grant 
family were insulted. The testimonies of fifty-two witnesses 
of value in connection with the Pottawatomie murders have 
been examined for light on this subject. Pomeroy is the only 
one to suggest that John Brown was in Lawrence on May 21 
and 22, with the exception of Daniel W. Wilder, who even adds 
that he was there with six sons and his son-in-law. 77 It is not 
conceivable that John Brown could have been there and have 
fired no shot to defend the town. Moreover, his surviving 
sons and son-in-law know nothing about it Salmon Brown 
denying it positively. If this is not enough, the character of 
John Brown's own statements should suffice; he would never 
have suppressed the fact that he saw Lawrence destroyed ; and 
finally, the dates he gives for his movements prior to the mur- 
ders, corroborated by many witnesses, render it physically 
impossible for him to have been in Lawrence at the time speci- 

The belief that John Brown was inspired by Robinson, 
Pomeroy and Lane was, however, held by others. Congress- 
man Oliver made the general charge, in his minority report to 
the Howard Committee Report, that Brown's victims "were 


deprived of their lives ... in consequence of the insurrec- 
tionary movements . . . set on foot by the reckless leaders of 
the Tokepa Convention,' ' 78 an allegation not specific enough 
to call for refutation in this connection. In a letter written 
on February 8, 1875, Captain Samuel Walker alleges that 
Brown complained to him in the summer of 1856 that Lane 
and Robinson were instigators of the crime, but would not sus- 
tain him in it. 79 Captain Walker also informed Frank B. San- 
born that Lane and Robinson asked him to commit the same 
murders, but that he indignantly refused to do so. 80 John 
Brown, Jr., once charged Robinson in great detail with asking 
his father in the following September to dispose of the leading 
pro-slavery men by killing, which request, he said, was indig- 
nantly spurned. 81 Henry Thompson testifies similarly. 82 But 
Robinson positively denied the charge, as he most emphati- 
cally denied any complicity in the Pottajvatomie murders. 
One cannot have entire respect for Governor Robinson's 
character; in this instance he at one time likened John Brown 
to Jesus Christ, and hailed him as a saviour of Kansas, only 
to turn around a couple of years later and denounce him, 
even to speak of the "punishment due John Brown for his 
crimes in Kansas." 83 On the other hand, John Brown, Jr.'s 
mind was, unfortunately, not always clear. It is important to 
remember here that John Brown at no time during the rest 
of his life made any positive statement which would indicate 
that he was acting under orders in doing his bloody work 
at Pottawatomie, not even when, in jail and facing death, 
he was asked by Judge Russell, of Boston, for a definite 
statement as to his responsibility for the crime. 84 If he cher- 
ished the feeling of anger against Robinson and Lane which 
Walker declared he voiced in 1856, he does not appear to have 
expressed it again. 

To mitigate the abruptness and cruelty of the tragedy, it 
is often loosely asserted that the victims were duly tried by 
a jury. John Sherman stated that he had this from John 
Brown's own lips shortly after the crime. 85 But no one else 
avers this, while the survivors of the massacre, Henry Thomp- 
son and Salmon Brown, deny it. No member of the Brown 
family has advanced this theory. The testimony of Townsley 
and the families of the murdered men as to the speed of the 


executions and their taking place consecutively is also con- 
clusive, as is the fact that no juryman has ever been dis- 

In the light of all the evidence now accumulated, the truth 
would seem to be that John Brown came to Kansas bringing 
arms and ammunition, eager to fight, and convinced that 
force alone would save Kansas. He was under arms at the 
polls within three days of his arrival in Kansas, to shed blood 
to defend the voters, if need be, and he was bitterly disap- 
pointed that the Wakarusa "war" ended without a single 
conflict. Thereafter he believed that a collision was inevitable 
in the spring, and Jones and Donaldson proved him to be cor- 
rect. 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 believ- 
ing 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 insti- 
tution of human slavery, against which his whole life was a 
protest. He pictured himself a modern crusader as much em- 
powered to remove the unbeliever as any armored searcher 
after the Grail. It was to his mind a righteous and necessary 
act; if he concealed his part in it and always took refuge in 
the half-truth that his own hands were not stained, that 
was as near to a compromise for the sake of policy as this 
rigid, self-denying Roundhead ever came. Naturally a tender- 
hearted man, he directed a particularly shocking crime with- 
out remorse, because the men killed typified to him the slave- 
drivers who counted their victims by the hundreds. It was to 
him a necessary carrying into Africa of the war in which he 
firmly desired himself engaged. And always it must not be 
forgotten that his motives were wholly unselfish, and that his 
aims were none other than the freeing of a race. With his 
ardent, masterful temperament, he needed no counsel from a 
Lane or a Robinson to make him ready to strike a blow, or to 
tell him that the time for it had come. The smoke of burning 
Lawrence was more than sufficient. 

If this interpretation of the man and his motives lifts him 


far above the scale of that Border Ruffian who boasted that he 
would have the scalp of an Abolitionist within two hours and 
actually killed and scalped the very first one he met, it can- 
not be denied that the Border Ruffians who sacked Lawrence 
believed as thoroughly in the justice of their cause, and their 
right to establish in Kansas what was to them a sacred institu- 
tion, as John Brown did in his. Their leaders had told them of 
an agreement in Congress that Kansas should be a slave State 
and Nebraska free. 86 Hence their belief that the North had 
broken this compact rendered them particularly bitter against 
the Free Soilers. It was to them also a holy war in which they 
were engaged, even with its admixture of whiskey and law- 
lessness, characteristics of the Southern "poor white" civiliza- 
tion of the period. If one grants to John Brown absolution 
for the Pottawatomie murders because he struck in what was 
to him a moral crusade, one must come near granting it to 
the Border Ruffian Hamilton, who made eleven men, most of 
whom he had never seen before, stand up in line on May 
19, 1858, that he might shoot them down. 87 In his behalf it 
could much more truthfully be said that there was war in Linn 
County in 1858 than that there was war about Osawatomie in 
1856. Hamilton doubtless intended also to send terror to the 
hearts of his enemies, to drive them from the Territory. That 
the five men he killed were of blameless reputation, while 
John Brown's five victims were weak or bad characters, does 
not alter the case from the moral or the legal point of view. 
Murder is murder, whatever the character of the victims; it 
remains, in its essence, unchanged in these two cases, even 
though the leader of one set of self-appointed executioners 
has been excused by his friends, and the other universally 
execrated. Might not Hamilton, too, have been portrayed 
as the tool of a vengeful Deity? Might he not, to use James 
Freeman Clarke's characterization of John Brown, have 
maintained that he believed in "fighting fire with fire," that 
"there was no malice or desire for vengeance in his constitu- 
tion"? 88 Certainly, Hamilton's cathojic choice of victims 
he seized them in the fields and on the' roads as he met them 
would prove that he also killed without personal enmity. 
It may be that Hamilton thought that by so blood-curdling 
an assassination he could stop the hostile operations of armed 


Free Soil bands led by Montgomery, Jennison admittedly a 
bad character and others. If this theory is wrong, Hamil- 
ton's Marais des Cygnes massacre ought at least to have 
estopped James Freeman Clarke and other defenders of Brown 
from saying that after Brown's victims were killed, " the coun- 
try had peace." It should have prevented any likening of 
John Brown to Grant, Sherman and Sheridan, whose orders 
killed thousands in "another war," as if war could exist save 
under those rules of war which as peremptorily forbid mid- 
night assassination as they do the violation of women and the 
poisoning of wells. Finally, a real war-commander always 
assumes the responsibility for his acts, while John Brown was 
ever disingenuous about the Pottawatomie massacres. 

From the point of view of ethics, John Brown's crime on 
the Pottawatomie cannot be successfully palliated or excused. 
It must ever remain a complete indictment of his judgment 
and wisdom; a dark blot upon his memory; a proof that, how- 
ever self-controlled, he had neither true respect for the laws 
nor for human life, nor a knowledge that two wrongs never 
make a right. Call him a Cromwellian trooper with the Old 
Testament view of the way of treating one's enemies, as did 
James Freeman Clarke, if you please; it is nevertheless true 
that Brown lived in the nineteenth century and was properly 
called upon to conform to its standard of morals and right 
living. What would become of society if it permitted all 
whose spirits would hark back to the modes of life of other 
times and other morals to have their way? Describing Brown 
as a misplaced Crusader cannot, moreover, conceal the regret- 
table fact that the Pottawatomie murders deprived the Free 
Soil cause of an enormous moral advantage. Up to May, 1856, 
its adherents had suffered, bled and died, without any blood- 
guilt attaching to them. This gave them, as unoffending vic- 
tims of pro-slavery fury, an unsurpassed standing in the court 
of public opinion. Their hands were clean; they had been 
attending to their own affairs and were crying out against 
wrong and injustice by the time-honored methods of protest, 
- through the press, the ballot-box, the right of assembly, the 
setting up a government of their own to be passed upon by 
the highest tribunals of the land, that is, the courts and the 
Congress of the United States. The Free State leaders had 


hitherto counselled peaceful submission to wrong as the surest 
way to the sympathies of the nation, and to that eventual 
justice which no believer in American institutions could 
despair of, even in 1856, when the whole weight of the Federal 
Government and its troops had been thrown against the Free 
Soilers. For the court of last resort, the conscience of the 
American people, had not yet been heard from as it was but a 
few years later. Of a sudden, all this great moral superiority 
was flung away; 89 the sack of Lawrence, the Pottawatomie 
murders, brought about a complete change of policy. The 
militant Abolitionists of the John Brown, Horace Greeley, 
Henry Ward Beecher type reaped their harvest. The Sharp's 
rifles, " Beecher's Bibles," now came into play. But the South 
at last had its tu-quoque. "You sacked Lawrence," said the 
North. " But you resorted to the vilest of midnight assassina- 
tions of unarmed men and boys," replied the South. Sumner 
could not have delivered unaltered his wonderful philippic, 
the "Crime Against Kansas," after the crimes against Mis- 
souri had begun. There was now blood upon both sides. 

For John Brown no pleas can be made that will enable him 
to escape coming before the bar of historical judgment. There 
his wealth of self-sacrifice, and the nobility of his aims, do not 
avail to prevent a complete condemnation of his bloody crime 
at Pottawatomie, or a just penalty for his taking human life 
without warrant or authority. If he deserves to live in his- 
tory, it is not because of his cruel, gruesome, reprehensible 
acts on the Pottawatomie, but despite them. 90 


WAR ! WAR ! 

Eight Pro-Slavery men murdered by the Abolitionists 
in Franklin County, K. T. 


We learn from a despatch just received by Col. A. G. 
Boone, dated at Paola, K. T., May 26, 1856, and 
signed by Gens. Heiskell and Barbee, that the reported 
murder of eight pro-slavery men in Franklin County, 
K. T., is but too true. 

It was thus that the Westport, Missouri, Border Times gave 
to its readers, on May 27, 1856, the news that was intended 
to strike terror to their hearts. The only reason for the crime 
the despatch assigned was that "the abolitionists (the court 
being in session) were afraid that these men [their victims] 
would be called upon to give evidence against them, as many 
of them were charged with treason." The Border Times sup- 
plemented this news with an appeal to the South for men 
and money, because civil war with all its horrors now reigned 
in Kansas. The Jefferson, Missouri, Inquirer of the 29th, and 
the Lexington, Missouri, Express of the 26th reprinted the 
Western Despatch's account of the crime and also its edito- 
rial assertion that "for every Southern man thus butchered 
a decade [dozen?] of these poltroons should bite the dust." 
Henry Clay Pate, correspondent of the St. Louis Missouri 
Republican, wrote on May 30 that no personal grudges ex- 
isted between the murdered and the murderers, "in fact no 
cause whatever can be or is attempted to be assigned for 
their savage barbarity but that the deceased were proslav- 
ery in their sentiments." Thirteen persons supposed to be con- 
nected with the crime were under arrest, and if ever lynch laws 
were justifiable, in Pate's opinion this was the time. The pro- 


slavery Kansas Weekly Herald of Leavenworth, in its issue 
of June 7, reprinted a column and a half of news from the 
Lecompton Union, in the course of which that newspaper sar- 
castically said: 

"These are the 'Free State men' who have been so deeply out- 
raged by the law and order party, but have, like martyrs, passed 
through the fire, without the stain of blood upon their skirts or the 
mark of pillage upon their consciences. This is the party so pure 
and untarnished with dishonor that their very natures revolt at 
and recoil from the countenancing of even a minor disgrace, much 
less the foul assassination of Sheriff Jones. This is the party that 
held an indignation meeting in Lawrence, headed by Charles Rob- 
inson and A. H. Reeder, passed resolutions and even offered a re- 
ward for the apprehension of him who shot Jones. . . . These are 
the men who are cursing the Marshal and posse for blowing up this 
'Northern Army's' fortress and destroying their mouthpieces and 
are denominating them plunderers and committers of arson, and 
this news is taken up by their agents in the North, heralded forth 
from one extreme to the other as truth, asking protection for these 
innocent free state creatures." 

Another correspondent of the Missouri Republican, one 
J. Bernard, reporting from Westport the arrival there of Mrs. 
Doyle, added that "a more cruel murder has scarcely been 
committed;" it was a "foul and inhuman act." The fighting 
Squatter Sovereign, of Atchison, was distinctly sobered by the 
news from Kansas, but still ready to fight, for on June 10 it 
thus freed its ever surcharged mind : 

"Midnight murders, assassinations, burglaries, and arson seem 
now to be the watchwords of the so-called Free State party. Whilst 
those rebellious subjects confined themselves to the resistance of 
the law, in their attempts to make arrests, and execute processes in 
their hands, the pro-slavery party in the territory was determined 
to stand by the law, and aid the officers in executing process and 
the courts in administering justice. And that we have no doubt 
is still the determination of every pro-slavery man, but there is a 
time for all things. Self-protection defence of one's life, family 
and property, are rights guaranteed to all law-abiding citizens; 
and the manner and mode of keeping off murderers, assassins, &c., 
are not confined to any very strict rules of law. . . . Hundreds of 
the Free State men, who have committed no overt acts, but have 
only given countenance to those reckless murderers, assassins and 
thieves, will of necessity share the same fate of their brethren. If 
civil war is to be the result in such a conflict, there cannot be, and 
will not be, any neutrals recognized." 


The St. Louis Morning Herald on June 13 informed its 
readers, on the authority of a Lecompton correspondent, 
that: "The Abolitionists are continuing their assassinations 
and plunder. Robinson has given orders for a guerrilla war. 
Besides the murders at Ossawatomie, by the noted Brown, 
others have been attempted in the neighborhood." Six days 
later, hearing from Lawrence that the Pottawatomie massacre 
was done for the deliberate purpose of impressing the Border 
Ruffians, it said: "Here is the avowal of a man who ought to 
know; he tells you that midnight assassination, which revives 
in all their atrocity the most fiendish barbarities of the darkest 
ages and which, we repeat, is without parallel in Christendom 
since the Revolution in France, is deliberately planned to strike 
terror into the hearts of political opponents! Whether such 
will be the effect of the lesson remains to be seen." Editorially, 
the Morning Herald had already expressed the hope that the 
pro-slavery party would not retaliate in kind and would re- 
frain from lynching the assassins, while its rival, the Missouri 
Republican, was quick to see the advantage which lay in 
declaring that this bloody outcome of civil war was the "legit- 
imate result of the counsels of such preachers as Beecher." 
Curiously enough, as James Ford Rhodes points out, 1 the 
Democratic press of the country as a whole, except that on 
the border, made comparatively little use of the killings. One 
Northern newspaper, the Burlington, Iowa, Gazette, denounced 
them on June 25; the Liberator, whose editor, William Lloyd 
Garrison, strongly protested against the Sharp's rifle teachings 
of Beecher and the militant Abolitionists, 2 wholly failed to 
record Brown's crime. Senator Toombs, of Georgia, and Con- 
gressman Oliver cited the murders in the course of speeches 
in the Senate and House. But the Republican newspapers, 
intentionally or unintentionally, deceived their readers by 
garbled reports of the crime. It was generally represented 
that five of a pro-slavery gang, caught hanging a Free State 
settler, were shot by the latter's friends as they came to his 
rescue, and the Republican press took extremely good care 
not to give much space to the affair. As Mr. Rhodes explains, 
the hitherto excellent character of the Free State settlers 
rendered it impossible for the East to credit the story, or for 
the Democrats to bring it home to them as they should have. 


Only in Missouri did the Southern press make of it all that was 
possible. The address of the Law and Order Party to their 
friends of the South, signed by Atchison, B. F. Stringfellow, 
Major Buford and others on June 21, 3 naturally used the 
massacre to the utmost, declaring, among other things, that 
Wilkinson had been "flayed alive," and that besides the "six 
victims," the bodies of four others were still missing. 

Governor Shannon promptly reported the murders to Presi- 
dent Pierce. From Lecompton, May 31, he wrote: 4 

"... Comment is unnecessary. The respectability of the par- 
ties and the cruelties attending the murders have produced an 
extraordinary state of excitement in that portion of the Territory, 
which has heretofore remained comparatively quiet. ... I hope 
the offenders may be brought to Justice; if so, it may allay to a 
great extent the excitement, otherwise I fear the consequences." 

Governor Shannon's anxiety was justified. On the 27th of 
May the news of the Pottawatomie crimes was posted all over 
Leaven worth. The leading Free State business men were 
arrested, and, according to an eye-witness, William H. Coffin, 
only the urgent solicitation of such men as General Richardson 
and other leading pro-slavery officials prevented their meeting 
with violence. 5 Other influential Free State men were ban- 
ished. Four days later, the 3ist, when Governor Shannon 
was writing his report, a meeting of the Law and Order Party 
was held in Leavenworth to protest against the Pottawatomie 
murders. At this gathering, so the Tribune reported, 6 "leading 
pro-slavery citizens some of them heretofore moderate 
men were the officers and speechmakers. Violent speeches 
were made, and resolutions of the same character were passed, 
condemning all Free State men without distinction, and 
appointing a Vigilance Committee of fifty to watch their 
movements, and to warn offenders from the Territory." 7 

At Fort Scott, the Southeastern rendezvous of Border Ruf- 
fians, the news that Lawrence was burned was received with 
a general feeling of joy, but it was followed by the rumor that 
at Osawatomie five, and some said nine, pro-slavery men had 
been called up in the night and, as soon as they made their 
appearance, had been shot by the Abolitionists. This caused 
a general feeling of alarm and indignation, and the young men 
of Fort Scott, on their own responsibility, organized them- 


selves into a " watch guard " to protect the Fort from invasion 
by the Abolitionists, for, to add to the excitement, it had been 
currently reported that Fort Scott was to be burned as a 
retaliation for the destruction of Lawrence. 8 Some of the Mis- 
sourians at once took the offensive. Although Mrs. Robinson 
was of the opinion that "the news of the horrible massacre 
fell upon the ears of the Border Ruffians like a thunderbolt 
out of a clear sky, and carried fear and trembling into many 
Missouri homes," and that "his [Brown's] name became one 
of terror, like that of hobgoblins to silly children, or that of 
Lafitte upon the sea," 9 Captain Henry Clay Pate, the fighting 
correspondent of the Missouri Republican, went at once with 
his company to Paola, eight miles from Osawatomie, to assist 
the United States Marshal in arresting the Pottawatomie 
Creek murderers. On June 2, General J. W. Whitfield, the del- 
egate to Congress, wrote from Westport to the editor of the 
Border Times that news had reached there of disaster to Cap- 
tain Pate's company. This was his statement of the situation : 

There can scarcely be a doubt that this small force has been 
annihilated. This town, where the congressional committee are 
now taking evidence, has been thronged during the day with men 
with their families, fleeing from the territory to avoid assassination 
and butchery. I am constantly in receipt of letters and appeals for 
protection. The cowardly and fiendish manner in which the assas- 
sinations have been perpetrated, particularly those on Pottawato- 
mie creek (which I am informed by Judge Cato just in from that 
place have not been exaggerated in the public accounts, indeed do 
not equal the reality,) leaves but little hope that these abolition 
monsters can be actuated by any other consideration than that of 
fear. I Have, therefore, determined to start in an hour or two, with 
as many men as can be raised, in the hope, if not too late, of reliev- 
ing the little band, under Capt. Pate, and afford what protection I 
can to the peaceful citizens of the territory, and restore in it order 
and peace. . . . 


Two of John Brown's sons fell readily into the hands of the 
Missourians, John Brown, Jr., and Jason Brown. They had 
spent but one night in the Adair cabin, the one in which, as 
we have seen, John Bro\vn, Jr., became insane. Leaving their 
wives the next morning, in fear lest their presence attract the 
Border Ruffians, they set off, Jason with the idea of surren- 


dering to the United States troops and demanding protection. 
Jason shortly thereafter encountered a body of Border Ruf- 
fians headed by the notorious "Rev." Martin White. He has 
thus told the story of the encounter: n 

" I did not recognize in the leader the man who had led the squad 
of ' steer hunters ' to our camp when we first reached the Territory. 
But he was that same Martin White. I walked straight up to him. 
'Can you tell me the way to Taway Jones's?' 'You are one of the 
very men we are looking for! Your name is Brown. I knew your 
father. I knew your brother!' shouted White. Up came all the 
guns clicking. 'Down with him!' the squad yelled. 'You are our 
prisoner,' said White. 'Got any arms?' 'A revolver.' 'Hand it 
out.' 'Now go ahead of the horses.' I was weak with ague, excite- 
ment, fatigue. But I was terribly afraid of torture. I knew what 
these men had done to others, and all my habitual stammering left 
me. 'My name is Jason Brown,' I said, standing facing them. 'I 
am a Free State man, and what you call an Abolitionist. I have 
never knowingly injured a human being. Now if you want my blood 
for that, there is a mark for you.' And I pulled open the bosom of 
my shirt. I expected to be shot to pieces. And they took that for 
courage ! Three-fourths of them laid their guns across their saddles 
and began to talk friendly. Martin White said: 'We won't kill you 
now. But you are our prisoner and we hold every man a scoundrel 
till he is proven honest.' One man, a villainous face, kept his gun 
up. I dared not turn my back, until I had backed thirty rods or so. 
I wanted to be killed quickly, not to be tortured. They drove me 
four miles at a fast walk. Then we came to a cabin and store. I was 
having chills every day, then, and at that moment my chill came 
on. They gave me a sack of coffee for a pillow. The man who had 
kept his gun levelled came and looked at me, with his bowie knife 
raised. ' Do you see anything bad about me?' I asked. ' I don't see 
anything good about ye!' he snarled, but went away. As the fever 
came on they put me on a horse, tied my feet beneath him and my 
arms behind me and took me, with a guard of twenty men, to Paola, 
where were about three hundred armed pro-slavery men. One flour- 
ished a coil of new hemp rope over his head as we rode up. 'Swing 
him up! Swing him up!' he shouted. They hustled me over to a 
tree and that man flung his rope end over a limb and stood ready. 
I sat down on the grass by the tree. I did n't suppose I had a friend 
in that crowd. Then came what changed my whole mind and life 
as to my feeling toward slave-holders. I can't see a Southerner or 
a Southern soldier, now, whatever he thinks of me, without wanting 
to grasp his two hands. 

"As I sat there waiting under the dangling rope, I saw three men 
aside from the yelling crowd, differently dressed from the rest. One 
of them came quietly, tapped me on the shoulder and showed me a 


scrap of paper in the palm of his hand. ' Whose writing is that? ' asked 
he. 'My father's.' 'Is old John Brown your father?' 'Yes.' Never 
another word did he say, but went around and spoke to the crowd, 
who made so much noise that I could not hear what he said. Then 
he came back, (he was Judge Jacobs, of Lexington, Kentucky, and 
one of his companions was Judge Cato,) and quietly said to me: 
'Come with me to my house and I will treat you like my own son, 
but we must hold you prisoner.' Mrs. Doyle was also staying in that 
house and we all sat at the same table for meals. She said nothing. 
There I was, one lone coward, and about forty proslavery men in 
the house that night. . . . On the third night John was brought in. 
We lay together and I slept soundly on the front side of the bed. 
In the night there was a sudden commotion and a crowd of men 
rushed in. One brandished a bowie knife over me as if to drive it 
into my right side. I slept on. John bared my heart, and, pointing 
to it, said, 'Strike there.' They took me away, two men holding my 
tied arms, in the middle of the night, leaving John, up to the Shaw- 
nee Mission. But they were afraid to keep me there and the same 
night brought me back again. ..." 

Jason did not see John again for about two weeks. Then the 
latter was becoming sane. But presently a squad arrived to 
escort Jason and John to Osawatomie. 

"Capt. Wood himself came into the room where we two were 
sleeping, seized John by the collar with, 'Come out here, sir,' 
and jerked him out of bed. Wood himself bound John's wrists be- 
hind him, and then his upper arms, using small, hard hemp rope, 
and he set his teeth and pulled with all his force, tightening the 
turns. Later another rope some forty feet long was passed between 
these two, to drive him by. Outside the leader of the squad which 
was to take us to Osawatomie (I think this was Pate) was calling 
orders to his men. 'Oyez, Oyez, Oyez,' he shouted. 'Form a line 
of battle.' 

"They drove John afoot all the way from Paola to Osawatomie. 
Me, on the other hand, they carried in a wagon. When I saw John 
in the new camp, (they had to change camp as the horses grazed 
the grass off,) John was a maniac and in a terrible condition. They 
had never loosened the cords around his upper arms and the flesh 
was swollen so that the cords were covered. They had driven him 
through the water of Bull Creek and the yellow flints at the bottom 
had cut through his boots and terribly lacerated his feet. I found 
him chained by each ankle, with an ox-cart chain, to the center 
pole of the guard tent. John, who then fancied himself commander 
of the camp, was shrieking military orders, jumping up and down 
and casting himself about. Capt. Wood said to me: 'Keep that 
man still.' ' I can't keep an insane man still,' said I. ' He is no more 
insane than you are. If you don't keep him still, we'll do it for you.' 


I tried my best, but John had not a glimmer of reason and could not 
understand anything. He went on yelling. Three troopers came 
in. One struck him a terrible blow on the jaw with his fist, throw- 
ing him on his side. A second knelt on him and pounded him with 
his fist. The third stood off and kicked him with all his force in 
the back of the neck. 'Don't kill a crazy man!' cried I. 'No more 
crazy than you are, but we '11 fetch it out of him.' After that John 
lay unconscious for three or four hours. We camped about one 
and a half miles southeast of the Adairs. There we stayed about 
two weeks. Then we were ordered to move again. They drove us 
on foot, chained two and two. I was chained to George Partridge. 
In a gang they drove us up right up in front of Adair's house. Aunt 
Florilla came out and talked to Lieut. Iverson, (he was a cruel man !) 
'What does this mean in this Land of the Free? What does this 
mean that you drive these men like cattle and slaves ! ' and she went 
on, giving him a terrible cutting. Iverson made no reply. Aunt gave 
us all some little food. At Ottawa ford young Kilbourne dropped 
in a sun-stroke. . . . We camped near 'Taway Jones's. All the 
time these troops were looking for Old Brown. And father would 
show himself from time to time, at daylight, at different places, at 
a distance from his real camp. Then word would come to Wood that 
Old Brown and his men had been seen at such a time, here or there 
on Marais des Cygnes. Wood would order out his men to look for 
him, forty miles off, the men would spend themselves hunting along 
the river-bottoms, through dense, prickly tangles, and come back 
at night worn out and furious, their horses done. I heard one say, 
one night, out of his officer's hearing: 'D d if I'm going after Old 
Brown any more. If I 'm ordered out any more, I '11 go into the 
bushes and hide.' This kept up three or four days, and all the time 
John Brown was camped so close that he heard the bugle calls, and 
got his water at the same spring where they got theirs. He was 
hoping for a chance to effect a rescue. One day word came to Wood 
that John Brown was near and would attempt a rescue. Thereupon 
he repeated the message to me, commenting: 'If such a rescue be 
attempted and you try to escape, you will be the first ones that we 
will shoot.'" 

A correspondent of the New York Times thus described the 
torture of the prisoners: 12 

' ' A scene then followed which has no parallel in a republican gov- 
ernment. They were chained two and two by taking a common trace- 
chain and using a padlock at each end, which was so fixed as to make 
a close clasp around the ankle. Like a gang of slaves they were 
thus driven on foot the whole distance at the rate of twenty-five 
miles per day, dragging their chains after them. They were unac- 
customed to travelling their chains had worn upon their ankles 
until one of them became quite exhausted and was put in a wagon. 


What a humiliating, disgusting sight in a free government to 
see a chained gang of men who had committed no crime whatever, 
driven sixty-five miles by their merciless prosecutors to attend a 
trial, then have granted them an unconditional release and no pro- 
vision for redress!" 

This shocking ill-treatment of John Brown, Jr., which is 
confirmed by much contemporary testimony, aroused indig- 
nation in the North, and to its effect upon John Brown was 
attributed, though erroneously, much of the father's bitter- 
ness toward the slaveholders. According to a special corre- 
spondent of the New York Tribune, First Lieutenant James 
Mclntosh, First Cavalry, stated to him in June that the reason 
for the arrest of John Brown, Jr., and Jason Brown, and the 
severity of their treatment, was the soldiers' belief that they 
were two of the Pottawatomie murderers. 13 As for Captain 
Thomas J. Wood, it was pointed out at the time that he was 
a native of Kentucky, and it was, therefore, taken for granted 
that his sympathies were with the South, and his cruelties 
due to friendliness for the Border Ruffians. It is an interest- 
ing fact that this officer later became, like Major Sedgwick, a 
distinguished Northern general, one of the very best division 
commanders in the Army of the Cumberland, in which he was 
conspicuous for his wounds, his ability and his gallantry. 
After spending two weeks on Ottawa Creek with his prisoners, 
Captain Wood marched them to Lecompton via Palmyra and 
Lawrence. Here, after an examination, Jason was released, 
but John Brown, Jr., was held on the charge of high treason 
because of his political activity, and was not released until 
September 10. Jason returned to his own claim only to find 
his house burned by the Border Ruffians and his cattle driven 
off, though his oxen later returned to him, of themselves, from 
Missouri. He built himself a shelter of fence rails, but soon 
joined his father's company as the only place where he could 
find safety. His wife and the other women went into the 
Osawatomie block-house for security, for by this time almost 
all the Free State men were out under arms. 14 

John Brown and those who had participated with him in 
the Pottawatomie murders arrived at Jason Brown's claim 
and went into hiding on May 26, sending his son Owen to 
Osawatomie a day or two later for provisions. Meeting his 


brother, John Brown, Jr., wandering in the brush, Owen 
endeavored to persuade him to join his father, but he admit- 
ted frankly that they were now hunted outlaws, likely to be 
separated for months from all of their families. John then 
declined, only to meet the worse fate already recorded. 16 On 
Owen's return there came to the camp O. A. Carpenter, a Free 
Soiler from the neighborhood of Prairie City, who offered to 
pilot Brown to the headwaters of Ottawa Creek, as there were 
two companies, one of cavalry and one of Missourians, then 
in search of the murderers. The Brown party broke camp at 
once and started at nightfall in the direction of Lawrence; it 
comprised then, besides the leader, John Brown, his sons Fred- 
erick, Salmon, Owen and Oliver, Henry Thompson, Weiner, 
Townsley, August Bondi and the guide, Carpenter, "Dutch 
Henry's " horses furnishing some of the mounts. In the course 
of the first few hours of the march, they rode straight into the 
bivouac of a detachment of United States troops presuma- 
bly in pursuit of them. It was near the crossing of the Marais 
des Cygnes River, according to Owen Brown, and the troops 
ordered them to halt. "It was dark," he narrates, "and fa- 
ther called for the captain. In the meantime we placed our 
horses one beyond the other and close together so as to look 
like a small company. After some time the captain came out 
in front of his tent and asked : ' Who are you ? ' I think father 
replied, 'There are a few of us going towards Lawrence.' The 
captain answered: 'All right, pass on." This these modern 
successors of Robin Hood lost no time in doing, and in biv- 
ouacking for the night some distance away, but not far from 
the farm of Howard Carpenter, a brother of their guide. 

The next day they entered some virgin woods on Ottawa 
Creek and camped near a fine spring. Bondi, an able Aus- 
trian Jew, who had put himself under Brown's leadership after 
hearing of the Pottawatomie murders, has left the following 
picture of their al fresco life in the forest primeval : 16 

"We stayed here up to the morning of Sunday, the 1st of June, 
and during these few days I fully succeeded in understanding the 
exalted character of my old friend [John Brown]. He exhibited at 
all times the most affectionate care for each of us. He also attended 
to cooking. We had two meals daily, consisting of bread, baked in 
skillets ; this was washed down with creek water, mixed with a little 


ginger and a spoon of molasses to each pint. Nevertheless we kept 
in excellent spirits ; we considered ourselves as one family, allied to 
one another by the consciousness that it was our duty to undergo 
all these privations to further the good cause; had determined to 
share any danger with one another, that victory or death might 
find us together. We were united as a band of brothers by the love 
and affection towards the man who with tender words and wise 
counsel, in the depth of the wilderness of Ottawa creek, prepared 
a handful of young men for the work of laying the foundation of a 
free commonwealth. His words have ever remained firmly engraved 
on my mind. Many and various were the instructions he gave dur- 
ing the days of our compulsory leisure in this camp. He expressed 
himself to us that we should never allow ourselves to be tempted 
by any consideration to acknowledge laws and institutions to exist 
as of right if our conscience and reason condemned them. 

"He admonished us not to care whether a majority, no matter 
how large, opposed our principles and opinions. The largest ma- 
jorities were sometimes only organized mobs, whose howlings never 
changed black into white, or night into day. A minority conscious 
of its rights, based on moral principles, would, under a republican 
government, sooner or later become the majority." 

On May 30 James Redpath, the correspondent of the St. 
Louis Democrat and the Tribune, rode by accident into this 
gathering. His description, too, is worth reprinting, since the 
scene he portrays beyond doubt represents many similar ones 
in John Brown's life: 17 

"I shall not soon forget the scene that here opened to my view. 
Near the edge of the creek a dozen horses were tied, all ready sad- 
dled for a ride for life, or a hunt after Southern invaders. A dozen 
rifles and sabres were stacked around the trees. In an open space, 
amid the shady and lofty woods, there was a great blazing fire with 
a pot on it; a woman, bareheaded, with an honest, sun-burnt face, 
was picking blackberries from the bushes; three or four armed men 
were lying on red and blue blankets on the grass; and two fine- 
looking youths were standing, leaning on their arms, on guard near 
by. One of them was the youngest son of Old Brown, and the other 
was ' Charley,' the brave Hungarian, who was subsequently mur- 
dered at Ossawatomie. Old Brown himself stood near the fire, with 
his shirt-sleeves rolled up, and a large piece of pork in his hand. 
He was cooking a pig. He was poorly clad, and his toes protruded 
from his boots. The old man received me with great cordiality, 
and the little band gathered about me. But it was for a moment 
only; for the Captain ordered them to renew their work. He re- 
spectfully but firmly forbade conversation on the Pottawatomie 
affair; and said that, if I desired any information from the com- 


pany in relation to their conduct or intentions, he, as their Captain, 
would answer for them whatever it was proper to communicate. 

"In this camp no manner of profane language was permitted; 
no man of immoral character was allowed to stay, excepting as a 
prisoner of war. He made prayers in which all the company united, 
every morning and evening; and no food was ever tasted by his 
men until the Divine blessing had been asked on it. After every 
meal, thanks were returned to the Bountiful Giver. Often, I was 
told, the old man would retire to the densest solitudes, to wrestle 
with his God in secret prayer. One of his company subsequently 
informed me that, after these retirings, he would say that the Lord 
had directed him in visions what to do; that, for himself, he did not 
love warfare, but peace, only acting in obedience to the will of 
the Lord, and righting God's battles for His children's sake. 

"It was at this time that the old man said to me : ' I would rather 
have the small-pox, yellow fever, and cholera all together in my 
camp, than a man without principles. It's a mistake, sir,' he con- 
tinued, 'that our people make, when they think that bullies are the 
best fighters, or that they are the men fit to oppose these Southern- 
ers. Give me men of good principles; God-fearing men; men who 
respect themselves; and, with a dozen of them, I will oppose any 
hundred such men as these Buford ruffians!" 

Besides Charles Kaiser, subsequently murdered in cold 
blood by the Border Ruffians, as Redpath records, Benjamin 
Cochrane, a settler on the Pottawatomie, had joined Brown's 
band, the latter bringing the news that Bondi's cabin had 
been burned, his cattle stolen and Weiner's store plundered, 
in plain view, he alleged, of United States troops. Captain 
Samuel T. Shore, of the Prairie City Rifles, and a Dr. Westfall 
also visited the camp, bringing news of Border Ruffian out- 
rages and asking for aid. 18 Captain Shore brought provisions, 
and on May 31 reported that a large force of Missourians had 
gone into camp near Black Jack, a spring on the Santa Fe 
trail, named for a group of "black jack" oaks. It was agreed 
that Brown's party and as many men as Shore could get to- 
gether should meet at Prairie City at ten o'clock in the fore- 
noon of the next day. This took place, Brown's men attend- 
ing a service held by an itinerant preacher, with part of the 
congregation in a building, part outside. The services were 
interrupted by the passing of three strangers in the direction 
of Black Jack. Two of them were captured, and, when ques- 
tioned by John Brown, admitted that they were from the 
camp of Henry Clay Pate, the correspondent of the St. Louis 


Missouri Republican, a captain in the Missouri militia and 
a deputy United States Marshal, who, as already related, on 
the news of the Pottawatomie murders, had marched at once 
to Paola and, after assisting in the round-up there of Free 
State men, including John Brown, Jr., and Jason Brown, had 
pushed on into the Territory in search of the other Browns. 

At that time twenty-four years of age, a native of Kanawha 
County, Virginia, and a former student of the University of 
Virginia, Pate had in him the making of a fine soldier, for he 
died, well spoken of, as Colonel of the Fifth Virginia Cavalry, 
in command of a brigade of cavalry, on the same day and, it is 
said, within a hundred yards of where the brilliant Confed- 
erate General, J. E. B. Stuart, was mortally wounded. This 
was near Yellow Tavern, Virginia, May n, i864. 19 Pate's, 
John Brown's and Stuarf/s careers were thus strangely inter- 
woven ; Pate and Brown first met each other in battle at Black 
Jack, and encountered Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart three days 
later, when Pate's men were set free. Stuart and Brown met 
again in the Harper's Ferry raid, and Pate visited his old 
captor in jail shortly thereafter. They could not have fore- 
seen that there would be three acts in all to their public ap- 
pearance; or that all were to perish violently within eight 
years, two of them after having won for themselves imper- 
ishable renown, the one by reason of his death on the scaffold, 
the other because of military achievements which have placed 
him in the front rank of American cavalry leaders. There 
could be no clearer illustration than the meeting of these 
men of the direct relation of "Bleeding Kansas" to Harper's 
Ferry and to the national convulsion of 1861 to 1865. Kansas 
was but the prelude; what more natural than that some of 
the actors who appeared in the prologue should hold the cen- 
tre of the stage in the later acts of the greatest drama of the 
nineteenth century? 

Members of the startled Prairie City congregation were 
eager to leave at once in search of Pate, particularly because 
the sons of a preacher named Moore, who had been captured 
near Westport the day before and taken off, learned now that 
their father was in Pate's camp. Brown counselled, more 
wisely, that the night be awaited and the enemy assailed at 
sunrise. About forty men volunteered to go as the Prairie 


City Rifles, but their numbers dwindled rapidly as the distance 
to the enemy decreased. At daylight on June 2 Brown's men 
were fed, and at sunrise they were dismounted at the Black 
Jack oaks, Frederick Brown being left in charge of the 
horses. 20 A half mile distant was Pate's camp, the covered 
wagons in front, then the tents, and then, on higher ground 
to the rear, the picketed horses and mules. A Missouri 
sentinel fired the first shot. As to what happened thereafter, 
there is a mass of testimony. Henry Clay Pate, in a rare 
pamphlet published in New York in 1 859,2 1 nas given his side 
of the story. John Brown described the whole "battle" in a 
letter to his family dated "near Brown's Station, June, 1856." 
Both Pate and Brown discussed the fight at length in the 
Tribune of June 13 and July II respectively, and Brown's 
Tribune letter, hitherto entirely overlooked by his various 
biographers, must be taken as the final word in settling sev- 
eral long-disputed points. Besides the principal actors, Lieu- 
tenant Brockett, Bondi, Owen Brown, Henry Thompson, 
Salmon Brown and the preacher Moore, who was Pate's 
prisoner, have recorded their recollections of the conflict. 

In his letter to his family John Brown thus outlines the 
skirmish : 

"As I was much older than Captain Shore, the principal direction 
of the fight devolved on me. We got to within about a mile of their 
camp before being discovered by their scouts, and then moved at 
a brisk pace, Captain Shore and men forming our left, and my com- 
pany the right. When within about sixty rods of the enemy, Cap- 
tain Shore's men halted by mistake in a very exposed situation, 
and continued the fire, both his men and the enemy being armed 
with Sharpe's rifles. My company had no long-shooters. We (my 
company) did not fire a gun until we gained the rear of a bank, 
about fifteen or twenty rods to the right of the enemy, where we 
commenced, and soon compelled them to hide in a ravine. Cap- 
tain Shore, after getting one man wounded, and exhausting his 
ammunition, came with part of his men to the right of my posi- 
tion, much discouraged. The balance of his men, including the 
one wounded, had left the ground. Five of Captain Shore's men 
came boldly down and joined my company, and all but one man, 
wounded, helped to maintain the fight until it was over. I was 
obliged to give my consent that he should go after more help, when 
all his men left but eight, four of whom I persuaded to remain in 
a secure position, and there busied one of them in shooting the 


horses and mules of the enemy, which served for a show of fight. 
After the firing had continued for some two or three hours, Cap- 
tain Pate with twenty-three men, two badly wounded, laid down 
their arms to nine men, myself included, four of Captain Shore's 
men and four of my own. One of my men (Henry Thompson) was 
badly wounded, and after continuing his fire for an hour longer was 
obliged to quit the ground. Three others of my company (but not 
of my family) had gone off. Salmon was dreadfully wounded by 
accident, soon after the fight; but both he and Henry are fast recov- 
ering." 22 

Captain Pate always alleged that he had been taken pris- 
oner by John Brown by trickery and treachery, when under 
a flag of truce, "a barbarity unlooked for in this country, 
and unheard of in the annals of honorable warfare." But 
Pate admits on the same page that his object in using the 
flag of truce was "to gain time, and if possible have hostilities 
suspended for a while." 

"With this view," he says, "a flag of truce was sent out and an 
interview with the captain requested. Captain Brown advanced and 
sent for me. I approached him and made known the fact that I 
was acting under the orders of the U. S. Marshal and was only in 
search of persons for whom writs of arrest had been issued, and 
that I wished to make a proposition. He replied that he would hear 
no proposals, and that he wanted an unconditional surrender. I 
asked for fifteen minutes to answer. He refused. . . . Had I known 
whom I was fighting I would not have trusted to a flag of truce. 
The enemy's men were then marched up to within fifty paces of 
mine and I placed before them. Captain Brown commanded me to 
order my company to lay down their arms. Putting a revolver to 
my breast he repeated the command, giving me one or two minutes 
to make the order. He might have shot me; his men might have 
riddled me, but I would not have given the order for a world, much 
less my poor life." 23 

His company, he explains, saved his life by voluntarily 
laying down their arms. There is more braggadocio, and 
also the admission that "there is another consolation for me, 
if I showed the white feather at Black Jack, namely: they 
who fight and run away shall live to fight another day," 
which was surely a correct prophecy. But he admits that at 
Black Jack he resorted to the flag of truce because he saw 
what no one else did that "reinforcements for the Aboli- 


tionists were near and that the fight would be desperate, and 
if they persisted not one would be left to tell the tale of car- 
nage that must follow." 

To Pate's allegations John Brown replied thus in the Trib- 
une of July II, 1856: 

LAWRENCE, K. T., Tuesday, July i, 1856. 

I have just read in the Tribune of June 13, an article from the pen 
of Capt. H. C. Pate, headed "The Battle of Black Jack Point," 
(in other words the battle of Palmyra), and take the lioerty of cor- 
recting a very few of Capt. Pate's statements in reference to that 
affair, having had personal cognizance of what then occurred. The 
first statement I would notice is in these words: "At first the enemy 
squatted down in open prairie and fired at a distance from 300 to 
400 yards from us. Their lines were soon broken and they hastily 
ran to a ravine for shelter." This is wrong, as my company formed 
a distinct line from Capt. Shore and his men, and without stopping 
to fire a gun passed at once into a ravine on the enemy's right, 
where we commenced our fire on them, and where we remained till 
the enemy hoisted the white flag. I expected Capt. Shore to form 
his men and occupy a similar position on the left of the enemy, but 
was disappointed, he halting on the eastern slope above the ravine, 
in front of the enemy's camp. This I consider as the principal mis- 
take in our part of the action, as Capt. Shore was unable to retain 
this unfortunate position: and when he, with part of his men left 
it and joined my company, the balance of his company quit the field 
entirely. One of them was wounded and disabled. Capt. Shore 
and all his men, I believe, had for a considerable time kept that 
position, and received the fire of the enemy like the best regular 
troops (to their praise I would say it) and until they had to a con- 
siderable extent exhausted their ammunition. Capt. Pate says: 
"When the fight commenced our forces were nearly equal." I here 
say most distinctly, that twenty-six officers and men all told, was 
the entire force on the Free State side who were on the ground at 
all during the fight or in any way whatever participated in it. Of 
these Capt. Shore and his company numbered sixteen all told. My 
company, ten only, including myself. Six of these were of my own 
family. He says further, "but I saw reinforcements for the Aboli- 
tionists were near," &c. Capt. Pate, it seems, could see much better 
than we; for we neither saw nor received any possible reenforce- 
ments until some minutes after the surrender, nor did we under- 
stand that any help was near us, and at the time of the surrender 
our entire force, officers and men, all told, had dwindled down to 
but fifteen men, who were either on or about the field. Capt. Shore 
and his men had all left the field but eight. One of his men who had 
left was wounded and was obliged to leave. Of the eight who re- 
mained four, whose names I love to repeat, stood nobly by four of 


my men until the fight was over. The other four had, with two of 
my company, become disheartened and gone to a point out of reach 
of the enemy's fire, where, by the utmost exertion, I had kept them 
to make a little show, and busied one of them in shooting mules 
and horses to divert the others and keep them from running off. 
One of my men had been terribly wounded and left, after holding 
on for an hour afterward. Fifteen Free State men, all told, were all 
that remained on and near the ground at the time the surrender 
was made; and it was made to nine men only, myself included in 
that number. Twenty-five of the enemy, including two men terribly 
wounded, were made prisoners. Capt. Pate reproaches me with 
the most dishonorable violation of the rights secured under a flag 
of truce, but says: "My object was to gain time, and if possible have 
hostilities suspended for a while." So much, in his own language, 
for good faith, of which he found me so destitute. Now for my own 
dishonorable violation of the flag of truce: When I first saw it I had 
just been to the six discouraged men above named, and started at 
once to meet it, being at that moment from sixty to eighty rods 
from the enemy's camp, and met it about half way carried by two 
men, one a Free State man, a prisoner of theirs; the other was young 
Turner, of whom Capt. Pate speaks in such high terms. I think 
him as brave as Capt. Pate represents. Of his disposition and char- 
acter in other respects I say nothing now. The country and the 
world may probably know more hereafter. I at once learned from 
those bearing the flag of truce that in reality they had no other 
design than to divert me and consume time by getting me to go to 
their camp to hear explanations. I then told young James to stand 
by me with his arms, saying, "We are both equally exposed to the 
fire of both parties," and sent their prisoner back to tell the Cap- 
tain that, if he had any proposal to make, to come at once and make 
it. He also came armed to where I and young James were some 
forty or fifty rods from either party and I alone. He immediately 
began to tell about his authority from the General Government, by 
way of explanation, as he said. I replied that I should listen to no- 
thing of that kind, and that, if he had any proposal to make, I would 
hear it at once, and that, if he had none for me, I had one for him, 
and that was immediate and unconditional surrender. I then said 
to him and young James, (both well armed,) "You must go down 
to your camp, and there all of you lay down your arms," when the 
three started, they continuing armed until the full surrender was 
made. I, an old man, of nearly sixty years, and fully exposed to the 
weapons of two young men at my side, as well as the fire of their 
men in their camp, so far, and no further, took them prisoners 
under their flag of truce. On our way to their camp, as we passed 
within hailing distance of the eight men, who had kept their posi- 
tion firm, I directed them to pass down the ravine in front of the 
enemy's camp, about twenty rods off, to receive the surrender. Such 
was my violation of the flag of truce. Let others judge. I had not 


during the time of the above transactions with Capt. Pate and his 
flag of truce a single man secreted near me who could have possibly 
have pointed a rifle at Capt. Pate, nor a man nearer than forty rods 
till we came near their camp. Capt. Pate complains of our treat- 
ment in regard to cooking, &c, but forgets to say that, after the fight 
was over, when I and some of my men had eaten only once in nearly 
forty-eight hours, we first of all gave Capt. Pate and his men as 
good a dinner as we could obtain for them, I being the last man to 
take a morsel. During the time we kept them it was with difficulty 
I could keep enough men in camp away from their business and 
their families to guard our prisoners; I being myself obliged to stand 
guard six hours between four in the afternoon and six in the 
morning. We were so poorly supplied with provisions that the best 
we could possibly do was to let our prisoners use their own provi- 
sions; and as for tents, we, for the most part, had none, while we 
sent a team and brought in theirs, which they occupied exclusively. 
Capt. Pate and his men had burned or carried off my own tent, 
where one of my sons lived, with all its contents, provisions &c, 
some four or five days before the fight. We did not search our pris- 
oners, nor take from them one cent of their money, a watch, or any- 
thing but arms, horses, and military stores. I would ask Capt. Pate 
and his men how our people fared at their hands at Lawrence, 
Osawattamie, Brown's Station, and elsewhere, my two sons, John, 
jr., and Jason Brown, being of the number? We never had, at any 
time, near Capt. Pate, or where his men were, to exceed half the 
number he states. We had only three men wounded in the fight, 
and all of those have nearly recovered, and not one killed or since 
dead. See his statement. I am sorry that a young man of good ac- 
quirements and fair abilities should, by his own statement, know- 
ingly and wilfully made, do himself much greater injury than he 
even accuses "Old Brown" of doing him. He is most welcome to 
all the satisfaction which his treatment of myself and family before 
the fight, his polite and gentlemanly return for my own treatment 
of himself and his men have called forth since he was a prisoner, 
and released by Col. Sumner, can possibly afford to his honorable 
and ingenuous mind. I have also seen a brief notice of this affair 
by Lieutenant Brockett, and it affords me real satisfaction to say 
that I do not see a single sentence in it that is in the least degree 
characterized by either direct or indirect untruthfulness. I will 
add that when Capt. Pate's sword and pistols were taken from him 
at his camp, he particularly requested me to take them into my own 
care, which I did, and returned them to him when Col. Sumner took 
him and his men from us. I subjoin a copy of an agreement made 
with Capt. Shore and myself by Capt. Pate and his Lieutenant 
Brocket, in regard to exchange of prisoners taken by both parties, 
which agreement Col. Sumner did not require the Pro-Slavery 
party to comply with. A good illustration of governmental pro- 
tection to the people of Kansas from the first : 



This is an article of agreement between Captains John Brown, 
sen., and Samuel T. Shore of the first part, and Capt. H. C. Pate 
and Lieut. W. B. Brocket of the second part, and witnesses, that 
in consideration of the fact that the parties of the first part have 
a number of Capt. Pate's company prisoners that they agree to 
give up and fully liberate one of their prisoners for one of those 
lately arrested near Stanton, Osawattamie, and Potawatamie and 
so on, one of the former for one of the latter alternately until 
all are liberated. It is understood and agreed by the parties that 
the sons of Capt. John Brown, sen, Capt. John Brown, jr., and 
Jason Brown, are to be among the liberated parties (if not already 
liberated), and are to be exchanged for Capt. Pate and Lieut. 
Brocket respectively. The prisoners are to be brought on neutral 
ground and exchanged. It is agreed that the neutral ground shall 
be at or near the house of John T. or Ottawa Jones of this Terri- 
tory, and that those who have been arrested, and have been liber- 
ated, will be considered in the same light as those not liberated, 
but they must appear in person or answer in writing that they 
are at liberty. The arms, particularly the side arms, of each one 
exchanged, are to be returned with the prisoners, also the horses 
so far as practicable. 


H. C. PATE, 
PRAIRIE CITY, KANSAS TER'Y. June 2, A. D., 1856. 

Captain Pate, after his interview with Brown in jail at 
Charlestown, to which he had three witnesses, obtained their 
signatures to an account of the Black Jack fight which in some 
respects is obviously erroneous; in it he endeavors to repre- 
sent that John Brown admitted that the flag of truce was vio- 
lated. Unfortunately for Pate's reputation as a chronicler, his 
pamphlet is frankly partisan. Moreover, there were several 
witnesses who testified that Pate ordered his men to lay down 
their arms, instead of risking death by silence, as he avers. 

The crux of the " battle" of Black Jack came when John 
Brown ordered Shore's men to shoot Pate's horses and mules. 
As soon as he noticed this going on, Frederick Brown, who had 
been left behind with the horses, could no longer contain him- 
self in inactivity, but, mounting one of the animals and bran- 
dishing his sword, rode around Pate's camp with his horse at 


a run, crying out, "Father, we have got them surrounded and 
have cut off their communications!" Frederick Brown was a 
large man, and on this occasion he acted in such a wild manner 
as to give rise to the charge that he was not of sound mind. 
His extraordinary appearance undoubtedly frightened Pate's 
men, who naturally believed that he had other men behind 
him and that they were really surrounded. They fired a num- 
ber of shots at him in vain, and it was only a few minutes after 
this that they raised the flag of truce and the firing ceased. It 
is interesting to note that among those who ran away with 
Shore's men was James Townsley, the first to tell the story of 
the Pottawatomie murders. Pate's Free Soil prisoners were of 
course at once released by John Brown, after having been 
under fire throughout the engagement, which ended between 
one and two o'clock. Among them, besides the preacher Moore, 
was a Dr. Graham, who had been shot through the leg in en- 
deavoring to escape. He was not sufficiently hurt, however, to 
prevent his attending to the wounded, of whom Henry Thomp- 
son was the most seriously injured. After the battle, Shore's 
men returned, and with them the company known as the Law- 
rence "Stubbs," under Captain J. B. Abbott, a well-known 
Lawrence fighter, who had marched as rapidly as possible in 
order to succor Brown. Owen Brown estimates that this rein- 
forcement amounted to one hundred and fifty men, and in this 
he is probably not far wrong. As John Brown himself put it: 

"After the fight, numerous Free State men who could not be got 
out before were on hand; and some of them I am ashamed to add, 
were very busy not only with the plunder of our enemies, but with 
our private effects, leaving us, while guarding our prisoners and 
providing in regard to them, much poorer than before the battle." 24 

"We were taken," records Pate, "to a camp on Middle Ot- 
tawa Creek and closely guarded. We had to cook for ourselves, 
furnish provisions, and sleep on the ground, but we were not 
treated unkindly. Here we remained for three days and nights, 
until Colonel Sumner at the head of a company of Dragoons 
released us from our imprisonment." 25 

Colonel Sumner officially reported from Leaven worth, on 
June 5, his rescue of Pate's command, and his heading off 
about two hundred and fifty men under General Whitfield 


and General Coffee, of the militia, who, as we have already 
seen from Whitfield's letter, were bent on rescuing Captain 
Pate. Colonel Sumner's force was only fifty men. With him 
were Major Sedgwick and Lieutenant Stuart, who thus met 
Pate and Brown. Colonel Sumner records the prompt dispersal 
of Brown's men, and his surprise at finding General Whit- 
field, a Member of Congress, and General Coffee, of the Militia, 
at the head of the advancing Border Ruffians. He informed 
them that he was there, 

"by order of the President, and the proclamation of the Governor, 
to disperse all armed bodies assembled without authority; and fur- 
ther, that my duty was perfectly plain, and would certainly be done. 
I then requested General Coffee to assemble his people, and I read 
to them the President's despatch and the governor's proclamation. 
The general then said that he should not resist the authority of the 
general government, and that his party would disperse, and shortly 
afterwards they moved off. Whether this is a final dispersion of these 
lawless armed bodies, is very doubtful. If the proclamation of the 
Governor had been issued six months earlier, and had been rightly 
maintained, these difficulties would have been avoided. As the mat- 
ter now stands, there is great danger of a serious commotion." 28 

Major Sedgwick recorded the dispersal of Brown's band in 
the following words: 

"Things are getting worse every day, and it is hard to foresee the 
result. One of these things must happen: either it will terminate 
in civil war or the vicious will band themselves together to plunder 
and murder all whom they meet. The day after writing my last 
letter I started with a squadron of cavalry to go about forty miles 
to break up an encampment of free-soilers who had been robbing 
and taking prisoners any pro-slavery man they could meet. I pro- 
ceeded to the place, and when within a short distance two of their 
principal men came out and wanted to make terms. They were told 
that no terms would be made with lawless and armed men, but 
that they must give up their prisoners and disperse at once. We 
marched into their camp, situated on a small island and entrenched, 
and found about one hundred and fifty men and twenty prisoners,' 
who were released and the men dispersed." 27 

It was John Brown himself who came out and endeav- 
ored to negotiate with the forces of the United States as if 
he were in control of a coordinate body. It was he, too, who 
had insisted on the camp's being so heavily entrenched. On 
June 3 he had directed the pillaging of the store of one J . M. 


Bernard at Centropolis, he being a pro-slavery sympathizer, in 
order, Brown's devoted follower Bondi declared: 

"to improve our exterior, the Brown outfit being altogether in rags. 
Frederick and Oliver Brown and three members of the Stubbs were 
the raiding party. They returned with some palm-leaf hats, check 
shirts, linen coats, a few linen pants, and bandanna handkerchiefs." 28 

To the victors belonged the spoils. Since it was now "war" 
in deadly earnest, the raiding of the country for supplies was, 
in John Brown's opinion, wholly justified, as had already been 
the "impressing" of pro-slavery horses. Within one hour sub- 
sequent to the interview between Sumner and Brown, re- 
ported Bondi, Camp Brown had ceased to exist, and this hasty 
movement was not delayed by Salmon Brown's accidentally 
shooting himself in the right shoulder. Subsequently, Colonel 
Sumner was severely criticised by the pro-slavery men for not 
having arrested Brown. He had, however, no warrants for 
anybody's arrest, and there was with his command a deputy 
United States marshal, William J. Preston by name. The lat- 
ter seems to have been afraid, even in the presence of troops, 
to serve the warrants he had with him. 29 Salmon Brown 
and Henry Thompson testify that Colonel Sumner told John 
Brown that Preston had warrants and that they would be 
served in his presence. Then he ordered Preston to proceed. 
"I do not recognize any one for whom I have warrants," re- 
plied the deputy marshal. "Then what are you here for?" 
asked Colonel Sumner indignantly. 30 

The Brown family did not move far after being ordered 
to disperse. The wounded Salmon was taken to Carpenter's 
near-by cabin and nursed by Bondi ; the others, with Weiner, 
camped in a thicket about half a mile from the abandoned 
Camp Brown. On June 8 Bondi rejoined them, Salmon being 
, no longer in need of his services, and was at once asked to visit 
John Brown, Jr., and Jason Brown, then prisoners in Captain 
Wood's near-by camp. At their request Bondi visited the 
Adairs and found the Brown women safe at the residence of 
David Garrison, a neighbor. On Thursday, June 10, Bondi 
had returned to John Brown, and at a council held that day 
it was agreed to separate. Weiner had business in Louisiana; 
Henry Thompson was also taken to Carpenter's cabin, and 


Bondi accompanied Weiner as far as Leavenworth on the lat- 
ter's way to St. Louis. He then returned to the seat of war. 
John Brown and his unwounded sons remained hidden in the 

Governor Shannon, on hearing of the Black Jack episode, 
reported it to President Pierce as a sign of the unrest of the Ter- 
ritory, with a comment that could hardly have gratified Cap- 
tain Pate, for it charged him with being " at the head of an un- 
authorized company." 31 This weak Governor was not having 
a particularly easy time of it. The Territory was seething with 
lawlessness. The administration at Washington was getting 
restless in view of the outburst of anger in the North over the 
sacking of Lawrence. Indeed, on May 23, before the news of 
this raid had reached Washington, President Pierce sent two 
despatches 32 to Governor Shannon which betray his extreme 
nervousness. He wished to know if it was true that Marshal 
Donaldson was near Lawrence, if it had been necessary to 
use troops to enforce writs, and, if so, whether other forces 
besides those of Sumner and Lieut.-Col. Cooke, of the Dra- 
goons, had been called in. In his second despatch he urged 
Governor Shannon to "repress lawless violence in whatever 
form it may manifest itself," and it was this despatch which 
Colonel Sumner read to General Whitfield, together with Shan- 
non's proclamation commanding "all persons belonging to 
military organizations within this Territory, not authorized 
by the laws thereof, to disperse and retire peaceably to their 
respective abodes," under penalty of being dispersed by the 
United States troops. Shannon further ordered 33 that all law- 
abiding citizens, without regard to party names and distinc- 
tions, should be protected in their persons and property, and 
that "all aggressing parties from without the Territory must 
be repelled." It is only fair to Shannon to add that he made 
requisitions for sufficient United States troops, and urged upon 
their commanders that the country to the south of Lawrence 
be properly protected. When Shannon's proclamation was 
two days old, President Pierce again telegraphed to the Gov- 
ernor : ' ' Maintain the laws firmly and impartially, and take care 
that no good citizen has just ground to complain of the want 
of protection." 34 

Despite these admonitions and the activity of the troops, 


the disorders continued. Early in the morning of the 5th of 
June, Major Abbott, with his Wakarusa company of Free State 
men and a body of Lawrence youths, assailed Franklin, four 
and a half miles from Lawrence, where were some Missourians 
charged with being members of the Law and Order party and 
with having amassed considerable plunder. 35 It was, in theeyes 
of the Free State men, a "mischievous camp." The pro-slavery 
men, who had one man killed and several wounded, defended 
themselves with a cannon, but inflicted no loss on their assail- 
ants. The Wakarusa company arrived too late to take part 
in the righting, and busied itself in levying on the stores of the 
pro-slavery men, loading a wagon with all the rifles, powder, 
caps, flour, bacon, coffee, sugar, etc., that could be found. They 
made Franklin, says Andreas, "too hot for the enemy, and 
compelled them to evacuate." It is interesting to note that 
this and similar robberies by Free State men were treated in 
the Northern press and by subsequent historians as absolutely 
proper and legitimate acts of war, while similar outrages on 
the part of the pro-slavery forces were pictured as too terrible to 
be borne. Thus Bondi relates that the final pro-slavery wrong- 
doing, which led John Brown to leave his camp and march after 
Pate, was the entering of a Free State house by three of Pate's 
men and their stealing the guns of the seven Free Soilers who 
occupied it. "It was impossible," says Bondi, "to put up with 
such a shameful outrage," 36 especially so for the men who 
bore the guilt of the Pottawatomie murders. Later on in his 
reminiscences, Bondi relates with great gusto how he and his 
companions, when in need of fresh meat, sought out "Dutch 
Henry" Sherman's herd of cattle and killed what they needed 
without asking any one's permission. This was, of course, a 
justifiable act of war, in his opinion. The dispersal of Free 
State forces by Federal troops was always an outrage ; similar 
treatment of the pro-slavery bands, just and proper. 

Two days after the Free State attack on Franklin, Whit- 
field's men, returning to Missouri, reached Osawatomie just 
after Major Sedgwick, with a company of dragoons, had left 
it on his return to Fort Leavenworth. They seized the oppor- 
tunity to take revenge for the Pottawatomie murders. Every 
house was entered and pillaged, women being robbed even 
of earrings, and fourteen horses were stolen, 37 thus justifying 


Colonel Sumner's fears as to the genuineness of Whitfield's 
promise to disperse his men. That anything was left standing 
was due to fear that United States troops might appear. After 
an hour and a half of terrorizing women and children and the 
few men left at home, Whitfield's forces moved on, laden with 
booty, and finally disbanded on reaching Westport. As this 
town lies to the northeast of Prairie City, and Osawatomie far 
to the southeast, it is obvious that Whitfield deliberately dis- 
obeyed Sumner's instructions to leave the Territory, and went 
out of his way to revenge upon the Free State settlement at 
Osawatomie the Pottawatomie murders that were the original 
reason for his and Pate's entry into Kansas. Sumner was nat- 
urally indignant, so the Tribune reported on June 23, when 
he heard of Whitfield's breach of faith; but the mischief was 
then done, and Whitfield doubled on his tracks and returned 
safely to Westport. This Whitfield raid, while unaccompa- 
nied by loss of life, by itself wholly disposes of the conten- 
tion of James Freeman Clarke and others that after John 
Brown's murders "the country had peace." Certainly it is 
plain proof that the killings of the Doyles, Sherman and Wil- 
kinson, far from stopping the aggressiveness of the Border 
Ruffians, brought down their especial vengeance upon Brown's 
Free State neighbors. 

Even before they plundered Osawatomie, Whitfield's men 
were credited with one of the worst crimes of this bloody 
period. They had tried one Cantrall, a Missourian, on the 
charge of "treason to Missouri," for sympathizing with and 
aiding the Free State forces at Black Jack, although he was not 
an actual participant in the engagement. After a mock court- 
martial, Cantrall was taken into a near-by ravine. Other pris- 
oners of Whitfield reported afterwards that there was a "shot, 
followed by the cry, 'O God! I am shot! I am murdered.' 
Then there was another shot followed by a long scream ; then 
another shot and all was silent." One of the prisoners escaped 
and told this story, and the body was found in the ravine with 
three bullet-holes in the breast. 38 Lieut.-Col. Philip St. George 
Cooke, commanding the Second Dragoons, the other Federal 
regiment in Kansas, reported officially on June 18 that "the 
disorders in the Territory have, in fact, changed their charac- 
ter, and consist now of robberies and assassinations, by a set 


of bandits whom the excitement of the times has attracted 
hither." 39 W. A. Phillips, one of the best of the contempo- 
rary chroniclers, wrote that during the period between the 
Pottawatomie murders and June 18, 

"proslavery parties stealthily prowled through the territory or 
hung upon the Missouri borders. Outrages were so common that 
it would be impossible to enumerate them. Murders were frequent, 
many of them passing secretly and unrecorded ; some of them only 
revealed by the discovery of some mouldering remains of mortality. 
Two men, found hanging on a tree near Westport, ill-fated free- 
state settlers, were taken down and buried by the troops; but so 
shallow was the grave that the prairie wolves dug them up and 
partly devoured them, before they were again found and buried." * 

Lieutenant James Mclntosh, First Cavalry, reported on 
June 13, from Palmyra, that a great many robberies were being 
committed on the various roads, and one detachment of his 
men reported to him that at Cedar Creek, twenty-five miles 

"several men were lying murdered. They saw the body of one who 
they knew from his dress to be a Mr. Carter, who was taken pris- 
oner from this place a few nights ago. This body was shown to them 
by a member of one of the companies who was under the influence 
of liquor, and who told my men that he could point out the other 
abolitionists if they wished to see them." 41 

O. C. Brown, the founder of Osawatomie, wrote on June 
24, 1856, that for thirty days (since Pottawatomie) there had 
been a "reign of terror." 

"Hundreds of men," he declared, "have come from Missouri, and 
the Southern and pauper crowd that live by plunder are hunting 
down the supposed murderers at Pottawatomie. But almost daily 
murders are committed near Westport and nothing done." He 
added: "Keep us in flour and bacon and we can stand it a good pull 
longer. . . . Remember that now, now, now, is the time to render 
us aid." 42 

There is other contemporary testimony to the straits to 
which John Brown's act reduced Osawatomie. 

Free Soilers in numbers were stopped and turned out of 
the Territory when caught near the border. One John A. 
Baillie was shot and badly injured, besides being robbed of 
his possessions. 43 A young man named Hill was similarly 


robbed, and then bound and barbarously gagged. 44 Another 
victim of Border Ruffian fury was strung up to a tree only 
to be let down again. The list of murders runs all through 
the summer. A young Free Soil Kentuckian named Hopkins 
was deliberately killed in Lawrence on June 16 by a deputy 
sheriff named Haine, or Haynau, a notorious bully. 45 William 
Gay, an Indian Agent, was murdered two miles from West- 
port, on June 21, by three strangers, who blazed away at him 
as soon as they discovered, after drinking with him, that he 
was from Michigan. 46 Laben Parker was shot, stabbed and 
hanged, his dangling body being found July 24, eleven miles 
from Tecumseh, with this placard upon it: "Let all those 
who are going to vote against slavery take warning! " 47 Major 
David S. Hoyt, formerly of Deerfield, Massachusetts, was 
killed August 1 1 , on his return to Lawrence from the Georgian 
camp on Washington Creek, which he had entered on a mis- 
sion of peace. A corrosive acid was thrown upon his face, and 
his body, half-buried, was torn by wild beasts. His object 
had been to ask that the Georgians join the people of Law- 
rence in stopping just such crimes. 48 

But the worst of all this terrible list of inhuman outrages, 
the one that infuriated the Free State men beyond all else, 
was the killing, on August 17, of William Hoppe, a brother- 
in-law of the Rev. Ephraim Nute, the Unitarian minister of 
Lawrence. Hoppe was shot in his buggy, when within two 
miles of Leavenworth, by a follower of General Atchison, 
named Fugit or Fugert. 49 This wretch had made a bet of six 
dollars to a pair of boots that he would go out and return 
with the scalp of an Abolitionist within two hours. He asked 
but one question of his victim. When Hoppe replied that he 
was from Lawrence, Fugit shot him and scalped him, with 
an Indian's dexterity, without waiting even to ascertain if 
Hoppe was dead. Brandishing the bloody scalp, Fugit rode 
back and received his boots. In May, 1857, he was arrested 
at Leavenworth and acquitted of the charge of murder! For 
downright atrocities committed on individuals, the pro-slavery 
men were infinitely worse than the Free State, even remem- 
bering the Pottawatomie killings. 

There were, however, plenty of Free State guerrillas at 
work. Charles Lenhart and John E. Cook (who later perished 


on the scaffold at Charlestown) were members of a well- 
mounted body of "cavalry scouts" of about twenty young 
men who ranged about the country. 50 The stealing of cattle 
and horses went on fearlessly on both sides. 51 "The substance 
of the Territory is devoured by the roving, roystering bands 
of guerrilla fighters who, under the plea that war prevails, per- 
petrate deeds of robbery, rapine, slaughter and pillage that 
nothing can justify," reported the St. Louis Evening News 
early in June. It added that the "body of good citizens, once 
numerous in the Territory, who sided with neither party, 
but attended to their own affairs, regardless of the issue of 
the dispute, is not now to be found. Every man has been 
compelled to join one party or the other, and to become active 
in its behalf." This referred, of course, both to the Free Soil- 
ers and to the non-slaveholding pro-slavery men who wished 
to mind their own business. "All over the Territory," the 
Evening News truthfully said, "along the roadside, houses 
are deserted and farms abandoned, and nowhere are there 
visible evidences of industry." 52 The Boonsville, Missouri, 
Observer was of the opinion that "unless the United States 
Government rigorously interposes its authority in behalf of 
peace and order, the horrors of civil war will rage on, and 
we fear accumulate to such an extent as to imperil the 
Union." 53 

The pro-slavery circular of June 21, signed by Atchison, 
Buford and Stringfellow, presented the Southern view of the 
situation thus: 

"The [Pottawatomie] outrages above specified were preceded, 
and up to the present time have been followed by others of a like 
character, and dictated by a like settled policy on the part of our 
enemies to harrass and frighten by their deeds of horror, our friends 
from their homes in the Territory. Undoubtedly this policy (a well 
settled party system) has dictated the notices lately given in all 
the disturbed districts, by armed marauding bands of abolition- 
ists, to the law and order men of their respective neighborhoods, 
immediately to leave the country on peril of death. Under such 
notices, our friends about Hickory Point and on Pottowatomie and 
Rock Creeks, have all been driven out of the Territory, their stores 
have been robbed, their cattle driven off, their houses burned, their 
horses stolen, and in some cases they have been assassinated for 
daring to return. Some, too, of these outrages, have been perpe- 
trated under the very nose of the United States troops, who all the 


while assure us that all is peace and quietness, and that they will 
afford ample protection, without the necessity of our banding to- 
gether in armed bodies for mutual defence." 51 

This pro-slavery criticism of the United States troops is the 
more interesting because the Free Soil writers of the period 
also assail the regulars and accuse them of sympathizing 
with and abetting Border Ruffian outrages, while admitting 
that Colonel Sumner's and Major Sedgwick's leanings were 
toward the North. The latter fact probably had something 
to do with Colonel Sumner's going on leave on July 15, in the 
midst of the troubles, and his turning over the command to 
Brigadier-General Persifor F. Smith, who did not, however, 
take the field in person. Colonel Sumner's disrepute with the 
pro-slavery Pierce administration is very plain. In his annual 
report for 1856, Jefferson Davis pointedly praised Lieut.- 
Col. Cooke and avoided all mention of Colonel Sumner, 
beyond printing his (Davis's) censures of Colonel Sumner for 
having dispersed by force the Topeka Free State Legislature, 
in harmony with the proclamation of acting Governor Wood- 
son, 65 and positive instructions from Governor Shannon to 
use force if necessary. 56 Colonel Sumner did not again fig- 
ure prominently in the Kansas troubles. If Pierce desired a 
scapegoat for the Kansas lawlessness, Colonel Sumner was 
the natural victim. It must be pointed out, however, that 
Colonel Sumner's and Lieut.-Col. Cooke's regiments would 
not have been large enough to patrol successfully all of east- 
ern Kansas, had they been of full strength. General Smith 
reported officially on August 22, that "Colonel Sumner's 
regiment cannot now muster four hundred men, including 
Captain Stewart's company, on its way to Fort Laramie, and 
a detachment under Lieutenant Wharton, en route for Fort 
Kearney with the Sioux prisoners. Lieut.-Col. Cooke's six 
companies have a little more than one hundred horses." " 

The breaking up of the Topeka or Free State Legislature 
Colonel Sumner declared to be the most trying episode of his 
long military career. 58 Governor Shannon wrote to Colonel 
Sumner on June 23, 59 that he was compelled to leave the Ter- 
ritory for ten days, and that he wished him to use his com- 
mand in the most effective way for preserving peace, and to 
be sure to have two companies at Topeka on July 4. Shannon 


wrote also of his belief that if the Free State Legislature as- 
sembled on that date, it 

"would produce an outbreak more fearful by far in its conse- 
quences than any which we have heretofore witnessed. . . . Two 
governments cannot exist at one and the same time in this Terri- 
tory in practical operation; one or the other must be overthrown; 
and the struggle between the legal government established by Con- 
gress and that by the Topeka Constitution would result in a civil 
war, the fearful consequences of which no one can foresee. Should 
this body reassemble and enact laws (and they can have no other 
object in meeting), they will be an illegal body, threatening the 
peace of the whole country and therefore should be dispersed." 

This view Colonel Sumner shared, for he wrote to acting 
Governor Woodson on June 28, " I am decidedly of the opin- 
ion that that body of men ought not to be permitted to assem- 
ble. It is not too much to say that the peace of the country 
depends upon it." Mr. Woodson then issued his proclama- 
tion of July 4, forbidding all persons "claiming legislative 
powers and authorities . . . from assembling, organizing 
or attempting to organize or act in any legislative capacity 
whatever. ..." To this Colonel Sumner added over his 
own name these words: "The proclamation of the President 
and the order under it require me to sustain the Executive 
of the Territory in executing the laws and preserving the 
peace. I therefore hereby announce that I shall maintain the 
proclamation at all hazards." 

Colonel Sumner had been so completely under the orders 
of Governor Shannon that he believed himself wholly justified 
in carrying out Shannon's and Woodson's instructions, the 
latter being with him on July 4, and directing him by word 
of mouth. Moreover, Jefferson Davis, who had praised Colo- 
nel Sumner on May 23, for his zeal, had assured him in the 
same letter that it was his duty to maintain "the duly au- 
thorized government of the Territory,'" and added that "for 
the great purpose which justifies the employment of military 
force, it matters not whether the subversion of the law arises 
from a denial of the existence of the government " or from law- 
less disregard of the rights of persons or property. The Topeka 
Legislature was surely in itself a "denial of the existence 
of the government," but after the dispersal of the Topeka 


Legislature, Secretary Davis took, on August 27, the view 
that Colonel Sumner had exceeded his instructions, and disa- 
vowed the dispersal of the Legislature. To this rebuke Colonel 
Sumner respectfully replied that he felt bound to consider 
the Topeka Legislature insurrectionary, under the President's 
proclamation of February n, and, therefore, was compelled 
to suppress it, particularly because, as he pointed out, the 
principal officers of the Topeka government were at that 
moment actually under arrest for high treason. 

But if the logic was on Colonel Sumner's side, the authority 
was on Jefferson Davis's; a scapegoat was wanted, and the 
veteran of thirty-seven years' service was at hand. Not un- 
naturally it was believed by the Free Soil men that Colonel 
Sumner's expressions of regret in disbanding the Legislature, 
and his friendliness for the North, were the real reasons for 
his being given leave, and for the censure passed upon him. 
A year later, a new Secretary of War was glad to entrust to 
Sumner the command of an important and successful cam- 
paign against the Cheyenne Indians. 

The actual dispersal of the Legislature was dramatic. In 
the absence of the Speaker and the Chief Clerk, Samuel F. 
Tappan, the Assistant Clerk, called the roll in the House of 
Representatives on July 4, to which date the Legislature had 
adjourned on March 4. Seventeen members answered to their 
names. As Tappan knew there were others in the town, he 
ordered the sergeant-at-arms to summon the rest. Colonel 
Sumner then rose and said : 

"Gentlemen: This is the most disagreeable duty of my whole 
life. My orders are to disperse the Legislature, and I am here to 
tell you that it must not meet, and to see it dispersed. God knows 
I have no partisan feelings in the matter, and I will have none so 
long as I hold my present position in Kansas. I have just returned 
from the border, where I have been driving out bands of Missou- 
rians, and now I am ordered here to disperse you. You must dis- 
perse. This body cannot be permitted to meet Disperse. Let 
me again assure you that this is the most disagreeable duty of my 
whole life." 60 

He had taken ample military precautions, for he had con- 
centrated at Topeka, on July 3, five companies of his regiment 
and two pieces of artillery. The proclamation of the acting 


Governor was first read to the crowd of about five hundred 
men, but Colonel Sumner's hope that this would suffice to pre- 
vent the meeting of the Legislature was vain ; he was forced to 
march his command into town, draw it up before the building 
in which the Legislature was meeting, and array it in the face 
of several Free State volunteer companies. These military 
manoeuvres deeply impressed the crowd, for Colonel Sumner's 
bearing, like that of his men, was eminently businesslike and 

As Colonel Sumner rode away, so the Philadelphia North 
American's correspondent reported, 

"some one gave 'three cheers for Col. Sumner,' which was re- 
sponded to. Then there were three hearty cheers for John C. Fre- 
mont, three cheers for the Constitution and State Legislature, and 
just as the dragoons got the word of command, 'march,' three 
groans were given for Franklin Pierce, and the retreating squadron 
of dragoons moved off amid the deep groaning for the President." 

During all these exciting Topeka happenings, John Brown 
was not far away. He had remained in hiding on Ottawa 
Creek, near Palmyra, throughout June, awaiting the recovery 
of his sick and wounded sons, and gradually recruiting his 
band. 61 Henry Thompson, in addition to his wound, suffered 
from bilious fever, and Owen Brown was also a fever victim. 
The invalid's chief nurse was Lucius Mills, a cousin, and John 
Brown looked in upon them from time to time, and aided when 
the country was clear of Border Ruffians and troops. Food 
they gathered where possible, the Carpenters, Ottawa Jones 
and other neighbors helping. Not until the beginning of July 
did John Brown terminate this life in the bush and again 
become active. On July 2 he boldly entered Lawrence and 
called upon the Tribune's correspondent, William A. Phil- 
lips. To him Brown stated that he was on his way to Topeka 
with his followers, to be on hand at whatever crisis might 
arise at the opening of the Legislature. "He was not in the 
habit," Colonel Phillips records, "of subjecting himself to the 
orders of anybody. He intended to aid the general result, but 
to do it in his own way." That evening Phillips started with 
John Brown's company, toward Topeka. They camped in the 
open, a mile southwest of Big Springs. At two o'clock A. M. 


on the 3d, they resumed the march, straight across country, 
regardless of streams and rough going. At sunrise they reached 
the Shunga-nung, heard Colonel Sumner's camp bugles, and 
John Brown halted in the timber by the creek, one of the men 
going with Phillips into town to bring back word when the 
company should be needed. "He [Brown] sent messages to 
one or two of the gentlemen in town, and, as he wrung my 
hand at parting, urged that we should have the Legislature 
meet and resist all who should interfere with it, and fight, if 
necessary, even the United States troops." 

Colonel Phillips has left, in the Atlantic Monthly for De- 
cember, 1879, a charming picture of that night ride and the 
conversation he had with Brown as they lay "bivouacking in 
the open beneath the stars:" 

"He seemed to be as little disposed to sleep as I was, and we 
talked; or rather he did, for I said little. I found that he was a 
thorough astronomer; he pointed out the different constellations 
and their movements. ' Now,' he said, ' it is midnight/ as he pointed 
to the finger marks of his great clock in the sky. The whispering of 
the wind on the prairie was full of voices to him, and the stars as 
they shone in the firmament of God seemed to inspire him. 'How 
admirable is the symmetry of the heavens; how grand and beau- 
tiful! Everything moves in sublime harmony in the government 
of God. Not so with us poor creatures. If one star is more brilliant 
than others, it is continually shooting in some erratic way into 

"He criticized both parties in Kansas. Of the proslavery men 
he said that slavery besotted everything, and made men more brutal 
and coarse; nor did the Free-State men escape his sharp censure. 
He said that we had many noble and true men, but too many 
broken-down politicians from the older States, who would rather 
pass resolutions than act, and who criticized all who did real work. 
A professional politician, he went on, you never could trust; for 
even if he had convictions, he was always ready to sacrifice his 
principles for his advantage. One of the most interesting things 
in his conversation that night, and one that marked him as a theo- 
rist, was his treatment of our forms of social and political life. He 
thought society ought to be organized on a less selfish basis; for 
while material interests gained something by the deification of pure 
selfishness, men and women lost much by it. He said that all great 
reforms, like the Christian religion, were based on broad, generous, 
self-sacrificing principles. He condemned the sale of land as a chat- 
tel, and thought that there was an infinite number of wrongs to right 
before society would be what it should be, but that in our country 


slavery was the 'sum of all villainies,' and its abolition the first 
essential work. If the American people did not take courage and 
end it speedily, human freedom and republican liberty would soon 
be empty names in these United States." 

How long John Brown remained at the Willets farm near 
Topeka, to which he now proceeded, and where he spent the 
next two or three weeks, is not known. He neither entered 
Topeka on the fateful July 4, nor immediately thereafter. It 
is probable that he returned promptly to the neighborhood of 
his sick sons, more than ever disgusted with Free State leaders 
and their inability to adopt his view that the way to fight was 
to "press to close quarters." 62 On July 26, John Brown, Jr., 
wrote from his Leaven worth prison to his father: 

"Am very glad that you have started as all things considered I 
am convinced you can be of more use where you contemplate going 
than here. My anxiety for your safe journey is very great. Hope 
that I shall yet see you all again. Where I shall go, if I get through 
this is more than I can tell, of one thing I feel sure now, and that 
is that I shall leave Kansas. I must get away from exciting scenes 
to some secluded region, or my life will be a failure. . . . The treat- 
ment I have received from the Free State party has wearied me of 
any further desire to cooperate with them. They, as a party, are 
guided by no principle but selfishness, and are withal most arrant 
cowards they deserve their fate. . . ," 63 

Four days later, John Brown, Jr., wrote to Jason Brown 
that his father and his party were at Topeka "a few days ago 
on their way to the States. They were supplied at Topeka with 
provisions for the trip and by this time I hope they have passed 
without the limits of the Territory." 64 The party comprised 
Owen, Oliver, Frederick and Salmon Brown, and their father, 
Henry Thompson, and Lucius Mills, for whom John Brown 
had little regard because he had no desire to fight and was con- 
tent to play the nurse and doctor. Salmon Brown states that 
they left because Lucius Mills insisted on the invalids' being 
moved, and because they were a drag on the fighting men. In 
their hot, primitive quarters, in which the flies were a scourge, 
Owen had been reduced "almost to a skeleton," and Henry 
Thompson was not much better off, while Salmon himself was 
still a cripple. Henry Thompson affirms that he, Oliver, Owen 
and Salmon had had enough of Kansas. They did not wish to 


fight any more. They felt that they had suffered enough, that 
the service they had been called upon to perform at Potta- 
watomie squared them with Duty. They were, they thought, 
entitled to leave further work to other hands. They were sick 
of fighting and trouble. The burden of Pottawatomie did not, 
however, weigh upon Salmon; it was as an invalided soldier 
that he consented to leave. Jason Brown stayed at Osawatomie 
with his wife. John Brown himself never expressed an opinion 
as to his sons' resolution or their leaving Kansas. 

A heretofore unrelated incident of this journey is now set 
forth by Salmon Brown. Oliver Brown, a great, stout, strap- 
ping fellow, was forbidden by his father to give to Lucius Mills 
a fine revolver. Says Salmon Brown: 

"Oliver wanted to make him a present of a revolver that he [Oli- 
ver] had captured at Black Jack. Father objected; forbade Oliver 
to give Mills the pistol, saying that Mills would never use it. Oliver 
persisting, Father set out to take the pistol away from him by force. 
In the scuffle that ensued, I, alarmed lest the weapon might be 
accidentally discharged, took it out of Oliver's belt, saying: 'Now 
you fellows fight it out!' It looked foolis h, to me. The pistol was 
Oliver's pistol. And the match was not an equal one. Father had 
been a strong man in his day, but his prime was past. Oliver was 
a splendid wrestler. Up in North Elba, he had thrown thirty lum- 
bermen one day, one after the other, in a big ' wrastle.' Father was 
like a child in his hands. And Oliver was determined. He grabbed 
Father by the arms and jammed him against the wagon. 'Let go 
of me!' said Father. 'Not till you agree to behave yourself,' said 
Oliver. And Father had to let him have his way." 65 

On August 3 and 4, John Brown and those with him were 
overtaken by a party of Free State men who were marching 
north to the Nebraska line, to meet James H. Lane's Free 
State caravan and to protect it from the merciless Kickapoo 
Rangers, the murderers of Captain R. P. Brown. One of these 
volunteer guards, Samuel J. Reader, still a resident of Kansas, 
has transcribed from his journal the following impressions of 
his meeting with John Brown: 66 

"Between three and four o'clock we formed in marching column, 
and started forward at a swinging pace. We were all well rested, 
and a little tired of staying in camp. We had been on the road 
perhaps an hour or more when someone in front shouted, 'There 
he is!' Sure enough, it was Brown. Just ahead of us we saw the 


dingy old wagon-cover, and the two men, and the oxen, plodding 
slowly onward. Our step was increased to 'quick time;' and as we 
passed the old man, on either side of the road, we rent the air with 
cheers. If John Brown ever delighted in the praises of men, his 
pleasure must have been gratified, as he walked along, enveloped 
in our shouting column. But I fear he looked upon such things as 
vainglorious, for if he responded by word or act, I failed to hear 
it or see it. In passing I looked at him closely. He was rather tall, 
and lean, with a tanned, weather-beaten aspect in general. He 
looked like a rough, hard-working old farmer; and I had known sev- 
eral such who pretty closely resembled Brown in many respects. 
He appeared to be unarmed ; but very likely had shooting irons 
inside the wagon. His face was shaven, and he wore a cotton shirt, 
partly covered by a vest. His hat was well worn, and his general 
appearance, dilapidated, dusty and soiled. He turned from his ox 
team and glanced at our party from time to time as we were pass- 
ing him. No doubt it was a pleasing sight to him to see men in 
armed opposition to the Slave Power." 

Mr. Reader, on this expedition, on August 7, was an eye- 
witness of the first meeting between John Brown and a 
remarkable man who subsequently became one of Brown's 
most trusted lieutenants, Aaron Dwight Stevens, who at that 
time went by the name of Captain Whipple, for the good rea- 
son that he had escaped from the military prison at Fort 
Leavenworth while serving a three years' sentence for taking 
part in a soldiers' mutiny at Don Fernandez de Taos, New 
Mexico, and resisting the authority of an officer of his regi- 
ment, Major G. A. H. Blake, of the First Dragoons. 67 * 

John Brown himself did not set foot in Iowa, but turned 
back at Nebraska City, on the Nebraska boundary, his invalids 
then being quite safe. 68 "Frederick turned and went back 
with his father," Henry Thompson testifies. "Frederick felt 
that Pottawatomie bound him to Kansas. He did not wish 
to leave. He felt that a great crime had been committed, and 
that he should go back into Kansas and live it out." It was 
a decision that cost him his life. 

* A myth that this officer was Captain James Longstreet, later the famous 
Confederate Lieutenant-General, persists in lives of Brown and sketches of A. D. 
Stevens. Captain Longstreet, at the time of Stevens's trial, was on duty with his 
regiment, the Eighth Infantry, in Texas, and does not figure in the court-martial 


AT Nebraska City, John Brown found a notable caravan. 
Under the erratic James Henry Lane, there had arrived at that 
point a body of several hundred Free State emigrants, many 
of whom had attempted to reach Kansas by the usual route of 
the Missouri River, only to learn that the chivalric Missouri - 
ans had barred that means of entrance. As early as June 20, 
1856, a party of seventy-five men from Chicago, understood 
to be the vanguard of the "army of the North" which Lane 
had been raising in Chicago and elsewhere, was forced to give 
up its arms on the steamer Star of the West, at Lecompton, 
Missouri, by a mob of Missourians headed by Colonel Joseph 
Shelby, later a prominent Confederate brigadier. At Kansas 
City, General Atchison, with another armed force, compelled 
the Northerners to stay on their boat and return to Illi- 
nois, an achievement about which the Border Ruffian press 
boasted loudly and long. 1 Thereafter parties of Northerners, 
on the steamers Sultan and Arabia and other river-craft, 
were similarly driven back, some even being robbed of their 
possessions. 2 By the 4th of July, the blockade of the river was 
complete ; thereafter the Free State reinforcements were com- 
pelled to take the tedious and expensive overland trip from 
Iowa City, which was in railroad communication with Chi- 
cago, to Nebraska City, and thence southward through Ne- 
braska to Kansas. This route was opened by Lane, whose 
party finally comprised one hundred and twenty-five well- 
armed single men, and is said by most writers to have num- 
bered, all told, six hundred men, women and children when he 
reached the Kansas line. There General Lane found it desir- 
able to assume the name of "General Joe Cook." While in the 
East, General Lane had made a sensation by a most eloquent 
speech in behalf of Kansas, delivered at Chicago on the 3ist 
of May, i856. 3 He made full use of the sacking of Lawrence 
and of the pro-slavery outrages in the Territory, and it was in 


large part to his eloquence that much of the heavy emigra- 
tion to Kansas in the summer and fall of 1856 was due. How 
great his oratorical powers were may be seen from a letter 
of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, of September 18, 1856, 
now preserved in the collections of the Kansas Historical So- 

"Last night he [Lane] spoke in a school house; never did I hear 
such a speech ; every sentence like a pistol bullet ; such delicacy and 
lightness of touch; such natural art; such perfect adaptation; not 
a word, not a gesture, could have been altered; he had every nerve 
in his audience at the end of his muscles ; not a man in the United 
States could have done it ; and the perfect ease of it all, not a glimpse 
of premeditation or effort ; and yet he has slept in his boots every 
night but two for five weeks." 

The opening of the presidential campaign between Fremont 
and Buchanan, as well as the events in the Territory, kept 
Kansas in the forefront of national politics. The first Repub- 
lican National Convention resolved, on June 17, that " Kansas 
should be immediately admitted as a state of the Union 
with her present free constitution." 4 The majority of the 
Howard Committee submitted its report on July I, with much 
resultant Congressional discussion of the Kansas situation, and 
Oliver, the minority of the committee, followed suit on July 1 1 
with his report containing the evidence in regard to the Pot- 
tawatomie massacre. Even then, curiously enough, the Potta- 
watomie affair did not in any degree injure the Free State 
cause in the North. 5 Oliver himself used it in a speech on 
July 31, 6 and Toombs, of Georgia, also made a passing refer- 
ence to it ; 7 but no one else in Congress. The Democrats con- 
tinued to base most of their criticisms upon the general policy 
of the Free State settlers in taking Sharp's rifles with them 
to Kansas. The Elections Committee of the House reported 
against the admission of Whitfield as a delegate and in favor 
of Reeder; the House on August I voted against Whitfield 
by no to 92, and against Reeder by 113 to 88, and thus 
neither was given a seat. 8 There were various attempts to 
legislate during the summer. On June 25, Congressman Grow, 
of Pennsylvania, presented a bill in the House for the admis- 
sion of Kansas under the Tokepa Constitution, and the House 
passed it by 99 to 97 on the day before Colonel Sumner dis- 


persed the Topeka Legislature. 9 On July 2 the Senate had 
passed by 33 to 12 votes the Toombs bill, which had been 
reported by Senator Douglas from the Committee on Terri- 
tories, in a form which betrayed clearly the alarm of the slave- 
power over the injury done its cause by the excesses of its 
agents in Kansas. The Toombs bill provided for a census of 
all white males over twenty-one years of age, bona fide resi- 
dents of the Territory. Those who were thus counted were to 
be allowed to vote on November I for delegates to a Constitu- 
tional convention, and due precautions were taken in the bill 
to guard against fraud, intimidation and election irregularities. 

But neither house of Congress would agree to the other's 
bills, and the final adjournment came without any definite 
legislation for the relief of Kansas. The House endeavored to 
embarrass the President by attaching to two appropriation 
bills riders in the interest of the Free State settlers. One of 
these was soon dropped, but the other, attached to the Army 
Appropriation bill by John Sherman, practically forbade the 
President to use the troops for the purpose of sustaining the 
bogus Kansas Legislature. As a result, the Army Appro- 
priation bill failed. When Congress adjourned on August 
1 8, a special session was called by the President. It met on 
August 2 1 , and on August 30 the Army Appropriation bill was 
passed without the Kansas amendment by a majority of 
three votes. 10 

More important for Kansas, during this period, was the 
organization at Buffalo of the National Kansas Committee, 
with Thaddeus Hyatt, of New York city, as president, in the 
second week in July. In the six months of its existence this 
National Kansas Committee forwarded two thousand emi- 
grants by way of the land route of Iowa and Nebraska, and 
received more than eighty-five thousand dollars in cash, 
besides gifts of clothing aggregating more than one hundred 
and ten thousand dollars. 11 By January 25, 1857, the condi- 
tions in Kansas had so improved, from the Free State point 
of view, as to make further activity on the part of the Na- 
tional Committee unnecessary. This record of its Chicago 
headquarters is, of course, wholly distinct from the even more 
remarkable record of the New England Emigration Society 
and the Massachusetts State Kansas Committee. 


' John Brown made but a short stay at Nebraska City. He 
took leave of his invalids, obtained horses for himself and his 
son, and joined a party of thirty men headed by Captain Sam- 
uel Walker, and General Lane, upon whose shoulders from 
now on rested the practical direction of the Free State cause 
in Kansas, until the release, in September, of the leaders in 
prison at Leavenworth. As Captain Walker had received 
a message urging him to return to Lawrence at once, Lane 
decided that they should push on to that town, one hundred 
and fifty miles distant, as fast as humanly possible. He rode 
into Lawrence alone, thirty hours later, arriving at three A. M. 
of the morning of August II, all of his companions having 
dropped by the wayside. 12 Captain Walker rode nearly to 
Lawrence, but John Brown stopped off at Topeka with about 
one hundred and twenty miles to his credit. 

As to his intercourse with John Brown during their two or 
three days' journey to Nebraska City and their rapid return, 
Captain Walker, one of the stoutest of the Free State fighters, 
has left an interesting record in the shape of a curiously illit- 
erate letter of February 8, 1875, addressed to Judge Han- 
way, of Lane. 13 In this epistle Walker declares his belief that 
John Brown was insane during the summer of 1856. Brown 
would always go off and camp by himself. One morning, 
when Walker went to wake him, he was asleep, leaning against 
a tree, with his rifle across his knees. "I put my hand on his 
shoulder; that moment he was on his feet, his rifle at my 
breast. I pushed the muzzle up and the ball grazed my shoul- 
der. Thereafter, I never approached Brown when he was 
sleeping, as it seemed to be his most wakeful time." As they 
were riding together on the day of this incident, Walker re- 
ferred to the Pottawatomie murders and frankly told Brown 
that he would not have them on his conscience for the world. 
Brown admitted that he was in charge of the murder party 
and ordered the executions, but averred that he had not 
raised his hand against any one man. It was on this occa- 
sion, Captain Walker states, that Brown charged that the 
responsibility of the crime rested upon Robinson and Lane 
as instigators, as already related.* Walker also says that to 
oblige Brown he took a message to John Brown, Jr., in which 

* See page 184. 


the father promised to effect his son's rescue on a certain 
night; and that John Brown, Jr., replied that he wished the 
senior to stay away, as he was the cause of the son's arrest. 
The latter did not, Walker averred, then approve of his 
father's acts, and wished to have nothing to do with him at 
that time, a statement absolutely contradicted by the son's 
letters from prison.* 

The arrival of Lane and Brown at Lawrence, to which place 
the latter soon returned from Topeka, despite his son's ear- 
nest protest that he should not expose himself on any account 
to the danger of arrest, was followed by aggressive warfare 
on the part of Free State men. On August 5 the Lawrence 
military companies, together with a few volunteers from 
Osawatomie, among them August Bondi, had driven out the 
pro-slavery settlement at New Georgia, on the Marais des 
Cygnes, not far from Osawatomie. 14 Word of their coming 
had preceded them, and the Southern colony of from sixty to 
seventy-five persons fled as the Free State men, at whose head 
rumor placed the dread John Brown, approached. The vic- 
tors burned the block-house and such of the abandoned pro- 
visions as they could not carry away. To them the settlement 
was a nuisance; its inhabitants were charged with stealing 
horses, killing cows, injuring fences and being drunk in the 
streets of Osawatomie. 15 To the Southerners this was a wicked 
attack, announcing the beginning of civil war upon unarmed 
men and women, whose property was wantonly destroyed 
or stolen, even to the clothes of the children. To the arrival 
of Lane's army the outrage was attributed in a bellicose 
proclamation issued at Westport on August 16 by Atchison 
and B. F. Stringfellow. 16 It is an interesting fact that, if 
drunkenness was a sin in Missourians, it did not prevent the 
Captain, Austin, of the Osawatomie company from com- 
pletely intoxicating himself on the road to this bloodless 
battle. 17 

"Old Capt. Brown can now be raised from every prairie 
and thicket," wrote Jason Brown to his sister Ruth on Au- 
gust 13, 1856, 18 after hearing the pro-slavery story that his 

* "You and those with you have done nobly and bravely," wrote the son 
to his father on August 13, 1856. Original letter in possession of Mrs. John 
Brown, Jr. 


father was in command at New Georgia. Atchison and String- 
fellow placed John Brown at the head of the Free Soil men 
in every skirmish and raid of this month. 19 The New York 
Times 's correspondent called him the "terror of all Mis- 
souri" and the "old terrifier." 20 O. C. Brown, of Osawatomie, 
says, "Old John Brown's name was equal to an army with 
banners." 21 At Paola, seven miles from Osawatomie, a pro- 
slavery meeting broke up in the greatest haste on hearing 
that John Brown was coming to "take out" some men; and 
the creek over which the invader would have to come was 
heavily guarded all night by the frightened citizens of Paola. 22 
Mary Grant records that once, when a large party of Mis- 
sourians was returning to its State, the rear ranks called out, 
by way of joke, "John Brown is coming! " whereupon the van 
cut the mules from their traces and rode for their lives. 23 It 
is the opinion of R. G. Elliott, of Lawrence, that: 

"Brown was a presence in Kansas and an active presence all 
through '56. Yet it was his presence more than his activities, that 
made him a power, the idea of his being. He was a ghostly in- 
fluence. No man in Kansas was more respected. Yet after Potta- 
watomie he moved much in secret." 24 

"War! War! ! War! ! ! The Bloody Issue Begun! Up 
Sovereigns! and to your duty! Patience has ceased to be a 
virtue" -these were the headlines of the Leavenworth 
Journal's extra on August 14, in which it described the next 
aggressive movement of the Free State forces, the second 
attack upon Franklin. 25 Despite the lesson taught to the 
Southerners by the successful raid of June 5, they persisted 
in living in their Franklin homes. The original motive for 
this new raid was the desire of Captain Thomas Bickerton's 
artillery company for a six-pounder known to be at Franklin, 
which had been originally captured at Lawrence, for which 
town it had been purchased by Horace Greeley, Charles 
King, David Dudley Field and other prominent New York- 
ers. 26 Part of Captain Bickerton's report of the operations of 
August 12 is as follows: 27 

"The Franklin affair was kept secret from the people. They 
thought when they saw us going that we were going out by the 
church to drill by moonlight. When we got up near to Franklin who 


should come along but this 'Jo Cook,' on horseback, and make 
himself known to the boys. They were very much elated with see- 
ing Lane. . . . After the taking of the place, our men, I am ashamed 
to say, were so crazy over the way, in gutting Crane's store, that I 
could hardly get any of them to help me in taking the cannon out 
of the blockhouse. . . . The postoffice was not disturbed. ... I 
went in only to see if any arms or powder were there. Found no 
cartridges and only five balls. Got the cannon on the carriage and 
brought it to Lawrence. ... I then went to work and made a 
pattern for a ball; as there was no lead in the place, and we had no 
way of making them of iron, we had to take [G. W.] Brown's type 
of the Herald of Freedom." 

The firing lasted, as usual, for several hours, and the town 
was not surrendered until a wagon of burning hay was backed 
up to the block-house. The Free State loss was one killed 
and six wounded, while three pro-slavery men were severely 
and one mortally wounded. The sack of Osawatomie was 
avenged now by the securing of a rare amount of plunder, 
composed of provisions, guns and ammunition. 28 Major 
Buford, of the Georgia colonizers, complained in a letter to 
the Mobile Tribune that: 

41 Our money, books, papers, clothing, surveying instruments, and 
many precious memorials of kindred and friends far away, were all 
consumed by the incendiary villains who hold the sway. . . . We 
are now destitute of everything except our muskets and an unyield- 
ing determination to be avenged. . . . Southerners come and help 
us. Bring each of you a double barrel gun, a brace of Colt's repeat- 
ers, and a trusty knife." 29 

The news of the atrocious murder of Major Hoyt on the 
same day undoubtedly inflamed the Franklin raiders. It made 
the Free State men everywhere determined to drive out the pro- 
slavery camps. They assailed, on August 15, "Fort" Saun- 
ders, a strong log-house on Washington Creek, about twelve 
miles southwest of Lawrence. After the customary fusillade, 
the pro-slavery men retreated without bloodshed on either 
side. 30 Next on the list was "Fort" Titus, the stronghold of 
Colonel H. T. Titus, an active pro-slavery leader. It was in 
order to assault Titus's fort that Captain Bickerton's men de- 
sired to recapture the Franklin cannon. There was real fight- 
ing at Fort Titus, which Captain Samuel Walker, Captain 
Joel Grover and a Captain Shombre attacked at sunrise of 


August 1 6 with fifty determined men.* Captain Shombre was 
killed and nine out of ten men with him wounded in a rush on 
the block-house. 31 In a short time eighteen out of the remain- 
ing forty attackers were wounded, including Captain Walker. 
After several hours of fighting, Free State reinforcements 
appeared, including Captain Bickerton with the six-pounder 
and its slugs made of molten type. It was run to within three 
hundred yards of the fort and fired nine or ten times. At its 
first shot its cannoneer cried, "This is the second edition 
of the Herald of Freedom ! " As Titus still showed no white 
flag, a load of hay was again resorted to, and with the same 
success as at Franklin. As the wagon was backed up to the 
log-fort, and before the match was applied, the party sur- 
rendered. Colonel Titus was discovered badly wounded by 
a shot fired by Luke F. Parsons, later a devoted follower of 
John Brown. 32 Walker captured thirteen horses, four hundred 
guns, a large number of knives and pistols, a "fair stock of 
provisions " and thirty-four prisoners, six of whom were badly 
wounded. One dead man was found in the block-house before 
it was burned to the ground. A Free State man stole a satchel 
containing fifteen thousand dollars belonging to Titus, but, 
says Walker, "it did him little good. He died a miserable 
death in the far West." Everything not burned was appro- 
priated by the Free State men. Colonel Titus himself nar- 
rowly escaped with his life. But for Captain Walker he would 
have been summarily killed on being taken, and but for 
that same brave, vigorous character he would have been 
executed at Lawrence, to which place the prisoners were at 
once removed. 

The testimony as to whether John Brown was at Saunders 
and Titus is conflicting. He himself left no statement bearing 
upon it, and Luke Parsons, James Blood, O. E. Leonard and 
others are positive that he was not at either place. The weight 
of evidence would seem to be on that side. John Brown, after 
the Wakarusa " war," left Lawrence, saying, " I offered to help 
you and you would not listen. I will still work with you, but 
under no commander but old John Brown." 33 Thereafter his 

* "Within sight and hearing of the United States camp, where were guarded 
the treason prisoners." The fight was witnessed by Major Sedgwick's troopers, 
who failed, however, to interfere. C. Robinson, The Kansas Conflict, p. 307. 


disposition was to fight only when he was in sole command. 
Moreover, his remaining at Lawrence during those crowded 
days after his and Lane's arrival there might easily be ex- 
" plained by his desire to be near his imprisoned son, whose 
rescue, if possible and advisable, was perhaps the strongest 
motive for his return to Kansas from Nebraska City. 34 But 
that John Brown was at Lawrence when Walker arrived 
with his prisoners admits of no doubt. Again his voice was 
raised for the extreme penalty; again he asked a sacrifice of 
blood. As Captain Walker portrays it: 

"At a little way out of Lawrence I met a delegation sent by the 
committee of safety with an order for the immediate delivery of 
Titus into their hands. Knowing the character of the men I re- 
fused to give him up. Our arrival at Lawrence created intense ex- 
citement. The citizens swarmed around us, clamoring for the blood 
of our prisoner. The committee of safety held a meeting and de- 
cided that Titus should be hanged, John Brown and other distin- 
guished men urging the measure strongly. At four o'clock in the 
evening I went before the committee, and said that Titus had sur- 
rendered to me; that I had promised him his life, and that I would 
defend it with my own. I then left the room. Babcock followed 
me out and asked me if I was fully determined. Being assured that 
I was, he went back, and the committee by a new vote decided 
to postpone the hanging indefinitely. I was sure of the support 
of some 300 good men, and among them Captain Tucker, Captain 
Harvey, and Captain Stulz. Getting this determined band into line, 
I approached the house where Titus was confined and entered. Just 
as I opened the door I heard pistol shots in Titus's room, and rush- 
ing in I found a desperado named ' Buckskin ' firing over the guard's 
shoulders at the wounded man as he lay on his cot. It took but one 
blow from my heavy dragoon pistol to send the villain heels-over- 
head to the bottom of the stairs. Captain Brown and Doctor Avery 
were outside haranguing the mob to hang Titus despite my objec- 
tions. They said I had resisted the committee of safety, and was 
myself, therefore, a public enemy. The crowd was terribly excited, 
but the sight of my 300 solid bayonets held them in check." 

Colonel Titus was finally saved by Governor Shannon. In 
his official Executive Minutes of August 18, Governor Shan- 
non has thus recorded the final act of his governorship: 36 

"Governor Shannon this day resigned the office of Governor of 
the Territory of Kansas, and forwarded his resignation by mail to 
the President of the United States, having previously visited the 
town of Lawrence, at the imminent hazard of his life, and effected 


the release of Col. H. T. Titus and others, who had been forcibly 
taken there by the armed organization of outlaws whose headquar- 
ters are at that place, and who had on the day before battered 
down with artillery the house of said Col. Titus, robbed his premises 
of everything valuable, and then burned his house to the ground, 
killing one of his companions, and taking the remainder, with Col. 
Titus and their plunder, to their fortified headquarters Lawrence 
at which place said Titus was put on trial for his life, and sen- 
tenced to die; which sentence would doubtless have been executed, 
but for the timely interposition of Governor Shannon, who, in 
consideration of the release of said Titus and his companions, con- 
sented to release five men held in custody in Lecompton under legal 
process, charged with being engaged in the late midnight attack 
and sacking of the town of Franklin the outlaws having per- 
emptorily refused to release said Titus and others, upon his demand 
as the executive officer of the Territory." 

In the course of his farewell speech to the citizens of Law- 
rence, Governor Shannon promised to deliver over to Major 
Sedgwick the cannon taken from Lawrence on the 2ist of 
May, and added: "Fellow-citizens of Lawrence, before leaving 
you I desire to express my earnest desire for your health, hap- 
piness and prosperity. Farewell." 36 Governor Shannon in 
later years returned to Lawrence and settled there, winning 
the regard and respect of his neighbors and former opponents. 
Even his old enemy, Dr. Charles Robinson, whose opinions 
about his former associates were subject to radical changes 
with the lapse of years, paid him a high tribute after his death. 
But his record as Governor was not one in which he could 
righteously take pride. 37 His resignation was not accepted 
by President Pierce and he was removed from his office, 38 his 
successor being John W. Geary, who arrived in the Territory 
on September 9, and remained only six months in this posi- 
tion, resigning on March 20, 1857. 

Besides the larger raids already recounted, August was a 
month of minor warfare. Thus on August 13 the home of the 
Rev. Martin White was raided by Free State men, among 
them James H. Holmes, and ten pro-slavery horses were 
weaned from their allegiance to a wicked and failing cause. 
White, a prejudiced witness, asserted that the horses were 
laden with plunder, but on this point the memories of Holmes 
and Bondi, both participants, failed them. 39 A reprisal was 
reported by the Tribune on August 28, in these words: 


"On the 22nd the Quaker Mission, on the road from Westport 
to Lawrence, was attacked by an armed band of Georgians who 
plundered the place, taking all the horses they could find, and com- 
mitting all manner of wanton outrages upon persons and property. 
. . . The inoffensive people were compelled to flee for their lives, 
their property all stolen or destroyed." : 

The loss of horses seemed especially grievous to the Trib- 
une's Lawrence correspondent, who doubtless had not heard 
of the exploit at Martin White's. 

John Brown's brief period of inactivity in Lawrence came 
to an end immediately after the exchange of prisoners with 
Shannon.* According to Bondi, he arrived in Osawatomie, for 
the first time after the Pottawatomie murders, about August 
20, "with a spick and span four-mule team, the wagon loaded 
with provisions ; besides, he was well supplied with money and 
all contributed by the Northern friends of the Free State 
Kansas, men like Thaddeus Hyatt." Brown's avowed object 
was to give the pro-slavery settlements of Linn and Bour- 
bon counties "a taste of the treatment which their Missouri 
friends would not cease to extend to the Free State settle- 
ments of the Marais des Cygnes and Pottawatomie," a 
statement by Bondi which again refutes the allegation that 
the Pottawatomie murders freed that vicinity from interfer- 
ence by the Border Ruffians. 

Naturally, as a good general, John Brown's first concern 
was for the mounts of his men. Bondi avers that some of 
Brown's men received prompt orders to capture all of " Dutch 
Henry" Sherman's horses. He himself obtained, when these 
orders were executed, "a four year old fine bay horse for my 
mount," and "old John Brown rode a fine blooded bay," 
while "Dutch Henry" fell back, it is to be presumed, upon 
Shanks' mare, and, between meditations upon his just pun- 
ishment for sympathizing with Missouri, doubtless gave 
thanks that he was still alive. He was shot down in the road 

* The following appeal from Lane was sent to John Brown from Topeka on 
August 12: "Mr. Brown Gen. Joe Cook wants you to come to Lawrence this 
night, for we expect to have a fight on Washington Creek. Come to Topeka as 
soon as possible, and I will pilot you to the place. Yours in Haste, H. Stratton." 
This Mr. Stratton is one of those who are certain that John Brown commanded 
the "right wing of cavalry" in the attack on Fort Saunders on August 15. The 
original of Stratton 's message is in the Kansas Historical Society. 


as had been many an innocent Free Soiler by Archie Crans- 
dell, a Free State man, in the presence of James H. Holmes, on 
March 2, 1857. 40 With Brown came between thirty and forty 
men, whom he forthwith began to organize into what he 
called a "regular volunteer force," for the purpose of serving 
throughout the war under his command. The " Covenant" * 
drawn up by him under which the men enlisted, together with 
the first enlistments and the by-laws which were intended to 
be the articles of war, still exists, and shows that his company 
organized as if the authority of a State were behind its com- 
mander. 41 

Associated with Brown's company was one comprising in 
part some recently arrived lowans, "every one mounted on 
captured pro-slavery horses." John Brown now gave con- 
siderable thought to the best way of defending Osawatomie. 
According to C. G. Allen, one of the men encamped there, 
Brown desired to meet the enemy at the Marais des Cygnes 
crossing, to the east of the town, and then to fall back on 
the twin block-houses. He was certain that the Missourians, 
rumors of whose approach were already in the air, would come 
in considerable force if at all, a prognostication eminently 
correct. 42 

On August 24 the Brown and Cline companies set out for 
the South, marching eight miles and camping on Sugar Creek, 
Linn County. That evening John Brown made a speech to 
his company, in which, according to Bondi, he made these 
prescriptions for the conduct of his men when on the war- 

"He wished all of us to understand that we must not molest 
women or children, nor to take or capture anything useless to use 
for Free State people ; further, never destroy any kind of property 
wantonly, nor burn any buildings, as Free State people could use 
them after the Pro-slavery people were driven out ; never consider 
that any captured horses or cattle were anything else but the com- 
mon property of the Free State army, the horses for military use 
and the cattle for food for the Free State soldiers and Free State 
settlers. He ordered, also, that we, his company, should always 
keep some distance in camp from the Cline Company, as they were 
too riotous." 

* See Appendix. 


While in camp here, news reached the captains that a large 
pro-slavery force was in the immediate neighborhood. The 
Cline company took the lead the next morning, going in one 
direction, Brown's in another. The luck of running down the 
enemy came to Captain Cline. He captured some spies and 
finally reached and charged the camp, taking twelve prisoners 
and the camp equipage, one of the Missourians being terribly 
wounded in one leg. In the course of this fight at South Middle 
Creek, the Free State men released George W. Partridge, of 
Osawatomie, who had been taken prisoner by the Missouri 
men the day before. But this rescue was of doubtful value, 
since he met a violent end but five days later. The Border 
Ruffians fled in all directions for dear life, shouting that John 
Brown was pursuing. 43 As part of the Border Ruffians had 
gone toward Pottawatomie, John Brown and his men went in 
that direction for a while and then circled back. The next 
morning, August 26, at daybreak, the two Free State bodies 
met, Brown charging at the head of his determined com- 
pany in accordance with his characteristic tactics of seeking 
close quarters. Fortunately, before an actual collision took 
place, the friends recognized each other. An eye-witness in 
Cline's company, Dr. J. W. Winkley, has thus described this 
incident : 

"They came swiftly up over the brow of the hill, in full view, 
with Brown at their head, and, without halting or even slacken- 
ing their speed, swung into line of battle. Only thirty men! Yet 
they presented a truly formidable array. The line was formed two 
deep, and was stretched out to give the men full room for action. 
Brown sprang his horse in front of the ranks, waving his long broad- 
sword, and on they came, sweeping down upon us with irresistible 
fury. . . ."" 4 

After exchanging mutual congratulations, . both bodies 
parted again, not, however, until the prisoners had been duly 
exhorted by John Brown and made to promise that they 
would not take up arms again, and then set adrift. Dr. 
Winkley thus recalls some of Brown's earnest and stirring 
words: 4S 

"You are fighting for slavery. You want to make or keep other 
people slaves. Do you not know that your wicked efforts will end 
in making slaves of yourselves? You come here to make this a slave 


State. You are fighting against liberty, which our Revolutionary 
fathers fought to establish in this Republic, where all men should 
be free and equal, with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and 
the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, you are traitors to liberty and 
to your country, of the worst kind, and deserve to be hung to the 
nearest tree. . . . You we forgive. For, as you yourselves have 
confessed, we believe it can be said of you that, as was said of 
them of old, you being without knowledge, 'you know not what 
you do.' But hereafter you will be without excuse. r 

"Go in peace. Go home and tell your neighbors and friends of 
your mistake. We deprive you only of your arms, and do that only 
lest some of you are not yet converted to the right. We let you go 
free of punishment this time; but, do we catch you over the border 
again committing depredations, you must not expect, nor will you 
receive, any mercy." 

John Brown then rode off to raid the pro-slavery settle- 
ments on Sugar Creek. By a coincidence, the leader of the 
Border Ruffian force was named Captain John E. Brown. 
To his house the anti-slavery Brown paid an early visit, taking 
as his toll fifty pro-slavery cattle and all the men's clothes 
the house contained. Captain Brown assured the badly 
frightened mistress of the house that there was no reason for 
alarm, that he never hurt women and children as did her 
husband, for whom he left his compliments and the message 
that he had an old score to settle with him. 46 Other houses 
were similarly searched, and their cattle taken, on the ground 
that they had originally been Free State before being pur- 
loined by the pro-slavery settlers. 

On Thursday evening, August 28, Brown reached Osawa- 
tomie, travelling slowly because of the one hundred and fifty 
head of cattle he drove before him. Both his company and 
Cline's bivouacked in the town that night. The next morning 
early they divided their plunder and cattle, and Brown moved 
his camp to the high ground north of Osawatomie, where now 
stands the State Insane Asylum. 47 It was then known as 
Crane's ranch. An ordinary commander would have allowed 
all his men to rest. But not John Brown. He was in the 
saddle all day, riding with James H. Holmes and others of his 
men miles along Pottawatomie Creek, whence he crossed to 
Sugar Creek, returning to Osawatomie with more captured 
cattle by way of the Fort Scott trail. The locality they rode 
through bore many evidences of the irregular warfare going on ; 


they passed near the homes of the murdered pro-slavery men 
and the deserted cabins of Free State settlers. One of Brown's 
companions, George W. Partridge, passed his own claim, and 
there saw his aged parents for the last time, all unconscious 
of the impending and, for him, fatal conflict of the next day. 
To Holmes, John Brown appeared on that afternoon more 
than ever the natural leader. He rode a tall and strong chest- 
nut horse; his spare form was more impressive when he was 
mounted than when he was afoot. Alert and clear-sighted, he 
ceaselessly watched the landscape for evidences of the enemy. 48 

It was as he was returning thus, in a cloud of dust, and 
driving the motley herd before him, that he met a party of 
men galloping toward him. The newcomers turned out to be 
his son Frederick, Alexander G. Hawes, John Still, George 
Cutter and a Mr. Adamson, who had been sent down from 
Lawrence by General Lane with the earnest request that John 
Brown and the other leading Free State men go at once to 
Lawrence, to take part in the reorganization of the Free State 
forces, and also to oppose Atchison, who was then reported 
about to invade Kansas once more and with a large body of 
men. 49 After consultation it was decided that the call should be 
heeded on the next day. As both parties reached Osawatomie, 
about sundown, John Brown and his son Frederick parted for 
the last time. The son went on toward Lawrence, but, accord- 
ing to George Cutter, he felt indisposed and decided to spend 
the night at the house of a settler named Carr, on the Law- 
rence road, only a couple of hundred yards from the cabin of 
his uncle, the Rev. Mr. Adair. With Frederick Brown stayed 
Mr. Hawes. Either at Carr's or in the neighboring Cronkhite 
house were Still, Cutter and Adamson as lodgers for the night. 

John Brown and his party, with the exception of Holmes, 
who spent the night in town, crossed the Marais des Cygnes 
to their camp on the Crane claim, taking their cattle with 
them. Captain Cline and about fifteen men remained in the 
town, at the juncture of the Marais des Cygnes and the Potta- 
watomie ; here stood the hamlet and its block-house, the latter 
facing toward the east, from which direction it was feared 
the Missourians might come. The cry of wolf had, however, 
been heard in Osawatomie so often, that on the 29th of August 
no especial apprehension was felt. 


Captain Shore and a small company of Chicago men 
left about three o'clock in the afternoon, bound northward 
toward Lawrence, and no sentinels were put on guard save 
by John Brown, in accordance with the articles of enlistment 
of his company. Two of his men, Bondi and Benjamin, were 
on guard from two A. M. on the morning of the 30 th until the 
firing began, 50 but they were at a considerable distance from 
Osawatomie, facing toward Paola to the northeast, from 
which direction John Brown himself expected that the ad- 
vance, if any, would be made. Early in the night the long- 
expected warning came, after nearly every one had gone to 
bed. John Yelton, a mail-carrier, arrived fresh from a ten 
days' captivity in the town of New Santa Fe, Missouri, 
and warned the Greer family that the citizens must prepare 
either to fight at once or flee. Both Holmes and Dr. Upde- 
graff were sleeping in the house, but were too tired fully to 
comprehend the warning. Action was therefore deferred until 

Yelton's information was wholly correct. The plan to raid 
Osawatomie and finally destroy it had carefully matured in 
the minds of the pro-slavery leaders, but Osawatomie was 
only one objective of the formidable expedition which left 
Westport on August 23, and marched on the same day to 
New Santa Fe. There four hundred and eighty pro-slavery 
men were found in camp. By the 25th, the number of the 
Ruffians then being eleven hundred and fifty, they were reg- 
ularly organized as two regiments, with Atchison as major- 
general, John W. Reid, a Mexican War veteran, as brigadier- 
general, and Colonel P. H. Rosser, of Virginia, as colonel 
of the second regiment, while the first was entrusted to a 
Colonel Brown. Camp was broken on the 26th. On the 
2Qth, at Bull Creek, forty miles from Osawatomie, General 
Reid, with two hundred and fifty mounted men and one six- 
pounder, was detached to proceed to the Abolition settlement. 
According to a pro-slavery officer, W. Limerick, who wrote 
to General Shields, of Lexington, Missouri, on the 2Qth from 
Bull Creek, the plan was to attack Osawatomie at once: 

"It will all be destroyed; we then go to Hickory Point, all the 
houses in the settlement will be burned ; Topeka will share the same 
fate. We will wait at this place for some 200 or 300 men expected 


to arrive to-morrow. We are confident of success and expect to clear 
the whole territory of Abolitionists before our return. ... I am 
just informed that Lawrence will be attacked on Sunday next." 

General Reid made an all-night march, on leaving Bull 
Creek, and, taking a leaf out of John Brown's tactics, reached 
Osawatomie in the early morning. He was too experienced 
a soldier to enter from the direction from which he would be 
expected, but passed the town to the south and, after getting 
well beyond it, went northward until he struck the Lawrence 
road. He then turned his army again, and just as the light 
began to glimmer in the east, on the morning of the 3Oth, 
reached the high ground above the town, near the Adair, Carr 
and Cronkhite houses. He thus not only entered from the 
west, but had the opportunity to charge downhill into the 
settlement, if he wished to utilize it. 

On his way, Reid's men were joined by the Rev. Martin 
White, as malignant as ever in his hatred of all Free Soil men, 
and particularly eager to enter Osawatomie in order to recap- 
ture some of his stolen horses. Because of his knowledge of 
the country, White joined the "point" of the advance guard, 
composed of two or three men. As they came over the crest 
of the hill, with the Adair cabin to the left of the road and the 
Carr house to their right, a tall and vigorous man approached 
them, all unsuspicious of their purpose. It was Frederick 
Brown, who had risen early to feed the horses, which had been 
left overnight on the Adair place, preparatory to a prompt 
start for Lawrence. It is the tradition in Osawatomie that 
Frederick Brown greeted White in a friendly way. White 
himself thus told the story to the Kansas (pro-slavery) House 
of Representatives on February 13 of the next year: 

"Whilst I was acting as one of the advance guard coming in con- 
tact with their picket guard, Frederick Brown, one of their guard, 
advanced toward us. We halted and I recognized him and ordered 
him to 'halt,' but he replied, 'I know you!' and continued to ad- 
vance towards me. I ordered him a second time to 'halt.' By this 
time he was getting very close to me, and threw his hand to his 
revolver; to save my own life I shot him down." 51 

White's first bullet went straight through his victim's heart 
and Brown tumbled to the ground, probably without hav- 
ing any thought of violence before consciousness fled forever. 


If it was the spell of the Pottawatomie murders which had 
brought him back to the neighborhood of the dread crimes 
upon which he had gazed helpless, between a sense of wrong 
and fidelity to his dominating father, he had now paid in 
full for his participation as an accessory. Certain it is that 
Frederick Brown was no more prepared for his sudden end than 
were the men whose blood had been shed by John Brown's 
orders, that there might be remission of sin for the Border 
Ruffians. White pretended to recognize the boots on Brown 
as a pair stolen from his son in the raid upon White ; but there 
is no evidence to show that Frederick Brown was at that time 
elsewhere, than in Lawrence. On January I, 1860, White 
wrote to the Bates County, Missouri, Standard: "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 the chance," a truly Christian sentiment for a minister 
of the gospel. 

The pretence that he saw in Frederick Brown a picket of 
the enemy was obviously an afterthought of White's. There 
was no sign of any stirring as the two men met, and the next 
few developments certainly dispel the theory that the laws 
of war were being followed. The shot that killed Brown was 
heard both at the Adair and Carr houses, as well as the noise 
of horses' feet as the advance guard passed on toward the town. 
As the Rev. Mr. Adair came hurriedly out of his house, he met 
David Garrison, a relative and a settler in that vicinity, who 
had slept in a shed in the rear of the Adair cabin. They hurried 
to the road, and, looking down it, Garrison asked: "What is 
that lying on the road? " Adair thought it a blanket only to 
find it was the body of his nephew Frederick. As they stood 
over the corpse, some of the others, Cutter and Hawes among 
them, arrived from the Carr house. Adair hurried westward 
to see if any one else was coming, and quickly perceived the 
head of the main column of Reid's forces, now steadily ap- 
proaching. He hurried back, shouting to the others to save 
themselves. Adair safely reached his own cabin, gave a warn- 
ing, and then hid in the bushes unharmed until his children 
found him and notified him that he might return. No such 
good fortune attended the others. Garrison, Hawes and Cut- 
ter made the mistake of returning to Carr's, where they were 


speedily seen and pursued into the brush. Hawes miraculously 
escaped without injury, the Border Ruffians almost riding 
over him. Cutter, being overtaken after exchanging shots with 
his pursuers, received in his head and body four charges of 
buckshot. Leaving him for a moment, the Ruffians followed the 
unarmed Garrison, and overhauled and summarily despatched 
him. Returning to Cutter, one of the Ruffians dismounted, 
kicked him, turned him over and said: "He breathes; if I only 
had another charge in my gun, I would put it in his head. I 
guess that would fix him." Fortunately for Cutter, the Mis- 
sourian could not make his revolver work, and so rode off 
saying: "Let him rip, he will die fast enough!" Such was 
humanity in Kansas on the 3Oth of August, 1856! Despite 
thirty distinct wounds, Cutter survived his terrible experi- 
ence, Hawes bringing him aid and food as soon as the Ruf- 
fians disappeared. 

Had Reid's men now galloped directly into the village, 
which was but a mile and a half away, they would have been 
in complete control before any one could have slipped away. 
Instead, his men delayed on the ridge, perhaps for breakfast, 
and the news of their coming and of the death of Frederick 
Brown was carried into the town by Charles Adair, a mere 
boy, who galloped in. A messenger at once crossed the river 
to alarm John Brown. The first to take the aggressive were 
Dr. Updegraff and Holmes. The latter, who was saddling 
up when the news came, rode up toward the Adairs' until he 
sighted the Border Ruffians, upon whom he fired three times 
from his Sharp's rifle. This incident again checked the advance 
and gave the Free State men time to rally to the defence. 
Brown himself was preparing breakfast as the news of his 
son's death reached him. He seized his arms, cried, "Men, 
come on!" and with Luke F. Parsons hurried downhill to the 
crossing nearest the town. The others delayed to finish their 
coffee, but most of them overtook their leader as he reached 
the town. On their way John Brown asked: "Parsons, were 
you ever under fire? " " I replied, ' No,' " relates Parsons, " ' no, 
but I will obey orders. Tell me what you want me to do.' ' 
To which Brown answered with the well-known sentence, 
"Take more care to end life well than to live long." With this 
sentiment on his lips, the grim chieftain of the "volunteer 


regulars" entered the engagement which gave him more 
renown than anything save the climax of his career; from 
this time forward it was as "Old Osawatomie Brown" that 
he was most generally known. 

As they reached the block-house, Brown said: "Parsons, 
take ten men and go into that block-house and hold your posi- 
tions as long as you can. I '11 take the rest of the men, go into 
the timber and annoy them from the flank." This Parsons 
did, finding in the block-house Spencer Kellogg Brown, son 
of O. C. Brown, the founder of the town, a lad fourteen years 
old, of rare pluck and daring disposition, who, being allowed 
to go and get a rifle, returned with it in a few minutes. From 
the second story, Parsons's men saw the Border Ruffians com- 
ing in two long lines with their brass cannon. One of them 
cried, "We cannot stay here, they will drive us out." When 
Parsons and Austin took their places in the second story to 
study the situation, their men all decamped to join Brown. 
Following them, Parsons met Captain Cline and his company 
of fifteen well-mounted men retiring through the town, aban- 
doning their cattle and other plunder. Only four days pre- 
viously, this little band, then considerably larger, had gallantly 
charged the Border Ruffians on South Middle Creek. On this 
particular morning, Captain Cline could not be induced to stay 
very long on the line of battle; one of his men, Theodore 
Parker Powers, was killed in the few minutes they were at 
the front. Captain Cline explained to the Tribune 52 that his 
men did not retire until they ran out of ammunition. In any 
event, their disappearance weakened the Free State force not 
a little. Parsons and Austin found that Brown had skilfully 
hidden his men behind the trees and brush in the fringe of 
timber along the Marais des Cygnes, which ran nearly par- 
allel to the road down which the Missourians were coming. 
There is to-day still a fringe of timber along the river, and still 
the open space across which the opposing forces fired at each 

The Border Ruffians were mounted and in the open. When 
the shots from the Free State men struck among them, the 
agitation caused by wounded men or horses threw the com- 
panies into confusion, which they at first tried to correct by 
re-forming under fire. As the firing grew hotter, more men 

Looking toward the river 



joined John Brown, among them Alexander Hawes, unde- 
terred by his narrow escape when Garrison and Cutter were 
shot. As each man came under his eye, Brown placed him 
behind a tree or a rock, but the leader himself walked up and 
down, encouraging the others and bidding them make their 
fire effective. His son Jason was near him most of the time. 
Once Brown stopped and asked Parsons if he could see any- 
thing torn or bloody upon his back. " No, Captain, I cannot," 
replied Parsons. "Well, something hit me a terrible rap on the 
back," said Brown; "I don't intend to be shot in the back if 
I can help it." 

It is not probable that, all told, John Brown had more than 
thirty-eight or forty men in line, aside from Cline's force. He 
himself said about thirty. They held their ground well, even 
after Reid brought his cannon into play. His grape-shot went 
too high into the trees, bringing down branches and adding to 
the discomfort of the Free Soil men, but not actually injuring 
anybody. Next, the Border Ruffians dismounted, and, urged 
by General Reid, who waved his sword and shouted loudly, 
advanced toward the woods. At once Brown's men began to 
retreat, following the stream and keeping in the protection of 
the timber until they had gone some distance down toward 
the saw-mill. When they were on the bank, all suddenly 
turned as if an order had been given and jumped into the 
river. It was the Border Ruffians' opportunity. In a skirmish 
or in real warfare, to have an unfordable river at one's back 
is the worst of tactics. For this John Brown must not be cen- 
sured, since it was the only place where he could have made 
a stand, unless he had chosen to fight in the settlement itself 
and risked the lives of the women and children there. 

But if Brown was not to blame for this strategy, the con- 
sequences of it were serious, in that George Partridge was 
killed in the river. Holmes saved his life miraculously by div- 
ing when under heavy fire. Parsons and Austin narrowly 
escaped Partridge's fate, Austin by hiding between some logs 
near the saw-mill, and shooting a Border Ruffian out of his 
saddle. Dr. Updegraff, who had been badly wounded in the 
thigh, managed to escape. George Grant had time to notice 
that John Brown, as he waded the river, cut a "queer figure, 
in a broad straw hat and a white linen duster, his old coat- 


tails floating outspread upon the water and a revolver held 
high in each hand, over his head." Jason Brown, too, re- 
members the generalissimo's linen duster; he, like his father, 
got safely across. The fourteen-year-old soldier, Spencer K. 
Brown, fell into the enemy's hands, as did Robert Reynolds, 
H. K. Thomas and Charles Kaiser. The latter, a veteran of 
a European revolution, fought to the last on the edge of 
the river before yielding to a relentless enemy. William B. 
Fuller, a settler, was captured before the fight began, and 
Joseph H. Morey later in the day. 

In later years, General Reid insisted that there was no battle 
at Osawatomie , " merely the driving out of a flock of quail . " w 
But after the quail had crossed the river, there was still mis- 
chief for Reid to do. He fired a round or two at the block- 
house before all of Brown's men were out of range and hearing, 
and then, when there was no reply, his Ruffians began the 
work of reducing Osawatomie to ashes. This was done despite 
General Reid's protest. If he had held his men bravely to 
their work in the hour's fighting with Brown, he was unequal 
now to saving the twenty-five to thirty houses and stores, 
that were plundered and then burned. O. C. Brown's safe was 
robbed of one hundred and twenty-five dollars, after which 
the torch was applied to his house. Three bags full of mail, 
which the warning mail-carrier, John Yelton, had brought, 
were cut open and their contents examined and flung to the 
winds. The horses and cattle at hand were gathered up and 
carried off, including Cline's booty from South Middle Creek. 
The saw-mill of the Emigrant Aid Society was not harmed, 
because, it is said, a single man, Freeman Austin, opened such 
a brisk fire on the Border Ruffians as they approached, that 
they retired in haste. 

By ten o'clock of that evening, General Reid's command 
was back at the Bull Creek camp. On the next day he made 
the following official report of his enterprise : 


GENTLEMEN: I moved with 250 men on the Abolition fort and 
town of Osawattomie the headquarters of Old Brown on night 
before last; marched 40 miles and attacked the town without dis- 
mounting the men about sunrise on yesterday. We had a brisk 
fight for an hour or more and had five men wounded none dan- 


gerously Capt. Boice, William Gordon and three others. We 
killed about thirty of them, among the number, certain, a son of 
Old Brown, and almost certain Brown himself; destroyed all their 
ammunition and provisions, and the boys would burn the town to 
the ground. / could not help it. 

We must be supported by our friends. We still want more men 
and ammunition, ammunition of all sorts. Powder, muskets, balls 
and caps is the constant cry. 

I write in great haste, as I have been in saddle, rode 100 miles, 
and fought a battle without rest. 

Your friend, 

REID. 54 

A joint letter of Congrave Jackson and G. B. M. Maughas, 
"Capt. of Company B," dated at Bull Creek, September I, 
gives another pro-slavery view of the fight: 

"The enemy commenced firing on us at half a mile, which is point 
blank range for Sharp's Rifles. They had taken cover under a thick 
growth of underwood and numbered about 150. We charged upon 
them, having to march 800 yards across an open prairie, against 
an unseen foe, through a hail-storm of rifle bullets. This was done 
with a coolness and ability unsurpassed, until we got within 50 yards 
of them when we commenced a galling fire, which together with some 
telling rounds of grape from our cannon, soon drove them from 
their hiding place with a loss of some 20 or 30 men killed. We had 
lost not a single man, and had only five or six wounded." 55 

The report of the death of John Brown persisted for only 
a few days. That it was believed, or hoped for, in St. Louis a 
week later, appears from the following editorial in the St. 
Louis Morning Herald of September 6, 1856, which declared 
that because of Pottawatomie, "by far the most atrocious 
and inexcusable outrage yet perpetrated in that distracted 
Territory, . . . his death and the destruction of his family 
would, for that reason, be less a matter of regret even with 
men of the humanest feeling." 

Brown made no attempt to rally his force after it was driven 
across the Marais des Cygnes. It was too scattered to make 
that possible. Indeed, Bondi, Benjamin and Hawes set off 
at once for Lawrence, and so, by himself, did Holmes. John 
Brown and Jason spent a good part of the day searching for 
a ford above the town by which they might cross to the Adair 
house. But before they set out to reach their relatives and 
find the dead body of their son and brother, Frederick, they 


stood on the bank above the river and watched the smoke 
and flames of burning Osawatomie. "God sees it," said John 
Brown, according to Jason, as he watched this spectacle, the 
tears rolling down his face. " 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." 

If the Border Ruffians were at sea in their estimate of the 
loss of life they had inflicted, John Brown was still further 
from the mark in his report of General Reid's casualties. 
This appears from his letter of September 7 to his family: 

LAWRENCE K T 7th Sept 1856 

DEAR WIFE & CHILDREN EVERY ONE I have one moment to 
write to you to say that I am yet alive that Jason, & family were well 
yesterday John ; & family I hear are well ; he being yet a prisoner. 
On the morning of the 3Oth Aug an attack was made by the ruffians 
on Osawatomie numbering some 400 by whose scouts our dear 
Fredk was shot dead without warning he supposing them to be 
Free State men as near as we can learn. One other man a Cousin 
of Mr. Adair was murdered by them about the same time that 
Fredk was killed & one badly wounded at the same time. At this 
time I was about 3 miles off where I had some 14 or 15 men over 
night that I had just enlisted to serve under me as regulars. These 
I collected as well as I could with some 12 or 15 more & in about 
of an Hour attacked them from a wood with thick undergrowth, 
with this force we threw them into confusion for about 15 or 20 
minuets during which time we killed & wounded from 70 to 80 of 
the enemy as they say & then we escaped as well as we could with 
one killed while escaping; Two or Three wounded ; & as many more 
missing. Four or Five Free-State men were butchered during the 
day in all. Jason fought bravely by my side during the fight & 
escaped with me he being unhurt. I was struck by a partly spent 
Grape, Canister, or Rifle shot which bruised me some, but did not 
injure me seriously. "Hitherto the Lord hath helped me" notwith- 
standing my afflictions. Things seem rather quiet just now; but 
what another Hour will bring I cannot say. I have seen Three or 
Four letters from Ruth & one from Watson, of July or Aug which 
are all I have seen since in June. I was very glad to hear once 
more from you & hope that you will continue to write to some of 
the friends so that I may hear from you. I am utterly unable to 
write you for most of the time. May the God of our fathers bless 
& save you all 

Your Affectionate Husband & Father, 



MONDAY MORNING, 8th Sept. 56 

Jason has just come in Left all well as usual. Johns trial is to 
come off or commence today. Yours ever 


Subsequently, John Brown thus summarized the results of 
the fight for Lydia Maria Child: 

Border Ruffian force at Osawatomie Aug. 3Oth 400 men. 
Free State force 30 men. 

Ruffians (as by their 'private account 31 or 32) killed, & from 
45 to 50 wounded. 

Loss of Free State men in the fight one killed & 2 wounded Free 
Statemen murdered Four; & one left for dead with twenty shot & 
bullet holes. One proslavery man murdered by themselves. 

Your friend 


The pro-slavery man reported murdered was named Wil- 
liam Williams, said to have been a "Free State Missourian," 
whom neither party claimed ; his name is not on the Osawato- 
mie monument. He was killed in the town before the Border 
Ruffians left. As to the loss of the latter, there is no evidence 
to show in contemporary accounts or newspapers that it was 
as heavy as Brown himself thought. He prepared for the 
press, on the same day that he wrote the above letter, a more 
elaborate story of the battle, which in no wise differed from 
the letter in any of its facts. It is a concise and excellently 
written narrative, one of the best products of his pen. In it he 
thus explains his plan in taking his men into the timber: 

"As I had no means of learning correctly the force of the enemy, 
I placed twelve of the recruits in a log-house hoping we might be 
able to defend the town. I then gathered some fifteen more men 
together, whom we armed with guns, and we started in the direction 
of the enemy. After going a few rods we could see them approach- 
ing the town in line of battle, about half a mile off, upon a hill west 
of the village. I then gave up all idea of doing more than to annoy, 
from the timber near the town, into which we were all retreated, 
and which was filled with a thick growth of underbrush ; but I had 
no time to recall the twelve men in the log-house, and so lost their 
assistance in the fight. At the point above named I met with Cap- 
tain Cline, a very active young man, who had with him some twelve 
or fifteen mounted men, and persuaded him to go with us into the 
timber, on the southern shore of the Osage, or Marais des Cygnes, 
a little to the northwest from the village." 58 . 


It would seem from the above that John Brown was not 
aware that the men from the block-house joined his line. Yet 
he must have known that Parsons and Austin joined him. 
This confusion may account for his underestimate of the men 
who, from their own narratives and those of others, are known 
to have fought with him in the timber. As for the prisoners, 
Charles Kaiser met the same cruel fate as did Dow, Major 
Hoyt, Hoppe and the long list of those murdered in cold blood 
by the Border Ruffians. Two days after his capture, on Sep- 
tember I, after the army of Atchison had retreated to Cedar 
Creek, he was taken out and shot to death, first having 
been told, it is said, to run for his life. This cowardly murder 
is assigned by one of the prisoners as a reason why the Border 
Ruffian force, the command of which was resigned by Gen- 
eral Atchison to General Reid on the same day, began to melt 
away. 59 Spencer Kellogg Brown, the boy prisoner, was set 
free by the Border Ruffians, only to die, if anything, more 
tragically than Kaiser. After having been a useful Federal 
spy, he was caught by the Confederates and hanged in Rich- 
mond on September 25, 1863, when but twenty-one years 
old. 60 The other four prisoners were sent down the Missouri 
River on the Polar Star, under pain of death if they re- 
turned to Kansas. At St. Louis they were permitted to go 
their way. 

The news of Brown's defeat and the burning of Osawato- 
mie intensified an altogether critical situation in Kansas. The 
acting Governor, Woodson, was openly pro-slavery; it was 
his proclamation of August 25, declaring Kansas to be "in 
a state of open insurrection and rebellion," and calling on all 
good citizens to put down the "large bodies of armed men, 
many of whom have just arrived from the States," which gave 
Atchison and Reid's army the excuse to masquerade once 
more as Kansas militia, or assistants to the legally constituted 
authorities. That they were a large body of armed men, all of 
whom had just arrived from another State, did not in the least 
excite Mr. Woodson's distrust. Three days after the battle of 
Osawatomie, on September 5, he even went so far as to order 
Lieut.-Col. Cooke, of the United States Dragoons, to proceed 
at once to Topeka, to invest the town and disarm and arrest 
"all the insurrectionists or aggressive invaders against the 


organized government" to be found at or nearTopeka, and to 
retain them as prisoners. He was especially ordered to level 
all their breastworks, forts or fortifications, to the ground, and 
to intercept all armed persons coming over "Lane's trail" 
from the Nebraska line to Topeka. 61 Naturally, Lieut.-Col. 
Cooke declined to obey so extraordinary and partisan an 
order, for which decision he was subsequently highly com- 
mended by the Secretary of War. Jefferson Davis, however, 
was so greatly wrought up over the situation in the Terri- 
tory on September 3, that "the position of the insurgents" 
seemed to him "open rebellion against the laws and consti- 
tutional authorities, with such manifestation of a purpose to 
spread devastation over the land, as no longer justifies fur- 
ther hesitation or indulgence." In thus expressing himself to 
General Smith, he added that "patriotism and humanity alike 
require that rebellion should be promptly crushed. ..." To 
this end, General Smith was notified that the President had 
ordered the organization of the Kansas militia; that the gen- 
eral was to ask for as much of this force as he needed for the 
work of pacification, and, if he could not get sufficient aid 
from this source, he was authorized to call upon the Govern- 
ors of Kentucky and Illinois for the two regiments of foot 
militia requisitioned that same day by President Pierce from 
each State, in accordance with his constitutional rights. 62 An 
excellent regiment of regular infantry, the Sixth, had already 
been sent to the Territory as a reinforcement to the First Cav- 
alry and Second Dragoons. As it turned out, the Territory 
could raise only a few companies of bona fide militia for Gen- 
eral Smith, but a sudden change in events made it unneces- 
sary for him to ask for more troops, or to call on the Illinois 
and Kentucky executives. 

General Smith himself, in explaining, under date of Sep- 
tember 10, to the War Department how it was that Osa- 
watomie was sacked when there were regulars in the vicinity, 
reported that Brown had had thirteen men killed, and bluntly 
added, "though there is nothing to regret as to those who 
suffered, yet the act was a grossly unlawful act, and deprives 
those who took part in it of all consideration for the future." 
Their consideration in the near future was already the prob- 
lem of Lieut.-Col. Cooke; for Reid's force, after retiring 


to Missouri, was again being recruited for a fresh and final 
attack on Lawrence. Meanwhile, the Free State men were 
Cooke's immediate care. Lane, still pretending to be "Joe 
Cook," had made a weak effort to pursue Reid, but had fallen 
back just as he arrived within striking distance. Then, on 
learning that Marshal Donaldson and two deputies, supported 
by bands of bogus militia, were raiding Free State homes 
with warrants for the owners, and burning their houses if 
the owners were absent, Lane and Colonel Harvey decided 
to march upon Lecompton, make an armed demonstration, 
and demand the release of the newest prisoners and of those 
who had been arrested in August for complicity in the raid on 

After some marching and counter-marching, a force from 
Lawrence under Lane who had concealed himself in the 
ranks and Captain Samuel Walker arrived at Lecompton 
on September 5, late in the afternoon. Lieut. -Col. Cooke 
instantly ordered out his regiment, took up a position be- 
tween Walker's men and the town, and notified Walker that 
he could fight that day only with United States troops. 63 For 
this privilege the Free State men were not thirsting; but, with 
the aid of the veteran dragoon colonel, they accomplished the 
release of the prisoners. Woodson had already decided to let 
them go, but his order, not yet executed, was now put into 
force. As the Missouri militia had been dismissed by Wood- 
son that morning and had almost all left, Lieut. -Col. Cooke 
greatly regretted the appearance of Lane's men; he assured 
them that "everything was going in their favor, and that it 
apparently would be so if they would refrain entirely from 
reprisals, or any outrages, return to their occupations, and 
show moderation." 64 

This good advice the Free State men refused to ta*ke. On 
returning to Lawrence, they found it full of refugees from 
Leavenworth, where William Phillips, the Free State lawyer 
who was tarred and feathered in May, 1855, had been deliber- 
ately murdered on September 2, as a result of the election for 
mayor. From elsewhere in the Territory the law-abiding and 
the lawless were also moving into Lawrence, and to all of them 
the refugees from Leavenworth, with their stories of the shoot- 
ing of Phillips in his own house, of murders and other out- 


rages along the roads, and the driving out of hundreds of 
defenceless women and children, made a strong appeal. At a 
council of war on September 7, Lane, Harvey and other officers 
and men of the Free State forces decided to march on Leaven- 
worth. This council was interrupted by the cheering on the 
streets with which John Brown's arrival in Lawrence was 


greeted. Henry Reisner, of Topeka, an eye-witness, remembers 
distinctly Brown's impassive demeanor and his bent figure 
on his gray horse, with his gun across the saddle before 
him. The uproar of cheering was, he says, "as great as if the 
President had come to town, but John Brown seemed not 
to hear it and paid not the slightest attention." 65 Brown 
brought with him his sick adherent, Luke F. Parsons, and 
was followed the next day by his son Jason. When asked 
where he had been since his retreat under Reid's fire across 
the Marais des Cygnes at Osawatomie, he related that he had 
encamped on the Hauser farm, two and a half miles from Osa- 
watomie, for about a week, at first attempting to fortify it. 
But the lack of men and the illness of Parsons and others 
prevented. 66 

From there Jason Brown and his father both went to their 
friend Ottawa Jones, on Ottawa Creek, where they saw the 
ruins of his home. Jones, who was an educated Indian, with 
a New England woman for his wife, had befriended and 
helped to feed John Brown and his party while they were 
in the brush before and after Black Jack. No other charge 
could have been brought against him than friendliness for 
Free State people; but a part of Atchison's army, guided by 
Henry Sherman,* not only destroyed the house the evening 
of the battle at Osawatomie, but robbed Mrs. Jones of every- 
thing valuable. Not content with that, they partially cut 
the throat of a helpless man, Nathaniel Parker, who was ill 
in an upstairs room, and threw him over the bank of the 

It is easy to imagine John Brown's indignation at this out- 
rage ; but there was nothing to be accomplished now south of 
Lawrence, and so, placing Parsons in a wagon, he had driven 

* "Henry Sherman led the mob that burnt Ottawa Jones's house last summer 
and tried to kill Jones." Rev. S. L. Adair to Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Davis, Osa- 
watomie, March 4, 1857. Original in possession of Mrs. S. C. Davis. 


with him to Lawrence. After Brown's arrival, the Sunday 
morning council reassembled and decided on the movement 
against Leaven worth. Most of the men thereupon offered the 
command to John Brown, a responsibility he declined out 
of deference to the other leaders ; and it was then entrusted 
to Colonel James A. Harvey. With two companies, Harvey 
marched on Easton and Alexandria, in Leavenworth County, 
helped himself to pro-slavery provisions in the now approved 
fashion, and then captured a small company of pro-slavery 
men on Slough Creek, near what is now Oskaloosa. John 
Brown did not accompany the command, which never reached 
Leavenworth ; it was recalled by a message from Lane, advis- 
ing the abandonment of the object because of the arrival of 
the new Governor, John W. Geary. Almost simultaneously 
with Harvey's movements, Charles Whipple, better known as 
Aaron D. Stevens, raided Osawkee, a pro-slavery settlement, 
taking eighty horses and nearly as many arms. Stevens was 
now colonel of the "Second Regiment Kansas Volunteers." 
"We in Kansas," he wrote to his brother about this time, 
"have struggled against every species of oppression that the 
wickedness of man invented or the power of the Devil ever 
enforced." 67 Carrying off eighty pro-slavery horses was in his 
eyes no wrong; the United States marshal, Donaldson, thought 
differently, and seven days after the raid, on September 17, 
he arrested twelve of Whipple's men. 68 Four of them, includ- 
ing John H. Kagi, who met his end at Harper's Ferry under 
Brown, were committed by Judge Cato for highway robbery, 
- an action they doubtless described as another Border Ruf- 
fian outrage. "What in thunder," wrote Charles F. Gilman, 
a Council Grove, Kansas, leader, on hearing of some of these 
Free State raids, "is Missouri doing; is she going to let these 
miserable, thieving, lying Nigger-Stealers and horsewhipping 
scamps take this fine Territory without striking a blow for its 
deliverance?" 69 

September 10 witnessed the reunion of John Brown with 
his long imprisoned son and namesake, the political prisoners 
being then freed. John Brown, Jr., who had never even been 
indicted, was released on one thousand dollars bail, and hurried 
at once to Lawrence. " This evening," wrote the correspondent 
of the New York Times, "large numbers assembled in front 


of General Lane's headquarters, where they were addressed 
by Judge Smith, the Rev. Dr. Nute, E. B. Whitman, Gov- 
ernor Robinson, General Lane and John Brown. The meet- 
ing was one of the most enthusiastic and heart-cheering of 
any that has ever been held in Kansas." 70 John Brown, Jr., 
brought his chains, worn bright by long use, with him; they 
were subsequently forwarded to Henry Ward Beecher as a 
souvenir of Bleeding Kansas. But a better era than the Ter- 
ritory had yet known was now ushered in with the arrival of 
John W. Geary, the new Governor. He reached Lecompton 
from Leavenworth at about the same time that the Lawrence 
jubilation over the release of the prisoners was at an end. The 
next day he issued a reassuring address to the people, and 
two excellent proclamations, which, like his first report of 
September 9 to Secretary Marcy, show how clearly he grasped 
the actual situation. 71 In his address he urged that Kansas 
begin anew; that the past be buried in oblivion. 

"Men of the North men of the South of the East and of the 
West in Kansas you, and you alone," he said, "have the remedies 
in your own hands. Will you not suspend fratricidal strife? Will 
you not cease to regard each other as enemies, and look upon one 
another as the children of a common mother, and come and reason 

The blame for the situation he placed upon " men outside 
of the Territory, who . . . have endeavored to stir up in- 
ternal strife, and to array brother against brother." In his 
first proclamation he ordered the complete disbandment of 
the pro-slavery militia; in the other he ordered the forma- 
tion of a new body, which he intended should be composed 
of bona fide settlers, and be mustered by his order into the 
service of the United States. His policy was, first of all, to 
stop all lawlessness and guerrilla warfare, and in this he was 
soon successful. He was as bitter against the pro-slavery 
murderers of Leavenworth as against the Abolition ma- 
rauders of the Whipple type, and became, as time went on, 
more and more favorable to the Free State side, with the 
result that he finally resigned office for the reason that the 
Buchanan administration, alienated by his friendliness to the 
Northern side, withdrew from him its support. 


One of the immediate blessings of Governor Geary's arrival 
was the prompt disappearance from the scene of General 
Lane. He left for Nebraska at once, with a small band, 
stopping on the way, however, to attack some pro-slavery 
raiders. Finding them well barricaded in log-cabins at 
Hickory Point, Lane sent back to Topeka for reinforcements. 
Whipple and fifty men responded, but on their arrival, Lane 
wanted Captain Bickerton's cannon and sent to Lawrence for 
them. Colonel Harvey, just in from Slough Creek, and about 
two hundred men responded, and arrived at Hickory Point 
on Sunday morning, September 14. Meanwhile, General 
Lane abandoned the siege on hearing of Governor Geary's 
proclamations. As Harvey's men came straight across coun- 
try, contrary to orders, they missed both Lane and Whipple. 
Nevertheless, they at once attacked the pro-slavery force, 
and after several hours of fighting captured it, killing one 
and wounding four, and having five wounded on their side. 72 
Both sides fraternized, agreed to retire without plunder, and 
then separated. But Harvey's Nemesis was at hand in the 
person of the Captain T. J. Wood already referred to, who 
appeared on the scene that night with two troops of the First 
Cavalry and a deputy marshal, with whom he had been search- 
ing for Whipple's band. Harvey escaped, but Captain Wood 
returned to Lecompton with one hundred and one prisoners 
and such of their arms as he could find, including the cannon. 
The prisoners were shown no favors, were all kept in confine- 
ment for some time, and, after enduring genuine hardships, 
were tried at the October term. The majority were acquit- 
ted ; a number received sentences at hard labor, with ball and 
chain, for periods of from five to ten years. W r ith the men 
of W T hipple's force and others, there were now one hundred 
and eighteen Free State men awaiting trial at one time, 
quite enough to serve as a vigorous deterrent to the other 
Free Soilers. John Brown might easily have shared their fate. 
Those sentenced did not, however, remain in jail long; they 
had all escaped or been pardoned by the following March. But 
Captain Wood's great haul was a stunning blow to Free State 

Governor Geary made his first visit to Lawrence on Septem- 
ber 13. News having been received by him that pro-slavery 


forces were threatening the town, he routed out Lieut.-Col. 
Cooke's troops in the early morning of September 13." Four 
hundred soldiers left at 2.20 A. M., the governor going with 
them, and they arrived at Lawrence at sunrise to find every- 
thing quiet. Three hundred Missourians had, however, been 
seen the day before, and Governor Geary had received a 
communication from General Heiskell, announcing that in 
response to acting Governor Woodson he was on Mission 
Creek with eight hundred men, "ready for duty and impa- 
tient to act." Governor Geary found between two and three 
hundred men in Lawrence and, being well received, addressed 
them earnestly and then conversed at length with Governor 
Robinson and other leaders, upon whom he made a favora- 
ble impression. John Brown was not at these gatherings. By 
nine o'clock the Governor and the troops left on their return 
to Lecompton, the citizens giving three hearty cheers for 
Governor Geary and Lieut.-Col. Cooke as they rode away. 
The very next evening, on September 14, Geary again ordered 
all of Lieut.-Col. Cooke's troops to Lawrence in hot haste, 
to prevent an impending collision. 74 They left at once under 
Lieut.-Col. Joseph E. Johnston, First Cavalry, later the 
distinguished Confederate general. The next morning Lieut.- 
Col. Cooke and Governor Geary followed. This time it had 
been no cry of wolf. Atchison, Reid, Heiskell, Stringfellow, 
Whitfield and the other Missouri leaders had arrived at 
Franklin, determined on a final attempt to conquer Kansas by 
force of arms. They had with them no less than twenty-seven 
hundred men, some of them completely uniformed and well 
equipped. Besides infantry and cavalry there was a six- 
pounder battery, in all a remarkably strong force. Its ad- 
vance guard had come in sight of the men on guard at Law- 
rence on the afternoon of the I4th, and after an hour's 
shooting at long range, the Missourians had retired on Frank- 
lin. Naturally, the people of Lawrence were in great alarm; 
few were able to sleep that night, remembering as they did 
Atchison's last visit to their town. There was, therefore, 
general rejoicing when, on the next morning, Lieut.-Col. 
Johnston's troops were found to be encamped on Mount 
Oread, the hill overlooking Lawrence, where they had ar- 
rived during the night. 


The town of Lawrence was at this time a strange mixture 
of "stone houses, log cabins, frame buildings, shake shanties 
and other nondescript erections," so wrote Colonel Richard 
J. Hinton in his journal on September 3- 75 He added: 

"Lawrence presents a sad picture of the evils this partizan war- 
fare is bringing over us. Buildings half finished or deserted are now 
occupied as quarters for the small army of devoted men who are 
fighting the battle of Freedom. Trade is at a standstill. Work is 
not thought of, and the street is full of the eager, anxious citizens 
who cluster eagerly around every new-comer, drinking in greedily 
the news, which generally is exaggerated by the fears or imagination 
of those who tell it. To a stranger, it seems a wild confusion, and 
however much they may desire, the incidents come in so fast that 
it is morally impossible to form a just estimate of the true condition 
of things." 

The defenders of this straggling town had erected some for- 
tifications, of which they were very proud, a stone "fort" of 
the remains of the Free State Hotel, and four earthworks 
which excited the risibles of Lieut.-Col. Cooke and his officers, 
"ridiculous attempts at defences," Cooke officially called 
them, "which I could ride over." But the day before Lieut.- 
Col. Johnston's arrival, these amateur fortifications were 
filled with very earnest Free Soil men, ready to defend Law- 
rence at any cost. In the absence of Lane, the command was as 
much in the hands of Major J. B. Abbott and Captain Joseph 
Cracklin, of the "Stubbs," as of any one else. Some partisans 
of John Brown have attempted to prove that he was in com- 
mand, but the evidence is conclusive that he declined Major 
Abbott's offer of the command of a company, and then, at his 
request, went from one of the "forts" to another, encouraging 
the men, urging them to fire low, and giving them such mili- 
tary information as was his, everywhere, according to Major 
Abbott, with excellent results. 76 Other men who were in the 
forts that day, when Captain Cracklin and his "Stubbs" 
returned the long range fire of the Border Ruffians, have tes- 
tified to the value of Brown's presence, and the inspiration he 
gave them. To a group of citizens in the main street he made 
the following address, standing on a dry -goods box : 

"Gentlemen It is said there are twenty-five hundred 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 opportu- 
nity 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 till 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." " 

Fortunately for all concerned, the worth of the forts and the 
mettle of their defenders were never tested. The aggressive 
and active Governor rode into town with Lieut.-Col. Cooke 
at ten on the morning of the I5th. They found that Lieut.- 
Col. Johnston had distributed his men in strong positions 
on the outskirts of the town. Scarcely stopping to confer 
with that officer, Cooke and Geary pushed right on to meet 
a Missourian mounted company then in plain sight, not 
two miles away. This company at once constituted itself a 
guard of honor for the colonel and the Governor. At Franklin 
the pro-slavery generals and chief officers were called together 
in a large room "and very ably and effectively addressed by 
Governor Geary " so Cooke reported. After some inflamma- 
tory speeches from the other side, the veteran dragoon himself 
addressed the assembly, urging them, 

"as an old resident of Kansas and friend to the Missourians to sub- 
mit to the patriotic demand that they should return, assuring them 
of my perfect confidence in the inflexible justice of the Governor, 
and that it would become my painful duty to sustain him at the 
cannon's mouth. Authority prevailed, and the militia honorably 
submitted to march off, to be disbanded at their place of rendez- 

It would have been well, however, if some of Cooke's men 
had supervised this withdrawal. He himself went back to 
Lawrence with the Governor and calmed the greatly excited 
town, while Governor Geary again addressed the principal 
men. They bivouacked with the troops, who slept under 
arms after two night marches with scant provisions. The next 


day, Cooke and the Governor returned to Lecompton, following 
the trail of the notorious Kickapoo Rangers. Some of these 
men had burned the saw-mill near Franklin, "lifted" horses 
and cattle, and mortally wounded David C. Buffum, for refus- 
ing to give up the horse with which he was ploughing. Gov- 
ernor Geary insisted on Judge Cato's taking the dying man's 
deposition, and, to his credit be it said, made every effort, 
though with little success, to have the murderer punished, the 
pro-slavery judges giving no assistance. 78 

Thus ended the last organized Missourian invasion of 
Kansas, and for a time thereafter the Territory was at peace, 
particularly as Lieut. -Cols. Cooke and Johnston were active 
in capturing armed Free Soil men coming in from Iowa. They 
took prisoners on October 9, for instance, two hundred and 
twenty-three armed immigrants, headed by S. C. Pomeroy, 
Colonel Eldredge and others. 79 By November 12 the Gov- 
ernor of Kansas announced to General Smith, commanding 
the Department of the West, that peace prevailed throughout 
the Territory, for which fact Governor Geary deserves great 
credit. In consideration of these conditions and of the ap- 
proach of winter, all the regular troops, with the exception of 
two companies, returned to their regular stations. 80 

The disbandment of Atchison's army was a fatal blow to the 
hopes of the Missourians, and in the South generally it was 
now beginning to be understood that the battle for Kansas 
was rapidly being lost. Even before Atchison's disbandment, 
an intelligent South Carolinian, member of the Territorial 
militia, writing home in a moment of anger at the release of the 
Free State prisoners in the presence of Lane's and Harvey's 
men at Lecompton, blurted out the truth about the useless- 
ness of those Southerners remaining who had come merely to 

"And why should we remain? We cannot fight, and of course 
cannot prevent our enemy from voting. The object of our mission 
will then, of course, be defeated, and we had as well return. Which- 
ever way the Kansas question be decided, 'tis my opinion, and the 
opinion with all with whom I have conversed, that a dissolution 
of the Union will be effected by it. The Abolitionists themselves 
say they 'will have Kansas if it splits the Union into a thousand 
pieces.'" 81 


Not even the abstention of the Free State men from the elec- 
tion of October 6 for delegate to Congress, for members of 
the Legislature, and on the question of a Constitutional con- 
vention, and the consequent election of Whitfield and other 
pro-slavery men, raised any genuine hopes in the hearts of the 
slavery leaders. 

The restoration of peace, the release of his son and the 
approach of winter were the reasons why John Brown decided 
to leave Kansas for the East in search of rest and additional 
funds to carry on the war for freedom. He had never meant 
to be a settler, and there was nothing left to take him or his 
sons back to Osawatomie. Their cabins, such as they were, 
had been destroyed, and with them all their personal property, 
and the books of John Brown, Jr., upon which he placed a 
value of three hundred dollars. This son thought that to pre- 
serve his reason he must return to a placid life and quiet 
scenes. 82 John Brown himself, suffering from the prevailing 
dysentery and chills and fever, was compelled to leave in a 
wagon. He wrote to his family, however, that he would 
return to Kansas if the troubles continued. 83 With him into 
Iowa went his three sons, John, Jason and Owen, while his 
two daughters-in-law and their little sons took the river route, 
now open to Free Soil traffic of this kind. 

On departing from the Territory, Brown left the remainder 
of his Osawatomie "volunteer-regular" company under the 
command of James H. Holmes, with instructions to "carry 
the war into Africa." This Holmes did by raiding into Mis- 
souri and appropriating some horses and arms and other 
property, for which he was promptly and properly indicted 
and long pursued by the Kansas and Missouri authorities. 84 
By October 10, John Brown and his sons were safely at 
Tabor, after a very narrow escape from the vigilant Lieut.- 
Col. Cooke, who, reporting on October 7 from a "camp near 
Nebraska boundary," wrote: "I arrived here yesterday, at 
noon. I just missed the arrest of the notorious Osawatomie 
outlaw, Brown. The night before, having ascertained that 
after dark he had stopped for the night at a house six miles 
from the camp, I sent a party who found at 12 o'clock that 
he had gone." 85 Evidently, Lieut.-Col. Cooke was not aware 
of Osawatomie Brown's presence at Lawrence when he was 


there; nor did he know of the "outlaw's" other narrow es- 
capes from capture^ One of these incidents of the return from 
Kansas is thus related by Jason Brown: 

"We crossed the river at Topeka. We had a four-mule team, 
and a one-horse covered wagon. The mule team was full of arms 
and ammunition that father was taking out to Tabor. I cannot 
remember just now the name of the driver, but he was a man 
who was always faithful to us and had stuck to us right through. 
In the covered, one-horse team was a fugitive slave, covered over 
with hay, father, lying sick, Owen, John and I. Owen, John and I 
walked all we could to save the horse. At New Holton we came 
out on a high prairie and saw the U. S. troops a large body 
encamped on the stream below. When John and I saw that, we 
thought we had fallen into a trap. 'We '11 go right down there,' said 
father. 'If we do,' said John, 'we'll be captured. I for one won't 
go.' 'I, for another, won't go,' said I. So father drove right on 
down, and camped just outside their pickets, that night. But before 
he got within two miles of that camp of troops, John and I left him, 
it was dark and walked about six or eight miles I am not 
sure of the distance around and met father next morning, 
about sunrise on the Nebraska road. Owen, as always, stuck with 
father. For a time we and father travelled different roads and did 
not meet. We finally got both wagons together at the ferry at 
Nebraska City and camped. Next morning we crossed the river, 
by rope ferry, into the southwest corner of Iowa. When we landed 
we let the contraband out from the hay, fixed him up the best we 
could, and travelled on to Tabor. There Owen stopped, and the 
negro there found work. John and I had the horse to go to Iowa 
City with. We rode and tied, to that point, where the railway 

Before leaving Lawrence, John Brown received two letters 
from Charles Robinson, both of them of special interest be- 
cause of the Governor's subsequent attacks upon Brown in the 
never-ending and extremely bitter controversy as to whether 
Brown or Lane or Robinson was the real saviour of Kansas: 

LAWRENCE, Sept. 15, 1856. 

CAPT. JOHN BROWN: MY DEAR SIR: I take this opportunity 
to express to you my sincere gratification that the late report that 
you were among the killed at the battle of Osawatomie is incorrect. 

Your course, so far as I have been informed, has been such as to 
merit the highest praise from every patriot, and I cheerfully accord 
to you my heartfelt thanks for your prompt, efficient and timely 
action against the invaders of our rights and the murderers of our 
citizens. History will give your name a proud place on her pages, 


and posterity will pay homage to your heroism in the cause of God 
and Humanity. 

Trusting that you will conclude to remain in Kansas and serve 
during the war the cause you have done so much to sustain, and 
with earnest prayers for your health and protection from the shafts 
of Death that so thickly beset your path, I subscribe myself, 
Very respectfully 

Your Ob't Servant 


The other letter, dated earlier, reads as follows : 

LAWRENCE, Sept 13, '56 

Gov Geary has been here and talks very well. He promises to 
protect us, etc., etc. There will be no attempt to arrest anyone for 
a few days, and I think no attempt to arrest you is contemplated 
by him. He talks of letting the past be forgotten so far as may be 
and of commencing anew. 

If convenient can you not come into town and see us. I will then 
tell you all that the Gov. said and talk of some other matters. 
Very respectfully 


On the back of this note is a pencilled memorandum of 
John Brown, Jr., to his father, which includes among other 
advice these words: "Don't go into that secret military 
refugee plan talked of by Robinson, I beg of you." Over this 
letter and sentence there was a vitriolic controversy between 
John Brown, Jr., and Governor Robinson in 1883 and 1884, 
the former insisting that at the private meeting requested, the 
Governor asked Brown to undertake the kidnapping of the 
leading pro-slavery generals, and the doing away of others in 
Pottawatomie fashion, and that his father replied: "If you 
know of any job of that sort that needs to be done, I advise 
you to do it yourself." 89 No one else has publicly accused 
Governor Robinson of sinking quite to the depths of urging 
deliberate assassination, and it is needless to say that he in- 
dignantly denied the charge. Those who would decide where 
the truth lies must make up their minds which man's word 
was the weightier. 

Free from any other blood-stain, John Brown quitted the 
ravaged Territory. If he had deliberately committed the 


Pottawatomie murders in order to embroil Kansans and Mis- 
sourians, he had every reason to view with satisfaction the 
results of his bloody deed. The carnival of crime and the civil 
war inaugurated by the sacking of Lawrence and the midnight 
assassinations in the hitherto peaceful region of Osawatomie, 
had brought eastern Kansas to the lowest state of her for- 
tunes. Governor Geary accurately portrayed it in his farewell 
to the people of Kansas on March 12 of the next year: 

"I reached Kansas and entered upon the discharge of my official 
duties in the most gloomy hour of her history. Desolation and ruin 
reigned on every hand ; homes and firesides were deserted ; the smoke 
of burning dwellings darkened the atmosphere; women and chil- 
dren, driven from their habitations, wandered over the prairies and 
among the woodland, or sought refuge and protection even among 
the Indian tribes; the highways were infested with numerous preda- 
tory bands, and the towns were fortified and garrisoned by armies 
of conflicting partisans, each excited almost to frenzy, and deter- 
mined upon mutual extermination. Such was, without exaggera- 
tion, the condition of the Territory at the period of my arrival." 80 

Between November i, 1855, and December I, 1856, about 
two hundred people are known to have lost their lives in the 
anarchical conditions that prevailed, and the property loss in 
this period is officially set down at not less than two millions 
of dollars, one half of which was sustained by bona fide settlers, 
the larger portion falling on the Free State emigrants. 91 How- 
ever superior in character and intelligence and industry the 
latter indubitably were in the beginning, there was but little 
to choose between the Border Ruffians and the Kansas Ruf- 
fians in midsummer of 1856. The Whipples and Harveys and 
Browns plundered and robbed as freely on one side as did the 
Martin Whites, the Reids and the Tituses on the other, and 
there was not the slightest difference in their methods. Both 
sides respected women; but in remorseless killing of individ- 
uals, the Border Ruffians were guilty of a savagery that would 
place them far below the scale of the Free Soil men, were it not 
for the massacre on the Pottawatomie. If the Eastern press 
discreetly refused to believe a single Free State outrage, or to 
portray raids like those on Franklin in their true colors, the 
pro-slavery partisans met every charge with the allegation 
that it was an "Abolition lie." In the eyes of New England, 


Reid's taking the lives of Free Soil men at Osawatomie was 
"butchery," while the exterminating of Border Ruffians was 
merely "killing," as John Brown phrased these incidents in 
his story of that fight. Probably no one in the East in Octo- 
ber, 1856, realized the utter demoralization of the Free State 
men, or the violence and lawlessness of their methods. For this 
ignorance the excitement of the Presidential campaign, which 
resulted in Fremont's defeat, may have been in part respon- 
sible. To many of the radical Abolitionists in the East, the 
bloodshed in Kansas was a plain indication that slavery could 
hereafter be ended only by the bayonet. 92 

It is, of course, undeniable that the Border Ruffian outrages 
in Kansas enormously aroused the North on the slavery ques- 
tion and prepared the way for the tremendous outburst of 
excitement or anger over the Harper's Ferry raid. But it is 
idle to assert that Kansas would never have been free, had it 
not weltered in blood in 1856; if the Sharp's rifle policy had 
not been followed. Climate and soil fought in Kansas on the 
side of the Free State men. The Southerners themselves com- 
plained that their settlers who did reach Kansas were inocu- 
lated with the virus of liberty, became Free Soilers and often 
freed their slaves. 93 The familiar slave crops never could have 
been raised in Kansas with its bleak winters. Moreover, the 
South was never a colonizing section ; the history of the set- 
tlement of our Western communities proves this, if the fate 
of Buford's band and its inability to settle down anywhere 
did not. The final failure of the slave-power to hold the great 
advantage it had in Kansas in 1855 was not due to fear of 
weapons, but to inability to place farmers and pioneers on the 
battle-ground. The wave of emigrants from the East was 
from the beginning certain to roll over the Kansas plains, even 
if it had not been expedited by the Emigrant Aid Societies, to 
whom due credit for hastening the turning of the tide must be 

Equally certain is it that no one man decided the fate of 
Kansas. In this narrative no effort has been made to estimate 
the relative values to Kansas of Eli Thayer, the founder of the 
Emigrant Aid movement, or of Charles Robinson, or of James 
H. Lane, or of Brown. It would be an invidious undertaking; 
to enter into the bitter disputes of the partisan followers of 


Robinson, Lane and Brown is a task which no historian 
would attempt unless compelled by his theme to do so. Their 
adulators have forgotten that properly to understand and esti- 
mate the forces brought into play in Kansas, one must fairly 
go back to the foundation of our government. The irrepressi- 
ble conflict between freedom and slavery would have gone on 
and come to a head had Kansas never been thrown open to 
settlement, and that Territory must have been free had there 
been no Lane and no Robinson and no John Brown. The 
great nation-stirring movement of which they were a part 
can best be likened to a glacier; for decades it moved imper- 
ceptibly; suddenly the people it overshadowed awoke to the 
fact that their very existence was threatened by this mon- 
strous mass of prejudice and wrong and crime. 

Of John Brown, as he left Kansas after just a year of 
activity, with the most important period of his service to the 
Territory behind him, it may truthfully be said that his deeds, 
good and evil, had appealed strongly to the imagination of 
all who read of him sympathetically. Like a relentless High- 
land chieftain of old, he appeared to personify indomitable, 
unswerving resistance to the forces of slavery. To those Free 
Soilers who believed in the argumentative methods of the Old 
Testament, his name was henceforth one to conjure with. 
Not in his methods, however, but in his uncompromising 
hostility to that human bondage for which he was ready to 
sacrifice his life, lies his undoubted claim to a place in the 
history of Kansas and of the Nation. 


AT Tabor, Iowa, John Brown, weak and ill, met with a hearty 
reception at the hands of that colony of Ohioans. Under the 
leadership of George B. Gaston, for four years a missionary 
among the Pawnee Indians, and the Rev. John Todd, there 
had been founded at Tabor, in 1848, a community which was 
intended to be another Oberlin. 1 Most of its settlers came 
from that earnestly religious and bravely anti-slavery town. 
They were steeped in its Abolition views and in sympathy 
with its protests against hyper-Calvinism, in short, brought 
with them the Oberlin devotion to truth and liberty. It was 
the most congenial soil upon which John Brown had set foot 
since his departure from Ohio. Here all men and women 
thought his own thoughts and spoke his own words. Though 
it was then but a straggling prairie town of twenty-five houses, 
with little of the present beauty of its wide and richly shaded 
streets, Tabor was ever an attractive haven for John Brown 
and his sons. On the overland route into Kansas, it was far 
enough from the Territory to be free from disorder, and the 
arriving and departing emigrant trains gave it an especial 
interest and kept it in touch with the storm-centre of the 
nation. News from Kansas came regularly, while the scattered 
pro-slavery sympathizers in the neighborhood, who acted as 
spies for the Missourians, or those who passed through en 
route to the Territory, added zest to the town's life, particu- 
larly when the Southern visitors were in search of the slaves 
who passed on to safety and freedom by the underground 
route. This long counted Tabor one of its important far West- 
ern stations. 

Mrs. Gaston has left the following account of conditions 
in Tabor during the time of John Brown's visit: 

"That summer and autumn our houses, before too full, were 
much overfilled, and our comforts shared with those passing to and 
from Kansas to secure it to Freedom. When houses would hold no 


more, woodsheds were temporized for bedrooms, where the sick 
and dying were cared for. Barns also were fixed for sleeping rooms. 
Every place where a bed could be put or a blanket thrown down 
was at once so occupied. There were comers and goers all times of 
day or night meals at all hours many free hotels, perhaps en- 
tertaining angels unawares. After battles they were here for rest 
before for preparation. General Lane once stayed three weeks 
secretly while it was reported abroad that he was back in Indiana 
for recruits and supplies, which came ere long, consisting of all kinds 
of provisions, Sharps rifles, powder and lead. A cannon packed in 
corn made its way through the enemy's lines, and ammunition of 
all kinds in clothing and kitchen furniture, etc., etc. Our cellars 
contained barrels of powder and boxes of rifles. Often our chairs, 
tables, beds and such places were covered with what weapons every 
one carried about him, so that if one needed and got time to rest a 
little in the day time, we had to remove the Kansas furniture, or 
rest with loaded revolvers, cartridge boxes and bowie knives piled 
around them, and boxes of swords under the bed." 2 

Here John Brown stayed about a week after his arrival 
from Kansas. Here he stored the arms he had brought with 
him, and this place he chose as the coming headquarters of the 
band of one hundred "volunteer-regulars" for whom he now 
planned to raise funds in the East to the amount of twenty 
thousand dollars, and here actual training for war-service 
against the forces of slavery was soon to begin. For this was 
the plan which John Brown's brain had now formulated. The 
peace of Geary he did not value; indeed, he unjustly de- 
nounced the Governor at this period as having been unpardon- 
ably slow in reaching Lawrence with the Federal troops, when 
that town was menaced by Atchison and Reid. He wanted a 
secret unpaid force that would subsist as best it might between 
periods of activity, but be ready with rifle, pistol and sword to 
come together to repel invasion, or even to undertake a coun- 
ter-invasion. If he rightly judged that hostilities between the 
two contending parties in Kansas were not yet over, he over- 
estimated the likelihood of a fresh outbreak when the spring 
should come again. By then he hoped to return to Kansas 
with plenty of arms and ammunition, and recruit the men he 

After his brief stay for recuperation, John Brown set out 
over the overland route to Chicago by way of Iowa City and 
Springdale, arriving there about the 22d or 23d of October 




with his sons, Jason and John Brown, Jr., who had preceded 
him from Tabor. The father reported at once at the offices of 
the National Kansas Committee, where his presence aroused 
great interest. He was soon asked to accompany the train 
of "freight" for the Free State cause then being conducted 
through Iowa to Kansas by Dr. J. P. Root, in order to advise 
that leader. 

"Capt. Brown," wrote General J. D. Webster to Dr. Root 
on October 25, "says the immediate introduction of the sup- 
plies is not of much consequence compared to the danger of 
losing them." On the next day, Horace W T hite, then assistant 
secretary of the National Kansas Committee, later editor of 
the Chicago Tribune and New York Evening Post, wrote to 
him this note : 3 


CHICAGO, Oct. 26, 1856. 

CAPTAIN BROWN, We expect Mr. Arny, our General Agent 
just from Kansas to be in tomorrow morning. He has been in the 
territory particularly to ascertain the condition of certain affairs 
for our information. I know he will very much regret not having 
seen you. If it is not absolutely essential for you to go on tonight, 
I would recommend you to wait & see him. I shall confer with 
Col. Dickey on this point. 

Rev. Theodore Parker of Boston is at the Briggs House, & wishes 
very much to see you. 

Yours truly, 

HORACE WHITE, Assist. Sec., etc. 

If you wish one or two of those rifles, please call at our office 
between 3 & 5 this afternoon, or between 7 & 8 this evening. 


It is the testimony of Salmon Brown that his father did 
turn back and return to Tabor in the wake of the Root train. 
This had a special interest for him, because with it went his 
two sons Salmon and Watson, who had received, when digging 
potatoes at North Elba, the news of the battle of Osawatomie, 
and of a speech by Martin White boasting of his having killed 
Frederick Brown. The next morning they were on their way 
back to Kansas for the avowed purpose of killing White, 
Salmon going to the Territory for the second time, Watson 
for the first. 4 Assisted by Gerrit Smith, Frederick Douglass 
and other friends (to whom naturally they did not reveal their 


exact errand), they reached Chicago, where Mr. White gave 
them each a Sharp's rifle, and then joined Dr. Root's party. 
With it they unwittingly passed their father in Iowa, as he 
was bound to Chicago. At St. Charles, Iowa, Watson wrote on 
October 30 to North Elba that the train travelled very slowly, 
and that he had heard a report that his father had gone East. 8 
John Brown, on learning in Chicago of their whereabouts, at 
once communicated with his son Owen, who had remained at 
Tabor, urging him to stop the younger sons there until he could 
arrive. Owen delivered the message, and Watson awaited his 
father's arrival, Salmon pushing on to carry out his plan. 
When he reached Topeka, he heard and credited a false story 
of Martin White's death, and returned to his Uncle Jeremiah 
Brown's at Hudson, Ohio, by the aid of a cavalry horse bought 
from the hanger-on of a camp of the natural enemies of the 
Brown family, some regular cavalry, without, however, 
a perfect title to the mount. 

At Tabor, Dr. Root's train deposited its arms and gave up 
the attempt to enter Kansas. Curiously enough, there were 
in its wagons the two hundred rifles which John Brown and 
his men subsequently took to Harper's Ferry. The Rev. John 
Todd's cellar was filled with boxes of clothing, ammunition, 
these two hundred rifles, sabres and a brass cannon, for the 
whole of that winter of 1856-57. With his son Watson, John 
Brown soon left Tabor. They "rode and tied across Iowa on 
a big mule and got to Ohio two weeks after I did," writes 
Salmon Brown, whose cavalry steed had carried him eastward 
in phenomenally short time. John Brown stopped again in 
Chicago, early in December, arriving in Ohio after an absence 
of over fifteen months.* He was not content, however, to lin- 
ger with his relatives in Hudson; he pushed on to Albany, 
Rochester and Peterboro. 

* It was probably at this time that John Brown, visiting his half-sister, Mrs. 
S. C. Davis, in Grafton, Ohio, made a characteristic reply to Mrs. Davis's ques- 
tion: "John, is n't it dreadful that Fre*mont should have been defeated 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 right down 
and made no further effort. Now they know they must work if they want to save 
a free State." Statement of Mrs. S. C. Davis, Kalamazoo, Mich., November 
24, 1909, to K. Mayo. 


But his overweening desire to obtain men, weapons and 
supplies for Kansas left him no time for his Adirondack home. 
Just after the New Year he arrived in Boston, and there began 
a series of friendships which became of the greatest value 
to him during the remainder of his life. Here he met for the 
first time Frank B. Sanborn, ever afterward his most ardent 
Massachusetts friend and defender, who was then acting as 
a secretary of the Massachusetts State Kansas Committee. 
Sanborn, then but a year and a half out of Harvard, was 
on fire for the anti-slavery cause, and ready to worship any 
of its militant leaders. John Brown, fresh from the Kansas 
battlefields, made a deep impression upon this young Con- 
cord school-master, who had turned over his scholars to a 
Harvard student while he worked for Kansas. On January 5, 
Sanborn thus recorded his first impressions of his life's hero to 
Mr. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the fighting young Uni- 
tarian parson of Worcester: 

"'Old Brown' of Kansas is now in Boston, with one of his sons, 
working for an object in which you will heartily sympathize 
raising and arming a company of men for the future protection of 
Kansas. He wishes to raise $30,000 to arm and equip a company 
such as he thinks he can raise this present winter, but he will, as 
I understand him, take what money he can raise and use it as far 
as it will go. Can you not come to Boston tomorrow or next day 
and see Capt. Brown? If not, please indicate when you will be in 
Worcester, so he can see you. I like the man from what I have seen 
and his deeds ought to bear witness for him." 6 

To Mr. Sanborn, John Brown brought a personal letter 
of introduction from a relative in Springfield, Massachu- 
setts, and a general one from Governor Salmon P. Chase, of 
Ohio, based on Charles Robinson's letter of commendation, 
and dated December 20, 1856.* At once Mr. Sanborn took 
him to Dr. Samuel G. Howe and Theodore Parker. Patrick 
Tracy Jackson, the treasurer of the Massachusetts State 
Kansas Committee, George L. Stearns, Amos A. Lawrence, 
Dr. Samuel Cabot, Jr., Judge Thomas Russell, Wendell 
Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison were some of the other 
friends Brown made. Mr. Garrison he met one Sunday 
evening in January at Theodore Parker's. They were at oppo- 

* Governor Chase gave Brown twenty-five dollars on this occasion. 


site poles of thought in their methods of dealing with slavery. 
Mr. Garrison, a non-resistant, could conceive no situation in 
which it was right to take up arms, "carnal weapons," as 
he often called them, while Brown was all impatience with 
men who only talked and would not shoot. The debate lasted 
until late in the evening. Mr. Garrison, it has been recorded, 

"saw in the famous Kansas chieftain a tall, spare, farmer-like man, 
with head disproportionately small, and that inflexible mouth which 
as yet no beard concealed. They discussed peace and nonresist- 
ance together, Brown quoting the Old Testament against Gar- 
rison's citations from the New, and Parker from time to time in- 
jecting a bit of Lexington into the controversy, which attracted 
a small group of interested listeners." 7 

Mr. Parker soon became one of five men who grouped 
themselves as an informal committee to aid Brown in what- 
ever attacks he might make on slavery, though Mr. Parker 
was not certain that Brown's general plan for attacking the 
hated institution would be successful. "I doubt," he said, 
"whether things of this kind will succeed. But we shall make 
a great many failures before we discover the right way of get- 
ting at it. This may as well be one of them." 8 When the final 
blow was struck, no one wrote more vigorously in Brown's 
support than did Theodore Parker. 

George Luther Stearns, a successful merchant of Boston 
and an exceptionally public-spirited man, became, as he him- 
self put it, "strongly impressed" with Brown's "sagacity, 
courage, and strong integrity," and thereafter practically put 
his purse at Brown's disposal. 9 He and Gerrit Smith gave to 
him more liberally than any one else, as will hereafter appear, 
and their homes were always open to him. It was on Sunday, 
January n, 1857, that Brown first entered the hospitable 
Stearns mansion, entertaining the family at table with an 
account of Black Jack, grimly humorous. 10 To Mr. Stearns 
he gave his views of the Kansas chieftains, Pomeroy, Robin- 
son, etc., exalting Martin F. Conway as the best of the politi- 
cal leaders, but characterizing him as lacking in force. The 
memory of that dinner is still kept green in the Stearns 
family; its immediate effect was a determination on Mr. 
Stearns's part to do everything in his power to get Brown the 
arms and money he desired. 


Amos A. Lawrence, who had known Brown when he was 
in Springfield in the wool business, records in his diary on 
January 7: "Captain Brown, the old partisan hero of Kan- 
sas warfare, came to see me. I had a long talk with him. He is 
a calm, temperate and pious man, but when roused he is a 
dreadful foe. He appears about sixty years old." u In view 
of Mr. Lawrence's complete change of opinion in regard to 
Brown in later years, it is interesting to note that he about this 
time characterized Brown as the " Miles Standish of Kansas." 

"His severe simplicity of habits," Mr. Lawrence continued, "his 
determined energy, his heroic courage in the time of trial, all based 
on a deep religious faith, make him a true representative of the 
Puritanic warrior. I knew him before he went to Kansas and have 
known more of him since, and should esteem the loss of his service, 
from poverty, or any other cause, almost irreparable." 1 

This opinion Mr. Lawrence was also willing to back with his 
money. He offered to be 

"one of ten, or a smaller number, to pay a thousand dollars per 
annum till the admission of Kansas into the Union, for the purpose 
of supporting John Brown's family and keeping the proposed com- 
pany in the field." 

This record of the impression made by John Brown upon 
those whom he met about this time would not be complete 
without a quotation from Henry D. Thoreau, in whose house 
at Concord Brown saw, in March, Ralph Waldo Emerson. 
It was eminently characteristic of the strength of Brown's 
personality, and of the vigor of his mentality, that he should 
have made both of these men his devoted adherents. Like 
Theodore Parker's, their support of him became of enormous 
value in 1859, in shaping the judgment of the time upon John 
Brown. In his eloquent 'Plea for Captain John Brown,' 
Thoreau thus describes Brown as he found him in 1857 : 13 

"A man of rare common-sense and directness of speech, as of ac- 
tion; a transcendentalist above all, a man of ideas and principles, 
that was what distinguished him. Not yielding to a whim or tran- 
sient impulse, but carrying out the purpose of a life. I noticed that 
he did not overstate anything, but spoke within bounds. I remem- 
ber, particularly, how, in his speech here, he referred to what his 
family had suffered in Kansas, without ever giving the least vent to 


his pent-up fire. It was a volcano with an ordinary chimney-flue. 
Also, referring to the deeds of certain Border Ruffians, he said, 
rapidly paring away his speech, like an experienced soldier, keep- 
ing a reserve of force and meaning, 'They had a perfect right to 
be hung.' He was not in the least a rhetorician, was not talking to 
Buncombe or his constituents anywhere, had no need to invent 
anything, but to tell the simple truth, and communicate his own 
resolution; therefore he appeared incomparably strong, and elo- 
quence in Congress and elsewhere seemed to me at a discount. It 
was like the speeches of Cromwell compared with those of an ordi- 
nary king." 

It must not be forgotten, in this connection, that very little 
was known in Boston at this time about the Pottawatomie 
murders, and still less about John Brown's connection with 
them. Frank Preston Stearns, the biographer of his father, 
states that the latter never knew of John Brown's connection 
with the crime, 14 and it may well be that Theodore Parker 
and others passed off the scene without a full realization of 
the connection between the Harper's Ferry leader and the 
tragedy of May 24, 1856. To none of these new-found friends 
did Brown at this period communicate his Virginia plan. 
He kept it to himself a year longer; but he did not conceal 
from some of them his desire to defend Kansas by raiding 
in Missouri, or by attacking slavery at some other vulnerable 
point. With the general idea they were, like Theodore Parker, 
in accord, but not sufficiently interested to ask for details, so 
abounding was the faith in himself which the mere appear- 
ance of the man created. 

John Brown's first practical encouragement came on 
January 7, when the Massachusetts State Kansas Committee, 
of which Stearns was chairman, voluntarily voted to give 
him the two hundred Sharp's rifles, together with four thou- 
sand ball cartridges and thirty-one thousand percussion caps, 
then in the Rev. John Todd's cellar at Tabor. 15 These arms 
Brown was glad to obtain, because of their nearness to the 
scene of action ; he was to take possession of them as the 
agent of the committee, and, more than that, was authorized 
to draw on the treasurer, Mr. P. T. Jackson, for not less 
than five hundred dollars for expenses. The only conditions 
were that these rifles were to be held subject to the order 
of the committee, and that Brown was to report from time 


to time the condition of the property and the disposition 
made of it, "so far as it is proper to do so." Subsequently 
(April 15, 1857), Brown was authorized to sell one hundred 
of these rifles to Free State settlers in Kansas for not less 
than fifteen dollars each, and to apply the proceeds to relieve 
the suffering inhabitants of the Territory. 16 These weapons, 
originally purchased by Dr. Cabot, under instructions voted 
on September 10, were first intended to be "loaned to actual 
settlers for defence against unlawful aggressions upon their 
rights and liberties." 17 Afterwards, there arose a misunder- 
standing as to the ownership of these arms between the State 
Committee, the National Committee and the Central Com- 
mittee for Kansas at Lawrence, which was finally straightened 
out by the National Committee's relinquishment of all claim 
to the rifles, just as the Massachusetts Committee was about 
to proceed legally for their recovery. 

It was at the Astor House in New York that the National 
Kansas Committee met on Saturday, January 24, for the ses- 
sion at which the rifles were returned to the original donors. 
John Brown applied for them, but, as Horace White sub- 
sequently testified, there was a good deal of opposition to 
the policy of granting him arms. 18 Twelve boxes of selected 
clothing, sufficient for sixty persons, were given to him, but 
the question of the rifles was settled by transferring them to 
the Massachusetts Committee, on motion of Mr. Sanborn. 
A resolution appropriating five thousand dollars for John 
Brown was violently opposed by those who were against giv- 
ing him the rifles ; they felt that he was too radical and violent 
to be trusted with such a sum, and that he would, if given it, 
disburse it in ways the Committee might not sanction. 19 The 
Secretary of the National Committee, H. B. Hurd, recorded in 
1860 that he asked Brown before the Committee: " If you get 
the arms and money you desire, will you invade Missouri or 
any slave territory?" To which he [Brown] replied: 

"I am no adventurer. You all know me. You are acquainted 
with my history. You know what I have done in Kansas. I do not 
expose my plans. No one knows them but myself, except perhaps 
one. I will not be interrogated ; if you wish to give me anything I 
want you to give it freely. I have no other purpose but to serve 
the cause of liberty." 2< \ 


While the reply was not satisfactory so far as the rifles in 
question were concerned, the Committee did vote five thou- 
sand dollars "in aid of Capt. John Brown in any defensive 
measures that may become necessary." He was authorized 
to draw five hundred dollars whenever he wished it, but it is 
interesting to note that he never obtained more than one 
hundred and fifty dollars, and that not until the summer of 
1857, the Committee having no more to give. How this 
failure rankled in Brown's mind appears in his letter of April 
3, 1857, to William Barnes, of Albany, who yet preserves the 
original: "I am prepared to expect nothing but bad faith from 
the National Kansas Committee at Chicago, as I will show 
you hereafter. This is for the present confidential." In notify- 
ing Brown officially, after the action of the Committee, Mr. 
Hurd stated that "such arms and supplies as the Committee 
may have and which may be needed by Capt. Brown" were 
appropriated to his use, "provided that the arms & supplies 
be not more than enough for one hundred men." Zl But this 
obviously did not apply to the rifles previously returned to 
Massachusetts. Under this provision, twenty-five Colt's navy 
revolvers were subsequently sent to Brown at Lawrence 
through Mr. W. F. M. Arny, agent of the Committee, but 
they never reached Brown himself. As he did not appear to 
claim them, they were loaned to the Stubbs military company. 
John Brown, in explanation of his attitude, told Horace White 
that he "had had so much trouble and fuss and difficulty with 
the people of Lawrence, that he would never go there again 
to claim anything." 22 

Immediately after the adjournment of the National Com- 
mittee, Brown placed in Horace White's hands a substantial 
list of articles he needed for the equipment of fifty volunteers, 
and the cost thereof delivered in Lawrence or Topeka. 23 * 
Jonas Jones, of Tabor, who was in official charge of the Free 
State supplies there, was ordered to retain everything in his 
hands until John Brown had made his choice. By February 18, 
Mr. White wrote that the articles Brown had requisitioned 
would be shipped the following week, and on March 21 he 
notified Brown that he would shortly go to Kansas and work 
there to fit Brown out with all the supplies he was entitled to 

* See Appendix for this requisition. 


under the New York resolution; 24 while in the same month, 
W. F. M. Arny wrote that he had packed and sent to Jonas 
Jones fourteen boxes of clothing for Brown's use. 26 While 
his interests were thus considerately being cared for, after the 
New York meeting, Brown again went to Peterboro, by way 
of Vergennes, Vermont and Rochester, to visit Gerrit Smith, 
who, although contributing a thousand dollars a month to the 
National Kansas Committee, was quite ready to help Brown 
from time to time, and never kept account of the sums he gave 
to the Kansas fighter. From Peterboro, Brown made, with 
John Brown, Jr., a flying trip to his wife and family at North 
Elba, whom he had not seen for a year and a half. 26 But he 
was in Boston again on February 16, where he wrote to 
Augustus Wattles, asking for the latest Kansas news and for 
Wattles's honest conviction in regard to Governor Geary. 27 
Indeed, from now on until he finally went to Tabor, en route 
to Kansas, the story of his movements is one of incessant 
and restless wandering throughout New England and New 

On the 1 8th of February he made what was his most nota- 
ble public appearance in New England before the Joint 
Committee on Federal Relations of the Massachusetts Legis- 
lature. The friends of Kansas were urging upon the Legisla- 
ture an appropriation of one hundred thousand dollars, on the 
ground that, as Mr. Sanborn assured the Legislature, "the 
rights and interests of Massachusetts have suffered gross out- 
rage in Kansas." No labored argument seemed to him neces- 
sary, but there were witnesses to testify to what had occurred 
in Kansas, among them E. B. Whitman, Martin F. Conway 
and John Brown. Whitman and Brown were introduced as 
having the best blood of the Mayflower in their veins and being 
descendants of soldiers of the Revolution. Brown's lengthy 
speech was, in substance, a story of his -own experiences 
(Pottawatomie omitted) and a review of the Border Ruffian 
outrages upon individuals and towns, without mentioning any 
of the Free State reprisals. In it he paid a tribute to Ottawa 
Jones and his wife for their care of himself and his sons. 

"I," he said, "with Five sick, & wounded sons, & son in law; were 
obliged for some time to lie on the ground without shelter, our 
Boots & clothes worn out, destitute of money, & at times almost 


in a state of starvation; & dependent on the charities of the Chris- 
tian Indian, & his wife whom I before named." 

In the manuscript of this address, still preserved in the 
Kansas Historical Society, there is the following conclusion: 

"It cost the U S more than half a Million for a year past 'to 
harrass poor Free State settlers, in Kansas, & to violate all Law, 
& all right, Moral, & Constitutional, for the sole Of only purpose, of 
forceing Slavery uppon that Territory. I chalenge this whole nation 
to prove before God or mankind to contrary. Who paid this money 
to enslave the settlers of Kansas; & worry them out? I say nothing 
in this estimate of the money wasted by Congress in the manage- 
ment of this horribly tyranical, & Damnable affair." 

In answer to the chairman's question as to what sort of emi- 
grants Kansas needed, Brown replied: "We want good men, 
industrious men, men who respect themselves; who act only 
from the dictates of conscience; men who fear God too much 
to fear anything human, " - an interesting statement in 
view of the omission of all reference to slavery. 28 

Despite Brown's emphatic words and the moving story of 
his own sufferings, the Massachusetts Legislature decided not 
to vote anything for the Kansas cause, and so Brown turned 
again to raising the money he needed for his own company. 
Besides his trip to Concord, with his two nights in the Thoreau 
and Emerson homes, he visited, in March, Canton, Collinsville, 
Hartford and New Haven, in Connecticut, and was several 
times at the Massasoit House in Springfield, where he was a 
particularly welcome visitor by reason of the interest in him 
of its proprietors, the Messrs. Chapin, who had notified him 
in the previous September of their readiness to send him fifty 
or one hundred dollars "as a testimonial of their admiration 
of your brave conduct during the war." 29 At New Haven, on 
March 18, he received a promise of one thousand dollars. In 
and about Hartford six hundred dollars were raised for him; 
and from Springfield, Brown was able to send four hundred 
dollars to William H. D. Callender, of Hartford, who for some 
time acted as his agent and treasurer. 30 At Canton, where 
both his father and mother had grown up, Brown was gratified 
by a promise to send to his family at North Elba, "Grand- 
Father John Brown's old Granite Monument, about 80 years 
old ; to be faced and inscribed in memory of our poor Fredk 


who sleeps in Kansas," which stone marks to-day Brown's 
own grave. 31 He also received in Canton and Collinsville the 
sum of eighty dollars, after lecturing for three evenings on 
Kansas affairs. About this time he obtained seventy dollars 
sent through Amos A. Lawrence, as he did one hundred dol- 
lars in April contributed by a friend of Mr. Stearns through 
that generous patron. 32 The five hundred dollars voted to him 
by the Massachusetts Kansas State Committee on January 7, 
and a second five hundred voted on April 1 1 , Brown did not 
obtain until the 19th or 2oth of April, when, at Mr. G. L. 
Stearns's suggestion, he drew upon the Committee through 
Henry Sterns, of Springfield. 33 To aid him in his quest, Brown 
wrote and published in the Tribune and other newspapers the 
following appeal for aid: 


The undersigned, whose individual means were exceedingly limited 
when he first engaged in the struggle for Liberty in Kansas, being 
now still more destitute and no less anxious than in time past to 
continue his efforts to sustain that cause, is induced to make this 
earnest appeal to the friends of Freedom throughout the United 
States, in the firm belief that his call will not go unheeded. I ask 
all honest lovers of Liberty and Human Rights, both male and female, 
to hold up my hands by contributions of pecuniary aid, either as 
counties, cities, towns, villages, societies, churches or individuals. 

I will endeavor to make a judicious and faithful application of all 
such means as I may be supplied with. Contributions may be sent 
in drafts to W. H. D. Callender, Cashier State Bank, Hartford, Ct. 
It is my intention to visit as many places as I can during my stay 
in the States, provided I am first informed of the disposition of the 
inhabitants to aid me in my efforts, as well as to receive my visit. 
Information may be communicated to me (care Massasoit House) 
at Springfield, Mass. Will editors of newspapers friendly to the 
cause kindly second the measure, and also give this some half dozen 
insertions? Will either gentlemen or ladies, or both, who love the 
cause, volunteer to take up the business? It is with no little sacrifice 
of personal feeling that I appear in this manner before the public. 


On March 19, while in New Haven, John Brown thus 
turned to Amos A. Lawrence for aid in his private affairs: 

The offer you so kindly made through the Telegraph some time 
since emboldens me to propose the following for your consideration. 


For One Thousand Dollars cash I am offered an improved piece 
of land which with a little improvement I now have might enable 
my family consisting of a Wife & Five minor children (the youngest 
not yet Three years old) to procure a Subsistence should I never 
return to them; my Wife being a good economist, & a real old fash- 
ioned business woman. She has gone through the Two past winters 
in our open cold house: unfinished outside; & not plastered. I have 
no other income or means for their support. I have never hinted 
to anyone else that I had a thought of asking for any help to provide 
in any such way for my family ; & should not to you : but for your 
own suggestion. I fully believe I shall get the help I need to op- 
perate with West. Last Night a private meeting of some gentlemen 
here; voted to raise me One Thousand Dollars in New Haven, for 
that purpose. If you feel at all inclined to encourage me in the mea- 
sure I have proposed I shall be grateful to get a line from you ; Care 
of Massasoit House, Springfield, Mass; & will call when I come 
again to Boston. I do not feel disposed to weary you with my oft 
repeated visitations, I believe I am indebted to you as the unknown 
giver of One Share of Emigrant aid stock ; as I can think of no other 
so likely to have done it. Is my appeal right ? 

Very Respectfully Your Friend 


Mr. Lawrence at once replied that he had just sent four- 
teen thousand dollars to Kansas to found the best possible 
school system, and therefore was short of cash. 

"But," he added, "in case anything should occur while you are 
in a great and good cause to shorten your life, you may be assured 
that your wife and children shall be cared for more liberally than 
you now propose. The family of Captain Brown of Osawatomie 
will not be turned out to starve in this country, untill Liberty her- 
self is driven out." 38 

Later, Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Stearns both agreed to this 
proposal, but this thousand dollars was as slow to appear as 
that promised at New Haven. It was, however, finally raised 
(unlike the New Haven sum) and applied to the purchase of 
the land. The list of contributors to this fund and their gifts 
runs as follows: 

Wm. R. Lawrence, Boston $50 

Amos A. Lawrence, 310 

Geo. L. Stearns, 260 

John E. Lodge, 25 

J. Carter Brown, Providence, R. 1 100 

J. M. S. Williams, Boston ........ 50 


W. D. Pickman, Salem 50 

R. P. Waters, 10 

S. E. Peabody, 10 

John H. Silsbee, " ........ 10 

B. H. Silsbee, 5 

Cash, IO 

Wendell Phillips, Boston 25 

W. I. Rotch, New Bedford 10 

John Bertram, Salem 75 

$iooo 37 

This was not brought together until Brown had found it 
necessary to write, on May 13, the day he left for the West: 
"I must ask to have the $1000 made up at once; & forwarded 
to Gerrit Smith. / did not start the measure of getting up 
any subscription for me; (although I was sufficiently needy 
as God knows) ; nor had I thought of further burdening either 
of my dear friends Stearns, or Lawrence. . . ." 38 The reason 
for this urgency was that he had committed himself for the 
purchase of the land to the brothers Thompson. Even then 
the transaction dragged on until late in August, when Mr. 
Sanborn visited North Elba and put it through. 39 

From the 2ist to the 26th of March, except for a hasty trip 
to Springfield, Brown was in Worcester, part of the time as 
a guest of Eli Thayer. On the 23d he spoke at an anti-slavery 
meeting, and on the 25th he lectured in the City Hall, on 
Kansas. On these and other occasions he relied largely upon 
the address he had given before the Committee of the Massa- 
chusetts Legislature, to which he had appended the following 
statement of his own plans when in Connecticut: 40 ... 

"I am trying to raise from $20, to 25,000 Dollars in the Free 
States to enable me to continue my efforts in the cause of Freedom. 
Will the people of Connecticut my native State afford me some aid 
in this undertaking? ... I was told that the newspapers in a cer- 
tain City were dressed in mourning on hearing that I was killed & 
scalped in Kansas. . . . Much good it did me. In the same place 
I met a more cool reception than in any other place where I have 
stoped. If my friends will hold up my hands while I live: I will 
freely absolve them from any expence over me when I am dead. ..." 

Dr. Francis Wayland, who heard him at Worcester, was 
not inspired by his oratorical powers. "It is one of the cu- 


rious facts," he wrote, " that many men who do it are utterly 
unable to tell about it. John Brown, a flame of fire inaction, 
was dull in speech." 4I Emerson, on the other hand, in re- 
cording in his diary Brown's speech at Concord, said he gave, 

"a good account of himself in the Town Hall last night to a meet- 
ing of citizens. One of his good points was the folly of the peace 
party in Kansas, who believed that their strength lay in the great- 
ness of their wrongs, and so discountenanced resistance. He wished 
to know if their wrong was greater than the negro's, and what 
kind of strength that gave to the negro."* 2 

Later, Emerson wrote this tribute to Brown's powers as a 

"For himself, he is so transparent that all men see him through. 
He is a man to make friends wherever on earth courage and integ- 
rity are esteemed, the rarest of heroes, a pure idealist, with no by- 
ends of his own. Many of you have seen him, and everyone who has 
heard him speak has been impressed alike by his simple, artless 
goodness joined with his sublime courage." 43 

The financial results of the Worcester meetings were slim. 
But Eli Thayer gave him five hundred dollars' worth of 
weapons a cannon and a rifle while Ethan Allen and 
Company also contributed a rifle. 44 March ended for Brown 
with a flying trip to Easton, Pennsylvania, in company with 
Frank Sanborn and Martin Conway, as representatives of 
the Massachusetts Kansas Committee, in a fruitless effort to 
induce ex-Governor Reeder to return to Kansas and assume 
the leadership of the Free State party. 45 But Mr. Reeder 
was too happily situated at Easton ; he was, however, so heart- 
ily in sympathy with Brown's plan that the latter wrote 
to him for aid on his return to Springfield, explaining that 
the only difference between them was as to the number of 
men needed, and hoping that Mr. Reeder would soon dis- 
cern the necessity of "going out to Kansas this spring." 46 It 
was on this visit to the Massasoit House that Brown found 
a letter from his wife telling him of his sons' decision to fight 
no more. To this he replied on March 31: . 

" I have only to say as regards the resolution of the boys to 'learn 
and practice war no more,' that it was not at my solicitation that 
they engaged in it at the first that while I may perhaps feel no 


more love of the business than they do, still I think there may 
be possibly in their day that which is more to be dreaded, if such 
things do not now exist."" 

His financial progress to the end of March by no means 
satisfied Brown. On the 3d of April he wrote thus despond- 
ently to William Barnes, of Albany: 

"I expect soon to return West; & to go back without securing 
even an outfit. I go with a sad heart having failed to secure even 
the means of equiping; to say nothing of feeding men. I had when 
I returned no more that I could peril ; & could make no further sac- 
rifice, except to go about in the attitude of a beggar: & that I have 
done, humiliating as it is." 

The winter was slipping away rapidly; spring was at hand. 
He was impatient to return to Kansas, and his benefac- 
tors expected him to be there in the spring in time for any 
fresh aggression by the Border Ruffians. But his travelling 
expenses were not light, and there were two matters that 
rapidly reduced his cash resources, especially during the 
month of April. On the occasion of Brown's first visit to 
Collinsville, about the beginning of March, he met, among 
others, Charles Blair, a blacksmith and forge-master, who 
attended Brown's lecture on Kansas and heard his appeal 
for funds. The next morning he saw Brown in the village 
drug-store, where, to a group of interested citizens, the Cap- 
tain was exhibiting some weapons which were part of the 
property taken from Pate and not returned to him. Mr. 
Blair testified in 1859: 48 

"Among them was a two-edged dirk, with a blade about eight 
inches long, and he [Brown] remarked that if he had a lot of those 
things to attach to poles about six feet long, they would be a cap- 
ital weapon of defense for the settlers of Kansas to keep in their log 
cabins to defend themselves against any sudden attack that might 
be made on them. He turned to me, knowing, I suppose, that I was 
engaged in edge-tool making, and asked me what I would make 
them for; what it would cost to make five hundred or one thousand 
of those things, as he described them. I replied, without much con- 
sideration, that I would make him five hundred of them for a dollar 
and a quarter apiece; or if he wanted a thousand of them, I thought 
they might be made for a dollar apiece. I did not wish to commit 
myself then and there without further investigation. . . . He sim- 


ply remarked that he would want them made. I thought no more 
about it until a few days afterwards. . . . The result was that I 
made a contract with him." 

This document was not signed until March 30, ten days 
after Blair had shipped one dozen spears as samples to the 
Massasoit House. This was the genesis of the Harper's Ferry 
pikes, for the weapons Brown contracted for were never 
delivered until 1859, long after any Kansas need for them 
had disappeared. 

The reason for this delay is not to be explained, as some 
have thought, by the theory that Brown from the first in- 
tended to use the spears elsewhere than in Kansas. There 
is evidence, besides his statements and letters to Blair, that 
he really thought these weapons would be of value even to 
the Free State women of the embattled Territory. Un- 
doubtedly, Brown looked forward to a further attack upon 
slavery after the Kansas battle was won. The fate of Kansas 
appealed to him only in so far as it involved an aggressive 
attack upon slavery. He did not, so Mr. Sanborn testifies, 
reveal his Virginia plans, which were always in the back of 
his head, to any of his new Massachusetts friends until 1858. 
But in view of his long-cherished scheme for a direct assault 
upon slavery, and his confidences at this time to Hugh Forbes, 
there can be no question that, in asking for far more arms 
than could be used by a hundred or even two hundred men, 
his mind was fixed upon further use for them after the Bor- 
der Ruffians had ceased from troubling. Kansas was to be 
a prologue to the real drama; the properties of the one were 
to serve in the other. Had Brown obtained the money he 
needed to pay for the pikes, he would surely have received 
them in July, 1857, on the 1st of which the delivery was to 
be made. But Brown was not able to make the first payment 
of five hundred dollars within ten days, as required by the 
contract. Instead, he sent only three hundred and fifty dol- 
lars, and did not make his next payment of two hundred 
dollars until April 25. 

Blair was a canny Yankee. While he bought all the mate- 
rial needed the handles were of ash and the spearheads 
strong malleable iron, two inches wide and about eight inches 
long, with a screw and ferrules to connect the blade to the 


handle or shank and did some work on the contract, he 
stopped when he had done enough work to have earned the 
five hundred and fifty dollars. The handles were laid aside 
in bundles to season, and the iron work carefully preserved 
until such time as Brown should give further orders and sup- 
ply additional funds. It was not until he received a letter 
dated February 10, 1858, that Blair again heard from his 
Kansas friend, and, with the exception of another letter, 
written on March II, 1858, nothing further happened until 
Brown unexpectedly appeared at Blair's door on June 3, 
1859, and took the necessary steps to have the pikes com- 
pleted without loss of time. Then, certainly, it was Brown's 
idea to place these weapons in the hands of slaves, in order 
that, unaccustomed as they were to firearms, they might 
with them fight their way to liberty. 

Brown's second investment at this period cost him still 
more money than the pikes, and resulted in little or no benefit 
and some very considerable injury to his long-cherished plan 
of carrying the "war into Africa," of making the institu- 
tion of slavery insecure by a direct attack upon it. On one 
of his trips to New York he met, late in March, through 
the Rev. Joshua Leavitt, of the New York Independent, one 
Hugh Forbes, a suave adventurer of considerable ability, who 
habitually called himself colonel, because of military service 
in Italy under Garibaldi, in the unsuccessful revolution of 
1 848-49. 49 Forbes was typical of the human flotsam and 
jetsam washed up by every revolutionary movement. A 
silk merchant for a time in Sienna, he was perpetually needy 
after his arrival in New York, about 1855, living by his tal- 
ents as a teacher of fencing, and by doing odd jobs on the 
Tribune as translator or reporter. About forty-five years 
of age, he was a good linguist and had acquired in Italy 
some knowledge of military campaigning, quite enough to 
impress John Brown, who believed he had found in Forbes 
precisely the expert lieutenant he needed, not only for the 
coming Kansas undertaking, but for the more distant raid 
upon Virginia. Vain, obstinate, unstable and greatly lacking 
funds, as Forbes was, Brown's projects appealed mightily 
to him; he speedily saw himself in fancy the Garibaldi of 
a revolution against slavery. John Brown, the reticent and 


self-contained, unbosomed himself to this man as he had 
not to the Massachusetts friends who were advancing the 
money upon which he lived and plotted. The result was 
Forbes's engagement as instructor, at one hundred dollars 
a month, of the proposed "volunteer-regular" company, to 
operate first in Kansas and later in Virginia, into which 
undertaking Forbes entered the more willingly as he learned 
of the wealthy New England men who were backing Brown. 

For Brown this was an unhappy alliance; dissimilar in 
character, training and antecedents, and alike only in their 
insistence on leadership, mutual disappointment and dissat- 
isfaction were the only possible outcome of the association 
of the two men. Forbes, as will be seen later, became the 
evil genius of the Brown enterprise. First of all, he absorbed 
money, when Brown had none too much for his own imme- 
diate needs and the first payments to Blair for the pikes. 
Forbes was authorized by Brown, early in April, to draw 
upon Mr. Callender, of Hartford, for six hundred dollars, 
and he did so within the month. But he showed so little 
inclination to follow Brown westward that the latter soon 
became suspicious. 

Forbes had several excuses for delaying. It had been 
agreed that he should translate and condense a foreign man- 
ual of guerrilla warfare ; this he did under the title of ' Man- 
ual of the Patriotic Volunteer.' This work dragged inter- 
minably; on June I, Joseph Bryant, a New York friend of 
Brown's, who acted for him, reported, after a call on Forbes, 
that the latter was content with his progress and certain that 
he was losing no time. On June 16, Forbes assured Bryant 
that the book would be ready in ten days; that he was not 
ready to join Brown; indeed, he now had doubts whether 
any help would be needed in Kansas until winter. This 
report so alarmed Brown that on June 22 he sent to Forbes, 
through Bryant, a demand for the immediate repayment of 
the six hundred dollars, or as much of it as he might have 
drawn through Callender. Bryant at once took the order 
to Forbes, but becoming convinced that "the colonel" was 
acting in good faith, and that much of the money had al- 
ready been spent, did not show it to the budding author, 
who was now certain of finishing his book "in about a week." 


To that volume, however, Forbes had not devoted all his 
energies, for he had spent considerable time in endeavoring 
to raise more money with which to bring his family over 
from Paris, where they were eking out a precarious exist- 
ence. Of Brown's six hundred dollars the family had received 
one hundred and twenty dollars; sums amounting to seven 
hundred dollars Forbes obtained from Horace Greeley and 
other friends of Free Kansas, according to a statement of 
Mr. Greeley in the Tribune for October 24, 1859. What 
became of these funds is not known, but by June 25 Forbes 
had given up his idea of bringing his family over, and had 
decided to send to Paris the daughter who was in New York, 
that she might be with her mother. Finally, Forbes drifted 
westward, arriving at Tabor on August 9, two days after 
Brown's appearance at the same place. He had stopped at 
Gerrit Smith's at Peterboro on his way out, and success- 
fully appealed to the purse of that ever generous man, who 
had "helped" John Brown to a "considerable sum" ($350) 
when they parted in Chicago on June 22. Nevertheless, 
Forbes obtained one hundred and fifty dollars, of which he 
sent all but twenty dollars back to New York toward the 
cost of printing his book. Gerrit Smith "trusted," so he 
wrote to Thaddeus Hyatt, that Forbes would "prove very 
useful to our sacred work in Kansas." "We must," he added, 
"not shrink from fighting for Liberty & if Federal troops 
fight against her, we must fight against them." 50 

Aside from his negotiations with Forbes, and with Mr. 
Blair for the pikes, April was for Brown another month of 
active solicitation of funds, but with even more disappoint- 
ing results, complicated by the news, received from his son 
Jason, that a deputy United States marshal had passed 
through Cleveland, bound East to arrest him for some of his 
Kansas transactions. 51 He wrote on the i6th, from Spring- 
field, to Eli Thayer that: 

"One of U S Hounds is on my track ; & I have kept myself hid 
for a few days to let my track get cold. I have no idea of being 
taken ; & intend (if ' God will ';) to go back with Irons in rather than 
uppon my hands. ... I got a fine lift in Boston the other day; 
& hope Worcester will not be entirely behind. I do not mean you; 
or Mr. Allen, & Co." 52 


This keeping himself hid had reference to his stay with 
Judge and Mrs. Russell in Boston for a week, during which 
time Mrs. Russell allowed no one but herself to open the 
front door, lest the "US Hounds " appear. The Russell house 
was chosen because it was in a retired street, and Judge 
Russell himself was never conspicuous in the Abolitionist 
ranks, in order that he might be the more serviceable to 
the cause in quiet ways. Mrs. Russell remembers to this 
day Brown's sense of humor and his keen appreciation of 
the negro use of long words and their grandiloquence. She 
recalls, too, that he frequently barricaded his bedroom, told 
her of his determination not to be taken alive, and added, 
"I should hate to spoil your carpet." 63 

It was while staying with the Russells that he came down- 
stairs one day with a written document which voiced his 
bitter disappointment at his non-success in obtaining the 
funds he needed. He read it aloud, as follows: 

"Old Browns Farewell: to the Plymouth Rocks; Bunker Hill, 
Monuments; Charter Oaks; and Uncle Toms, Cabbins. 

"Has left for Kansas. Was trying since he came out of the ter- 
ritory to secure an outfit; or in other words the means o/ arming and 
equiping thoroughly; his regular minuet men: who are mixed up with 
the people of Kansas: and he leaves the States; with a DEEP FEELING 
OF SADNESS: that after having exhausted his own small means: and 
with his family and his BRAVE MEN : suffered hunger, nakedness, cold, 
sickness, (and some [of] them) imprisonment, with most barbarous, 
and cruel treatment: wounds, and death: that after lying on the 
ground for Months; in the most unwholesome and sickly; as well 
as uncomfortable places: with sick and wounded destitute of any 
shelter a part of the time; dependent (in part) on the care, and 
hospitality of the Indians: and hunted like Wolves : that after all 
this; in order to sustain a cause, which every Citizen of this ' Glorious 
Republic,' is under equal Moral obligation to do: (and for the neglect 
of which HE WILL be held accountable TO GOD :) in which every Man, 
Woman, and Child of the entire human family ; has a deep and awful 
interest : that when no wages are asked, or expected : he canot secure 
(amidst all the wealth, luxury, and extravagance of this 'Heaven 
exalted' people;) even the necessary supplies, for a common soldier. 


. " BOSTON, April, 1857." 

For one encouraging happening about this time, John 
Brown was again indebted to the generosity of Mr. Stearns. 


He had set his heart on receiving two hundred revolvers, in 
addition to the twenty-five donated by the National Kansas 
Committee, and through Mr. Thayer he had made inquiry 
as to the prices of several manufacturers. Finally, he received 
a low bid of thirteen hundred dollars for two hundred re- 
volvers from the Massachusetts Arms Company, through its 
agent, T. W. Carter, at Chicopee Falls, who stated that the 
low price fifty per cent of the usual charge was due 
solely to the company's generous purpose "of aiding in your 
project of protecting the free state settlers of Kansas and 
securing their rights to the institutions of free America.'" 56 
John Brown at once reported this offer to Mr. Stearns, saying: 
"Now if Rev T Parker, & other good people of Boston, would 
make up that amount; I might at least be well armed" 56 Mr. 
Stearns immediately notified Mr. Carter that he would pur- 
chase the revolvers and pay for them by his note at four 
months from date of delivery, as this would give him time to 
raise the money by subscription if he desired to. The company 
accepted the proposition, and shipped the revolvers on May 25 
to "J. B. care Dr. Jesse Bowen, Iowa City, Iowa," with the 
company's hope "that there may be no occasion for their ser- 
vice in securing rights which ought to be guaranteed by the 
principles of justice and equity." As if he had a little doubt 
about their ultimate use, Mr. Carter added: "We have no fear 
that they will be put to service in your hands for other pur- 
poses." In notifying Brown that his offer had been accepted, 
Mr. Stearns significantly remarked, "I think you ought to go 
to Kansas as soon as possible and give Robinson and the rest 
some Backbone." For himself, Mr. Stearns asked only that, 
if he paid for these revolvers, all the arms, ammunition, rifles, 
as well as the revolvers not used for the defence of Kansas, 
be held as pledged to him for the payment of the thirteen hun- 
dred dollars. The Massachusetts Kansas Committee by formal 
vote assented to this suggestion. 

By April 23, Brown's hopes of further aid had vanished. 
On that day he wrote to his family from New Haven, asking 
that they have "some of the friends" drive at once to West- 
port and Elizabeth town to meet him. 57 But he was in Spring- 
field on the 25th, and on the 28th, owing to an attack of fever 
and ague, he had only just reached Albany on his way to North 


Elba, where he remained about two weeks with his family, 
before leaving for Iowa by way of Vergennes, Vermont. From 
this place he wrote on May 13 to George L. Stearns, "I leave 
here for the West today," 68 without the slightest idea that it 
would take him three months to reach the rendezvous in 
Tabor. He had not, however, during the months before his 
departure, lost his interest in Kansas or failed to keep in direct 
touch with the situation there. Augustus Wattles and James 
H. Holmes had corresponded with him, and to the former 
Brown had written, on April 8, the following letter, which not 
only records clearly the spirit in which he again set his face 
toward Kansas, but is of special interest because it appears 
to be the first one to which he signed the nom-de-plume 
"Nelson Hawkins," that later appears so frequently in his 
correspondence : 


MY DEAR SIR: Your favor of the I5th March, and that of friend 
H. of the 1 6th, I have just received. I cannot express my gratitude 
for them both. They give me just the kind of news I was most of all 
things anxious to hear. / bless God that he has not left the free-State 
men of Kansas to pollute themselves by the foul and loathesome em- 
brace of the old rotten whore. I have been trembling all along lest 
they might back down from the high and holy ground they had taken. 
I say, in view of the wisdom, firmness, and patience of my friends 
and fellow-sufferers, (in the cause of humanity,) let God's name be 
eternally praised 1 I would most gladly give my hand to all whose 
" garments are not defiled ;" and I humbly trust that I shall soon 
again have opportunity to rejoice (or suffer further if need be) with 
you, in the strife between Heaven and Hell. I wish to send my most 
cordial and earnest salutation to every one of the chosen. My efforts 
this way have not been altogether fruitless. I wish you and friend 
H. both to accept this for the moment; may write soon again, and 
hope to hear from you both at Tabor, Fremont County, Iowa 
Care of Jonas Jones, Esq. 

Your sincere friend, 



At least one member of Brown's family was disturbed at 
the father's return to Kansas. John Brown, Jr., wrote to him 
thus: "It seems as though if you return to Kansas this Spring 
I should never see you again. But I will not look on the dark 


side. You have gone safely through a thousand perils and 
hairbreadth escapes." 60 It was more than a mere undefined 
dread that worried the son. His views as to the political situa- 
tion in Kansas are set forth in this letter with noteworthy 
ability. The just announced return of James H. Lane to the 
Territory would give an opportunity to see if the United 
States authorities there were still bent on arresting the Free 
Soil leaders, and whether the Free Soilers would unresistingly 
submit to such a happening. He also felt that, in view of the 
renewed hostilities which he believed were at hand, it would 
be well for his father to delay his entrance into Kansas, and 

"place it out of the power of Croakers to say that the 'peace' had 
been broken only in consequence of the advent there of such dis- 
turbers as 'Jim Lane' and 'Old Brown.' And further, when war 
begins, if the people there take the right ground, you could raise and 
take in with you a force which might in truth become a ' liberating 
army,' when they most stood in need of help." 

John Brown, Jr., then admitted that he feared that the 
Kansans, for whom his father was ready to peril his life, would, 
out of their slavish regard for Federal authority, be ready to 
"hand you over to the tormentor." The extent to which he 
was in his father's confidence, and the way in which both their 
minds were working upon the great post-Kansas project, 
appears clearly from a question in this same letter: "Do you 
not intend to visit Canada before long? That school can be 
established there, if not elsewhere." 

However much he may have taken his son's warnings to 
heart, John Brown left for Kansas master of considerable sup- 
plies. On May 18, Mr. Stearns estimated that the contri- 
butions of arms, clothing, etc., of which Brown had entire 
control, were worth $i3,ooo. 61 A careful count of the sums he 
is known to have received after January I shows that they 
aggregated $2363, exclusive of the $1000 raised by Lawrence 
and Stearns for the purchase of the North Elba land. Out of 
this sum had come travelling expenses, some provision for his 
family, the $550 paid for the pikes, and the $600 absorbed 
by Forbes. To it must be added the $350 given to him in 
Chicago on June 22 by Gerrit Smith. The total sum he raised 


was, of course, larger than this; he obtained, for instance, 
some small gifts in Chicago. One large credit he did not use. 
In his enthusiasm for the cause, his admiration of the man 
and his complete confidence in Brown's "courage, prudence 
and good judgment," Stearns gave his Kansas friend authority 
to draw upon him for $7000, as it was needed, to subsist the 
one hundred "volunteer-regulars," provided that it became 
necessary to call that number into active service in Kansas in 
i857. 62 This emergency not occurring, Brown returned the 
credit untouched. Mr. Stearns, be it noted, testified in 1859 
that, in addition to everything else, he had from time to time 
given Brown money of which he never kept any record. 
Counting the credit of $7000, the supplies worth $13,000, and 
estimating the other cash contributions at only $3000, it ap- 
pears that Brown was successful in raising $23,000 toward his 
project of putting a company into the field. But his inability 
to use the $7000 en route, and his long delay in reaching Tabor, 
together with necessary expenditures for horses and wagons 
and wages, reduced him soon to distress. When he arrived at 
his base of action, Tabor, he had only twenty-five dollars left. 63 
Various causes contributed to Brown's delay. He was at 
Canastota on May 14, at Peterboro on May 18, reached 
Cleveland on May 22, and Akron the next day. On May 27 
he wrote from Hudson that he was "still troubled with the 
ague" and was "much confused in mind." If he should never 
return, he wished that "no other monument be used to keep 
me in remembrance than the same plain old one that records 
the death of my Grandfather & Son & that a short story like 
those already on it be told of John Brown the 5th under that 
of Grandfather." 64 He added that he was already very short 
of expense money, and that he did not expect to leave for four 
or five days. On June 3, while still at Hudson, he wrote thus 
to Augustus Wattles, over the name of "James Smith:" 

MY DEAR SIR: I write to say that I started for Kansas some three 
weeks or more since, but have been obliged to stop for the fever 
and ague. I am now righting up, and expect to be on my way again 
soon. Free-State men need have no fear of my desertion. There 
are some half dozen men I want a visit from at Tabor, Iowa, to 
come off in the most QUIET WAY, viz: Daniel Foster, late of Bos- 
ton Massachusetts; Holmes, Frazee, a Mr. Hill and William David, 


on Little Ottawa creek; a Mr. Cochran, on Pottawatomie creek; 
or I would like equally well to see Dr. Updegraff and 5. H. Wright, 
of Ossawatomie ; or William Phillips, or CON WAY, or your honor. 
I have some very important matters to confer with some of you 
about. Let there be no words about it. Should any of you come out to 
see me wait at Tabor if you get there first. Mr. Adair, at Ossawato- 
mie, may supply ($50,) fifty dollars, (if need be), for expenses on 
my account on presentation of this. Write me at Tabor, Iowa, Fre- 
mont County. 65 

On the Qth of June, Brown wrote to William A. Phillips in a 
similar strain, to which Phillips replied from Lawrence on June 
24, 66 saying that neither he nor Holmes nor others whom he 
had seen could go to Tabor, that there was then no necessity 
for military measures, and that the arms were safer with Brown 
than with any one else. If he came into Kansas, he would be 
protected. Wattles's reply was similarly discouraging, bring- 
ing the oracular advice: "Come as quickly as possible, or 
not come at present, as you choose." 67 Frazee (the teamster 
who had taken Brown out of Kansas in the previous fall) had 
not returned; Foster, Mr. Wattles did not know; Holmes was 
ploughing at Emporia, and Conway and Phillips were talking 
politics. Meanwhile, Brown had visited Milwaukee on June 
1 6, for what specific purpose is not known; he had tried to 
induce Forbes to meet him in Cleveland on June I7, 68 and 
then went to Chicago to meet Gerrit Smith. On June 24 he 
attended at Tallmadge, Ohio, the semi-centennial of the 
founding of that town. The address was delivered by the Rev. 
Leonard Bacon. At its close, a message came to the speaker 
that John Brown was present and would like to speak about 
Kansas. Mr. Bacon sent back word to Brown that any such 
address would be "entirely inconsistent with the character of 
the occasion," a happening which inspired Mr. Bacon to 
write to Governor Wise, after Brown's capture, that it was to 
many at Tallmadge proof of Brown's evident derangement on 
the slavery question. 69 Brown's pocket memorandum-book, a 
rough diary from January 12, 1857, on, contains this entry 
on June 29, also showing that he had returned to Ohio from 
Chicago: "June 29th Wrote Joseph Bryant Col Forbes, and D 
Lee Child ; all that I leave here Cleveland this day for Tabor, 
Iowa; & advise Forbes, & Child, to call on Jonas Jones." 
. By July 6 the memorandum-book records Brown's pre- 


sence in Iowa City. Here he received word from Richard 
Realf, for some time to come one of his followers, and after- 
wards well known as a poet of no mean ability, that he was 
awaiting him at Tabor with one hundred and ten dollars 
- the hundred and fifty of National Kansas Committee 
money, minus Realf's expenses. This money had been sent 
to Brown on June 30 by Edmund B. Whitman, the Commit- 
tee's agent in Lawrence, in response to an urgent appeal from 
Brown, to whom Realf wrote also the good news that, as the 
government had entered a nolle prosequi in the case of the 
Free State prisoners, Brown need be under "no apprehension 
of insecurity to yourself or the munitions you may bring with 
you." 70 By July 17, Brown had only reached Wassonville, 
Iowa. He had had to obtain two teams and two wagons at 
a cost of seven hundred and eighty-six dollars, and to hire a 
teamster (his third son, Owen, who had been at Tabor for a 
time). He had had to "rig up and load" the teams, and in 
consequence of an injury to a horse, he had lost ten days on 
the road. In order to make their scant funds hold out, "and to 
avoid notice," he and his son "lived exclusively on herring, 
soda crackers, and sweetened water for more than three weeks 
(sleeping every night in our wagons), except that twice we got 
a little milk and a few times some boiled eggs." 71 At last, on 
August 7, he and his son reached their old quarters in Tabor, 
the home of Jonas Jones. 

By this time it was perfectly apparent that there was to be 
no bloodshed in Kansas that summer. There was another new 
Governor in the Territory, Robert J. Walker, of Mississippi, 
who had succeeded Governor Geary after that official's resig- 
nation in March, because of the failure of the pro-slavery 
Pierce administration to give him proper support. So fair an 
historian as Mr. Rhodes has declared that Geary was an ideal 
Governor, 72 and a study of his brief administration of Kansas 
inevitably leads to the conclusion that, whatever his faults, 
he strove earnestly to be judicial and honorable, and to bring 
peace and justice to Kansas. Like Reeder, Geary was a firm 
Democrat, and like him he left Kansas convinced of the right- 
eousness of the Free State cause. Walker, his successor, had 
been Senator from Mississippi, Secretary of the Treasury, had 
practically framed the tariff act of 1846, and was, therefore, 


well known to the country as a politician of more than usual 
ability and standing. He was reluctant to go to Kansas, where 
he arrived on May 26, having obtained before his depar- 
ture the consent of the new President, Buchanan, that any Con- 
stitution for the State of Kansas which might be framed 
should be submitted to the people. His appointment in itself 
helped to avert any outbreaks, since the Southerners felt sure 
too sure that he was one of their own. As soon as it 
was* apparent that he and his able secretary of state, Fred- 
erick P. Stanton, were bent on seeing justice done, the pro- 
slavery forces, and President Buchanan as well, turned against 
them, with the result that Secretary Stanton was removed 
from office, and Governor Walker resigned, in the following 
December. Walker, the fourth governor since October 6, 
1854, exceeded by only thirty days Governor Geary's brief stay 
of six months. 73 

As a whole, however, the outlook for freedom in Kansas 
was comparatively favorable when John Brown reached 
Tabor. The Lecompton conspiracy, by which a pro-slavery 
Constitution was to be forced on Kansas by a trick, had not 
yet developed ; and while there had been sporadic cases of law- 
lessness in certain counties, and James T. Lyle, a pro-slavery 
city recorder of Leavenworth, had been killed by William 
Haller, a Free State man, in an affray at the polls, the year 
1857 was, on the whole, one of quiet and progress for the bona 
fide settlers of Kansas. Free Soilers were pouring into the 
State in large force, and the number of slaves remained so small 
that both sides realized the growing ascendency of the Free 
Soil cause. The Topeka, or Free State, Legislature had met on 
January 6, 7 and 8, when a dozen of its members had been 
arrested and taken to Tecumseh ; it met again in Topeka on 
June 13, without interference from Governor Walker, and ad- 
journed four days later after passing some excellent measures. 
About this time, there was a Free State convention in Topeka, 
presided over by General Lane, which endorsed the Topeka 
movement, urged Free State men not to participate in the 
1 5th of June election of delegates to the Lecompton Con- 
stitutional convention, and declared the Territorial laws to 
be without force. A similar Free State convention met in 
Topeka on July 15 and 16, with James H. Lane again presid- , 


ing and Governor Robinson as one of the speakers. It called 
a mass convention for August 26, at Grasshopper Falls, urged 
upon the Governor the propriety of submitting the Topeka 
Constitution to the people, and made nominations for the of- 
fices to be filled at the coming Free State election on August 
9. Meanwhile, in accordance with what afterwards seemed a 
gravely mistaken decision of the Topeka convention of June 
9, the Free State men had declined to participate in the elec- 
tion of June 15 for delegates to the Constitutional convention. 
Only twenty- two hundred pro-slavery votes were cast in all, 
which showed that the Free State men could easily have out- 
voted their enemies, as was clearly proved when more than 
seventy- two hundred anti-slavery votes were cast at the Free 
State election of August 9. It was then too late ; the Lecompton 
Constitutional convention was in the hands of the pro-slavery 
men, headed by the Surveyor-General, John Calhoun, a bitter 
and unscrupulous slavery champion. They agreed upon a Con- 
stitution which had been carefully prepared by the Southern 
leaders in Washington, and lent themselves readily to the 
plan to get slavery into Kansas without the consent of the 
majority of its bona fide inhabitants. 

The Free State election of August 9 was held two days 
after Brown's arrival at Tabor. The heavy vote cast was 
fresh proof of the ascendency of the party of peace among 
the Free State men. The Grasshopper Falls convention 
also showed, by its decision to participate in the election 
of October 5 for Territorial delegate, that the drift was 
toward working out a Kansas victory by resort to the time- 
honored American method of correcting abuses the bal- 
lot-box. Governor Walker guaranteed a fair election, and 
lived up to his promise by setting aside fraudulent returns. 
Robinson and Lane favored taking part in the election, Con- 
way, Phillips and Redpath, three of Brown's staunchest 
friends, opposing. Altogether, Brown found that nothing had 
been lost by the long delay in his arrival near the scene of 
action; there was not the slightest need for his "volunteer- 
regulars;" the only time Governor Walker had ordered out 
the United States troops was when dissatisfied with the 
holding of an independent city election at Lawrence on 
July 13. This course the Governor denounced as certain 


to mean treason and bring on "all the horrors of civil war," 
if persisted in. His prompt action discouraged the radicals 
under Lane, who thereupon was the more ready for a dif- 
ferent course. Rifles the Free State men had at this moment 
no need of or desire for. As to becoming a political leader 
and putting the stiffening into Robinson's backbone, for 
which Mr. Stearns and others hoped, that was a line of ac- 
tion not to Brown's taste, and the defeat of his friends in the 
Grasshopper Falls convention must have added to his dis- 
satisfaction with Kansas conditions. It is not, therefore, sur- 
prising if his mind turned more and more to the coming raid 
against slavery along a more timid and more vulnerable 
frontier than that of Missouri. 

The day after his arrival at Tabor, John Brown wrote to 
Mr. Stearns of his various disappointments, hindrances 
and lack of means; these and ill-health had depressed him 
greatly. Two days later he wrote again and in better spir- 
its. 74 He was "in immediate want of from Five Hundred to 
One Thousand Dollars for secret service & no questions asked" 
"Rather interesting times" were expected in Kansas, he 
wrote, "but no great excitement is reported." "Our next 
advices," he continued, "may entirely change the aspect of 
things. / hope the friends of Freedom will respond to my 
call: & 'prove me now herewith." He had "learned with 
gratitude" what had been done to render his wife and chil- 
dren comfortable by the purchase of the Thompson farm. 
Then, as the result of Forbes's arrival, he forwarded to Mr. 
Stearns "the first number of a series of Tracts lately gotten 
up here," of which Forbes, and not Brown, was the author. 
It is entitled 'The Duty of the Soldier,' and is headed, in 
small type, "Presented with respectful and kind feelings 
to the Officers and Soldiers of the United States Army in 
Kansas," the object being to win them from their allegiance 
to their colors and induce them to support the Free State 
cause. This it does indirectly by asking whether the "sol- 
diery of a Republic" should be "vile living machines and 
thus sustain Wrong against Right." There are but three 
printed pages of rambling and discursive discussion of the 
soldiery of the ancient republics, and of the princes of an- 
tiquity, and a consideration of authority, legitimate and 


illegitimate as ill-fitted as possible an appeal to the regu- 
lar soldier of 1857. To the copy which he sent to Augustus 
Wattles, Brown appended the following in his own hand- 
writing, as a "closing remark:" 

It is as much the duty of the common soldier of the U S Army 
according to his ability and opportunity, to be informed upon all 
subjects in any way affecting the political or general welfare of his 
country: & to watch with jealous vigilance, the course, & man- 
agement of all public functionaries both civil and military : and to 
govern his actions as a citizen Soldier accordingly: as though he were 
President of the United States. 

Respectfully yours, A SOLDIER." 

Other copies John Brown sent to Sanborn, Theodore 
Parker and Governor Chase, of Ohio, 76 asking each for his 
frank opinion of the tract and also for aid in raising the 
five hundred to one thousand dollars he needed so sorely. 
Sanborn, and probably Parker, wrote his disapproval of 
Forbes's attempt to seduce the soldiery of the Union; and 
only Gerrit Smith, to whom Forbes himself sent a copy with 
an appeal for help for his family in Paris, seems to have been 
pleased with it. He thought it "very well written," and 
added, "Forbes will make himself very useful to our Kan- 
sas work." For the Forbes family he subscribed twenty-five 
dollars, and urged Thaddeus Hyatt to raise some money in 
New York for this purpose and forward it to Sanborn "as 
soon as you can." " 

But Forbes's usefulness to Brown was not of long dura- 
tion; by November 2 he was on his way back to the East 
from Nebraska City. 78 He had found no one at Tabor to 
drill save his employer and one son, Owen; and no funds 
save sixty dollars, which Brown gave to him (doubtless out 
of the National Kansas Committee's one hundred and ten) 
toward his expenses. 79 Rifle-shooting at a target on the out- 
skirts of Tabor was their out-door drill, while in-doors they 
studied Forbes's 'Manual of the Patriotic Volunteer,' and 
discussed military tactics and their respective plans in re- 
gard to the raid into Virginia. 80 

One of those who met John Brown at this time, the Rev. 
H. D. King, now of Kinsman, Ohio, records thus his recol- 
lections of some of their table talk: 81 


"I tried to get at his theology. It was a subject naturally sug- 
gested by my daily work. But I never could force him down to dry 
sober talk on what he thought of the moral features of things in 
general. He would not express himself on little diversions from the 
common right for the accomplishment of a greater good. For him 
there was only one wrong, and that was slavery. He was rather 
skeptical, I think. Not an infidel, but not bound by creeds. He was 
somewhat cranky on the subject of the Bible, as he was on that of 
killing people. He believed in God and Humanity, but his attitude 
seemed to be: 'We don't know anything about some things. We do 
not know about the humanity matter. If any great obstacle stand in 
the way, you may properly break all the Decalogue to get rid of it.' " 

"We are beginning to take lessons & have (we think) a very 
capable Teacher. Should no disturbance occour: we may pos- 
sibly think best to work back eastward. Cannot determine yet" 
wrote Brown to his wife and children on August ly. 82 But 
this life at Tabor soon palled on Forbes, particularly as there 
was a sharp disagreement between Brown and himself as to 
the future campaign, and increasing evidence that there was 
to be no active service in Kansas that year. The needs of 
his family weighed heavily upon him, and a growing sense 
of wrong done him by the Massachusetts friends of Brown, 
whom Forbes dubbed "The Humanitarians," in not supply- 
ing the salary Brown had promised, led to bitter denunciations 
of them soon after Forbes arrived in the East. 

Jonas Jones and the Rev. John Todd having promptly 
turned over to Brown the arms stored in the clergyman's 
cellar, he was able to write on August 13 to Sanborn that he 
had overhauled and cleaned up those that were most rusted. 
All were in "middling good order." 83 The question then was 
how to get them to Kansas, and this involved also a deci- 
sion as to Brown's own policy. Although apparently anxious 
to return to Kansas at once, he did not leave Tabor for the 
Territory until the day he saw Forbes off for the East at 
Nebraska City, November 2. Various reasons are apparently 
responsible for the delay: the failure of Kansas friends to come 
to him; the desire to await the outcome of the fall elections; 
an injury to his back, and a recurrence of his fever and ague. 
The arms were finally left behind; when Brown started for 
Lawrence, he went in a wagon drawn by two horses and driven 
by his son Owen. 


As to Brown's return to Kansas, James H. Holmes wrote, 
on August i6, 84 that there might be a very good opening for 
the "business," for which Brown had bought his "stock of 
materials, . . . about the first Monday in October next. . . . 
I am sorry," he continued, 

"that you have not been here, in the territory, before. I think that 
the sooner you come the better so that the people & the Territo- 
rial authorities may become familiarized with your presence. This 
is also the opinion of all other friends with whom I have conversed 
on this subject. You could thus exert more influence. Several times 
we have needed you very much." 

But Augustus Wattles, a wise counsellor, wrote on August 
21 without enthusiasm as to Brown's final arrival, that 
"those who had entertained the idea of resistance [to outside 
authority] have entirely abandoned the idea." 85 Only the 
erratic Lane, who was then the sole person trying to stir up 
strife in Kansas, and is accused by reputable witnesses of 
planning schemes of wholesale massacre of pro-slavery men 
through a secret order, was on fire for Brown's presence 
in the Territory, but it was the Tabor arms rather than 
their owner he really desired. His first letter to Brown ran 


LAWRENCE Sept. 7, 57. 

We are earnestly engaged in perfecting an organization for the 
protection of the ballot box at the October election (first Monday.) 
Whitman & Abbott have been east after money & arms for a month 
past, they write encouragingly, & will be back in a few days. We 
want you with all the materials you have. I see no objection to your 
coming into Kansas publicly. I can furnish you just such a force 
as you may deem necessary for your protection here & after you 
arrive. I went up to see you but failed. 

Now what is wanted is this write me concisely what trans- 
portation you require, how much money & the number of men 
to escort you into the Territory safely & if you desire it I will 
come up with them. 

Yours respectfully 

J. H. LANE. 88 

To this Brown replied, on the i6th of September, 87 that 
he had previously written to Lane of his "strong desire" to 


see him; "as to the job of work you enquire about I suppose 
that three good teams with well covered waggons, & ten really 
ingenious, industrious men (not gassy) with about $150. in 
cash, could bring it about in the course of eight or ten days." 
Before an answer to this could arrive, Brown learned from 
Redpath, who also hoped to see him in the Territory soon, 
that Lane had appointed him "Brigadier-General 2nd Bri- 
gade 1st Division," 88 rather an empty honor, for Lane was as 
generous with brigadier-generalcies as a profligate European 
potentate with decorations for his creditors, even casual vis- 
itors to the Territory receiving these commissions. 89 Certain 
it is that this distinction did not cause Brown to exert himself 
additionally to enter Kansas, not even when there appeared 
a Mr. Jamison, who bore the high-sounding title of "Quarter- 
master-General of the Second Division." "General" Jamison 
brought a letter from Lane, dated Falls City, September 29, 90 
declaring that "it is all important to Kansas that your things 
should be in at the earliest possible moment & that you should be 
much nearer at hand than you are." He enclosed fifty dollars, 
added that "Gen'l" Jamison had more, and insisted that 
"every gun and all the ammunition" be sent in. "I do not 
know that we will have to use them, but I do know we should 
be prepared." All of this made not the slightest impression 
on Brown, as Jamison came alone, having left the ten staunch 
men Brown had asked for "about thirty miles back." The 
names of these men were all unknown to him, and on inquir- 
ing about Jamison, Brown found that "Tabor folks (some of 
them) speak slightingly of him, notwithstanding that he too 
is a general." 91 Moreover, Jamison brought no teams with 
him. Brown thereupon returned the fifty dollars to Lane with 

the following letter : 92 

TABOR IOWA 30 Sept. 57. 

Your favor from Falls City by Mr. Jamison is just received also 
$50. (fifty dollars) sent by him, which I also return by same hand as 
I find it will be next to impossible in my poor state of health to go 
through in such very short notice, four days only remaining to get 
ready load up & go through. I think, considering all the uncertain- 
ties of the case want of teams &c, that I should do wrong to set out. 
I am disappointed in the extreme. 

Very respectfully your friend 



The next day, Brown wrote at length to Mr. Sanborn, en- 
closing copies of his correspondence with Lane. 93 He outlined 
his immediate future as follows: "I intend at once to put the 
supplies I have in a secure place, and then to put myself and 
such as may go with me where we may get more speedy com- 
munications, and can wait until we know better how to act 
than we do now." He also wrote: " I am now so far recovered 
from my hurt as to be able to do a little ; and foggy as it is, 
'we do not give up the ship.' I will not say that Kansas, wa- 
tered by the tears and blood of my children, shall yet be free 
or I fall." Brave as this sentiment is, it only increases the 
mystery of Brown's delaying at Tabor. In this same letter 
to Sanborn, he wrote in high praise of Lane's speech at the 
Grasshopper Falls convention, and throughout, Lane had been 
more sympathetic to Brown than any of the other Kansas 
leaders. There is nothing to show that the injury of which 
he wrote twice to Lane was a serious one. Brown did not re- 
port it to Mr. Sanborn in his long letter of August 13, after 
his arrival in Tabor, nor is there any mention of it in his 
family letters of this period, so far as they have been preserved. 
True, his financial conditions had not improved, because he 
had apparently received from the East only $72.68, which 
came from James Hunnewell, Treasurer of the Middlesex 
County Massachusetts Kansas Aid Committee. 94 Besides 
having Owen Brown and Hugh Forbes to aid him, he was 
in a community not only intensely Abolition, but at this 
time extremely loyal to him personally, and ready to help. 
Yet there was none of the determination to reach Kansas at 
any cost, to be expected from the iron-nerved man who cap- 
tured Harper's Ferry. An excuse given by Brown to Mr. San- 
born was the lack of news: "I had not been able to learn by 
papers or otherwise distinctly what course had been taken in 
Kansas until within a few days ; and probably the less I have 
to say the better." Still, he had received a number of letters 
from friends in Kansas, and Tabor was always obtaining 
news from there. Why did he not despatch Owen Brown or 
Forbes, or go himself quietly, if he was in doubt? 

Four days after writing as above to Mr. Sanborn, Brown's 
state of mind appears from a letter of October 5 to the Adairs 
at Osawatomie, 95 in which he said: 


"I have been trying all season to get to Kansas; but have failed 
as yet through ill health, want of means to pay Freights, travelling 
expenses &c. How to act now; I do not know. If you have not already 
sent me the $95 sent for me ; to my family last season ; I would be 
most glad to have it come by Mr. Charles P. Tidd ; if you can do it 
without distressing yourself, or family." 

In addition, he asked for all that Mr. Adair could tell him 
about conditions in Kansas, and for "reliable Kansas late 
papers." Obviously, Brown, grim, self-willed, resolute chief- 
tain that he generally was, appears baffled here and lacking 
wholly in a determination to reach the scene of action at any 
cost. Whether it was because of physical disability ; or fear of 
arrest and punishment for the Pottawatomie crimes ; or mere 
uncertainty as to the drift of affairs in Kansas ; or whether his 
mind was now so bent on Virginia that he had lost interest 
in all else, and did not wish to lose his arms; or whether the 
physical and financial difficulties were insurmountable, or 
because of all these reasons, that he lingered so long in Tabor, 
is not likely ever to become known. It will be seen that, 
when he finally reached Kansas, he stayed but a few days, 
was practically in hiding, and gave more time and thought 
to securing recruits for Harper's Ferry than to anything 

At least one of the Massachusetts backers was impatient 
and angry at the delay, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 
then, as always in the Abolition days, flaming for quick and 
vigorous action. To soothe his discontent, Mr. Sanborn wrote 
to him thus on September n, in defence of Brown: 96 .. 

"... You do not understand Brown's circumstances. . . . He 
is as ready for a revolution as any other man, and is now on the 
borders of Kansas safe from arrest but prepared for action, but he 
needs money for his present expenses, and active support. I believe 
he is the best Disunion champion you can find, and with his hundred 
men, when he is put where he can raise them, and drill them (for he 
has an expert drill officer with him) will do more to split the Union 
than a list of 50,000 names for your Convention, good as that is. 

"What I am trying to hint at is that the friends of Kansas are 
looking with strange apathy at a movement which has all the ele- 
ments of fitness and success a good plan, a tried leader, and a 
radical purpose. If you can do anything for it now, in God's name 
do it and the ill result of the new policy in Kansas may be pre- 


This letter is of special value in view of subsequent efforts 
to make Brown appear as one who had no sympathy with the 
disunion doctrines of the radical wing of the Abolitionists. 97 
The fact remains that at this time Brown himself was not 
willing to do and dare at any cost, and was unable to triumph 
over the obstacles that confronted him at Tabor, until finan- 
cial aid finally came from E. B. Whitman in Lawrence. The 
latter reported to Mr. Stearns, under date of October 25, 98 
that he had borrowed one hundred and fifty dollars to send 
to Brown, who would be at Lawrence "a week from Tuesday 
[November 3] at a very important council, Free State Cen- 
tral Com., Ter. Executive Com., Vigilance Committee of 52, 
Generals and Capts of the entire organization." "By great 
sacrifice," wrote Lane to Brown on October 30," "we have 
raised, & send by Mr. Tidd, $150. I trust the money will be 
used to get the guns to Kansas, or as near as possible. . . . 
One thing is certain: if they are to do her any good, it will be 
in the next few days. Let nothing interfere in bringing them 
on." This time Brown accepted the money, he also received 
one hundred dollars from the Adairs at this juncture, and 
entered Kansas, without, however, gratifying Lane by bring- 
ing in the arms. He set out on November 2, parting from 
Forbes at Nebraska City, and drove straight to the vicinity of 
Lawrence, where he stopped at the home of E. B. Whitman, 
arriving after the council at which Mr. Whitman had hoped 
for his presence probably on November 5. 

He stayed but two days with Mr. Whitman,* obtaining 
tents and bedding and some more money, five hundred dol- 
lars, from that able agent of the Massachusetts Kansas Com- 
mittee, who, in the following February, could not conceal his 
vexation at Brown's disappearance from Kansas. After 
receiving the supplies, wrote Mr. Whitman, 100 

"he then left, declining to tell me or anyone where he was going 
or where he could be found, pledging himself, however, that if 
difficulties should occur he would be on hand and pledging his life 
to redeem Kansas from slavery. Since then nothing has been heard 
of him and I know of no one, not even his most intimate friends, 

* Among those he saw at this time was William A. Phillips, who recorded in the 
Atlantic Monthly for December, 1879, the outlines of their conversation, which 
he erroneously placed in February, 1857, instead of November of that year. 


who know where he is. In the meantime he has been much wanted, 
and very great dissatisfaction has been expressed at his course and 
now I do not know as even his services would be demanded in any 

It is interesting to note in this connection that, in Novem- 
ber, 1857, a Free State "Squatters' Court" was organized in 
the southern Kansas counties of Linn, Anderson and Bour- 
bon, for the trial of contested land claims and similar cases. 
In order to inspire terror, the judge of the court was called 
"Old Brown," although John Brown was distant from the 
Territory. Dr. Rufus Gilpatrick was elected judge of the 
court. 101 If John Brown was absent, his reputation was on 
hand and in service. 

Within a week, Brown was in Topeka, from which place he 
reported as follows to Mr. Stearns: 102 

TOPEKA KANSAS T. i6th Nov 1857 

I have now been in Kansas for more than a Week: & for about 
Two days with Mr. Whitman, & other friends at Lawrence. I find 
matters quite unsettled; but am decidedly of the opinion that there 
will be no use for the Arms or ammunition here before another 
Spring. I have them all safe, & together unbroken: & mean to keep 
them so: until I can see how the matter will be finally terminated. 
I have many calls uppon me for their distribution; but shall do no 
such thing until I am satisfyed that they are really needed. I mean 
to be busily ; but very quietly engaged in perfecting my arangements 
during the Winter. Whether the troubles in Kansas will continue or 
not; will probably depend on the action of Congress the coming 
Winter. Mr. Whitman has paid me $500 for you which will meet 
present wants as I am keeping only a small family. Before get- 
ting your letter saying to me not to draw on you for the $7000 (by 
Mr. Whitman) I had fully determined not to do it unless driven 
to the last extremity. / did not mean that the secret service money 
I asked for; should come out of you; & hope it may not. Please 
make this hasty line answer for friend Sanborn ; & for other friends 
for this time. May God bless you all; is the earnest wish of your 
greatly obliged Friend 


P S If I do not use the Arms & Ammunition in actual service; 
I intend to restore them unharmed ; but you must not flatter your- 
self on that score too soon. 

Yours in Truth 
J B 


To the Adairs he wrote on November 17 : 108 "I have been 
for some days in the territory but keeping very quiet, & 
looking about to see how the land lies. We left Tabor at once 
on the return of Mr. Tidd who brought us your letter; & $100 
cash. ... I do not wish to have any noise about me at pre- 
sent; as I do not mean to 'trouble Israel.' ' Kansas at that 
time was quiet enough, despite Lane's feeling that the arms 
might be needed. The election of October 5 for the new Ter- 
ritorial Legislature and for delegate to Congress had resulted 
in a great Free State victory. The Free State men elected 
their delegate by 4089 votes and chose thirty-three out of 
fifty-two members of the Legislature. Governor Walker set 
aside the fraudulent returns from several precincts in which 
there had been scandalous frauds ; but there was no allegation 
of interference from outside the State. It is hard to understand 
what vague fears or wild schemes led Lane to think on 
October 30 that there might be some important happenings 
within the next few days. Marcus J. Parrott, the Free State 
delegate to Congress, had received his certificate of election, 
and the utmost tranquillity reigned. The Lecompton Constitu- 
tional convention did not, it is true, adjourn until Novem- 
ber 3, and the product of its deliberation, or rather of the delib- 
erations of the Southern leaders in Washington, was not yet 
on its way to the Capitol, where the debate over it, with 
Stephen A. Douglas opposed, was to absorb the nation for a 
period of three months, February, March and April of 1858. 
But Lane was not justified, even then, in anticipating any 
fraud or outrage calling for forcible intervention; his own 
opportunity, in which he was at his best, came later in No- 
vember, when, by stumping the Territory, he largely induced 
the acting Governor, Stanton, to call a special session of the 
Legislature to order the submission of the Lecompton Con- 
stitution to the people for approval. 

In brief, the party of peace was in the ascendant; even in 
the East there was beginning to be a realization that successes 
at the polls were more effective than "Beecher's Bibles." 
Thus Mr. Stearns wrote on November 14 to E. B. Whit- 
man: 104 "! believe your true policy is, to meet the enemy at 
the polls, and vote them down. You can do it and should do 
it, only being prepared to defend yourselves if attacked but 


by no means to attack them." This was treachery to Brown's 
blood-and-iron policy in the home of his friends. The decision 
of the Free State leaders to make the best of the situation and 
work under the existing Territorial government, instead of 
refusing to have anything to do with it, involved, of course, a 
complete change of policy. It touched no responsive chord in 
Brown's breast. One of his biographers remarks that there 
was no fighting for him to do in 1857 because he had done his 
work so thoroughly in 1856. Nothing could be further from 
the fact. The progress to freedom and prosperity of Kansas 
was due to several causes, but especially to an abandonment of 
the policy of carrying on an unauthorized war, and of meet- 
ing assassination with assassination. 

There is only one allegation that Brown came in touch with 
the Free State leaders during his brief stay in Kansas in 1857. 
There was then in existence a Free State secret society, called 
into being by fear of the Lecompton Constitutional conven- 
tion, and determined to prevent the success of the conspiracy 
to force slavery upon Kansas through its acts. Mr. R. G. 
Elliott, of Lawrence, states 105 that the society was pledged to 

"unman' the convention soon after its adjournment, a term of 
elastic definition, meaning anything from obtaining resignations 
of officials by persuasion, to removing them by capital excision. 
Abduction was the method indicated at that juncture. . . . John 
Brown had recently come from Tabor, Iowa, and was in the neigh- 
borhood in seclusion, was communicated with by William Hutch- 
inson and expressed his readiness to execute the plans of the 
order but with the men exclusively of his own selection. To the 
fear expressed by Robinson that Brown would resort to bloodshed, 
Hutchinson gave assurance that Brown pledged his faith to be 
governed strictly by the expressed wishes of the order, and further- 
more that he had surveyed the situation at Lecompton and that he 
could seize Calhoun [the head of the Constitutional convention] and 
carry him to a place within one hundred miles where he could hold 
him safely for three months." 

But the scheme was blocked by Calhoun's removing to St. 

The most important result of this visit of Brown to Kansas 
was his recruiting his first men for the Harper's Ferry raid. 
No sooner had he reached Mr. Whitman's than he sent for 
John E. Cook, whom he had met after the battle of Black Jack, 


before the dispersal of his forces by Colonel Sumner. 106 When 
Cook came, Brown informed him simply that he was engaged 
in organizing a company for the purpose of putting a stop to 
the aggressions of the pro-slavery forces. Cook agreed to join 
him, and recommended Richard Realf, Luke F. Parsons and 
R. J. Hinton. On Sunday, November 8, Cook and Parsons 
had a long talk with Brown in the vicinity of Lawrence, and 
a few days later, Cook received a note asking him to join 
Brown, with Parsons if possible, on Monday, November 16, at 
a Mrs. Sheridan's, two miles south of Topeka. They were to 
bring their arms, ammunition and clothing. Cook made all 
his preparations to meet Brown at the time appointed, but 
had to go alone. He stayed with Brown a day and a half at 
Mrs. Sheridan's, and then went to Topeka, where they were 
joined by Aaron D. Stevens (Charles Whipple), Charles W. 
Moffet and John H. Kagi. They at once left Topeka for Ne- 
braska City, and camped at night on the prairie northeast of 
Topeka. What followed, Cook stated in his Harper's Ferry 
confession : 

"Here, for the first, I learned that we were to leave Kansas, to 
attend a military school during the winter. It was the intention 
of the party to go to Ashtabula County, Ohio. Next morning 
[November 18] I was sent back to Lawrence to get a draft of 
$80. cashed [$82.50 according to Brown's memorandum-book], and 
to get Parsons, Realf and Hinton to go back with me. I got the 
draft cashed. Capt. Brown had given me orders to take boat to 
St. Joseph, Mo., and stage from there to Tabor, Iowa, where he 
would remain for a few days. I had to wait for Realf for three or four 
days ; Hinton could not leave at that time. I started with Realf and 
Parsons on a stage for Leavenworth. The boats had stopped run- 
ning on account of the ice. Stayed one day at Leavenworth, and 
then left for Weston where we took stage for St. Joseph, and from 
thence to Tabor. I found C. P. Tidd and Leeman at Tabor. Our 
party now consisted of Capt. John Brown, Owen Brown, A. D. 
Stephens, Chas Moffett, C. P. Tidd, Richard Robertson [Richard- 
son], Col. Richard Realf, L. F. Parsons, W. M. Leeman and my- 
self.* We stopped some days at Tabor, making preparations to 
start. Here we found that Capt Brown's ultimate destination was the 
State of Virginia" 

The very day that Brown wrote to the Adairs, " I may find 
it best to go back to Iowa," he set off for Tabor. The vacilla- 

* Cook overlooked here John H. Kagi, who was also present. 


tion of the last three months was over. His whole soul was now 
wrapped up in his Harper's Ferry plan; Kansas was thence- 
forth forgotten. Upon her further struggles for freedom, her 
soil watered by his children's " tears and blood," he turned his 
back; his readiness to die for her if necessary was put aside. 
He would never have returned to the Territory, had not 
untoward and unexpected circumstances compelled him to 
resume the role of border chieftain in 1858. Henceforth his 
whole energies were concentrated on "troubling Israel" in 


JOHN BROWN'S newest recruits, Cook, Realf and Parsons, did 
not take kindly to the announcement, at Tabor, that Virginia 
was to be the scene of their armed operations against slavery. 
Warm words passed between Cook and their leader, for Cook, 
like Realf and Parsons, had supposed that they were to be 
trained to operate against Border Ruffians only. 1 After a good 
deal of wrangling, Cook stated, they agreed to continue, as 
they had not the means to return to Kansas, and the rest 
of the party were so anxious that they should go on with 
them. Like their associates, these three men were adventur- 
ous spirits, spoiled, like thousands of others, by the Kansas 
troubles for leading a quiet and settled life. Anything that 
smacked of excitement irresistibly appealed to them. Most 
of them were very young ; 2 some had seen their names in the 
newspapers because of their warfare in Kansas, and were not 
averse to further notoriety and the chance to make reputa- 
tions for themselves. All of them were steadfast opponents of 
slavery and ready to go to any lengths to undermine it. But 
beyond all this, in the dominating spirit of John Brown himself 
must be found the true reason for their readiness to join so 
desperate a venture as Brown outlined to them. There was, 
Mr. Parsons testifies, a magnetism about Brown as difficult for 
these simpler men to resist as for the philosophers at Concord. 3 
He walked now more than ever like an old man, and made the 
impression of one well on toward threescore and ten, when not 
yet fifty-eight years old, with hair that was not white but gray. 
Yet there was as little doubt about his vigor and strength as 
there was of the intensity of his hatred of slavery. To his new 
followers Brown declared that "God had created him to be the 
deliverer of slaves the same as Moses had delivered the children 
of Israel ; " 4 and they found nothing in this statement to make 
them doubt his sanity, or that seemed inherently improbable. 
A fanatic they recognized him to be ; but fanatics have at all 


times drawn satellites to them, even when the alliance meant 
certain death. And so Parsons, Realf and Cook, like Leeman, 
Tidd and Kagi the latter a man of unusual parts were 
content to go onward across Iowa. During their brief stay in 
Tabor, Brown offered to take his men, go to Nebraska City, 
and rescue from jail a slave who had run away and had lost his 
arm when captured, if the Tabor people would pay the actual 
expenses. He promised to put the slave into their hands, but 
they were afraid of the consequences and did not give him the 
means. 6 

It was on the long wintry journey to Springdale, Iowa, with 
two wagons laden with the Sharp's rifles and ammunition, that 
the details of the Virginia venture were gradually discussed. 
The caravan left the friendly hamlet of Tabor on December 
4, according to the diary of Owen Brown, valuable fragments 
of which survived the Harper's Ferry raid. 6 "Took leave of 
Tabor folks perhaps for the last time," and "started for Iowa 
City, Springdale and Ohio," are the entries which record the 
departure. Progress was slow, for all of the men walked and 
the weather was bitter cold; sometimes it is recorded that 
"Father used harsh words" in keeping the party, and particu- 
larly the son, in hand. They camped by the wayside, avoiding 
towns as much as possible, and made up in warmth of debate 
for the heat they lacked otherwise. On December 8 the entry 
reads : 

" Cold, wet and snowy; hot discussion upon the Bible and war 
. . . warm argument upon the effects of the abolition of slavery upon 
the Southern States, Northern States, commerce and manufactures, 
also upon the British provinces and the civilized world; whence 
came our civilization and origin? Talk about prejudices against 
color; question proposed for debate, greatest general, Washing- 
ton or Napoleon." 

This is an excellent sample of the wide range of the daily 
talks through the five months these strongly marked charac- 
ters were leagued together. The diary concludes on this day : 
"Very cold night; prairie wolves howl nobly; bought and car- 
ried hay on our backs two and a half miles ; some of the men 
a little down in the mouth distance travelled 20 miles." 
Fortunately, these travellers were inured to hardships. Their 
skill with the rifle aided in eking out their limited commissary. 


Sundays they stayed in camp. Evenings were frequently spent 
in singing, by Brown's request; he always joined with a hearty 
good-will and named the pieces that he wanted sung, such as 
"The Slave has seen the Northern Star," "From Greenland's 
Icy Mountains," etc. In this amusement Stevens led; for he 
had an exquisite voice, with clear, bugle notes. On Christmas 
Day they passed Marengo, a town about thirty miles from 
Iowa City; and presumably reached their immediate destina- 
tion, Springdale, fifteen miles beyond Iowa City, on the third 
day thereafter. 

On December 29, according to John Brown's own diary, 
Realf began to board with James Townsend, mine host of the 
tavern at West Branch, known as the Traveller's Rest. Of this 
Quaker Boniface unsupported tradition has it that when 
Brown, dismounting from a mule at his door on the trip 
through Iowa in October, 1856, asked Townsend whether he 
had heard of John Brown, the tavern-keeper, "without reply- 
ing, took from his vest pocket a piece of chalk and, removing 
Brown's hat, marked it with a large X; he then replaced the 
hat and solemnly decorated the back of Brown's coat with 
two large X marks; lastly he placed an X on the back of the 
mule." All of which pantomime was an indication that Brown 
and his animals were on the free list of the hotel. 7 

On the 29th, at noon, the other ten members of Brown's 
party began to board with John H. Painter, a friendly Quaker 
at Springdale, with whom they remained until January II, 
when they moved to the farmhouse of William Maxson, some 
distance from the village, which still stands, albeit in a condi- 
tion of growing ill-repair. 8 One dollar and a half a week was 
the moderate price asked for each man's board, "not includ- 
ing Washing nor extra lights." Here Brown speedily found it 
necessary to abandon his plan to continue on to Ashtabula in 
his adopted State. He was unable to sell his teams and wagons 
for cash; the financial panic of 1857 was now in full swing; 
board was cheap at Springdale, and the village itself was as 
remote a place, and as little likely to be thought the scene of 
plottings against the peace of a sovereign American state, as 
any hamlet in the country. Moreover, Mr. Maxson was ready 
to take the teams and wagons off Brown's hands and pay 
for them by boarding his men. It was a fortunate arrange- 


ment all around, and it left the leader free to go eastward and 
unfold to his New England friends the precise nature of the 
assault on Israel upon which he was now embarked. 

On January 15, 1858, before he left for the East, Brown did, 
however, go with some of his men into even greater details of 
his Virginia plan than on the winter's trip across Iowa. To 
Parsons, for instance, he here mentioned Harper's Ferry for 
the first time, but without speaking of an attack upon the 
arsenal. John Henrie Kagi knew this Virginia district well, 
and Brown's plan, as it was at this time, commended itself 
to his mind, which was severely analytical and not given to 

Just what the plan for the raid then was, appears from 
a long letter of Hugh Forbes, of May 14, 1858, to Dr. S. G. 
Howe, detailing his differences of opinion with Brown and 
demanding that he and his men be disarmed. 9 As soon as he 
reached Tabor, in August, 1857, Forbes says, they compared 
notes as to the coming attack on slavery in Virginia and 
brought out their respective schemes. Brown proposed, with 
from twenty-five to fifty colored and white men, well armed 
and taking with them a quantity of spare arms, "to beat up 
a slave quarter in Virginia." Forbes objected to this that: 

"No preparatory notice having been given to the slaves (no no- 
tice could go or with prudence be given them) the invitation to rise 
might, unless they were already in a state of agitation, meet with no 
response, or a feeble one. To this Brown replied that he was sure 
of a response. He calculated that he could get on the first night 
from 200 to 500. Half, or thereabouts, of this first lot he proposed 
to keep with him, mounting 100 or so of them, and make a dash at 
Harper's Ferry manufactory destroying what he could not carry off. 
The other men not of this party were to be sub-divided into three, 
four or five distinct parties, each under two or three of the original 
band and would beat up other slave quarters whence more men 
would be sent to join him. 

"He argued that were he pressed by the U. S. troops, which after 
a few weeks might concentrate, he could easily maintain himself 
in the Alleghenies and that his New England partisans would in 
the meantime call a Northern Convention, restore tranquility and 
overthrow the pro-slavery administration. This, I contended, could 
at most be a mere local explosion. A slave insurrection, being from 
the very nature of things deficient in men of education and experi- 
ence would under such a system as B. proposed be either a flash 
in the pan or would leap beyond his control, or any control, when it 


would become a scene of mere anarchy and would assuredly be 
suppressed. On the other hand, B. considered foreign intervention 
as not impossible. As to the dream of a Northern Convention, I 
considered it as a settled fallacy. Brown's New England friends 
would not have courage to show themselves, so long as the issue 
was doubtful, see my letter to J. B. dated 23 February." 

After weeks of discussion, Brown, Forbes declared, "acqui- 
esced or feigned to acquiesce" in a mixed project styled "The 
Well-Matured Plan," to which Forbes assented to secure 
mutual cooperation. Forbes's own plan, it must be admitted, 
sounds much more reasonable and practical than Brown's, 
and deserves, therefore, to be made a matter of record, par- 
ticularly as it had without doubt its influence on Brown. It 
was as follows: 

"With carefully selected white persons to organize along the 
Northern slave frontier (Virginia and Maryland especially) a series 
of stampedes of slaves, each one of which operations would carry 
off in one night and from the same place some twenty to fifty slaves ; 
this to be effected once or twice a month, and eventually once or 
twice a week along the non-contiguous parts of the line; if possible 
without conflict, only resorting to force if attacked. Slave women 
accustomed to field labor, would be nearly as useful as men. Every- 
thing being in readiness to pass on the fugitives, they could be 
sent with such speed to Canada that pursuit would be hopeless. In 
Canada preparations were to be made for their instruction and 
employment. Any disaster which might befall a stampede would 
at the utmost compromise those only who might be engaged in that 
single one; therefore we were not bound in good faith to the Abo- 
litionists (as we did not jeopardize them) to consult more than those 
engaged in this very project. Against the chance of loss by occa- 
sional accidents should be weighed the advantages of a series of 
successful 'runs.' Slave property would thus become untenable 
near the frontier ; that frontier would be pushed more and more 
Southward, and it might reasonably be expected that the excite- 
ment and irritation would impel the proslaveryites to commit some 
stupid blunders." 

As he stated his plan to Parsons at Springdale, Brown laid 
stress upon his determination not to fight or molest any one, 
except to help the escaping slaves to defend themselves or to 
flee to Canada. This satisfied Parsons for the moment, but it 
is to be noted that the men left at Springdale did not much 
discuss the details of their project with one another. Owen 


Brown's diary for February tells that on the I2th there was 
"talk about our adventures and plans." In the main, discus- 
sion ranged from theology and spiritualism to caloric engines, 
and covered every imaginable subject between them. Much 
talk of war and fighting there was, and drilling with wooden 
swords. Stevens, by reason of his service in the Mexican War, 
and subsequently in the United States Dragoons, was drill- 
master in default of Forbes. Sometimes they went into the 
woods to look for natural fortifications; again they discussed 
dislodging the enemy on a hill-top by means of "zigzag 
trenches." Forbes's 'Manual' was diligently perused. Some- 
times the men quarrelled with one another; sometimes their 
boisterousness during their long stay irritated their peaceful 
Quaker neighbors, many of whom were but recent settlers in 
that vicinity. Some of them, Owen Brown records, suspected 
Mr. Maxson's boarders of being Mormon spies in disguise, 
and others declared that they were "no better than runa- 
ways" and ought to be driven out of the community, a 
thought suggested, perhaps, by the rapidity with which they 
won for themselves sweethearts in the neighborhood by 
Othello-like tales of their adventures and daring in their Kan- 
sas wanderings. But some of these affairs of the heart resulted 
seriously and unfavorably to two or three of the raiders, who 
carried the scars thereof to their end. "One of the diversions 
at their home was the trial by jury of any member violating 
certain proprieties or rules. I see that I have made a note of 
a trial given Owen for writing down in his pocket-book the 
name of a lady in the vicinity. [Miss Laura Wascott.] Owen 
pleaded guilty," 10 thus Parsons recalled an incident of the 
winter. But in the main their discipline was rigid; there were 
black marks given for misconduct, and Cook was once seri- 
ously and severely censured "for hugging girls in Springdale 

This was the mock body with which they beguiled the long 
winter evenings, drafting laws for an ideal "State of Topeka ; " 
in it Cook, Kagi and Realf displayed their unusual powers as 
debaters. Sometimes this legislature met at Mr. Maxson's, 
more often in the village school, a mile or so away, and it fol- 
lowed the regulation procedure with its bills and its debates. 
Soon Realf was in demand as a speaker and lecturer. 11 But 


when at Springdale he was not the poorest of the band in 
the manoeuvres and gymnastics practised in the field behind 
the Maxson house for three hours every fair day, with a view 
to developing the men physically to the utmost advantage. 
Only a few of the neighbors suspected or knew that these ex- 
ercises were not intended to fit the men for service in behalf 
of Kansas. Townsend of the Traveller's Rest; Maxson and 
Painter, Dr. H. C. Gill and Moses Varney were more or less 
in John Brown's confidence in 1858, and most of them tried to 
dissuade him from his project. 12 But, as the Eastern friends 
found out, there was no possibility of success along that line 
of argument. Brown had made up his mind to realize the plan 
of his lifetime, even though it sorely troubled the peace-lov- 
ing Quaker friends at Springdale. One of them, Painter, gave 
twenty dollars to Brown, saying: "Friend, I cannot give thee 
money to buy powder and lead, but here's twenty dollars 
toward thy expenses." 13 

In short, the Springdale settlement as a whole wished him 
well, despite the fact that he was emphatically a man of 
war, and that his men, as Owen Brown at this time recorded, 
believed with Jay that "he that is guilty of such oppression 
[as slavery], making it perpetual upon the posterity of the 
oppressed, might justly be killed outright." To them slavery 
was the sum of all oppression, and one of their debates was an 
inquiry into the reason why the spirit of 1776 was so lacking 
in the face of the wrongs of 1858. But this little group of 
young men, among whom was Richard Richardson, a runaway 
slave from Lexington, Missouri, who had attached himself to 
Brown at Tabor, found their stay in Springdale as care-free as 
if they had not agreed to challenge with their lives the most 
powerful of American institutions. As has been set forth at 
length in Irving B. Richman's charming and valuable essay, 
'John Brown Among the Quakers,' "the time spent in Spring- 
dale was a time of genuine pleasure to Brown's men. They en- 
joyed its quiet, as also the rural beauty of the village and the 
gentle society of the people." 14 Brown's men have all gone; 
hardly any one remains in Springdale to tell the tale of their 
stay; the Maxson and other houses of '58 are falling into de- 
cay ; but the quiet beauty of Springdale remains. It still con- 
sists of one broad street with modest frame houses surrounded 


Where the Mock Legislature met 

Where John Brown stored his guns and ammunition 


by green and rolling fields; but the Quaker element is little 
noticeable, and there are fewer people residing there to-day 
than fifty years ago. 

Thirteen days after leaving Tabor, John Brown was in the 
Rochester house of Frederick Douglass, 16 who had so long 
been the confidant of his plan as to Virginia, and in numer- 
ous talks informed him that the time was ripe for the long- 
cherished undertaking. On the way East he had stopped in 
Lindenville, Ohio, 16 to visit his son John and talk over with 
him the unpleasant developments in regard to Hugh Forbes, 
about which Brown had written to his son on January 15, at 
Springdale. He had decided, on receiving a violent and abu- 
sive letter, to correspond with Forbes through a third person ; 
the malevolent spirit displayed by that adventurer making it 
necessary for his safety, if for no other reason. Forbes had not 
waited long after his return to the East he had stopped at 
Rochester on his way to New York and obtained financial aid 
from Frederick Douglass 17 to begin, in December, 1857,3 
long series of abusive letters to all of Brown's Eastern friends 
and to the leading anti-slavery statesmen in Washington. 
Having now firmly convinced himself that he had been out- 
rageously treated, he took somewhat of the blackmailer's posi- 
tion and demanded money on pain of publishing to the world 
the facts about Brown and his plans. The needs of his family, 
whether genuine or exaggerated, became an obsession with 
him; of Brown he demanded another six months' pay, on the 
ground that his engagement was for a year. His begging 
was endless and persistent; had he devoted but a tithe of 
the energy he put into his letters to earning a livelihood, 
he must have supported easily those dependent upon him. 
To most of those he addressed he was utterly unknown or at 
most a name; he had not, of course, any document to prove 
that he had been employed either by the Massachusetts Kan- 
sas Committee or the National Kansas Committee. Yet 
he insisted that he had been, misled, perhaps, into believ- 
ing that the Kansas Committees were similar to the Euro- 
pean revolutionary bodies of which he had had experience 
or cognizance. He even forced his way, in the spring of 
1858, to Senator Henry Wilson, on the floor of the Senate, 
during a recess of that body, and retailed to him in great 


excitement the story of his wrongs, renewing to Senator Wil- 
son the demand he had then for some time been making, that 
Brown and his men be disarmed. 18 To William H. Seward he 
portrayed Brown as a "very bad man who would not keep his 
word; " "a reckless man, an unreliable man, a vicious man." 19 
As a sample of his utterances, the following will suffice to 
show either that the man was unbalanced, or that he was 
deliberately trying to use Brown's inability to pay him more 
than six months' salary as a club to get means whether 
earned or not from the New England friends : 20 

"Capt. B. came to me with a letter from the Rev. Joshua Leavitt 
of the New York Independent. Upon my making inquiries of him he 
stated that Capt. B. had no means of his own to meet any obliga- 
tions but that he believed him to be backed by good and responsible 
men, and that at any rate I might repose faith in his word. Brown 
on his part trusted to the New England promises made to him, 
which promises being subsequently broken (because it was imagined 
that the border ruffians had abandoned Kansas) he of course could 
not fulfill his compact with me, and when I remonstrated, the hu- 
manitarians replied 'We do not know you We made no engage- 
ment with you ; ' while Brown said ' Be quiet do not weaken my 
hand ; ' and when I refused to be quiet, since my children were being 
killed by slow torture through the culpability of the humanitarians, 
then B. denies his obligation to me rather than displease the men 
of money. The humanitarians and Brown are guilty of perfidy and 
barbarity, to which may be added stupidity. . . . You do not take 
into consideration that you are perpetrating an atrocious wrong, 
while I am struggling to save my family. I am the natural protector 
of my children, nothing but death shall prevent my defending them 
against the barbarity of the New England speculators." 

He was by this time charging that the whole Virginia pro- 
posal was a scheme of A. A. Lawrence and others interested in 
New England mills, to make money by temporarily causing 
an increase in the price of cotton through the panic bound to 
follow Brown's attack. 

On February 9, Brown wrote to his son John, directing him 
to reply to a letter from Forbes in the following disingenuous 
terms: 21 

"Your letter to my father, of 27th January, after mature reflec- 
tion, I have decided to return to you, as I am unwilling he should, 
with all his other cares, difficulties and trials, be vexed with what 
I am apprehensive he will accept as highly offensive and insulting, 


while I know that he is disposed to do all he consistently can for 
you, and will do so unless you are yourself the cause of his disgust. 
I was trying to send you a little assistance myself, say about 
forty dollars; but I must hold up till I feel different from what I do 
now. I understood from my father that he had advanced you already 
six hundred dollars, or six months' pay (disappointed as he has been) 
to enable you to provide for your family; and that he was to give 
you one hundred dollars per month for just as much time as you 
continued in his service. Now, you in your letter undertake to in- 
struct him to say that he had positively engaged you for one year. 
I fear he will not accept it well to be asked or told to state what he 
considers an untruth. Again, I suspect you have greatly mistaken 
the man, if you suppose he will take it kindly in you, or any living 
man, to assume to instruct him how he should conduct his own busi- 
ness and correspondence. And I suspect that the seemingly spiteful 
letters you say you have written to some of his particular friends 
have not only done you great injury, but also weakened his hands 
with them. While I have, in my poverty, deeply sympathized with 
you and your family, who, I ask, is likely to be moved by any ex- 
hibition of a wicked and spiteful temper on your part, or is likely to 
be dictated to by you as to their duties?" 

To this son, Brown explained that he wished to see how a 
sharp and well-merited rebuke would affect Forbes; if it had 
the desired effect, they would send forty dollars. " I am anx- 
ious," Brown added, "to understand him fully before we go 
any further. ..." 

While the Forbes matter was doubtless much on his mind 
during his stay of three weeks with Frederick Douglass, his 
chief concern was to bring about a meeting of his warmest 
and most generous supporters at Gerrit Smith's, in Peterboro, 
in the latter half of February. He declined a call from Mr. 
Stearns and Mr. Sanborn to visit Boston because: 22 

"It would be almost impossible for me to pass through Albany, 
Springfield, or any of those points, on my way to Boston; & not 
have it known; & my reasons for keeping quiet were such that when 
I left Kansas; I kept it from every friend there; & I suppose it is still 
understood that I am hiding somewhere in the territory ; & such will 
be the idea; untill it comes to be generally known that I am in these 
parts. I want to continue that impression as long as I can ; or for 
the present. ... My reasons for keeping still are sufficient to keep 
me from seeing my Wife; 6* Children: much as I long to do so." 

To them Brown had written at length, on January 30, 23 of 
his relief of mind at being again so near them, of his hope of 


devising a way of meeting some one of the deserted North 
Elba homestead : . 

"The anxiety I feel to see my Wife; & Children once more; I 
am unable to describe. . . . The cries of my poor sorrowstricken de- 
spairing Children whoose ' tears on their cheeks ' are ever in my Eye; 
& whose sighs are ever in my Ears; may however prevent my enjoy- 
ing the happiness I so much desire. But courage, courage, Courage 
the great work of my life (the unseen Hand that ' girded me ; & who 
has indeed holden my right hand may hold it still ;) though I have not 
known Him ; ' at all as I ought :) I may yet see accomplished ; (God 
helping;} & be permitted to return, & rest at Evening." 

To Thomas Wentworth Higginson he thus appealed : 24 

" I now want to get for the perfecting of BY FAR the most impor- 
tant undertaking of my whole life; from $500, to $800, within the 
next Sixty days. I have written Rev Theodore Parker, George L. 
Stearns, and F. B. Sanborn Esqur, on the subject; but do not know 
as either Mr Stearns, or Mr Sanborn, are abolitionists I suppose 
they are. Can you be induced to opperate at Worcester, & elsewhere 
during that time to raise from Anti-slavery men & women (or any 
other parties) some part of that amount? . . . Hope this is my last 
effort in the begging line." 

Higginson could not go to Peterboro, neither could Mr. 
Stearns; moreover, Brown's letters failed to interest them 
because of their indefiniteness. To Mr. Sanborn the invitation 
was particularly attractive because of the presence at Gerrit 
Smith's of a classmate, Edwin Morton, then a tutor in Mr. 
Smith's family. "Our old and noble friend, Captain John 
Brown of Kansas arrives this evening," is the entry in Gerrit 
Smith's diary on February 18, 1858, 25 and his welcome was in 
keeping with these words. For Brown this worthy philanthro- 
pist conceived a genuine affection, which appears in the later 
letters to the raider, and not even in the Stearns or Russell 
homes was he a more welcome guest. On this, the most impor- 
tant of all visits, he lost no time in unfolding his plans to his 
generous patron, and on the 24th he was able to write to his 
family: 26 "Mr. Smith & family go all lengths with me," 
a significant phrase in view of Mr. Smith's subsequent efforts 
to make it appear that he was not really cognizant of the 
lengths to which Brown's plan was to carry them. The final 
and most important exchange of views was held when Mr. 


Sanborn arrived, on Washington's Birthday. What took place 
then has been set forth in detail by Mr. Sanborn at various 
times. 27 In an upper room of the Smith mansion, Brown "un- 
folded his plans" for a campaign somewhere in slave territory 
east of the Alleghanies, and read to them, so Mr. Sanborn 

"the singular constitution drawn up by him [in the Frederick 
Douglass house in Rochester] for the government of the territory, 
small or large, which he might rescue by force from slavery, and for 
the control of his own little band. It was an amazing proposition 
desperate in its character, wholly inadequate in its provision 
of means, and of most uncertain result. Such as it was, Brown 
had set his heart on it as the shortest way to restore our slave- 
cursed republic to the principles of the Declaration of Independ- 
ence; and he was ready to die in its execution as he did." 

Amazing proposition that it was, Brown's auditors gave 
him respectful attention until after midnight, "proposing 
objections and raising difficulties ; but nothing could shake the 
purpose of the old Puritan." He was able in some fashion to 
meet every criticism of his plans, to suggest a plausible way 
out of every difficulty, while to the chief objection, the slender 
means for undertaking a war upon the dominating American 
institution, he opposed merely a Scriptural text: "If God be 
for us, who can be against us?" He wanted to open his cam- 
paign in the spring; all he needed was five hundred or eight 
hundred dollars, for he now had the arms and sufficient men. 
"No argument could prevail against his fixed purpose." The 
discussion went over until the next day ; and despite the fool- 
hardiness of the venture, despite the strange Constitution, 
which to many minds remains the strongest indictment of 
Brown's sanity, his will prevailed. He did not at this time, 
Mr. Sanborn testifies, speak specifically of starting at Har- 
per's Ferry or taking the arsenal ; the point of departure was 
left vague, but the general outlines were about as he had 
described them to Forbes. Back of it all, in his head, was the 
purpose of setting the South afire and precipitating a conflict. 
Finally, says Mr. Sanborn : 28 

"We saw we must either stand by him or leave him to dash himself 
alone against the fortress he was determined to assault. To with- 


hold aid would only delay, not prevent him. As the sun was setting 
over the snowy hills of the region where we met, I walked for an 
hour with Gerrit Smith among woods and fields (then included in 
his broad manor) which his father purchased of the Indians and 
bequeathed to him. Brown was left at home by the fire, discussing 
points of theology with Charles Stewart [Stuart]. Mr. Smith re- 
stated in his eloquent way the daring propositions of Brown, whose 
import he understood fully, and then said in substance: 'You see 
how it is ; our dear old friend has made up his mind to this course, 
and cannot be turned from it. We cannot give him up to die alone; 
we must support him. I will raise so many hundred dollars for him ; 
you must lay the case before your friends in Massachusetts, and 
ask them to do as much. I see no other way.' I had come to the 
same conclusion, and by the same process of reasoning. It was done 
far more from our regard for the man than from hopes of immediate 

Well might Brown rejoice. With Mr. Smith's wealth and 
influence behind him, it could now be only a short while before 
he would have in hand the small sum he asked, and be actually 
in battle with the forces of slavery. 

Mr. Sanborn left on February 24 for Boston, ready to work 
for the plan there and summon a gathering of a trusted few 
who could be counted on to put their shoulders to the wheel. 
He had scarcely left when Brown, in his exaltation and exulta- 
tion of spirit, sent him these characteristic lines : 29 


Mr Morton has taken the liberty of saying to me that you felt 
^/i inclined to make a common cause with me. I greatly rejoice at 
this ; for I believe when you come to look at the ample field I labour 
in: & the rich harvest which (not only this entire country, but) the 
whole world during the present & future generations may reap from 
its successful cultivation : you will feel that you are out of your ele- 
ment until you find you are in it; an entire Unit. What an incon- 
ceivable amount of good you might so effect ; by your counsel, your 
example, your encouragement, your natural, & acquired ability ; for 
active service. And then how very little we can possibly, loose? Cer- 
tainly the cause is enough to live for; if not to * for. I have only 

had this one opportunity in a life of nearly Sixty years, & could I be 
continued Ten times as long again, I might not again have another 
equal opportunity. God has honored but comparatively a very 
small part of mankind with any possible chance for such mighty & 
soul satisfying rewards. But my dear friend if you should make up 
your mind to dp so I trust it will be wholly from the promptings of 

* Word omitted. 


your own spirit; after having thoroughly counted the cost. I would 
flatter no man into such a measure if I could do it ever so easily. / 
expect nothing but to "endure hardness" : but I expect to effect a 
mighty conquest even though it be like the last victory of Samson. 
I felt for a number of years in earlier life: a steady, strong, desire; 
to die: but since I saw any prospect of becoming a " reaper" in the 
great harvest I have not only felt quite willing to live: but have 
enjoyed life much; & am now rather anxious to live for a few years 

On the same day, Brown left Peterboro for the home of 
Dr. and Mrs. J. N. Gloucester, a well-to-do colored couple 
of Brooklyn, who by wise investments and steady industry 
had accumulated a fortune. 30 To them he revealed his plan, 
with full confidence in their ability to keep a secret, just as he 
got into frank communication with J. W. Loguen, a negro of 
Syracuse. These and other colored people assisted him with 
counsel and funds, came to believe whole-heartedly in the 
success of his project, and remained faithful to the end. On 
the nth of March, Brown was in Philadelphia, where he met 
on the I5th, at the residence of the Rev. Stephen Smith in 
Lombard Street, a little group of colored men, among them 
Frederick Douglass, the Rev. Henry H. Garnett and William 
Still. 31 To them, too, with surprising but justified faith in the 
ability of numbers to keep so important a conspiracy to them- 
selves, Brown stated his project and appealed for men and 
money, and John Brown, Jr., seconded him, for he had met his 
father in Philadelphia to discuss his own part in the great 
undertaking. His father wished him to take a trip to "Bed- 
ford, Chambersburg, Gettysburg, and Uniontown, in Pennsyl- 
vania, travelling slowly along, and inquiring of every one on 
the way or every family of the right stripe." He also urged 
his son to go "even to Harper's Ferry." 32 William Still, long 
an active Underground Railroad worker in Philadelphia, was 
especially valuable in this time, because of his knowledge of 
the Pennsylvania routes and stations. 

All through this period Brown was endeavoring to enlist new 
recruits. He counted on Frederick Douglass, and the survivors 
of his family still feel that the great colored orator failed, when 
the real test came, to live up to his obligations. 33 A particu- 
lar disappointment at this period in 1858 was his inability to 
reenlist his son-in-law, Henry Thompson, whose services and 


bravery in Kansas had so commended themselves to him. Of 
his daughter Ruth he asked whether any plan could 

"be devised whereby you could let Henry go 'to school' (as you 
expressed it in your letter to him while in Kansas:) I would rather 
NOW have him ' for another term ' : than to have a Hundred average 
schollars. I have a PARTICULAR & VERY IMPORTANT ; (but not danger- 
ous) place for HIM to fill; in the 'school' ; & I know of NO MAN living; 
so well adapted to fill it. I am quite confident some way can be 
devised ; so that you; 6* your children could be with him ; & be quite 
happy even: & safe but ' God forbid ' me to flatter you into trouble. 
I did not do it before" 34 

The daughter replied in doubt, asking what the post of 
his duty was to be, and saying that her husband felt that too 
high an estimate had been placed on his "qualifications as 
a scholar." Ruth's desire to preserve her husband's life con- 
quered in the end her wish to be of service to her father and 
the great cause of the Brown family. 35 To this Mr. Thompson 
probably owes the fact that he is still, at this writing, in the 
land of the living. , 

Before his Philadelphia conference, Brown had made a 
hasty trip to Boston, where he met Higginson, Parker, Howe, 
Sanborn and Stearns, at the American House during his four 
days' stay from March 5 to 8. To Mr. Parker he wrote, on 
March 7, asking his aid in "composing a substitute for an 
address you saw last season, directed to the officers and sol- 
diers of the United States Army." He had never been able to 
clothe his ideas in language to satisfy himself, but he tried to 
tell the great pulpit orator what he wanted, in these words : 36 

"In the first place, it must be short, or it will not be generally 
read. It must be in the simplest or plainest language; without the 
least affectation of the scholar about it, and yet be worded with 
great clearness and power. The anonymous writer must (in the 
language of the Paddy) be 'after others,' and not 'after himself, 
at all, at all.' If the spirit that 'communicated' Franklin's Poor 
Richard (or some other good spirit) would dictate, I think it would 
be quite as well employed as the 'dear sister spirits' have been 
for some years past. The address "should be appropriate, and par- 
ticularly adapted to the peculiar circumstances we anticipate, 
and should look to the actual change of service from that of Satan 
to the service of God. It should be, in short, a most earnest and 
powerful appeal to man's sense of right, and to their feelings of 

Brown also asked for a similar short address, 

"appropriate to the peculiar circumstances, intended for all per- 
sons, old and young, male and female, slaveholding and non-slave- 
holding, to be sent out broadcast over the entire nation. So by 
every male and female prisoner on being set at liberty, and to be 
read by them during confinement." 

Particularly striking is this passage, since it foreshadows 
exactly his treatment of his prisoners at Harper's Ferry : 

"The impressions made on prisoners by kindness and plain deal- 
ing, instead of barbarous and cruel treatment, such as they might 
give, and instead of being slaughtered like vile reptiles, as they might 
very naturally expect, are not only powerful, but lasting. Females 
are susceptible of being carried away entirely by the kindness of an 
intrepid and magnanimous soldier, even when his bare name was 
but a terror the day previous." 

By this appeal Mr. Parker was not moved, his only reply 
being to send to Brown Captain George B. McClellan's 
recently issued report on the armies of Europe. 37 That Brown 
was much concerned with the reading of his followers ap- 
pears from his asking Mr. Sanborn, in February, for copies of 
Plutarch's 'Lives,' Irving's 'Life of Washington,' the best 
written ' Life of Napoleon ' and other similar books, for use at 
Springdale. 38 

Some idea of the method of raising the funds for Brown 
appears from Mr. Sanborn's letters of this period to Mr. 
Higginson. On March 8 he reported : 39 

"Hawkins* has gone to Philadelphia today, leaving his friends 
to work for him. $1000 is the sum set to be raised here of which 
yourself, Mr. Parker, Dr. Howe, Mr. Stearns and myself each are 
assessed to raise $100 Some may do more perhaps you cannot 
come up to that nor I, possibly But of $500 we are sure 
and the $1000 in all probability. . . . Hawkins goes to prepare 
agencies for his business near where he will begin operations. Dr. 
Cabot knows something of the speculation, but not the whole, not 
being quite prepared to take stock. No others have been admitted 
to a share in the business, though G. R. Russell has been consulted." 

A meeting was called for March 20, at Dr. Howe's rooms, 
to discuss raising funds, in Mr. Stearns's name. The next day 
Mr. Sanborn stated that: 

* Brown. 


" Mr. Stearns is Treasurer of the enterprise for N. E. and has 

now on hand $150 having paid H $100. . . . Mr. Stearns has 

given $100 & promises $200 more, but holds it back for a future 
emergency. ,Mr. Parker has raised his $100 & will do something 
more. Dr. H. has paid in $50 and will raise $100 more. ... I paid 
Brown $25 my own subscription but have as yet been able 
to get nothing else though I shall do so." 40 

By April I there were three hundred and seventy-five dol- 
lars in hand, but three weeks later, Brown had received only 
four hundred and ten dollars and was calling urgently for 
the remainder of the one thousand dollars promised. In all 
he received at this time only about six hundred dollars, 
together with other sums raised in New York and Philadelphia 
a pittance, indeed, with which to begin his crusade. Mr. 
Higginson early did his share. His interview with Brown in 
March had made so deep an impression upon him that he was 
thereafter ready to do and dare with Brown with unflinching 
courage. As it is often said that Brown's chief success lay 
in influencing weaker minds, it is worth noting the impres- 
sion a single talk with him made upon this able and virile 
Worcester clergyman: 

" I met him in his room at the American House [No. 126] in March, 
1858. I saw before me a man whose mere appearance and bearing 
refuted in advance some of the strange perversions which have 
found their way into many books, and which often wholly missed 
the type to which he belonged. In his thin, worn, resolute face there 
were the signs of a fire which might wear him out, and practically 
did so, but nothing of pettiness or baseness; and his talk was calm, 
persuasive, and coherent. He was simply a high-minded, unselfish, 
belated Covenanter; a man whom Sir Walter Scott might have 
drawn, but whom such writers as Nicolay and Hay, for instance, 
have utterly failed to delineate. To describe him in their words as 
'clean but coarse' is curiously wide of the mark; he had no more 
of coarseness than was to be found in Habakkuk Mucklewrath or 
in George Eliot's Adam Bede; he had, on the contrary, that religious 
elevation which is itself a kind of refinement; the quality one may 
see expressed in many a venerable Quaker face at yearly meeting. 
Coarseness absolutely repelled him; he was so strict as to the de- 
meanor of his men that his band was always kept small, while that 
of Lane was large ; he had little humor, and none of the humorist's 
temptation toward questionable conversation." u 

On one of his Boston visits, Brown also met the Rev. James 
Freeman Clarke at Senator Sumner's residence, according 


to Mr. Clarke, 42 where Brown begged to see the coat worn 
by the Senator when he was attacked, and "looked at it as a 
devotee would contemplate the relic of a saint." This was his 
only recorded meeting with the victim of Preston Brooks' s as- 
sault, the news of which had so stirred Brown and his men 
prior to the Pottawatomie murders. 

From Philadelphia, John Brown and John, Jr., made a brief 
visit to New Haven and New York; at the latter place the 
well-known Gibbons and Hopper families, prominent among 
the anti-slavery Quakers, were now assisting him. Thence 
they went direct to North Elba, on what was to have been a 
farewell visit prior to the risking of their lives, arriving on 
March 23. 43 By April 2 they were at Gerrit Smith's, again 
under way, and found Mr. Smith as encouraging as usual. 
After a day spent in discussing the Virginia plan, they left for 
Rochester, where they separated on April 5, Brown heading 
for St. Catherine's, Canada, where he arrived on the yth in 
company with his colored helper, J. W. Loguen. 44 Here he 
met by appointment a remarkable negro woman, Harriet 
Tubman, known as the " Moses of her People," whom he now 
relied upon to work for him among the escaped slaves then 
living in large numbers in Canada West, as he later hoped 
that she would be a chief guide to the North of the slaves he 
wished to free in the neighborhood of Harper's Ferry. Of 
her Brown wrote that she was "the most of a man, naturally, 
that I ever met with." Well might she win his admiration, 
for her exploits in leading runaway slaves to freedom, at the 
risk of her own life, form one of the most moving and thrilling 
stories of the entire struggle against slavery. 

At this time there were some thirty to forty thousand 
colored people in Upper Canada, and about twelve hundred in 
Toronto, some of them free-born and in good circumstances; 
a great majority, "freight" of the Underground Railroad. 45 
At Buxton, near the shore of Lake Erie, was the "Elgin Asso- 
ciation," a model colony for escaped slaves; and not far from 
this was Chatham, chief town of the County of Kent, also a 
favorite place for the colored men who had found under the 
British flag the personal liberty denied them under the stars 
and stripes. Here were some well-to-do colored farmers and 
mechanics, who had established a good school, W 7 ilberforce 


Institute, for the education of their children, several churches 
and a newspaper of their own. 46 Brown soon made up his mind 
that this would be the best place for the convention of his fol- 
lowers upon which he had now set his heart. He was not will- 
ing to commence his raid upon slavery without some formal- 
ity. Just as he had drawn up regular by-laws for his Kansas 
company to sign, so he now wished to inaugurate his move- 
ment only with a certain ceremonial. It would have been 
cheaper and easier to have gone direct to the scene of action 
in Virginia, but his mind was set on his convention, upon 
which he also counted to draw to his enterprise some, if not 
many, of the escaped slaves in Canada West. 

His visit to St. Catherine's with J. W. Loguen was, there- 
fore, in the nature of a reconnoissance. It lasted a trifle less 
than three weeks, and included a trip to Ingersoll, Chatham, 
and probably to other near-by points. Neither the letters now 
available nor Brown's memorandum-book of 1858 have re- 
corded any details of his movements. But his pen was ever 
busy, and the recruits for his convention were gradually 
enlisted, among them a colored physician, Dr. Martin R. 
Delany, who subsequently served in the colored volunteers, 
with the rank of major, during the Civil War. To see this able 
man, Brown went three times to Chatham " before finding 
him, refusing on the first two occasions to leave his name or 
address. To him Brown stated that it was men he wanted, not 
money, and Dr. Delany promised to be on hand at the Chat- 
ham convention and to bring others as well. Finally, Brown 
was ready to lead to Canada the "flock of sheep " he had win- 
tered at Springdale, to which place he journeyed by way of 
Chicago. He arrived at Mr. Maxson's home the 25th of April, 
and two days later was ready to start, as he wrote on that day 
to his family. 

He found the band of conspirators reinforced by George B. 
Gill, a native of Iowa, and Stewart Taylor, a young Canadian, 
who responded to his name at the final roll-call in Harper's 
Ferry and there lost his life. Gill, a man of education and some 
literary ability, had known Brown in previous enterprises, had 
been in Kansas and introduced Taylor to John Brown. Two 
other notable accessions were the brothers Coppoc, Barclay 
and Edwin, who also participated in the final raid, much to 


the grief of their Quaker mother, whose quaint and fast- 
decaying house may still be seen in Springdale. A woman of 
marked intelligence, a strong Abolitionist, she had herself in- 
stilled into the minds of her sons that hatred of slavery which 
had led Barclay to Kansas in 1857, to aid in making it a free 
State, and resulted in Edwin's giving up his life on the scaffold 
with that pure faith and calm resignation naturally associated 
with the Quaker training. 48 The Coppocs were not ready to go 
to Chatham, and so did not figure in the convention, as did the 
men who had boarded at Mr. Maxson's. These John Brown 
found still harmonious, despite some occasional friction, to 
be expected, perhaps, among vigorous men of strong, restless 
character, cooped up in one small farmhouse. Leeman had 
given Owen Brown the greatest concern of all, 49 and Tidd had 
laid himself open to a grave charge by the father of a Quaker 
maiden resident not far away. 50 But aside from this, there 
seems to have been genuine regret at the leaving of this body 
of vigorous young men who had done so much to enliven and 
entertain the neighborhood ; several of them kept up a lengthy 
correspondence with friends in Springdale up to the hour of 
the tragedy which gave them a place in history. Certainly, 
Brown could not complain of the spirit of his followers, when 
he rejoined them. Stevens wrote to his sister on April 8: "I 
.am ready to give up my life for the oppressed if need be. I 
hope I shall have your good will and sympathy in this glorious 
cause." 61 Leeman rejoiced that he was "warring with slav- 
ery the greatest Curse that ever infested America." Richard 
Realf's and John E. Cook's letters are in a similar strain. 

Leaving Springdale with nine of the men, shortly before 
noon on the 27th, Brown and his followers took a three o'clock 
train for West Liberty, and arrived at Chicago at five the next 
morning. For breakfast they went to the Massasoit House, 
only to be told that one of their number, the negro, Richard 
Richardson, could not be served with them. True to their 
belief that all men were created free and equal, and to 
their comradeship, they marched out of the hotel, Brown at 
their head, and soon found another hostelry, the Adams House, 
at which the color-line was not drawn. 52 Leaving Chicago at 
four-thirty, the ten were in Detroit at six o'clock on the morn- 
ing of Thursday, April 29, and were breakfasting at the Villa 


Tavern, Chatham, by nine o'clock. "Ten persons begin to 
board with Mr. Barber 29th April at Dinner. Three others 
began May 1st at Breakfast," Brown's memorandum-book 
records. He himself made his headquarters with James M. 
Bell, a colored man. "Here," wrote Richard Realf to Dr. 
H. C. Gill at Springdale, 53 

"we intend to remain till we have perfected our plans, which will 
be in about ten days or two weeks, after which we start for China. 
Yesterday and this morning we have been very busy in writing to 
Gerrit Smith and Wendell Phillips and others of like kin to meet 
us in this place on Saturday, the 8th of May, to adopt our Constitu- 
tion, decide a few matters and bid us goodbye. Then we start. . . . 
The signals and mode of writing are (the old man informs me) all 
arranged. . . . Remember me to all who know our business, but to 
all others be as dumb as death." 

Despite Brown's admonition to his men to write no letters 
while here, John E. Cook was another who corresponded 
freely with friends in Springdale; to two young women he 
observed 54 that only one thing kept him 

"from being absolutely unhappy, and that is the consciousness that 
I am in the path of duty. I long for the loth of May to come. I am 
anxious to leave this place, to have my mind occupied with the great 
work of our mission. . . . Through the dark gloom of the future I 
fancy I can almost see the dawning light of Freedom ; . . . that I 
can almost hear the swelling anthem of Liberty rising from the mil- 
lions who have but just cast aside the fetters and the shackles that 
bound them. But ere that day arrives, I fear that we shall hear the 
crash of the battle shock and see the red gleaming of the cannon's 

Not only were compromising letters of this kind written 
freely to friends and relations, but similar ones received were 
carried about by all the men and kept intact up to the raid 

Finally, the 8th of May, the day for the opening of the 
convention, arrived. None of the Eastern backers were pre- 
sent, neither Wendell Phillips, nor Gerrit Smith, nor F. B. 
Sanborn, and no white men save Brown's own party. This 
was now composed, besides himself, of Leeman, Stevens, Tidd, 
Gill, Taylor, Parsons, Kagi, Moffet, Cook, Realf and Owen 
Brown, twelve in all. The colored men were thirty-four 
in number, among them Richard Richardson, Osborn P. 


Anderson, James H. Harris, afterwards Congressman from 
North Carolina and Dr. Delany. Only one of these thirty- 
four, O. P. Anderson, actually reached the firing-line. The 
presiding officer was William Charles Munroe, pastor of a 
Detroit colored church, and the secretary was John H. Kagi. 56 
There were really two distinct conventions. The first, a "Pro- 
visional Constitutional Convention," met on Saturday, May 8, 
at ten in the morning, in a frame school-building on Princess 
Street, the remaining sessions being held in the First Baptist 
Church and in "No. 3 Engine House," which had been erected 
by some colored men, who also formed the fire-company. In 
order to mislead any one who might inquire the meaning of 
these assemblages, it was stated that they were for the pur- 
pose of organizing a Masonic lodge among the colored people. 
After the election of officers, on motion of Dr. Delany, John 
Brown arose to state at length the object of the permanent 
convention and the plan of action to follow it. Dr. Delany 
and others spoke in favor of both projects, and they were 
agreed to by general assent. 

In his testimony before the Mason Committee, early in 
1860, Richard Realf thus set forth the substance of the leader's 
speech : 56 

" John Brown, on rising, stated that for twenty or thirty years the 
idea had possessed him like a passion of giving liberty to the slaves. 
He stated immediately thereafter, that he made a journey to Eng- 
land in 1 85 1, in which year he took to the international exhibition 
at London, samples of wool from Ohio, during which period he made 
a tour upon the European continent, inspecting all fortifications, 
and especially all earth-work forts which he could find, with a view, 
as he stated, of applying the knowledge thus gained, with modifica- 
tions and inventions of his own, to such a mountain warfare as he 
thereafter spoke upon in the United States. John Brown stated, 
moreover, that he had not been indebted to anybody for the sug- 
gestion of that plan ; that it arose spontaneously in his' own mind ; 
that through a series of from twenty to thirty years it had gradually 
formed and developed itself into shape and plan." 

After telling of his studies of Roman warfare, of the success- 
ful opposition to the Romans of the Spanish chieftains, of the 
successes of Schamyl, the Circassian chief, and of Toussaint 
L'Ouverture in Hayti, and of his own familiarity with Haytian 
conditions, Brown spoke of his belief that, 


"upon the first intimation of a plan formed for the liberation of 
the slaves, they would immediately rise all over the Southern 
States. He supposed that they would come into the mountains to 
join him, where he proposed to work, and that by flocking to his 
standard they would enable him (by making the line of mountains 
which cuts diagonally through Maryland and Virginia down through 
the Southern States into Tennessee and Alabama, the base of his 
operations) to act upon the plantations on the plains lying on each 
side of that range of mountains, and that we should be able to es- 
tablish ourselves in the fastnesses, and if any hostile action (as 
would be) were taken against us, either by the militia of the separate 
States or by the armies of the United States, we purposed^to defeat 
first the militia, and next, if it were possible, the troops of the United 
States, and then organize the freed blacks under this provisional 
constitution, which would carve out for the locality of its juris- 
diction all that mountainous region in which the blacks were to 
be established and in which they were to be taught the useful and 
mechanical arts, and to be instructed in all the business of life. 
Schools were also to be established, and so on. That was it. ... 
The negroes were to constitute the soldiers. John Brown expected 
that all the free negroes in the Northern States would immediately 
flock to his standard. He expected that all the slaves in the South- 
ern States would do the same. He believed, too, that as many of the 
free negroes in Canada as could accompany him, would do so. . . . 
The slaveholders were to be taken as hostages, if they refused to let 
their slaves go. It is a mistake to suppose that they were to be 
killed; they were not to be. They were to be held as hostages for 
the safe treatment of any prisoners of John Brown's who might fall 
into the hands of hostile parties. . . . All the non-slaveholders 
were to be protected. Those who would not join the organization of 
John Brown, but who would not oppose it, were to be protected; 
but those who did oppose it, were to be treated as the slaveholders 
themselves. . . . Thus, John Brown said that he believed, a suc- 
cessful incursion could be made; that it could be successfully main- 
tained ; that the several slave States could be forced (from the posi- 
tion in which they found themselves) to recognize the freedom of 
those who had been slaves within the respective limits of those 
States; that immediately such recognitions were made, then the 
places of all the officers elected under this provisional constitution 
became vacant, and new elections were to be made. Moreover, no 
salaries were to be paid to the office-holders under this constitution. 
It was purely out of that which we supposed to be philanthropy 
love for the slave." 

After this address, John Brown presented a plan of organ- 
ization, entitled "Provisional Constitution and Ordinances 
for the People of the United States," and moved the read- 


ing of it. To this there was objection until an oath of se- 
crecy was taken by each member of the convention. An oath 
being moved, John Brown arose and informed the convention 
that he had conscientious scruples about taking any oath; 
that all he desired was a promise that any person who there- 
after divulged any of the proceedings "agreed to forfeit the 
protection which that organization could extend over him." 
Nevertheless, the oath was voted and the president adminis- 
tered the obligation. Thereupon the proposed Constitution 
was read, and after debate on one article, the forty-sixth, it 
was unanimously adopted. The afternoon session was brief, 
being occupied solely with signing the Constitution, "con- 
gratulatory remarks" by Dr. Delany and Thomas M. Kin- 
nard and final adjournment. At the evening session the con- 
vention was a new body, that called by the Constitution 
adopted by the "Provisional Convention," "for the purpose 
of electing officers to fill the offices specially established and 
named by said Constitution." With the same officers, the 
new convention appointed a committee to make nominations. 
Upon its failing to do so promptly, the convention itself 
elected John Brown Commander-in-Chief, and John H. Kagi, 
Secretary of War. On Monday, May 10, the balloting was 
resumed. Realf was made Secretary of State, George B. Gill, 
Secretary of the Treasury, Owen Brown, Treasurer, and 
Osborn P. Anderson and Alfred M. Ellsworth, members of 
Congress. After the position of President had been declined 
by or for two colored men, the filling of this and other vacan- 
cies was left to a committee of fifteen, headed by John Brown. 
It is not of record, however, that the vacancies were ever 

If, after a lapse of fifty years, it seems at first as if the Con- 
stitution and the entire proceeding belonged to the domain 
of the mock Springdale legislature, the earnestness and seri- 
ousness of the Chatham proceedings cannot be denied, so far 
as the moving spirits were concerned. Some of the men doubt- 
less signed without much consideration; but to the colored 
men, at least, it seemed as if freedom from bondage were 
really in sight for their enslaved brethren. Since Brown was 
able to overrule the objections of practical men like Gerrit 
Smith and George L. Stearns, it is, of course, not to be won- 


dered at if the little gathering in Chatham accepted at its face 
value the extraordinary document which John Brown laid 
before them. They could but applaud the admirably written 
preamble : " 

"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 por- 
tion; the only conditions of which are perpetual imprisonment, and 
hopeless servitude or absolute extermination; in utter disregard 
and violation of those eternal and self-evident truths set forth in 
our Declaration of Independence: Therefore, we CITIZENS of the 
our ACTIONS." 

This statement, in its definition of slavery as war, is the key- 
note to Brown's philosophy, and explains better than anything 
else why it was consistent with his devout religious charac- 
ter for him to kill, and to plunder for supplies in Kansas, and 
to take up arms against slavery itself. There was for him no 
such thing as peace so long as there were chains upon a single 
slave; and he was, therefore, at liberty to plot and intrigue, to 
prepare for hostilities, without regard to public order or the 
civil laws. Passing beyond the preamble, the Constitution * 
suggests the word "insane," which the historian Von Hoist 
applies to certain of its provisions. It actually contemplates 
not merely the government of forces in armed insurrection 
against sovereign States and opposed to the armies of the 
United States, but actually goes so far as to establish courts, 
a regular judiciary and a Congress. As if that were not 
enough, it provides for schools for that same training of the 
freed slaves in manual labor which is to-day so widely hailed 
as the readiest solution of the negro problem. Churches, too, 
were to be "established as soon as may be," - as if anything 

* See Appendix. 

could be more inconsistent with the fundamental plan of 
breaking the forces up into small bands hidden in mountain 
fastnesses, subsisting as well as possible off the land, and prob- 
ably unable to communicate with one another. At this and 
at other points the whole scheme forbids discussion as a prac- 
tical plan of government for such an uprising as was to be car- 
ried out by a handful of whites and droves of utterly illiterate 
and ignorant blacks. As has already been said, it is still a 
chief indictment of Brown's saneness of judgment and his 
reasoning powers. Von Hoist, one of his greatest admirers, 
describes it as a "piece of insanity, in the literal sense of the 
word," and a "confused medley of absurd, because absolutely 
inapplicable, forms." 58 Yet no one can deny that in many of 
its articles the Brown Constitution is admirable in spirit, as, 
for instance, in the provisions for the enforcement of morality 
and for the humanitarian treatment of prisoners, as well as in 
other measures well adapted to the undertaking. As a chart 
for the course of a State about to secede from the Union and 
to maintain itself during a regular revolution, the document 
was also not without its admirable features. It is impossible, 
however, as regards this extraordinary Constitution, to forget 
that it was drawn for the use of possibly fifty white men and 
hordes of escaping slaves fighting for their lives, not on the 
open prairies of Kansas, or among its scattered hamlets, but 
in well-populated and well-settled portions of the South. 

The Constitution simply emphasizes anew Brown's belief 
that he really could engage in warfare against slavery, and 
could keep at bay the United States army while doing so ; that 
with a handful of men and a few hundred guns and mediaeval 
pikes, he could grapple and shake to its foundations an insti- 
tution the actual uprooting of which nearly cost the United 
States Government its existence, and necessitated the sacrific- 
ing of vast treasure and an enormous number of human lives. 
Brown was careful even to provide that no treaty of peace 
presumably either with the United States or the several South- 
ern States could be ratified save by his President, his 
Vice- President, a majority of his Congress and of his Supreme 
Court, and of the general officers of the army ; that is, his half- 
company of officers was to- be considered equal as a treaty- 
making power with a great nation and its coordinate parts ! It 


is best, therefore, not to attempt to analyze the Chatham Con- 
stitution, but to admire its wording and its composition, and 
lay it aside as a temporary aberration of a mind that in its other 
manifestations defies successful classification as unhinged or 
altogether unbalanced. Fanatical, Brown's mind was; concen- 
trated on one idea to the danger-point, most alienists would 
probably agree; but still it remained a mind capable of ex- 
pressing itself with rare clearness and force, focussing itself 
with intense vigor on the business in hand, and going straight 
to the end in view. 

One point of the Constitution remains to be considered. 
Brown maintained at his trial that he had not sought to over- 
throw the United States Government or that of Virginia ; the 
Chatham Constitution was cited against him. A biographer, 
R. J. Hinton, insisted 89 that Brown was justified in his posi- 
tion by Article XLVI of the Constitution, which reads: "The 
foregoing Articles shall not be construed so as in any way 
to encourage the overthrow of any State Government or of the 
General Government of the United States: and look to no 
dissolution of the Union but simply to Amendment and Repeal. 
And our flag shall be the same that our Fathers fought under 
in the Revolution." This was the only article challenged at 
Chatham, and one vote was cast for the motion to strike it out. 
Accepting it as a disclaimer of hostility to the various govern- 
ments only increases the difficulty. It then appears that 
he was ready to oppose, and if necessary to kill, troops of the 
United States, and to create a civil government over certain 
portions of its territory, as the best way of inducing the United 
States Government to adopt his view of the slavery question. 
The radical Abolitionists openly worked for division by 
peaceful means and refused to make use of their rights as 
citizens; John Brown sought to oppose the authority of the 
Union by force of arms, while denying that any one could con- 
strue his actions as treason or disloyalty. 

A definite and immediate result of the Chatham conven- 
tion was the complete exhaustion of Brown's treasury. His 
Boston friends were expecting him to "turn loose his flock" 
about May 15, but the day before that he was still at Chat- 
ham, and wrote to Mr. Sanborn asking for three or four 
hundred dollars, "without delay. " 60 On the 25th he wrote to 


his family that "we are completely nailed down at present 
for want of funds, and we may be obliged to remain inactive 
for months yet, for the same reason. You must all learn to be 
patient or, at least I hope you will." 61 Brown's chagrin at 
this condition of affairs was intensified by the needs of his men. 
They had left Chatham on May n and gone to Cleveland 
and near-by Ohio towns, in search of work to maintain them 
temporarily until they got the signal to reassemble. Now, 
obtaining work even in the most humble capacity was not 
easy in the spring of 1858, when the country had not yet begun 
to recover from the great financial depression of the previous 
fall. To Gill, who had written at once of the poor outlook, 
there were two thousand men out of work in Cleveland, 
Brown replied : 62 

"I will only inquire if you, any of you, think the difficulties 
you have experienced, so far, are sufficient to discourage a man ? 
. . . I and three others were in exactly such a fix in the spring of 
1817: between the seaside and Ohio, in a time of extreme scarcity of 
not only money, but of the greatest distress for want of provisions, 
known during the nineteenth century. . . . We are here [Realf, 
Kagi, Richardson and Leeman had remained in Canada] busy get- 
ting information and making other preparations. I believe no time 
has yet been lost. Owing to the panic on the part of some of our 
Eastern friends, we may be compelled to hold on for months yet. 
But what of that ?" 

Three days later, Brown expressed his satisfaction that all 
but three of the men had then obtained work "to stop their 
board bills." 63 He had received only fifteen dollars from the 
East, but was in "hourly expectation of help sufficient to pay 
off our bills here, and to take us on to Cleveland to see and 
advise with you." He was compelled to say in this letter that: 

"such has been the effect of the course taken by F. [Forbes] that I 
have some fears that we shall be compelled to delay further action 
for the present. . . . It is in such times that men mark themselves. 
'He that endureth unto the end,' the same shall get his reward. 
Are our difficulties sufficient to make us give up one of the noblest 
enterprises in which men were ever engaged?" 

The difficulties were not great enough to make any of the 
men abandon the project then, though some were indubi- 
tably in straits at times. Indeed, some of them actually 


plotted to go South and raid by themselves, if help did not 
soon come. 64 Cook was the leader in this; during his stay in 
Cleveland he was highly indiscreet, boasting that he was on a 
secret expedition ; that he had killed five men in Kansas ; swag- 
gering openly in his boarding-house, and revealing much to 
a woman acquaintance, so that Realf feared that if the expe- 
dition were to be postponed, the greatest danger would not 
be from Forbes, but from Cook's "rage for talking." Richard 
Richardson and John A. Thomas, another colored man, who 
had gone to Cleveland with Brown and Realf, soon returned to 
Canada in fear of arrest, and are not thereafter heard from in 
connection with Brown. 65 Realf later went to New York to 
watch Forbes, and to plan his trip to England to raise funds 
for the cause. 

John Brown himself left Chatham on May 29, and went di- 
rect to Boston, after having been there just a month. 66 He had 
been urged by Mr. Stearns to meet him in New York, to dis- 
cuss the question of the arms in his possession, during the week 
beginning May 16, but he was unable to do so, and did not see 
any of the Boston friends until he arrived at the American 
House on May 31. As Brown had stated to his men, renewed 
activity on the part of Forbes had filled the Boston backers 
with consternation. Before and during the Chatham conven- 
tion, Brown was writing almost daily to some one about " F.," 
as he referred to him in his memorandum-book. Mr. Higgin- 
son wrote on May 7 to John Brown, from Brattleboro, protest- 
ing against the postponement already talked of: 67 


Sanborn wrote an alarming letter of a certain H. F. who wishes to 
veto our veteran friend's project entirely. Who the man is I hv. no 
conception but I utterly protest against any postponement. // 
the thing is postponed, it is postponed for ever for H. F. can do as 
much harm next year as this. His malice must be in some way put 
down or outwitted & after the move is once begun, his plots will 
be of little importance. I believe that we have gone too far to go 
back without certain failure & I believe our friend the veteran 
will think so too. 

This was Brown's own belief. But before he reached Boston 
the die was cast against him, as is seen from this note of Mr. 
Sanborn to Mr. Higginson: 68 


CONCORD May i8th '58. 
The enclosed from our friend explains itself. The Dr. [Howe] 

has written to an adroit and stinging letter, intended to baffle 

him. Wilson as well as Hale and Seward, and God knows how many 
more have heard about the plot from F. To go on in the face of this 
is mere madness and I place myself fully on the side of P. [Parker] 
S. [Stearns] and Dr. H. [Howe] with G. S. [Gerrit Smith] who does 
count. What Dana says of F's character seems probable. Mr. S. 
[Stearns] and the Dr. will see Hawkins in New York this week and 
settle matters finally. 

The letter from Senator Henry Wilson to Dr. Howe which 
had particularly alarmed the conspirators was a reflection of 
Forbes' s sudden appearance before him on the floor of the 
Senate. It bore date of May 9 and read thus: 69 

" I write to you to say that you had better talk with some few of 
our friends who contributed money to aid old Brown to organize 
and arm some force in Kansas for defence, about the policy of getting 
those arms out of his hands & putting them in the hands of some 
reliable men in that Territory. // they should be used for other pur- 
poses, as rumor says they may be, it might be of disadvantage to the men 
who were induced to contribute to that very foolish movement. If it can 
be done, get the arms out of his control and keep clear of him at least 
for the present. This is in confidence." 

On May 14, Mr. Stearns sent to Brown, at Chatham, a copy 
of this letter and, writing officially as chairman of the Massa- 
chusetts State Kansas Committee, thus admonished him: 70 

"You will recollect that you have the custody of the arms alluded 
to, to be used for the defence of Kansas, as agent of the Massachu- 
setts State Kansas Committee. In consequence of the information 
thus communicated to me [by Dr. Howe and Senator Wilson], it 
becomes my duty to warn you not to use them for any other pur- 
pose, and to hold them subject to my order as chairman of said 

It was in regard to the arms that Mr. Stearns had sought 
the interview with Brown in New York. The latter agent of the 
Committee besought his Boston friends not to move hastily, 
and pledged himself not to act other than to obtain a perfect 
knowledge of the facts in regard to Forbes, if the two or three 
hundred dollars he needed were sent to him. 

The outcome of Brown's conferences in Boston, which re- 
sulted in the temporary abandonment of the Virginia plan and 


Brown's departure for Kansas, together with the attitude of 
the various conspirators, is thus succinctly set forth in a care- 
fully preserved memorandum of Mr. Higginson's : n 

"Saw [J. B.] in Boston. He showed me F's letter also one fr. S. 
announcing the result of a meeting between himself, G. S., G L S., 
T. P. & Dr H. It was to postpone till next winter or spring when 
they wd. raise $2000 or $3000; he meantime to blind F. by going 
to K. [Kansas] & to transfer the property so as to relieve them of 
responsibility & they in future not to know his plans. 

"On probing B. I gradually found that he agreed entirely with 
me, considered delay very discouraging to his 13 men & to those in 
Canada, impossible to begin in the autumn & he wd. not lose a 
day (he finally said) if he had $300 it wd. not cost $25 apiece to 
get his men fr. Ohio & that was all he needed. The knowledge that 
F. cd. give of his plan wd. be injurious, for he wished his opponents 
to underrate him: but still (as I suggested) the increased terror pro- 
duced wd. perhaps counterbalance this & it wd. not make much 
difference. If he had the means, he wd. not lose a day. 

"On my wondering that the others did not agree with us, he said 
the reason was they were not men of action, they were intimidated by 
Wilson's letter &c. & overrated the obstacles. G. S. he knew to be a 
timid man. G. L. S. & T. P. he did not think abounded in courage. 
H. had more & had till recently agreed with us. 

" But the * old veteran added, he had not said this to them, & 

had appeared to acquiesce far more than he really did ; it was essen- 
tial that they shld. not think him reckless, & as they held the purse 
he was powerless without them, having spent nearly every thing 
received thus far (some $650 fr. them by his book wh. he showed 
they having promised $1000) on account of the delay a month 
at Chatham &c But he wished me not to tell them what he had said 
to me. 

"On Saturday, June 6, I went to see Dr. H. & found that things 
had ended far better than I supposed. The Kansas Com. had 
put some $500 in gold into his [Brown's] hands & all the arms 
- with only the understanding that he shld. go to K. & then 
be left to his own discretion. H. went off in good spirits. H. still 
claimed to agree with me, bt said the others ' wd. not hear of it 
even P.' & he had to acquiesce & even write a letter urging H to go 
to Kansas." 

This memorandum is erroneous in that it speaks of the Kan- 
sas Committee having given the $500 and the arms. The plain 
fact is that the money came from the same unofficial group 
of friends, and that the arms were given to Brown by the sim- 
ple expedient of having Mr. Stearns foreclose on them. Mr. 

* Word illegible. 


Stearns had advanced large sums to the Kansas Committee, 
which had never been repaid, asking at the time that the 
arms if unused should come back to him, that he might reim- 
burse himself for his outlay. It will be remembered that the 
Kansas Committee had agreed to this by formal vote, just 
after Mr. Stearns had paid for the two hundred pistols he had 
purchased of the Massachusetts Arms Company for Brown out 
of his own pocket, but in the name of the Kansas Committee. 
Mr. Stearns now simply exercised this option, and so notified 
the immediate conspirators verbally, and then presented all the 
arms, whose possession he had that minute assumed, to Brown. 
As soon as possible thereafter, says Mr. Sanborn, "the busi- 
ness of the Kansas Committee was put in such shape that its 
responsibility for the arms in Brown's possession should no 
longer fetter his friends in aiding his main design." 72 When 
the denouement finally came, however, the public and press 
did not take a very favorable view of the transaction ; it was too 
difficult to distinguish between George L. Stearns, the benefac- 
tor of the Kansas Committee, and George L. Stearns, the Chair- 
man of that Committee. Again, there appear to have been 
some dissatisfied members of the Kansas Committee who re- 
mained uninformed of the transfer of the arms until the whole 
thing came out, and they resented the charge of having aided 
Brown in his Virginia foray. Mr. Sanborn admits that "it is 
still a little difficult to explain this transaction concerning the 
arms without leaving a suspicion that there was somewhere a 
breach of trust." 73 

To a recent historian, Rear- Admiral F. E. Chadwick, this 
incident is "not a pleasant story ; " 74 he accuses the Kansas 
Committee and Dr. Howe of "duplicity" and "gross prevari- 
cation," the latter for writing to Senator Wilson on May 12: 

" I understand perfectly your meaning. No countenance has been 
given to Brown for any operation outside of Kansas by the Kansas 
Committee;" and three days later: " Prompt measures have been 
taken and will resolutely be followed up to prevent any such mon- 
strous perversion of a trust as would be the application of means 
raised for the defence of Kansas to a purpose which the subscribers 
of the fund would disapprove and vehemently condemn." 

Technically, the Committee has a valid defence. Doubtless 
in the business world, and especially according to the stand- 


ards of certain large industrial concerns of late years, the Com- 
mittee's stratagem is quite defensible as a simple way out of 
a trying difficulty, and an easy method of obtaining for Brown 
the desired arms. It cannot be denied that frankness and 
straightforwardness would have dictated the notifying of Sen- 
ator Wilson that the arms had passed into the possession of 
individual members of the Committee, which would not there- 
after be responsible for them or the uses made of them. As 
it is, there was no actual recall of the arms from Brown what- 
ever, as Senator Wilson was permitted to believe, save a purely 
nominal one. No one, says Mr. Sanborn, suggested that they 
should pass out of Brown's actual possession. 75 It is one of 
those unpleasant episodes which so often happen when the 
business of individuals and of organizations to which they be- 
long becomes intertwined. Had Mr. Stearns not been Chair- 
man of the Kansas Committee, but a mere outsider, no allega- 
tion of breach of trust could have lain in the premises. But 
even this admirable man sometimes split delicate hairs in dis- 
cussing what actually happened at this period. Thus he later 
appeared before the Mason Committee and testified that John 
Brown had not asked for the two hundred Sharp's rifles in 
January, 1857, the time that Brown was beseeching the Na- 
tional Kansas Committee and the Boston members of the 
Massachusetts State Committee to fit out his proposed "vol- 
unteer regular company" with arms! It must be pointed out, 
too, that the decision of the little Boston group, after giving 
Brown the five hundred dollars and arms, in 1858, to know no 
more of his plans, is the first sign of the effort to evade respon- 
sibility which became so apparent after the raid. They had en- 
couraged him to attack slavery in the mountains of the South, 
giving him money and arms to do it with, and sanctioned his 
going ahead , only they said : ' ' Do not tell us the details of it. " 
This attitude inevitably suggests that of those modern corpora- 
tion directors who are perfectly aware that their agents, the 
executives of the company, are using the funds of the stock- 
holders illegally, but salve their consciences by never broach- 
ing the matter in or out of the board-room, or examining the 
accounts. It further lays them open to the criticism of being 
ready to help others to assail a wrong, but of being themselves 
unwilling to take the full consequences of their acts. 


As for the arms themselves, they were at this time in Ohio. 76 
After Brown had brought them to Springdale, they were 
shipped from West Liberty, with the two hundred revolvers 
bought by Mr. Stearns, by freight to John Brown, Jr., at Con- 
neaut, Ashtabula County, Ohio. By him they had been trans- 
ported to, and concealed in, the village of Cherry Valley, where 
they were stored in the furniture ware-rooms of King Brothers. 
Here, for safety's sake, they were covered by a lot of ready- 
made coffins awaiting sale. The visit of a tax assessor made 
John Brown, Jr., nervous about them, but the arms remained 
here until early in May, when, by his father's directions, they 
were moved by night to the barn of a farmer named William 
Coleman, in the adjoining township of Wayne, who helped 
him to build by night a little store-room in his haymow. Some 
of the arms and the powder were for a time in the sugar-house 
of E. Alexander Fobes, a brother-in-law of John Brown, Jr. 
From here they were moved in 1859 to the scene of action. On 
May i, 1858, John Brown, Jr., wrote to his father that he 
had been examining the arms, and that he had them "nearly 
all packed and ready to start on Monday next should nothing 
happen." He had examined the smaller "articles of freight," 
and found that the oil on the locks and elsewhere had become 
"so gummy" as to render the arms useless until thoroughly 
overhauled and cleaned. 77 

Rejoicing in his ownership of the arms and his fresh money- 
supply, Brown swallowed his disappointment over the post- 
ponement of the raid and went straight to North Elba, where 
he was on June 9. This time there was no indecision about 
his movements or hesitancy about returning to Kansas. He 
was in Cleveland by June 20, for on the next day he called his 
scattered followers together and, notifying them of the deci- 
sion of the Boston friends, gave them what money he could 
and bade them be true to the cause. 78 A general break-up 
ensued. Realf, as already related, was to go to New York and 
watch Forbes; Owen went to his brother Jason's at Akron, 
Ohio, while Kagi and Tidd left that same day with Brown for 
Kansas by way of Chicago. Leeman and Taylor first went 
with Owen, and then drifted about in Ohio and Illinois, while 
Parsons spent the summer on Fobes's farm, where the arms 
were concealed, and then returned to his home at Byron, Illi- 


nois. 79 Moffet worked his way home to Iowa, after staying for 
some time in Cleveland, while Gill and Stevens went back to 
Springdale on their way to Kansas, where they later joined 
John Brown's little company. To Cook was assigned the diffi- 
cult and responsible task of going to Harper's Ferry to live as 
a spy in the enemy's country, an outpost stealthily to recon- 
noitre the vicinity. This he did successfully, arriving there 
on Junes, 1858.8 

By this delay and change of plan, Brown lost five of his 
twelve followers who took part in the Chatham convention. 
Parsons had lost his zeal for the venture on learning of the plan 
to attack the arsenal at Harper's Ferry. 81 He had not calcu- 
lated on a direct assault on the United States Government, 
and so when the call to rejoin Brown reached him at Council 
Bluffs in 1859, where he was, en route to Pike's Peak, he heeded 
the admonition of his mother which came with it. "They are 
bad men," she wrote him. "You have got away from them, 
now keep away from them." Mr. Parsons has an excellent war 
service to his credit as a commissioned officer, and is still living 
at Salina, Kansas. Moffet, too, was probably disaffected, 
though it was claimed for him by his sister, in 1860, that "ob- 
ligations from which he could not be released " prevented his 
rejoining Brown. Of his own failure to reach Harper's Ferry, 
George B. Gill, who also survives, says: 82 

" I was on my way to Harper's Ferry at the time of the premature 
blow and apparent failure. I had been in correspondence with Kagi 
and knew the exact time to be on hand and was on my way to the 
cars when the thrilling news came that the blow had been struck. 
Of course I went no further. I had been sick much of the spring and 
summer previous and in my last interview with the old man I would 
not promise to follow him farther, being worn out physically and not 
feeling any more sanguine of the necessary funds being raised, and 
having been east the previous year on a wild goose chase I could not 

see the necessity of going further at present." 

Realf, on his trip to England, underwent a sea-change, and 
after the raid was charged with treachery. Richardson, the 
colored man, did not reappear from Canada. But Cook, Lee- 
man, Tidd, Owen Brown, Stevens, Taylor and Kagi followed 
their leader to Harper's Ferry, whence only Tidd and Owen 
Brown returned. 


In company, then, with two of the faithful ones, Brown 
reached Chicago on June 22; on June 25 two of his later bio- 
graphers met him under these conditions in Lawrence: "We 
were at supper, on the 25th of June, 1858, at a hotel in Law- 
ence, Kansas. A stately old man, with a flowing white beard, 
entered the room and took a seat at the public table. I im- 
mediately recognized in the stranger, John Brown. Yet many 
persons who had previously known him did not penetrate 
his patriarchal disguise." Thus wrote Redpath. 83 The whole 
aspect of Brown was now changed ; the long gray beard famil- 
iar to all the world at the time of his execution concealed the 
sharpness of his chin, the thin lips and the resolute, sharp line 
of the mouth. But there was no change in the man. On Mon- 
day, June 28, he was off for southern Kansas, where he reap- 
peared disguised not only as to his physiognomy but as to his 
name. Thereafter there was a new border chief in southeast- 
ern Kansas, Shubel Morgan. 


THE Kansas to which John Brown returned in June, 1858, had 
made distinct progress toward the realization of the hopes 
of the Free State party. In October, 1857, it had captured 
the Territorial Legislature, which met on January 4, 1858, but 
it had abstained from voting at the election of December 21 
on the Lecompton Constitution, because the only alternative 
was to vote "for the Constitution with slavery" or "for the 
Constitution with no slavery." But the Constitution with- 
out slavery made that institution perpetual within the State, 
by providing for the maintenance of the slaves then in the 
Territory, and their offspring, and specifically declaring that 
slaves were property. The " Constitution-with-slavery " pro- 
vision was carried by 6266 votes to 569, owing to the absten- 
tion of the Free State men; 2720 of the affirmative votes were 
proved to be fraudulent. Since the election did not turn upon 
the Constitution itself, but upon the issue whether the Con- 
stitution with or without slavery should be adopted, the Free 
State men, Lane in particular, had, as already pointed out, 
induced the Acting Governor, Stan ton, to call a special session 
of the Legislature for December 7, which promptly ordered 
the submission of the entire Lecompton Constitution to the 
people. When this was done, on January 4, the pro-slavery 
men abstained from the polls. No less than 10,226 votes were 
cast against the Constitution, 138 for it with slavery, and 24 
for it without slavery. Both parties joined in the election for 
officers under the Lecompton Constitution, the Free State 
men winning. Of the 6875 pro-slavery votes, 2458 subse- 
quently proved to be illegal ; 1 the Free State men chose 42 
out of 53 members of the Legislature. George W. Smith, 
Free State, was elected Governor. On January 5, the old 
Topeka Legislature met again to receive a message from its 
Governor, Robinson, asking that the old rump State organiza- 
tion be kept up, although the Territorial Legislature was now 


safely Free State. In his message to this body, the new Acting 
Governor, Denver, who had succeeded Stanton, recommended 
that all legislation of importance be deferred until Congress 
should act upon the Lecompton Constitution. 

When that document was submitted to Congress by the 
President, on February 2, that body had received a petition 
from all the State officers chosen under this Constitution, ask- 
ing that it be defeated. While Brown was collecting his funds 
in the East, revealing his Virginia plan to his Boston friends, 
and preparing for the Chatham convention, Congress was 
struggling with this Lecompton issue, which was not decided 
until April 30. During all that period the debate had aroused 
the country, and wrought Congress itself up to a pitch of great 
excitement. Even Stephen A. Douglas, author of the Squat- 
ter Sovereignty theory to which all of Kansas's misfortunes 
were due, opposed the Lecompton Constitution. Finally, Con- 
gress passed a compromise measure known as the English 
bill, which provided that Kansas should be admitted to the 
Union if, on resubmission, a majority of its voters approved 
the Lecompton Constitution. This was emphatically a pro- 
slavery victory. In order to bribe the voters of the State into 
accepting the Constitution that had once been rejected by 
them, Congress offered to give to the new State two sections 
of land in each township for school purposes, seventy-two 
sections for a State university, and ten sections for public 
buildings, in all five and a half million acres; also all the salt 
springs, not exceeding twelve in number, and six sections of 
land with each spring; and, finally, five per cent of all the 
public lands for State roads. No such bribe had ever been 
offered to- any other State; if it should not be accepted, the bill 
required that no new delegates to frame a Constitution 
should be chosen until Kansas had a population equalling the 
ratio of representation required for a member of the House 
of Representatives then 93,560 people. Kansas was in the 
throes of a discussion of this measure when John Brown 
arrived, for the date set for the vote on the resubmitted Con- 
stitution was August 2. He had, therefore, the satisfaction of 
being in the Territory at this final defeat of the pro-slavery 
forces, when 13,088 votes were cast, 11,300 of them against 
the odious Constitution. Thereafter Kansas was safe. No 


other Constitution was framed until the next year; but the 
defeat of the slavery forces was beyond all dispute and final. 2 

But if the political outlook in the Territory was favorable 
to the Free State men, there had been in southeastern Kansas, 
particularly in Linn and Bourbon counties, a recrudescence of 
the lawlessness of 1 856. Indeed, the whole Territory, as Brown 
entered it, was still ringing with one of the most atrocious 
crimes in the annals of the border warfare, to which reference 
has already been made. Charles A. Hamilton, a graduate of 
the University of Georgia, later a colonel in the Confederate 
army, and a member of an excellent family, had boasted that 
if pro-slavery men could not make headway in the Territory, 
Abolitionists should not live there. Crossing the Missouri 
boundary on May 19, near the Trading Post in Linn County, 
he captured Free State men wherever he found them, on their 
wagons, in the fields, or in their homes, until he had eleven 
reputable citizens, the Rev. B. L. Reed, W. E. Stilwell, 
Asa Hairgrove, William Hairgrove, Amos Hall, William 
Colpetzer, Michael Robinson, John F. Campbell, Charles 
Snyder, Patrick Ross and Austin Hall. An effort was made 
to capture Eli Snyder, a blacksmith, his brother and a young 
son, Elias Snyder, but they fought too vigorously. Lining up 
his eleven prisoners in a little ravine, Hamilton placed his 
thirty-odd men on the bank above them, and ordered them 
to aim at the prisoners. One of the men, Brockett, who had 
been Pate's lieutenant at the battle of Black Jack, declined 
to obey Hamilton's order and withdrew. At the word of 
command, the others fired at the unflinching Free State men. 
To make sure of their work, the brazen and brutal murderers 
then kicked the prostrate men and finished two of the dying, 
Ross and Amos Hall, by shooting them again. Then they 
made off. The Snyders, lying in the bushes near-by, hearing 
the shooting and groans, were afraid to move lest it might all 
be a ruse. They were finally summoned by Austin Hall, who, 
unwounded, had had presence of mind to fall with the others 
and remain rigid when kicked by a ruffian who wished to 
ascertain if he still breathed. It was found that five men, 
Campbell, Colpetzer, Ross, Stilwell, and Robinson, had been 
killed. The remaining five survived their serious wounds. 

Nothing can be said in defence of this crime. None of the 


eleven had given special reason for Border Ruffian dislike. 
Hamilton thought, perhaps, that by imitating the Pottawa- 
tomie murders of John Brown he could at one blow intimi- 
date southeastern Kansas; perhaps he believed himself the 
agent of the Almighty to exterminate these men. At any rate, 
he, too, killed five, as had Brown, and with as little warning; 
the consequences the stirring up of the worst kind of bush- 
whacking strife were in both cases the same. 3 

Soon after the massacre, two hundred Kansans, led by 
Sheriff McDaniel, Colonel R. B. Mitchell and James Mont- 
gomery, marched to West Point, Missouri, from which place 
Hamilton had started. The murderers, however, had timely 
warning of their coming and escaped, Montgomery's advice 
to surround the town before entering it being disregarded. 4 
Although occurring some distance from the river of that name, 
this killing has always been known as the Marais des Cygnes 
Massacre; it inspired Whittier's commemorative poem, "Le 
Marais du Cygne," published in the Atlantic Monthly for 
September, 1858. In justice to Hamilton it must be stated 
that he and a large number of other pro-slavery settlers, who 
were in Free State eyes inimical to the peace and progress of 
the communities in which they had resided, had been ordered 
by James Montgomery, the Free State leader, to leave their 
homes post-haste and flee to Missouri. The Marais des Cygnes 
Massacre was the revenge for this expulsion, which the ma- 
jority of the Free State settlers considered wholly warranted 
by the careers of those expelled. Hamilton originally headed 
a band of five hundred Missourians. All but Hamilton and his 
ignoble thirty were dissuaded from entering Kansas, or lost 
courage when they reached the Territorial line. There ensued 
after the massacre a week of extreme lawlessness, although 
Federal troops had already been ordered out into Bourbon 
County. Montgomery tried to burn the pro-slavery town of 
Fort Scott, and there were grave conditions, indeed, until 
Governor Denver personally arrived on the scene in June and 
induced both sides to agree to a treaty of peace. Bygones were 
to be bygones. He promised to remove the Federal troops from 
Fort Scott at once ; to order a new election for county officials ; 
to station militia along the border in order to prevent invasion 
from Missouri; and to suspend the operation of old writs, if 


Montgomery's men and all other armed bodies would with- 
draw from the field. This compact was religiously adhered to 
through the summer and fall. 

James Montgomery was one of the most interesting figures 
of the border warfare. He was thus described in a letter to the 
New York Evening Post in i858: 6 

"In conversation he talks mildly in a calm, even voice, using the 
language of a cultivated, educated gentleman. His antecedents are 
unexceptionable; he was always a Free State man, although coming 
from a Slave State, where he was noted as a good citizen and for his 
mild, even temperament. In his daily conduct he maintains the 
same character now; but when in action and under fire, he displays 
a daring fearlessness, untiring perseverance, and an indomitable 
energy that has given him the leadership in this border warfare." 

His own cabin was often attacked in days when nobody 
who had caution unbarred his door to a visitor's hail without 
being assured as to the ownership of the voice. 6 His wife was a 
fit companion for a border chieftain. It is related of her that 
she had the indomitable spirit, if not the culture, of her hus- 
band, and that she once said: " I do get plumb tired of being 
shot at, but I won't be druv out." 7 It must not be thought, 
however, that all of Montgomery's neighbors were unanimous 
as to his usefulness; but they always agreed as to his honesty. 
A leader of " jayhawkers," he had but little respect for man- 
made laws; he met violence with violence, and often could not 
control the excesses of his men. 

The original incentive for Montgomery's taking to the 
brush was the pro-slavery outrages of 1856 in Linn County; 
thereafter his own actions led to frequent efforts to retaliate 
by the pro-slavery men, who feared and hated him more than 
any one else. "His operations," says Andreas, 8 "may be 
classed as defensive, preventive and retaliatory, and it is 
doubtless true that he did many things which, when judged 
outside of their immediate and remote causes and connections, 
would not stand the test of the moral code." Yet after it 
was all over, and the Civil War at hand, he was made Colo- 
nel of the Third Kansas Volunteer Infantry, later Colonel of 
the Second South Carolina (Negro) Regiment, with which he 
fought in Florida; and during the Price raid into Missouri, he 
was Colonel of the Sixth Kansas Militia Regiment. Both in 


Kansas and in the South, as a regimental commander, he 
aroused criticism by his ruthless destruction and plundering 
of captured towns and villages, partly in obedience to orders. 9 
In Kansas, in 1858, one of the deeds which made him conspicu- 
ous was an attack on part of Captain G. T. Anderson's com- 
pany of the First United States Cavalry, April 21, when he 
and seven other men were overtaken by it. Taking to the 
timber, Montgomery opened fire, killing one soldier and 
injuring Captain Anderson and two soldiers, whereupon the 
company fled, to their and their commander's disgrace, Cap- 
tain Anderson being forced to resign from the service in con- 
sequence. 10 Another exploit was Montgomery's destruction 
of the ballot-boxes, in imitation of similar Missouri outrages, 
at the election for Governor under the Lecompton Constitu- 
tion, January 4, 1858, because he did not sympathize with the 
decision of a part of the Free State party to vote under the 
Constitution. 11 That his neighbors might not vote, he broke 
the ballot-box and scattered the ballots, for which he was 
indicted but never tried. Many other acts of violence were 
rightly or wrongly laid at his door, chief among the former 
being the attempt to burn Fort Scott, early in June, 1858. 
Governor Denver officially charged him with this, and with 
firing indiscriminately into the houses of the town, and ex- 
pressed his astonishment at meeting men fully aware of this 
"most outrageous attempt at arson and murder," who yet 
"uphold and justify Montgomery and his band in their con- 
duct." Of the ravaged district in which Montgomery oper- 
ated, Governor Denver, after his personal tour of inspection, 
thus wrote to Lewis Cass, Secretary of State: 

"From Fort Scott to the crossing of the Osage river, or Marais 
des Cygnes as it is there called, a distance of about 30 miles, we 
passed through a country almost depopulated by the depredations 
of the predatory bands under Montgomery, presenting a scene of 
desolation such as I never expected to have witnessed in any coun- 
try inhabited by American citizens. . . . The accounts given of the 
flight of the people were heart-rending in the extreme." 

Governor Denver, throughout his official correspondence, 
was extremely hostile to Montgomery, while not failing to say 
that, however great the outrages he committed, there was no 


excuse for taking revenge on innocent persons, as Hamilton 
had done on the Marais des Cygnes. 12 

To this guerrilla Montgomery, to the scene of his opera- 
tions and the crimes of Hamilton, Brown's mind turned as 
soon as he arrived in Lawrence. The numerous outrages upon 
individuals were a close parallel to conditions as he found 
them around Lawrence when he first entered the Territory in 
1855. Montgomery was obviously a border chieftain after his 
own heart, and, besides, in his district was the only possible 
opportunity for active service. "Fort Scott," wrote the Law- 
rence correspondent of the Chicago Tribune on April 4, 1858, 13 
"is the only place within the Territory where the Border 
Ruffians now show their teeth." Their worst specimens, he 
reported, were in refuge there. Fugit, the murderer of Hoppe, 
lived in the neighborhood. Clarke, who killed Barber in 1855, 
was then Register of the Land Office at Fort Scott. Eli Moore, 
one of W. A. Phillips's murderers, and one of those who shot 
R. P. Brown at Easton, "has his rendezvous in the same 
vicinity." Brockett was clerk in the Land Office. Most of 
such of Titus's ruffians as had not gone to Nicaragua with 
Walker were also there. These became the leaders of immi- 
grants from southwestern Missouri. The land was rich and 
desirable. The Free State men persisted in coming in, being 
then two to one, and located chiefly in the northern half of 
the county. Ever since the preceding fall, the correspondent 
reported, they had been harassed and plundered by the pro- 
slavery men, to worry them out, by burning cabins, stealing 
cattle and horses, and making false arrests, all so that they 
should not dominate the region. It was to end this that Ham- 
ilton and his followers had been ordered by Montgomery 
to leave the Territory immediately, with the result that 
Hamilton later conceived and carried out his horrible plan 
of revenge. 

Redpath and Hinton stated that on Sunday, June 27, when 
they again met Brown in the hotel in Lawrence, he asked 
them about the movements and character of Montgomery, as 
well as of the trend of political developments, 14 and informed 
them that he would start south the next day to see his rela- 
tives and Montgomery. To Mr. Sanborn, Brown sent, on 
Monday, the 28th, the following unsigned letter: 1B 


LAWRENCE, KANSAS TER. 28th June 1858. 

F. B. SANBORN ESQ; and Dear Friends at Boston, Worcester and 

I reached Kansas with friends on the 26 th inst; came here last 
night, and leave here today ; for the neighborhood of late troubles. It 
seem the troubles are not over yet. Can write you but few words 
now. Hope to write you more fully after a while. I do hope you 
will be in earnest now to carry out as soon as possible the measure 
proposed in Mr. Sanborn's letter inviting me to Boston this last 
Spring. I hope there will be no delay of that matter. Can you send 
me by Express; Care E. B. Whitman Esqr half a Doz; or a full Doz 
whistles such as I described? at once? 

Write me till further advised, under sealed envelope directing 
stamped ones to Rev. S. L. Adair, Osawatomie Kansas Ter. 

Yours in Truth 

On July 9, John Brown, or Shubel Morgan, as he now 
called himself, wrote to his son 16 from the "log-cabin of the 
notorious Captain James Montgomery, whom I deem a very 
brave and talented officer, and, what is infinitely more, a very 
intelligent, kind gentlemanly and most excellent man and 
lover of freedom." While Brown visited Montgomery on 
other occasions, he was oftenest at the house of Augustus 
Wattles, near Moneka, to which locality the latter had re- 
moved with his family from the neighborhood of Lawrence. 
But the headquarters of Shubel Morgan's company were on 
the claim of Eli Snyder, the brave blacksmith, and not many 
hundred yards from the very scene of the Hamilton Massacre. 
Half a mile from the Missouri line, this hill, now densely 
wooded, offered in 1858 a beautiful view of the surrounding 
country. Brown arrived there about the 1st of July, with Eli 
Snyder, coming directly from the home of Augustus Wattles. 
Elias, the boy, drove back with Brown to Wattles's for his 
belongings, 17 blankets, provisions, cooking utensils, cloth- 
ing and a good supply of arms and ammunition. Kagi and 
Tidd were with Brown throughout his stay, Gill and Stevens 
arriving later in the summer, by way of Iowa. The first camp, 
in which they lived for four weeks, was located between 
Snyder's house and his blacksmith-shop, near a fine spring, 
which still wells up under the farmhouse now standing on the 
site of the camp. Here, true to his custom, John Brown drew 
up "Articles of Agreement for Shubel Morgan's Company." * 

* See Appendix. 


On July 20, Shubel Morgan began a long letter to Mr. 
Sanborn and the other Boston friends, which he could not 
finish until August 6. In it he gave this description of con- 
ditions in the vicinity of the claim : 18 

"Deserted farms: & dwellings lie in all directions for some miles 
along the line ; & the remaining inhabitants watch every appearance 
of persons moveing about with anxious jealousy; & vigilance. Four 
of the persons wounded or attacked on that occasion* are staying 
WITH me. The Blacksmith Snyder who fought the murderers with 
his brother; & son are of the number. Old Mr. Hargrove who was 
teribly wounded at the same time is another. The blacksmith re- 
turned here with me; & intends to bring back his family on to his 
claim within Two or Three days. A constant fear of new troubles 
seems to prevail on both sides the line ; & on both sides are companies 
of armed men. Any little affair may open the quarrel afresh. Two 
murders; & cases of robery are reported of late I have also a man 
with me who fled from his family; & farm; in Missouri but a day 
or Two since; his life being threatened on account of being accused 
of informing Kansas men of the whereabouts of one of the mur- 
derers who was lately taken; & brought to this side. I have con- 
cealed the fact of my presence pretty much; lest it should tend to 
create excitement ; but it is getting leaked out; & will soon be known 
to all. As I am not here to seek or to secure revenge ; I do not mean 
to be the first to reopen the quarrel. How soon it may be raised 
against me I cannot say; nor am I over anxious. A portion of my 
men are in other neighborhoods We shall soon be in great want of a 
small amount in a Draft or Drafts on New York, to feed us. We 
cannot work for wages; & provisions are not easily obtained on the 
frontier. . . . I may continue here for some time." 

A significant passage of this letter is the following comment 
on a man who ever since, unless we except Charles Robinson, 
has been Brown's bitterest critic, and still is: " I believe all 
honest, sensible Free State men in Kansas consider George 
Washington Brown's ' Herald of Freedom' one of the most mis- 
chievous, traitorous publications in the whole country." On 
August 6 he added that he had been down with the ague since 
July 23, and had no safe way of getting his letter off. Under 
date of Moneka, August 9, 1858, Brown wrote to his son, 
John Brown, Jr., this valuable review of the situation, here 
printed for the first time : 19 

"Your letter with enclosures, exactly those I wanted, of the 23rd 
of July is received. I have been spending some weeks on the Mis- 

* The Hamilton Massacre. 


souri line on the same quarter section where the horrible murders 
of May ipth were committed. Confidence seems to be greatly re- 
stored amongst the Free State men in consequence, several of whom 
returned to their deserted claims. The Election of the 2nd Inst. 
passed off quietly on this part of the Line. Its general result in the 
Territory you are probably advised of. Our going onto the line 
was done with the utmost quiet & so far as I am concerned under an 
assumed name to avoid creating any excitement. But the matter 
was in some measure leaked out and over into Missouri. Some 
believed the report of O. B.'s [Old Brown's] being directly on the 
Line and in the immediate vicinity of West Point, but the greater 
part on the Kansas side did not believe it. In Missouri the fact 
was pretty generally understood, & the idea of having such a neigh- 
bour improving a Claim (as was the case) right on a conspicuous 
place and in full view for miles, around in Missouri, produced a 
ferment there which you can better imagine than I can describe. 
Which of the passions most predominated, fear or rage, I do not 
pretend to say. We had a number of visitors from there, some of 
whom we believed at the time and still believe were spies. One 
avowed himself a pro-slavery man after I had told him my suspi- 
cions of himself & of those who came before him, but at the same time 
assured him that notwithstanding he was in a perfect nest of the 
most ultra Abolitionists, not a hair of his head should fall so long as 
we knew of no active mischief he had been engaged in. When I told 
him my suspicions of him he seemed to be much agitated, though 
to all appearance a man of great self-possession and courage I 
recited to him briefly the story of the Missouri invasions, threaten- 
ings, bullyings, boastings, driving off, beating, robbing, burning out 
and murdering of Kansas people, telling him pro-slavery men of Mis- 
souri had begun and carried steadily forward in this manner with 
most miserably rotten and corrupt pro-slavery Administrations to 
back them up, shield and assist them while carrying on their Dev- 
ilish work. I told him Missouri people along the Line might have 
perfect quiet if they honestly desired it, and further, that if they 
chose War they would soon have all they might any of them care 
for. I gave him the most powerful Abolition lecture of which I am 
capable, having an unusual gift of utterance for me; gave him some 
dinner and told him to go back and make a full report and then 
sent him off. Got no such visits afterwards. I presume he will not 
soon forget the old Abolitionist 'mit de' white beard on. I gave 
him also a full description of my views of a Full Blooded Abolition- 
ist and told him who were the real nigger-stealers &c. ..." 

The postscript to this letter, longer than the missive itself, 
begins thus: 

"P. S. Our family interest in Kansas affairs is so often misstated 
by those who do not know and oftener do not care to tell the truth 


that Mr. Wattles had determined for some time past to bring out 
our history from time [to time] in a kind of series as he could collect 
facts, and instantly called on me for them. I have consented to 
supply them, & have commenced." 

He then directs his son to collect material for that sketch 
of his career: "A brief history of John Brown, otherwise 
(old B) and his family: as connected With Kansas; By one 
who knows," to which reference was made in an earlier chap- 
ter.* Brown began this never finished autobiographical sketch 
at Wattles's house, 20 from which he wrote as above. 

As soon as he reached the Snyder claim, Brown began to 
build a small fortification of stone and wood for defence 
against the Missourians, 21 which speedily became magnified 
by popular report into a "Fort Snyder." There is no doubt, 
too, that he commenced negotiations for the purchase of the 
claim, and this has given rise to a long controversy in Kansas 
as to whether he was or was not the owner or an owner of this 
land at one time. The facts seem to be that Snyder never per- 
fected his claim to the land; that when Brown arrived there, 
he did begin negotiations with Snyder, which must have been 
not for the land, but for the squatter's claim to it; that sub- 
sequently Snyder changed his mind and Brown's effort to pur- 
chase came to an end, giving rise to charges of bad faith 
against Snyder. When the land was disposed of by the gov- 
ernment, the name of neither Brown nor Snyder figured in the 
transaction, the government selling 180.84 acres for $225.80 to 
C. C. Scadsall (generally called Hadsall). 22 Snyder appears 
to have offered the place to Hadsall, after accepting money 
from Brown in part payment. Hadsall, it is reported, declared 
that when he told Brown of Snyder's offer, 

"Brown showed the only anger that Hadsall had ever witnessed, 
but walked away without saying much. Shortly after he told Had- 
sall that he was content for him to have the place, but he, Brown, 
wanted to reserve all privileges of military occupation at his plea- 
sure. It seemed that Brown had not made all his payments to Sny- 
der, who in a way not unusual to him was trying to get some money 
from Hadsall. That day Brown wrote out and signed a bill of sale 
to Hadsall and signed it in his own name, and Snyder, after turning 
over to Hadsall his three yoke of oxen, cows, wagons, and plows, 

* See ante, page 86. 


received six hundred dollars from Hadsall and added his quit-claim 
to the bill of sale. Hadsall lost this precious bit of paper during the 
war." 23 

John Brown made, early in August, an attempt to get the 
revolvers sent to him in 1856 by the National Kansas Com- 
mittee, which had been in Lawrence ever since that time; for 
them, as he had told Horace White, he himself was not willing 
to ask, when in Lawrence. On August 3 he wrote from Mo- 
neka to William Hutchinson, asking for the names of those to 
whom the revolvers had been loaned subject to his recalling 
them. This information Mr. Hutchinson cheerfully gave, 
but it does not appear that Brown ever obtained any of these 
weapons. 24 For an interesting incident of the stay with 
Snyder, we have the doughty blacksmith's own narrative: 25 

"During the time that Brown was at my place (1858), he wished 
me to take a short trip into Missouri and I agreeing, Brown took an 
old surveyor's compass and chain and he and I followed down along 
the river, while Kagi and Tidd took the road to Butler. They pre- 
tended to be looking for situations to teach a school. We were all to 
meet at Pattenville, but not to appear to know each other. Brown 
and I were ostensibly surveying. On meeting at Pattenville we had 
an opportunity to come to an understanding to meet again at a 
clump of trees on a certain hill. Brown and I took the river and 
when we met again Martin White's house was half a mile east of us. 
Brown had a small field glass which I asked him to loan me, as I had 
seen some one near the house that I took to be Martin White, whom 
I knew; having heard him address a meeting at West Point a few 
days after the burning of Osawatomie, when Clarke was raising a 
force to drive and burn out Free State men between there and Fort 
Scott. At that time White had just returned from accompanying 
Reid and I heard him describe how he killed Frederick Brown, 
making the motion of lowering a gun. Brown adjusted the glass and 
looking I could recognize Martin White reading a book as he sat in 
a chair in the shade of a tree. I handed the glass to Brown and 
asked him to look and he said he also recognized him saying : 'I 
declare that is Martin White.' For a few minutes nothing was said 
when I remarked ' Suppose you and I go down and see the old man 
and have a talk with him.' 'No, no, I can't do that,' said Brown. 
Kagi said, 'let Snyder and me go.' Capt. Brown said: 'Go if you 
wish to but don't you hurt a hair of his head; but if he has any 
slaves take the last one of them.' Kagi said: 'Snyder and I want 
to go without instructions, or not at all.' Therefore as Brown was 
unwilling that Martin White, who had murdered his son, should 
receive any harm we did not go near him. It was thus shown that i 
John Brown had no revenge to gratify." 


There is other evidence to this effect; Brown never per- 
mitted any attack to be made on White, tried to head off his 
sons when they were on White's trail, and repeatedly stated 
that he did not wish for White's death, an attitude which 
cannot be too highly commended. To James Han way he once 
said : 26 

" People mistake my objects. I would not hurt one hair of his 
[White's] head. I would not go one inch to take his life; I do not 
harbour the feelings of revenge. / act from a principle. My aim and 
object is to restore human rights." 

Brown's obstinate ague or malarial fever, to which he 
referred in his letter of August 9 to his family, did not yield 
because of his sojourn with Augustus Wattles. About the 
middle of August, he was taken by William Partridge to the 
Rev. Mr. Adair's hospitable cabin at Osawatomie, 27 and there, 
in a corner of the living-room, he lay for fully four weeks, 
nursed with the greatest fidelity by the devoted Kagi and 
the Adair family. On September 9 he wrote to John Brown, 
Jr., 28 that since August 9, the date of his last letter, he had 
been "entirely laid up with Ague and Chill fever. Was never 
more sick." As the Adairs look back upon it, the disease 
appears to them now to have been a malarial or typhoid 
fever; they were often asked by visitors who the sick man in 
the sitting-room was, but they knew always how to describe 
him by other than his right name. 29 Dr. Gilpatrick, of Osawa- 
tomie, was called in to aid the patient. Finally, on September 
23, Kagi was able to report to his sister his arrival in Law- 
rence, after being 

"compelled to lay off at Osawatomie for a month, during which 
time by my taking care of him, [Brown], I was down but only for a 
week. . . . B. has not quite recovered. . . . Things are now quiet. 
I am collecting arms, etc. belonging to J. B. so that he may command 
them at any time." 

On September 13, Brown notified his wife that he was still 
very weak and wrote only with great labor; even on the 
nth of October, he had to tell her that he had been "very 
feeble," but had improved a great deal during the last week. 
" I can now see," he added, "no good reason why I should not 


be located nearer home as soon as I can collect the means for 
defraying expenses." 31 

John Brown probably reached Lawrence with Kagi late in 
September, and was there again on October 14, 15 and 1 6. 
Martin F. Conway testified before the Mason Committee 32 
that he saw Brown there twice in the summer and fall, and 
discussed with him his relations to the National Kansas Com- 
mittee, after Brown's illness in southern Kansas, but he errone- 
ously places the date of the first visit as late in July or early in 
August, when Brown was on Snyder's claim. A receipt given 
by Mr. Conway to John Brown for documents put in his pos- 
session is still in existence, and fixes the date for the second 
interview as October 15, 1858. 33 As to the first interview, 
Conway testified that it took place at Mrs. Killan's hotel, and 
that Brown declared that he was greatly in need and had 
received an order from the National Kansas Executive Com- 
mittee for a large sum of money which he had never been able 
to obtain. By "order" Brown meant, if he used that word, 
the resolution of the National Kansas Committee of January 
24, 1857, giving him the five thousand dollars, of which he had 
received only so small a part, and also "such arms and sup- 
plies as the Committee may have" up to an amount sufficient 
to provide for one hundred men, besides a "letter of appro- 
bation." In the summer of 1858, John Brown received from 
George L. Stearns a package of promissory notes which had 
been given by Kansas farmers to the National Kansas Com- 
mittee in exchange for food-supplies or aid of one kind or 
another. Mr. Stearns, as in the case of the Brown rifles 
and revolvers, had advanced large sums for this purpose to 
the Massachusetts State Committee, and was given these 
notes as security for his advances. 34 Some of these he now 
sent to Brown, who proceeded to collect on them for his imme- 
diate needs. He told Mr. Conway that, 

"the National Kansas Committee had passed a resolution some- 
time before upon which he based a right to act himself as agent for 
that Committee in the Territory in the collection of debts due it, 
and as Mr. Whitman did not seem to satisfy him in that business 
he had taken it upon himself to make collections. . . . He claimed 
to have received a commission, and, as a result of his labors he 
produced a package of papers, which he said were promissory notes 


from parties in the Territory, who had received provisions and cloth- 
ing from this Committee during the troubles in 1856. They had en- 
gaged to pay for them and they had given these notes, and he had 
got them, and he came to me to ask a favor that I would take these 
documents and put them in my safe and keep them subject to his 
order." " 

To this Mr. Con way added that he had signed the receipt 
written for him by Kagi, which fixes the date of this trans- 
action. Apparently, Brown collected on these notes several 
hundred dollars. He also receipted on October 16, at Law- 
rence, for goods received from the National Kansas Commit- 
tee, signing as its agent. 36 

In the use of this signature John Brown undoubtedly went 
too far, and his authority to do so was sharply denied by 
H. B. Hurd, the Secretary of the National Kansas Committee, 
on October 26, 1858, when Mr. Hurd wrote to Colonel E. B. 
Whitman : 

"Capt. John Brown has no authority to take, receive, collect or 
transfer any notes or accounts belonging to the National Kansas 
Committee nor has he ever had. Nor will any such dealing be recog- 
nized or sanctioned by our Committee. We wish you to hold all per- 
sons responsible who undertake to retain or deal with such notes 
and accounts. You will recollect that you were given full authority 
to act in reference to said notes & accounts including authority to 
transfer the same by assignment. This authority has never been 
revoked or given to any other person. All the papers that Mr. Brown 
has from us are a copy of the Resolutions passed in the New York 
Meeting certified by me, and an order for some small arms & tents 
that were at Lawrence I think about the time B. returned to Kansas 
after you met him at our office in Chicago. He has never been to 
our office since that time nor have we had any communication with 
him since then. I have seen him once since then but only for a few 
minutes & then nothing was said or done about the matter above 
referred to." 37 

But there are strong reasons why this error of judgment 
should not be charged up against Brown as a moral delin- 
quency. The relations of the National Committee and the 
Massachusetts Committee were inextricably mixed in Kansas, 
where E. B. Whitman acted at this time as agent for both 
Committees; Brown had received the notes from Mr. Stearns 
with directions to collect on them; Mr. Whitman was not to 
be found when Brown tried to get at him, and finally he 


doubtless conscientiously believed that the resolution in his 
favorof the National Committee gave him sufficient authority. 
This latter point appears from the following letter written 

about this time: 38 


MR. J. T. Cox; 

SIR: You are hereby notified that I hold claims against the 
National Kansas Committee which are good against them and all 
persons whatever ; and that I have authority from said committee to 
take possession, as their Agent, of any supplies belonging to said 
Committee, wherever found. 

You will therefore retain in your hands any monies or accounts 
you may now have in your custody, by direction of said Committee 
or any of its Agents, and hold them subject to my call or order, as 
I shall hold you responsible for them, to me as Agent of said Com- 

OTTUMWA, Oct. 7, 1858 

Agt. Nat. Kan. Com." 

In this, again, Brown quite exceeded the actual wording 
of the New York resolution, which limited the supplies to the 
needs of one hundred men, of which he had received a consid- 
erable portion in 1857 after the vote. Nevertheless, as Mr. 
Sanborn records, 39 "the Massachusetts Committee . . . stood 
firmly by Brown" in the "lively dispute in Kansas" excited 
by his action. 

"They had collected much money, had expended it judiciously, 
and had allowed a generous individual, their chairman, to place in 
their hands more money, for which he was willing to wait without 
payment until the property of the Committee could be turned into 
cash; then, to give him all the security in its power, the Committee 
had made over this property to him, with no restriction as to what he 
should do with it; and Mr. Stearns had chosen to give it to Brown." 

William F. M. Arny, another agent of the National Kansas 
Committee, testified to seeing Brown in Lawrence several 
times during the summer and fall of 1858, 40 and Brown on one 
of these occasions spent a day or two at his home, when they 
discussed, in general terms, Brown's plan for attacking slav- 
ery elsewhere than in Kansas. It must have been on one of 
these visits, too, that Colonel William A. Phillips had the 
third of those interviews with Brown which he described at 


length in the Atlantic Monthly for December, 1879, and ap- 
parently erroneously placed in the year 1859. To him, on this 
occasion, Brown set forth his views on the slavery question at 
great length, first sketching the history of American slavery 
from its beginnings. He said to Phillips: 

"And now we have reached a point where nothing but war can 
settle the question. Had they [the slavery men] succeeded in Kan- 
sas, they would have gained a power that would have given them 
permanently the upper hand, and it would have been the death knell 
of republicanism in America. They are checked, but not beaten. 
They never intend to relinquish the machinery of this government 
into the hands of the opponents of slavery. It has taken them more 
than half a century to get it and they know its significance too well 
to give it up. If the Republican party elect its president next year, 
there will be war. The moment they are unable to control, they will 
go out, and as a rival nation along-side they will get the countenance 
and aid of the European nations, until American republicanism and 
freedom are overthrown." 

To Phillips, Brown spoke of the opportunity and achieve- 
ments of Spartacus, and suggested that something similar 
might happen. To this Phillips objected that the American 
negroes were a "peaceful, domestic, inoffensive race; in all 
their sufferings they seemed to be incapable of resentment 
or reprisal." Brown's reply was quick and sharp: "You have 
not studied them right, and you have not studied them long 
enough. Human nature is the same everywhere." 

In connection with the National Kansas Committee's notes, 
Brown visited other places besides Ottumwa, where his letter 
to Mr. Cox shows him to have been on October 7. It is estab- 
lished that he visited Emporia on this same business, and this 
is as far west as he is known to have gone during his stay in 
the Territory. 41 On October II he was again in Osawatomie, 
as already recorded, and on October 15 and 16 in Lawrence, 
when he returned for a day or two to the South; for Kagi 
records in the Tribune his and Brown's being at Osawato- 
mie on October 25. According to this letter, Brown went up 
from Linn County on Friday, October 22, bringing news that 
Montgomery had forcibly entered the court-house at Fort 
Scott on the 2ist and taken possession of the court and of the 
papers of the grand jury, compelled the former to adjourn, 
and destroyed the latter. "He is now in the field," wrote 


Kagi, "ready to meet the worst." Of Brown, Kagi wrote, "The 
Captain has shown that he can be in the Territory without 
making war. He will now, if necessary, take the field in aid 
of Montgomery." 42 The Captain soon returned to the dis- 
turbed districts. There, on the 3Oth of October, an attempt 
was made to assassinate Montgomery, his wife and children, 
by pro-slavery men, who attacked his cabin at night and fired 
a volley into it. 43 Brown himself was at Augustus Wattles's, 
that night. The occurrence led his men to fortify strongly 
the cabin of Montgomery's mother-in-law, near Montgomery's 
own. Gill, Tidd and Stevens did most of the work, for Brown 
was not yet himself; he aided by indulging in his favorite oc- 
cupation of cooking. 44 On November I, while at Mr. Wat- 
tles's, he wrote two letters to members of his family, describing 
himself as much better in health, "but not very strong yet." 
In both of them he stated, doubtless with the Montgomery 
incident in mind, that "things at this moment look quite 
threatening along the line." 45 

The Wattles family preserves some interesting recollections 
of these ever- welcome visits of Brown. 46 There was nothing 
of the swashbuckler about him ; as quiet in his manner as any 
Quaker, he was ready to do his share of the household drudg- 
ery as soon as he arrived. Reading to the Wattles family 
a newspaper article which excused his bitterness against 
slavery on the ground of his personal injuries, he commented 
indignantly: "It seems strange in a Christian country that 
a man should be called a monomaniac for following the plain 
dictates of our Saviour." To Mrs. Wattles he then said: "I 
can put up with the abuse of my enemies, but the excuses of 
my friends are more than I like to bear." 

November was, in the main, a quiet month for Brown and 
his men. Besides building the Montgomery fort, theirs was 
the frontiersman's life. "Sometimes," records Mr. Gill, 47 of 
his own and Kagi's activities, "one had the ague, sometimes 
both. Sometimes we fished, sometimes we had our supper and 
beds; at other times we went supperless and took the prairie 
for our bed with the blue arch for our covering." One or the 
other of these men was generally Brown's companion at this 
time. He was not drawn to Tidd, and Stevens worried him 
because the ex-soldier would not take Brown's orders except 


in situations in which it was a captain's right to command. 
It was not in Stevens's nature to be uniformly submissive. 
Once, it is related by Mr. Gill, Stevens said to Brown: "If 
God controls all things, and dislikes the institution of slav- 
ery, why does He allow it to exist?" "Well," replied Brown, 
floored for once, "that is one question I cannot answer." 

On the 1 3th of November there was a touch of active ser- 
vice for Shubel Morgan, the only incident in this month 
which bore out Kagi's statement of his readiness to take the 
field to aid Montgomery. The latter, learning that he had 
been indicted at Paris, Kansas, by a pro-slavery jury, for his 
destruction of the ballot-box in the January previous, marched 
with Brown and his followers upon the town, in search of the 
indictments and warrants, Brown remaining upon the out- 
skirts while Montgomery searched unsuccessfully. 48 This raid 
did not improve their standing with the Territorial authori- 
ties. The bias of the acting Governor, Hugh S. Walsh (who 
filled the Governor's chair in the interim between Governor 
Denver's resignation and the arrival of his successor, Samuel 
Medary, the last Territorial Governor), against the Free State 
men was perfectly apparent. He wrote on November 19 to 
Secretary Cass, 49 urging that "a reward of $300 for Mont- 
gomery and $500 for old John Brown, and their delivery at 
the fort, would secure their persons and break up their organ- 
ization or drive them from the Territory." A Captain A. J. 
Weaver, who saw everything through pro-slavery eyes, was 
the chief medium of Walsh's and Medary's information, until 
he accidentally killed himself while bringing into the State 
some Federal arms loaned to Kansas for a militia company 
he had been authorized to raise. 60 On November 30, Captain 
Weaver and the sheriff, McDaniel, plotted to capture Brown 
and Montgomery ; for Weaver was sure, as he wrote to the act- 
ing Governor, they were preparing "for some infernal diaboli- 
cal act." 51 Brown, not knowing of this impending visitation, 
left with Gill for Osawatomie on the morning of Wednesday, 
December I. What happened in his absence was thus de- 
scribed by Kagi in the columns of the Lawrence Republican : 52 

"When the intended attack became known, the people came in 
from all quarters, for the defence of the little garrison. They came 
unobserved, that the great posse might not become frightened, and 


run before an opportunity was given to whip them handsomely. 
Montgomery heard the news while on the Little Osage, and returned 
with a small force on Thursday morning [December 2]. A portion of 
the Free State men were placed in 'the fort;' Montgomery with the 
remainder placed himself in a good position nearby." 

When the posse took up their march and had approached 
within a few rods of the fort, Whipple notified them that the 
Free State men were prepared to "resist the whole universe, 
with the devil thrown in." The next day, the posse having 
disintegrated, the sheriff had but a handful of men left. These 
commenced stopping and harassing single Free State men on 
the highways. Immediately on hearing of this, Montgomery's 
men moved. Their first act was to send four men to capture 
the sheriff and one R. B. Mitchell, as a checkmate. The latter 
was deprived of his rifle and brace of revolvers. "After a 
wholesome lecture they were released." The sheriff's pathetic 
account of this humiliating experience, properly garbled, is 
still preserved. 53 It fully bears out a statement of Captain 
Weaver's that "many of the people of the county are intimi- 
dated and afraid some of old Brown and others of Mont- 
gomery." 54 Thus ended ingloriously one of a number of at- 
tempts to capture Shubel Morgan. 

That energetic citizen wrote to his family on December 2, 
from Osawatomie: 55 " I have just this moment returned from 
the South where the prospect of quiet was probably never so 
poor," little dreaming that his own camp was at that moment 
being menaced. ' ' Other parts of the Territory are undisturbed 
and may very likely remain so ; unless drawn into the quarrel 
of the border counties. I expect to go South again immedi- 
ately. . . ." His health was improving, but "I still get a 
shake pretty often." As to. his plans, he said: "When I wrote 
you last I thought the prospect was that I should soon shift 
my quarters somewhat. I still have the same prospect, but 
am wholly at a loss as to the exact time." As soon as he 
returned South, he took the unexpected step of drafting a 
peace agreement. This was presented to a joint meeting of 
pro-slavery and Free Soil men, which had been called for 
December 6 at Sugar Mound, as a direct result of the humilia- 
tion put upon the sheriff after the failure of his attack upon 
Brown. 56 Montgomery himself was present at the meeting, 


and presented Brown's draft of the treaty. Shubel Morgan 
had urged that this should be signed by a number of the 
prominent men of both parties, but Montgomery found it 
unwise to insist upon this. With slight verbal alterations, the 
draft was adopted. It was in effect a renewal of the Denver 
agreement.* This had been adhered to until the action of the 
Paris court, together with the attempt to assassinate him and 
the visit of the sheriff to Brown's camp, had convinced Mont- 
gomery that it was abrogated. 57 Not that his men were alto- 
gether blameless during this period; sporadic "jayhawking" 
doubtless went on, despite Montgomery's efforts to control. 
But the new Sugar Mound convention was hardly agreed to 
before it was violated. On Thursday, December 16, Mont- 
gomery again attacked Fort Scott, 58 in order to release Ben- 
jamin Rice, a Free State settler, who had been arrested on 
November 16, in violation, Montgomery claimed, of the Den- 
ver treaty of June 15. When Rice was not promptly released 
after the Sugar Mound treaty, Montgomery organized, on 
December 14, a force of nearly one hundred men and invited 
John Brown to join it. This he did, together with Kagi and 
Stevens. The night before the attack, there was a conclave 
near Fort Scott as to the command. After much discussion 
it was decided that Montgomery should lead, 59 whereupon 
Brown, with his customary dislike of serving under another, 
took but a small part in the subsequent proceedings, going 
only to the rendezvous. 

It was well that he did not lead. While Rice was being freed 
from his chains in the Free State Hotel, J. H. Little, the owner 
of a store across the way, fired a load of buckshot at Kagi, 
whose heavy overcoat alone saved him from severe injury. 
In the melee which followed, Little was killed and his store 
plundered, some seven thousand dollars' worth of goods being 
stolen. Charles Jennison, subsequently Colonel of the Seventh 
Kansas Cavalry, is credited with being specially active among 
the plunderers, and in some accounts Little's death is laid 
to Stevens, but unjustly. The whole affair reflects credit upon 
no one ; it at once gave the pro-slavery men the incentive to 
reprisal, and enabled them to obtain from Governor Medary 
the authority to organize militia for the defence of their 

* See Appendix. 


town, 60 besides prejudicing the new Governor more than ever 
against the Free State leaders. Brown was subsequently 
wrongly charged by Governor Robinson and others with the 
leadership and instigation of the Fort Scott outrage, both of 
which questionable honors belong clearly to Montgomery. 
It must be stated, in the interest of historical accuracy, that 
Montgomery subsequently averred on a number of occasions 
that it was absolutely necessary for him to assume the leader- 
ship, because John Brown was determined to burn the entire 
town of Fort Scott to the ground, whereas Montgomery was 
opposed to violence and bloodshed and was exceedingly vexed 
at the killing of Little. 61 Governor Medary was so alarmed 
by the attack on Fort Scott that he at once applied for four 
companies of Federal cavalry, and for 600 arms and 10,000 
rounds of ammunition with which to equip some militia. 62 

There was in store for him, and for the Governor of Mis- 
souri, an even greater shock. On the igth of December began 
one of the most picturesque incidents in John Brown's life, 
without which its warfare against slavery would hardly have 
seemed complete. Certainly, nothing could have wound up 
his final visit to Kansas in a more dramatic way. This was 
his incursion into Missouri and the liberation of eleven slaves 
by force of arms. While, as already recorded, Brown had 
taken two slaves out of Kansas to freedom before this whole- 
sale liberation, and was throughout his life an ever-ready 
agent of the Underground Railroad, he was at no time espe- 
cially interested in this piecemeal method of weakening 
slavery. It was to his mind wasting time, when a bold attack 
might liberate five hundred or a thousand slaves. Yet, when 
on December 19, 1858, a slave crossed the Missouri line and 
told to George Gill the story of his impending fate, John 
Brown promptly and heartily closed with his follower's sug- 
gestion that here was just the right opportunity to "carry 
the war into Africa." 63 

"As I was scouting down the line," relates Mr. Gill, "I ran 
across a colored man, whose ostensible purpose was the selling of 
brooms. . . . I found that his name was Jim Daniels; that his wife, 
self, and babies belonged to an estate and were to be sold at an ad- 
ministrator's sale in the immediate future. His present business was 
not the selling of brooms particularly, but to find help to get himself, 


family, and a few friends in the vicinity away from these threatened 
conditions. Daniels was a fine-looking mulatto. I immediately 
hunted up Brown, and it was soon arranged to go the following 
night and give what assistance we could. I am sure that Brown, 
in his mind, was just waiting for something to turn up; or, in his 
way of thinking, was expecting or hoping that 'God would pro- 
vide him a basis of action.' When this came he hailed it as heaven- 

Shubel Morgan decided to lead a party of ten or more to 
the home of Harvey G. Hicklan, or Hicklin, Daniels's tem- 
porary master, while Stevens, Tidd, Hazlett and others, to 
the number of eight, were to visit other plantations and rescue 
one or two more slaves who desired to drink of the cup of 
liberty. On the night of the 2Oth the two bands slowly took 
their way into Missouri. With Brown were a well-known 
horse-thief, "Pickles" by designation, Charles Jennison, 
Jeremiah Anderson, Gill, Kagi and two young men by the 
name of Ayres, in addition to one or two others. At midnight 
Hicklan's door was quickly forced, and then, with pointed 
revolvers, he was informed of the mission of the raiders. 
Brown had decided to take some of the personal property 
of the estate to which the slaves belonged, in order to main- 
tain them. It was not easy to differentiate between Hick- 
lan's property and that of the Lawrence estate, and Gill, who 
was told off to prevent plundering, confessed that he found 
his task a difficult one. "I soon discovered," he says, "that 
watches and other articles were being taken; some of our 
number proved to be mere adventurers, ready to take from 
friend or foe as opportunity offered." In this they were not 
different from some other Free State marauders, who were 
often willing to line their pockets while helping the cause of 
liberty. Mr. Hicklan always insisted that: 

11 Nothing that was taken was ever recovered. I learn that it was 
stated by John Brown that he made his men return all the property 
they had taken from me. This is not true. They did not give any- 
thing back. Brown said to me that we might get our property back 
if we could ; that he defied us and the whole United States to follow 
him. He and his men seemed anxious to take more from me than 
they did, for they ransacked the house in search of money, and I 
suppose they would have taken it if they had found it. ... What 
I have stated is the truth, and I am willing to swear to it. I do 


not hold any particular malice or prejudice on account of these old 
transactions. Old things have passed away, but the truth can never 
pass away." 64 

From Hicklan's, it was but three-quarters of a mile to the 
residence of John Larue, where five more slaves were liber- 
ated ; thence, taking with them John B. Larue and a Dr. Ervin, 
a guest of the family, as prisoners, Brown and his men re- 
turned to Kansas. According to pro-slavery accounts: 

"Besides the negroes, Brown took from the Lawrence estate two 
good horses, a yoke of oxen, a good wagon, harness, saddles, a con- 
siderable quantity of provisions, bacon, flour, meal, coffee, sugar, 
etc., all of the bedding and clothing of the negroes, Hicklin's shot- 
gun, over-coat, boots, and many other articles belonging to the 
whites. From Larue were taken five negroes, six head of horses, har- 
ness, a wagon, a lot of bedding and clothing, provisions, and, in short, 
all the 'loot' available and portable." 65 

Meanwhile, Stevens's expedition had released but one slave, 
and that at the cost of the owner's life. David Cruise, a 
wealthy settler, had a woman slave whom the Daniels party 
wished to take along on their journey toward the North Star. 
Stevens had hardly entered the house when he thought that 
Mr. Cruise was reaching for a weapon. He fired instantly and 
the old man dropped dead. A thirteen-year-old son, who had 
recognized Hazlett, afterwards charged him with the crime. 
But Stevens freely admitted the killing, though it weighed 
heavily upon him. Once, while at the Kennedy Farm, just 
before the raid on Harper's Ferry, he was asked to tell of it, and 
consented to if not urged again, for, he said, " I dislike to talk 
of it." He went, he declared, 66 to the cabin and demanded the 
girl. The old man asked him in. Thoughtlessly he entered, 
when the old man slipped behind him, locked the door and 
"pulled a gun." It became instantly a case of shoot first. 
"You might call it a case of self-defence," asserted Stevens, 
"or you might also say that I had no business in there, and 
that the old man was right." Subsequently the Cruise family 
also charged wholesale looting of the house, the taking of two 
yoke of oxen, a wagon-load of provisions, eleven mules and 
two horses. It was also declared that a valuable mule was 
taken from another neighbor, Hugh Martin. 67 


Naturally, the death of Mr. Cruise created great excitement 
in Missouri, for, Stevens's narrative to the contrary notwith- 
standing, he ranked as a peaceful, law-abiding citizen, accus- 
tomed to minding his own business. This murder instantly 
imperilled the safety of all the Kansas settlements near the 
border line, for it was wholly unprovoked and without a 
shadow of the usual apology, that Cruise had been guilty of 
outrages upon the people of Kansas. In 1856 such an event 
would have been excuse enough for a wholesale military inva- 
sion of the Territory. As it was, Montgomery found it wise to 
be more than ever vigilant in the protection of the border. 
Stevens himself was not naturally bloodthirsty, but was the 
bravest of all Brown's men. Gill says of him, that he "was one 
of nature's noblemen if there ever was one. Generous and 
brave, impulsive and loving, one cannot speak too well or too 
kindly of him." 68 

But the result of the killing was bad enough. The Harrison- 
ville, Missouri, Democrat called the raiders robbers and assas- 
sins, and urged the Governor to do "something to protect our 
people." 69 The Wyandotte City Western Argus declared that 
Montgomery, who was first charged with being one of the 
raiders, and Brown "will have a heavy account to settle some 
day for surely a terrible retribution will come to them 
sooner or later." It added that their "infamous deeds destroy 
the prospects of Territorial advancement," and would pre- 
vent the coming of emigrants next spring. 70 The Lawrence 
newspapers were also hostile to the Missouri adventure, even 
the Republican criticising it, after having been urged to do so 
by George A. Crawford at Governor Medary's request. The 
editor of the Leavenworth Herald wrote from Jefferson City, 
Missouri, January 21, 1859, that "in the present state of 
affairs, the people of Kansas owe it to themselves, to the 
country, and to justice and right to put down these outlaws 
and preserve the peace. There is no earthly excuse for their 
invasion of Missouri." 71 General Lane, seeing his opportunity 
for another piece of bravado, wrote on January 9 to Governor 
Medary, offering, if given proper authority by him, to produce 
both Brown and Montgomery, after having procured their 
disbandment, "before the Kansas Legislature, now in session, 
or before any tribunal you may name." This offer elicited 


only a diplomatic letter of thanks from Governor Medary, 
and led the vicious Herald of Freedom to affirm 72 that, how- 
ever Lane's offer might appear to others, it was to its editors 
"conclusive evidence of the complicity of Lane in those 
disturbances," a ridiculous assertion. The St. Louis Mis- 
souri-Democrat printed, early in January, a letter from an 
Osawatomie correspondent, who thus portrayed the effect 
of Brown's raid, before describing it in detail: 73 

" Hardly has the mind cooled down from the fever heat into which 
it was thrown by the Ft. Scott tragedy, before it is wrought up to 
a frenzied condition by the enactment of new scenes in the present 
exciting drama. Hardly is the ear saluted by one piece of startling 
intelligence before it is stunned by additional news, of a nature so 
revolting that the mind grows dizzy with horror, and involuntarily 
inquires whether we are not relapsing into the barbarism of the 
middle ages. It is not probable that the killing of Cruise was pre- 
meditated, but finding himself attacked by robbers, he resisted, as 
was natural, and as he had a right to do, and he was shot down 
remorselessly by the fiend who had attacked him. I have yet to see 
the first free State man of position in or around Osawatomie, who 
does not condemn in the strongest terms, any going into Missouri 
or committing depredations." 

Finally, the President of the United States offered a reward 
of $250 for the arrest of Brown and Montgomery, and the 
Governor of Missouri $3000 for the capture of Brown. 74 

With his two white prisoners and the slaves, Brown had 
moved slowly back to Kansas, meeting Stevens's party with 
its unhappy report of Cruise's death. As soon as the sun was 
well up, the whole party drew aside into a deep-wooded ravine, 
some distance from the road. Remaining in camp through- 
out the day, they resumed their journey after dark, and at 
midnight on Wednesday reached the home of Augustus Wat- 
tles, two miles north of Mound City. Montgomery and a few 
of his men were sleeping, as Mrs. Emma Wattles Morse has 
related the story, 75 in Wattles's loft, and were awakened 

"by the chattering and laughing of the darkies as they warmed 
around the stove while Mrs. Wattles was getting supper. Mont- 
gomery put his head down the stairway, exclaiming: 'How is this, 
Capt. Brown? Whom have you here?' Brown replied, waving his 
hat around the circle, 'Allow me to introduce to you a part of my 
family. Observe I have carried the war into Africa.' After supper 


the women and children were taken to the house of J. O. Wattles, 
only a few steps away, the men went to their wagons, while Brown 
and two of his men lay on the floor for the two or three hours remain- 
ing of the night." 

At dawn on Thursday the caravan started again, and this 
time without Brown. Two of his men accompanied the one 
ox-team, which was sent forward, one going ahead to act as 
pilot. But the latter turned back to "see the fun," believing 
that Brown was going to have some fighting with the pur- 
suers hourly expected. Thus the man driving the team went 
on alone with his valuable living freight. It was near sunset 
and quite cold when they arrived at Osawatomie, Mr. Adair 
stated, and it was Christmas Eve as well. Mr. Adair wrote, 76 
in recalling the arrival of this pathetic band of dusky fugi- 
tives, that: 

"The fugitive slave law was still in force. I realized in some 
measure the responsibility of receiving them, consulted my wife, 
calling her attention to our responsibility, but would do as she said. 
She considered the subject for a few moments, then said: 'I cannot 
turn them away.' By this time the team was in the road in front of 
the house. All were taken round to the backyard, and the colored 
people were brought into the back kitchen and kept there that 
night. ..." 

It was at two A. M. of the morning after Christmas that the 
fugitives were finally placed in the old abandoned preemption 
cabin on the south fork of the Pottawatomie, south of Osa- 
watomie, belonging to a young Vermonter, Charles Severns. 77 
Of unhewn hickory poles, neither chinked nor daubed, with- 
out door, floor, or windows, it must nevertheless have seemed 
a haven of rest and safety to the negroes escaping from the 
evil fate which would have been theirs, had they gone on the 
auction-block in Missouri. If they were not beyond danger of 
recapture, there were kind neighbors to bring them food, give 
them encouragement and stand guard over them. There 
were friendly armed men constantly watching the cabin, which 
could be seen for a long distance from several sides. The 
slaves were armed and told on no account to surrender. They 
quickly made the cabin habitable, building a chimney of 
prairie sod, and the naturally gay spirits of the race bubbled 
over so that frequently they had to be cautioned to be 


quiet. Several times they were on the verge of discovery, but 
the danger was always staved off. Pottawatomie Creek for 
twenty-five miles southwest of Osawatomie, with all its tribu- 
taries, was in vain searched by armed Missourians, who gave 
special attention to the timber along the streams. The open 
prairie was after all the safest place. 

Meanwhile. Shubel Morgan, whose raid into Missouri was 
the eighth undertaken by Kansas Free State men, was in 
readiness to repel a counter-invasion. William Hutchinson, 
the Kansas correspondent of the New York Times, who had 
come South to see for himself how things stood, met John 
Brown at noon on Thursday, December 30, and went with him 
to Wattles's home. 78 He wrote to his wife a few days later: 

"Have heard the full history of Brown's going into Missouri and 
shall justify him. I met with Brown and his boys about noon that 
day, Thursday. We went to Wattles that night together, and we 
were together all night and next day, talking much with him and 
Wattles and others who called on us. They took special pains to 
have a war council on my account, and appeared to have great con- 
fidence in the opinion of 'the man from Lawrence,' as some termed 
me. I am so vain as to think my advice did have some good effect. 
I recommended one more trial for a settlement before resorting 
to rash measures, and they accepted my plans, and we drew up a 
paper for signatures and Wattles started to circulate it among both 

This was undoubtedly a second draft of the John Brown 
plan referred to above. Mr. Hutchinson in later years had a 
vivid recollection of that night with John Brown. 

"Our bed was a mattress made of hay, laid upon the floor of the 
second story. Sleep seemed to be a secondary matter with him. I 
am sure he talked on that night till the small hours, and his all 
absorbing theme was ' my work,' ' my great duty,' ' my mission,' etc., 
meaning of course, the liberation of the slaves. He seemed to have 
no other object in life, no other hope or ambition. The utmost sin- 
cerity pervaded his every thought and word." 

From Wattles's home Brown went into camp on Turkey 
Creek, not far from Fort Scott, where he witnessed the begin- 
ning of the last calendar year of his life. On January 2 he 
formally wrote to Montgomery, 79 asking him to hold himself 
in readiness to call out reinforcements at a moment's notice, 


to prevent a possible invasion because of a raid into Missouri. 
Montgomery, meanwhile, was eagerly at work for peace, and 
attended with Mr. Hutchinson a peace meeting three miles 
from Mapleton. Mr. Hutchinson wrote the resolutions that 
were adopted. 

"Montgomery," he says, "made a good speech, and every man on 
the ground seemed fully to endorse him. . . . The whole country 
along the border is in arms and I fear the end is distant. . . . The 
blood is up on this side and they won't stop now for trifles, from late 
reports. To-day, Jan. 3rd, some 500 men from Fort Scott crossed 
the river (Little Osage) near the State line going North, and we all 
expect warm work is near." 

Fortunately for all concerned, there was no great bloodshed, 
merely skirmishes, in one of which three Free State men 
were wounded. In these engagements Kagi commanded, for 
Brown had already gone North, he reached Osawatomie 
on January n. The pro-slavery forces were a posse bent on 
capturing the Free State invaders of Missouri. 80 

Early in January, Shubel Morgan was visited by George 
A. Crawford, a Free State Democrat, who went South at 
Governor Medary's request, and reported both to him and 
to President Buchanan. Writing to Eli Thayer, of Worcester, 
on August 4, 1879, Mr. Crawford thus described in part this 
interview near the Trading Post : 

"I protested to the Captain against this violence [the killing of 
Cruise], We were settlers he was not. He could strike a blow 
and leave. The retaliatory blow would fall on us. Being a free-state 
man, I myself was held personally responsible by pro-slavery ruf- 
fians in Ft. Scott for the acts of Capt. Brown. One of these ruf- 
fians Brockett when they gave me notice to leave the town, 
said, 'When a snake bites me I don't go hunting for that particular 
snake. I kill the first snake I come to.' I called Capt. Brown's 
attention to the fact that we were at peace with Missouri that 
our Legislature was then in the hands of Free State men to make the 
laws that even in our disturbed counties of Bourbon and Linn 
they were in a majority and had elected officers both to make and 
execute the laws that without peace we could have no immigra- 
tion that no Southern immigration was coming that agitation 
such as his was only keeping our Northern friends away, etc., etc. 
The old man replied that it was no pleasure to him, an old man, to 
be living in the saddle, away from home and family, exposing his 
life, and if the Free State men of Kansas felt that they no longer 


needed him he would be glad to go. ... I think the conversation 
made an impression on him, for he soon after went to his self-sac- 
rifice at Harper's Ferry." 81 

To Brown's final visit to his staunch friend Wattles especial 
interest attaches, for it was at this time that he produced the 
'Parallels' published in the New York Tribune and else- 
where, which attracted great attention and are more often 
quoted in connection with Brown than anything else except 
his final address to the Virginia jury. Mr. Wattles had 
severely censured his old friend "for going into Missouri con- 
trary to our agreement and getting these slaves." He replied, 
Mr. Wattles testified in 1860: 82 " I considered the matter well; 
you will have no more attacks from Missouri; I shall now 
leave Kansas; probably you will never see me again; I con- 
sider it my duty to draw the scene of the excitement to some 
other part of the country." Montgomery and Kagi were 
parties to this discussion as to the storm his raid had created. 
Brown had been writing letters as they talked. 83 Finally, 
turning to the others with a manuscript in his hand, he said : 
"Gentlemen, I would like to have your attention for a few 
minutes. I usually leave the newspaper work to Kagi, but 
this time I have something to say myself." He then read 
the 'Parallels,' which he had dated at the Trading Post, lest 
the usual date line, Moneka, prove a cause of trouble to the 
staunch Wattles household. They are as follows: 


Gents: You will greatly oblige a humble friend by allowing the 
use of your colums while I briefly state two parallels, in my poor 
way. Not One year ago Eleven quiet citizens of this neighborhood 
(viz) Wm Robertson, Wm Colpetzer, Amos Hall, Austin Hall, John 
Campbell, Asa Snyder, Thos Stilwell, Wm Hairgrove, Asa Hair- 
grove, Patrick Ross, and B. L. Reed, were gathered up from 
their work, & their homes by an armed force (under One Hamil- 
ton) & without trial ; or opportunity to speak in own defence were 
formed into a line & all but one shot, Five killed & Five wounded. 
One fell unharmed, pretending to be dead. All were left for dead. 
The only crime charged against them was that of being Free-State 
men.- Now, I inquire what action has ever, since the occurrence in 
May last, been taken by either the President of the United States; 
the Governor of Missouri, or the Governor of Kansas, or any of their 
tools ; or by any proslavery or administration man ? to ferret out 
and punish the perpetrators of this crime? 


Now for the other parallel. On Sunday the igth of December a 
negro called Jim came over to the Osage settlement from Missouri 
& stated that he together with his Wife, Two Children, & another 
Negro man were to be sold within a day or Two & beged for help 
to get away. On Monday (the following) night, Two small com- 
panies were made up to go to Missouri & forcibly liberate the Five 
slaves together with other slaves. One of these companies I assumed 
to direct. We proceeded to the place surrounded the buildings lib- 
erated the slaves & also took certain property supposed to belong to 
the estate. We however learned before leaveing that a portion of the 
articles we had taken belonged to a man living on the plantation as a 
tenant, & who was supposed to have no interest in the estate. We 
promptly returned to him all -we had taken so far I believe. We then 
went to another plantation, where we freed Five more slaves, took 
some property; & Two white men. We moved all slowly away into 
the Territory for some distance, & then sent the White men back, 
telling them to follow us as soon as they chose to do so. The other 
company freed One female slave, took some property; &, as I am 
informed, killed One White man (the master), who fought against 
the liberation. Now for a comparison. Eleven persons are forcibly 
restored to their natural; & inalienable rights, with but one man 
killed ; & all " Hell is stirred from beneath." It is currently reported 
that the Governor of Missouri has made a requisition upon the 
Governor of Kansas for the delivery of all such as were concerned in 
the last-named "dreadful outrage." The Marshal of Kansas is said 
to be collecting a possee of Missouri (not Kansas) men at West Point 
in Missouri a little town about Ten miles distant, to "enforce the 
laws," & all proslavery conservative Free-State, and dough-faced 
men & Administration tools are filled with holy horror. 

Consider the two cases, and the action of the Administration 

Respectfully yours, 


Indubitably, the parallel was an effective one. The theft of 
black human property was always the most heinous offence 
known in the South during slavery days; and, although he had 
expressed due horror at the Hamilton massacre, Governor 
Denver had neither requisitioned the Governor of Missouri 
for the delivery of Hamilton's criminals, nor offered a reward 
for their apprehension. Now, however, the case was different. 85 
Governor Medary sent a message to the Legislature on Janu- 
ary II, denouncing both Brown and Montgomery, refusing to 
give the names of his informants as to their movements in 
Linn and Bourbon counties, and asking the Legislature to act 
at once, besides repeating his offer of $250 reward each for 


the arrest of Brown and Montgomery. 86 To this a committee 
of the Legislature made a remarkably spirited and able reply. 
While censuring Brown and Montgomery, and attributing to 
them the "ruin and desolation" that had "settled down on 
two of the most beautiful counties in Kansas," the committee 
was "clearly of the opinion that all armed bands should be 
dispersed, and the law should be sustained. Kansas has too 
long suffered in her good name from the acts of lawless men 
and from the corruption of Federal officers." As to the Federal 
Government's offer of a reward, the committee was emphatic 
in its statement that this policy would not succeed. "The 
man of Kansas," it said, "that would, for a reward, deliver up 
a man to the General Government, would sink into the grave 
of an Arnold or a Judas. . . . Such have been the acts of the 
General Government in this Territory, that public sentiment 
will not permit any person to receive the gold of the General 
Government as a bribe to do a duty." 87 There being a mi- 
nority report of a different character, the Legislature referred 
the whole matter to a select committee, which brought in a 
harmless report that the Legislature should uphold the Gov- 
ernor in enforcing the law. 

Montgomery promptly wrote, on January 15, a long letter 
to the Lawrence Republican, setting forth actual conditions 
and saying among other things: "For Brown's doings in Mis- 
souri I am not responsible. I know nothing of either his plans 
or intentions. Brown keeps his own counsels, and acts on his 
own responsibility. I hear much said about Montgomery and 
his company. I have no company. We have had no organiza- 
tion since the 5th day of July." Montgomery, with splendid 
courage, followed this letter up in person, arriving in Lawrence 
on January 18, and, boldly walking into court in the after- 
noon, surrendered himself to Judge Elmore, by whom he was 
turned over to the sheriff. As the only indictment pending 
against him was one for robbing a post-office, this border 
leader was promptly released on four thousand dollars' bail. 
Two days later, he spoke for nearly three hours before a large 
audience in the Lawrence Congregational Church, detailing 
the whole history of the border troubles. 89 Frequently inter- 
rupting him with applause, the audience, at the conclusion 
of his story, gave three cheers for him, and three more for 


"Old John Brown." The next day, Montgomery went back to 
the South, where he continued his efforts in behalf of peace. 
On February 2 he returned to Lawrence with six of his men, 
who likewise surrendered to Judge Elmore, to Governor 
Medary's great satisfaction. 90 

As for John Brown, he was now ready to leave the Territory 
for the last time. Of constructive work there was no more to 
his credit than when he left the Territory in 1856. The terror 
of his name undoubtedly acted as a deterrent while he was on 
the Missouri line. But there had been peace in Linn and 
Bourbon counties, and would have been, had he not appeared, 
until Montgomery rightly or wrongly assumed the offensive 
in November, except for the usual lawlessness of a frontier 
where the courts are not respected. As Montgomery said, 
Shubel Morgan kept his own counsels and went his own way, 
and the sole act of any significance to be credited to him during 
this six months in southern Kansas is the capture of the slaves. 
On the other hand, his presence in Linn, after deducting 
properly the numerous acts wrongfully attributed to him and 
his men, was in itself the cause of excitement and strife. It 
was an incentive to men of the Weaver type to spread stories 
of impending trouble for their own ends. Certain it is that 
the Missouri raid, in violation of his agreement, caused many 
peaceful Free State settlers to flee their homes for fear of vio- 
lence, and might have resulted seriously but for the efforts 
of certain Missourians to keep the peace, and for the pusilla- 
nimity of those who wished to retaliate but feared the conse- 
quences. In Missouri, however, that raid had caused sufficient 
alarm to convince Brown again of the telling effect upon the 
crumbling foundations of slavery of a similar undertaking on a 
larger scale. "All the slaves in the thickest slave settlements 
in Missouri for twenty or thirty miles have been carried into 
Texas or Arkansas, or are closely guarded by a large force 
every night," reported, on January 15, a Tribune correspondent 
from Lawrence. 91 

It is not to be believed that if the Massachusetts friends of 
John Brown had been fully informed as to what little good he 
had achieved, after they sent him back to Kansas, or of the 
results of his surrounding himself with armed followers, they 
would have been wholly content with the outlay they had 


made to send him there. Gerrit Smith and others rejoiced in 
the Missouri liberations, 92 but it does not appear that they 
were aware that quiet was restored as soon as Brown left the 
Territory and Montgomery decided to work for peace. This 
was finally assured by the Legislature's passage of an act 
granting amnesty to all who had committed crimes in Linn 
and Bourbon and four other counties. This act was approved 
by Governor Medary on February n, 93 when Brown was on 
his way out of the Territory. Thereafter there was peace and 
quiet in Kansas until the Civil War came with its renewal of 
strife, of anarchy and border lawlessness, with the Quantrell 
massacre at Lawrence and the other episodes of the long war 
between brothers. 

Brown parted about January 20 from his kinspeople at 
Osawatomie, and, with a disregard and contempt akin to 
Montgomery's for the rewards offered for his arrest, set out 
with the liberated slaves for the long journey to Canada, with 
Gill as his sole helper on the road to Lawrence. On the nth 
of January he had written to his family 94 of his middling 
health and his regret that he had been unable to finish up his 
business as rapidly as he had hoped to, when he wrote pre- 
viously (December 2). He was still unable to give an address 
for them to write to, and he made no reference to his rescue of 
the slaves, or to his impending departure for the East. This 
was delayed by the arrival of a twelfth fugitive, a baby born 
to one of the slave women ; to it was given the name of John 
Brown. "A day or two before starting," records Mr. Gill: 

"I had learned of a span of horses held by a Missourian stopping 
temporarily a few miles from Osawatomie, and the suspicion was 
well grounded that he had appropriated them from free state 
owners. At Garnett I acquainted Stevens and Tidd with the fact, 
who set out the same evening that we did, to replevin these horses. 
After doing so they proceeded to Topeka to await us; Kagi also 
scouted ahead for some purpose, most probably to arrange stop- 
ping places for us, and then went on ahead also for Topeka, leaving 
Brown and myself alone with the colored folks." 

With this reconversion of pro-slavery horses into loyal Free 
State animals, Brown's men wound up their career in south- 
eastern Kansas. 
^ Shubel Morgan's trip from the cabin near Garnett to Major 


J. B. Abbott's house near Lawrence was as trying as it was 
daring. Through mud, and then over frozen ground, without 
a dollar of money in their pockets, their shoes all but falling 
apart, Gill and Brown resolutely drove the slow-going ox- 
team, with its load of women and children. 95 These two 
staunch men demonstrated here, if ever, their willingness to 
suffer for others; Gill's feet were frozen when they reached 
Major Abbott's, on January 24, and "the old man," Gill 
relates, "had fingers, nose and ears frozen." From this haven 
of rest they sent the ox-team and wagon into Lawrence to be 
sold, and in its place obtained horses and wagons. Samuel 
F. Tappan, who, like Major Abbott, had been one of Bran- 
son's rescuers in 1855, loaned a two-horse wagon, with Eben 
Archibald as driver. 96 It was while he was staying with Major 
Abbott or a near-by neighbor, Mr. Grover, that Brown re- 
ceived a visit from Dr. John Doy, whose subsequent mis- 
fortune aroused indignation throughout the North. Dr. Doy 
had been asked to pilot a number of negroes from Lawrence 
to safety, and it was first agreed that he should join forces 
with Brown. Circumstances altered, however, and it was 
decided that they should move separately. Dr. Doy spent one 
evening endeavoring to induce Brown to change his mind, or 
at least to give him part of his small escort. 97 But Brown had, 
besides Archibald, only Gill and possibly one other. The next 
day both Doy and Brown were on their way. The resoluteness 
and intrepidity of the latter carried him safely through to 
Nebraska. But where he escaped posses and United States 
troops, Dr. Doy was easily taken, his negroes two of them 
free-born sent back to a hateful bondage, while Dr. Doy 
himself was sentenced to five years in the Missouri peniten- 
tiary, to which he would have gone, had not the brave and ever 
ready Major Abbott and other friends rescued him from jail, 
in St. Joseph, in the nick of time. 

Somehow or other, Brown recruited his finances while near 
Lawrence, 98 and his wagons, when he drove away, were creak- 
ing with the weight of provisions contributed by Major 
Abbott and Mr. Grover. He narrowly escaped capture on the 
road by men who were expecting him to come by in an ox-cart. 
Leaving Lawrence on the evening of the 25th for Topeka, he 
stopped at the residence of a Mr. Owen, two miles north of the 


town." There Gill dropped out to rest and recuperate, the 
indomitable Stevens taking his place. But there was no rest 
for Brown. On the 28th his little train reached Holton amid 
all the discomfort of a driving prairie snow-storm. 100 Here 
fugitives and conductors alike were compelled to seek refuge 
from the elements in the tavern, with the result that news of 
their presence spread quickly. The following day the fates were 
clearly against them, for when they reached their next Under- 
ground Railroad station, six miles away, the cabin of Abram 
Fuller on Straight, or Spring, Creek, that stream was too high 
to ford. 

All day Sunday the adventurers rested in cabins near the 
creek, while a messenger sent to Topeka called a congregation 
out of church to go to Brown's aid; for on Saturday Brown 
had discovered the presence in his immediate neighborhood of 
a posse from Atchison, headed by Mr. A. P. Wood, which 
barred the way to liberty on the other side of the creek, a 
fact at once triumphantly announced to President Buchanan 
by Governor Medary. 101 The latter hastily sent a special 
deputy marshal, Colby by name, to Colonel Sumner, who was 
now commandant of Fort Leavenworth, with a request for 
troops to capture Brown. 102 But long before Colby and the 
cavalry given him could reach Holton, that elusive bird for 
whom the net was spread had flown, precisely as he had 
when Lieut.-Col. Cooke's dragoons so nearly captured him, 
leaving Medary and Buchanan to swallow their chagrin 
as best they might. Their bete noir had leisurely traversed 
Kansas, his presence being known to many, yet the Territo- 
rial authorities had failed to lay hands upon him. 

How Brown thus escaped from Kansas is both an amusing 
and a characteristic story. His policy of going to close quar- 
ters when in the presence of the enemy again demonstrated its 
value on this occasion, which has been dubbed the "Battle of 
the Spurs." When the reinforcements from Topeka, headed 
by Colonel John Ritchie, arrived, the creek was still high and 
the crossing bad. What happened is told by an eye-witness, 
Llewellyn L. Kiene: 103 

'"What do you propose to do, Captain?' asked one of the body 

"'Cross the creek and move north,' he responded, and his lips 


closed in that familiar, firm expression which left no doubt as to his 

"'But captain, the water is high, and the Fuller crossing is very 
bad. I doubt if we can get through. There is a much better ford 5 
miles up the creek,' said one of the men who had joined the rescuers 
at Holton. 

"The old man faced the guard and his eyes flashed. 'I have set 
out on the Jim Lane road,' he said, 'and I intend to travel it straight 
through, and there is no use to talk of turning aside. Those who are 
afraid may go back, but I will cross at the Fuller crossing. The Lord 
has marked out a path for me, and I intend to follow it. We are 
ready to move.' " 

It is needless to say that no one faltered. Gill, who had come 
with the rescuers from Topeka, thus relates the story of the 
fray as he saw it: 

"At noon the next day [Monday] we reached McClain's cabins, 
where we found our company. I believe that they were glad to see 
us. Stevens had, awhile previous to our coming, gone out alone and 
demanded a surrender from four armed men. Three ran. One had 
to drop, as a 'bead' was drawn upon him. We now learned that 
there were about 80 ruffians waiting for us at the ford. We num- 
bered 22 all told, of men, black and white. We marched down 
upon them. They had as good a position as eighty men could wish, 
to defeat a thousand, but the closer we got to the ford the farther 
they got from it. We found some of their horses. Our boys mounted 
and gave chase to them ; succeeded in taking three or four prisoners. 
The last that was seen of the marshal was in the direction of Le- 
compton, and appearances suggested the idea that his mind was 
fixed upon the fate of Lot's wife." 

In such haste was the posse to escape that two men mounted 
one horse, and others clung to the tails of the horses of their 
comrades without taking time to mount their own. Such was 
the terror of John Brown's name. "There is a great deal of the 
old fighting spirit up," reported the Missouri Democrat, 10 * in 
giving its account of the "Battle of the Spurs." "The chase," 
said the Leavenworth Times, 

"was a merry one and closed by Brown's taking off three of his pur- 
suers as prisoners; with four horses, pistols, guns, &c., as legitimate 
plunder. The prisoners were carried some twenty miles, and then 
sent back to Atchison both wiser and sadder men. They feel rather 
chop-fallen, and vent their wrath on their captain, whom they de- 
nounce as a blusterer and coward. The terms might be applied to 
the whole party as well, for aught we know. Old Captain Brown is 


not to be taken by 'boys' and he cordially invites all proslavery 
men to try their hands at arresting him." 105 

From Holton, Brown's day's journey carried him to 
Sabetha, at the head of Pony Creek, six miles from the 
Nebraska line, where he again found helpful and earnest 
friends. The men were divided among three houses in the 
neighborhood for the night. The next day, February I, was 
his last in Kansas. Mr. Graham, of Sabetha, writes: 

"The morning Brown left Kansas he wanted me to go along and 
help them over the Nemaha river, and I did. When we came to the 
river it was so high we could not ford it, and the weather was very 
cold. We hoped it would freeze that night so that the ice would 
bear; and we stayed at the log-house of a half-breed Indian, named 
Tessaun, on the Sac and Fox Reservation [in Nebraska]. He had a 
double log-house, and gave us a large room with a bed in it. As I 
had no blankets, I was assigned to the bed with John Brown. In the 
morning the ice was strong enough to bear a man, but not a team; 
so they took the wagons to pieces and pushed them across ; then laid 
poles across, with rails and bushes and boards on them, and over 
this bridge they led the horses. Then I bade them good bye, and 
returned to Sabetha." 

On the 4th, Brown crossed the Missouri at Nebraska City 
and stood on Iowa soil, eluding another posse of fifty, just 
before entering Nebraska City, which Gill met and avoided 
by a stratagem. One day more and he was in the familiar 
town of Tabor. 106 The exodus from Kansas was over; the 
flight from the Egyptians had passed its most dangerous stage. 
Five days after his arrival there, on February 10, Brown wrote 
to his "Dear Wife and Children All:" 

" I am once more in Iowa through the great mercy of God. Those 
with me & other friends are well. I hope soon to be at a point where 
I can learn of your welfare & perhaps send you something besides 
my good wishes. I suppose you get the common news. May the 
God of my fathers be your God." 107 

It was the same, yet for John Brown a changed, Tabor 
which he entered with the rescued slaves, elated over stand- 
ing on free soil. The news of his coming had preceded him, 
and with it the details of the Missouri exploit, the killing 
of Cruise, the taking of oxen, horses and wagons. Strongly 
anti-slavery as the town was, this seemed to it transgression of 


the bounds. Throughout the North public sentiment was then 
practically unanimous on the side of the fugitive slave. In 
Massachusetts the Federal Government itself was now power- 
less to take back the slave who had fled from his chains, so 
bitter was the anger of the citizens of the State after the ren- 
dition of Anthony Burns in 1854. The moral sentiment of the 
time perceived, moreover, no wrong in the slave's taking such 
things as he needed for his flight. Were they not but a small 
part of the wage he had earned which had been wickedly with- 
held from him? And would not flight in most cases have been 
impossible if they did not take at least the clothes they wore, 
which belonged not to them but to the master? To Ellen 
Craft, who, wearing her owner's suit and high hat, imperson- 
ated a white man travelling North, with her husband as an 
attendant slave, no stigma of theft attached. Slavery to the 
Abolitionists was the sum of human wickedness, and nearly all 
measures taken to escape from it were justifiable. Not, how- 
ever, the taking of human life. It was this that stuck in the 
crops of the Tabor community, which also had the frontier 
town's horror of the horse-thief. So that when John Brown's 
train of wagons arrived, there was a curious but a cold crowd 
to greet him. The slaves were put into a little school-house 
which yet stands, and the teams unloaded on the public com- 
mon that is still the particular attraction of Tabor. For a 
week, at least, Brown desired to rest and recuperate for the 
long overland trip across Iowa to Springdale. 

The next day being the Sabbath, as the Rev. John Todd, 
whose hospitable home had sheltered many an armed emi- 
grant ready to take human life in defence of Kansas, entered 
his church, there was handed to him the following note in John 
Brown's handwriting, which is still preserved in the Historical 
Department of Iowa at Des Moines: 

"John Brown respectfully requests the church at Tabor to offer 
public thanksgiving to Almighty God in behalf of himself, & com- 
pany : & of their rescued captives, in particular for his gracious pre- 
severation of their lives, & health ; & his signal deliverance of all out 
of the hand of the wicked, hitherto. ' Oh give thanks unto the Lord ; 
for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.' " 

The Rev. Dr. H. D. King was in the pulpit with Parson 
Todd, and to him the perplexed preacher turned for advice. 


"Brother Todd," said Mr. King, 108 " this is your church, but if 
I were you I would not make a prayer for them. Inasmuch as 
it is said they have destroyed life and stolen horses, I should 
want to take the charge under examination before I made a 
public prayer." So, when the congregation was seated, Todd 
announced: "A petition is before us. But perhaps under the 
circumstances it is better not to take public action. If any 
persons wish to help privately, it is their privilege to do so." 
There was also announced a meeting of the citizens for the 
next day. 

When this was called to order, John Brown was asked to 
speak in his own behalf. Just as he began his story, a Dr. 
Brown, of St. Joseph, Missouri, a well-known medical special- 
ist and a slaveholder, entered the church. Recognizing him, 
John Brown very quietly said that "one had just entered 
whom he preferred not to have hear what he had to say and 
would therefore respectfully request him to withdraw." 
Instantly a prominent citizen sprang to his feet and said he 
"hoped nothing would be heard that all might not hear." 
John Brown very quietly remarked that if that man remained 
he had nothing more to say, and soon afterward silently with- 
drew from the meeting. It was understood that he said to one 
of his men without: "We had best look to our arms. We are 
not yet among friends." 109 George Gill relates that after 
Brown had declined to go on, Stevens arose and in his superb 
bass voice declared that " ' So help him God he never would sit 
in council with one who bought and sold human flesh,' and 
left the hall as did the rest of our party." uo After a long dis- 
cussion, lasting it is said several hours, the meeting adopted 
the following resolutions, to John Brown's disgust: 

Resolved, That while we sympathize with the oppressed, & will 
do all that we conscientiously can to help them in their efforts 
for freedom, nevertheless, we have no Sympathy with those who 
go to Slave States, to entice away Slaves, & take property or life 
when necessary to attain that end. 

TABOR Feb yth 1859 

Secretary of said meating. 111 

It cannot be denied that the element of fear entered into the 
conclusion reached. 112 There were those in Tabor who thought 


that too great hospitality to Brown at this juncture might lead 
to pro-slavery attacks upon the town. Certain it is that, had 
"Jim" Daniels come to Parson Todd, or almost any other 
inhabitant of Tabor, and asked for aid for his family, pro- 
viding it were near by, he would not have been turned away 
unaided ; for this belief the town's record as an Underground 
Railroad station is reason enough. 113 

John Brown finally turned his back on Tabor on Febru- 
ary n, and began his journey across Iowa. It was not without 
danger, for all the pro-slavery influences in the State were at 
work to prevent his reaching Canada, and many venturesome 
persons were attracted by the heavy reward for his head. 
Nevertheless, Brown took a well-beaten road, and did not shun 
the towns as he had in the previous winter, when moving the 
arms overland to Springdale. They stopped at Toole's, pre- 
sumably an Underground Railroad station, on the night of 
the I2th, at Lewis's Mills on the next day, and at Grove City 
on the 1 4th. 114 Dalmanutha was their resting-place on the 
I5th, Aurora on the next day, and "Jordan's" on the lyth. 
The next day they boldly entered Des Moines, stopping, Mr. 
Gill says, "quite a while in the streets, Kagi hunting up Editor 
[John] Teesdale of the Register, an acquaintance of his; he also 
proved to be an old acquaintance of Brown's. Mr. Teesdale 
paid our ferriage across the Des Moines River." It was to 
Mr. Teesdale that Brown wrote in the next month, March, 
1859, 115 in reply to a request for his reasons for entering Mis- 
souri, that: 

"First it has been my deliberate judgment since 1855 that the 
most ready and effectual way to retrieve Kansas would be to med- 
dle directly with the peculiar institution. Next, we had no means of 
moving the rescued captives without taking a portion of their law- 
fully acquired earnings. All we took has been held sacred to that 
object and will be." 116 

After the parting from Mr. Teesdale, the night was spent at 
a Mr. Hawley's; on the next day, the I9th, the stop was at 
Dickerson's, and on the 25th, the caravan was enthusiasti- 
cally welcomed at Grinnell, the home of Josiah Busnell Grin- 
nell, the most prominent Abolitionist in the State, whose life 
record, it has been said, would be a history of Iowa. To his 


house Brown went on arrival, and no welcome could have been 
more cordial. Mr. Grinnell himself has left a record of it, 117 
and Brown was so touched by it as to be moved to send the 
following summary of it to the backsliders in Tabor as coals 
of fire for their unworthy heads: 


1st. Whole party & teams kept for Two days free of cost. 

2<? Sundry articles of clothing given to captives. 

3<J Bread, Meat, Cakes, Pies, etc. prepared for our journey. 

4th Full nouses for Two Nights in succession at which meetings 
Brown and Kagi spoke and were loudly cheered ; & fully indorsed. 
Three Congregational Clergymen attended the meeting on Sabbath 
evening (notice of which was given out from the Pulpit). All of them 
took part in justifying our course & in urging contributions in our 
behalf & there was no dissenting speaker present at either meeting. 
Mr. Grinnell spoke at length & has since laboured to procure us a 
free and safe conveyance to Chicago : & effected it. 

5th Contributions in cash amounting to $26.50 Twenty Six Dol- 
lars & Fifty cents. 

6th Last but not least Public thanksgiving to Allmighty God 
offered up by Mr. Grinnell in the behalf of the whole company for 
His great mercy; & protecting care, with prayers for a continuance 
of those blessings. 

As the action of Tabor friends has been published in the news- 
papers by some of her people (as I suppose), would not friend 
Gaston or some other friend give publicity to all the above. 
Respectfully your friend 


SPRINGDALE, IOWA 26th Feby 1859 
P. S. 

our reception among the Quaker friends here has been most 

Yours truly, 

J. B. 118 

From Grinnell on, the party, moving slowly, reached Iowa 
City on the morning of the 25th, and the familiar Springdale 
on the same afternoon. Here the slaves and Brown remained 
until March 10, when they departed from West Liberty for 
Chicago, because of persistent rumors that the pro-slavery 
element in Iowa City, headed by Samuel Workman, the Bu- 
chanan postmaster, would endeavor to recapture the slaves. 
Indeed, an effort was made to arrest Brown and Kagi when 


they spent a night in Iowa City, after reaching Springdale. 119 
While Brown and Kagi were in the back of a restaurant, 
two men appeared at the front door and demanded the 
"damned nigger- thief of Kansas," whom they were going to 
hang with the rope in their hands. The restaurant-keeper, 
Baumer by name, sent them away and notified Brown. There 
was at that time a street-meeting going on, and to it Baumer 
went, and returning, reported that there was an excited dis- 
cussion going on as to how Brown could be taken without 
risking the captors' skins. Finally, a picked force was sent 
to Dr. Jesse Bowen's stable to watch it, for Brown's team 
was correctly thought to be there. Dr. Jesse Bowen, William 
Penn Clarke, L. A. Duncan and a Colonel Trowbridge, Abo- 
litionist friends, rallied to Brown's support, and spirited him 
and Kagi out of town early in the morning. Colonel Trow- 
bridge led them safely by unfrequented roads, 

"to a Quaker's house not far from Pedee, and there left them to 
their own resources, while he made his way back to Iowa City. 
There was then a post-office called Carthage, six miles east of the 
city, in Scott township, and a man named Gruilich was the post- 
master. At this place there was a party of men shooting at a target, 
drinking liquor, and waiting for old John Brown to come along." 

It was while staying in Springdale, on this last visit, that 
Brown wrote a letter to Dr. Bowen at Iowa City, which is of 
value as showing clearly that he still felt himself morally and 
legally entitled to some of the arms remaining in Tabor, under 
the National Committee vote of January 24, 1857 (not Jan- 
uary 2 as below) : 

SPRINGDALE, CEDAR Co, IOWA, 3rd March 1859 

I was lately at Tabor in this State where there is lying in the 
care of Jonas Jones Esqr. one brass field piece fully mounted; & 
carriage good. Also a quantity of grape and round shot: together 
with part of another carriage of some value. Also some twenty or 
over U. S. rifles with flint locks. The rifles are good and in good 
order, I have held a claim on these articles since Jan 2 1857 that is 
both morally and legally good against any and all other parties : but 
I informed Mr. Jones that I would most cheerfully; and even gladly 
waive it entirely in your favor: knowing the treatment you have 
received. I should think these articles might be so disposed of as 


to save you from ultimate loss: but I need not say to you how 
important is perfect and secure possession in such cases: & you 
are doubtless informed of the disordered condition of the National 
Kansas Committee matters. I left with you a little cannon & car- 
riage. Could you, or any one induce the inhabitants of your city 
to make me up something for it ; & buy it either to keep as an old 
relic; or for the sake of helping me a little? I am certainly quite 
needy; and have moreover quite a family to look after. There are 
those who would sooner see me supplied with a good halter than 
anything else for my services. Will you please write me frankly to 
John H. Painter Esqr or by bearer whether you think anything can 
be done for me with the gun; or otherwise? My best wishes for 
yourself & family. 

Respectfully your friend 


Whether through Dr. Bowen's efforts or those of some one 
else, this little cannon now ornaments the library of the Uni- 
versity of Iowa, at Iowa City. 

The kindly Quakers of Springdale were quite relieved when 
Brown finally disbanded his escort and moved on, for they 
were well aware that he and his men would fight before they 
would give up the slaves. Stevens, Gill related, on hearing 
that there might be a rescue attempted, said: "Just give me 
a house and I'll defend them against forty." "A bystander," 
continued Mr. Gill, "has since told me that he had often heard 
of the eyes flashing fire, but that he never believed it until 
then. It was in the dusk of evening, and he declared that he 
did actuallysee the sparks flying from his [Stevens's] eyes." m 
It is said that a posse did leave Iowa City for Springdale, 
but thought better of it on hearing that Brown was in readi- 
ness for them ; on at least one occasion the young Quakers of 
the vicinity stood guard with Brown's men most of the night, 
to protect the fugitives. 122 On March 9, with a strong guard 
of white men, the slaves were moved to Keith's steam mill 
at West Liberty, the nearest railroad station. Here they were 
kept overnight, and in the morning, when the first train from 
Iowa City passed, it conveniently left a box-car near the mill. 
"Acting no doubt," says an eye-witness, 123 " upon the suppo- 
sition it was intended for use, it was at once made ready, the 
colored people and property placed within." At eleven o'clock 
the Chicago train came along, only to leave with the innocent- 
looking box-car safely between the engine and the express car. 


The use of the box-car had finally been obtained by William 
Penn Clarke, by making the agent at West Liberty believe 
that the railroad officials knew and connived. 124 This he did 
by showing him a draft of fifty dollars for Brown from John 
F. Tracy, the superintendent of the road, and a friendly letter 
from Hiram Price, the secretary of the road, to a deputy 
superintendent. Mr. Grinnell, by engaging the car in Chicago, 
aided, and Mr. Tracy refused to accept payment for the car 
on the ground that "we might be held for the value of every 
one of those niggers." 125 

At Chicago, Brown, with Kagi and Stevens * and his dusky 
followers, awakened Allan Pinkerton, of detective fame, at 
4.30 the next morning, March II. Pinkerton at once distrib- 
uted them and got them under cover, sending John Brown 
to his friend John Jones, a negro, and taking others into 
his own house. He got some breakfast, and then hurried to 
Jones's to see Brown, who explained that he was on the way 
to Canada. After some talk they decided to wait until after a 
lawyers' meeting that day, at which Pinkerton hoped to get 
some money. He actually did raise between five and six hun- 
dred dollars, and obtained a car from Colonel C. G. Ham- 
mond, the General Superintendent of the Michigan Central 
Railway, who personally saw to it that the car was stocked 
with provisions and water. 126 At 4.45 that same afternoon, 
the party left Chicago for Detroit in charge of Kagi, arriving 
at ten o'clock on March 12, Brown going by an earlier train 
to make sure of meeting Frederick Douglass, then in Detroit. 
He was on hand to have the happiness of seeing his black 
charges on the ferry-boat for Windsor, where they w r ere soon 
rejoicing in their freedom under the Union Jack. One of the 
slave women had had six masters, and four of the party had 
served sixteen owners in all. 127 Henceforth they were to be 
in control of their own persons and profit by their own labor. 
As for their benefactor, John Brown, he had brought them 
safely eleven hundred miles in eighty-two days from the date 
of their liberation, six hundred miles of which had been cov- 
ered in wagons in the dead of winter. The hegira was at an 

* Gill had parted at Springdale from Brown finally, because of inflammatory 


THERE was no period of rest and jubilation for John Brown, 
however it might be with the rescued slaves in their new 
Canadian surroundings. He and Kagi arrived in Cleveland 
on March 15, from Detroit, and spent about a week with Mrs. 
Charles M. Sturtevant, a sister of Charles W. Moffet, before 
going on to Ashtabula County to visit his sons there domi- 
ciled. 1 While in Cleveland, Brown sought to raise money by 
two methods, lecturing and the sale of two of his captured 
horses and a "liberated" mule. The Cleveland Leader of 
March 18, 1859, announced the lecture in this manner: 

'"Old Brown' of Kansas, the terror of all Border Ruffiandom, 
with a number of his men, will be in Cleveland tonight, when he, 
and J. H. Kagi, Kansas correspondent of the N. Y. Tribune, will 
give a true account of the recent troubles in Kansas, and of the late 
'Invasion of Missouri,' and what it was done for, together with 
other highly interesting matters that have never yet appeared in 
the papers. The meeting will be held in Chapin's Hall 7^ o'clock. 
These men have fought and suffered bravely for Free Kansas, and 
with good effect. Go and hear them and you will not grudge your 
quarter, necessary to defray the expenses to which they have been 
subjected by the persecutions of their enemies, aided and abetted 
by the faithless Democratic administration." 

On account of a violent storm, few people attended the 
lecture, which was therefore postponed. The Leader next an- 
nounced it for March 21, promising an evening of "thrilling 
interest." 2 But even this announcement failed to attract; it 
was a "slim attendance" which the newspapers recorded the 
next day. The reporters were there, however, and to them we 
owe full accounts of the meeting. One of these, that of the 
Plain Dealer,* is very "journalistic," as may be judged from 
the following description of Brown from the pen of "Artemus 
Ward," then the Plain Dealer's city editor: 

"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 appearance, 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 break- 
fast 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.'" 

To "Artemus Ward," Kagi appeared but a "melancholy 
brigand;" some of his statements were to "Ward" "no doubt 
false and some shamefully true. It was 'Bleeding Kansas' 
once more." 

On Brown's statements the friendly and unfriendly re- 
porters agreed pretty well. The Plain Dealer's representative 
thus summarized the salient points of the address: 

"He [Brown] had never, during his connection with Kansas mat- 
ters, killed anybody. He had never destroyed or injured the pro- 
perty of any individual unless he knew him to be a violent enemy of 
the free-state men. All newspaper statements to the contrary were 
false. The Border Ruffians had created the war and he had looked 
upon it as right that they should defray the expenses of the war. 
He had told the young men that some things might be done as well 
as others, and they had done 'em. He had regarded the enemy's 
arms, horses, etc., as legitimate booty. He had never seen but one 
pro-slavery house on fire, but had seen free state villages on fire and 
in ashes. He had seen the ashes of his own children's homes, and one 
of his sons had been murdered shot down like a dog by Border 
Ruffians, the only provocation being that said son was a free state 

As to the raid into Missouri, this is the impression Brown's 
narration of it made upon the humorist, who was obviously 
sent to ridicule or run down the whole proceeding: 

"Brown's description of his trip to Westport and capture of eleven 
niggers was refreshingly cool, and it struck us, while he was giving 
it, that he would make his jolly fortune by letting himself out as 
an Ice Cream Freezer. He meant this invasion as a direct blow 
at slavery. He did n't disguise it he wanted the audience to dis- 
tinctly understand it. With a few picked men he visited Westport 
in the night and liberated eleven slaves. He also ' liberated ' a large 
number of horses, oxen, mules and furniture at the same time. . . . 


A man lately from the Missouri Border was present and stated that 
there was 'a great antipathy against him (Brown) down there,' and 
the old gentleman cheerfully said he thought it 'highly probable.' 
On being asked if he should return to Kansas, he said it 'depended 
on circumstances.' He had never driven men out of the Territory. 
He did not believe in that kind of warfare. He believed in settling 
the matter on the spot, and using the enemy as he would fence stakes 
drive them into the ground where they would become permanent 
settlers. A resolution approving of Brown's course in Kansas was 
introduced and adopted by the audience. He thanked the audience 
very sincerely, although he was perfectly sure his course was right 

Brown's statement in regard to the "fence stakes" was thus 
reported in the more sober account of the Leader of March 22. 
He "had never by his own action driven out pro-slavery men 
from the territory, but if occasion demanded it he would drive 
them into the ground like a fence-stake where they would 
remain permanent settlers." Of great significance in connec- 
tion with Pottawatomie is the friendly Leader's record of his 
saying that "he had never killed anybody, although on some 
occasions he had shown his young men with him, how some 
things might be done as well as others, and they had done the 
business." Financially, the lecture was a great failure: only 
about fifty persons were present to pay a quarter apiece for 
admission ; 4 and the hall had to be paid for, as well as the 
advertising. As for the horses, Brown described one of them 
as a "beautiful racker, of very decided wind," while the other 
horse had "many excellent points;" but like the mule, both 
were somewhat thin. "They brought an* excellent price," 
Brown afterwards said. 5 Probably these animals were shipped 
from Springdale to Cleveland. Brown, in selling them, freely 
announced that they were of Missouri origin, and that he 
could give no sound title thereto. 6 "They are Abolition 
horses," he told the purchaser, and when asked how he knew, 
he responded, " I converted them." This action, like his adver- 
tising and holding his lectures, well illustrated his contempt 
for the United States authorities. For, as they walked the 
streets of Cleveland, Brown and Kagi saw numerous posters 
announcing in large type the President's offer of $250, and 
that of $3000 of the Governor of Missouri, to any one who 
would arrest and detain Brown where he might be given into 


the hands of the Missouri authorities. One of these posters 
was conspicuously placed less than two blocks from the City 
Hotel in which Brown and Kagi stayed, the hotel itself being 
but four blocks from the office of the United States marshal 
who had put up the posters. 7 The explanation of Brown's 
immunity is probably that public sentiment in Cleveland was 
too strongly against the South to encourage the marshal to 
claim the $3250 reward. 

On March 25, Brown was able to send from Ashtabula $150, 
part of the proceeds of the horse-sale, to his family at North 
Elba, 8 with the request that they purchase with it a team of 
young oxen, and that the balance be saved unless they were 
actually in debt. While at West Andover, he received from 
Joshua R. Giddings, the brave anti-slavery Congressman 
from Ohio, an invitation to come to Jefferson and speak in the 
Congregational church at that place. Mr. Giddings had seen 
the Cleveland accounts of Brown's lecture and, as he after- 
wards stated, 9 "our people had felt a great desire to see him, 
and we were a little surprised that he did not call at our 
village, which is the seat of justice for the county, as it was 
said he had visited a son who was living in that vicinity." 
Brown went to Jefferson on March 26, to arrange for his lec- 
ture, and spoke on the following day, after the regular church 
service. "Republicans and Democrats," said Mr. Giddings, 
"all listened to his story with attention. . . . He gave us 
clearly to understand that he held to the doctrines of the 
Christian religion as they were enunciated by the Saviour." 
After Brown finished, Mr. Giddings made an appeal for con- 
tributions, and " every Democrat as well as Republican present 
gave something." At the close of the meeting, Brown went 
to Mr. Giddings's house to take tea, and had a long talk with 
the Congressman and his wife. Neither then, nor in his lec- 
ture, did Brown give the slightest hint as to the Harper's 
Ferry plan, or refer to his associates or arms. Mr. Giddings, 
whose purse always had something in it for the fugitive slave, 
gave a modest three dollars to Brown for his work, which sum 
was swelled to three hundred dollars by reports from Harper's 
Ferry after the raid, in the effort to connect Mr. Giddings and 
other Republican politicians with Brown's attack. Kagi soon 
returned to Cleveland, where he busied himself particularly 


with the Oberlin- Wellington rescuers then in jail for taking 
an escaped slave away from slave-catchers armed with United 
States warrants. Kagi also carried on considerable corre- 
spondence with the men enlisted for the raid. 10 

To his family Brown wrote on April 7, from Kingsville, 
Ohio, that he had had a severe recurrence of his malarial 
trouble, "with a terrible gathering" in his head which had 
entirely prostrated him for a week. n He was, however, mend- 
ing and hoped to be on his way home soon. In conclusion he 
added: " My best wish for you all is that you may truly love 
God ; & his commandments." By April 10 he was well enough 
to leave for Peterboro, where he arrived on April n, with 
Jeremiah Anderson, after a brief visit, en route, to Rochester. 
On this last visit, so Mr. Smith's biographer narrates: 12 

"Brown held a public meeting, at which he told the story of his 
exploit in carrying a number of slaves from Missouri to Canada and 
asked help to prosecute the work on a larger scale. Mr. Smith was 
moved to tears by the veteran's eloquence headed the subscrip- 
tion paper with four hundred dollars, and made an impressive 
speech, in which he said ' If I were asked to point out I will say 
it in his presence to point out the man in all this world I think 
most truly a Christian, I would point out John Brown. I was once 
doubtful in my own mind as to Captain Brown's course. I now 
approve of it heartily, having given my mind to it more of late'" 

a very different attitude from that assumed by Mr. Smith six 
months later. Encouraged by his stay there, Brown was at 
Westport on the i6th, 13 awaiting a conveyance to take him 
to his home at North Elba, which he reached on the igth. 
Even the splendid Adirondack air did not break up the recur- 
ring ague with which he was still paying for his exposure to 
the Kansas elements. The trouble with his head also returned, 
so that he wrote on April 25 to Kagi that he had not yet been 
able to attend to any business, and would not be able to for 
another week or longer. 14 On May 2 he was still at North 
Elba, as his memorandum-book shows, and four days later 
was at Troy, 15 buying provisions and supplies for his family 
before the final parting. On May 7 he spent his last birthday 
at Concord with Mr. Sanborn. 16 

Even before Brown's arrival, Mr. Sanborn had been faith- 
fully laboring for him. To raise more money for his venture 


was no easy task, but thanks to the two benefactors, Stearns 
and Smith, the two thousand dollars Brown now needed 
before finally embarking on his enterprise were in hand by the 
end of the month of May. Indeed, the skies had cleared 
greatly when he reached Boston. Forbes had subsided, or at 
least had shot his bolt. He had revealed Brown's plot to many 
who should not have heard of it ; but the truth itself carried 
no conviction, it seemed so fantastic. Moreover, the ruse of 
Brown's returning to Kansas had worked successfully. His 
raid on Missouri had been widely advertised; he was still, 
in the public mind, associated with Kansas. There was, there- 
fore, no reason why the great blow should not be struck, for 
which the leader was so eager. It was only a question of 
funds. As early as March 14, Mr. Sanborn was writing to Mr. 
Higginson and asking if admiration of Brown's exploits in 
the raid on Missouri would not loosen the strings of some 
Worcester purses. 17 Gerrit Smith then proposed to raise one 
thousand dollars and Judge Hoar perhaps fifty dollars. On 
May 30, Mr. Sanborn wrote : " Capt. B. has been here for three 
weeks, and is soon to leave having got his $2000 secured. 
He is at the U. S. Hotel; and you ought to see him before he 
goes, for now he is to begin." But Mr. Higginson was unable 
to go to Boston, so Mr. Sanborn reported to him on June 4: 

" Brown has set out on his expedition, having got some $800 from 
all sources except from Mr. Stearns, and from him the balance of 
$2000; Mr. Stearns being a man who 'having put his hand to the 
plough turneth not back.' B. left Boston for Springfield and New 
York on Wednesday morning at 8^ and Mr. Stearns has probably 
gone to N. Y. today to make final arrangements for him. He means 
to be on the ground as soon as he can perhaps so as to begin by 
the 4th July. He could not say where he shall be for a few weeks 
but a letter addressed to him under cover to his son John Jr. West 
Andover, Ashtabula Co. Ohio, [would reach him.] This point is not 
far from where B. will begin, and his son will communicate with him. 
Two of his sons will go with him. He is desirous of getting someone 
to go to Canada and collect recruits for him among the fugitives, 
with H. Tubman, or alone, as the case may be, & urged me to go, 
but my school will not let me. Last year he engaged some persons & 
heard of others, but he does not want to lose time by going there 
himself now. I suggested you to him. . . . Now is the time to help 
in the movement, if ever, for within the next two months the experi- 
ment will be made." 







Mr. Higginson did not feel that he could do much this 
time. As he wrote to Brown, he had drawn so largely on his 
Worcester friends for similar purposes, that he found it hard 
to raise additional sums, particularly as so many of Worcester's 
best men were facing business difficulties. 18 Then Mr. Hig- 
ginson had not gotten over his disappointment of the previous 
year. "My own loss of confidence," he wrote, "is also in the 
way loss of confidence not in you, but in the others who 
are concerned in the measure. Those who were so easily dis- 
heartened last spring, may be again deterred now." "It had 
all begun to seem to me rather chimerical," Mr. Higginson 
subsequently stated. 19 He heard occasionally from Mr. San- 
born during the summer. When he got the news of the raid 
on Harper's Ferry, it came as a surprise, so far as the locality 
was concerned. "Naturally," he declared, "my first feeling 
was one of remorse, that the men who had given him money 
and arms should not actually have been by his side." 

The other conspirators besides Mr. Higginson were still 
ignorant of the precise locality Brown had chosen for his 
attack; but were perfectly aware of its general outlines. Mr. 
Sanborn positively states that out of a little over four thousand 
dollars which passed through the hands of the secret com- 
mittee, or was known to them to have been contributed, "at 
least $3800 were given with a clear knowledge of the use to 
which it would be put." 20 During Brown's last stay in Bos- 
ton he met the members of the secret committee frequently. 
From his memorandum-book it would seem that their first 
conference was on May 10, at three o'clock, at Dr. Howe's 
office. Theodore Parker, having gone to Europe in a vain effort 
to improve his failing health, was not present. The burden of 
the undertaking rested, therefore, upon Dr. Howe, Mr. San- 
born and George L. Stearns. On May 16, Brown was able to 
write encouragingly to Kagi, to John, Jr., Owen and Jason. 
To Kagi he said that he was "very weak," but that "there 
is scarce a doubt but that all will set right in a few days more, 
so that I can be on my way back." 21 Indeed, his corre- 
spondence at this time was very voluminous, although little 
of it has survived. To his small daughter Ellen, in North 
Elba, then not five years old, he sent on May 13, from 
Boston, the following note: 22 , 



I will send you a short letter. 

I want very much to have you grow good every day. To have 
you learn to mind your mother very quick ; & sit very still at the 
table; & to mind what all older persons say to you that is right. I 
hope to see you soon again ; & if I should bring some little thing 
that will please you; it would not be very strange. I want you to 
be uncommon good natured. God bless you my child. 

Your Affectionate Father 


In the letter to his wife of the same date, in which this note 
was enclosed, Brown wrote: 23 "I feel now very confident of 
ultimate success; but have to be patient. ..." To Augustus 
Wattles, to the Rev. Mr. Adair, Congressman Giddings, Fred- 
erick Douglass, and others, went missives at this period. 24 

Despite his recurrent ague, he was able to make some new 
friends and to meet the old. At Concord, the day after his 
arrival at Sanborn's, he addressed another meeting in the 
Town Hall, where Bronson Alcott heard him for the first and 
only time. Mr. Alcott recorded later: 25 

"Our people heard him with favor. He impressed me as a person 
of surpassing sense, courage, and religious earnestness. A man of 
reserves, yet he inspired confidence in his integrity and good judg- 
ment. He seemed superior to any legal traditions, able to do his own 
thinking; was an idealist, at least in matters of State, if not on all 
points of his religious faith. He did not conceal his hatred of Slavery, 
and less his readiness to strike a blow for freedom at the fitting 
moment. I thought him equal to anything he should dare: the man 
to do the deed necessary to be done with the patriot's zeal, the 
martyr's temper and purpose. ... I am accustomed to divine 
men's tempers by their voices; his was vaulting and metallic, 
suggesting repressed force and indomitable will. . . . Not far from 
sixty, then, he seemed alert and agile, resolute and ready for any 
crisis. I thought him the manliest of men and the type and synonym 
of the just." 

An acquaintance made in this month of May was that of 
John M. Forbes, a public-spirited and broad-minded business 
man of Boston. Mr. Forbes noted that there was a "little 
touch of insanity " about Brown's " glittering gray-blue eyes; " 
"he repelled, almost with scorn, my suggestion that firmness 
at the ballot-box by the North and West might avert the 
storm; and said that it had passed the stage of ballots, and 


nothing but bayonets and bullets could settle it now." 26 Mr. 
Forbes had invited several friends in to hear the talk, besides 
Mr. Sanborn, who came with Brown, and, when the hour for 
retiring came, bade Brown good-by, as the latter was to take 
the earliest train for Boston in the morning. Mr. Forbes 
relates an interesting incident which closed Brown's stay in 
his home: 

"When our parlor girl got up early, to open the house, she was 
startled by finding the grim old soldier sitting bolt upright in the 
front entry, fast asleep; and when her light awoke him, he sprang up 
and put his hand into his breast pocket, where I have no doubt his 
habit of danger led him to carry a revolver. . . . By an odd chance, 
the very next day Governor Stewart, the pro-slavery Governor of 
Missouri (who had set the price of $3000 on John Brown's head), 
appeared on railroad business, and he too passed the night at Mil- 
ton, little dreaming who had preceded him in my guest room." 

Another distinguished man whom John Brown met was 
Senator Henry Wilson. They were introduced at a dinner of 
the Bird Club, at which Stearns and Howe were also present, 
but there seems to have been a marked lack of cordiality in the 
greeting. At least, Senator Wilson gave the following account 
of it to the Mason Committee: 27 

"I was introduced to him and he, I think, did not recollect my 
name, and I stepped aside. In a moment, after speaking to some- 
body else, he came up again and, I think, he said to me that he did 
not understand my name when it was mentioned, and he then said, 
in a very calm but firm tone, to me : ' I understand you do not ap- 
prove of my course;' referring, as I supposed, to his going into Mis- 
souri and getting slaves and running them off. It was said with a 
great deal of firmness of manner, and it was the first salutation after 
speaking to me. I said I did not. He said, in substance, I under- 
stand from some of my friends here you have spoken in condem- 
nation of it. I said, I had; I believed it to be a very great injury to 
the anti-slavery cause; that I regarded every illegal act, and every 
imprudent act, as being against it. I said that if this action had been 
a year or two before, it might have been followed by the invasion of 
Kansas by a large number of excited people on the border, and a 
great many lives might have been lost. He said he thought differ- 
ently, and he believed he had acted right, and that it would have a 
good influence, or words to that effect." 

It was on the same day of his conversation with Senator 
Wilson that he visited his benefactor, A. A. Lawrence, who, 


as his diary shows, 28 had cooled off considerably in his admi- 
ration for " the Miles Standish of Kansas." This is the entry 
relating to the call: 

" Captain John Brown of Osawatomie came to see me with one of 
his rangers [Jeremiah Anderson]. He has been stealing negroes and 
running them off from Missouri. He has a monomania on that sub- 
ject, I think, and would be hanged if he were taken in a slave State. 
He has allowed his beard to grow since I saw him last, which changes 
his appearance entirely, as it is almost white and very long. He and 
his companion both have the fever and ague, somewhat, probably 
a righteous visitation for their fanaticism." 

While calling at a friend's house during this stay in Boston, 
on a Sunday evening, John Brown also met John A. Andrew, 
then a prominent lawyer of Boston and soon to be the able War 
Governor of Massachusetts. Mr. Andrew was so impressed 
with Brown, whom he described as a "very magnetic person," 
that he sent him twenty- five dollars. 29 " I did it," he testified 
the next year, "because I felt ashamed, after I had seen the 
old man and talked with him . . . that I had never contrib- 
uted anything directly towards his assistance, as one whom 
I thought had sacrificed and suffered so much for the cause 
of freedom." This chance meeting stood Brown in good stead 
later, when it came to providing the Virginia State prisoner 
with counsel. His last public appearance, as a speaker, in the 
North, was at a meeting of the Church Anti-Slavery Society, 
at Tremont Temple, in the last week in May. He sat on the 
stage, and was called upon to speak, but the large audience 
manifesting an eagerness to hear rather the orator of the day, 
Dr. Cheever, Brown broke off abruptly after saying a sen- 
tence or two, remarking, as he sat down, that he was more 
accustomed to action than to speaking. 30 

On June 3, 1859, this pleasant interlude in Brown's life 
drew to its close. Thereafter every energy was bent upon 
" troubling Israel " at Harper's Ferry, and there was much to be 
endured, in the sense of hardships and anxiety, during the 
period of preparation of four months now before him. From 
Boston he went to Collinsville, to put through the purchase 
of the pikes. He appeared at Mr. Blair's door as soon as he 
could get there from the train and said to him: " I have been 
unable, sir, to fulfill my contract with you up to this time; 


I have met with various disappointments; now I am able 
to do so." 31 Blair was disinclined to go on with the job. 
"What good," he asked, "can they be if they are finished; 
Kansas matters are all settled, and of what earthly use can 
they be to you now?" Brown answered that if they were 
finished up, he could dispose of them in some way, but as they 
were, they were good for nothing. Finally, Blair agreed for 
four hundred and fifty dollars to finish the weapons, if he 
could find a skilled man to do the work, as he was now himself 
too busy with other orders. Brown came again early on June 
4, and gave him a check for one hundred dollars, and fifty 
dollars in cash. Three days later, writing from Troy, Brown 
sent three hundred dollars more to Mr. Blair, who found the 
workman he needed, with the result that the pikes were in 
Brown's hands in Chambersburg early in the following Sep- 
tember, their receipt being acknowledged to Blair in a letter 
dated September 15. 

From Troy, Brown went to Keene, New York, after making 
some purchases for his family, where he wrote to Kagi on 
June 9 that he was on his way to Ohio, after being "midling 
successful." 32 The next day he was at Westport, 33 on his way 
in to North Elba, where he remained less than a week. He 
brought in with him many things for his family which he had 
purchased on going to Massachusetts and on his way back; 
and in the brief interval of this, his final stay in his mountain 
home, he did everything possible for the comfort of his family. 
There is no record of their parting, a last earthly one for sev- 
eral. Nor is it probable that there was much emotion dis- 
played ; the Browns were neither emotional nor demonstrative, 
and their iron-willed and stern father had before this returned 
from venturesome undertakings in which his life was at stake. 
More than that, they were, as a family, ready for the sacrifice 
for which they had been trained and prepared these many 
years. It was probably on Thursday, June 16, that the parting 
occurred, for two days later, June 18, Brown's diary shows 
that he was at West Andover, Ohio. 34 " Borrowed John's old 
compass, and left my own, together with Gurley's book, with 
him at West Andover; also borrowed his small Jacob staff; 
also gave him for expenses $15, write him, under cover to 
Horace Lindsley, West Andover." On the 23d of June he 


sent to his family, from Akron, his first report since leaving 
them. 36 Hudson and Cherry Valley were other places visited 
by Brown in Ohio, and in nearly every one he seems to have 
discussed with one or more friends the active service he now 
contemplated usually in general terms. He did not hesi- 
tate to say that he had arms and men, and was contemplating 
an attack upon Virginia ; but those who remember those con- 
versations are certain that there was no mention of Harper's 
Ferry, or of an attack upon United States property. 36 

He had, of course, long talks with his sons, Owen and John, 
Jr. The latter was engaged in drumming-up men and calling 
together the faithful of the previous year's band. This process 
went on during the summer. A surprisingly large number of 
persons knew or suspected what was going on, yet no inkling 
of it leaked out from this staunch anti-slavery neighborhood. 
From Ohio Brown went into Pennsylvania. He reached Pitts- 
burg the same day he wrote to his family from Akron, for 
there is a letter to Kagi in his handwriting dated in Pittsburg 
on that date, and signed "S. Monroe." 37 He was at Bedford 
Springs with his son Oliver, who had accompanied him from 
North Elba, on June 26, and at Bedford on June 27, going 
thence to Chambersburg for a two or three days' stay there 
in the role of "I. Smith & Sons," Owen being the other son 
with him. 38 On the 30th he left for the future seat of war, 
with both sons and the ever-faithful Jeremiah Anderson, who 
in his rustic garb had attracted much attention when walking 
the streets of Boston with his equally rustic leader. To Kagi, 
Brown thus announced his departure : 39 

CHAMBERSBURG, PA, 30th June, 1859. 

We leave here to day for Harpers Ferry; (via) Hagerstown. 
When you get there you had best look on the Hotel register for 
I . Smith & Sons without making much enquiry. We shall be look- 
ing for cheap lands near the Rail Road in all probability. You can 
write I Smith & Sons at Harpers Ferry should you need to do so. 

Yours in truth 


At Hagerstown the four men spent the night at the Hagers- 
town tavern, 40 not dreaming that a little more than three 


years later this small hotel would be filled with the North- 
ern men wounded at Antietam in that war against slavery 
which the "old man" was so resolutely predicting. From 
Hagerstown their route led them to Harper's Ferry, per- 
haps partly on foot, for it was apparently not until July 3 
that they reached their destination by train and were able to 
obtain cheap board at Sandy Hook, a small village one mile 
beyond Harper's Ferry on the Maryland side. 41 Then the 
Commander-in-Chief of the Army established under the Pro- 
visional Government was on his battlefield; the contest be- 
tween one dauntless spirit and the institution of slavery which 
had so long dominated American social and political life was 
on in earnest. 

The 1859 anniversary of the Independence of the United 
States, John Brown and his three companions spent recon- 
noitring in Maryland. It was about two-thirds of a mile 
beyond Harper's Ferry that John C. Unseld, 42 a resident in 
that neighborhood, met them between eight and nine o'clock 
in the morning and asked them if they were prospecting for 
gold and silver. " No," replied Brown, "we are not, we are out 
looking for land ; we want to buy land ; we have a little money, 
but we want to make it go as far as we can." After asking 
the price of land in that vicinity and expressing surprise at 
its costliness, and other desultory conversation, they parted, 
Unseld going on into Harper's Ferry. On returning from the 
town he again met them, and Brown expressed his satisfaction 
with what he had seen and asked whether there was any farm 
for sale in the neighborhood. Unseld informed him that the 
heirs of a Dr. Kennedy had one for sale, four miles from where 
they were talking. Brown then expressed the opinion that it 
would be better for him to rent rather than to buy, and, after 
declining an invitation to dinner at Mr. Unseld's, went on 
toward the farm. He was not long in making up his mind to 
take it, went to Sharpsburg, saw those in charge of the pro- 
perty, and rented for only thirty-five dollars the two houses, 
pasture for a cow and a horse, and firewood, all until the first 
day of March, 1860. To Unseld he stated also that his real 
business was buying fat cattle and driving them on to the 
State of New York for disposal there. Others in the neighbor- 
hood retained the impression that the newcomers were really 


mineral prospectors, particularly as Brown sometimes ap- 
peared with surveying instruments and carried a sensitive 
magnetic needle in a small bucket. 43 Naturally, there was at 
first much curiosity in the neighborhood, but it gradually 
waned until, later in the fall, it waxed again. 

As for the Kennedy Farm, it is about five miles from Har- 
per's Ferry. The main house, since altered and enlarged, was 
by no means commodious. There was a basement kitchen 
and storeroom, a living-room and bedrooms on the sec