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Full text of "The life and letters of John Brown, liberator of Kansas, and martyr of Virginia, ed. by F. B. Sanborn"

UC-NRLF 




3 375 475 



LIBRARY 

OF CALIFORNIA 
SAYIS 





</~OTA^Y^ 



[May, 1859.] 



1 



THE 



LIFE AND LETTERS 



OF 



JOHN BROWN, 

LIBERATOR OF KANSAS, AND MARTYR OF 
VIRGINIA. 



EDITED BY F. B. SANBORN. 



BOSTON: 

ROBERTS BROTHERS. 
1885. 



Copyright, 1SS5, 
BY F. B. SANBORN. 



JSnxfatrsitg press: 
JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER PAGE 

I. ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD 1 

II. YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD 31 

III. JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN 54 

IV. PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACS 90 

V. PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT 116 

VI. FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME LIFE 139 

VII. KANSAS, THE SKIRMISH-GROUND OF THE CIVIL WAR . 160 

VIII. THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS 187 

IX. THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS 247 

X. THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED 283 

XI. JOHN BROWN AND THE KANSAS COMMITTEES . . . 344 

XII. THE PLANS DISCLOSED 418 

XIII. FROM CANADA, THROUGH KANSAS, TO CANADA . . . 469 

XIV. JOHN BROWN AND ins FRIENDS 495 

XV. THE FORAY IN VIRGINIA 519 

XVI. JOHN BROWN IN PRISON 576 

XVII. THE DEATH AND CHARACTER OF JOHN BROWN . 621 



INDEX ... 633 



THE TOUCHSTONE. 



A MAN there came, whence none could tell, 

Bearing a touchstone in his hand, 

And tested all things in the land 
By its unerring spell. 

A thousand transformations rose 

From fair to foul, from foul to fair ; 

The golden crown he did not spare, 
Nor scorn the beggar's clothes. 

Of heirloom jewels prized so much, 

Were many changed to chips and clods ; 
And even statues of the gods 

Crumbled beneath its touch. 

Then angrily the people cried, 

" The loss outweighs the profit far, 

Our goods suffice us as they are, 
We will not have them tried." 

But since they could not so avail 
To check his unrelenting quest, 
They seized him, saying, " Let him test 

How real is our jail ! " 

But though they slew him with the sword, 

And in the fire the touchstone burned, 

Its doings could not be o'erturned, 
Its undoings restored. 

And when to stop all future harm, 

They strewed its ashes to the breeze, 

They little guessed each grain of these 
Conveyed the perfect charm. 

WILLIAM ALLINGHAM. 



INTRODUCTION. 



IN that " History of Napoleon I." which he never lived 
to complete, Lanfrey says : " Do not misconstrue 
events ; history is not a school of fatalism, but one long 
plea for the freedom of man." In this pleading chronicle 
there are few chapters more pathetic than the career of 
my old friend JOHN BROWN, which I long since undertook 
to set forth, though strangely delayed in completing my 
task. It was begun in those dismal years when the 
Southern oligarchy and their humble followers at the 
North still controlled our degraded politics ; and it has 
been continued through all the vicissitudes, the anxieties, 
and the assured repose of subsequent years. More than 
once in those earlier days recurred to me that gloomy 
magniloquence of the Roman annalist, where Tacitus 
complains that the tyranny of Domitian had suppressed 
the unheralded renown of Agricola : " Patient sufferance 
we showed, no doubt. Our ancestors saw the extreme 
of license, but we of servility ; for our inquisitors would 
permit us neither to hear nor to tell, and we might 
have lost the use of memory along with free speech, if to 
forget had been no harder than to forego praise. Now at 
last the occasion has returned, and we speak out ; . . . but 
few of us are left, survivors of others, and even of our old 
selves, so many years have passed over us in silence, 



VI INTRODUCTION. 

bringing the young to old age, and the old to the very 
sunset of life." l 

Since the printing of these pages began, four months 
ago, two of those who stood with us in the contest against 
slavery have died, Dr. CABOT, of Boston, and the famous 
VICTOR HUGO ; and every year removes the actors and the 
witnesses of memorable deeds. I have therefore sought 
to preserve the record of one hero's life, in his own words 
(when I could), and in the contemporary evidence of those 
who saw and bore witness to what he did, mingling my 
self with the account as little as possible, except for attes 
tation and comment, when doubt might else arise. The 
plan was at first to print all the extant letters of BROWN, 
which I fancied would easily find place in a volume of four 
hundred pages ; but I have in my hands letters enough to 
fill another book, and have not been able to use them. 
Those selected, however, exhibit his life sufficiently ; it 
was straightforward and all of a piece, so that even the 
details which are here given may seem tedious to some 
readers. In a second volume, should I live to publish it, 
on e( The Companions of John Brown," I may carry the 
story further, and complete the record of a remarkable 
episode in American history. I have aimed at accuracy, 
but of course have not always succeeded ; and have neces 
sarily omitted much that other writers will supply. My 
intention has been to put the reader in possession of evi 
dence which either verifies itself or can readily be verified 

1 Dedimus profecto grande patientise documentum ; et sicut vetus 
sefas vidit quid ultimum in libertate esset, ita nos quid in servitnte, 
adempto per inquisitiones etiara loquendi audiendique commercio. Memo- 
riam quoque ipsam cum voce perdidissemus, si tarn in nostra potestate 
esset oblivisci quain tacere. Nunc demum redit animus, . . . pauci, ut 
ita dixerim, non modo aliorum, sed etiam nostri superstates sumus, ex- 
emptis c media vita tot annis, quibus juvenes ad seneetutem, senes prope 
ad ipsos aetatis terminos per silentiam venimus. TACITUS, Agricola, ii. 



INTRODUCTION. vii 

by a little research. Holding the key to much that has 
heretofore been obscure or ill related, I have furnished 
the true connection between events and persons where, in 
some cases, this had escaped notice. I shall gladly receive 
any correction of mistakes, but shall not pay much regard 
to inferential and distorted statements which traverse my 
own clear recollections, supported, as these often are, 
by written evidence which I have not here printed, but 
hold in reserve. 

I could not have completed this task of nearly thirty 
years but for the constant and friendly aid of the family of 
JOHN BROWN, who have placed without reserve their papers 
in my hands. I have had also the co-operation of Colonel 
Higginson, Edwin Morton, Mrs. Stearns, Lewis Hayden, 
Thomas Thomas, and other friends among the living ; and 
of the late Dr. Howe, Wendell Phillips, George L. Stearns, 
F. J. Merriam, Osborn Anderson, and many more, who 
are now dead. To all these, named and unnamed, I would 
here return my acknowledgments. Particularly, I must 
thank those gentlemen of Kansas, rny college friend and 
brother journalist Mr. D. W. Wilder, and Mr. F. G. 
Adams of the Kansas Historical Society, who by their 
accurate knowledge of Kansas history and topography, 
and the free access they have given me to important 
papers, have made it possible for me to write the chap 
ters that concern their State. I am also indebted to 
Mr. James Eedpath, Mr. Richard Hinton, Mr. Frederick 
Douglass, Mr. W. S. Kennedy, and to many correspond 
ents and admirers of JOHN BROWN whose names are 
mentioned in the pages that follow. I might include in 
this 'acknowledgment a few malicious slanderers and 
misjudging censors of BROWN, who by their publica 
tions have caused the whole truth to be more carefully 
searched out. 



THE 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN, 



CHAPTER I. 
ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 

WHEN a man of mark is to appear in the world and 
give a new turn to the affairs of men, there has always 
been preparation made for him. Even the weeds and ver 
min of the field have their heredity and evolution, much 
more, a predestined hero like John Brown, of Kansas and 
Virginia. His valor, his religion, his Saxon sense, his 
Calvinistic fanaticism, his tender and generous heart were 
inherited from a long line of English, Dutch, and American 
ancestors, men and women neither famous nor powerful, 
nor rich, but devout, austere, and faithful ; above all free, 
and resolved that others should be free like themselves. 

No genealogist has yet traced the English forefathers 
of Peter Brown the carpenter, who came over in the " May 
flower," and landed at Plymouth with the other Pilgrims 
in December, 1620 ; but his presence in that famous band 
is evidence enough of his character, even if the deeds of 
his descendants had not borne witness to it. He drew his 
house-lot on Leyden Street in the little town, with Bradford, 
Standish, and Winslow, and like them soon migrated to 
Duxbury, at the head of Plymouth Bay, where his family 
dwelt after his early death, in 1633, not far from Stan- 
dish's abode at the foot of " Captain's Hill." A brother of 
Peter, John Brown, a weaver (sometimes confounded with 
a more distinguished John, who became a magistrate), also 
lived at Duxbury, and took some care of his deceased 

1 



2 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1620. 

brother's four children, two sons and two daughters, 
who survived him. Peter Brown was unmarried when he 
landed at Plymouth, but within the next thirteen years he 
was twice married, and died, as we learn from unques 
tionable authority, the "History of Plymouth Plantation," 
left in manuscript by William Bradford, who succeeded 
Carver in 1021 as governor of the colony, and died in 
1657. Writing about 1650, Bradford says : " Peter Brown 
married twice. By his first wife he had two children, who 
are living, and both of them married, and one of them hath 
two children; by his second wife he had two more. He 
died about sixteen years since." It is supposed that his 
first wife was named Martha, and that Mary and Priscilla 
Brown were her daughters, the two who are mentioned 
by Bradford as married in 1650. In 1644 they were placed 
with their uncle John, and in due time received each 15, 
which their father had left them by will. The rest of 
Peter's small estate went to his second wife and her two 
sons, of whom the younger, born in 1632, at Duxbury, was 
the ancestor of the Kansas captain. 1 He was named Peter 
for his father, removed from Duxbury to Windsor in Con 
necticut between 1650 and 1658, and there married Mary, 
daughter of Jonathan Gillett, by whom he had thirteen 
children. He died at Windsor, March 9, 1692, leaving to 
his family an estate of 409. One of his children, John 
Brown, born at Windsor, Jan. 8, 1668, married Elizabeth 
Loomis in 1691, and had eleven children. Among these 
was John Brown (born in 1700, died in 1790), who was 
the father and the survivor of the Eevolutionary Captain 
John Brown, of West Simsbury. He lived and died in 
Windsor, there married Mary Eggleston, and Captain John 
Brown just mentioned, the grandfather of our hero, was his 

1 It would be curious to trace the English ancestry of Captain Brown, 
which, some suppose, goes back to that stout-hearted John Brown of 
Henry VIII. 's time, who was one of the victims of Popish persecution in 
the early years of that king. Fox, in his " Book of Martyrs," tells the 
story of his martyrdom at the stake, in the early summer of 1511, at Ash- 
ford, where he dwelt ; and adds that his son, Richard Brown, was impris 
oned for his faith in the latter days of Queen Mary, and would have been 
burned but for the proclaiming of Queen Elizabeth, in 1558. 



1728.] 



ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 



oldest son, born Nov. 4, 1728. He married Hannah Owen, 
of Welsh descent, in 1758, whose father was Elijah Owen, of 
Windsor, and her first ancestor in this country John Owen, 
a Welshman who married in Windsor in 1650, just before 
young Peter Brown went thither from Duxbury. A few 
years afterward an Amsterdam tailor, Peter Miles or Mills, 
came to Connecticut from Holland, settled in Bloom field 
near Windsor, and became the ancestor of John Brown's 
grandmother, Ruth Mills, of West Simsbury. Thus three 
streams of nationality English, Welsh, and Dutch united 
in New England to form the parentage of John Brown. 
His forefathers were mostly farmers, and among them was 
the proper New England proportion of ministers, deacons, 
squires, and captains. Both his grandfathers were officers 
in the Connecticut contingent to Washington's army, and 
one of them, Captain John Brown, died in the service. It 
is his gravestone which the pilgrim to his grandson's grave, 
in the Adirondac woods, sees standing by the great rock 
that marks the spot ; and among the other inscriptions * 
which there preserve the memory of his slaughtered de 
scendants, that of the Kevolutionary captain stands first. 

Owen Brown, " Squire Owen," son of this captain, 
and father of the Kansas captain, was named for his mother's 

1 These remarkable epitaphs, several of which were written by John 



Brown, of Kansas, are as follows 

In 

Memory of 
CAPT. JOHN BROWN, 

who Died at 

New York, Sept. y e 

3, 1775, in the 48 

year of his age. 



Born Dec. 31, 1830, and 
Murdered at Osawatomie, 

Kansas, Aug. 30, 1856, 
For his adherence to 

the cause of freedom. 



JOHN BROWN 

Born May 9, 1800 

Was executed at Charlestown 

Va., Dec. 2, 1859. 



WATSON BROWN 

Born Oct. 7, 1835, was wounded 

at Harper's Ferry, 

Oct. 17, and Died 

Oct. 19, 1859. 



In memory of 
FREDERICK, 

Son of John and Dianthe 
BROWN, 



OLIVER BROWN 

Born May 9, 1839, was 

Killed at Harper's Ferry 

Oct. 17, 1859. 



4 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1771. 

family, and was the earliest of these Browns who seems to 
have left any written memoirs. He migrated from Con 
necticut to Ohio, among the first of those who settled on 
the Western Reserve, early in the century, and when nearly 
eighty years old, while living at Hudson, Ohio, wrote an 
autobiography for his children's perusal, which gives some 
characteristic details of the state of society where he lived, 
and where his renowned son was born. 



li My life has been of little worth, mostly filled up with vanity. 
I was born at West Simsbury (now Canton), Connecticut, Feb. 16, 
1771. I have but little recollection of what took place until the years 
'75 and 76. I remember the beginning of war, and some things that 
took place in 1775 : but only a little until 76, when my father went 
into the army. 1 He was captain in the militia of Connecticut, and 
died in New York, with the dysentery, a few weeks after leaving 
home. My mother had ten children at the time of my father's death, 
and one born soon after, making eleven of us all. The first five 
were daughters, the oldest about eighteen ; 2 the next three were 
sons ; then two daughters, and the youngest a son. The care and 
support of this family fell mostly on my mother. The laboring men 
were mostly in the army. She was one of the best of mothers; 
active and sensible. She did all that could be expected of a mother ; 
yet for want of help we lost our crops, then our cattle, and so became 
poor. I very well remember the dreadful hard winter of 1778-79. 
The snow began to fall in November, when the water was very low 
in the streams ; and while the snow was very deep, one after another 
of our hogs and sheep would get buried up, and we had to dig; them 
out. Wood could not be drawn with teams, and was brought on 
men's shoulders, they going on snow-shoes until paths were made 
hard enough to draw wood on hand-sleds. The snow was said to 
be five feet deep in the woods. Milling of grain could not be had, 
only by going a great distance : and our family were driven to the 
necessity of pounding corn for food. We lost that winter almost 
all of our cattle, hogs, and sheep, and were reduced very low by 
the spring of 1779. 

1 He entered the army of Washington in the summer of 1776, and died 
shortly before the battle of Long Island, in which his regiment took part. 

2 John Brown married Hannah Owen in 1758, and his eldest daughter 
was but little more than seventeen at his death in 1776. 



1784.] ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 5 

" I lived at home in 178*2; this was a memorable year, as there was 
a great revival of religion in the town of Canton. My mother and my 
older sisters and brother John dated their hopes of salvation from 
that summer's revival, under the ministry of the Rev. Edward Mills. 
I cannot say as I was a subject of the work ; but this I can say, that 
I then began to hear preaching. 1 I can now recollect most, if not 
all, of those I heard preach, and what their texts were. The change 
in our family was great; family worship, set up by brother John, 
was ever afterward continued. There was a revival of singing in 
Canton, and our family became singers. Conference meetings were 
kept up constantly, and singing meetings, all of which brought 
our family into a very good association, a very great aid of restrain 
ing grace. 

" About 1784 the Rev. Jeremiah Hallock 2 became the minister at 
Canton. I used to live with him at different times, and received a 
great deal of good instruction from him. About this time I began to 
make shoes, and worked mostly winters at shoemaking, and at farm 
ing at home summers. In the winter of 1787 I took a trip into 
Massachusetts, through Granville, Otis, and Blaudford. In these 
towns I worked at shoemaking over half of the winter. I was but a 
bungling shoemaker, yet gave good satisfaction, was kindly treated 
as a child, and got my pay well, in clothing and money. 1 then 
went to Great Barrington, Sheffield, and Salisbury. Here I hired 
out to a very good shoemaker, at about half price, with a view of 
learning to be a better workman. I returned home in the spring of 
1788 and worked on the farm through the summer. In 1789 I lived 
at home, but in the fall I went to Norfolk, and worked at shoemaking 
all winter, mostly around at houses, for families. 

1 He was then in his twelfth year; his brother John was, perhaps, 
fifteen or sixteen. This brother was a faithful and honored deacon of 
the church in New Hartford, Conn., for many years. Another brother, 
Frederick, born Aug. 14, 1769, in Canton, Conn., represented the neigh 
boring town of Colebrook in the State Legislature during the war of 1812, 
but in 1816 removed to Wadsworth, Medina County, Ohio, and assisted in 
founding that town. On the organization of the county, he was chosen 
senior Associate Judge for fourteen years. During this term of office, the 
Presiding Judge having a large circuit, most of the business in Wadsworth 
came before Judge Brown, who gained a high reputation as a magistrate 
and citizen. "He never spoke disparagingly of a neighbor, nor of any 
other church than his own." Two of his sons were physicians of celebrity; 
another a successful minister of the Gospel. 

2 The Hallock family were connected by marriage with the Browns, and 
we shall find them mentioned hereafter, John Brown having studied for 
a while with the Rev. Moses Hallock. 



6 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1793. 

11 In the spring of 1791 we as a family were rising in the gain of 
property ; we had good crops ; our stock had increased, and we felt 
able to make a small purchase of land ; our credits were good for the 
payment of debts. In all this, we must acknowledge the kind provi 
dence of God. Our former poverty had kept us out of the more loose 
and vain company, and we appeared to be noticed by the better class 
of people. There was a class of young men and ladies that were a 
little older than my brothers, who had rich parents that dressed their 
families in gay clothing, giving them plenty of money to spend, and 
good horses to ride. Oh, how enviable they appeared to me, while 
my brothers and sisters lacked all these things ! Now, while I write, 
I am thinking what was the change of fifteen or twenty years with 
these smart young folks. I cannot think of more than one or two 
that became even common men of business, but a number of them did 
become poor drunkards, and three came to their end by suicide. God 
knows what is best. 

" In the spring of 1790 I returned and hired out to the Rev. Jere 
miah Hallock for six months. Here I had good instruction and good 
examples. I was under some conviction of sin, but whether 1 was 
pardoned or not, God only knows j this I know, I have not lived 
like a Christian. 

" About this time I became more acquainted with Ruth Mills 
(daughter of the Rev. Gideon Mills), who was the choice of my 
affections ever after, although we were not married for more than 
two years. In March, 1793, we began to keep house ; and here "was 
the beginning of days with me. I think our good minister felt all 
the anxiety of a parent that we should begin right. He gave us 
good counsel, and, I have no doubt, with a praying spirit. And I 
will say, never had any person such an ascendancy over my conduct 
as my wife. This she had without the least appearance of usurpa 
tion or dictation ; and if I have been respected in the world, I must 
ascribe it to her influence more than to any one thing. We began 
with very little property, but with industry and frugality, which gave 
us a comfortable support and a small increase. We took children to 
live with us very soon after we began to keep house. Our own first 
child was born at Canton, June 29, 1794, a son, we called Salmon, 
a thrifty, forward child. 

li We lived in Canton about two years, I working at shoemaking, 
tanning, and farming; we made butter and cheese on a small scale, 
and all our labors turned to good account ; we were at peace with all 
our neighbors, and had great cause for thanksgiving. We were 
living in a rented house, and I felt called to build or move. I thought 
of the latter, and went directly to Norfolk, as I was there acquainted, 
and my wife had taught school there one summer. The people of 




g 



O O 



1804.J ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 7 

Norfolk encouraged me, and I bought a small farm with a house and 
barn on it. I then sold what little I had, and made a very sudden 
move to Norfolk. We found friends in deed and in need. I there set 
up shoemaking and tanning, employed a foreman, did a small good 
business, and gave good satisfaction. 

" Feb. 18, 1796, my little son Salmon died. This was a great 
trial to us. In the spring of 1796 my business was very much in 
creased, but owing to sickness of wife and self, I could not get but a 
small part of the leather out in the fall. The people became some 
what dissatisfied with me, and things went hard that winter ; but 
when spring returned, my leather came out well, and from that time I 
gave good satisfaction to the people, as far as I knew. July 5, 1798, 
my daughter Anna was born in Norfolk. Soon after this, my wife 
and I made a public profession of religion, which I have so poorly 
manifested in my life. 

11 In February, 1799, I had an opportunity to sell my place in 
Norfolk, which I did without any consultation of our neighbors, who 
thought they had some claim on my future services, as they had been 
very kind and helped; and they questioned whether I had not been 
hasty. But I went as hastily to Torrington and bought a place, 
although I had but little acquaintance there. I was quick on the 
move, and we found there good neighbors, and were somewhat pros 
perous in business. In 1800, May 9, John was born, one hundred 
years after his great grandfather; nothing else very uncommon. We 
lived in peace with all men, so far as I know. (I might have said 
the years of '98 and '99 were memorable years of revivals of religion 
in the churches of our town and the towns about us. Perhaps there 
has never been so general a revival since the days of Edwards and 
Whitfield.) April 30, 1802, my second son Salmon was born. 

" In 1804 I made my first journey to Ohio. I left home on the 8th 
of August, came through Pennsylvania and saw many new things. 
Arrived in Hudson about the 1st of September; found the people very 
harmonious and middling prosperous, and mostly united in religious 
sentiments. I made a small purchase of land at the centre of Hud 
son, with the design of coining at a future day. I went to Austin- 
burg, and was there talien sick, which proved to be the fever arid 
ague ; was there a month, very sick and homesick. I started for 
home against counsel, and had a very hard journey, ague almost 
every day or night, but arrived home on the 16th of October. I 
had the ague from time to time over one year ; yet my determination 
to come to Ohio was so strong that I started with my family in com 
pany with Benjamin Whedon, Esq., and his family, on the 9th of 
June, 1805. We came with ox teams through Pennsylvania, and I 
found Mr. Whedon a very kind and helpful companion on the road. 



8 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1808. 

" We arrived in Hudson on the 27th of July, and were received 
with many tokens of kindness. We did not come to a land of idle 
ness ; neither did I expect it. Our ways were as prosperous as we 
had reason to expect. I came with a determination to help build up, 
and be a help in the support of religion and civil order. We had some 
hardships to undergo, but they appear greater in history than they 
were in reality. I was often called to go into the woods to make 
division of lands, sometimes sixty or seventy miles from home, and 
be gone some weeks, sleeping on the ground, and that without serious 
injury. 

" When we came to Ohio the Indians were more numerous than 
the white people, but were very friendly, and I believe were a benefit 
rather than an injury. In those days there were some that seemed 
disposed to quarrel with the Indians, but I never had those feelings. 
They brought us venison, turkeys, fish, and the like ; sometimes 
they wanted bread or meal more than they could pay for at the time, 
but were always faithful to pay their debts. In September, 1806, 
there was a difficulty between two tribes : the tribe on the Cuya- 
hoga River came to Hudson, and asked for assistance to build them 
a log-house that would be a kind of fort to shelter their women and 
children from the firearms of their enemy. Most of our men went 
with teams, and chopped, drew, and carried logs, and put up a house 
in one day, for which they appeared very grateful. They were our 
neighbors until 1812, but when the war commenced with the British, 
the Indians left these parts mostly, and rather against my wishes. 

tl In Hudson my business went on very well, and we were some 
what prosperous in most of our affairs. The company that we re 
ceived being of the best kind, the missionaries of the gospel and 
leading men travelling through the country called on us, and I became 
acquainted with the business people and ministers in all parts of the 
Western Reserve, and some in Pennsylvania. In 1807 (Feb. 13) 
Frederick, my sixth child, was born. I do not think of anything else 
to notice but the common blessings of health, peace, and prosperity, 
for which I would ever acknowledge the goodness of God with 
thanksgiving. I had a very pleasant, orderly family, until Dec. 9, 
1808, when all my earthly prospects seemed to be blasted. My be 
loved wife gave birth to an infant daughter who died in a few hours ; 
as my wife expressed it, ' She had a short passage through time.' 
My wife followed a few hours after. These were days of affliction. 
I was left with five small children (six, including Levi Blakesly, 
my adopted son), the eldest but about ten and a half years old; The 
remembrance of this scene makes my heart bleed now. These were 
the first that were buried in the ground now occupied as a cemetery 
at the centre of Hudson. I kept my children mostly around me, 



1812.] ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 9 

and married my second wife, Sally Root, Nov. 8, 1809. Through all 
these changes I experienced much of the goodness of God in the 
enjoyment of health in myself and family, and general prosperity in 
my business. April 19, 1811, Sally Marian was born. 

u In July, 1812, the war with England began ; and this war called 
loudly for action, liberality, and courage. This was the most active 
part of my life. We were then on the frontier, and the people were 
much alarmed, particularly after the surrender of General Hull at 
Detroit. Our cattle, horses, and provisions were all wanted. Sick sol 
diers were returning, and needed all the assistance that could be given 
them. There was great sickness in different camps, and the travel 
was mostly through Hudson, which brought sickness into our families. 
By the first of 1813 there was great mortality in Hudson. My fam 
ily were sick, but we had no deaths. July 22, 1813, Watson Hughs, 
my seventh son was born ; he was a very thrifty, promising child. 
We were mostly under the smiles of a kind Providence. Florilla, 
my fourth daughter, was born May 19, 1816. From this time I had 
many calls from home, and was called to fill some places of trust 
which others were more capable of filling. I now believe it was an 
injury to my family for me to be away from them so much j and here 
I would say that the care of our own families is the pleasautest and 
most useful business we can be in. Jeremiah Root, my eighth son, 
was born Nov. 8, 1819, and Edward, my ninth son, July 13, 1823. 

u Nothing very uncommon in this period, save that there was a 
change in general business matters. Money became scarce, property 
fell, and that which I thought well bought would not bring its cost. 
I had made three or four large purchases in which I was a heavy 
loser. I can say the loss or gain of property in a short time appears 
of but little consequence ; they are momentary things, and will look 
very small in eternity. Job left us a good example. About this 
time my son Salmon was studying law at Pittsburgh. I had great 
anxiety and many fears on his account. Sept. 21, 1825, Martha, 
our fifth daughter, was born ; Sept. 18, 1826, she died from whoop 
ing-cough. Lucian, my tenth son, was born Sept. 18, 1829. Here 
I will say my earthly cares were too many for the good of my family 
and for my own comfort in religion. I look back upon my life with 
but little satisfaction, but must pray, ' Lord, forgive me for Christ's 
sake, or I must perish.' Jan. 29, 1832, my son Watson died, making 
a great breach in my family. He had not given evidence in health 
of being a Christian, but was in great anxiety of mind in his sickness ; 
we sometimes hope he died in Christ. Martha, my sixth daughter, 
was born June 18, 1832; and Sept. 6, 1833, Salmon, my third son, 
died in New Orleans with yellow fever. He was a lawyer, and editor 
of a French and English newspaper called the l New Orleans Bee ; ' 



10 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1840. 

was of some note as a gentleman, but I never knew that he gave 
evidence of being a Christian. Aug. 11, 1840, my second wife died 
with consumption, which she had been declining under for a long 
time. I think she died a Christian. Here my old wounds were 
broken open anew, and I had great trials. 

u Some little time before this there had been great speculation in 
village lots, and I had suffered my name to be used as security at the 
banks. My property was in jeopardy; I expected all to be lost. 
I had some to pity me, but very few to help me ; so I learned that 
outward friendship and property are almost inseparably connected. 
There were many to inform me that I had brought my troubles upon 
myself. April, 1841, I was married to the Widow Lucy Hinsdale. 
My worldly burdens rather increased, but I bore them with much pa 
tience. April, 1843 : about this time my family had so scattered 
some by marriage and other ways that I thought best to leave my 
favorite house and farm, and to build new at the centre of Hudson. 

... I have great reason to mourn my unfaithfulness to my chil 
dren. I have been much perplexed by the loss of property, and a 
long tedious lawsuit ; while my health has been remarkably good 
for one of my age, and I have great reason for thanksgiving." 

This artless narrative, written by Owen Brown at the age 
of seventy-eight, discloses his character, and sketches in 
some manner the conditions of life under which John 
Brown was born and bred. But another paper from the 
same hand shows how naturally the son inherited from his 
Connecticut ancestors his hatred of slavery. Owen Brown 
thus described, about 1850, some events of which he had 
been cognizant sixty or seventy years earlier : 

" I am an Abolitionist. I know we are not loved by many ; I 
have no confession to make for being one, yet I wish to tell how long 
I have been one, and how I became so. I have no hatred to negroes. 
When a child four or five years old, one of our nearest neighbors had 
a slave that was brought from Guinea. In the year 1776 my father 
was called into the army at New York, and left his work undone. 
In August, our good neighbor Captain John Fast, of West Sims- 
bury, let my mother have the labor of his slave to plough a few days. 
I used to go out into the field with this slave, called Sam, and 
he used to carry me on his back, and I fell in love with him. He 
worked but a few days, and went home sick with the pleurisy, and 
died very suddenly. When told that he would die, he said he 
should go to Guinea, and wanted victuals put up for the journey. 
As I recollect, this was the first funeral I ever attended in the days 



1798.] ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 11 

of my youth. There were but three or four slaves in West Simsbury. 
In the year 1790, when I lived with the Rev. Jeremiah Hallock, the 
Rev. Samuel Hopkins, D.D. came from Newport, and I heard him 
talking with Mr. Hallock about slavery in Rhode Island, and he de 
nounced it as a great sin. I think in the same summer Mr. Hallock 
had sent to him a sermon or pamphlet-book, written by the Rev. 
Jonathan Edwards, then at New Haven. I read it, and it denounced 
slavery as a great sin. From this time I was antislavery, as much 
as I be now. In the year 1798 I lived in Norfolk. There was a 
Presbyterian or Congregational minister settled in Virginia at the 
beginning of the Revolutionary War, by the name of Thomson, who 
on account of the war came to North Canaan with slaves, and not 
knowing how long the war would last, he bought a small farm in 
North Canaan, and lived on it till the close of the war; he then 
moved back to Virginia, and left a family of blacks on the farm. 
About 1798 he came up to sell his farm and move back his slaves, as 
he called them. Some time before this, slavery had been abolished 
in Connecticut. Mr. Thomson had difficulty in getting away his 
slaves. One man would not go, and ran into the woods, and Mr. 
Thomson hired help to catch him. He was secreted among blacks 
that lived in a corner of Norfolk. Mr. Thomson preached for Mr. 
Robbins at Norfolk, assisted in the administration of the sacrament, 
etc. There were blacks who belonged to the church, that absented 
themselves. Mr. Thomson attended meetings, I think, three Sab 
baths ; preached about twice. The last Sabbath it was expected he 
would preach in the afternoon ; but there were a number of the 
church members who were dissatisfied with his being asked to preach, 
and requested Deacon Samuels and Deacon Gay lord to go and ask 
Mr. Robbins not to have Mr. Thomson preach, as it was giving dis 
satisfaction. There was some excitement amongst the people, some 
in favor and some against Mr. Thomson ; there was quite a debate, 
and large numbers to hear. Mr. Thomson said he should carry the 
woman and children, whether he could get the man or not. An old 
man asked him if he would part man and wife, contrary to their 
minds. He said : ' I married them myself, and did not enjoin obe 
dience 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 to God's word. He appeared 
checked, and only said it was the custom. He was told that the 
blacks were free by act of the Legislature of Connecticut ; he replied 
that he belonged to another State, and that Connecticut had no con 
trol over his property. I think he did not get away his ' property,' 
as he called it. Ever since, I have been an Abolitionist ; and I am 
so near the end of life I think I shall die an Abolitionist." 



12 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1800. 

To these papers of his father should now be added John 
Brown's own account of his childhood and youth, written 
for Harry Stearns, a boy of thirteen. This is printed and 
punctuated exactly as Brown wrote it. 

THE CHILDHOOD OF JOHN BKOWN. 

RED ROCK, IA., 15th July, 1859. 
MR. HENRY L. STEARNS. 

MY DEAR YOUNG FRIEND, I have not forgotten my promise to 
write you ; but my constant care, & anxiety have obliged me to 
put it off a long time. I do not natter myself that I can write any 
thing which 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 narration 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 perse 
vering effort ; & that is the degree of success in accomplishing his 
objects which to a great degree marked the course of this boy through 
out my entire acquaintance with him ; notwithstanding his moderate 
capacity; & still more moderate acquirements. 

John was born May 9th, 1800, at Torrington, Litchfield Co. Con 
necticut ; 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 Father's and his Mother's Fathers served in the war of the 
revolution: His Father's Father ; died in a barn in New York while 
in the service ; in 1776. 

I can not 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 hav 
ing '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 ox- 
team; 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 which were very 
large ; & which some of the company generally managed to kill. 
After getting to Ohio in 1805 he was for some time rather afraid of 



1805.1 ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 13 

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 C years old John was installed a young Buck 
Skin. He was perhaps rather observing as he ever after remem 
bered the entire process of Deer Skin dressing ; so that he could at 
any time dress his own leather such as Squirel, Raccoon, Cat, Wolf 
and 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 he began to be a rambler in the 
wild new country finding birds and squirrels and sometimes a wild 
Turkey's nest. But about this period he was placed in the school of 
adversity ; which my young friend was a most necessary 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 beginning 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. It took years to heal 
the wound & I think he cried at times about it. About Five months 
after this he caught a young Squirrel 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. Tliis 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 babbit to which John was somewhat addicted. 
I mean telling lies ; generally to screen himself from blame ; or from 
punishment. 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 of this fault ; nor have been (in 
after life) obliged to struggle so long with so mean a habit. 

John was never quarelsome ; but was excessively fond of the hard 
est & 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 com 
pensation for the confinement, & restraints of school. I need not 



14 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1812. 

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 j & during the warm season might generally be seen bare 
footed & 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 dis 
tances 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 & pearmanent for notwithstanding his Father again 
married to a sensible, intelligent, and on many accounts a very esti 
mable woman; yet he never adopted her in feeling ; but continued 
to pine after his own Mother for years. This opperated very unfa 
vourably 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 com 
menced furnishing the troops with beef cattle, the collecting & driv 
ing 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 & mea 
sures : & to become somewhat familiarly acquainted with some who 
have figured before the country since that time. The effect of what 
he saw during the war was to so far disgust him. with Military affairs 
that he would neither train, or drill ; but paid fines ; & got along like 
a Quaker until his age finally has cleared him of Military duty. 

During the war with England a circumstance occurred that in the 
end made him a most determined Abolitionist: & led him to declare, 
or Swear : Eternal war with Slavery. He was staying for a short 
time with a very gentlemanly landlord since a United States 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 attention to every little smart thing he said or did: & 
to the fact of his being more than a hundred miles from home with a 
company of cattle alone ; while the negro boy (who was fully if not 
more than his equal) was badly clothed, poorly fed ; & lodged in cold 



1815.] ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 15 

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 chil 
dren : for such children have neither Fathers or Mothers to protect, 
& provide for them. He sometimes 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 & intelligent 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 common 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 recommend 
to all young persons both male & female: as it will certainly tend 
to secure admission to the company of the more inteligeut ; & 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 & died. This brought another protracted mourning season : 
not that he felt the pecuniary loss so much : for that was never his 
disposition ; but so strong & earnest were his atachments. 

John had been taught from earliest childhood to " fear God and 
keep his commandments ; " & 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. 



16 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1816. 

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 j & adopted them as part of your own plan of life ; 
& I wish you to have some deffinite plan. Many seem to have 
none ; & others never 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 general 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 those means was to exchange 
with his Father for something of far less value. Another was by 
trading with others persons for something his Father had never 
owned. Older persons have some times found difficulty with titles. 

From Fifteen to Twenty years old, he spent most of his time work 
ing at the Tanner & Currier's trade keeping Bachelors hall } & he 
officiating as Cook ; & for most of the time as foreman of the estab 
lishment under his Father. During this period he found much trouble 
with some of the bad habits I have mentioned & with some that I 
have not told you off: 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 serious & 
more inteligent portion of older persons. This was so much the case j 
& secured for him so many little notices from those he esteemed ; 
that his vanity was very much fed by it : & he came forward to man 
hood quite full of self-conceit ; & self-confident ; notwithstanding his 
extreme bashfulness. A younger brother 1 used sometimes to remind 
him of this : & to repeat to him this expression which you may some 
where 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 Fif 
teen years & upward he felt a good deal of anxiety to learn ; but could 
only read & studdy a little ; both for want of time j & on account of 
inflammation of the eyes. He however managed by the help of books 
to make himself tolerably well acquainted with common arithmetic ; 
& Surveying ; which he practiced more or less after he was Twenty 
years old. 

1 This was Salmon, no doubt. 



1820.] ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 17 

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 
circumstances 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, 

J. BROWN. 

P. S. I had like to have forgotten to acknowledge your contri 
bution in aid of the cause in which I serve. God Almighty bless 
you ; my son. 

J. B. 

This autobiography had its origin, as did so many other 
words and acts of John Brown in 1857-1859, in the hospi 
talities of one house in Massachusetts where the old hero 
was always welcome. Mr. George Luther Stearns, a wealthy 
merchant and manufacturer of Boston, but living in a beau 
tiful villa at Medford, had invited Brown to Boston in 
December, 1856, when he came eastward from his first 
campaigns in Kansas. Brown accepted the invitation, and 
reached Boston a little after Christmas, 1856, meeting Mr. 
Stearns in the street and going with him to the rooms of 
the Massachusetts Kansas Committee, where I first met 



18 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

him. The next Sunda}', the first in January, 1857, Brown 
went to the Boston Music Hall to hear Theodore Parker 
preach, and there met Mrs. Stearns (a niece of Mrs. Child, 
the graceful author of -'Philothea"), who invited him to 
her house in Medford. He spent there the second Sunday 
in January, 1857, and made a deep impression on the oldest 
son of .the family, then in his thirteenth year, by the stories 
he told of the sufferings of the pioneer families in Kansas. 
Running to the next room, and bringing forth his hoard of 
pocket-money, the boy thrust it into John Brown's hand, 
saying, " Will you buy something, a pair of shoes, or 
something, for one of those little Kansas children?" 
and then adding, as the old man thanked him, "Captain 
Brown, will you not write me, sometime, what sort of a 
little boy you were ? " Brown looked at him with surprise 
and pleasure, and promised him to do so. In due time this 
long letter reached Medford, addressed to Harry, but with a 
short note to Mr. Stearns at the end of it. Mrs. Stearns, 
who at once saw its value, treasured it carefully ; and after 
Brown's death she requested her friend Mr. Emerson to 
make this autobiography part of a' sketch of the hero which 
he was urged to write. Mr. Emerson admired and praised 
it, but was compelled to decline the task of writing Brown's 
Life, as also dkl Henry Thoreau (who knew Brown well) and 
Mrs. Child. Then Mrs. Stearns permitted Mr. Redpath to 
print it in his biography, for the sake of bringing money to 
supply the needs of the widow and children of Brown. It 
has been since reprinted again and again from Mr. Red- 
path's book. I have made my copy from the original let 
ter, and thus corrected some variations in the punctuation 
and spelling, which had crept into the published copies. 
Brown's writing was peculiar in these respects, and by no 
means uniform; but his style everywhere shows the same 
vigor and simplicity, and he had the art of Homer and 
Herodotus to mingle the colloquial with the serious, with 
out any loss of dignity or effect. He thought humbly of 
his own composition, and would sometimes say, " I know 
no more of grammar than one of that farmer's calves ; " 
but he had what is essential in all grammars, the power 
to make himself understood. 



1856.] ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 19 

The house in which John Brown was born, as mentioned 
in this autobiography, 1 still stands in Torrington, Conn., in 
the western part of the town, three miles from Wolcottville, 
six from Litchfield, and ten from Winsted, on a by-road. It 
much resembles the old farm-house in Concord in which 
Thoreau was born, and the engraving of one might easily 
pass for that of the other. The log-house of Owen Brown, 
in Hudson, Ohio, stood on what is now the public square in 
that town; and in a little valley near by, not far from 
the railroad, was the tannery where John Brown learned 
his father's trade. His childhood was passed in Hudson 
and its vicinity in the manner above described. He read 
the Bible, the " Fables of ./Esop," the " Life of Franklin," 
the hymns of Dr. Watts, "Pilgrim's Progress," and a few 
more books ; but his school education was very scanty. 

Although in order of time the following correspondence 
belongs in a later chapter, I introduce it here to show what 
were the relations throughout life of John Brown and his 
father. The latter lived till within four years of John 
Brown's execution, dying May 8, 1856, at the age of eighty- 
five. Only six weeks before his death he wrote as follows 
to his son in Kansas, verbatim et literatim: 

Letter of Owen Brown to John Brown. 

HUDSON (OHIO), March 27, '56. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I received yours of 13th on the 25th, and was 
very glad to larn that all your Famelys were so well, and that you had 
not been distourbed by the enemy. Your letters come very regular, 
and we look carfuly after them. I have been faithfull to answer 

1 It was after hearing this letter read that Miss Osgood, of Medford, re 
marked, " If Captain Brown had not been called, in the providence of God, 
to a very different work, what charming stories he could have written for 
young children ! " The original manuscript tills six pages of closely writ 
ten letter-paper, without division into paragraphs. The contributions 
made by Harry Stearns and by others "in aid of the cause in which I 
serve," were given to help the oppressed pioneers of Kansas whom Brown 
was then defending. His father, Owen Brown, as a beef contractor, was 
with Hull's army at or just before the surrender at Detroit in 1812, accom 
panied by his son John. John, then twelve years old, circulated among the 
American soldiers and officers, and overheard many conversations in camp 



20 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [185G. 

them, not out of ambishon, but to keep one or more on the road all 
the time. My health at present is not so good ; for three weeks past I 
am somewhat put to it to breathe, mostly nights, and sometimes feel as 
though death was at the dore. I feel as though God was very merso- 
full to keep such a great sinner on probation so long. 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 1 have up to 
Christ, and honer him by a sacrafise of all we have. 

I think that the moovrnents of Congress will prevent an invasion 
of your rights ; they have voted to send to Kansas to investigate the 
situation [and] elections. I think of cliping from some papers some 
short Acts of Congress and inclose them in a private letters and send 
them to you. I think I shall have them very regular. I wrote Mr. 
Giddeons 1 ["Giddings" in John Brown's hand written over this 
name] about 3 weeks ago to send me the debats and Acts of Con 
gress on the subjects of Kansas from time to time. He was at home 
then sick, but has now returned to Con [in John Brown's hand 
" Washington" is written in before " Con "] and the papers begin to 
come. 

Friends are in idling well as far as I know. I am now at Ed 
ward's j it is rather a cold, stormy day. We have had a remarkable 
cold, snowe winter, and the snow is mostly on the ground now. We 
have 3 only plesent dayes this week, but have had no rain through 
the winter. I consider all of my Children at Kansas as one Famely, 
and hope you will take turns in writeing. They are midling well at 
Edward's, and wish to be remembered. 

Your unfaithful Parent, 

OWEN BROWN. 

N B. 28th. After writing the above, Edward had a paper from 
which we dipt the within.' 2 0. B. 

concerning General Hull and his position. He saw much of General Cass, 
then a captain under Hull; and it is to him, no doubt, that allusion is 
made as one of those "who have figured before the country since that 
time." Long afterward (in 1857), he told me that he overheard such conver 
sation from Cass, McArthur, and other officers as would have branded them 
as mutineers, if he could have reported it to the Washington authorities. 
He believed that Hull was forced into the false position which led to his 
surrender, by the ill-conduct of his subordinate officers. 

1 Owen Brown and most of his sons and grandsons when in Ohio were 
constituents of Joshua R. Giddings, the famous antislavery Congressman 
from the Western Reserve. 

2 This letter is addressed in the feeble handwriting of an old man to 
"John Brown, Osawatomie, K. T.," and is indorsed in his son's hand 
writing, " Owen Brown's Letter, March 27, 1856." The original is among 



184C.] ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 21 

This was the last of many letters written to his son in the 
forty years since 1817, when John first left home for long 
absences. A few of John Brown's replies have come into 
my hands, chiefly of the years 1846-1849, of which the 
following are specimens : 



John Brown to his Father. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., 29th Oct., 1846. 

DEAR FATHER, Yours of the 22d, telling us of the death of 
brother King, is received. I must say, that, with all his imperfections 
and faults, 1 certainly feel that if he has not been a very warm 
hearted, yet he has been a steady, friend, and on some accounts a 
useful friend; and I mourn his frailties and death sincerely. You 
say he expected to die, but do not say how he felt in regard to the 
change as it drew near. I have to confess my unfaithfulness to my 
friend in regard to his most important interest. I did not tail to write 
you, as soon as I returned myself, from want of inclination, but be 
cause I thought it would please you quite as much to get a letter from 
Jason. We are getting along moderately with our business, but when 
M T e shall be able to close it up will be difficult to say, for we still 
continue to receive large quantities of wool. Prices rather improve. 
We expect to be ready to close up all the lots Jerry brought on in a 
very few days. Have contracted away the lowest he brought at 
twenty-five cents per pound. There is no doubt but we might make 
the most advantageous exchanges of wool for any description of 
woollen goods that are wanted in the country. We shall probably 
take hold of the business with a view to such exchanges another year, 
if we continue the wool business. We find no difficulty in disposing 
of the very coarsest wools, now that we have learned better where to 
sell them, and can turn them cash. Please write often, and let us hear 
how you all get along, and what you think proper to say to us. 
Your affectionate son, 

JOHN BROWN. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., 10th Dec., 1846. 

DEAR FATHER, Yours, dated 2d and 3d December, we re 
ceived this evening. It is perhaps needless for me to say that I am 
always grateful for everything of that kind I receive from you, and 

the Brown Papers in the library of the Kansas Historical Society at Topeka, 
from whose invaluable collections I have drawn much material for this 
work. 



22 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1847. 

that I think I have your whole correspondence for nearly thirty years 
laid up to remember you by, I mean, of course, what you have di 
rected to me. I would further say, that I feel grateful to you, and my 
brother, for calling to see my dear afflicted wife and children in their 
calamity. It is a great comfort that / can in my imagination see my 
always kind and affectionate old father with them, while at the same 
time the responsibilities I have assumed constrain me to be absent, 
very contrary to my feeling (and it may be contrary to my duty, too ; 
but trust not). I mean to return sometime in February, and should 
feel like one out of prison could I leave to-morrow. I hope you will 
visit my family as often as you can during my absence, and that you 
will write us often while here. We will endeavor, one of us, to reply 
promptly at least. We are getting along with our business slowly, 
but prudently, I trust, and as well as we could reasonably expect 
under all the circumstances ; and so far as we can discover, we are 
in favor with this people, and also with the many we have had to do 
business with. I sent home a good supply of excellent cloth for 
pantaloons, from which you can have some if it suits you, and should 
arrive safe. If it does not, please write me without delay. Jason 
took the cloth with him (cost eighty-five cents per yard). I can 
bring more cloth of almost any kind when I return, should there be 
need. 

When I think how very little influence I have even tried to use 
with my numerous acquaintances and friends, in turning their minds 
toward God and heaven, I feel justly condemned as a most wicked 
and slothful servant, ; and the more so, as I have very seldom had 
any one refuse to listen when I earnestly called him to hear. I 
sometimes have dreadful reflections about having fled to go down to 
Tarshish. 

Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., April 2, 1847. 

DEAR FATHER, Your very kind as well as rational letter I 
received last evening. I trust I do in some measure realize that only 
a few, a very few, years will of necessity bring tome a literal accom 
plishment of the sayings of the Preacher. I am quite sensible of the 
truth of your remark, that my family are quite as well off as though 
we possessed millions. I hope we may not be left to a feeling of 
ingratitude, or greediness of gain ; and I feel unconscious of a desire 
to become rich. I hope my motive for exerting myself is higher. 
I feel no inclination to move my family to Springfield on account of 
any change that I am itching for, and think it very doubtful whether 
I ever conclude on it as the best course. My only motive would be 



1848.] ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 23 

to have them with me, if I continue in my present business, which I 
am by no means attached to. I seem to get along middling well, and 
hope to return in a short time. Wrote Jeremiah some days since. 
I shall pay ten cents very cheerfully to hear that you are alive and 
well, at any time ; and should not grudge to pay more for such kind 
and ever seasonable pointing me to the absolute vanity of this world's 
treasures, as well as the solemn future which is before me. It affords 
me great satisfaction to get a letter from you at this period of your 
life, so handsomely written, so well worded, and so exactly in point, 
both as to manner and (what is much more) matter. I intend to 
preserve it carefully. 

Your affectionate son, 

JOHN BROWN. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., 1st Nov., 1847. 

DEAR FATHER, After some three or four days' delay on the 
road, we arrived here safe to-day about noon, and found all here well ; 
but our hard hearts are never thankful as they should be. Always 
dependent and constantly receiving, we are ungrateful enough to be 
cast off, if that were our only fault ! Our business, so far as I can 
judge, has gone along middling well during my absence. Watson is 
not yet very stout, but is perhaps a little improved since I left. We 
shall all be anxious to hear from Lucian, and from you all, and how 
you got home from Austinburg, as soon and as often as we can. 
Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

Mr. Hubbard has deeded his swamp farm to John Sherman. Has 
not sold his thirty-acre lot at Muuroville, but has offered it for sale 
to William Hickox and Kelsey. 

Yours, 

J. B. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., 2d Dec., 1847. 

DEAR FATHER, Yours of the 9th November was received a few 
days since, but I have delayed writing on two accounts since receiving 
it. One is the greater press of business,' and increased anxiety on 
account of the sudden change in money matters ; the other, that it is 
always hard for me to make out a letter without something to make it 
out of. We have been middling well since I returned, except John 
and Watson. John has had a short turn of fever, and Watson has 
seemed to have a number of complaints, but both are better now. Our 
business seems to be going on middling well, and will not probably 
be any the worse for the pinch in the money concerns. I trust that 



24 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1847. 

getting or losing money does not entirely engross our attention ; but 
T ain sensible that it occupies quite too large a share in it. To get a 
little property together to leave, as the world have done, is really 
a low mark to be firing at through life. 

" A nobler toil may I sustain, 
A nobler satisfaction gain." 

You wrote us that Lucian seemed to decline. This is not unex 
pected ; but we hope that a life still lengthened may not all be mis 
spent, and that the little of duty to God and mankind it may yet be 
in his power to do may be done with his might, and that the Lord 
Jesus Christ will be the end of the law for righteousness, for that 
which must be left undone. This is the only hope for us lankmpts, 
as we may see at once if we will but look at our account. We hope 
to hear how you all are again soon. 

Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., 16th Jan., 1848. 

DEAR FATHER, It is Sabbath evening ; and as I have waited 
now a long time expecting a letter from you, I have concluded to 
wait no longer for you to write to me. I received the Hudson paper 
giving an account of the death of another of our family. I expected 
to get a letter from you, and so have been waiting ever since getting 
the paper. I never seemed to possess a faculty to console and com 
fort my friends in their grief; I am inclined, like the poor comforters 
of Job, to sit down in silence, lest in my miserable way I should only 
add to their grief. Another feeling that I have in your case, is an 
entire consciousness that I can bring before your mind no new source 
of consolation, nor mention any which, I trust, you have not long 
since made full proof of. I need not say that I know how to sympa 
thize with you j for that you equally well understand. I will only 
utter one word of humble confidence, ll Though He slay me, yet 
will I trust in Him, and bless His name forever." We are all in 
health here, but have just been taking another lesson on the uncer 
tainty of all we hold here. One week ago yesterday, Oliver found 
some root of the plant called hemlock, that he supposed was carrot, 
and eat some of it. In a few minutes he was taken with vomiting 
and dreadful convulsions, and soon became senseless. However, by 
resorting to the most powerful emetics he was recovered from it, like 
one raised from the dead, almost. 

The country in this direction has been suffering one of the sever 
est money pressures known for many years. The consequence to us 
has been, that some of those who have contracted for wool of us are 



1849.] ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 25 

as yet unable to pay for and take the wool as they agreed, and we 
are on that account unable to close our business. This, with some 
trouble and perplexity, is the greatest injury we have suffered by it. 
We have had no winter as yet scarcely, the weather to-day being 
almost as warm as summer. We want to hear how you all are very 
much, and all about how you get along. I hope to visit you in the 
spring. Farewell. 

Your affectionate, unworthy son, 

JOHN BROWN. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., 5th Feb., 1849. 

DEAR FATHER, I write you at this time more because you 
said in your last that you " love letters more now than ever before," 
than on account of anything I have to write. We are here all mid 
dling well, except our youngest child, who has been quite feeble since 
last fall. Owen's arm seems to be improving slowly. We have 
been selling wool middling fast of late, on contract, at 1847 prices. 
We have in this part of the country the strongest proofs that the great 
majority have made gold their hope, their only hope. I think that 
almost every product of industry will soon become high, from the 
fact alone that such a vast number of those who have hitherto been 
producers will cease to be so, and hereafter, for a time at least, be 
only consumers, I am inclined to think that persons who are in 
debt, and who hold any property of value, are likely to have a most 
favorable time to get out of debt. Would it not be well to have 
the word go round amongst all the Broivns, that they may get ready 
to sell off enough of something to pay all debts ? I really wish that 
Oliver and Frederick 1 would take the hint, and when things get up 
(which I feel confident they will do), go at once to selling off and 
paying up. There is no way of making money so easy as by selling 
when every one wants to buy. It may cost us some little sacrifice of 
feeling at first, but would open a new world almost, if thoroughly 
done. 

I have felt a good deal of anxiety about the injury you received 
on your way home; was glad to hear that you was in any measure 
comfortable. I did not intend to put off writing so long; but I al 
ways find it exceedingly hard work to write when I have nothing to 
communicate that is worth as much as the paper and postage. Your 
letters are not of so barren a character ; so that we shall not expect 
you to pay the postage when you write, which we hope will be often. 
Your affectionate but unworthy son, 

JOHN BROWN. 

1 His brothers, or cousins ; not his sous. 



26 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1833. 

These letters show upon what terms of affection and re 
ligious sympathy John Brown lived with his pious father, 
a man everywhere respected. Colonel Perkins, of Akron, 
Ohio, who was the capitalist partner of John Brown in the 
wool business, and lost money thereby, had no great respect 
for his partner's prudence, but said : " His father had more 
brains than John Brown, and was a more prudent man." 
He was long a trustee of Oberlin College, and it was 
through him that John Brown was sent to Virginia in 
1840, to survey the wild lands there which belonged to that 
college. John Brown, Jr., says : " My grandfather, Owen 
Brown, of Hudson, had no son for whom he entertained 
more sincere regard than for his son John. I was myself 
for years almost as one of my grandfather's family, and had 
the best means of knowing.' 7 His aunt, John Brown's half- 
sister, Mrs. Marian Hand, of Wellington, Ohio, now living, 
confirms this statement. She also furnishes me with some 
facts concerning her brother Salmon, for whom his father 
had " great anxiety and fears " while he was studying law 
at Pittsburg in 1824, and who, he says, '' was of some note 
as a gentleman, but I never knew that he gave evidence of 
being a Christian." 

It seems that Salmon Brown, after beginning to practise 
law, travelled far and wide over the United States, and 
particularly in the South, where he finally took up his resi 
dence at New Orleans, and became the editor of a news 
paper, " The Bee," which was published both in French and 
English, and seems to have opposed the administration of 
Andrew Jackson. His career as a journalist was from 1830 
to 1833, and he died at Thibodeauxville, or New Orleans., 
in the autumn of 1833. A letter from John Brown to his 
brother Frederick thus mentions Salmon's death, among 
other matters of smaller concern : 



RANDOLPH, PENN., Oct. 26, 1833. 

DEAR BROTHER, < I arrived at home without any mishap on 
Saturday of the week I left you, and found all well. I had received 
newspapers from Thibodeauxville during my absence, similar to those 
sent to father, but no letters respecting the death of our brother. I 
believe I was to write father as soon as I returned, but I have 



1829.] ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 27 

nothing farther to write, and you can show him this. I will imme 
diately let him know what answer I get to the letter I shall send to 
the South by this mail, respecting our dear brother. 

I enclose fifteen dollars, and wish you to let me know that you re 
ceive it. Destroy my note, and accept my thanks. If you afford 
my colt plenty of good pasture, hay, and salt, it is all I wish, unless 
he should fall away badly or be sick. Your's bore his journey well. 
Please tell Milton Lusk that I wish to have him pay over the money 

I left with him to Julian, without delay. 

Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

P. S. I want to be informed of any news respecting Salmon as 
soon as any of you get any. 

The three following letters are all that I have received 
from the papers of Salmon Brown, who wrote a neat hand 
and rather a diffuse, ceremonious style, at variance with the 
direct, laconic manner of his father and brother, but who re 
sembled them in the earnestness with which he pursued his 
objects, and the serious affection he manifested for all his 
family, and particularly for his father. 

Salmon Broiun to Owen Brown, Sr. 

HUNTSVILLE, ALA., Feb. 28, 1829. 
HONORED FATHER, In order to avoid that circumlocution of 

II compliments," which I have heard you mention as one of the de 
fects of my letters in general, it shall be the object of this to make 
known to yon, with the least preamble and in the fewest possible 
number of words, all that a parent, kind and solicitous as you have 
ever been, might desire to know in relation to the welfare of an ab 
sent child. My health, thank God, has been uniformly good since I 
was at Hudson last July. From New York, if I mistake not, some 
time in the month of September, I wrote you a letter, and inclosed 
one of my printed circulars, by which I presumed you would be made 
acquainted with the tour I had in contemplation, and the several 
points to which letters might be directed in season to reach me. 
This probably was not received till after your return from New 
England, which circumstance sufficiently accounts for its not being 
answered. I have pursued almost literally the track indicated by the 
circular alluded to, and still intend to persevere, till I have accom 
plished the entire journey. My operations have been as successful as 
heretofore, though I have experienced more delays than usual. On 



28 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1829. 

leaving this place, I shall proceed South, by the way of Tuscaloosa 
and Mobile, to New Orleans ; but having business to transact, at a 
great many intermediate places, I cannot determine with any degree 
of certainty when I shall reach there, or how early I shall be able to 
leave that place in the spring. 

This, I am resolved, shall be my last tour in the United States, at 
least on the extensive scale I have practised for the last three years. 
I however still intend to execute the project which I disclosed to 
you last summer; and I cannot neglect the present opportunity to 
thank you for the very valuable hint which you suggested to me, in 
respect of availing myself of the facilities which my travels afford, to 
collect materials and information to be made use of hereafter in pub 
lic lecturing. I have reflected much on the subject, and I am fully 
persuaded the business may be turned to a good practical account, 
in reference to my intended operations abroad. I am therefore ap 
plying myself to the subject in good earnest, both by extending my 
own personal observations as widely as possible, and by consulting 
any written authority which may throw light upon my object of 
research. But pray let this matter, as well as the other, rest for the 
present between ourselves exclusively. 

I am exceedingly anxious to receive a letter from you. When 
shall I be gratified I On my arrival at New Orleans ? I hope so. 
I also hope that you will not be sparing of the local news of your 
vicinity. I should like to know something of the results of your jour 
ney to the East. You doubtless heard of me among our family 
relations. I am obliged to leave off abruptly, and 1 will not delay 
sending this for the sake of filling out the sheet at another time. My 
love to all our family, and to my friends in general. Adieu. 

SALMON BROWN. 



ST. Louis, June 18, 1829. 

HONORED FATHER, Having ascended the river to this place, 
and being under the necessity of returning again to Natchez in order 
to close some unfinished business, I write to advise you of my in 
tended movements. By the ordinary course of steamboat navigation 
I shall reach there (Natchez) in the course of five or six days, and 
my stay in that region will be as short as possible. It is my inten 
tion afterwards to proceed by the interior of Alabama to Florida, and 
thence through Georgia and the Carolinas to the North. I cannot at 
this time name with certainty any place where letters directed to my 
address would be received, though Tallahassee in Florida would seem 
to be the most eligible point ; at all events, I hope you will write to 
me there. I left New Orleans without receiving any letters from you, 



1830.] ANCESTRY AND CHILDHOOD. 29 

which was a great disappointment. I however made arrangements 
by which I shall still get them, if any come on to that post-office. I 
have enjoyed good health and thus far a reasonable share of pros 
perity in the prosecution of my business, though delays have been 
more frequent than I anticipated, and of longer duration, which will 
be the means of detaining me all summer in the Southern country. 
1 beg you will not permit yourself to be uneasy on account of my 
health. I shall avoid the low country on the sea-coast, and by con 
fining myself to the high ground of the interior, I apprehend very 
little danger. Finally, go where I may, I am in the hands of the 
same kind Providence that has heretofore guided me safely through 
an infinity of perils. I have been preserved, no doubt, for some wise 
purpose. I hope it may be to accomplish some great good in the 
world ; if not, why should I desire to live ? 

I am still occupied, heart and soul, with the scheme I have inti 
mated to you before. It is the theme of my constant meditations, 
night and day; and I am devoting all my leisure moments for its ac 
complishment. That the design is a good and laudable one, I have 
no doubt. This gives me confidence to expect great success. 1 

I cannot write more at this moment, but if I am prospered, you 
shall hear from me frequently. Adieu. 

Your affectionate son, 

SALMON BROWN. 

LOUISVILLE, KY., Aug. 22, 1830. 

HONORED FATHER, I avail myself of the first moment of leisure 
on my arrival at this place to relieve you from the anxiety which I 
am conscious you have ere this begun to feel on my account. I could 
not have neglected writing so long had I anticipated the possibility of 
being detained so long at the South. One cause of delay after an 
other prolonged the period of my departure from New Orleans till the 
latter part of July, and having to stop at several places on the river 
where I had business to look after, and the rivers being almost too 
low for steamboat navigation at this season, August has almost passed 
away before I could reach here. My health, thank God, has been 
uniformly good, and I am quite well at this time. 

I am without news from any of my family or friends these several 
months past, which makes me exceedingly anxious about their wel 
fare. I hope some of you will write instantly on receiving this, and 

1 It does not appear what this "laudable design" was, but it must have 
been, in part at least, of a public nature. At this time Salmon Brown was 
twenty-seven years old. He was the brother next in age to John, and was 
at school with him for a time in Connecticut. 



30 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1830. 

direct to Wheeling, Virginia, where I expect to be in the course of 
three or four weeks. It is impossible for me to determine whether I 
can visit Hudson this fall or not. I am engaged about some political 
arrangements in opposition to the present unprincipled and corrupt 
Administration, to which I have become so committed as not to be 
master of my own time. The arrangements alluded to have for their 
object the best interests of our common country ; and believing that I 
may be instrumental in doing good in this way, I feel it to be my duty 
to exert my endeavors. I go from this place to Frankfort, thence to 
Lexington, 1 thence to Maysville, and thence to Wheeling. If it shall 
be possible for me to visit Hudson before I proceed to the eastward, 
I will do so. 

An infirmity of my nerves, proceeding from an unknown cause, 
makes it difficult to write legibly. I have been conscious that this 
was growing on me for years, without being able to apply any 
remedy. I never lived so temperately as I have the year past. 
Pray present me to the recollection of my brothers and sisters, and to 
all my friends affectionately. Years do but increase and confirm the 
sense of filial duty and gratitude with which I remain 

Your son, 

SALMON BROWN. 

1 Henry Clay lived near Lexington, and it was doubtless in the interest 
of that statesman and his friends that young Brown undertook this crusade 
against the " unprincipled and corrupt administration " of General Jackson, 
who had been elected in 1828 and inaugurated in 1829, in spite of Clay, 
defeating John Quincy Adams. I have not yet found copies of Brown's 
"New Orleans Bee," but doubtless the sting of this journal was directed 
against Jackson in the city which he rescued from British invasion. 



1816.1 YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 31 



CHAPTER II. 
YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 

JOHN BROWN'S childhood passed, like that of most 
boys in a new country, in the midst of active labor 
and rude sport, but with little advantage of schooling at 
home. Like all serious-minded lads of Puritan stock, how 
ever, he dreamed at one time of completing his education in 
a college, and then studying for the ministry. He " expe 
rienced religion," and joined the " Orthodox " or Congre 
gational Church at Hudson in 1816. Soon after this he 
revisited Connecticut, and went to the town of Canton to 
consult a kinsman of his father, the Rev. Jeremiah Hal- 
lock, concerning his studies in divinity, whose advice 
was that Owen Brown's son should fit for Amherst College 
(where his uncle, the Rev. He man Humphrey, was soon 
to be President), and that his teacher* should be the Rev. 
Moses Hallock, of Plainfield, in Massachusetts. 1 This 
school at Plainfield was famous for graduating ministers 
and missionaries, and the poet Bryant had been a student 
there a few years before, Plainfield being next to Cum- 
mington, where Bryant was born, and not far from Amherst. 
No doubt the lad's hope was to fit himself at Plainfield and 
then enter at Amherst, working his way by his own efforts, 
as so many young men have since done. But he was at- 

1 John Brown seems to have been for a short time at the Morris 
Academy in Connecticut, in company with his younger brother Salmon, 
already mentioned. A story of the two brothers is told, how John, 
finding that Salmon had committed some school offence, for which the 
teacher had pardoned him, said to the teacher: " Mr. Vaill, if Salmon had 
done this thing at home, father would have punished him. I know he 
would expect you to punish him now for doing this, and if you don't, I 
shall." That night, finding that Salmon was likely to escape punishment, 
John made good his word, more in sorrow than in anger, giving his 
brother a severe flogging. 



32 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1820. 

tacked with inflammation of the eyes, which soon became 
serious, so that he was forced to give up study, and go back 
to his father's tan-yard in Hudson. The time spent at the 
Plainfield school was short, and there are few reminiscences 
of him at that period. In December, 1859, Hem an Hallock, 
the youngest son of the Rev. Moses Hallock, wrote to 
his brother Gerard Hallock, then editor of the New York 
" Journal of Commerce," as follows: 

" Your youngest brother does remember John Brown, who studied 
at our house. How long he lived there, or at what period, I do not 
know. I think it must have been at the time of my visits to Plain- 
field, when I was or had been at Amherst Academy, perhaps in 
1819 or 1820. I have the name ' John Brown ' on my list of father's 
students. It is said that he was a relative of Uncle Jeremiah Hal- 
lock's wife, arid that Uncle J. directed him to Plainfield. He was a 
tall, sedate, dignified young man, from twenty-two to twenty-five 
years old. 1 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 had 
himself tanned, for seven years, to re-sole his boots. He had also 
a piece of sheep-skin which he had tanned, and of which he cut 
some strips, about an eighth of an inch wide, for other students to 
pull upon. Father took one string, and winding it around his fin 
gers said, with a triumphant turn of the eye and mouth, ' I shall 
snap it.' The very marked yet kind immovableness of the young 
man's face, on seeing father's defeat, father's own look, and the 
position of people and things in the old kitchen, somehow gave 
me a fixed recollection of this little incident." 

From theology, young Brown turned his attention to sur 
veying ; and his text-book, "Flint's Survey," now owned by 
his son John Brown, Jr., bears date at Hudson in 1820. He 
became a skilful surveyor ; but his chief occupation from 
1819 for nearly twenty years was the tanning of leather, 

1 The maturity of John Brown's appearance at the age of nineteen is 
shown by this remark : he could not have heen twenty years old when study 
ing at Plainfield. My own date for this experience would be 1819; for Brown 
was married to Dianthe Lusk, June 21, 1820. He had previously been dis 
appointed in love, and as he said in a letter written from Gerrit Smith's 
house, Feb. 24, 1858, "felt for a number of years in earlier life a steady, 
strong desire to die." This letter will be found on a later page, in its due 
connection. 



1820.] YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 33 

which his father had taught him, and in which he had ac 
quired much skill before 1820, as may be inferred from his 
autobiography. His log-house and tan-yard were a mile 
or more from his father's, and northwest of the village of 
Hudson. The home which was built under his direction in 
1824 is a large wooden farm-house, standing in pleasant ru 
ral scenery ; and Hudson itself, which is one of the oldest vil 
lages in Northern Ohio, and for many years the seat of a small 
college, has the air of a thriving Connecticut town. When 
John Brown first occupied his cabin in 1819-20, he was un 
married, and his housekeeper was Mrs. Lusk, the widow of 
Amos Lusk, a Hudson farmer, and the mother of Brown's 
future wife. Her brother, Milton Lusk, who was living in 
1882, gave me then some reminiscences of his brother-in-law, 
which may serve to complete the sketch drawn by Brown 
himself of his resolute, serious, and headstrong youth. 

a I am now seventy-nine years old," said this kinsman of John 
Brown, "for I was horn in 1803, my sister Dianthe in 1801, and 
Brown in 1800. I knew him from a boy, went to school with him, 
and remember well what a commanding disposition he always bad. 
There was once a Democratic school and a Federal school m Hudson 
village, and the boys used to snow-ball each other. Brown and I 
were federalists, as our fathers, Squire Brown and Captain Lusk, 
were. One day the Democratic boys found a wet hollow in the bat 
tle-field of snow-balls, and began to throw wet balls, which were 
hard and hurt 'masterly.' John stood this for awhile, then he 
rushed alone upon the little Democrats, and drove them all before 
him into their schoolhouse. He did not seem to be angry, but there 
was such force and mastery in what he did, that everything gave way 
before him. He doted on being the head of the heap, and he was; 
he doted on his ability to hit the mark. Dianthe, my sister, was not 
tall like my father (who fought at the siege of Sandusky and died in 
the spring of 1813), but about her mother's height; she was plain, 
but attracted John Brown by her quiet, amiable disposition. She 
was my guiding-star, my guardian angel ; she sung beautifully, 
most always sacred hymns and tunes ; and she had a place in the 
woods, not far from the house, where she used to go alone to pray. 
She took me there sometimes to pray with me. She was a pleasant, 
cheerful person, but not funny; she never said anything but what 
she meant. When mother and Diauthe were keeping house for 
John Brown at the old log-cabin where he had his tannery, I was 
working as a boy at Squire Hudson's in the village, and had no 

3 



34 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1820. 

time to go up and see my mother and sister except Sundays. 1 Brown 
was an austere feller, and lie did n't like that ; one day he said to me, 
1 Milton, I wish you would not make your visits here on the Sab 
bath.' I said, ' John, I won't come Sunday, nor any other day,' 
and I stayed away a long time. When Dianthe was married, I 
would not go to the wedding. I did not get along very well with 
him for some years ; but when he was living in Pennsylvania, and I 
had my controversy with the church in Hudson, he came and prayed 
with me, and shed tears, and said perhaps I was nearer right than he 
had thought. After my sister's death he said to John, his son, ' I 
feel sure that your mother is now with me and influencing me.' He 
was tasty in his dress, about washing, bathing, brushing, etc. ; 
when he washed him, he pushed his hair back from his forehead." 

John Brown, Jr., who was born at his father's first home 
in Hudson, gives the following account of one of his first 
recollections of that neighborhood : 

" Our house, on a lane which connects two main roads, was built 
under father's direction in 1824, and still stands much as he built it, 

1 Hudson was named for a Connecticut farmer, David Hudson (born in 
Goshen, 1758), commonly called "the Squire," who led the settlement 
there in 1799, and whose daughter, Mrs. Harvey Baldwin, whom I saw 
in 1878, was the first white child born in the town. Her father is 
buried in the cemetery not far from the grave of Owen Brown, out of which 
a young hemlock tree, twelve feet high, was growing when I visited it 
in 1878. Squire Hudson gave the land in Hudson on which the West 
ern Reserve College was built ; he was a strict Calvinist, and an original 
abolitionist, like Owen Brown. Mr. Elizur Wright, now of Boston, 
formerly a schoolmate of John Brown, and afterwards a professor in the 
college at Hudson, tells me that he met Squire Hudson, one day in Sep 
tember, 1831, coming from his post-office, and reading a newspaper he 
had just received, which seemed to excite him very much as he read. 
As Mr. Wright came within hearing, the old Calvinist was exclaiming, 
"Thank God for that ! I am glad of it. Thank God they have risen at 
last ! " Inquiring what the news was, Squire Hudson replied, " Why, the 
slaves have risen down in Virginia, and are lighting for their freedom as 
we did for ours. I pray God they may get it." This was the " Southamp 
ton massacre" of Aug. 23, 1831, in which Nat Turner, with six fellow- 
slaves, raised a revolt in Southampton County, on the edge of the Dismal 
Swamp in Virginia, and had killed more than fifty whites, without the loss 
of a single follower, when his band was dispersed on the 25th of August. 
Turner escaped arrest for eight weeks longer, but w r as captured Oct. 30, 
1831, tried November 5, and hanged November 11, almost exactly twenty- 
eight years before John Brown's execution, Dec. 2, 1859. 



1826.] YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 35 

with the garden and orchard around it which he laid out. In the 
rear of the house was then a wood, now gone, on a knoll leading 
down to the brook which supplied the tan-pits. I was born in an 
older log-house. When I was four or five years old, and probably no 
later than 1825, there came one night a fugitive slave and his wife 
to father's door, sent, perhaps, by some townsman who knew John 
Brown's compassion for such wayfarers, then but few. They were 
the first colored people I had seen ; and when the woman took me 
up on her knee and kissed me, I ran away as quick as I could, 
and rubbed my face ' to get the black off; J for I thought she would 
1 crock ' me, like mother's kettle. Mother gave the poor creatures 
some supper; but they thought themselves pursued, and were un 
easy. Presently father heard the trampling of horses crossing a 
bridge on one of the main roads, half a mile off; so he took his guests 
out the back door and down into the swamp near the brook, to hide, 
giving them arms to defend themselves, but returning to the house 
to await the event. It proved a false alarm : the horsemen were 
people of the neighborhood going to Hudson village. Father then 
went out into the dark wood, for it was night, and had some 
difficulty in finding his fugitives ; finally he was guided to the spot 
by the sound of the man's heart throbbing for fear of capture. He 
brought them into the house again, sheltered them awhile, and sent 
them on their way." 

At this time John Brown could not have been more than 
twenty-six years old. The children of his first marriage 
were born, married, and died as follows : 

John Brown, Jr., born July 25, 1821, at Hudson, Ohio ; 
married Wealthy C. Hotchkiss, July. 1847. 

Jason Brown, Jan. 19, 1823, at Hudson ; married Ellen 
Sherbondy, July, 1847. 

Owen Brown, Nov. 4, 1824, at Hudson (never married). 

Frederick Brown (1), Jan. 9, 1827, at Kichmond, Pa.; 
died March 31, 1831. 

Ruth Brown, Feb. 18, 1829, at Richmond, Pa. ; married 
Henry Thompson, Sept. 26, 1850. 

Frederick Brown (2), Dec. 31, 1830, at Richmond, Pa.; 
murdered at Ossawatomie by Rev. Martin White, Aug. 30, 
1856. 

An infant son, Aug. 7, 1832 ; was buried with his mother 
three days after his birth, at Richmond, Pa. 

A letter of John Brown to his father, of which only a 



36 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

portion is preserved, describes the death of his first wife in 
the most touching manner. Her character has already been 
given in the fragmentary autobiography, and in the recollec 
tions of her brother, Milton Lusk. She was descended 
through her mother (Mary Adams, of West Stockbridge, 
Mass., daughter of John Adams, an army contractor in the 
Revolution) from the same ancestors as John Adams the 
second President, and Samuel Adams the Revolutionary 
patriot. 1 Of the seven children above-named, the four 
eldest are still living (1885), John and Owen at Put-in- 
Bay Island, Ohio ; and Jason and Ruth (who married a New 
Hampshire farmer's son, Henry Thompson, at North Elba, 
N. Y.) at Pasadena, Cal. I am indebted to all of them for 
many details of their father's career, and many letters 

1 In December, 1867, John Brown, Jr., copied the following record from 
the Lusk family Bible in the possession of Judge Stephen H. Pitkin, hus 
band of his aunt Julia Lusk, by which it appears that Mary (Adams) 
Lusk was five years older than her husband, and was a widow when Cap 
tain Lusk married her : 

Amos Lusk, born Thursday, March 6, 1773 ; Mary (Hull) Lusk (his 
wife), born Sunday, May 15, 1768 ; Sophia Hull, born Wednesday, April 
29, 1789 ; Laura Hull, born Thursday, Dec. 8, 1791 ; Minerva Lusk, born 
Sunday, Oct 18, 1795 ; Maria Lusk, born Sunday, June 27, 1797 ; Loving 
Lusk, horn Tuesday, June 3, 1799 ; Dianthe Lusk, born Monday, Jan. 12, 
1801 ; Milton Adams Lusk, born Thursday, June 2, 1803 ; Julian H. 
Lusk, born Monday, Sept. 16, 1805 ; Sophia H. Lusk, born Thursday, 
July 28, 1808 ; Julia Lusk, born Saturday, Feb. 10, 1810 ; Edward Lusk, 
born Tuesday, Dec. 31, 1811 ; Laura Hull, married Sept. 23, 1810 ; Amos 
Lusk, died May 24, 1813; Dianthe Lusk Brown, died Aug. 10, 1832 ; 
Mary Lusk, wife of Amos Lusk, died Jan. 20, 1843. 

Captain Lusk removed to Ohio from East Bloomfield, N. Y., with his 
family, then consisting of his wife and her six children (including Sophia 
and Laura Hull by her first husband), in 1801. Several families, includ 
ing his sister's (Mrs. Hannah Lindley), made up the emigrating party. 
Buffalo was then a small village, and Ohio almost an unbroken wilderness. 
On their journey, while stopping at a tavern, an incident occurred which 
came near terminating the life of Dianthe Lusk, then a baby six weeks old. 
While the mother was preparing food for their breakfast, the father, anx 
ious to move on in the morning, proceeded to gather up the bedding, on 
which, unperceived by him, the baby was lying. Pillows, blankets, etc., 
were thrown on the feather-bed, and quickly tied together with a rope, and 
the whole hastily rolled downstairs. The mother, recollecting where she 
had left her baby, gave the alarm, but by the time it could be uncovered 
it was nearly lifeless. 



1856.] YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 37 

which concern the family. Ruth, the only daughter of the 
first marriage, gives me these incidents of her early re 
collections : 

" Father used to hold all his children, while they were little, at 
night, and sing his favorite songs, one of which was, ' Blow ye the 
trumpet, blow!' One evening after he had been singing to me, he 
asked me how I would like to have some poor little black children 
that were slaves (explaining to me the meaning of slaves) come and 
live with us ; and asked me if I would be willing to divide my food 
and clothes with them. He made such an impression on my sympa 
thies, that the first colored person I ever saw (it was a man I met on 
the street in Meadville, Penn.,) I felt such pity for him that I wanted 
to ask him if he did not want to come and live at our house. When 
I was six or seven years old, a little incident took place in the church 
at Franklin, Ohio (of which all the older part of our family were 
members), which caused quite an excitement. Father hired a col 
ored man and his wife to work for him, he on the farm, and she in 
the house. They were very respectable people, and we thought a 
great deal of them. One Sunday the woman went to church, and 
was seated near the door, or somewhere back. This aroused father's 
indignation at once. He asked both of them to go the next Sunday ; 
they followed the family in, and he seated them in his pew. The 
whole congregation were shocked ; the minister looked angry ; but I 
remember father's firm, determined look. The whole church were 
down on him then." She adds : u My brothers were so disgusted to 
see such a mockery of religion that they left the church, and have 
never belonged to another." 

This daughter remembers when she was admitted to the 
church, in Richmond, by baptism. She says : 

"The first recollection I have of father was being carried through 
a piece of woods on Sunday, to attend a meeting held at a neighbor's 
house. After we had been at the house a little while, father and 
mother stood up and held us, while the minister put water on our 
faces. After we sat down, father wiped my face with a brown silk 
handkerchief with yellow spots on it in diamond shape. It seemed 
beautiful to me, and I thought how good he was to wipe my face 
with that pretty handkerchief. He showed a great deal of tenderness 
in that and other ways. He sometimes seemed very stern and strict 
with me ; yet his tenderness made me forget that he was stern. He 
told me, a few years before his death, to reason calmly with my chil 
dren when they had done wrong, and in that way encourage them 



38 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1847. 

to be truthful ; and never to punish them, whatever they had done, 
if they told the truth about it. Said he : ' If I had my life to live 
over again, I should do very differently with my children. I meant 
to do right, but I can see now where I failed.' 

li Whenever he and I were alone, he never failed to give ine the 
best of advice, just such as a true and anxious mother would give a 
daughter. He always seemed interested in my work, and would 
come around and look at it, when I was sewing or knitting ; and 
when I was learning to spin he always praised me, if he saw that I 
was improving. He used to say : ' Try to do whatever you do in the 
very best possible manner.' " 

Writing to Euth when she was eighteen years old, her 
father said : 

" I will just tell you what questions exercise my mind in regard to 
an absent daughter, and I will arrange them somewhat in order as 
I feel most their importance. 

u What feelings and motives govern her? In what manner does 
she spend her time 1 ? Who are her associates? How does she con 
duct in word and action? Is she improving generally? Is she pro 
vided for with such things as she needs, or is she in want? Does 
she enjoy herself, or is she lonely and sad? Is she among real 
friends, or is she disliked and despised ? 

u Such are some of the questions which arise in the mind of a certain 
anxious father ; and if you have a satisfactory answer to them in 
your own mind, he can rest satisfied." 

The testimony of all John Brown's children is the same 
respecting his domestic life and his affection for them. 
His daughter has perhaps related more particulars of his 
home life, because she saw it more constantly, having- 
seldom been separated from him until her marriage, except 
by his long absences upon business, of which more will be 
said hereafter. She thus describes his reading and his 
family worship, as she remembers it: 

" My dear father's favorite books, of a historical character, were 
' Rollin's Ancient History/ Josephus, Plutarch, ' Napoleon and 
his Marshals,' and the Life of Oliver Cromwell. Of religious 
books, Baxter's l Saints' Rest ' (in speaking of which at one time ho 
said he could not see how any person could read it through carefully 
without becoming a Christian), the ' Pilgrim's Progress,' and Henry 
' On Meekness.' But above all others, the Bible was his favorite 
volume ; and he had such a perfect knowledge of it, that when any 



1840.] YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 39 

person was reading it, he would correct the least mistake. His 
favorite passages were these, as near as I can remember : 

" i Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them.' 

" ' Whoso stoppeth his ear at the cry of the poor, he also shall 
cry himself, but shall not be heard. 1 

'"He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth his 
bread to the poor.' 

u l A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and 
loving favor rather than silver or gold.' 

" ' Whoso mocketh the poor, reproacheth his Maker; and he that 
is glad at calamities, shall not be unpunished.' 

" 'He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth to the Lord, and that 
which he hath given will He pay to him again.' 

" ' Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would 
borrow of thee turn not thou away.' 

" i A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast; but the tender 
mercies of the wicked are cruel.' 

" l Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in 
the power of thine hand to do it.' 

11 ' Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build 
it; except the Lord keepeth the city, the watchman walketh in 
vain.' 

'"I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love.' 

tl The last chapter of Ecclesiastes was a favorite one, and on Fast- 
days and Thanksgivings he used very often to read the fifty-eighth 
chapter of Isaiah. 

u When he would come home at night, tired out with labor, he 
would, before going to bed, ask some of the family to read chapters 
(as was his usual course night and morning); and would almost 
always say, 'Read one of David's Psalms.' 

"His favorite hymns (Watts's) \vere these: 'Blow ye the trum 
pet, blow ! ' ' Sweet is Thy word, my God, my King ! ' ' I '11 praise 
my Maker with my breath;' ' Oh, happy is the man who hears!' 
' Why should we start, and fear to die ! ' ' With songs and honors 
sounding loud ; ' 'Ah, lovely appearance of death ! ' ' 

John Brown, Jr., says that the first time he ever saw his 
father kneel in prayer was when he communicated to the 
older children (about 1837) his purpose to make active war 
upon slavery, and then implored the blessing of God upon 
such an undertaking, and His pity for the oppressed slaves. 
The three sons entered into a solemn compact with their 
father to labor for emancipation ; and when, in 1838, and 



40 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1834. 

subsequently, John the eldest son went from home to get 
a better education, his father said " he had lost one of the 
main spokes of his wheel." Owen Brown, like his son, 
was fervent in prayer ; and it was noticed that he, though 
a sad stammerer in conversation, spoke much more clearly 
in prayer. 

There was always great tenderness and delicacy in John 
Brown's conduct towards his family, notwithstanding the 
natural austerity of his character. In childhood he gov 
erned them strictly, not sparing the rod ; but no sooner 
were they men and women than he ceased to command and 
almost to request their obedience, but left it for them to be 
persuaded in their own minds towards any course he wished 
them to take. He very early imparted to them his own 
fixed purposes in regard to slavery, and sought their co 
operation, which they readily gave. Ruth's reminiscences 
show this, and so also does this curious letter, written and 
franked by John Brown when he was postmaster, under 
President Jackson, at Randolph, Pa. 1 

John Brown to his brother Frederick. 

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 me I have been trying 
to devise some means whereby I might do something in a practical 
way for my poor fellow-men who are in bondage, and having fully 
consulted the feelings of my wife and my three boys, we have agreed 
to get at least one negro boy or youth, and bring him up as we do our 
owllj v i z>? j ve i mn a good English education, learn him what we 
can about the history of the world, about business, about general 
subjects, and, above all, try to teach him the fear of God. We think 
of three ways to obtain one : First, to try to get some Christian slave 
holder to release one to us. Second, to get a free one if no one will 
let us have one that is a slave. Third, if that does not succeed, we 

1 The town of Randolph in which it was written, and where John Brown 
was appointed postmaster in the administration of John Quincy Adams, 
seems to have included Richmond, which is now a separate town. 



1834.] YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 41 

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 favor 
able location. Children here would have no intercourse with vicious 
people of their own kind, nor with openly vicious persons of any 
kind. There would be no powerful opposition influence against 
such a thing ; and should there be any, I believe the settlement might 
be so effected in future as to have almost the whole influence of the 
place in favor of such a school. Write me how you would like to 
join me, and try to get on from Hudson and thereabouts some first- 
rate abolitionist families with you. I do honestly believe that our 
united exertions alone might soon, with the good hand of our God 
upon us, effect it all. 

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 con 
flicting interests and feelings ; and I do think such advantages ought 
to be afforded the young blacks, whether they are all to be imme 
diately 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 become 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 constitu 
tionally 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 undertaking, 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. 



42 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1833. 

.Randolph is in Crawford County, Penn., and now contains 
some two thousand inhabitants ; but in 1834 it was very 
thinly settled. John Brown was one of the chief persons 
there ; he managed a large tannery in the present township 
of Richmond, and the school of the settlement had been at 
one time kept for part of the year in his great log-house, 
near the tan-yard. His proposition to his brother Fred 
erick, 1 who then lived with or near his father in Hudson, 
Ohio, was in effect to remove to Richmond, and take part 
in a j)lan for settling colored families there, with a view to 
their better education, before their race should be emanci 
pated. At this time it was a penal offence in most of the 
slave States to teach them to read,' and practically it was so 
in some free States. In the year preceding the date of this 
letter, the State of Connecticut (in consequence of the ad 
mission by Miss Prudence Crandall of colored girls to her 
private school in Canterbury) passed a law (May 24, 1833) 
that no school should be established in any town in Connec 
ticut for the education of colored persons from other towns, 
"without the consent in writing, first obtained of a majority 
of the civil authority, and the selectmen of the town." 
Under this law Miss Crandall was arrested and sent to jail ; 
and during that year (1833) her house was set on fire, and 
she was otherwise so persecuted by the people of Canter 
bury that she was forced to give up her school about a year 
before the above letter of John Brown was written. 

It was while Brown was living at Randolph (now Rich 
mond) that he was married a second time, July 11, 1833, 
to Mary Anne Day, daughter of Charles Day, of Whitehall, 
K. Y., but then living at Troy, Penn. She survived him 
twenty -five years, and died in San Francisco, in 1884. 2 Her 
children were thirteen in number, of whom seven died in 
early childhood ; two were killed at Harper's Ferry, and 
four, Salmon, Anne, Sarah, and Ellen, are still living 

1 This letter is thus addressed and post-marked : 

Randolph, Pa. Free. 

Nov. 22. /. Brown, P. M. 

MR. FREDERICK BROWN, 

HUDSON, PORTAGE Co., Ohio. 

2 February 29. 



1834.] YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 43 

in California with, their children and grandchildren. The 
record of this whole family is as follows : 

CHILDREN OF JOHN BROWN AND HIS WIFE MARY. 

Sarah Brown, born May 11, 1834, at Richmond, Pa. ; died 
Sept. 23, 1843. 

Watson Brown, born Oct. 7, 1835, at Franklin, Ohio; 
married Isabella M. Thompson, September, 185G j killed at 
Harper's Ferry, Oct. 19, 1859. 

Salmon Brown, born Oct. 2, 1836, at Hudson, Ohio ; mar 
ried Abbie C. Hinckley, Oct. 15, 1857. 

Charles Brown, born Nov. 3, 1837, at Hudson, Ohio ; died 
Sept. 11, 1843. 

Oliver Brown, born March 9, 1839, at Franklin, Ohio ; 
married Martha E. Brewster, April 7, 1858 ; killed at Har 
per's Ferry, Oct. 17, 1859. 

Peter Brown, born Dec. 7, 1840, at Hudson, Ohio ; died 
Sept. 22, 1843. 

Austin Brown, born Sept. 14, 1842, at Richfield, Ohio ; 
died Sept. 27, 1843. 

Anne Brown, born Dec. 23, 1843, at Kichfield, Ohio. 

Amelia Brown, born June 22, 1845, at Akron, Ohio ; died 
Oct. 30, 1846. 

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

Ellen Brown, born May 20, 1848, at Springfield, Mass. ; 
died April 30, 1849. 

Infant son, born April 26, 1852, at Akron, Ohio ; died May 
17, 1852. 

Ellen Brown, born Sept. 25, 1854, at Akron, Ohio. 1 

The loss of so many children in their early years was a 
sore trial to John Brown, and is often mentioned in his 
family letters. In. their illness he was a devoted nurse, and 

1 It was at the house of this youngest daughter, Mrs. Ellen Fablinger, 
of Saratoga, Cal., that the widow of John Brown spent the last years of her 
life ; but she died in San Francisco, under the care of her daughter Sarah, 
after a painful illness. Miss Sarah Brown resides in San Francisco ; Mrs. 
Anne Brown Adams, in Eohnerville, Humboldt County; and Salmon 
Brown, farther north, in the same county, where he keeps sheep, as his 
father did in Ohio. 



44 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1848. 

he had acquired much skill in the care of all invalids. Con 
cerning the death of his first daughter Ellen, in April, 1849, 
Mrs. Thompson thus writes : 

u In the fall of 1848, father and mother, with our youngest sister, 
a babe of six months old, visited a brother of Mrs. Brown (Orson 
Day), who was then living at Whitehall, N. Y., she stopping there 
with the child, while father went into the Adirondac wilderness to 
North Elba. He was charmed with the grand mountain scenery, 
and felt that he was needed there to encourage and help by his expe 
rience the few colored families who had already settled in the wilder 
ness, and those who might move there the following spring. Here 
was an opportunity also to train some of the bravest of those men for 
the great work which had been his life-long study. He went back 
to Springfield much encouraged. While on their journey back the 
little babe took a violent cold that ended in quick consumption, and 
she died at the end of April, 1849. Father showed much tenderness 
in the care of the little sufferer. He spared no pains in doing all 
that medical skill could do for her, together with the tenderest care 
and nursing. The time that he could be at home was mostly spent 
in caring for her. He sat up nights to keep an even temperature in 
the room, and to relieve mother from the constant care which she had 
through the day. He used to walk with the child and sing to her so 
much that she soon learned his step. When she heard him coming 
up the steps to the door, she would reach out her hands and cry for 
him to take her. When his business at the wool store crowded him 
so much that he did not have time to take her, he would steal around 
through the wood-shed into the kitchen to eat his dinner, and not go 
into the dining-room, where she could see or hear him. I used to be 
charmed myself with his singing to her. He noticed a change in her 
one morning, and told us he thought she would not live through the 
day, and came home several times to see her. A little before noon he 
came home, and looked at her and said, ' She is almost gone.' She 
heard him speak, opened her eyes, and put up her little wasted hands 
with such a pleading look for him to take her that he lifted her from 
the cradle, with the pillows she was lying on, and carried her until she 
died. He was very calm, closed her eyes, folded her hands, and laid 
her in her cradle. When she was buried, father broke down com 
pletely, and sobbed like a child. It was very affecting to see him so 
overcome, when all the time before his great tender heart had tried 
to comfort our weary, sorrowing mother, and all of us." 

It was not the temporal welfare and happiness of his 
children that lay nearest the heart of Brown : their spirit- 



1852.] YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 45 

ual interests, their religious state, were much more a care to 
him. His letters show this constantly; and in one written 
to his oldest daughter three years later (January, 1852), his 
anxiety finds expression in these words : 

" My attachments to this world have beeii very strong, and Divine 
Providence has been cutting me loose, one cord after another. Up 
to the present time, 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 for 
ward, as regards the religious prospects of my numerous family, 
the most of them, lam forced to say, and 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 children had chosen the Lord 
to be their God, and I relied much on their influence and example 
in atoning for my deficiency and bad example with the younger 
children. But where are we now ? Several have gone where neither 
a good nor a bad example from me will better their condition or 
prospects, or make them worse. 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 any one but myself. I think I can 
clearly discover where I wandered from the road. How now to get 
on it with my family is beyond my ability to see or my courage to 
hope. God grant you thorough conversion from sin, and full purpose 
of heart to continue steadfast in his way, through the very short 
season you will have to pass." 

The earlier letters of Brown to his elder children contain 
many remarks of this character ; and there is one long letter 
to his son John, mainly made up of Scripture texts arranged 
so as to bring forcibly to the young man's mind the Calvin- 
istic theology, point by point, its terrors as well as its 
promises. Here it is : 

AKRON, OHIO, Aug. 26, 1853. 

DEAR SON JOHN, Your letter of the 21st instant was received 
yesterday, and as I may be somewhat more lengthy than usual I begin 
my answer at once. The family have enjoyed as good health as 
usual since I wrote before, but my own health has been poor since 



46 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1853. 

in May. Father has had a short turn of fever and ague; Jason and 
Ellen have had a good deal of it, and were not very stout on Sunday 
last. The wheat crop has been rather light in this quarter; first 
crop of grass light; oats very poor; corn and potatoes promise well, 
and frequent rains have given the late grass a fine start. There has 
been some very fatal sickness about, but the season so far has been 
middling healthy. Our sheep and cattle have done well; have raised 
five hundred and fifty lambs, and expect about eighty cents per pound 
for our wool. We shall be glad to have a visit from you about the 
time of our county fair, but I do not yet know at what time it comes. 
Got a letter from Henry dated the 16th of August; all there well. 
Grain crops there very good. We are preparing (in our minds, at 
least) to go back next spring. Mrs. Perkins was confined yesterday 
with another boy, it being her eleventh child. The understanding 
between the two families continues much as formerly, so far as I 
know. 

In Talmadge there has been for some time an unusual seriousness 
and attention to future interests. In your letter you appear rather 
disposed to sermonize ; and how will it operate on you and Wealthy 
if I should pattern after you a little, and also quote some from the 
Bible ? In choosing my texts, and in quoting from the Bible, I per 
haps select the very portions which *' another portion" of my family 
hold are not to be wholly received as true. I forgot to say that rny 
younger sons (as is common in this u progressive age 7 ') appear to 
be a little in advance of my older, and have thrown off" the old 
shackles entirely; after THOROUGH AND CANDID investigation they 
have discovered the Bible to be ALL a fiction ! Shall I add, that 
a letter received from you some time since gave me little else th;m 
pain arid sorrow? "The righteous shall hold on his way;" "By 
and by he is offended." 

My object at this time is to recall your particular attention to the 
fact that the earliest, as well as all other, writers of the Bible seem 
to have been impressed with such ideas of the character of the religion 
they taught, as led them to apprehend a want of steadfastness among 
those who might profess to adhere to it (no matter what may have 
been the motives of the different writers). Accordingly we find the 
writer of the first five books putting into the mouth of his Moses ex 
pressions like the following, and they all appear to dwell much on 
the idea of two distinct classes among their reputed disciples; namely, 
a genuine and a spurious class : 

u Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or 
tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God, to 
serve the gods of these nations ; lest there should be among you a 
root that beareth gall and wormwood." " Then men shall say, 



1853. 



YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 47 



because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their 
fathers." u But if thine heart turn away so that thou wilt not hear, 
but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them." 
" Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it to the chil 
dren of Israel ; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness 
for me against the children of Israel." " For I know that after my 
death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way 
which I have commanded you.' 7 " They have corrupted themselves, 
their spot is not the spot of his children." " Of the Rock that begat 
thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee." 
" Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would 
consider their latter end ! " 

The writer here makes his Moses to dwell on this point with a 
most remarkable solicitude, a most heart-moving earnestness. The 
writer of the next book makes his Joshua to plead with Israel with 
the same earnestness. " Choose you this day whom you will serve." 
" Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the 
Lord, to serve him." The writer of the book called Judges uses 
strong language in regard to the same disposition in Israel to back 
slide : " And it came to pass when the judge was dead, that they 
returned and corrupted themselves more than their fathers; they 
ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way." 
The writer of the book Ruth makes Naomi say to Orpah, " Thy 
sister-in-law is gone back unto her people and unto her gods." The 
writer of the books called Samuel represents Saul as one of the same 
spurious class. Samuel is made to say to him, u Behold, to obey is 
better than sacrifice; and to hearken, than the fat of rams," clearly 
intimating that all service that did not flow from an obedient spirit 
and an honest heart would be of no avail. He makes his Saul turn 
out faithless and treacherous in the end, and finally consult a woman 
" having a familiar spirit," near the close of his sad career. The 
same writer introduces Ahitophel as one whose counsel " was as if 
a man had inquired at the oracle of God ; " a writer of the Psalms 
makes David say of him, " We took sweet counsel together, and 
walked to the house of God in company ; " but he is left advising the 
son of David to incest publicly, and soon after hangs himself. The 
spot of those men seems not to be genuine. 

One distinguishing mark of unsoundness with all the Old Testa 
ment writers was aversion to the character of the God whom Moses 
declares in his books, and by whose direction all the so-called proph 
ets affirmed that they spoke and wrote. The writer of the books 
called Kings says of Solomon: ''And the Lord was angry with 
Solomon, because his heart was turned away from the Lord God of 
Jsrael, which had appeared to him twice." The same writer makes 



48 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1853. 

Elijah inquire of Israel : " Plow long halt ye between two opinions? 
If the Lord be God, follow him ; but if Baal, then follow him." He 
makes Elijah pray thus: "Hear me, O Lord! hear me, that this 
people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast 
turned their heart back again." The same writer makes God say 
to Elijah, " Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the 
knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath 
not kissed him." The same writer makes John say, " Come with 
me and see my zeal for the Lord ; '' but says of him afterward, " But 
John took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with 
all his heart." This writer also says of Josiah, " And like unto him 
there was no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his 
heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all 
the law of Moses ; neither after him arose there any like him." The 
writer of the book called Chronicles says of Judah, in a time of most 
remarkable reformation : " And they sware unto the Lord with a 
loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets ; 
And all Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn with all their 
heart, and sought him with their whole desire, and he was found of 
them, and the Lord gave them rest round about." Those who wrote 
the books called Ezra and Nehemiah notice the same distinguishing 
marks of character. 

The writer of the book (sailed Job, makes God to say of him : 
" There is none like him in the earth ; a perfect and an upright man, 
one who feareth God and escheweth evil, and still he holdeth fast his 
integrity." The same writer makes Eliphaz put to Job these ques 
tions, remarkable, but searching : "Is not this thy fear, thy confi 
dence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways ? " This writer 
makes his different characters call the unstable and unsound, hypo 
crites. Bildad says, "So are the paths of all that forget God, and 
the hypocrite's hope shall perish. Whose hope shall be cut off, and 
whose trust shall be a spider's web." Zophar says of the same class 
v>f persons, " And their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost." 
Eliphaz says, "Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity, for 
vanity shall be his recompense." Job says, "I know that my Re 
deemer liveth, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes behold, 
and not another." Zophar says, " The triumphing of the wicked is 
short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment." Job is made 
to inquire concerning those who deceive themselves (as though the 
thing had come to be well understood in his day) : " Will he de 
light himself in the Almighty ? Will he always call upon God ? " 
One writer of the Psalms says of those who did not love Israel's God, 
" Through the pride of his countenance he will not seek after God. 
God is not in all his thoughts." 



1853.] YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 49 

A writer of the Psalms, in view of the different feelings of men 
toward the God of the Bible, has this language : " With the mer 
ciful thou wilt show thyself merciful, with an upright man thou wilt 
show thyself upright, with the pure, thou wilt show thyself pure, and 
with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward." Again in the 
Psalms we read, u The meek shall eat and be satisfied, they shall 
praise the Lord that seek him." Again, " The meek will he guide 
in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way." " All the paths 
of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and 
testimonies." ll The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, 
and he will show them his covenant." " Oh, how great is thy good 
ness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, which thou hast 
wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men ! " u The 
angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and 
delivereth them." " The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants, 
and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate." " Though 
he fall, yet he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth 
him with his hand." " The law of his God is in his heart ; none of 
his steps shall slide." " But the salvation of the righteous is of the 
Lord ; he is their strength in the time of trouble." " Mark the per 
fect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace." 
"The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing; thou 
wilt make all his bed in his sickness." " Our heart is not turned 
back, neither have our steps declined from thy way." " They go 
from strength to strength ; every one of them in Zion appear before 
God." " Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall 
offend them." "Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect 
unto all thy commandments." " If T forget thee, Jerusalem ! let 
my right hand forget her cunning." " The backslider in heart shall 
be filled with his own ways." " To the law and to the testimony ! if 
they speak not according to their word, it is because there is no light 
in them." " Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers 
found in me that they are gone far from me, and have walked after 
vanity, and have become vain ? " " Turn, back-sliding children, 
saith the Lord." "But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, 
but walked in the counsels and in the imaginations of their evil 
heart, and went backward and not forward." " Yea, the stork in 
the heaven knoweth her appointed times, and the turtle and the crane 
and the swallow observe the time of their coming, but my people 
know not the judgment of the Lord. " " The heart is deceitful above 
all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" "Thy 
prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee, and they have 
not discovered thine iniquity." " They that observe lying vanities 
forsake their own mercy." " Then they shall answer, Because they 

4 



50 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1853. 

have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God." " Forty years 
long was I grieved with this generation, and said it is a people that 
do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways." " But 
they like men have transgressed the covenant ; there have they dealt 
treacherously against me." " Many shall be purified and made white 
and tried, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked 
shall understand, but the wise shall understand." "The preacher 
sought to find out acceptable words, and that which was written was 
upright, even words of truth." ''That the generation to come might 
know them, even the children which should be born, who should 
arise and declare them to their children ; that they might set their 
hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his com 
mandments ; and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and re 
bellious generation ; a generation that set not their heart aright, and 
whose spirit was not steadfast with God." " Who is wise and shall 
understand these things; prudent, and he shall know them ? For the 
ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them ; but the 
transgressor shall fall therein." 

" Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I also 
confess before my Father which is in Heaven." " And many false 
prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many ; and because iniquity 
shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." " And blessed is he 
whosoever shall not be offended in me." " They on the rock are 
they which when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these 
have no root, and for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall 
away." u From that time many of his disciples went back, and 
walked no more with him." u He that rejecteth me, and receiveth 
not my words, hath one that judgeth him : the word that I have 
spoken, the same shall judge him at the last day." u Every branch 
in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away." il But if our gospel 
be hid, it is hid to them that are lost." " I marvel that ye are so 
soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, 
unto another gospel." " Ye did run well: who did hinder you that 
ye should not obey the truth ? " " Beware lest any man spoil you 
through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after 
the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." " For now we 
live, if ye stand fast in the Lord." " For the time will come when 
they will not endure sound doctrine." " Therefore we ought to give 
the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any 
time we should let them slip." " Let us therefore fear lest a promise 
being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come 
short of it." il And we desire that every one of you do show the 
same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end; that ye be 
not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience 



1853.] YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 51 

inherit the promises." " Now the just shall live by faith j but if any 
man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." ." And this 
I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge 
and in all judgment, that ye may approve things that are excellent, 
that may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. 7 ' "And 
make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned 
out of the way, but let it rather be healed." " Looking diligently 
lest any man fail of the grace of God." " For it had been better for 
them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they 
have known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto 
them." " Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou 
hast left thy first love. Eemember therefore from whence thou art 
fallen, and repent." u Be watchful, and strengthen the things which 
remain and are ready to die, for I have not found thy works perfect 
before God." " He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in 
white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of 
life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his 
angels." " Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, 
lest he walk naked and they see his shame. Amen." " And I 
beseech you [children] to suffer the word of exhortation." 

AKRON, OHIO, Sept. 23, 1853. 

DEAR CHILDREN. It is now nearly a month since I began on 
another page. Since writing before, father has seemed quite well, 
but Jason, Ellen, Owen, and Frederick have all had more or less of 
the ague. They were as well as usual, for them, yesterday. Others 
of the family are in usual health. I did mean that my letter should 
go off at once, but I have not become very stout, and have a great 
deal to look after, and have had many interruptions. We have done 
part of our sowing, and expect to get all our corn (of which we have 
a good crop) secure from frost this day. We shall be glad to see you 
here at the time of our county fair, which is to be on the twelfth and 
thirteenth of October. 

I hope that through the infinite grace and mercy of God you may 
be brought to see the error of your ways, and be in earnest to turn 
many to righteousness, instead of leading astray : and then you might 
prove a great blessing to Essex County, or to any place where your 
lot may fall. I do not feel " estranged from my children," but I 
cannot flatter them, nor "cry peace when there is no peace." My 
wife and Oliver expect to set out for Pennsylvania before long, and 
will probably call on you j but probably not until after the fair. We 
have a nice lot of chickens fattening for you, when you come. 
Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 



52 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1837. 

The blending of spiritual and worldly considerations in 
this apostolic epistle is characteristic. The kingdom of 
heaven and the affairs of earth were closely associated in 
John Brown's mind, as in Cromwell's. He could trust in 
God and keep his powder dry. The explanation of his son's 
indifference to the Calvinistic Church and its Bible-worship 
is not wholly discreditable to the young man, however ; and 
since John Brown, Jr., has not only furnished me this let 
ter, but has related the origin of his coldness towards the 
churches, I will quote his words. He says : 

"About 1837 mother, Jason, Owen, and I joined the Congrega 
tional Church at Franklin, the Rev. Mr. Burritt pastor. Shortly 
after the other societies, including Methodists and Episcopalians, 
joined ours in an undertaking to hold a protracted meeting under 
the special management of an Evangelist preacher from Cleveland, 
named Avery. The house of the Congregationalists being the largest, 
it was chosen as the place for this meeting. Invitations were sent 
out to Church folks in adjoining towns to ' come up to the help of 
the Lord against the mighty ; ' and soon the house was crowded, the 
assembly occupying by invitation the pews of the church generally. 
Preacher Avery gave us in succession four sermons from one text, 
' Cast ye up, cast ye up ! Prepare ye the way of the Lord ; make 
his paths straight ! ' Soon lukewarm Christians were heated up to a 
melting condition, and there was a bright prospect of a good shower 
of grace. There were at that time in Franklin a number of free 
colored persons and some fugitive slaves. These became interested 
and came to the meetings, but were given seats by themselves, where 
the stove had stood, near the door, not a good place for seeing 
ministers or singers. Father noticed this, and when the next meet 
ing (which was at evening) had fairly opened, he rose and called 
attention to the fact, that, in seating the colored portion of the au 
dience, a discrimination had been made, and said that he did not 
believe God is l a respecter of persons.' He then invited the colored 
people to occupy his slip. The blacks accepted, and all of our family 
took their vacated seats. This was a bomb-shell, and the Holy 
Spirit in the hearts of Pastor Burritt and Deacon Beach at once 
gave up his place to another tenant. Next day father received a call 
from the Deacons to admonish him and ' labor ' with him ; but they 
returned with new views of Christian duty. The blacks during the 
remainder of that protracted meeting continued to occupy our slip, 
and our family the seats around the stove. We soon after moved to 
Hudson, and though living three miles away, became regular attend- 



1837.J YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD. 53 

ants at the Congregational Church in the centre of the town. In 
about a year we received a letter from good Deacon Williams, in 
forming us that our relations with the church in Franklin were ended 
in accordance with a rule made by the church since we left, that ' any 
member being absent a year without reporting him or herself to that 
church should be cut off.' This was the first intimation we had of 
the existence of the rule. Father, on reading the letter, became 
white with anger. This was my first taste of the proslavery diabo 
lism that had intrenched itself in the Church, and I shed a few un 
called for tears over the matter, for instead I should have rejoiced in 
my emancipation. From that date my theological shackles were a 
good deal broken, and I have not worn them since (to speak of), 
not even for ornament." l 

Milton Lusk, the uncle of the elder children of John 
Brown, told me in 1882 that he first separated from the 
Congregational Church in Hudson upon the issue of coloni 
zation for the colored people, although in his case there 
were other grounds of difference. His brother-in-law never 
" came out " from the Church in the sense of the early aboli 
tionists, although he censured the subservience of the clergy 
and the laity to the prejudices of the people. Brown's rev 
erence for the Jible as a divine gift to man and a rule of life 
never faltered, and his ancestral faith was declared as fer 
vently in his last days of glorious imprisonment as any of 
the Christian martyrs avowed theirs. But he grew more 
tolerant of differences of opinion as he advanced in years, 
and he found no fault with the religion of Theodore Parker, 
though it was so unlike his own. 

1 A shorter account of this affair, as remembered by Kuth Thompson, 
has already been given. 



54 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1826. 



CHAPTER III. 
JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 

'"PHE letters of Brown to his father, already cited, show 
that he was diligent in his worldly calling. His 
vocations were various, as is customary with Americans 
of New England origin, and with all his higher quali 
ties, John Brown was a true Yankee. His autobiography 
shows how active and ambitious he was when a boy ; and 
this activity never deserted him. His father had trained 
him to his own occupation, that of a tanner ; but he 
was also a land-surveyor, lumber-dealer, postmaster, wool- 
grower, breeder and trainer of race-horses, stock-fancier, land 
speculator, farmer, orchardist, wool-factor, wool-sorter, and 
pioneer in a new country, like the Adirondac wilderness 
around Whiteface and Lake Placid. Emerson almost de 
scribed him when he wrote in his " Self-EeJiance " of that 
" sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn 
tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, 
keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Con 
gress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, 
and always like a cat falls on his feet." This man, says 
Emerson further, "walks abreast of his days, and feels 
no shame in not ' studying a profession ; ' for he does not 
postpone his life, but lives already." 

Following the advice of Franklin, who was one of Brown's 
oracles, he married young, as we have seen, so that his old 
est son was but twenty-one years younger than himself. 
Having begun thus early to " give hostages of fortune," as 
Bacon says, John Brown devoted himself with diligence to 
his occupation, for the support of his young family. He 
was a tanner and land-surveyor at Hudson until 1825, when 
he moved to Richmond, near Meadville, in Pennsylvania, 
and there carried on the same vocations. He remained 
until 1835, then removed to Franklin Mills, Portage County, 



1837.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 55 

Ohio, and there mingled speculation in land with his tan 
ning. Upon this point, John Brown, Jr., says : " When 
the Pennsylvania and Ohio canal was located through Frank 
lin, father purchased the old Haymaker farm and divided 
it into village lots. In the reverses and pecuniary disas 
ters of 1836-37, he made an assignment of all his property 
for the benefit of his creditors. His farm in South Kent 
(then Franklin), now covered by valuable residences and 
shops, went with the rest. Those who visit Kent now 
[1884] will see that father's business anticipations were 
only a little in advance of the times." It was at a later 
date that the sale of Brown's farms in Hudson was followed 
by an adventure which has given occasion for some petty 
scandal against him. This has been answered, and the 
affair explained by his son John, as follows : " The farm 
in question father lost by indorsing a note for a friend. It 
was attached and sold by the sheriff at the county seat. 
The only bidder against my father was an old neighbor, 
hitherto regarded as a friend, who became the purchaser. 
Father's lawyer advised him to ' hold the fort ' for a time 
at least, and endeavor to secure terms from the purchaser. 
There was, as I remember, an old shot-gun in the house, but 
it was not loaded nor pointed at. any one. No sheriff came 
on the premises ; no officer or posse was resisted ; no threat 
of violence offered. The purchaser finally swore out a peace 
warrant against father ; and within half an hour after our 
arrest by a constable, he tore down that terrible old log 
fort." 

The bankruptcy of John Brown, to which he alludes in 
several of his letters, and in connection with which he was 
once imprisoned in the county jail at Akron, occurred in 
1842, and the imprisonment was in consequence of this 
affair of the Hudson farm. Among his creditors then was 
the New England Woollen Company at Bockville in Con 
necticut, to whose agent he gave the following agreement, 
with the letter annexed : 

RICHFIELD, Oct. 17, 1842. 

Whereas I, John Brown, on or about the 15th day of June, A. D. 
1839, received of the New England Company (through their agent, 
George Kellogg, Esq.), the sum of twenty-eight hundred dollars for 



56 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1842. 

the purchase of wool for said company, and imprudently pledged the 
same for my own benefit, and could not redeem it ; and whereas I 
have been legally discharged from my obligations by the laws of the 
United States, I hereby agree (in consideration of the great kind 
ness and tenderness of said Company toward me in my calamity, 
and more particularly of the moral obligation I am under to render 
to all their due), to pay the same and the interest thereon, from 
time to time, as Divine Providence shall enable me to do. Witness 
my hand and seal. 

JOHN BROWN. 

RICHFIELD, SUMMIT COUNTY, OHIO, Oct. 17, 1842. 
GEORGE KELLOGG, ESQ. 

DEAR SIR, I have just received information of my final discharge 
as a bankrupt in the District Court, and I ought to be grateful that 
no one of my creditors has made any opposition to such discharge 
being given. I shall now, if my lite is continued, have an oppor 
tunity of proving the sincerity of my past professions, when legally 
free to act as I choose. I am sorry to say that in consequence of the 
unforeseen expense of getting the discharge, the loss of an ox, and 
the destitute condition in which a new surrender of my effects has 
placed me, with my numerous family, I fear this year must pass 
without my effecting in the way of payment what I have encouraged 
you to expect (notwithstanding I have been generally prosperous in 
my business for the season). 

Respectfully your unworthy friend, 

JOHN BROWN. 

These papers show the real integrity of Brown in a trans 
action where he might have escaped the obligation which he 
thus assumed. He had not paid the whole of this debt at 
his death in 1859. In his will then made he bequeathed 
fifty dollars toward paying the claim, which the Company 
received and placed to his credit. 

Another of Brown's creditors at a later period was Dwight 
Hopkins, formerly of Ohio, but lately of Montana, who 
followed him to Kansas in 1855-56 to collect some part of 
his debt. He found Brown, as the story goes, " in a little 
cabin with his toes out of his boots, and nothing but mush 
and milk on the table, the old man tearfully regretting 
his lack of better entertainment." 1 Hopkins got his pay 

1 Letter of Hosea Paul, of Wabash, Ind., Jan. 17, 1875, from which 
some of the above statements are taken. 



1844.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 57 

finally ; but that was not always the case with Brown's 
creditors, as we have seen, and shall see. He would seem 
to have been " a visionary man in business affairs, and of a 
restless, speculating disposition, not content with the plod 
ding details of ordinary trade." As to his wool specula 
tions, Colonel Simon Perkins, of Akron, when questioned by 
me in 1878 l about Brown's wool-growing and wool-dealing, re 
plied, " The less you say about them the better." I answered 
that the more I knew, the better I should be able to say 
the less. He then said that Brown was a rough herdsman, 
though a good wool-sorter; "in general terms, he was not a 
good shepherd, though a nice judge of the quality of wool." 
He used shepherd dogs, " because it was then the fashion to 
use them, as much for company as anything else ; but they 
did more harm than good." He said he kept but one thou 
sand five hundred sheep when Brown had charge of them, 
and that he could easily distinguish every sheep from every 
other, for " shdep look about as much alike as men do." 
" Brown took all the care and risk of the flock, and accounted 
to me at the end of the year, when we divided the profits ; 
he was here off and on for ten or twelve years. In the 
wool business at Springfield I furnished the capital ; Brown 
managed according to his own impulses : he would not 
listen to anybody, but did what he took into his head. He 
was solicitous to go into the business of selling wool, and I 
allowed him to do it ; but he had little judgment, always 
followed his own will, and lost much money. His father 
had more judgment and less will. I had no controversy 
with John Brown, for it would have done no good." " Do 



1 May 29, 1878, I visited the large farm of Colonel Perkins, lying just 
outside the city limits of Akron, in the township of Portage, where Brown 
herded sheep as late as 1854. Calling on Colonel Perkins a little before 
noon, I found him walking in his garden, a white-bearded man with a for 
bidding manner, who evidently grudged me the half-hour I asked of him 
to talk about Brown. He said he had letters of Brown ; but they were 
business letters, and not to be shown. He said he no longer kept sheep, 
because " it does not pay to keep them here, so near to the city ; " that 
his crops were wheat, fruit, vegetables, etc. I told him that I knew much 
of Brown's Virginia campaign, but little of his life as a sheep-farmer, and 
obtained the information given above. 



58 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1843. 

you mean to connect me with that Virginia affair ? " said 
Colonel Perkins. " I consider him and the men that helped 
him in that the biggest set of fools in the world." Evi 
dently he had treated Brown more generously than he now 
spoke of him, and no doubt sympathized with him in his ef 
fort to help the wool-growers. Mr. T. B. Musgrave, of ISTew 
York, who was then well acquainted with the wool-trade, has 
told me that the warehousing of wool at Springfield and else 
where was a new feature introduced by Brown, in order to 
enhance prices in the interest of the farmers. 

Brown went from Franklin to Hudson in 1839, having 
also lived at Hudson in 1836-37, and in 1840 for a time. 
In 1841 he kept the sheep of Captain Oviatt, a farmer and 
merchant of Eichfield. After his reverses in 1837 he had 
taken up the romantic life of a shepherd, that, as he says, 
" being a calling for which in early life he had a kind of 
enthusiastic longing." At the age of thirty-nine, when he 
entered fully upon this " calling," he also had, as he says, 
"the idea that as a business it bid fair to afford him the 
means of carrying out his greatest or principal object." 
This object was the liberation of the slaves; and the plan 
which he had formed for this was in substance the same in 
1839 that it was twenty years later, when he put it in exe 
cution. " If he kept sheep," said Emerson, " it was with 
a royal mind ; and if he traded in wool, he was a merchant- 
prince, not in the amount of wealth, but in the protection 
of the interests confided to him." A few of his letters at 
this period may be cited to show how he dealt with these 
interests, whether of animals or of men. 

Letters of John Broivn to his Children. 

RICHFIELD, OHIO, July 24, 1843. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I well know how to appreciate the feelings 
of a young person among strangers, and at a distance from home ; and 
no want of good feeling towards you, or interest in you, has been 
the reason why I have not written you before. I have been careful 
and troubled with so much serving, that I have in a great measure 
neglected the one thing needful, and pretty much stopped all corres 
pondence with heaven. My worldly business has borne heavily, and 
still does ; but we progress some, have our sheep sheared, and have 



1844.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 59 

done something at our haying. Have our tanning business going on 
in about the same proportion, that is, we are pretty fairly behind 
in business, and feel that I must nearly or quite give up one or other 
of the branches, for want of regular troops on whom to depend. We 
should like to know how you expect to dispose of your time hereafter, 
and how you get along, what your studies are, and what difficulties 
you meet. I w r ould send you some money, but I have not yet re 
ceived a dollar from any source since you left. I should not be so dry 
of funds could I but overtake my work ; but all is well, all is well. 
Will you come home or not this fall f I suppose there are some per 
sons in Richfield who would be middling fond of seeing you back once 
more, wherever you may be. I hope you may behave yourself wisely 
in all things. 

From your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

RICHFIELD, Jan. 11, 1844. 

DEAR SON JOHN, Your letter, dated December 21, was re 
ceived some days ago, but I have purposely delayed till now, in 
order to comply with your request that I should write about every 
thing. We are all in health ; amongst the number is a new sister, 1 
about three weeks old. I know of no one of our friends that is not in 
comfortable health. I have just met with father ; he was with us a 
few days since, and all were then well in Hudson. Our flock is well, 
and we seem to be overtaking our business in the tannery. Divine 
Providence seems to smile on our works at this time ; I hope we 
shall not prove unthankful for any favor, nor forget the giver. (I 
have gone to sleep a great many times while writing the above.) 
The boys and Ruth are trying to improve some this winter, and are 
effecting a little I think. I have lately entered into 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 comfortable and the most 
favorable arrangement of my worldly concerns that I ever had, and 
calculated to afford us more leisure for improvement, by day and by 
night, than any other, I do hope that God has enabled us to make 

1 Anne Brown, now Mrs. Adams. 



60 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1844. 

it in mercy to us, and not that he should send leanness into our souls. 
Our time will all be at our own command, except the care of the 
flock. We have nothing to do with providing for them in the winter 
excepting harvesting rutahagas and potatoes. 

This, I think, will be considered 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 un 
expected, and proves that notwithstanding we have been a company 
of u Belted Knights," our industrious and steady endeavors to main 
tain 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. Perhaps you may think best to have some 
connection with this business. I do not know of ANY person in 
KICHFIELD that you would be likely to be fond of hearing from in 
particular, excepting one at Cleveland ; and if hearing from ANY 
person prove to be a very up-stream business, I would advise not 
to worry at present. Will you let me know how it stands between 
you and all parties concerned ? l 

Your father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

To his wife he wrote thus at this period : 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., March 7, 1844. 

MY DEAR MARY, It is once more Sabbath evening, and nothing 
so much accords with my feelings as to spend a portion of it in con 
versing with the partner of my choice, and the sharer of my poverty, 
trials, discredit, and sore afflictions, as well as of what comfort and 
seeming prosperity has fallen to my lot for quite a number of years. 
I would you should realize that, notwithstanding I am absent in 
body, I am very much of the time present in spirit. I do not forget 
the firm attachment of her who has remained my fast arid faithful 
affectionate friend, when others said of me, " Now that he lieth, he 
shall rise up no more." ... I now feel encouraged to believe that 
my absence will not be very long. After being so much away, it 
seems as if I knew pretty well how to appreciate the quiet of home. 
There is a peculiar music in the word which a half-year's absence in 
a distant country would enable you to understand. Millions there 
are who have no such thing to lay claim to. I feel considerable regret 
by turns that I have lived so many years, and have in reality done so 

1 The allusion at the close of this letter is to some affairs of the heart in 
which the young man then had an interest ; for love was no more a stranger 
to these Ohio shepherds than to those of Sicily. 



1844.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 61 

little to increase the amount of human happiness. I often regret that 
my manner is no more kind and affectionate to those I really love 
and esteem ; but I trust my friends will overlook my harsh, rough 
ways, when I cease to be in their way as an occasion of pain and un- 
happiness. In imagination I often see you in your room with Little 
Chick and that strange Anna. You must say to her that father 
means to come before long and kiss somebody. I will close by 
saying that it is my growing resolution to endeavor to promote fny 
own happiness by doing what I can to render those about me more 
so. If the large boys do wrong, call them alone into your room, and 
expostulate with them kindly, and see if you cannot reach them by a 
kind but powerful appeal to their honor. I do not claim that such 
a theory accords very well with my practice ; I frankly confess it does 
not j but I want your face to shine, even if my own should be dark 
and cloudy. You can let the family read this letter, and perhaps you 
may not feel it a great burden to answer it, and let me hear all about 
how you get along. 

Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

CLEVELAND, June 22, 1844. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I received your letter some days ago, but was 
so busy in preparing for my journey to Lowell (on which I now am) 
that I could find no time to write before. We had been waiting for 
news from you for some time, not knowing where you were, and were 
all glad of your letter. I will give a little account of things since 
you left. We moved to Akron about the 10th of April ; get along 
very pleasantly with our neighbors Perkins ; find them very affable 
and kind. Have had a good deal of loss amongst our sheep from 
grub in the head. Have raised 560 lambs, and have 2,700 pounds 
of wool ; have been offered 56 cents per pound for one ton of it. 
Jason spends most of his time in Kichfield. Have not yet done 
finishing leather, but shall probably get through in a few weeks 
after my return. The general aspect of our worldly affairs is favor 
able. Hope we do not entirely forget God. I am extremely ignorant 
at present of miscellaneous subjects. Have not been at Richfield for 
some time, and have but, a moment to write, on board a boat. I 
enclose three dollars, and would more, but may be short of expense 
money. May write you at Lowell or Boston j l may return by you. 
Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

1 Mr. Amos A. Lawrence, of Boston, writes me (Feb. 25, 1885), "Brown 
was the agent of our Firm to buy wool in Ohio, as early as 1843." 



62 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1846. 

AKRON, Jan. 27, 1846. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I arrived at home December 2d ; had a fa 
tiguing but I should think a prosperous journey, and brought with 
me a few choice sheep. Our wool sold by the sort, at from 24 cents 
to $1.20 per pound, just as we wash it on the sheep; average, about 
the same as last year, perhaps a little better. Our flock have done 
remarkably this winter, and are in good condition and health. We 
have lost but three by disease since sometime in the fall. Our sales 
of sheep (mostly bucks) since August amount to about $ 640. Since 
my return, I have been troubled considerably with my eyes. They are 
better now. Your letter to Ruth is received, and she is preparing to 
go with you when you come out. I have a plan to lay before you for 
your operations after the first of June next, and hope you will not com 
mit yourself for a longer time until you hear it. I think we have quite 
as much worldly prosperity as will be likely to be a real blessing to 
us. Fred is in Richfield for the present, with about 250 sheep arid a 
dog under his command. He seems disposed to reading and some 
thought. Would like to have you write him there, or here perhaps 
would be better. Write often. 

Affectionately your father, JOHN BROWN. 

RICHMOND, JEFFERSON COUNTY, OHIO, March 24, 1846. 

DEAR SON, I am out among the wool-growers, with a view to 
the next summer's operations. Left home about a week ago; all were 
then in middling health except some very hard colds. I expect to be 
out some three or four weeks yet, and on that account do not know as 
I shall be able to hear from you and Ruth until I get home. Hope to 
hear from you then. Mr. Perkins came home a day or two after you 
left, full in the faith of our plan, having completed our arrangements. 
Our plan seems to meet with general favor. Jason and I have talked 
of a visit to Canada on our return next fall. We would like to know 
more about that country. We should be glad to hear something from 
George Delamater, and to know where he is, and what he really means 
to be. You may, if you think best, say so to him, and tell him we 
have not forgotten him. Our unexampled success in minor affairs 
might be a lesson to us of what unity and perseverance might do in 
things of some importance. If you learn of any considerable wool- 
dealers or wool-growers, you can use the circular, and more may be 
sent if best ; of that you can judge after a little inquiry. I may 
write you again before I go home. Say to Ruth, to be all that to-day 
which she intends to be to-morrow. 

Your father, 

JOHN BROWN. 



1846.1 



JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 



63 



The " circular " mentioned in the last letter is the follow 
ing, first issued in 1846, and written by Brown : 

THE UNDERSIGNED, commission wool-merchants, wool -graders, 
and exporters, have completed arrangements for receiving wool of 
growers and holders, and for grading and selling the same for cash at 
its real value, when quality and condition are considered. Terms for 
storing, grading, and selling will be two cents per pound, and about one 
mill per pound additional for postage and insurance against loss by fire. 
These will cover all charges. Those consigning wool to us should 
pay particular attention to the marking of their sacks j near one end 

of each sack should be marked in plain characters, "From " 

(here give the owner's name in full, together with the No. and weight 
of each bale). On the side of each sack direct to Perkins & Brown, 
Springfield, Mass. 

REFERENCES. 

Persons wishing for information in regard to our responsibility, 
punctuality, etc., are referred to the following gentlemen : 



Hox. JEREMIAH H. HALLOCK, Steu- 

benville, Jefferson County, Ohio. 
ADAM HELDENBRAND, Esq., Massil- 

lon, Stark County, Ohio. 
JAMES W. WALLACE, Esq., Brandy- 
wine Mills, Summit County, Ohio. 
MATTHEW MC!\EEVER, Esq., West 

Middletown, Washington Co., Penn. 
JOHN SMART, Esq., Darlington, 

Beaver County, Penn. 
FEED'K BRANDT, Esq., Gennano, 

Harrison County, Ohio. 
BISHOP ALEXANDER CAMPBELL, 

Bethany College, Va. 
J. D. & W. H. LADD, Richmond, 

Jefferson County, Ohio. 
H. T. KIRTLAND, Esq., Poland, 

Trumbull County, Ohio. 
JOHN R. JONES, Esq., Vernon, N. Y. 
AUSTIN B. WEBSTER, Esq., Vernon, 

Oneida County, N. Y. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., 1846. 



WILLIAM PATTERSON, Esq., Patter 
son's Mills, Washington County, 
Penn. 

JAMES PATTERSON, Esq., Patterson's 
Mills, Washington County, Penn. 

SAMUEL PATTERSON, Esq., Patter 
son's Mills, Washington County, 
Penn. 

JESSE EDDINGTON, Esq., Steuben- 
ville, Jefferson County, Ohio. 

PATTERSON & EWING, Burgettstown, 
Washington County, Penn. 

WM. BROWNLP:E, Esq.. Washington, 
Washington County, Penn. 

FRED'K KINSMAN, Esq., Warren, 
Trumbull County, Ohio. 

HEM AN OVIATT, Esq., Richfield, 
Summit County, Ohio. 

VAN R. HUMPHREY, Esq., Hudson, 
Summit County, Ohio. 

PERKINS & BROWN. 



In 1846, while in the midst of these occupations as a 
wool-grower and wool-dealer, John Brown came back to 
New England for a few years, and took up his abode at 
Springfield, in Massachusetts, not very far from the first 



64 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1847. 

Connecticut home of his ancestors in Windsor. He went 
there to reside as one of this firm of Perkins & Brown, 
agents of the sheep-farmers and wool-merchants in North 
ern Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia, whose 
interests then required an agency to stand between them 
and the wool-manufacturers of New England, to whom they 
sold their fleeces. The Ohio wool-growers fancied that 
they were fleeced as well as their flocks in the transactions 
they had with these manufacturers, who would buy wool 
before it was graded, pay for it at the price of a low grade, 
and then sort it so as to bring themselves a large profit. In 
the contest which Brown carried on with them, these New 
England manufacturers finally won, but, as he thought, by 
bribing one of his subordinates. Concerning his business 
life at Springfield, I have the following particulars and 
anecdotes from Mr. E. C. Leonard, now of New Bedford, 
who had an office in the same block with Brown, at Spring 
field, near the 'railroad station and the Massasoit House. 
Mr. Leonard calls him, familiarly, "Uncle John," but not 
from relationship. 

il I first knew John Brown in the summer of 1847, when he rented 
the upper part of John L. King's old warehouse by the railroad, and 
I occupied the lower floor and cellar. He was busy with his men 
sorting wool upstairs, and seldom stopped to say more than a short 
pleasant word, in passing up or down through my store. 

" Chester W. Chapin was building a block next south of the old 
railroad office, and Uncle John had engaged one store and the lofts, 
into which he moved early in 1848. In 1850 he was winding up 
his wool business, and I engaged the room he occupied, and moved in 
to the store while he still held the lofts. I was then more intimately 
in contact with him, and learned more of his nature and opinions, 
and then learned to respect him highly. His wool business was un 
successful. I always understood that some time in 1845-46, the 
wool- growers of Pennsylvania and Ohio, and perhaps of Illinois, had 
a convention in some western city, among them Uncle John, who 
then owned a flock of Saxony sheep with Mr. Perkins of Akron, 
Ohio, said to be the finest and most perfect flock in the United States, 
arid worth about $20,000. At this convention Uncle John suggested 
the plan of having an agent in Massachusetts to whom the growers 
should send their wool, have it graded, and sold at a certain sum per 
pound. The idea took, and to the surprise of Uncle John, they pitched 



1849.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. , 65 

upon him as their agent. I understood that he was finally persuaded 
to take the agency with considerable difficulty, but at last consented, 
and went into it with his usual energy. The idea of the Association 
was, that all their wool should go there, be graded, sold, and each 
to share proportionally in the price, according to quality, fineness, 
cleanliness, etc. This was all very well the first year, when wool 
advanced somewhat upon the opening market, and the growers 
netted better prices than they had been in the habit of getting ; 
but it did not last. Uncle John tried to carry out the idea impar 
tially, with all the rigor of theory and of his habits of thought. But 
those growers who had taken pains with the fineness, cleanliness, 
etc., of their wool found they had to discount from the price it 
brought on account of the carelessness of other growers, when the 
general average was made up at the end of the season. Those, too, 
who had brought their wool to market early, and had it graded and 
sold early at good prices, found there was a discount from the falling 
of the market later in the season. Besides, Uncle John was no 
trader: he waited until his wools were graded, and then fixed a 
price ; if this suited the manufacturers they took the fleeces; if not, 
they bought elsewhere, and Uncle John had to submit finally to a 
much less price than he could have got. Yet he was a scrupulously 
honest and upright man, hard and inflexible, but everybody had 
just what belonged to him. Brown was in a position to make a for 
tune, and a regular-bred merchant would have done so, benefiting 
the wool-growers and the manufacturers mutually. But, as I said, 
it was a failure." 

How extensive this business became before it closed may 
be seen by some calculations before me, in Brown's hand 
writing, but without any date of the year, presumably, 
however, before he went to Europe, in 1849. These fig 
ures evidently represent the agent's transactions in one 
year's business : 

Freight $1,000.52 

Insurance 140.76 

Commissions 2,598.49 

Postage 1.10 

Cash 52,701.33 

Interest to 7th Aug 1,332.21 

Sundries 110.07 

Total paid, "$57,884.48 

Total received, 49,902.67 

5 " $7,981.81 



66 LITE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1847. 

This seems to indicate that Brown had advanced money 
on the wool stored in Springfield, and that the excess of his 
advances over the cash received and the expenses of the 
business had been nearly $8,000 at this time. The whole 
stock of wool covered by this account was nearly one hun 
dred and thirty thousand pounds, and the average price 
received apparently less than forty cents a pound, the 
different prices ranging from twenty-five to eighty-five 
cents a pound. 

Frederick Douglass (once a Maryland fugitive, and since 
the Marshal of the United States at Washington, twenty 
years after Brown's death, but who knew him in 1847-48 as 
a radical abolitionist, very friendly to all men of color, and 
especially to fugitive slaves) describes Brown's way of life 
at Springfield as he then saw it. Douglass had called at his 
wool warehouse first, and finding that a substantial brick 
building on a prominent street, he inferred that the occu 
pant must be a man of wealth. But the dwelling-house of 
the wool-merchant amazed him : 

11 It was a small wooden building on a hack street, in a neighbor 
hood 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 the house, the inside was plainer. Its 
furniture would have satisfied a Spartan. It would take longer to 
tell what was not in this house than what was in it. There was an 
air of plainness about it which almost suggested destitution. My first 
meal passed under the misnomer of tea, though there was nothing 
suggestive of that meal as it is generally understood. It consisted of 
beef soup, cabbage, and potatoes, a meal such as a man might relish 
after following the plough all day. There were no servants, the 
mother, daughters, and sons did the serving, and did it well. They 
were evidently used to it, and had no thought of any impropriety or 
degradation in being their own servants. It is said that a house in 
some measure reflects the character of its occupants ; this one cer 
tainly did. In it there were no disguises, no illusions, no make- 
believes: everything implied stem truth, solid purpose, and rigid 
economy. . . . He fulfilled St. Paul's idea of the head of the family. 
His wife believed in him, arid his children observed him with rever 
ence. Whenever he spoke his words commanded earnest attention. . 
His arguments, which I ventured at some points to oppose, seemed 



1850.J JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 67 

to convince all ; his appeals touched all, and his will impressed all. 
Certainly, I never felt myself in the presence of a stronger religious 
influence than while in this man's house." 

Douglass soon learned that his host was living in this 
Spartan way in order to save as much money as possible for 
his great enterprise of freeing the slaves ; and this agrees 
with what we know from other sources. It was from James 
Forman probably that Mr. Eedpath obtained the typical 
anecdote that Brown would not sell leather by the pound 
from his tannery until the. last drop of moisture had been 
dried out of it, "lest he should sell his customers water 
instead of leather." The general testimony of his business 
associates is that of Heman Oviatt who knew him at Rich 
field, and who said in 1859 : " Through life he has been 
distinguished for his integrity, and esteemed a very con 
scientious man by those who have known him." 

It was to advance the price of wool that Brown visited 
Europe, hoping to open there a market for American wool, 
some lots of which he had previously forwarded to his agents, 
the Pickersgills, in London. As will be seen later, the price 
actually got at auction in England for the second grade of 
wool was less than thirty cents a pound, or far below the 
American average. Mr. Leonard happened to be an eye 
witness to one of the instances in which Brown was griev 
ously disappointed in his English speculation, and has thus 
described what took place. We must suppose the time to 
be after Brown's return from Europe. Mr. Musgrave, the 
Yorkshire manufacturer, established in Northampton, Mass., 
was the father of T. B. Musgrave of New York, already 
cited. 

" A little incident occurred in 1850. Perkins & Brown's clip had 
come forward, and it was beautiful ; the little compact Saxony fleeces 
were as nice as possible. Mr. Musgrave of the Northampton Woollen 
Mill, who was making shawls and broadcloths, wanted it, and offered 
Uncle John sixty cents a pound for it. ' No, I am going to send it 
to London.' Musgrave, who was a Yorkshire man, advised Brown 
not to do it, for American wool would not sell in London, not being 1 
thought good. He tried hard to buy it, but without avail. Uncle 
John graded it himself, bought new sacking, and had it packed 
under his own eye. The bags were firm, round, hard, and true 



68 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1839. 

almost as if they had been turned out in a lathe, and away it went. 
Some little time after, long enough for the purpose, news came that 
it was sold in London, but the price was not stated. Musgrave came 
into my counting-room one forenoon all aglow, and said he wanted 
me to go with him, he was going to have some fun. Then he went 
to the stairs and called Uncle John, and told him he wanted him to 
go over to the Hartford depot and see a lot of wool he had bought. 
So Uncle Jolin put on his coat, and we started. When we arrived at 
the depot, and just as we were going into the freight-house, Musgrave 
says : ' Mr. Brune, I want you to tell me what you think of this lot 
of wull that stands me in just fifty-two cents a pund.' One glance 
at the bags was enough. Uncle John wheeled, and I can see him 
now as he ' put back ' to the lofts, his brown coat-tails floating be 
hind him, and the nervous strides fairly devouring the way. It was 
his own clip, for which Musgrave, some three months before, had 
offered him sixty cents a pound as it lay in the loft. It had been 
graded, new-bagged, shipped by steamer to London, sold, and re- 
shipped, and was in Springfield at eight cents in the pound less than 
Musgrave offered. 

" The last time I saw him was in 1851. He had some native wine 
that he had made, and he asked me to taste it, I think from currants, 
native grapes, and the raspberry. The latter was very excellent, and 
when I told him of the great quantities of Franconia raspberries 
growing by the roadsides in the White Mountain region, he took 
down directions, and said he should try to go there the next season 
and make a quantity of wine." 

So it seems he was a vintager as well as a shepherd; 
indeed, he sought perfection in all his undertakings, and 
was constantly improving the stock of cattle, the quality of 
orchards, grape-vines, etc., as his sons do still. In March, 
1839, he drove a herd of cattle from Ohio to Connecticut, 
and in July brought back with him a few fine sheep, from 
which he bred his first flock in Eichfield. He had made a 
previous journey to Connecticut the same year, in connec 
tion with his financial embarrassment, and in the course of 
it wrote the following letter to his wife : 

NEW HARTFORD, CONN., Jan. 23, 1839. 

... I have felt distressed to get my business done and return, 
ever since I left home, but know of no way consistent with duty but 
to make thorough work of it while there is any hope. Things now 
look more favorable than they have, but I may still be disappointed. 



1840.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 69 

We must all try to trust in Him who is very gracious and full of 
compassion and of almighty power ; for those that do will not be made 
ashamed. Ezra the prophet prayed and afflicted himself before God, 
when himself and the Captivity were in a straight, and I have no 
doubt you will join with me under similar circumstances. Don't get 
discouraged, any of you, but hope in God, and try all to serve him 
with a perfect heart. 

In 1840 he had returned to Hudson, where his father still 
lived, and there engaged largely in sheep-raising. 1 His part 
ner at first was Captain Oviatt, of Kichfield, a neighboring 
town ; and in 1842 Brown had removed to Kichfield, where 
he lived for two years, and where his daughter Anne was 
born. Here, too, he lost four children in less than three 
weeks, Sarah, aged nine ; Charles, almost six ; Peter, not 
quite three ; and Austin, a year old. Three of these were 
carried out of his house at one funeral, and were buried in 
the same grave, in September, 1843. In Springfield also, as 
we have seen, one of his children died under pathetic cir 
cumstances. Yet he looked back on his life in that city 
with pleasure. 

1 John Brown bred racing-horses in Franklin in 1836-37, from a horse 
called "Count Piper," and from another called "John McDonald." There 
was a race-course at Warren, Ohio, frequented by Kentuckians and others, 
the only racing-ground then in the Western Reserve. A certain Dr. Har 
mon owned or kept "Count Piper" and "John McDonald," from which 
Brown bred several colts ; and young John, who gave me these facts, says 
that he " broke " a young McDonald at three or four years old, perhaps 
in 1837-38. His father had no scruple about breeding race-horses at that 
time, but afterwards gave it up on principle. " He had no wish to breed 
merely draft-horses, but was always thinking of running with horses and 
of military operations." He wanted his sons to become familiar with swift 
horses, and to understand all about their management, and was himself a 
good rider, not particularly graceful, his sons say, "but it was very 
hard to throw him." He "broke" racing-horses himself. At first, he 
argued that if he did not breed them, somebody else would ; but his son 
John "convinced him that was the gamblers and the slaveholders argu 
ment, and he abandoned the business, and went into sheep-farming and tan 
ning." This I heard from John and Owen Brown in 1882, when they were 
relating to me their adventures on horseback in Kansas, in which they 
owed their escape from their enemies to the speed of their horses and the 
training of the latter to leap fences, etc. Among the men who were asso 
ciated with John Brown in business were Gilbert Hubbard (son of a ship 
chandler of Boston, and afterwards a chandler himself at Chicago), who was 



70 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1849- 

While engaged in his Springfield agency, and wishing to 
make a market for his wool, which he thought he could sell 
in Europe to advantage, he went abroad in 1849, and trav 
ersed a part of England and the Continent, on business, but 
also with an eye to his future campaigns against slavery. 
He visited wool-markets and battle-fields, and took notice 
of the tricks of trade and the manoeuvres of armies with 
equal interest. He was then noted among wool-dealers for 
the delicacy of his touch in sorting the different qualities 
and his skill in testing them when submitted to him. Give 
him three samples of wool, one grown in Ohio, another in 
Vermont, and a third in Saxony, and he would distinguish 
them from each other in the dark, by his sense of touch. 
Some Englishmen, during his sojourn abroad, put this power 
to the test in an amusing manner. One evening, in com 
pany with several English wool-dealers, each of whom had 
brought samples in his pocket, Brown was giving his opinion 
as to the best use to which certain grades and qualities 
should be put. One of the party very gravely drew a sam 
ple from his pocket, handed it to the Yankee farmer, and 
asked him what he would do with such wool as that. 
Brown took it, and had only to roll it between his fingers 
to know that it had not the minute hooks by which the 
h'bres of wool are attached to each other. "Gentlemen," 
said he, " if you have any machinery in England that will 
work up dog's hair, I advise you to put this into it." The 
jocose Briton had sheared a poodle and brought the fleece 
with him; but the laugh went against him when Brown 
handed back his precious sample. His skill in trade was 
not so great ; and, as we saw, after trying the markets 
of Europe, he finally sold his Liverpool consignments of 
wool at a lower price than they would have brought in 
Springfield. 



connected with Brown at Hudson in sheep-raising, and afterwards with him 
at Springfield in the wool business, and J. C. Fairchild, father of General 
Lucius Fairchild, of Wisconsin, who was a partner with Brown in tanning 
at Hudson, and afterwards lived at Cleveland. A young man named For- 
man, who became connected afterwards by marriage with the Fairchilds, 
was brought np by Brown at Randolph, and was living in 1861 at Youngs- 
ville, Penn. 



1849.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 71 

A few letters of his from Europe are in existence, and 
will soon be given. The only other record of his European 
experiences is, perhaps, that noted down by me from con 
versations in 1857-59, in which he described what he chiefly 
noticed abroad, the agricultural and military equipment of 
the countries visited, and the social condition of the people. 
He thought a standing army the greatest curse to a country, 
because it drained away the best of the young men, and left 
farming and the industrial arts to be managed by inferior 
persons. The German farming, he said, was bad husbandry, 
because the farmers there did not live on their land, but in 
villages, and so wasted the natural manures which ought to 
go back without diminution to the soil. He thought Eng 
land the best cultivated country he had ever seen ; but as 
we were driving away one morning in 1859 from the coun 
try seat of Mr. John M. Forbes at Milton, near Boston, he 
told me that he had seen few houses of rich men in England 
so full of beauty and comfort as this, in which he had 
passed the night. He had followed the military career of 
Napoleon with great interest, and visited some of his battle 
fields. We talked of such things while driving from Con 
cord to Medford one Sunday in April, 1857. He then told 
me that he had kept the contest against slavery in mind 
while travelling on the Continent, and had made a special 
study of the European armies and battle-fields. He had 
examined Napoleon's positions, and assured me that the 
common military theory of strong places was unsound ; that 
a ravine was in truth more defensible than a hill-top. So 
it is for an army of heroes, as Leonidas demonstrated at 
Thermopylae ; but for ordinary warfare, we may believe 
that Napoleon was right. Brown often witnessed the evo 
lutions of the Austrian troops, and declared that they could 
always be defeated (as they have since been in Italy and 
elsewhere) by soldiers who should manoeuvre more rapidly. 
The French soldiers he thought well drilled, but lacking 
individual prowess ; for that he gave the palm to our own 
countrymen. 

John Brown sailed for England in August, 1849, and 
returned to Springfield in October. He wrote to his son 
as follows : 



72 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1849. 

LONDON, Aug. 29, 1849. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I reached Liverpool on Sabbath day, the 
26th hist., and this place the 27th at evening, a debtor to Grace for 
health and for a very pleasant and quick passage. Have called on 
the Messrs. Pickersgill, and find they have neither sold any wool nor 
offered any. They think that no time has been lost, and that a good 
sale can yet be expected. It is now the calculation to offer some 
of it at the monthly sale, September next, commencing a little before 
the middle of the month. I have had no time to examine any wools 
as yet, and can therefore express no opinion of my own in the matter. 
England is a fine country, so far as I have seen; but nothing so very 
wonderful has yet appeared to me. Their forming and stone-masonry 
are very good ; cattle, generally more than middling good. 1 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 suppose I must ; 
for the streets of London and Liverpool do not exhibit half the dis 
play 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. Tell my friend Middle- 
ton and wife that England affords me plenty of roast beef and 
mutton of the first water, and done up in a style not to be exceeded. 
As I intend to write you very often I shall not be lengthy; shall 
probably add more to this sheet before I seal it. Since writing the 
above, I find that it will be my best way to set out at once for the 
Continent, and I expect to leave for Paris this evening. So farewell 
for this time, now about four o'clock p. M. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 



LONDON, Sept. 21, 1849. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I have nothing new to write excepting that I 
am still well, and that on Monday a lot of No. 2 wool was sold 
at the auction sale, at from twenty-six to twenty-nine cents per pound. 
This is a bad sale, and I have withdrawn all other wools from the 

1 Writing Sept. 30, 1850, to an inquiring correspondent, John Brown 
said : " None of rny cattle are pure Devons, but a mixture of that end 
a particular favorite stock from Connecticut, a cross of which I much 
prefer to any pure English cattle, after many years experience, of different 
breeds. I was several months in England last season, and saw no one 
stock on any farm that would average better than my own." 



1849.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 73 

market, or public sales. Since the other wools have been withdrawn, 
I have discovered a much greater interest among the buyers, and 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 and from the United States. I can only say that 
I have exerted myself to the utmost, and 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 No. 2 wool was bought for the United 
States ; and I learn that the general feeling is now that it was 
quite undersold. About one hundred and fifty bales were sold. I 
regret that so many bales were put up ; but it cannot be helped now, 
for after wool has been subjected to a London examination for public 
sale, it is very much injured for selling again. The agent of Thirion, 
Mallard, & Co., has been looking at them to-day, and seemed highly 
pleased ; said he had never seen superior wools, and 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 operation. Farewell. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

WESTPORT, N. Y., Nov. 9, 1849. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I reached home last week, and found all well, 
and the weather fine, which has been the case since you left Essex 
County. I expect to return to Springfield some day next week, but 
wish you would forward me (without delay} by letter directed to me 
at this place (Westport, Essex Co.), care of F. H. Cutting, a draft 
on New York for $250, payable to my order. Please let my wife 
know. 

Your affectionate father, JOHN BROWN. 

John Brown landed in England, Sunday, Aug. 26, 1849, 
and was in Paris on the 29th and 30th of August. His 
journey through Germany must have been swift, for he was 
again in London, September 21 ; but he may have visited 
the Continent again in October, for he did not land in New 
York until the last week in October, and proceeded from 
there to Westport on his way to North Elba (where his 
family were then settled), as the short letter above printed 
shows. His wife, however, was then at a water-cure 
establishment in Northampton, while John was managing 



74 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1850. 

the business in Springfield. The story of his settlement in 
the wilderness of northern New York will be more fully 
given hereafter. So far as his wool business was concerned, 
this forest home afforded him a quiet retreat from the 
annoyances which the failure of his mercantile enterprise 
brought upon him. All through 1850 it was evident that 
the result would be unfortunate, and it was feared his losses 
might be large. Brown was anxious, not without reason, 
lest his partner in Ohio, Simon Perkins, might blame him 
for his peculiar and obstinate course in trying to force the 
market, without success. The following letters show how 
this affair turned : 

John Brown to his Family. 

BURGETTSTOWN, PfiNN., April 12, 1850. 

DEAR SON JOHN AND WIFE, When at New York, on my way 
here, I called at Messrs. Fowler & Wells's office, but you were 
absent. Mr. Perkins has made me a visit here, and left for home 
yesterday. All well at Essex when I left; all well at Akron when 
he left, one week since. Our meeting together was one of the most 
cordial and pleasant I ever experienced. He met a full history of 
our difficulties and probable losses without a frown on his counte 
nance, or one syllable of reflection ; but, on the contrary, with words 
of comfort and encouragement. He is wholly averse to any separa 
tion of our business or interest, and gave me the fullest assurance of 
his undiminished confidence and personal regard. He expresses 
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, and I most heartily wish 
each of my family could have shared in the comfort of it. Mr. Per 
kins has in the 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 difficulty while God continues me such a 
partner. Expect to be in New York within three or four weeks. 
Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

AKRON, April 25, 1850. 

DEAR SON JOHN AND WIFE, I reached here well yesterday, 
and found all well. Since I came I have seen your letter to Jason, 
by which I am taken somewhat by surprise; but am exceedingly 



1850.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 75 

gratified to learn that you have concluded to quit that city. I have 
only to say at this moment, do suspend all further plans and move 
ments until you can hear the result of a general consultation over 
matters with Mr. Perkins, your grandfather, and Jason. I will just 
say, in few words, that such is the effect here of the California fever, 
that a man is becoming more precious than gold ; and I very much 
want my family to take the legitimate and proper advantage of it. 
Edward has got married and gone to California. 
Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

WHITEHALL, N. Y., Nov. 4, 18:0. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I was disappointed in not seeing you and 
Wealthy l while in Ohio ; and not till within a few days did I get to 
know where to write you, as I have been on the move most of the 
season. I should have written you while at Ravenna, but expected 
every day to see you. We have trouble : Pickersgills, McDonald, 
Jones, Warren, Burlington, and Patterson & Ewing, these differ 
ent claims amount to some forty thousand dollars, and if lost will 
leave me nice and flat. This is in confidence. Mr. Perkins bears the 
trouble a great deal better than I had feared. I have been trying to 
collect, and am still trying. Have not yet effected a sale of our wool. 
I expect to take some of the best of my cattle to Akron. Our crops 
in Essex were very good this season, and expenses small. The fam 
ily were well when last heard from. Am now on my way home. 
Ruth was married in September, and I think has done well. I want 
you to write me at Springfield all how you get along, and what you 
are doing and intend to do, and what your prospects are. I have in 
no way altered my plan of future operations since conversing with 
you, and I found Mr. Perkins's views fully correspond with my own. 
I have my head and hands quite full ; so no more now. 
Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., Dec. 4, 1850. 

DEAR SONS JOHN, JASON, FREDERICK, AND DAUGHTERS, I 
this moment received the letter of John and Jason of the 29th No 
vember, and feel grateful not only to learn that you are all alive and 
well, but also for almost everything your letters communicate. I am 
much pleased with the reflection that you are all three once more to 
gether, and all engaged in the same calling that the old patriarchs 
followed. I will say but one word more on that score, and that is 

1 The wife of John. 



76 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1850. 

taken from their history : " See that ye fall not out by the way," arid 
all will be exactly right in the end. I should think matters were 
brightening a little in this direction, in regard to our claims; but I 
have not yet been able to get any of them to a final issue. I think, 
too, that the prospect for the fine- wool business rather improves. 
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 
livino- man can possibly bring about in a short time, and that he is 
getting out of patience and becoming distrustful. If I could be with 
him in all I do, or could possibly attend to all my cares, and give him 
full explanations by letter of all my movements, I should be greatly 
relieved. He is a most noble- spirited man, to whom I feel most 
deeply indebted ; and no amount of money would atone to my feel 
ings for the loss of confidence and cordiality on his part. If my sons, 
who are so near him, conduct wisely and faithfully and kindly in 
what they have undertaken, they will, beyond the possibility of a 
doubt, secure to themselves a full reward, if they should not be the 
means of entirely relieving a father of his burdens. 

I will once more repeat an idea I have often mentioned in regard 
to business life in general. A world of pleasure and of success is the 
sure and constant attendant upon early rising. It makes all the busi 
ness of the day go off with a peculiar cheerfulness, while the effects of 
the contrary course are a great and constant draft upon one's vitality 
and good temper. When last. at home in Essex, I spent every day 
but the first afternoon surveying or in tracing out old lost boundaries, 
about which I was very successful, working early and late, at two dol 
lars per day. This was of the utmost service to both body and mind ; 
it exercised me to the full extent, and for the time being almost en 
tirely divested my mind from its burdens, so that I returned to my 
task very greatly refreshed and invigorated. 

John asks me about Essex. I will say that the family there were 
living upon the bread, milk, butter, pork, chickens, potatoes, turnips, 
carrots, etc., of their own raising, and the most of them abundant iu 
quantity and superior in quality. I have nowhere seen such pota 
toes. Essex County so abounds in hay, grain, potatoes, and ruta 
bagas, etc., that I find unexpected difficulty in selling for cash oats 
and some other things we have to spare. Last year it was exactly 
the reverse. The weather was charming up to the 1 5th November, 
when I left, and never before did the country seem to hold out so many 
things to entice me to stay on its soil. Nothing but a strong sense of 
duty, obligation, and propriety would keep me from laying my bones 
to rest there ; but I shall cheerfully endeavor to make that sense my 
guide, God always helping. It is a source of the utmost comfort to 
feel that I retain a warm place in the sympathies, affections, and 



1850.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 77 

confidence of my own most familiar acquaintance, my family and 
allow me to say that, a man can hardly get into difficulties too big to 
be surmounted, if he has a firm foothold at home. Remember that. 

I am glad Jason has made the sales he mentions, on many accounts. 
It will relieve his immediate money wants, a thing that made me 
somewhat unhappy, as I could not at once supply them. It will 
lessen his care and the need of being gone from home, perhaps to the 
injury somewhat of the flock that lies at the foundation, and possibly 
to the injury of Mr. Perkins's feelings on that account, in some 
measure. He will certainly have less to divide his attention. I had 
felt some worried about it, and I most heartily rejoice to hear it; for 
you may all rest assured that the old flock has been, and so long as 
we have anything to do with it will continue to be, the main root, 
either directly or indirectly. In a few short months it will afford 
another crop of wool. 

I am sorry for John's trouble in his throat ; I hope he will soon 
get relieved of that. I have some doubt about the cold-water prac 
tice in cases of that kind, but do not suppose a resort to medicines of 
much account. Regular out-of-door labor I believe to*be one of the 
best medicines of all that God has yet provided. As to Essex, I have 
no question at all. For stock-growing and dairy business, consider 
ing its healthfulness, cheapness of price, and nearness to the two best 
markets in the Union (New York and Boston), I do not know where 
we could go to do better. I am much refreshed by your letters, and 
until you hear from me to the contrary, shall be glad to have you 
write me here often. Last night I was up till after midnight writing 
to Mr. Perkins, and perhaps used some expressions in my rather 
cloudy state of mind that I had better not have used. I mentioned 
to him that Jason understood that he disliked his management of the 
flock somewhat, and was worried about that and the poor hay he 
would have to feed out during the winter. I did not mean to write 
him anything offensive, and hope he will so understand me. 

There is now a fine plank road completed from Westport to Eliza- 
bethtown. \\ r e have no hired person about the family in Essex. 
Henry Thompson is clearing up a piece of ground that the*" colored 
brethren" chopped for me. He boards with the family; and, by the 
way, he gets lluth out of bed so as to have breakfast before light, 
mornings. 

I want to have you save or secure the first real prompt, fine-look 
ing, black shepherd puppy whose ears stand erect, that you can get ; 
I do not care about his training at all, further than to have him 
learn to come to you when bid, to sit down and lie down when 
told, or something in the way of play. Messrs. Cleveland & Titus, 
our lawyers in Xew York, are anxious to get one for a plaything ; 



78 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1850. 

and I am well satisfied, that, should I give them one as a matter of 
friendship, it would be more appreciated by them, and do more to 
secure their best services in our suit with Pickersgill, than would a 
hundred dollars paid them in the way of fees. I want Jason to ob 
tain from Mr. Perkins, or anywhere he can get them, two good junk- 
bottles, have them thoroughly cleaned, and filled with the cherry 
wine, being very careful not to roil it up before filling the bottles, 
providing good corks and filling them perfectly full. These I want 
him to pack safely in a very small strong box, which he can make, 
direct them to Perkins & Brown, Springfield, Mass., and send them 
by express. We can effect something to purpose by producing un 
adulterated domestic wines. They will command great prices. 1 It 
is again getting late at night; and 1 close by wishing every present 
as well as future good. 

Your affectionate lather, 

JOHN BROWN. 

Sl'lUNGFIELD, MASS., Dec. 6, 1850. 

DEAR SON^ JOHN, Your kind letter is received. By same mail 
I also have one from Mr. Perkins in answer to one of mine, in which 
I did in no very indistinct way introduce some queries, not altogether 
unlike those your letter contained. Indeed, your letter throughout is 
so much like what has often passed through my own mind, that were 
I not a little scoptical yet, I should conclude you had access to some 
of the knocking spirits. 2 I shall not write you very long, as I mean 

1 This fixes the date of the anecdote told by Mr. Leonard concerning 
the wines which Brown had to exhibit ; it must have been after this time, 
and probably in 1851. John Brown, Jr., lias been for many years cultivat 
ing the grape on an island in Lake Erie, and his brother Jason is now 
doing the same in Southern California. Their principles, however, forbid 
them to make wine. 

2 This was the period when the Fox family, at Rochester, N. Y., were 
astonishing the world with their knockings and the messages from another 
world which these were supposed to convey. John Brown, Jr., was inclined 
to believe-in the reality of this "rat-hole revelation " (as Emerson described 
it to Henry Ward Beecher) ; but his father was sceptical. He talked with 
his son at the American House, Springfield, in 1848, concerning this mat 
ter, and told him that the Bible contains the whole revelation of God ; that 
since that canon was closed, "the book has been sealed." In his later 
years he was less confident of this ; and in 1859, when he last talked with 
John Brown, Jr., on the subject, he said he had received messages, as he 
believed, from Dianthe Lusk, which had directed his conduct in cases of 
perplexity. Milton Lusk has been a believer in " Spiritualism " for many 
years ; indeed, he is naturally heretical, and was excommunicated by the 
church in Hudson, in 1835. 



1853.J JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 79 

to write again before many days. Mr. Perkins's letter, to which I 
just alluded, appears to be written in a very kind spirit ; arid so long 
as he is right-side up, I shall by no means despond ; indeed, I think 
the fog clearing away from our matters a little. I certainly wish to 
understand, and I mean to understand, " how the land lies" before 
taking any important steps. You can assist me very much about 
being posted up ; but you will be able to get hold of the right end 
exactly by having everything done up first-rate, and by becoming 
very familiar, and not by keeping distant. I most earnestly hope 
that should I lose caste, my family will at least prove themselves 
worthy of respect and confidence ; and I am sure that my three sons 
in Akron can do a great job for themselves and for the family if 
they behave themselves wisely. Your letter so well expresses my 
own feelings, that were it not for one expression I would mail it 
with one I have just finished, to Mr. Perkins. Can you not all 
three effectually secure the name of good business men this winter! 
That you are considered honest and rather intelligent I have no 
doubt. 

I do not believe the losses of our firm will in the end prove so very 
severe, if Mr. Perkins can only be kept resolute and patient in regard 
to matters. I have often made mistakes by being too hasty, and 
mean hereafter to *' ponder well the path of my feet." I mean to 
pursue in all things such a course as is in reality wise, and as will in 
the end give to myself and family the least possible cause for regret. 
I believe Mr. Newton is properly authorized to take testimony. If 
so, I wish you to ascertain the fact and write me ; if not, I want you 
to learn through Mr. Perkins who would be a suitable person for that 
business, as I expect before many weeks to want your testimony, 
and I want you to give me the name. I forgot to write to Mr. Per 
kins about it, and have sealed up my letter to him. I mentioned 
about your testimony, but forgot what I should have written. 
Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

As may be inferred from these letters, the settlement of 
Perkins & Brown's affairs involved several lawsuits, some 
brought by them and some against them. These were tried 
in several places, at New York, at Troy, and in one in 
stance at Boston. The latter was tried before Caleb Gushing 
in the winter of 1852-53, and was one of the last cases 
heard by Judge Cashing before leaving his seat in the Su 
preme Court of Massachusetts to take his place in President 
Pierce's cabinet as attorney-general. The suit was brought 



80 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1853. 

by the Burlington Mills Company of Vermont, represented 
in Boston by Jacob Sleeper and others, against John Brown 
and others, for a breach of contract in supplying wool to 
these mills of certain grades ; and the damages were laid at 
sixty thousand dollars. It was pending for a long time, the 
counsel against Brown being Rufus Choate and Francis B. 
Hayes, and his own senior counsel being the eminent Xew 
York lawyer, Joshua Y. Spencer. It finally came to trial 
in Boston, Jan. 14, 1853, and after several postponements 
and the taking of much testimony it was settled, Feb. 3, 
1853, by a compromise between the counsel, the anticipated 
decision of the court being against Brown. About a year 
later he won a similar suit in a iS ew York court ; and he 
always believed that he should have won his Boston suit, if 
the case had been tried on its merits. An appeal was taken 
from the verdict in Brown's favor, at Troy, N. Y. ; and 
while this was pending, in the spring of 1854, he was at Ver- 
non, near Utica, N. Y., assisting his counsel, Mr. Jenkins, 
to prepare the case. A person in the law-office of his coun 
sel tells this anecdote, to show how his love of liberty 
interfered with his business : 



" The morning after the news of the Burns affair reached Yernon, 
Brown went at his work immediately after breakfast; but in a few 
minutes started up from his chair, walked rapidly across the room 
several times, then suddenly turned to his counsel and said, ' I am 
going to Boston.' ' Going to Boston ! ' said the astonished lawyer ; 
' why do you want to go to Boston 1 ' Old Brown continued walking 
vigorously, and replied, l Anthony Burns must be released, or I will 
die in the attempt.' The counsel dropped his pen in consternation j 
then he began to remonstrate: told him the suit had been in progress 
a long time, and a verdict just gained ; it was appealed from, and that 
appeal must be answered in so many days, or the whole labor would 
be lost: and no one was sufficiently familiar with the whole case 
except himself. It took a long and earnest talk with old Brown to 
persuade him to remain. His memory and acuteness in that long 
and tedious lawsuit often astonished his counsel. While here he 
wore an entire suit of snuff-colored cloth, the coat of a decidedly Qua 
kerish cut in collar and skirt. He wore no beard, and was a clean 
shaven, scrupulously neat, well dressed, quiet old gentleman. He 
was, however, notably resolute in all that he did." 



1851.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 81 

At this time Brown was fifty-four years old, but looked 
five years beyond his age ; and this aged appearance was 
increased by his hardships in Kansas, so that he might have 
passed for seventy at his death in 1859. 

The following letters relate to these lawsuits : 

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO, May 15, 1851. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I wrote you some days since, enclosing ten 
dollars, and requesting you to acknowledge it, and also to hold your 
self in readiness to go to Pittsburgh when called upon ; since which 
I have not heard from you. I am now on my way to Akron ; arid 
as our causes at Pittsburgh have been continued until next fall, we 
shall not need you there until then. We have now no prospect of 
any trial until fall, except with Henry Warren; and we wish you to 
so arrange your business that you can leave for Troy upon a short 
notice. I also want you to keep me advised at Akron of your where 
abouts, so that I may call upon you should I have time. I did ex 
pect to go to Hartford when I left home, but find I must alter my 
course. I was in Essex on Tuesday last. Left Ruth and husband 
well, and very comfortably situated. We seem to get along as pleas 
antly as I expected, so far ; can't say how long it will be so ; hope 
we may continue. I want you to write often and let us know how 
you get along. Had sad work among our Saxony ewes and lambs 
by dogs, Saturday night last : probably forty killed and wounded. 
Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

CLEVELAND, Oct. 30, 1851. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I have just landed here from Buffalo, and 
expect to leave for Akron by next train. As soon as I learn at what 
time we shall want you at Pittsburgh I will let you know ; but I 
now suppose we shall want you there immediately, and wish you to 
hold yourself in constant readiness. Have heard nothing further 
from home or from Essex since we parted. Met Mr. Jenkins at Al 
bany, and we came on together to Utica. He was pleased with the 
course we took at Lanesboro, and was in very good spirits; says he 
learned through Brigham, while at Albany, that Warren's attorneys 
feel pretty well cornered up : l says we did right in not taking your 
deposition in Burlington case. 

Your affectionate father, JOHN BROWN. 

1 In a previous letter to his family, Brown says (Oct. 6, 1851) : " I have 
strong hopes of success finally in disposing of our business here [Troy], but 
it is exceedingly troublesome and expensive." 

6 



82 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1852. 

AKRON, Omo, Dec. 1, 1851. 

DEAR SON JOHN, Yours, dated November 14, came on in season, 
but an increased amount of cares has prevented me from answering 
sooner. One serious difficulty has been with Frederick, who has 
been very wild again. He is again, however, to all appearance 
nearly recovered from it by the return to an abstemious course of 
living, almost, if not quite, the only means used. He had gradu 
ally slid back into his old habit of indulgence in eating, the effect of 
which I consider as being now fully demonstrated. I now expect to 
set out for Troy on Wednesday of this week, at furthest ; and if you 
do not see me at Vernon before the stage leaves on Thursday, I wish 
you to take it on that day, so as to meet me at Bonnet's Temperance 
House in Buffalo. The going is too bad to go by private convey 
ance, and I am yet at a loss how I can get through from Warren 
to Vernon with my trunk of books, etc. I intend to bring my 
watch with me. I have accomplished a good deal in the way of 
preparation for winter, but shall be obliged to leave a great deal un 
done. If you do not find me at Buffalo (or before you get there), 
you may wait there not longer than till Saturday evening, and then 
take the cars for Troy. You will learn at Bonnet's whether I am 
behind or not. If you have not funds sufficient to take you to Troy, 
you can probably borrow a little, to be refunded immediately when I 
see you, by Perkins & Brown. 

Yours, J. B. 

NEW YORK, March 11, 1852. 
SIMON PERKINS, ESQ. 

DEAR SIR, I called on Messrs. Cleveland & Titus to-day. Found 
Mr. Cleveland intended to charge us three hundred dollars as a bal 
ance of accounts. I asked him for the principal items of his charge, 
which he promised to make up, and leave, directed to you, care of 
Messrs. Delano, Dunlevy, & Co., 39 Wall Street. He said he could 
not make it up without keeping me detained over night. As I could 
see no advantage to be derived from waiting, after hearing his expla 
nation of the matter, I concluded not to wait. He says he drew an 
amended bill after drawing the first complaint, and that he gave 
more time to that than he did to the complaint. Since I left him I 
have thought this was not quite right, after the conversation we had 
with him together, and after our letter to them dated May 16, 1851. 
He said to me that if I was not satisfied with the charge it should be 
reduced. I did not tell him what I thought ; but if I had thought 
of our letter at the time I should have asked him to refer to it, as 
I think he went contrary to his own advice, and also to our last 
instructions. If you call on him, I wish you would ask him to read 



1852.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 83 

that letter to you. I think it can do no harm, and that he will prob 
ably abate something from his charge. I should not now, after 
reflecting upon it, hesitate to say that I think he ought to do it (and 
since looking up the copy of our letter to them). In haste, 

Your friend, JOHN BROWN. l 

P. S. If you call on Cleveland & Titus, and can find room, I 
would be glad to have you bring the papers in that case. I forgot 
to ask for them. 

Yours truly, J. B. 

The Boston trial was put off from time to time, from 
September, 1852, to November, and then to December. John 
Brown wrote to his son John in September : " When our suit 
comes on in November, we shall not need to detain you but 
a few days, and the want of your testimony might work our 
ruin. Write me on receipt of this." Nov. 20, 1852, he wrote 
again, 

I parted with Frederick at Ravenna, on his way to your place ; 
he has told you of the death of our Mr. Jenkins (of Vernou, N. Y., a 
brother of Timothy Jenkins). We have employed Timothy Jenkins, 
M. C., to finish up his business, and I am now on my way to assist 
him to understand it, previous to having our trial with 0. J. Richard 
son. We now expect our trial at Boston to come off sometime about 
the middle of December, and hope to see the end of it before the 
close. We hope the situation of your family is such, before this time, 
that you are relieved in regard to the anxiety you have expressed, so 
that you can leave at once, and go on when you get notice of the time. 
I will send you funds for your expenses and the earliest possible in 
formation of the exact time when the trial will come on. All were well 
at home and at Hudson this morning. I should wait and go on with 
you, did not our Warren business require my immediate attention. I 
suppose our Pittsburgh cause is decided before this ; but we had not 
heard from it when I left. I will only add that you all have my most 
earnest desire for your real welfare. Will you drop me a line (care 
of A. B. Ely, Esq., Boston), on receipt of this, to let me hear how 
you all do ? 

Your aifectionate father, JOHN BROWN. 

1 On the same date (March 11, 1852), but from New Haven, Brown 
writes to his family : " I received Henry's letter of the 3d at Troy, which 
place I left yesterday in order to meet Mr. Perkins, who has come on here 
on railroad business. I have at last got through trying our cause at Troj% 
but have not yet got a decision. I think it will, without doubt, be in our 
favor." 



84 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1852. 

VERXON, ONEIDA COUNTY, N. Y., Dec. 8, 1852. 
DEAR SON JOHN, I have this moment got a line from Mr. Ely, 
saying our trial at Boston will not come on until the first week in 
January next. I give you this early notice, in hopes that it will re 
lieve your mind in a measure, and that it will be more convenient for 
you to be absent at that time. I do not know whether I shall be able 
to go home again before that time or not. Will write you hereafter 
when to set out for Boston, and supply you with funds for expenses. 
My best wishes for you all. 

AKRON, OHIO, Dec. 9, 1852. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I reached home last night, and found all well. 
I came by the Erie Railroad, and got along very well until I left 
Dunkirk. Fare from Dunkirk to Cleveland, $8.90; expenses from 
same to same, $4.02, and was two and a half entire days getting 
through, the roads being vastly worse than when we went out. Had 
I expected so hard and so expensive a trip, I should not have re 
turned. I mean to go back by Pittsburgh and Philadelphia", there 
being on that route but twenty-eight miles of sleighing, from Troy to 
Hudson, and that on a good road. I intend to get back to Troy by 
the 17th if I can. Have not yet seen Mr. Perkins, to have any con 
versation with him of any account. Whatever you may do in the 
preparation of papers will be all well for the Burlington case. You 
will have saved a great amount of exposure, hardship, and expense by 
staying behind. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

VERGENNES, VERMONT, Dec. 22, 1852. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I have written Mr. Perkins to send you money 
for expenses, so that you may set out for Boston by the 21st January 
at furthest. I am too much used up about money to remit, or I should 
do so. I have written Mr. Perkins to come on himself by way of 
Vernon ; but if he does not get on, or send you money in time, do 
not on any account delay setting out, if you have to borrow the 
money for a few days. The money will be sent, and if it does not 
reach you in time, Wealthy 1 can use it to pay, should you not have 
it on hand. Mr. Beebe has got home from Europe, which we think 
very fortunate. Mr. Harrington is here with me from Troy ; he has 
got his case against Warren affirmed during the last week. I hope 
this may prove a sickness to Warren about standing out against us. 

1 The wife of John Bro\vn, Jr. 



1851.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 85 

I am so much in haste, and have my mind so full, that I can think 
of no more now, except that I stop at the Exchange Coffee House in 
Boston. May God in mercy bless you all. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

This trial, so anxiously awaited and prepared for, went 
against Brown, as has been said, and he withdrew from 
trade and litigation, for which he was ill-fitted, to the life 
of a shepherd and a pioneer once more. Profiting by his 
experience, however, he gave this good advice to his son 
John, who at one time was tempted to take up the business 
of wool-buying : 

HUDSON, OHIO, May 20, 1851. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I learn by brother Jeremiah, who has just 
returned, that you have engaged yourself to buy wool. I have no 
objection to your doing so ; but an untiring anxiety for your welfare 
naturally inclines me to remind you of some of the temptations to 
which you may be exposed, as well as some of the difficulties you 
may meet with. Wool-buyers generally accuse each other of being 
unscrupulous liars; and in that one thing perhaps they are not so. 
Again, there are but very few persons who need money, that can 
wholly resist the temptation of feeling too rich, while handling any con 
siderable amount of other people's money. They are also liable to 
devote God's blessed Sabbath to conversation or contrivances for fur 
thering their schemes, if not to the examination and purchase of wool. 
Now, I would not have you barter away your conscience or good name 
for a commission. You will find that many will pile away their wool, 
putting the best outside, and will be entirely unwilling you should 
handle it all. I would at once leave such lots, unless that point is 
yielded. I would have an absolute limit of prices on the different 
grades. You can throw into different grades, pretty fast, a lot of wool, 
so as to see pretty nearly whether it will average above or below the 
grade you wish generally to buy. Do not let your anxiety to buy carry 
you one inch beyond your judgment. Do not be influenced a particle 
by what you hear others have offered. Never make an absolute offer 
to any one for his wool. If persons will not set a price on it, which you 
feel confident you are authorized to pay, you can ask them if they will 
not take so much, without really making any bid. If you make bids, 
some other buyer will follow you, and get the wool by offering a 
trifle more. A very trifling difference will very often do as much 
towards satisfying persons as would a greater one. You will gener- 



86 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1851. 

ally buy to the best advantage where the wool is generally good and 
washed: you can buy to better advantage by finding a good stand, 
and there buying no more than you have the funds on hand to pay 
for. Do not agree to pay money you have not on hand. Remember 
that. Say who you are employed to buy for frankly if asked. The 
less you have to say about the why or wherefore the better, other 
than that you are limited. A book containing the grading of numer 
ous lots of wool is with me at Akron, to which you can have access ; 
it may be of service to you about knowing how different lots will 
average. Buy you a superior cow, one that you have milked your 
self, and know to give a good quantity of milk, before getting a 
horse. The getting of a horse will get for you numerous absolute 
wants you would otherwise not have. All well. Shall want to know 
where to find you. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 



We see here the homely, Franklin-like wisdom and Con 
necticut caution of the man. In his whole business life, 
though his judgment was often at fault, his uprightness was 
manifest. Though unfortunate, lie was never unjust. He 
was industrious in whatever he undertook, fair and scru 
pulous in his business transactions, but with a touch of eccen 
tricity, which showed itself particularly, his friends thought, 
in his deeds of charity. While living in Pennsylvania he 
declined to do military duty, and paid his fine rather than 
encourage war by learning the art, resolving, as Thoreau 
said in 1859, " that he would have nothing to do with any 
war unless it were a war for liberty. 7 ' He caused the arrest 
of an offender there, who had done him no injury, but was 
a plague to the community ; and while this man was in 
prison, Brown supplied his wants and supported his family 
until the trial, out of his own earnings. One of the appren 
tices in his tanyard at that time bears testimony to the 
singular probity of his life. "I" have known him from 
boyhood through manhood," said Mr. Oviatt, of Richfield, 
" and he has always been distinguished for his truthfulness 
and integrity." Another Ohio acquaintance, who first knew 
him in 1836, says : " Soon after my removal to Akron, he 
became a client of mine, subsequently a resident of the 
township in which the town of Akron is situated, and during 



1842.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 87 

a portion of the time a member of a Bible-class taught by 
me. I always regarded him as a man of more than ordinary 
mental capacity, of very ardent and excitable temperament, 
of unblemished moral character ; a kind neighbor, a good 
Christian, deeply imbued with religious feelings and sympa 
thies. In a business point of view, his temperament led him 
into pecuniary difficulties, but I never knew his integrity 
questioned by any person whatsoever." Mr. Baldwin, of 
Hudson, son-in-law of that Squire Hudson for whom the 
town was named, said that he first knew John Brown in 
1814, and always found him " of rigid integrity and ardent 
temperament," which describes him well. When he went 
to live in Springfield, he was for some years the client of the 
late Chief-Justice Chapman, who called him "a quiet and 
peaceable citizen and a religious man," and further said : 
" Mr. Brown's integrity was never doubted, and he was hon 
orable in all his dealings, but peculiar in many of his notions, 
and adhering to them with great obstinacy." This was true, 
also, of the chief-justice, and is a New-England trait. But 
for Brown's " peculiar notions " and "great obstinacy," there 
would have been no occasion to write this biography. 



John Brown, Jr., who was well acquainted with his 
father's business life from 1837 onward, has furnished 
me this statement bearing on several of the events in this 
period of his life : 

11 The bankruptcy of 1842 had little to do with any speculation in 
wool, for at that time my father was not a wool-dealer on a large 
scale, but sold his own ' clip,' as other farmers did. His failure, 
as I now remember, was wholly owing to his purchase of land on 
credit, including the Haymaker farm at Franklin, which he bought 
in connection with Seth Thompson of Hartford, Trumbull County, 
Ohio, and his individual purchase of three rather large adjoining 
farms in Hudson. When he bought those farms, the rise in value 
of his place in Franklin was such that good judges estimated his 
property worth fully twenty thousand dollars. He was then thought 
to be a man of excellent business judgment, and was chosen one of 
the Directors of a Bank at Cuyahoga Falls. The financial crash 



88 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1842. 

came in 1837, and down came all of father's castles, and buried the 
reputation he had achieved of possessing at least good common-sense 
in respect to business matters. In his conversations with me in later 
years respecting the mistakes he had made, I have heard him say 
that ' these grew out of one root, doing business on credit.' 
4 Where loans are amply secured/ he would say, ' the borrower, 
not the lender, takes the risks, and all the contingencies incident to 
business; while the accumulations of interest and the coming of 
pay-day are as sure as death. Instead of being thoroughly im 
bued with the doctrine of pay as you go,' he said, ' I started out in 
life with the idea that nothing could be done without capital, and 
that a poor man must use his credit and borrow ; and this pernicious 
notion has been the rock on which I, as well as so 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. Run 
ning into debt includes so much of evil that I hope all my children 
will shun it as they would a pestilence.' 

" His imprisonment in the county jail had nothing to do with any 
of his wool matters, but related entirely to the affair of ' the old log 
fort.' The purchaser of the Hudson farm got out a warrant against 
father, Jason, Owen, and me for breach of the peace, alleging 
that he feared personal harm in his attempts at taking possession ; 
and, alleging further that he could not obtain justice in Hudson, he 
swore out his warrant before a Justice in an adjoining township. 
We made no resistance whatever to the service of the writ, and 
appeared for examination before the Justice in that town, who was 
plainly in full sympathy with the complainant ; and after a brief 
hearing he required us to enter into bonds for our appearance at the 
county court in Akron. These we would not give; and next day 
we went to jail. The sheriff, a friend of father, and who under 
stood the merits of the case, went through the form of turning the 
jail-key on us, then opened the door and gave us the liberty of the 
town, putting us upon our honor not to leave it. We were then taken 
to board at a nice private residence, at county expense, for three or 
four days only, as it was just before the sitting of Court. On call 
ing the case it was ' nolled? and we returned home. This scheme of 
the purchaser resulted in his getting possession of one of the fine 
farms which father then owned in Hudson, and that too within half 
an hour after our arrest. This is all there was in the matter of our 
having once been in Akron Jail. 

" In correction of what you told me Colonel Perkins said to dis 
parage my father's skill as a shepherd, his success in business, 
etc., let me remark that the correspondence of Perkins & Brown, if 
exhibited, would not confirm these statements. Since father had 



1850.] JOHN BROWN AS A BUSINESS MAN. 89 

become well known as a grower of the finest Saxony wool by 
the fine-wool growers of Pennsylvania and Ohio, and somewhat 
of Western Virginia, when these men all thought they were vic 
timized by the manufacturers of fine wool, father was urged by 
these growers to undertake the work of grading their wool and 
selling it on commission, in hopes to obtain in this way fairer 
prices. Mr. Perkins not only ' allowed ' father to undertake this, 
but entered heartily into the plan, which for a year or two was 
successful, until the manufacturers discovered that Perkins & 
Brown were receiving a large share of the really fine \vool grown in 
this country, and that if they bought it they must pay a fairer price 
for it. This would greatly diminish the profits heretofore made by 
the manufacturers of these very fine wools ; and so this high-handed 
attempt, not to ''control,' as stated by Mr. Musgrave, but to 
influence the price somewhat ' in the interest of the farmers,' must 
be squelched. The manufacturers combined, and 'boycotted' these 
upstart dealers. From the quoted prices in the London market of 
grades of wool not equal, as father well knew, to the wool he had, 
he became satisfied that rather than take the prices which the com 
bination would pay it would be better to send the wool abroad. The 
clique had long arms, and finally bought at low rates and brought 
back the wool he shipped to London ; and the farmers, most of 
whom had consented to the undertaking of sending it abroad, suffered 
great loss. Thus ended the wool business of Perkins & Brown." 



90 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1826. 



CHAPTEE IV. 
PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACS. 

THE Brown family were born to be pioneers, and none 
of them more than our Kansas hero. His first Ameri 
can ancestor was a pioneer at Plymouth in 1620 ; the next 
generation were pioneers in Connecticut ; and their descend 
ants went from wilderness to wilderness until New Eng 
land was fairly civilized. Then Owen Brown, of Torrington, 
took up the march again, and encamped in Ohio, where his 
famous son took the first lessons of a pioneer among the 
Indians of Cuyahoga and the Great Portage. This expe 
rience ended, and the attractions of civilization proving too 
weak for him, he pushed eastward into the woods of Penn 
sylvania, where we have seen him serving as postmaster, 
and planning a negro village for the education of that en 
slaved race. 

What his way of life was at Eichmond has been told by 
one of his neighbors, Mr. Delamater, who was born at 
Whitehall, N. Y., but remembers when Brown built there 
in 1826-27, and cleared up his small farm. 1 The houses of 
John Brown and of the elder Delamater were four miles 
apart; and in these was kept the school of the neighbor 
hood, at Brown's house in the winter, and at Delamater's 
in the summer. Both houses were of logs, with two large 
rooms on the ground floor, one used as kitchen, dining- 
room, and living-room ; and the other for the school, and as 
a sleeping-room. In family worship, which daily took 
place in the family room, Brown gave each person present 
some part to take, himself leading in prayer. The post- 
office, of course, was kept in this log -cabin of Brown, and 

1 Brown owned five hundred acres of land heavily timbered with hem 
lock, the bark of which, he used for tanning. Delamater's log-house was 
near the State Road, about eight miles east of Meadville . 



1824.] PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACS. 91 

the men who worked in his tannery boarded with him. It 
was here that his first wife died, and to this cabin he brought 
his second wife (who was related to the Delamaters) in 
1833. Ruth and Frederick were bom in this house, and 
John, Owen, and Jason received a part of their schooling 
there. Their father kept a record of their boyish sins, and 
on one occasion, at least, when they amounted to twenty 
in number, he allowed one blow of the rod for each fault ; 
but only half the blows were given to the boy, who then 
took the rod and punished his father with just as many 
blows. This was an earlier example of Mr. Alcott's method 
of punishment in his Boston school. 1 

Among the childish recollections of the eldest son (who 
was born in a log-cabin near where his father built in 1824 
a large frame house, which is still standing) are the follow 
ing, which relate chiefly to Richmond, but date back to the 
Hudson tannery : 

" Father had a rule not to threaten one of his children. He com 
manded, and there was obedience. Up to this time (1824) I had not 
heard a threat. I was playing round where the timbers for the new 
house were being hewed, and occasionally I picked up the tools be 
longing to Mr. Herman Peck the carpenter, who spoke up sharp to 
me and said, ' John, put them down, or I'll cut your ears off! ' Be 
lieving he would do so, I scrambled under the timbers which were 
laid up on logs to be hewed (and in my hurry I bumped the back of 
my head on most of them as I went), and ran off to the tannery, in 
a room of which we were temporarily living ; for the log-house in 
which I was born had been torn down to give place to the new one. 
Besides the sharpest recollection of this, I have heard father mention, 

1 The family government of Brown was always strict, but with some 
thing humorous about it too. His son John relates that when he and 
George Delamater were playing one winter evening in the school-room, and 
were so noisy as to disturb the father who was sitting in the kitchen, Brown, 
after repeating several times, " Children, you make too much noise," all at 
once called out, " John and George, you may come here to me ! " When 
they came and stood one on each side of him, he said, " Boys, I think you 
need to hear the bell ring." Then taking out his clasp-knife and opening 
it, he held it by the blade and tapped his son John with the handle, smartly 
on the top of the head. This made his mirthful expression change so 
quickly that George burst out laughing. Thereupon Brown tapped George 
on the head, and John burst out laughing. After " ringing the bell " twice 
or three times in this way their mirth was changed to melancholy. 



92 LIFE AND LETTERS OE JOHN BROWN. [1829. 

when speaking of the matter of threatening children, how greatly 
alarmed I was on that occasion. 1 cannot say how old I was then, 
probably less than three, yet my memory of the event is clear. I 
don't know the year when we moved to Pennsylvania, though I re 
member the circumstances. Owen was then a baby. 

" My first apprenticeship to the tanning business consisted of a three 
years' course at grinding bark with a blind horse. This, after months 
and years, became slightly monotonous. While the other children 
were out at play in the sunshine, where the birds were singing, I 
used to be tempted to let the old horse have a rather long rest, espe 
cially when father was absent from home; and I would then join the 
others at their play. This subjected me to frequent admonitions and 
to some corrections for ' eye-service,' as father termed it. I did not 
fully appreciate the importance of a good supply of ground bark, and 
on general principles I think my occupation was not well calculated 
to promote a habit of faithful industry. The old blind horse, unless 
ordered to stop, would, like Tennyson's Brook, ' go on forever/ and 
thus keep up the appearance of business ; bnt the creaking of the 
hungry mill would betray my neglect, and then father, hearing this 
from below, would come up and stealthily pounce upon me while at 
a window looking upon outside attractions. He finally grew tired of 
these frequent slight admonitions for my laziness and other short 
comings, and concluded to adopt with me a sort of book -account, 
something like this : 

JOHN, DR., 

For disobeying mother 8 lashes 

" unfaithfulness at work 3 " 

" telling a lie 8 " 

This account he showed to me from time to time. On a certain Sun 
day morning he invited me to accompany him from the house to the 
tannery, saying that he had concluded it was time for a settlement. 
We went into the upper or finishing room, and after a long and tear 
ful talk over my faults, he again showed me my account, which ex 
hibited a fearful footing up of debits. I had no credits or off-sets, 
and was of course bankrupt. I then paid about one-third of the 
debt, reckoned in strokes from a nicely-prepared blue-beech switch, 
laid on ' masterly.' Then, to my utter astonishment, father stripped 
off his shirt, and, seating himself on a block, gave me the whip and 
bade me ' lay it on ' to his bare back. I dared not refuse to obey, 
but at first I did not strike hard. ' Harder ! ' he said ; ' harder, 
harder! ' until he received the balance of the account. Small drops of 
blood showed on his back where the tip end of the tingling beech cut 
through. Thus ended the account and settlement, which was also 



1833.] PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACK 93 

my first practical illustration of the Doctrine of the Atonement. I 
was then too obtuse to perceive how Justice could be satisfied by in 
flicting penalty upon the back of the innocent instead of the guilty ; 
but at that time I had not read the ponderous volumes of Jonathan 
Edwards's sermons which father owned." 

Ruth Thompson, in her reminiscences of her father, 
says : 

" My mother, Dianthe Lusk Brown, died at Randolph, Pa., in 
August, 1832. The baptism of myself and my brother Fred must 
have been in the spring of 1832, when I was a little more than three 
years old, and while my own mother was living. The first house 
work that I remember is wiping some dishes for my new mother, 
perhaps when I was five years old. My father was married a second 
time to Mary Anne Day, July 11, 1833, and I continued to live at 
Randolph (now Richmond) until 1835, when we went back to Ohio, 
where my grandfather, Owen Brown, was living. While I was 
wiping the knives, at the time I mention, I cut my finger and was 
faint, so that father got some wine for me, and told me to drink it. 
The boys bothered me about that wine for a long time, but were very 
careful never to say anything about it before father, who was some 
times very stern and strict. He used to whip me quite often for tell 
ing lies, but I can't remember his ever punishing me but once when 
I thought I did n't deserve it, and then he looked at me so stern that 
I did n't dare to tell the truth. He had such a way of saying ' tut, 
tut ! ' if he saw the first sign of a lie in us, that he often frightened us 
children. When we were moving back from Pennsylvania to Ohio, 
father stopped at a house and asked for a pail of water and a cup to 
give us a drink ; but when he handed the cup of water to mother he 
said, with a queer, disgusted look, * This pail has sore ears. 7 

11 When T first began to go to school, I found a piece of calico one 
day behind one of the benches, it was not large, but seemed quite 
a treasure to me, and I did riot show it to any one until I got home. 
Father heard me then telling about it, and said, ' Don't you know 
what girl lost it ? ' I told him I did not. ' Well, when you go to 
school to-morrow take it with you, and find out if you can who 
lost it. It is a trifling thing, but always remember that if you 
should lose anything you valued, no matter how small, you would 
want the person that found it to give it back to you.' The impres 
sion he made on me about that little piece of calico has never been 
forgotten. Before I had learned to write, the school-teacher wanted 
all the scholars to write a composition or read a piece. Father 
wanted me to read one of ^Esop's fables, I can't remember what 



94 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1838. 

fable. Brother John said he would write it for me. ' No,' I said, 1 1 
had rather have one of the other boys write it, for if you do the whole 
school will soon know I did not write it.' My father spoke up quickly 
and said, l Never appear to be what you are not, honesty is the 
best policy.' When I was telling something done by another girl 
that I thought was wrong, he said, ' Who made you to diifer f ' He 
showed a great deal of tenderness to me ; and one thing I always 
noticed was my father's peculiar tenderness and devotion to his father. 
In cold weather he always tucked the bedclothes around grandfather, 
when he went to bed, and would get up in the night to ask him if he 
slept warm, always seeming so kind and loving to him that his 
example was beautiful to see. He used to tell us a story of a man 
whose old father lived with him, and broke a plate while he was 
eating ; and then his son concluded to make him a trough to eat out 
of. While he was digging the trough, his little boy asked him what 
he was making. ' I am making a trough for your grandfather to eat 
out of.' The little boy said, l Father, shall I make a trough for you 
to eat out of when you are old ? ' This set the man thinking, and he 
concluded his father might still eat on a plate. He often told us 
when we were where old people were standing, always to offer them 
a seat if we had one, and used to quote this verse, ' Thou shalt 
rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man.' 
While we were living at Hudson, an old man, leading an old white 
ox, came to our house one rainy afternoon, asking for something to 
eat and to stay over night. Father and the older boys were gone 
from home, and mother and we younger children were afraid of him, 
he acted so strangely, did not talk much, but looked down all 
the time, and talked strangely when he said anything. Mother gave 
him something to eat, and told him there was a tavern a half mile 
from there, where he could stay. He went on, and we thought no 
more about him. The next Sunday father was talking to us about 
how we should treat strangers, and read this passage from the Bible, 
* Forget not to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained 
angels unawares.' Mother then told about the old man. John said, 
' I met that same old man as I was coming home from Franklin 
about midnight, riding his old white ox j it. was raining and cold.' 
When father heard that he said, ' Oh, dear ! no doubt he had no 
money, and they turned him off at the tavern, and he could get no 
place to stay, and was obliged to travel all night in the rain.' He 
seemed to feel really hurt about it. When his children were ill 
with scarlet fever, he took care of us himself, and if he saw persons 
coming to the house, would go to the gate and meet them, not wish 
ing them to come in, for fear of spreading the disease. Some of his 
friends blamed him very much for not calling in a physician, but 



1843.] PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACS. 95 

he brought the whole family through nicely, and without any of the 
terrible effects afterward, which many experience. Right away he 
became famous as a doctor, and those who blamed him most were 
the first to call for him when they were taken with the same disease. 
" As a shepherd, he showed the same watchful care over his sheep. 
I remember one spring a great many of his sheep had a disease 
called ' grub in the head,' and when the lambs came the ewes would 
not own them. For two weeks he did not go to bed, but sat up or 
slept an hour or two at a time in his chair, and then would take a 
lantern, go out and catch the ewes, and hold them while the lambs 
sucked. He would very often bring in a lit.tle dead-looking lamb, 
and put it in warm water and rub it until it showed signs of life, 
and then wrap it in a warm blanket, feed it warm milk with a tea 
spoon, and work over it with such tenderness that in a few hours it 
would be capering around the room. One Monday morning I had 
just got my white clothes in a nice warm suds in the wash-tub, when 
he came in bringing a little dead-looking lamb. There seemed to be 
no sign of life about it. Said he, ' Take out your clothes quick, and 
let ine put this lamb in the water.' I felt a little vexed to be hindered 
with my washing, and told him I did n't believe he could make it 
live ; but in an hour or two he had it running around the room, and 
calling loudly for its mother. The next year he came in from the 
barn and said to me, 'Ruth, that lamb that I hindered you with 
when you were washing, I have just sold for one hundred dollars.' 
It was a pure-blooded Saxony lamb." 

From Pennsylvania back to Ohio, in 1835-36, and from 
Ohio to Massachusetts in 1845-46, were for the Brown 
family a temporary recall from their frontier and pioneer 
duty to the haunts of civilization ; and in this interval the 
children of the second marriage were nearly all born, and 
in part educated. The older children also received some 
education which the backwoods could not furnish ; and it 
was seriously contemplated at one time to send John Brown, 
Jr., to West Point, where he might receive a military educa 
tion in the national school. At Franklin in 1836 and during 
the short period when the wool business at Springfield was 
flourishing, John Brown had hopes of becoming a capitalist, 
not for the sake of giving himself an easier life, but to 
educate his children better, and to lay up money with which 
he could carry out his chosen purpose of setting the slaves 
free. This hope faded away, but the purpose remained fixed, 



96 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1848 

and was the occasion of his seeking once more the freedom 
and the hardships of a backwoodsman. On the anniversary 
of West India emancipation, August 1, 1846, Gerrit Smith, 
the agrarian emancipationist of New York, had offered to 
give one hundred thousand acres of his wild land in that 
State to such colored families, fugitive slaves or citizens 
of New York, as would occupy and cultivate them in 
small farms. Two years later (April 8, 1848) when a 
few of these families had established themselves in the 
Adirondac wilderness, John Brown visited Mr. Smith at 
Peterboro', New York, and proposed to take up land in 
the same region for himself and his children, while at 
the same time he would employ and direct the labor of 
those colored backwoodsmen who had settled there. Mr. 
Smith, who had inherited from his father landed prop 
erty in more than fifty of the counties of New York, knew 
very well when he made his princely offer that those who 
might accept it would need all the encouragement and di 
rection they could receive from men like Brown, for there 
were many difficulties in the way of its acceptance by the 
Southern fugitives and the free people of color in the 
Northern cities. The Adirondac counties were then, much 
more than now, a backwoods region, with few roads, schools, 
or churches, and very few good farms. The great current 
of summer and autumn travel, which now flows through it 
every year, had scarcely begun to move ; sportsmen from 
New York and New England, and the agents of men in 
terested in iron-mines and smelting-forges, were the chief 
visitors. The life of a settler there was rough pioneer 
work : the forest was to be cut down and the land burned 
over ; the family supplies must be produced mainly in the 
household ; the men made their own sugar from the maple 
woods, and the women spun and wove the garments from 
the wool that grew on the backs of the farmers' sheep. 
Winter lingers there for six months out of the twelve, and 
neither wheat nor Indian corn will grow on these hillsides 
in ordinary years. The crops are grass, rye, oats, potatoes, 
and garden vegetables ; cows, and especially sheep, are the 
wealth of the farmer ; and, as Colonel Higginson mentioned 
in 1859, the widow of Oliver Brown, when he was killed at 



1849.] PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACK 97 

Harper's Ferry, was considered not absolutely penniless, 
because her young husband had left her five sheep, valued 
at ten dollars. Such a region was less attractive to the 
negroes than Canada, for it was as cold, less secure from 
the slave-hunter, and gave little choice of those humble but 
well-paid employments, indispensable in towns, to which 
the colored race naturally resort. There was no opening in 
the woods of Essex for waiters, barbers, coachmen, washer 
women, or the other occupations for which negroes had been 
trained. 

In spite of these discouragements, at the date of Brown's 
first call at the hospitable home of Mr. Smith (where he 
was ever after a welcome visitor) a small colony of colored 
people had gone to North Elba in Essex County, to clear up 
the forest land, and were braving the hardships of the first 
year in the cold backwoods of Northern New York. Brown 
introduced himself to Mr. Smith, and made him this pro 
posal : " I am something of a pioneer ; I grew up among the 
woods and wild Indians of Ohio, and am used to the climate 
and the way of life that your colony find so trying. I will 
take one of your farms myself, clear it up and plant it, and 
show my colored neighbors how such work should be done ; 
will give them work as I have occasion, look after them in 
all needful ways, and be a kind of father to them." His 
host knew the value of such services ; with his quick eye 
for the nobler traits of human nature, he saw the true 
character of Brown, and the arrangement was soon made. 
Brown purchased a farm or two, obtained the refusal of 
others, and in 1848-49, while still engaged in his wool busi 
ness, he removed a part of his family from Springfield to 
North Elba, where they remained much of the time between 
1849 and 1864, and where they lived when he was attacking 
slavery in Kansas, in Missouri, and in Virginia. Besides 
the other inducements which this rough and bleak region 
offered him, he considered it a good refuge for his wife and 
younger children, when he should go on his campaign ; a 
place where they would not only be safe and independent, 
but could live frugally, and both learn and practise those 
habits of thrifty industry which Brown thought indispen 
sable in the training of children. When he went there, his 

7 



98 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1850. 

youngest son Oliver was ten years old, and his daughters 
Anna and Sarah were six and three years old. Ellen, his 
youngest child, was born afterwards. 

Brown soon fell in love with the region thus chosen for 
his home and burial-place. His romantic spirit, which in 
early life made him long to be a shepherd, made him also 
keenly alive to the attractions of the wild and sublime in 
Nature. Had he been born among these mountains he could 
not have felt their beauty more deeply. In the summer and 
early autumn, for a few mouths, this wilderness is charming. 
The mountains rise grand and beautiful on all sides ; the 
untamed forest clothes their slopes and fills up the plains 
and valleys, save where the puny labors of men have here 
and there rescued a bit of fertile land from its gloom. On 
such spots the houses are built, and around them grow the 
small cultivated crops that can endure the climate, while 
the woods and meadows are full of wild fruits. Many of 
the dwellings were then log-cabins ; and in the whole town 
ship of North Elba there was scarcely a house worth a 
thousand dollars, or one which was finished throughout. 
Mrs. Brown's house, at my first visit, in 1857, had but two 
plastered rooms, yet two families lived in it, and at my 
second visit, in February, 1860, two widowed women besides, 
whose husbands were killed at Harper's Ferry. I slept on 
both occasions in a little chamber partitioned off with a rude 
framework, but not plastered, the walls only ornamented 
with a few pictures (among them a portrait of Brown) ; and 
in winter the snow sifted through the roof and fell upon the 
bed. I arrived at nightfall, closely pursued from the shore 
of Lake Champlain by a snowstorm, which murmured and 
moaned about the chamber all night ; and in the morning I 
found a small snowdrift on my coverlet, and another on the 
floor near the bed. 1 This house had been built by John 
Brown about 1850, and the great rock beside which he lies 
buried is but a few rods from its door. At that time, far 
more than now, the wild raspberries and other fruits were 

1 The new-born babe of Oliver Brown (the captain's youngest son, who 
had been killed at Harper's Ferry four months before) died in the house 
that night, and the poor young mother did not long survive. 



1850.] PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACS. 99 

in abundance, the woods abounded in game, and the streams 
and lakes with hsh. But the mode of life was rude and 
primitive, with no elegance, and little that we should call 
comfort, as will appear by the reminiscences of Mrs. Thomp 
son, soon to be cited. The contrast between this region, in 
1849, and the thriving towns of Massachusetts, like Spring 
field, was striking. 

One of the first things that Brown did in this wilderness 
was to introduce his favorite breed of ca,ttle, and to exhibit 
them for a prize at the annual cattle-show of Essex County, 
in September, 1850. They were a grade of Devons, and the 
first stock of the kind that had ever been seen at the county 
fair. The agricultural society, in its annual report for 1850, 
said : " The appearance upon the grounds of a number of 
very choice and beautiful Devons, from the herd of Mr. 
John Brown, residing in one of our most remote and se 
cluded towns, attracted great attention, and added much to 
the interest of the fair. The interest and admiration they 
excited have attracted public attention to the subject, and 
have already resulted in the introduction of several choice 
animals into this region." The same result, on a much 
grander scale, was observed some years later, when John 
Brown exhibited specimens of a choicer and bigger breed of 
men than had been seen lately in Virginia or New England. 
" We have no doubt," added the Essex County farmers, 
" that this influence upon the character of our stock will be 
permanent and decisive." 

Mrs. Euth Thompson has given some anecdotes of the 
pioneer life at North Elba, whither she went at the age of 
twenty. She says : 

u Before moving to North Elba, father rented a farm, having a 
good barn on it, and a one-story house, which seemed very small for 
a family of nine. Father said, * It is small ; but the main thing is, 
all keep good-natured.' He had bought some fine Devon cattle in 
Connecticut, near his birthplace ; these my brothers Owen, Watson, 
and Salmon drove to North Elba. At West-port he bought a span of 
good horses, and hired Thomas Jefferson (a colored man, who with 
his family were moving to North Elba from Troy) to drive them. He 
proved to be a careful and trusty man, and so father hired him as long 
as he stayed there, to be his teamster. Mr. Jefferson by his kind ways 



100 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1850. 

soon won the confidence of us all. He drove so carefully over the 
mountain roads that father thought he had heen very fortunate in meet 
ing him. The day we crossed the mountain from Keene was rainy 
and dreary; but father kept our spirits up by pointing out some 
thing new and interesting all the way. We stopped occasionally to get 
a cup of water from the sparkling streams, that were so clear we could 
see the bottom covered with clean sand and beautiful white pebbles. 
We never tired of looking at the mountain scenery, which seemed 
awfully grand. Father wanted us to notice how fragrant the air was, 
filled with the perfume of the spruce, hemlock, and balsams. The 
little house of Mr. Flanders, which was to be our home, was the sec 
ond house we came to after crossing the mountain from Keene. It 
had one good -sized room below, which answered pretty well for 
kitchen, dining-room, and parlor; also a pantry and two bedrooms ; 
and the chamber furnished space for four beds, so that whenever ' a 
stranger or wayfaring man ' entered our gates, he was not turned 
away. We all slept soundly; and the next morning the sun rose 
bright, and made our little home quite cheerful. Before noon a 
bright, pleasant colored boy came to our gate (or rather, our bars) 
and inquired if John Brown lived there. l Here is where he stays,' 
was father's reply. The boy had been a slave in Virginia, and 
was sold and sent to St. Augustine, Fla. From there he ran away, 
and came to Springfield, where by his industry and good habits he 
had acquired some property. Father hired him to help carry on 
the farm, so there were ten of us in the little house; but Cyrus did 
not take more than his share of the room, and was always good- 
natured. 

" As soon as father could go around among the colored families, 
he employed Mrs. Eeed, a widow, to be our housekeeper and cook ; 
for mother was very much out of health. 

" While we were living in Springfield our house was plainly fur 
nished, but very comfortably, all excepting the parlor. Mother and 
I had often expressed a wish that the parlor might be furnished 
too, and father encouraged us that it should be ; but after he made 
up his mind to go to North Elba he began to economize in many 
ways. One day he called us older ones to him and said : ' I want 
to plan with you a little ; and I want you all to express your minds. 
I have a little money to spare; and now shall we use it to furnish 
the parlor, or spend it to buy clothing for the colored people who may 
need help in North Elba another year ? ' We all said, l Save the 
money. 7 He was never stingy in his family, but always provided 
liberally for us, whenever he was able to do so. Frederick Douglass 
has said in his last book, that John Brown economized so closely in 
order to carry out his plans, that we did not have a cloth on the 



1850.] PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACS. 101 

table at meal-times. I think our good friend is mistaken ; for I never 
sat down to a meal at my father's table without a cloth. He was 
very particular about this. Father had been planning ever since a 
boy how he could help to liberate the slaves at the South, and never 
lost an opportunity to aid in every possible way those who were es 
caping from bondage. He saw in Mr. Smith's proposal an opening 
through which he thought he might carry out his cherished scheme. 
He knew that the colored people who might settle on those Adiron- 
dac lands were inexperienced. Most of them had lived in cities, 
and were unused to the hardships and privations they must necessa 
rily undergo in making homes in that wild mountain region. There 
fore, as soon as we had got fairly settled, father began to think what 
lie could do to help the new colored settlers to begin work on their 
lands. The greater number of them were intelligent, industrious 
people, and glad to do the best they could ; but many of them had 
been cheated badly by a land-surveyor, who took advantage of their 
ignorance, and got them to settle on lands that did not correspond 
with the deeds Gerrit Smith had given them. Some of them began 
working on low land that was hard to cultivate; and when they 
found they had been cheated they were discouraged, and many went 
back to their city homes. Father felt deeply over the way so many 
of them had been treated, and tried to encourage and help them in 
every way he could. He spent much of his time in surveying their 
land, running out their lines, and helping them to locate on land 
actually belonging to them ; and he also employed several of the 
colored men to cut the timber off a part of the farm where he now 
lies buried. He bought a quantity of provisions for them, and some 
cloth to be made up into garments. 

" It was not long after we settled in North Elba that Mr. R. H. 
Dana, with Mr. Metcalf, of Eastern Massachusetts, and Mr. Aikens, 
of Westport, came to our house one morning, and asked for some 
thing to eat. They met father in the yard, and told him they had 
been lost in the woods, and had eaten nothing since the morning be 
fore. Father came in, and asked me if I could get breakfast for some 
men that had been out all night, and were very hungry. l Certainly 
I can,' said I. They lay on the grass while I made preparations to 
cook something substantial for them, but they were so hungry they 
could not wait ; so they came in and said, l Do not wait to cook 
anything; just give us some bread and milk, for we are nearly 
starved.' I hurried some bread, butter, and milk on the table, 
and they ate as only hungry men can. I filled the milk-pitcher and 
bread-plate several times, until I was afraid they would hurt them 
selves ; and then I persuaded them to go upstairs and sleep a few 
hours until I could get them a cooked dinner, and they did so. 



102 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1849. 

While they were resting on the beds upstairs, our excellent cook 
got dinner for them, venison and some speckled brook-trout, with 
other things necessary to make a substantial dinner. After all was 
ready I called them, and the three came down and ate alone. They 
seemed to enjoy the dinner; but their appetites did not appear as 
keen as in the morning, when they ate the bread and milk. They 
paid us liberally for their meals, and thanked us kindly for our 
trouble ; took their boots in their hands (for their feet were too much 
swollen to put them on), and bade us good-by. Their teamster had 
been sent for, and he took them to Mr. Osgood's, as Mr. Dana 
mentions. We saw at once that they were gentlemen, despite their 
forlorn appearance; we were interested in their story, and were glad 
to entertain them." 



Mr. Dana wrote an account of this adventure, which was 
printed in the u Atlantic Monthly " for July, 1871, and in 
which he thus describes the country as John Brown first 
saw it in 1848 : 

" From Keene westward we began to meet signs of frontier life, 
log-cabins, little clearings, bad roads overshadowed by forests, moun 
tain torrents, and the refreshing odor of balsam firs and hemlocks. In 
the afternoon we came into the Indian Pass. This is a ravine or gorge, 
formed by two close and parallel walls of nearly perpendicular cliffs, 
thirteen hundred feet in height, and almost black in their hue. Before 
I had seen the Yosemite Valley these cliffs satisfied my ideal of steep 
mountain walls. From the highest level of the Pass flow two moun 
tain torrents in opposite directions, one the source of the Hudson, 
and so reaching the Atlantic ; and the other the source of the Au 
Sable, which runs into Lake Cham plain, and at last into the Gulf of 
St. Lawrence. . . . The Adirondac Mountains wave with woods, and 
are green with bushes to their summits; torrents break down into the 
valleys on all sides ; lakes of various sizes and shapes glitter in the 
landscape, bordered by bending woods whose roots strike through 
the waters. There is none of that dreary barren grandeur that marks 
the White Mountains, although Tahawus [Mt. Marcy], the highest 
peak, is about fifty-four hundred feet high, only some six or seven 
hundred feet less than Mt, Washington. . . . From John Brown's 
small log-house, old White Face, the only exception to the uniform 
green and brown and black hues of the Adirondac hills, stood plain 
in view, rising at the head of Lake Placid, its white or pale-gray 
side caused, we were told, by a landslide; all about were the distant 
highest summits." 



1849.] PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACS. 103 

This was not the house that Brown built, and near 
which he now lies buried, but the smaller one that he first 
occupied. Of Brown's appearance and family arrangements 
in June, 1849 (he was then forty-nine years old), Mr. Dana 
says : 

11 He was a tall, gaunt, dark-complexioned man, walking before his 
wagon, having his theodolite and other surveyor's instruments with 
him. He came forward and received us with kindness ; a grave, 
serious man he seemed, with a marked countenance and a natural 
dignity of manner, that dignity which is unconscious, and cornes 
from a superior habit of mind. At table he said a solemn grace. I 
observed that he called the two negroes by their surnames, with 
the prefixes of Mr. and Mrs. He introduced us to them in due form, 
l Mr. Dana, Mr. Jefferson,' etc. We found him well informed on 
most subjects, especially in the natural sciences. He had books, and 
evidently made a diligent use of them. He had confessedly the best 
cattle and best farming utensils for miles round. He seemed to have 
an unlimited family of children, from a cheerful, nice, healthy woman 
of twenty or so [Ruth], and a full-sized, red-haired son [Owen], 
through every grade of boy and girl, to a couple that could hardly 
speak plain. Friday, June 29, 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." 

Concerning the house in which Mr. Dana visited her 
father, Mrs. Thompson says : 

" It stood near the schoolhouse, on the road to Keene and Westport, 
from the grave by the great rock on father's own farm, and more than a 
mile east from that spot. The Indian Pass, mentioned by Mr. Dana, 
is a 'notch' between Mt. Marcy and Mt. Mclntyre, a few miles south 
of our cabin, while Mt. White Face was as many miles to the north. 
The Au Sable River is the stream which drains these mountains, and 
flows through North Elba in a winding course into Lake Cham plain, 
at Port Kent. Westport is the town on Lake Champlain, south of 
the mouth of the Au Sable, from which travellers commonly start in 
going into the Adirondac wilderness by Keene ; and it was through 
this town that father usually went to and from North Elba. On one 
of his trips home from Springfield, in the winter, he hired a man to 
take him from Westport to Keene, but could not get any one to carry 
him over the mountain to North Elba that afternoon. Being very 



104 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1850. 

anxious to get home, he started from Keene on foot, carrying a heavy 
satchel. Before he came within several miles of home, 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 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. (This was afterwards a noted tavern 
for sportsmen and travellers, and became known far and wide as 
' Scott's.' It is now kept by Mr. Scott's kinsman Mr. Ames, and 
is the nearest hotel to the ' John Brown Farm/ where father lies 
buried.) Father rested at this house for some time, and then Mr. 
Sflott hitched his oxen to the sled, and brought him home to us. 
Father could scarcely get into the house, he was so tired. 

11 1 had in the mean time married Henry Thompson, of North Elba 
(two of whose brothers were afterwards killed at Harper's Ferry), 
and was living with my husband on his farm not far from where 
father's grave now is. Father's lawsuits about his wool business 
had brought him back from Ohio to Troy, N. Y., nearly a hundred 
miles from North Elba j but hearing that the small-pox was in one 
of the mountain towns not far from us, he made the long journey 
into the wilderness, and came to our house early one morning (fearing 
my husband had not been vaccinated, and so might get the small 
pox). We were much surprised to see him ; and when he told us 
what brought him back, I thought was there ever such love and 
care as his ! When any of the family were sick, he did not often trust 
watchers to care for the sick one, 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 oversleep if he went to bed, 
and then the fire would go out, and she take cold. No one outside 
of his own family can ever know the mingled strength and tenderness 
of his character. Oh, what a loss his death seemed to us ! Yet we 
did not half know him until he was taken from us. 

il He did not lose his interest in the colored people of North Elba, 
and grieved over the sad fate of one of them, Mr. Henderson, who 
was lost in the woods in the winter of 1852, and perished with the 
cold. Mr. Henderson was an intelligent and good man, and was 
very industrious, and father thought much of him. Before leaving 
for Kansas in 1855, to help defend the Free State cause, and, if an 
opportunity offered, to strike a blow at slavery, he removed his family 



1854.] PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACS. 105 

from Ohio back to the farm in North Elba. On leaving us finally to 
go to Kansas that summer, he said,* i If it is so painful for us to part 
with the hope of meeting again, how dreadful must be the feelings of 
hundreds of poor slaves who are separated for life ! ' " 

When John Brown, Jr., visited with his father at North 
Elba in 1858, he thus described the place in a letter to his 
brother : 

" From Keene we came by a new road, laid south of the old route 
over the mountains. This new road is open for travel in the winter 
months, as it leads by Long Pond, which is itself used as a road when 
frozen over. The route is the most romantically grand and beautiful 
that I ever saw in my life. I am fully convinced that North Elba is 
the country for us to come to. Building materials of good quality 
are very cheap ; and I can purchase the wild lands having excellent 
sugar orchards on them, of from two hundred to one thousand good 
maple-trees, for about one dollar per acre. The land is easily cleared 
by ' slashing ' and burning, and by sowing on grass-seed can be con 
verted into good pasture within a year. It is excellent for rye, 
spring-wheat, oats, potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc., and hi some places 
hardy apples can be raised to advantage. I can get Mr. Dickson's 
place (forty acres, with five or six improved, or at least cleared), 
with a good log-house, a frame barn, 20 X 30 feet, for $150." 

John Brown himself often declared his fondness for this 
region, and it was by his express request that he was buried 
on the hill-side, in view of Tahawus and White Face. In 
June, 1854, while living in Ohio, he thus wrote to his son 
John : 

" My own conviction, after again visiting Essex County (as I did 
week before last), is that no place (of which I know) offers so many 
inducements to me, or any of my family, as that section ; and I would 
wish when you make a move that you go in that direction. I will 
give my reasons at length when I have a little more time. Henry 
and family are well, and appear satisfied that North Elba is about 
the place after all. I never saw it look half so inviting before." 

In an earlier letter he thus writes : 

NORTH ELBA, N. Y., Dec. 15, 1852. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I got here last night, and found all very com 
fortable and well, except Henry, who is troubled with a lame back, 



106 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1850. 

something like rheumatism I presume. The weather has been very 
mild so far, and things appear to be progressing among our old 
neighbors ; so that I feel as much as ever disposed to regard this as 
my home, and I can think of no objection to your coming here to live 
when you can sell out well. A middling good saw-mill is now run 
ning a few rods down the river l from the large pine log we used to 
cross on, when we went to help Henry take care of his oats. The 
more I reflect on all the consequences likely to follow, the more I am 
disposed to encourage you to come here ; and I take into the account 
as well as I can the present and future welfare of yourself and 
family, and prospects of usefulness. Our trial at Boston is to come 
on by agreement on the 6th January. I shall write Mr. Perkins to 
send you money for expenses, so that you can get on to Boston by 
the 3d January. We shall want to look the papers over, and talk 
the business over beforehand. Ruth intends occupying the balance 
of the sheet. My best wishes for you all. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

The hardships of existence in a new country like North 
Elba fall heaviest on the women. Mrs. Brown had been an 
invalid before leaving Springfield, arid she was long out of 
health in this forest home. To encourage her, as he 'fre 
quently did, Brown had recourse to letters of sympathy 
and exhortation, mingled with prosaic details of the econ 
omy they must practise at North Elba. One or two of 
these letters will here be given, together with letters to 
Ruth and his other children. 

John Brown to his Wife. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., Nov. 28, 1850. 

DEAR WIFE, ... Since leaving home I have thought that under 
all the circumstances of doubt attending the time of our removal, and 
the possibility that we may not remove at all, I had perhaps en 
couraged the boys to feed out the potatoes too freely. ... I want 
to have them very careful to have no hay or straw wasted, but I 
would have them use enough straw for bedding the cattle to keep 
them from lying in the mire. I heard from Ohio a few days since ; 
all were then well. It now seems that the Fugitive Slave Law was 
to be the means of making more Abolitionists than all the lectures 

1 A branch of the Au Sable. 



1851.] PIONEEK LIFE IN THE A13IRONDACS. 107 

we have had for years. It really looks as if God had his hand on 
this wickedness also. I of course keep encouraging my colored 
friends to " trust in God, and keep their powder dry." I did so 
to-day, at Thanksgiving meeting, publicly. . . . While here, and at 
almost all places where 1 stop, I am treated with all kindness and 
attention ; but it does not make home. I feel lonely and restless, no 
matter how neat and comfortable my room and bed, nor how richly 
loaded may be the table; they have few charms for me, away from 
home. I can look back to our log-cabin at the centre of Richfield, 
with a supper of porridge and johnny-cake, as a place of far more 
interest to me than the " Massasoit" 1 of Springfield. But "there 's 
mercy in every place." 

Jan. 17, 1851. 

... I wrote Owen last week that if he had not the means on hand 
to buy a little sugar, to write Mr. Cutting,, of Westport, to send out 
some. I conclude you have got your belt before this. I could not 
manage to send the slates for the boys, as I intended, so they must 
be provided for some other way. . . . Say to the little girls that I 
will run home the first chance I get ; but I want to have them learn 
to be a little more still. May God in his infinite mercy bless and 
keep you all is the unceasing prayer of 

Your affectionate husband, 

JOHN BROWN. 

To Henry Thompson. 

NORTH HUDSON, N. Y., March 15, 1851. 

I have drawn an order on you, payable in board of Mail -carrier, 
horse-feed, or oats, in favor of Mr. Judd for $7.09, which you will 
oblige me by paying in oats at forty cents per bushel, or in board as 
above, whichever he may choose. When you can sell my stuff please 
pay your father $2.00 for me. I also wish you to send on of my shin 
gles that Hiram Brown carried out, two thousand to Alva Holt, as 
we settled about the oats on condition of my sending him two thou 
sand. I wish you to open an account of debt and credit with me from 
this time on, as I shall have a good many errands to trouble you 
with. I wish you would notify Mr. Flanders by letter at once (if 
Nash calls on you for the $3.00) to go ahead with tho suit. Mr. 
Kellogg told me he thought the Trustees would settle with me, were 
he to write to them. We are getting along very well ; the boys are 
still ahead, and Jack is with us. Mr, Blood talked of taking the 
shingles before I sold the two thousand to Holt, and said he would 

1 A noted inn. 



108 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1852. 

go and look at them, and give me $1.50 per thousand for them if he 
liked them. I wish to do the handsome thing by him about it. 
Would be glad to have you see him about it. My love unceasing 
to Euth. 

Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

TROY, N. Y., Oct. 6, 1851. 

DEAR CHILDREN, As I am still detained at this place, I improve 
a leisure moment to write you, as the only means of communicating 
with a part of my family in whose present and future interests I have 
an inexpressible concern. Words and actions are but feeble means 
of conveying an idea of what I always feel whenever my absent chil 
dren come into mind ; so I will not enlarge on that head. . . . 

I wish you to say to Mr. Epps l that if Mr. Hall does not soon 
take care of the boards that are fallen down about the house he 
built, I wish he and Mr. Dickson would go and take them away, 
as I paid for them, and am the rightful owner of them. I wish to 
have them confine themselves entirely to those of the roof and gable- 
ends. I mean to let Hall have them if he will occupy the building, 
or have any one do it on his account ; but I do not mean to have him 
let them lie year after year and rot, and do no one any good. I wish 
this to be attended to before the snow covers them up again. 

ELIZABETHTOWN, Feb. 6, 1852. 

DEAR HENRY, Mr. Judd is wanting to buy a large quantity of 
oats, for which he is now paying one cent per pound, cash. He also 
wants to buy a supply for his teams that carry the mail to Saranac, 
for the next season. He says oats that have rye mixed with them 
will be worth as much by the pound for his own teams as those 
which have none. Thinking it might be of advantage to you to 
know of this, and perhaps to see him, I concluded to send you a line 

at any rate. 

Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

To his Wife. 

UTICA, N. Y., Dec. 27, 1852. 

... I seem to be pretty much over the effects of the ague, except 
as to my sight, which is some impaired, and which will not probably 
ever become much better. I made a short visit to North Elba, and 
left them all well and very comfortable, one week ago to-day. . . . 
The colored families appear to be doing well, and to feel encouraged. 

1 One of his colored neighbors at North Elba. 



1853.] PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACK 109 

They all send much love to you. They have constant preaching on 
the Sabbath ; and intelligence, morality, and religion appear to be 
all on the advance. Our old neighbors appear to wish us back. I 
can give no particular instructions to the boys, except to take the 
best care of everything, not forgetting their own present and eter 
nal good. If any young calves come that are nice ones, I want them 
to be well looked after, and if any very mean ones, I would have them 
killed at once. I am much pleased to get such a good account from 
the boys, and from Anne and Sarah. 

To Henry and Riith Thompson. 

AKKON, April 6, 1853. 

I have thought a good deal how to arrange as well as possible in 
regard to a home, should I live to go back to North Elba. I am a 
good deal at a loss how to divide the land so as to accommodate both 
families in the best way ; and I wish to call your attention to that 
matter, as you may perhaps be able to think of some way that will 
exactly suit all hands. I would be glad if Henry will send me his 
views freely in regard to the following questions, namely : Are you 
fond of the business or care of a sawmill ? Are there any springs on 
that part of the lot lying east of the river, so situated as to accommo 
date a family on that side ; or do you think there is a prospect of 
getting a good well where the strip is of some width, and the face 
such as would be convenient to build on ? Would you divide the 
land by the river, or by a line running east and west ? Will it be 
any damage to you if you defer building your house until we can hit 
on some plan of dividing the land, or at least for another year? If I 
was sure of going back next spring I should want to get some logs 
peeled for a house, as I expect to be quite satisfied with a log-house 
for the rest of my days. Perhaps by looking over the land a little 
with a view to these things, you can devise a plan that will suit well. 
I do not mean to be hard to please ; but such is the situation of the 
lot, and so limited are my means, that I am quite at a loss. Will it 
be convenient to have the ground that is gone over on the east side 
of the river got into grass this season ? . . . I can think of but little 
to write that will be worth reading. Wishing you all present and 
future good, I remain, 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

AKRON, OHIO, June 30, 1853. 

DEAR CHILDREN, Your very welcome letters were received last 
night. In regard to a house, I did not prefer a log one, only in view 



110 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1854. 

of the expense ; and I would wish Henry to act according to his o\vn 
best judgment in regard to it. If he builds a better house than I can 
pay for, we must so divide the land as to have him keep it. I would 
like to have a house to go into next spring, if it can be brought about 
comfortably. I ought to have expressed it more distinctly in better 
season, but forgot to do so. We are in comfortable health, so far as 
I know, except father, Jason, and Ellen, all of whom have had a run 
of ague. Father, when I saw him last, was very feeble; and I fear 
that in consequence of his great age he will never get strong again. 
It is some days since I went to see him. We are not through sheep- 
shearing or hoeing, and our grass is needing to be cut now. We have 
lately had very dry weather. ... I am much rejoiced at the news 
of a religious kind in Ruth's letter; and xvould be still more rejoiced 
to learn that all the sects who bear the Christian name would have 
no more to do with that mother of all abominations, man-stealing. 
I hope, unfit and unworthy as I am, to be allowed a membership in 
your little church before long ; and I pray God to claim it as his own, 
and that he will most abundantly bless all in your place who love him 
in truth. " If any man love not his brother whom he hath seen, how 
can he love God whom he hath not seen ? " I feel but little force 
about me for writing or any kind of business, but will try to write 
you more before long. Our State fair commences at Dayton the 20th 
of September, and will be held open four days. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

AKRON, April 14, 1854. 

DEAR CHILDREN, I did not get Ruth's letter, dated on the 1st 
instant, until the 12th, but was very glad to hear from you then, and 
to learn that you found things as well as you did. In fact, God 
never leaves us without the most abundant cause for gratitude ; and 
let us try and have it in habitual exercise. We have had some com 
plaints among several of us of late, but none of us have been very 
unwell. We had a most comfortable settlement of last year's busi 
ness with Mr. Perkins, and division of stock. I had nine of the 
company calves, and he sold me four of the old for one hundred dol 
lars, which I used to have. I have two young bull calves, one a 
full blood, which I think among the best I ever saw. 

AKRON, Nov. 2, 1854. 

DEAR CHILDREN, I feel still pretty much determined to go back 
to North Elba ; but expect Owen and Frederick will set out for Kan 
sas on Monday next, with cattle belonging to John, Jason, and them- 



1855.] PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACS. Ill 

selves, intending to winter somewhere in Illinois. I expect to set 
out for Albany to-morrow, and for Connecticut after the 8th. I mean 
to go and see you before I return, if my money for expenses will hold 
out. Money is extremely scarce, and I have been some disappointed, 
so that I do not now know as I shall be able to go and see you at 
this time. Nothing but the want of means will prevent me, if life 
and health are continued. Gerrit Smith wishes me to go back to 
North Elba ; from Douglass and Dr. McCune Smith I have not yet 
heard. I shipped you a cask of pork containing 347 pounds clear 
pork, on the 19th, directed to Henry Thompson, North Elba, Essex 
Co., N. Y., care C. B. Hatch & Son, Westport. We are all in 
usual health. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

This letter was preliminary to Brown's first expedition to 
Kansas in 1855, in defence of the free settlers there, par 
ticularly his own sons. 

While he was preparing for the further defence of Kansas 
in 1857-58, and for his attack on slavery elsewhere, he 
did not by any means forget or neglect the family at North 
Elba, but busied himself in securing for them an addition 
to the two farms in the wilderness on which his wife and 
married daughter, Mrs. Thompson, were living. Several of 
his Massachusetts friends, chief among whom were Mr. 
George L. Stearns and Mr. Amos A. Lawrence, raised a 
subscription of one thousand dollars to purchase one hun 
dred and sixty acres of land for division in equal portions 
between these farms. Mr. Stearns contributed $260 to this 
fund, and Mr. Lawrence $310, these two gentlemen hav 
ing made up the sum by which the original subscription fell 
short of one thousand dollars. The connection of Mr. Law 
rence with this transaction, and his personal acquaintance 
with Brown in 1857, 1 were afterwards held to imply that he 

1 At this time neither Gerrit Smith nor Mr. Stearns nor myself had any 
knowledge of Brown's scheme for a campaign in Virginia. The subscrip 
tion paper was as follows : 

" The family of Captain John Brown, of Ossawatomie, have no means of 
support, owing to the oppression to which he has been subjected in Kansas 
Territory. It is proposed to put them (his wife and five children) in pos 
session of the means of supporting themselves, so far as is possible for per 
sons in their situation. The undersigned, therefore, will pay the following 



112 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

had some knowledge of Brown's Virginia plans, which was 
not the case. The subscription thus raised was expended 
in completing the purchase of the tract in question, origi 
nally sold by Gerrit Smith to the brothers of Henry Thomp 
son (Brown's son-in-law), but which had not been wholly 
paid for. In August, 1857, as the agent of Messrs. Stearns 
and Lawrence, I visited North Elba, examined the land, paid 
the Thompsons their stipulated price for improvements, and 
to Mr. Smith the remainder of the purchase money, took 
the necessary deeds, and transferred the property to Mrs. 
Brown and Mrs. Thompson, according to the terms arranged 
by Captain Brown in the preceding spring. I have before 
me as I write the pencil memorandum, in Gerrit Smith's 

sums, provided one thousand dollars should be raised. With this sum a 
small farm can now be purchased in the neighborhood of their late resi 
dence in Essex County, New York. 

May, '57. Paid. William R. Lawrence, Fifty dollars. 

!one hundred dollars. 
$235 more. 
$335 

} Fifty dollars. 
Paid. George L. Stearns, \ $235 more 

j $285 

Paid. John E. Lodge, twenty-five dollars. 

Paid. J. Carter Brown [by A. A. L.], one hundred dollars. 

Paid. J. M. S. Williams, fifty dollars. 

Paid. John Bertram [by M. S. W.], seventy-five dollars. 

Paid. W. D. Pickman, fifty dollars. 

Paid. R P. Waters [by YV. D. P.], ten dollars. 

Paid. S. E. Peabody, ten dollars. 

Paid. John H. Silsbee, ten dollars. 

Paid. B. Silsbee, five dollars. 

Paid. Cash, ten dollars. 

Paid. Wendell Phillips, twenty-five dollars. 

Paid. W. J. Rotch, ten dollars. 

Paid. George L. Stearns, two hundred and thirty-five dollars. 

Paid. A. A. Lawrence, two hundred and thirty-five dollars. 
One thousand dollars in all. July 27, 1857. 

BOSTON, Nov. 5, 1857. John Bertram's subscription being $75, instead 
of $25, as I supposed, I have returned to Amos A. Lawrence twenty-five 
dollars, making his whole subscription, $310 ; my subscription, $260 ; all 
others, $430, total, $1000. 

(Signed) GEORGE L. STEARNS." 



1857.] PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACS. 113 

familiar handwriting, showing this transaction. Here it 
is : 

Draft of F. B. S ......... $1000 

Due Thompsons ......... $574 

Due me on note ......... 111.66 

" " on land ......... 288.89 974.55 



$25.45 

This sum ($25.45) I handed to Mrs. Brown at North Elba, 
Aug. 13, 1857. 

A few days later I reported to Mr. Stearns as follows : 

11 1 wrote you from Buffalo, I think, telling you of the settling of 
the business of Captain Brown with Mr. Smith ; since when I have 
heen in North Elba, and passed a night under his roof. There I 
found Mrs. Brown, a tall, large woman, fit to be the mother of heroes, 
as she is. Her family are her two sons and three daughters, one of 
them a child of three years. One of the sons has been in Kansas ; 
the other was to go with his father this summer, but I think his mar 
riage, which took place in April, may have prevented it. Owen is 
now with his father, and both, I suppose, are in Kansas, for on the 
17th of July they were beyond Iowa City with their teams. I shall 
have much to tell you about this visit. The subscription could not 
have been better bestowed, and the small balance, which I paid Mrs. 
Brown, came very opportunely." 

I had previously written to" Brown, August 14, from Au 
Sable Forks, to which he replied from Tabor, in Iowa, Aug. 
27, 1857, as follows : 

MY DEAR FRIEND, Your most welcome letter of the 14th hist., 
from Au Sable Forks, is received. I cannot express the gratitude I 
feel to all the kind friends who contributed towards paying for the 
place at North Elba, after I had bought it, as I am thereby relieved 
from a very great embarrassment both with Mr. Smith and the young 
Thompsons, and also comforted with the feeling that my noble-hearted 
wife and daughters will not be driven either to beg or become a bur 
den to my poor boys, who have nothing but their hands to begin with. 
I am under special obligation to you for going to look after them and 
cheer them in their homely condition. May God reward you all a 
thousandfold! No language I have can express the satisfaction it 
affords me to feel that I have friends who will take the trouble to look 
after them and know the real condition of my family, while I am " far 
away," perhaps never to return. I am still waiting here for company, 

8 



114 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

additional teams, and means of paying expenses, or to know that I can 
make a diversion in favor of our friends, in case they are involved 
again in trouble. Colonel Forbes has come on and has a small 
school at Tabor. I wrote you some days ago, giving a few particu 
lars in regard to our movements; and I intend writing my friend 
Stearns, as soon as I have anything to tell him that is worth a 
stamp. Please say to him, that, provided I do not get into such a 
speculation as shall swallow up all the property I have been furnished 
with, I intend to keep it all safe, so that he may be remunerated in 
the end ; but that I am wholly in the dark about it as yet, and that I 
cannot flatter him much now. Will direct where to write me when 
1 know how to do so. 

Very respectfully your friend, 

N. H. 

" N. H." stands for " Nelson Hawkins," one of the names 
by which Brown was known to his friends when in an 
enemy's country. Soon afterwards he did write to Mr. 
Stearns : " I have learned with gratitude what has been done 
to render my wife and children more comfortable. May 
God himself be the everlasting portion of all the contri 
butors ! This generous act has lifted a heavy load from 
my heart." 

John Brown had returned to North Elba in April, 1857, 
after two years' absence ; and it was on this visit that he 
carried with him the old tombstone of his grandfather, Cap. 
tain John Brown, the Revolutionary soldier, from the burial 
place of his family in Canton, Conn. He caused the name 
of his son Frederick, who fell in Kansas, to be carved on 
this stone, with the date of his death, and placed it where 
he desired his own grave to be, beside a huge rock on the 
hillside where his house stands, giving directions that his 
own name and the date of his death should be inscribed there 
too, when he should fall, as he expected, in the conflict with 
slavery. That stone now marks his grave, and tells a story 
which more costly monuments and longer inscriptions could 
not so well declare. Beside him are buried, after a strange 
separation of many years, the bones of his son Watson, 
over which funeral services were performed on this hillside 
in October, 1882, in the presence of his mother, his wife, 
his two eldest brothers, and his sister Euth. The wander- 



1882.J PIONEER LIFE IN THE ADIRONDACK. 115 

ings of the father and the son have ceased, and they rest 
together in this mountain-home of their affections, these 
pioneers of Liberty, their long march ended at last. 1 

1 This pioneer instinct of the family has led the sons of John Brown into 
many a new country, either for exploration or for settlement. All of them 
at one time or another tried their fortune in Kansas ; the youngest surviv 
ing son, after the Civil War was decided, journeyed with his mother and 
sisters across the great plains to California, where he is a sheep-farmer on 
the ranges of Humboldt County. Others of the family have since gone to 
Southern California ; while the two eldest sons established themselves 
among the first on one of the charming vineyard islands of Lake Erie. 
The oldest son, in 1875, while exploring the region about the Black Hills, 
encountered Indians on the journey, who made some threats of attacking 
"men with hats" if the United States should try to remove them from 
their hunting-grounds as had been proposed ; but they were friendly to the 
exploring party, and being told that this was the son of Captain Brown, 
of Harper's Ferry, of whom, though wild Indians, they had heard the story, 
they testified much respect for the son of such a brave. The whole Brovvu 
family now live widely separated, and all are far away from their father's 
grave among the Adirondac Mountains. Ruth, the oldest daughter, with 
her husband Henry Thompson, is living with her children and grand 
children at Pasadena, Cal. ; Anne has long been married, and has a fam 
ily of children ; Salmon has seven or eight children ; John, the eldest 
brother, has two children, so that the grandchildren of Captain Brown 
already number about twenty. There is no danger of that family becoming 
extinct, even though it lost so many members in the war with slavery. 
Nor are the Browns likely to become enervated by too much contact with 
luxury and the life of cities, for they follow the romantic impulse of their 
father, and of Daniel Boone, and keep on the advancing edge of civilization, 
whereof they are pioneers, in more senses than one. 



116 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 



CHAPTER V. 
PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT. 

ALL this unwearied industry of John Brown in pioneer 
life, in the pursuit of wealth, in the establishment 
of his children, in the formation of acquaintance, and the 
maintenance of his family, was but preparatory, in his 
thought and in fact, to the fore-ordained and chosen task of 
his life, the overthrow of American slavery. During the 
English war of 1812 he began to reflect, he says, " on the 
wretched, hopeless condition of fatherless and motherless 
slave children, sometimes raising the question, ' Is God their 
Father ? ' When this was answered in the Old Testament 
way, the boy in his teens declared and swore ' eternal war 
with slavery. 5 r> He did not hasten forward towards the 
achievement of what he had undertaken, until the fulness 
of time had come, and he had furnished himself with such 
military and general knowledge as he deemed requisite, 
He kept it steadily before him for forty years, educated 
himself and his children for it, and made it as much a part 
of his household discipline as were his prayers at morning 
and evening. Emerson, indeed, in his speech at Salem in 
1859, a month before Brown's death, fixes a much earlier 
date as the beginning of his enterprise against slavery in 
Virginia. "It was not a piece of spite or revenge, a plot 
of two years or of twenty years, but the keeping of an 
oath made to heaven and earth forty-seven years before. 
Forty-seven years at least, though I incline to accept his 
own account of the matter at Charlestown, which makes 
the date a little older, when he said, ' This was all settled 
millions of years before the world was made.' " Mrs. Brown 
told me in 1860 that she had known his design and been 
pledged to aid it for more than twenty years ; and John 
Brown himself had said in 1857, early in my acquaintance 



1858.] PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT. 117 

with him, " I always told her that when the time came to 
fight against slavery, that conflict would be the signal for 
our separation. She made up her mind to have me go long 
before this ; and when I did go, she got ready bandages and 
medicine for the wounded." 

" For twenty years," he told Eichard Hinton in 1858, " I 
have never made any business arrangement which would 
prevent me at any time answering the call of the Lord. I 
have kept my affairs in such condition that in two weeks 
I could wind them up and be ready to obey that call ; per 
mitting nothing to stand in the way of duty, neither wife, 
children, nor worldly goods. Whenever the time should 
come, I was ready ; that hour is very near at hand, and all 
who are willing to act should be ready." 

In 1820, at the time of the Missouri Compromise, when 
his hostility to slavery took definite shape ; in 1837, when he 
formed his plans for attacking slavery by force ; and even 
in 1858, when he had organized an armed band to carry them 
out, his scheme would have seemed mere madness to most 
persons. But Brown had the spirit of his ancestors, the Pil 
grim Fathers ; he entered upon his perilous undertaking with 
deliberate resolution, after considering what was to be said for 
and against it, as did the Pilgrims before they set forth from 
Holland to colonize America. William Bradford, their brav 
est leader and their historian, has recorded the arguments 
for attempting the voyage to America in words which will 
apply, with very little change, to the adventure undertaken 
two centuries and a half later by Peter Brown's stalwart 
descendant, the last of the Puritans. 

11 It was answered," says Bradford in his History, u that all great 
and honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and 
must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages. It 
was granted the dangers were great, but not desperate ; the difficulties 
were many, but not invincible. For though there were manie of them 
likely, yet they were not certain. It might be sundrie of the things 
feared might never befall; others, by provident care and the use of 
good means, might in a great measure be prevented ; and all of them, 
through the help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne 
or overcome. True it was that such attempts were not to be made and 
undertaken without good ground and reason ; not rashly or lightly as 



118 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1820. 

many have done for curiosity or hope of gaine, etc. But their condi 
tion was not ordiuarie; their ends were good and honourable; their 
calling lawfull and urgeutej and therefore they might expecte the 
blessing of God in their proceeding. Yea, though they should loose 
their lives in this action, yet might they have comforte in the same, 
and endeavors would be honourable." 

The world now sees how honorable the endeavors of Brad 
ford, Standish, and John Brown were, and what momentous 
results have followed. " Christ died on the tree," said Car- 
lyle to Emerson at Craigenputtock in August, 1833 : " that 
built Dunscone kirk yonder ; that brought you and me to 
gether." The sequence of events in John Brown's case was 
the same, and far more important, since from the cruci 
fixion at Jerusalem a light sprang forth that was reflected 
back without obstruction from the ugly gallows of Virginia. 
John Brown took up his cross and followed his Lord ; and 
it was enough for this servant that he was as his Master. 

Even from the statesman's point of view the enterprise 
was glorious, as the event has proved. John Quincy Adams 
was a statesman sufficiently prudent ; yet when the Mis 
souri Compromise was under fierce debate in Congress (Mr. 
Adams being then Secretary of State, and Mr. Calhouu 
Secretary of War, to James Monroe) he made this entry in 
his journal : 

11 Feb. 24, 1820. I had some conversation with Calhoun on the 
slave-question pending in Congress. He said he did not think it 
would produce a dissolution of the Union, but if it should, the South 
would be compelled to form an alliance, offensive and defensive, with 
Great Britain. I said that would be returning to the colonial state. 
He said, ' Yes, pretty much ; but it would be forced upon them.' . . . 
I pressed the conversation no further. But if the dissolution of the 
Union should result from the slave-question, it is as obvious as any 
thing that can be foreseen of futurity, that it must shortly afterwards 
be followed by the universal emancipation of the slaves ; . . . the 
destructive progress of emancipation, which, like all great religious 
and political reformations, is terrible in its means, though happy and 
glorious in its end. Slavery is the great and foul stain upon the 
North American Union, and it is a contemplation worthy of the most 
exalted soul whether its total abolition is or is not practicable ; if 
practicable, by what means it may be effected, and if a choice of 



1559.] PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT. 119 

means be within the scope of the object, what means would accomplish 
it at the smallest cost of human sufferance ? A dissolution, at least 
temporary, of the Union as now constituted would be necessary ; and 
the dissolution must be upon a point involving the question of slav- 
ery, and no other. The Union might then be reorganized on the 
fundamental principle of emancipation. This object is vast in its 
compass, awful in its prospects, sublime and beautiful in its issue. 
A life devoted to it would be nobly spent or sacrificed." 

Such a life was that of John Brown. He entered upon it 
when as a boy, " during the Avar with England," seven years 
before this colloquy of Adams with Calhoun, he saw his 
little black playmate starved and beaten, and with boyish 
ardor " swore eternal war with slavery." He ended it upon 
the gallows in Virginia, and men said he "died as a fool 
dieth." But the method that he devised for emancipation 
was that which, within five years from his death, the nation 
adopted and carried to a successful issue. It was the method 
of force ; and it proceeded gradually, as Brown had foreseen 
that it must, from State to State, and without overthrowing 
the general government. There was, however, what Adams 
had predicted, a temporary dissolution of the Union, fol 
lowed by " amendment and repeal," as Brown desired ; and 
then by that which Adams and Brown both had longed for, 
a reorganization of the Union " on the fundamental question 
of emancipation." Thus, again, in human history, as so many 
times before, did the divine paradox reassert itself, and the 
stone which the builders rejected became the head of the 
corner. Beside the Potomac, where the founder of our Re 
public lived and died, crowned with honors, it was decreed 
that the restorer of the Eepublic should also die by the 
hangman's hand. The work that Washington and Jeffer 
son left unfinished, Brown came to complete ; and Lincoln 
with his proclamations, Grant and Sherman with their 
armies, did little more than follow in the path that Brown 
had pointed out. " Of all the men who were said to be my 
contemporaries," wrote a Concord poet, " it seemed to me 
that John Brown was the only one who had not died. I 
meet him at every turn. He is more alive than ever he was ; 
he is no longer working in secret ; he works in public, and 
in the clearest light that shines on this land." 



120 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1874. 

This was Thoreau's verdict in 1860, before the great Civil 
War had shown the world what Brown's true place was among 
the successful champions of humanity. Fifteen years after 
his death, when the American Eepublic had regained the 
universal freedom of men, for which Jefferson formulated 
its charter in 1776, and when the French Republic had re 
called Victor Hugo from his long and honorable exile, that 
commanding genius of his century thus addressed the widow 
of John Brown : a 

MADAM, Several years have passed away since your noble hus 
band completed the sacrifice of a life consecrated to the most generous 
of all aims. The gallows on which lie suffered called forth a cry of 
universal indignation, which was the signal for securing the emanci 
pation of a race till then disinherited. Honor be to him, and to 
his worthy sons who were associated with him in his endeavors ! 
To the blessing with which the present age crowns their memory 
shall be added that of future generations. These thoughts, Madam, 

1 This letter, written by Hugo, was signed also by the other members of 
a French committee which presented to Mrs. Brown in 1874 a gold medal 
in honor of her husband. Their names were Louis Blanc, Victor Schoelcher, 
Patrice Larroque, Eugene Pelletan, Melvil-Bloncourt, Capron, Ch. L. Chas- 
sin, Etienne Arago, Laurent- Pichat, and L. Gornes. The medal itself was 
modelled by "Wurder, of Brussels, bearing on one side a bearded head of 
Brown, and on the reverse this inscription : "To the memory of John 
Brown, judicially murdered at Charlestown, in Virginia, on the 2d of De 
cember, 1859 ; and in commemoration also of his sons and comrades who, 
with him, became the victims of their devotion to the cause of negro eman 
cipation." This medal (weighing nearly five ounces) was sent to Mrs. 
Brown in California by her son John, who received it from William Lloyd 
Garrison, to whom the French committee gave a bronze copy of the medal, 
with the following letter : 

PARIS, Oct. 20, 1874. 
Wm. Lloyd Garrison. 

SIR, We have received, through the hands of M. Victor Schcelcher, the letter by 
which the son of John Brown informs you that the family will receive, with all due 
appreciation, the gold medal struck in memory of the glorious death of his father. We 
beg you, therefore, to be kind enough, in accordance with your generous offer, to charge 
yourself with its delivery to the Brown family, together with the letter to Mrs. Brown 
accompanying it. In thanking you for your kind intervention, we beg you to accept 
the assurance of our high esteem ; and also a copy of the medal, in bronze, which is the 
work (without remuneration) of a sympathizing artist. We have sent to the agency of 
the house of Lebeau, who represent the line of steamers from Liverpool to Boston, the 
box containing the gold medal addressed to the widow of John Brown, expenses pre 
paid. 

The Delegate CAPRON. 

PATRICE LARROQUE, Secretary. 



1839.] PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT. 121 

must assuredly tend greatly to alleviate your great sorrow. But you 
have sought a higher consolation for your grief, in the reflection that 
beyond the imperfect justice of man sits enthroned that Supreme 
Justice which will leave no good action unrewarded and no crime 
unpunished. We hope, also, that you may derive some comfort from 
this expression of our sympathy, as citizens of the French Kepublic, 
which would have reached you earlier but for the prolonged and cruel 
sufferings through which our unfortunate country has been forced to 



Though Brown drew this applause from the French 
Eepublicans for his generous martyrdom, nothing could be 
further from the Eed Kepublican temper and from French 
impiety than were his temper and devout purpose. He was 
a Saxon, follower of the French Calvin and the Mauritanian 
Augustine, as they were followers of the Hebrew Scriptures. 
John Brown was a Bible-worshipper, if ever any man was. 
He read and meditated on the Bible constantly ; in his will 
he bequeathed a Bible to each of his children and grand 
children ; and he wrote to his family a few days before his 
execution, " I beseech you every one to make the Bible your 
daily and nightly study." Such was the man of the best 
New England blood, of the stock of the Plymouth Pilgrims, 
and bred up like them " in the nurture and admonition of 
the Lord" who was selected by God, and knew himself to 
be so chosen, to overthrow the bulwark of oppression in 
America. His prayers and meditations from childhood had 
been leading him towards this consecration of himself to a 
great work, and he had no dearer purpose in life than to 
fulfil the mission. He seems to have declared a definite 
plan of attacking slavery in one of its strongholds, by force, 
as early as 1839 ; and it was to obtain money for this enter 
prise that he engaged in land-speculations and wool-mer 
chandise for the next ten or twelve years. His ventures 
failed ; it was not destined that he should grow rich and be 
able to help the poor from his abundance ; and he accepted 
the narrow path of poverty. While tending his flocks in 
Ohio, with his sons and daughters about him, he first com 
municated to them his purpose of attacking slavery in arms. 
From that time forward, a period of more than twenty years, 
he devoted himself, not exclusively, but mainly, to the un- 



122 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1859. 

dertaking in which, he sacrificed his life. He looked on his 
mercantile connections, on his acquaintance at home and his 
travels abroad, as means to this great end ; he came back 
from Europe poor, but more in love than ever with Amer 
ican democracy, and more resolved that American slavery 
should be destroyed. In his campaign against it he did not 
contemplate insurrection, but partisan warfare, at first on a 
small scale, then more extensive ; yet he did not shrink from 
the extreme consequences of his theory. A man of peace 
for more than fifty years of his life, he nevertheless under 
stood that war had its uses, and that there were worse evils 
than battles for a great principle. He more than once said 
to me, and doubtless to others, " I believe in the Golden 
Rule and the Declaration of Independence. I think they 
both mean the same thing ; and it is better that a whole 
generation should pass off the face of the earth, men, 
women, and children, by a violent death, than that one 
jot of either should fail in this country. I mean exactly so, 
sir." He also told me that " he had much considered the 
matter, and had about concluded that forcible separation of 
the connection between master and slave was necessary to 
fit the blacks for self-government." First a soldier, then a 
citizen, was his plan with the liberated slaves. "When they 
stand like men, the nation will respect them," he said ; " it 
is necessary to teach them this." He looked forward, no 
doubt, to years of conflict, in which the blacks, as in the later 
years of the Civil War, should be formed into regiments 
and brigades and be drilled in the whole art of war, like 
the black soldiers of Toussaint L'Ouverture and Dessalines, 
in Hayti. But in his more inspired moments he foresaw a 
speedier end to the combat which he began. Once he said, 
" A few men in the right, and knowing they are right, can 
overturn a mighty king. Fifty men, twenty men, in the 
Alleghanies, could break slavery to pieces in two years." 

The actual attempt of Brown in Virginia to break in 
pieces this national idol of slavery was judged as mad 
ness by his countrymen at the moment, and even now, as 
we look back on it, seems devoid of the elements which 
would make success possible. But with God all things are 
possible, and success followed the noble madness of his 



1851.] PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT. 123 

assault. That brief campaign, with its immediate frustra 
tion and its ultimate and speedy triumph, is now seen to 
have been an omen of the divine purpose. It has already 
become a part of the world's history and literature, a new 
chapter added to the record of heroism and self-devotion, a 
new incident in the long romance which has been for three 
hundred years the history of Virginia. It was little to the 
honor of Virginia then ; but so heavy has been the penalty 
since visited on that State and her people, that we may omit 
all censure upon what was done. God has judged between 
them and John Brown ; and His judgment, as always, will be 
found not only just but merciful, since it has removed from 
a brave and generous people the curse of human slavery. It 
was for this result, and this alone, that Brown plotted and 
fought, prayed and died ; and even befpre his death he saw 
that his prayers would be answered. 

Although John Brown would have justified a slave insur 
rection, or indeed almost any means of destroying slavery, 
he did not seek to incite general insurrection among the 
Southern slaves. The venture in which he lost his life was 
not an insurrection in any sense of the word, but an invasion 
or foray, similar in its character to that which Garibaldi was 
to make six months later in Sicily for the overthrow of the 
infamous Bourbon tyranny there. The Italian hero suc 
ceeded, and became dictator of the island he had conquered; 
the American hero failed for the moment, and was put to 
death. But his soul went marching on; and millions of his 
countrymen followed in his footsteps two years later, to 
complete the campaign in which Brown had led the forlorn 
hope. As usual, the forlorn hope was sacrificed, but by their 
death the final victory was won. 

While this servant and prophet of God was waiting for 
the accepted time, he continued those efforts in behalf of 
fugitive slaves which began so early. He was specially ac 
tive in this after the enactment of Senator Mason's Fugitive 
Slave Bill in 1850, supported as it was by Webster, of 
Massachusetts, and Clay, of Kentucky. Poor black men were 
then hunted down at the instigation of rich white men, even 
in Boston ; and the courts of Massachusetts were disgraced 
by the chains of Virginian slavery. Early in 1851, while 



124 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1851. 

Brown was nominally a resident of the Adirondac woods, 
he was at his old home in Springfield, and there formed an 
organization among the colored people, many of whom were 
refugees, to resist the capture of any fugitive slave, no mat 
ter by what authority. The letter of instructions given by 
Brown at that time to his Springfield " Gileadites," as he 
called them, deserves to be cited here, as an authentic docu 
ment throwing light on the character and purposes of 
Brown at that time, nearly nine years before his campaign 
in Virginia. It is somewhat condensed from his manuscript : 

WORDS OF ADVICE. 

Branch of the United States League of Gileadites. Adopted Jan. 15, 1851, 
as written and recommended by John Brown. 

"UNION IS STEENGTH." 

Nothing so charms the American people as personal bravery. 
Witness the case of Cinques, of everlasting memory, on board the 
" Amistad." The trial for life of one bold and to some extent successful 
man, for defending his rights in good earnest, would arouse more sym 
pathy throughout the nation than the accumulated wrongs and suffer 
ings of more than three millions of our submissive colored population. 
We need not mention the Greeks struggling against the oppressive 
Turks, the Poles against Russia, nor the Hungarians against Austria 
and Russia combined, to prove this. No jury can be found in the 
Northern States that would convict 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. Colored people have ten times the number of fast 
friends among the whites than they suppose, and would have ten 
times the number they now have were they but half as much in ear 
nest to secure their dearest rights as they are to ape the follies and 
extravagances of their white neighbors, and to indulge in idle show, 
in ease, and in luxury. Just think of the money expended by indi 
viduals in your behalf in the past twenty years ! Think of the num 
ber who have been mobbed and imprisoned on your account ! Have 
any of you seen the Branded Hand f Do you remember the names 
of Lovejoy 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 no able-bodied man appear 
on the ground unequipped, or with his weapons exposed to view : 



1851.1 PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT. 125 

let that be understood beforehand. Your plans must be known only 
to yourself, and with the understanding that all traitors must die, 
wherever caught and proven to be guilty. " Whosoever is fearful or 
afraid, let him return and part early from Mount Gilead " (Judges, 
vii. 3; Deut. xx. 8). Give all cowards an opportunity to show it on 
condition 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. By going about your busi 
ness quietly, you will get the job disposed of before the number that 
an uproar would bring together can collect ; and you will have the 
advantage of those who come out against you, for they will be wholly 
unprepared with either equipments or matured plans ; all with them 
will be confusion and terror. Your enemies will be slow to attack 
you after you have done up the work nicely ; and if they should, they 
will have to encounter your white friends as well as you ; for you 
may safely calculate on a division of the whites, and may by that 
means get to an honorable parley. 

Be firm, determined, and cool ; but let it be understood that you 
are not to be driven to desperation without making it an awful dear 
job to others as well as to you. Give them to know distinctly that 
those who live in wooden houses should not throw fire, and that you 
are just as able to suffer as your white neighbors. After effecting a 
rescue, if you are assailed, go into the houses of your most prominent 
and influential ichite friends ivith your wives; and that will effectually 
fasten upon them the suspicion of being connected with you, and will 
compel them to make a common cause tvith you, whether they would 
otherwise liua up to their profession or not. This would leave them 
no choice in the matter. Some would doubtless prove themselves 
true of their own choice j others would flinch. That would be taking 
them at their own words. You may make a tumult in the court-room 
where a trial is going on, by burning gunpowder freely in paper pack 
ages, if you cannot think of any better way to create a momentary 
alarm, and might possibly give one or more of your enemies a hoist. 
But in such case the prisoner will need to take the hint at once, and 
bestir himself; and so should his friends improve the opportunity for 
a general rush. 

A lasso might possibly be applied to a slave-catcher for once 
with good effect. Hold on to your weapons, and never be persuaded 
to leave them, part with them, or have them far away from you. 
Stand by one another and by your friends, while a drop of blood re 
mains ; and be hanged, if you must, but tell no tales out of school. 
Make no confession. 



126 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1851. 

Union is strength. Without some well-digested arrangements 
nothing to any good purpose is likely to be done, let the demand he 
never so great. Witness the case of Hamlet and Long in New York, 
when there was no well-defined plan of operations or suitable prepa 
ration beforehand. 

The desired end may be effectually secured by the means pro 
posed; namely, the enjoyment of our inalienable rights. 

AGREEMENT. 

As citizens of the United States of America, trusting in a just 
and merciful God, whose spirit and all-powerful aid we humbly im 
plore, 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. That 
we will provide ourselves at once with suitable implements, 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 in 
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 members 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 courage, efficiency, and general 
good conduct shall in any way influence us in electing our officers. 

Then follows, in the original manuscript, a set of resolves, 
such as John Brown, with Ms methodical, forward-looking 
mind, was in the habit of drawing up whenever lie organized 
any branch of his movement against slavery. This paper, 
which is sufficiently curious, reads as follows : 

Resolutions of the Springfield Branch of the United States League 
of Gileadites. Adopted 15th Jan., 1851. 

1 . Resolved, That we, whose names are affixed, do constitute our 
selves a Branch of the United States League, under the above name. 

2. Resolved, That all business of this Branch be conducted with 
the utmost quiet and good order; that we individually provide our 
selves with suitable implements without delay ; and that we will 
sufficiently aid those who do not possess the means, if any such are 
disposed to join us. 



1851.] PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT. 127 

3. Resolved, That a committee of one or more discreet, influential 
men be appointed to collect the names of all colored persons whose 
heart is engaged for the performance of our business, whether male 
or female, whether old or young. 

4. Resolved, That the appropriate duty of all aged, infirm, fe 
male, or youthful members of this Branch is to give instant notice to 
all other members of any attack upon the rights of our people, first 
informing all able-bodied men of this League or Branch, and next, all 
well known friends of the colored people ; and that this information 
be confined to such alone, that there may be as little excitement as 
possible, and no noise in the so doing. 

5. Resolved, That a committee of one or more discreet persons 
be appointed to ascertain the condition of colored persons in regard 
to implements, and to instruct others in regard to their conduct in 
any emergency. 

6. Resolved, That no other officer than a treasurer, with a pres 
ident and secretary pro tern., be appointed by this Branch, until after 
some trial of the courage and talents of able-bodied members shall 
enable a majority of the members to elect their officers from those 
who shall have rendered the most important services. 

7. Resolved, That, trusting in a just and merciful God, whose 
spirit and all-powerful aid we humbly implore, we will most cheer 
fully and heartily support and obey such officers, when chosen as be 
fore ; and that nothing but wisdom, undaunted courage, efficiency, and 
general good conduct shall in any degree influence our individual votes 
in case of such election. 

8. Resolved, That a meeting of all members of this Branch shall 
be immediately called for the purpose of electing officers (to be chosen 
by ballot) after the first trial shall have been made of the qualifica 
tions of individual members for such command, as before mentioned. 

9. Resolved, That as citizens of the United States of America we 
will ever be found true to the flag of our beloved country, always 
acting under it. 1 

1 This is signed by the following mem bers : 

B. C. Dowling. Henry Johnson. Henry Hector. 

John Smith. G. W. Holmes. John Strong. 

Reverdy Johnson. C. A. Gazam. Wm. Burns. 

Samuel Chandler. Eliza Green. Wm. Gordon. 

J. N. Howard. Jane Fowler. Joseph Addams. 

Charles Rollins. H. J. Jones. Wm. Green. 

Scipio Webb. Ann Johnson. Wm. H. Montague. 

Charles Odell. Cyrus Thomas. Jane Wicks. 

L. Wallace. Henry Robinson. James Madison. 

And seventeen others. 



128 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1850. 

This was not the only undertaking of the sort in which 
John Brown lent his aid and advice to the fugitive slaves 
and their free brethren of color at the North. For years 
he labored quietly among them, seeking to bring them to 
a better knowledge of their position, and to form habits 
that would fit them for freedom ; and in this period he 
wrote some curious papers. Among these are the following 
chapters of an unfinished pamphlet called "Sambo's Mis 
takes," which he began to publish in an obscure Abolitionist 
journal called "The Kamshorn," with a distant allusion, 
I suppose, to the downfall of Jericho at the blowing of the 
Hebrew horns. The manuscript of these chapters is now in 
the library of the Maryland Historical Society at Baltimore, 
in the handwriting of John Brown, and reads thus : 



SAMBO'S MISTAKES. 
I. 

MESSRS. EDITORS, Notwithstanding I may have committed a 
few mistakes in the course of a long life, like others of my colored 
brethren, yet you will perceive at a glance that I have always been 
remarkable for a seasonable discovery of my errors and quick percep 
tion of the true course. I propose to give you a few illustrations in 
this and the following chapters. 

For instance, when I was a boy I learned to read ; but instead of 
giving my attention to sacred and profane history, by which I might 
have become acquainted with the true character of God and of man ; 
learned the true course for individuals, societies, and nations to pur 
sue ; stored my mind with an endless variety of rational and prac 
tical ideas ; profited by the experience of millions of others of all 
ages ; fitted myself for the most important stations in life, and for 
tified my mind with the best and wisest resolutions, and noblest 
sentiments and motives, I have spent my whole life devouring 
silly novels and other miserable trash, such as most newspapers of 
the day and other popular writings are filled with ; thereby unfitting 
myself for the realities of life, and acquiring a taste for nonsense and 
low wit, so that I have no relish for sober truth, useful knowledge, 
or practical wisdom. By this means I have passed through life 
without profit to myself or others, a mere blank on which noth 
ing worth perusing is written. But I can see in a twink where I 
missed it. 



1850.] PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT. 129 

Another error into which I fell in early life was the' notion that 
chewing and smoking tobacco would make a man of me, but little 
inferior to some of the whites. The money I spent in this way 
would, with the interest of it, have enabled me to have relieved a 
great many sufferers, supplied me with a well- selected, interesting 
library, and paid for a good farm for the support and comfort of my 
old age ; whereas I have now neither books, clothing, the satisfac 
tion of having benefited others, nor where to lay my hoary head- 
But I can see in a moment where I missed it. 

Another of the few errors of my life is, that I have joined the 
Free Masons, Odd Fellows, Sons of Temperance, and a score of 
other secret societies, instead of seeking the company of intelligent, 
wise, and good men, from whom I might have learned much that 
would be interesting, instructive, and useful ; and have in that way 
squandered a great amount of most precious time, and money enough, 
sometimes in a single year, which if I had then put the same out on 
interest and kept it so, would have kept me always above board, 
given me character and influence among men, or have enabled me 
to pursue some respectable calling, so that I might employ others 
to their benefit and improvement ; but, as it is, I have always been 
poor, in debt, and now obliged to travel about in search of employment 
as a hostler, shoe-black, and fiddler. But I retain all my quickness 
of perception ; I can see readily where I missed it. 



II. 

Another error of my riper years has been, that when any meeting 
of colored people has been called in order to consider of any impor 
tant matter of general interest, I have been so eager to display my 
spouting talents, and so tenacious of some trifling theory or other 
that I have adopted, that I have generally lost all sight of the busi 
ness in hand, consumed the time disputing about things of no mo 
ment, and thereby defeated entirely many important measures calcu^ 
lated to promote the general welfare ; but I am happy to say I can 
see in a minute where I missed it. 

Another small error of my life (for I never committed great blun 
ders) has been that I never would (for the sake of union in the 
furtherance of the most vital interests of our race) yield any minor 
point of difference. In this way I have always had to act with but 
a few, or more frequently alone, and could accomplish nothing worth 
living for ; but I have one comfort, I can see in a minute where I 
missed it. 

Another little fault which I have committed is, that if in anything 
another man has failed of coming up to my standard, notwithstanding 

9 



130 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1850. 

that he might possess many of the most valuable traits, ami be most 
admirably adapted to fill some one important post, I would reject him 
entirely, injure his influence, oppose his measures, and even glory 
in his defeats, while his intentions were good, and his plans well 
laid. But I have the great satisfaction of being able to say, without 
fear of contradiction, that I can see very quick where I missed it. 



III. 

Another small mistake which I have made is, that I could never 
bring myself to practise any present self-denial, although my theories 
have been excellent. For instance, I have bought expensive gay 
clothing, nice canes, watches, safety -chains, finger-rings, breastpins, 
and many other things of a like nature, thinking I might by that 
means distinguish myself from the vulgar, as some of the better class 
of whites do. I have always been of the foremost in getting up 
expensive parties, and running after fashionable amusements ; have 
indulged my appetite freely whenever I had the means (and even 
with borrowed means) ; have patronized the dealers in nuts, candy, 
etc., freely, and have sometimes bought good suppers, and was 
always a regular customer at livery stables. By these, and many 
other means, I have been unable to benefit my suffering brethren, 
and am now but poorly able to keep my own soul and body together ; 
but do not think me thoughtless or dull of apprehension, for I can 
see at once where I missed it. 

Another trilling error of my life has been, that I have always ex 
pected to secure the favor of the whites by tamely submitting to every 
species of indignity, contempt, and wrong, instead of nobly resisting 
their brutal aggressions from principle, and taking my place as a 
man, and assuming the responsibilities of a man, a citizen, a husband, 
a father, a brother, a neighbor, a friend, as God requires of every 
one (if his neighbor will allow him to do it) j but I find that I get, 
for all my submission, about the same reward that the Southern 
slaveocrats render to the dough-faced statesmen of the North, for 
being bribed and browbeat and fooled and cheated, as the Whigs and 
Democrats love to be, and think themselves highly honored if they 
may be allowed to lick up the spittle of a Southerner. I say I get 
the same reward. But I am uncommon quick-sighted; I can see in 
a minute where I missed it. 

Another little blunder which I made is, that while I have always 
been a most zealous Abolitionist, I have been constantly at war with 
my friends about certain religious tenets. I was first a Presbyterian, 
but I could never think of acting with my Quaker friends, for they 
were the rankest heretics ; and the Baptists would be in the water, 



1851.] PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT. 131 

and the Methodists denied the doctrine of Election, etc. Of later 
years, since becoming enlightened by Garrison, Abby Kelly, and 
other really benevolent persons, I have been spending all my force 
on my friends who love the Sabbath, and have felt that all was at 
stake on that point ; just as it has proved to be of late in France, in 
the abolition of slavery in their colonies. Now I cannot doubt, 
Messrs. Editors, notwithstanding I have been unsuccessful, that vou 
will allow me full credit for my peculiar quick-sightedness. I can see 
in one second where I missed it. 

This paper, dating before 1850, illustrates the points 
of resemblance between Franklin and John Brown, for 
"Poor Kichard" himself might have written these keen 
and kindly sayings. Brown disliked the effort of writing, 
which led him to shorten almost everything he wrote; so 
that " Sambo's Mistakes " was one of his longest essays, 
and perhaps the most satirical. He took little part in the 
public debates on slavery, and when in the last year of his 
life (1859), he was present for a day or two at the Antislav- 
ery. meetings in Boston, he came out saying, "Talk ! talk ! 
talk ! that will never set the slave free." His form of 
activity was something that would operate, as he said in 
his letter of 1834, "like powder confined in rock;" and 
such was the effect of his own movements in Kansas and 
in Virginia. 

His daughter, Mrs. Thompson, thus speaks of his concern 
for the fugitive slaves in the anxious season of 1850-51, 
when the slaveholders, encouraged by the success of the 
Clay and Webster Compromises, sought to insult and worry 
the people of the North by reclaiming all runaway slaves 
wherever they might be : 

" Father did not close up his wool business in Springfield when he 
went to North Elba, and had to make several journeys back and forth 
in 1849-50. He was at Springfield in January, 1851, soon after the 
passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, and went round among his colored 
friends there who had been fugitives, urging them to resist the law, 
no matter by what authority it should be enforced. He told them to 
arm themselves with revolvers, men and women, and not to be taken 
alive. When he got to North Elba he told us about the Fugitive 
Slave Law, and bade us resist any attempt that might be made to 
take any fugitive from our town, regardless of fine or imprisonment. 



132 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1851. 

Our faithful boy Cyrus was one of that class ; and our feelings were 
so roused that we would all have defended him, though the women 
folks had resorted to hot water. Father at this time said, ' Their 
cup of iniquity is almost full.' One evening as I was singing ' The 
Slave Father Mourning for his Children,' containing these words, 

' Ye 're gone from me, my gentle ones, 
With all your shouts of mirth ; 
A silence is within my walls, 
A darkness round my hearth,' 

father got up and walked the lloor, and before I could finish the 
song, he said, ' Ruth ! don't sing any more; it is too sad ! ' " 

This letter to Mrs. Brown relates to the same emer 
gency : 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., Jan. 17, 1851. 

DEAR WIFE, ... Since the sending off to slavery of Long 
from New York, I have improved my leisure hours quite busily with 
colored people here, in advising them how to act, and in giving them 
all the encouragement in my power. They very much need encour 
agement and advice ; and some of them are so alarmed that they tell 
me they cannot sleep on account of either themselves or their wives 
and children. I can only say I think I have been enabled to do 
something to revive their broken spirits. I want all in y family to 
imagine themselves in the same dreadful condition. My only spare 
time being taken up (often till late hours at night) in the way I 
speak of, has prevented me from the gloomy homesick feelings 
which had before so much oppressed me : not that I forget my 
family at all. 

Some of the advice thus given has already been copied : 
more condensed suggestions are as follows : 

a Collect quietly, so as to outnumber the adversaries who are taking 
an active part against you ; make clean work M^ith all such, and be 
sure you meddle not with any other. Do not delay one moment after 
you have a fair majority of your own men over those who are actually 
about the mischief. Let the collection of a fair majority be your sig 
nal to engage ; and when engaged do not do your business by halves. 
When one of you engage, let all the others fall to work without noise 
or confusion. 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 ; make no confessions. Hold on to your tools, and never be 



1846.] PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT. 133 

scared or persuaded, by the world combined, to part with them, or to 
leave them away from you. Do not trust them with friend or foe. 
Always keep your families advised of the places where you may be 
found when absent from home." 

Four or five years earlier than this, and soon after 
Brown's arrival in Springfield, he had begun to communi 
cate his purpose of attacking slavery by force to the colored 
men whom he found to be worthy of trust. In 1846 there 
was living in Springfield (where he still resides) a fugitive 
slave from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Thomas Thomas 
by name, whom Brown engaged to work for him as a porter 
in his wool warehouse. " How early shall I come to-morrow," 
said Thomas the day he was hired. " We begin work at 
seven," said Brown ; " but I wish you would come round 
earlier, so that I can talk with you." Thomas therefore 
went to his employer's the next morning between five and 
six o'clock, found Brown waiting for him, and there re 
ceived' from him the outlines of his plan to liberate the 
slaves, and was invited to join in the enterprise, which he 
agreed to do. This was nine years before Brown went to 
Kansas, and two years before Simmer, Wilson, Adams, S. C. 
Phillips, Hoar, and their friends formed the Free Soil party 
of Massachusetts. Thomas was afterward sent by Brown to 
look up Madison Washington, the leader of the courageous 
slaves of the vessel " Creole," who was wanted as a leader 
among the colored recruits that were to join the band of 
liberators ; but Washington, when found, proved to be an 
unfit person for such a task. 

It is said that the first definite thought of the place where 
he should make his attack upon the slave system came to 
Brown while he was surveying lands for Oberlin College, in 
what is now West Virginia, in 1840. These lands were, in 
part at least, in the county of Jackson, which borders on 
Ohio, and is separated from that State by the Ohio River. 
It is west of the Alleghanies, and is not very mountainous ; 
but in approaching or leaving it Brown had occasion to ob 
serve how useful those mountains would be to any band of 
men who were aiming at emancipation by force. " The 
mountains and swamps of the South," said Brown in Kansas, 



134 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1840. 

" were intended by God as a refuge for the slave, and a de 
fence against his master." That he cherished this purpose 
when he wrote the following from West Virginia, nearly 
twenty years before his foray at Harper's Ferry, is certain ; 
and the thought that he had his great project in mind then, 
gives an interest to the brief letter : 

To his Family. 

RIPLEY, VA., April 27, 1840. 

... I like the country as well as 1 expected, and its inhabitants 
rather better ; and 1 have seen the spot where, if it be the will of 
Providence, I hope one day to live with my family. . . . Were 
the inhabitants as resolute and industrious as the Northern people, 
and did they understand how to manage as well, they would become 
rich j but they are not generally so. They seem to have no idea of 
improvement in their cattle, sheep, or hogs, nor to know the use of 
enclosed pasture-fields for their stock, but spend a large portion 
of their time in hunting for their cattle, sheep, and horses ; and the 
same habit continues from father to son. ... By comparing them 
with the people of other parts of the country, I can see new and 
abundant proof that knowledge is power. I think we might be very 
useful to them on many accounts, were we so disposed. May God 
in mercy keep us all, and enable us to get wisdom ; and with all our 
getting or losing, to get, understanding ! 

Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

Before John Brown went to the Adirondacs to look after 
the colored people there, he seems to have had another 
project of the same sort in view, in connection with these 
Obeiiin lands. The records of that Ohio college (where 
white and colored students were educated together, before 
any other such institution ventured to do so) show the fol 
lowing entries : 

" April 1, 1840. In the Prudential Committee, Brother John 
Brown from Hudson being present, some negotiations were opened 
in respect to our Virginia lands. 

" April 3, 1840. A communication from Brother John Brown, of 
Hudson, was presented and read by the Secretary, containing a pro 
position to visit, survey, and make the necessary investigation re 
specting boundaries, etc., of those lands, for one dollar per day, and 
a moderate allowance for necessary expenses; said paper frankly 



1840.] PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT. 135 

expressing also his design of viewing the lands, as a preliminary step 
to locating his family upon them, should the opening prove a favor 
able one : whereupon, Voted, that said proposition be acceded to, and 
that a commission and needful outfit be furnished by the Secretary 
and Treasurer." 

"July ]4, 1840. The report of John Brown, respecting his 
agency to Virginia and examination of the Smith donation of land, 
was read by the Secretary and deferred." 

u Aug. 11, 1840. Voted, that the Secretary address a letter to 
John Brown, of Hudson, in reference to the Virginia land agency." 

In the records of the Board of Trustees, under date of 
Aug. 28, 1840, is the following minute : 

" Voted, that the Prudential Committee be authorized to perfect 
negotiations, and convey by deed to Brother John Brown, of Hudson, 
one thousand acres of oar Virginia land on the conditions suggested 
in the correspondence which has already transpired between him and 
the committee." 

There is nothing in the record of the subsequent action of 
the Prudential Committee or of the Trustees which goes to 
show that a deed was actually given to John Brown, or that 
the conditions were fulfilled by him. 

Concerning the opening of this negotiation, I find this 
letter from an Oberlin official, Levi Burnell, to John Brown's 
father, Owen, who was a Trustee of the college : 

OBERLIN, April 3, 1840. 

DEAR BROTHER BROWN, I received your favor by your son 
John, and our committee have opened negotiations with him pre 
liminary to his visiting our Virginia lands. We hope for a favorable 
issue, both for him and the institution. When he has thoroughly 
examined the papers and spent the necessary time upon the premises, 
we expect that he will know more than all of us about the matter ; 
and I trust we shall feel disposed to offer liberal inducements for him 
and others to settle there, if that is best. Should he succeed in clear 
ing up titles without difficulty or lawsuits, it would be easy, as it 
appears to me, to make provision for religious and school privileges, 
and by proper efforts, with the blessing of God, soon see that wilder 
ness bud and blossom as the rose. 

The main outlines of Brown's plan have been given by 
one of his Kansas company, Richard Eealf, who heard him 



136 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1858. 

explain it in Canada in 1858, and who professed to have 
made this statement up from Brown's own words. It is 
evidently colored and exaggerated in many particulars by 
the imagination of the reporter, and at several points is 
contrary to what is otherwise known. But with these 
abatements, it may be taken as a general outline of what 
Brown actually said. This is RealFs report, which it needs 
a long breath to read, for its odd rhetoric : 

"John Brown stated that for twenty or thirty years the idea had 
possessed him like a passion of giving liberty to the slaves ; that he 
made a journey to England, during which he made a tour upon the 
European continent, inspecting all fortifications, and especially all 
earthwork forts which he could find, with a view of applying the 
knowledge thus gained, with modifications and inventions of his own, 
to a mountain warfare in the United States. He stated that he had 
read all the books upon insurrectionary warfare that he could lay his 
hands on : the Roman warfare, the successful opposition of the Span 
ish chieftains during the period when Spain was a Roman province, 
how with ten thousand men, divided and subdivided into small 
companies, acting simultaneously yet separately, they withstood the 
whole consolidated power of the Roman Empire through a number 
of years. In addition to this, he had become very familiar with the 
successful warfare waged by Schamyl, 1 the Circassian chief, against 
the Russians; he had posted himself in relation to the war of Tous- 
saint L'Ouverture ; he had become thoroughly acquainted with the 
wars in Hayti and the islands round about ; arid from all these things 
he had drawn the conclusion, believing, as he stated there he did 
believe, and as we all (if I may judge from myself) believed, 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, 

1 It is singular that while this Schamyl, the daring Lesghian chieftain, 
who, in alliance with the Circassians, had defied the Czar for twenty years, 
was visiting St. Petersburg as the honored guest of his foeman, John Brown 
at that very time was captured and executed by the American slaveholders. 
Schamyl was at once the warrior and the prophet of his race, and in the fast 
nesses of the Caucasus, where the Russians assailed him, he had worn out 
their armies by delays, ambuscades, and surprises. At last, after enormous 
losses of men and material by the Russians, they stormed his stronghold, 
and he surrendered in 1859. The same New York newspapers which con 
tained the news of Brown's failure described the hospitable reception of 
Schamyl at the capital of Nicholas. 



1858.] PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT. 137 

where he purposed to work, and that by flocking to his standard 
they would enable him (making the line of mountains which cuts 
diagonally through Maryland and Virginia, down through the South 
ern 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 ; that we should be able to establish ourselves 
in the fastnesses. And if any hostile action were taken against us, 
either by the militia of the States or by the armies of the United 
States, we purposed to defeat first the militia, and next, if possible, 
the troops of the United States; and then organize the free blacks 
under the provisional constitution, which would carve out for the 
locality of its jurisdiction all that mountainous region in which the 
blacks were to be established, in which they were to be taught 
the useful and mechanical arts, and all the business of life. Schools 
were also to be established, and so on. The negroes were to be his 
soldiers." 



This was in fact the purpose of Brown, to enlist a suffi 
cient number of the slaves and the free negroes of the North 
as soldiers, without exciting a general insurrection, and then 
to establish his armed force where it could best annoy the 
slaveholders and make their property unsafe. He intended 
to officer his army with white arid colored men, but to use 
the latter for soldiers chiefly. He had a higher opinion 
than most men at that time of the capacity of the negro as 
a soldier and a citizen, an opinion since justified by events. 
I have often heard Brown dwell on this subject, and mention 
instances of his fitness to take care of himself ; saying, in 
his quaint way, " negroes behaved so much like folks, he 
almost thought they were so." He thought a forcible sepa 
ration between master and slave might be necessary, in order 
to educate the slaves for self-government. 

A part of Brown's preparation for the warfare in which 
he meant to engage was his Spartan mode of life and his 
self-denial in most matters of food, dress, amusement, and 
personal comfort. His daughter's testimony is clear on this 
point ; and all who knew him can recall instances of this 
self-denial. He followed strictly the sage's injunction, " At 
rich men's tables eat thou bread and pulse ; " and he was 
rather averse to accept the hospitality of those friends who 
lived luxuriously. He avoided the sumptuous hotels of 



138 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BRO.WN. [1839. 

New York and other cities, and went by preference to plain 
taverns where farmers and drovers were entertained. His 
dress was neat but plain, and he wore the same garments a 
long time, always from choice, and sometimes from necessity. 
He never used tobacco in any form, and seldom drank wine 
or spirits. When at home he drank milk or water. It was 
not till a few years before his death that he drank tea or 
coffee, and he took up this habit only from the desire to 
give no trouble to others ; for he found that in travelling it 
sometimes annoyed good people to see their guest drink 
water instead of tea. He never ate cheese or butter ; and 
said that as a boy, ten years old, he was once sent of an 
errand where a lady gave him a piece of bread and butter ; 
he was so bashful that he did not dare tell her he never ate 
butter, but as soon as he got out of the house he ran as fast 
as he could for a long time, and then threw her gift out of 
sight. He had great skill in providing for a company of 
men, and could have maintained a force in the field at very 
little cost. But his health was much affected in his later 
years by malaria and other ills of advancing age, from which, 
when he entered upon active service, he lost much time and 
suffered great hardships. 1 

1 Jason Brown, who remembers well the oath taken by himself and his 
family when his father first made known to them his purpose of attacking 
slavery by force, thinks the time was not 1837, but 1839. The place, he 
says, was Franklin, and the time was "when the colored preacher Mr. 
Fayette was at father's; and he (Mr. F. ) and mother, John, Jason, and 
Owen were sworn to secrecy, and to do all in their power to abolish slav 
ery." Jason also thinks he cut the date of the year on a rock near the 
swimming-place in Hudson which he and Owen used to frequent. Mrs. 
Brown gave me the impression it was in 1838 ; but the exact date is 
unimportant. The Oberlin College enterprise was connected with the suc 
cessful effort made by Miss Martineau and others in England in December, 
1839, to raise funds for the college in which education was given without 
distinction of color or sex. See "Harriet Martineau's Autobiography," 
edited by Mrs. Chapman, vol. ii. pp. 345, 346. 



1841.] FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME LIFE. 139 



CHAPTER VI. 
FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME 



A LTHOUGH he lived so actively in his business affairs, 
'** and planned so much public activity, yet a great part 
of John Brown's life was spent in the most quiet, humble, 
and domestic manner. Before entering, therefore, upon 
the startling record of his public career, let me disclose more 
fully his home life, and his affectionate, practical relations 
to all those who depended upon him ; which can best be 
done by his family letters at different dates, before he sent 
his sons to Kansas or set forth to join them there. 

To his Children. 

HUDSON, Jan. 18, 1841. 

DEAR SON JOHN, Since I parted with you at Hudson some 
thoughts have passed through my mind which my intense anxiety 
for your welfare prompts me to communicate by writing. I think 
the situation in which you have been placed by Providence at this 
early period of your life will afford to yourself and others some little 
test of the sway you may be expected to exert over minds in after life, 
and I am glad, on the whole, to have you brought in some measure 
to the test in your youth. If you cannot now go into a disorderly 
country school and gain its confidence and esteem, and reduce it to 
good order, and waken up the energies and the very soul of every ra 
tional being in it, yes, of every mean, ill-behaved, ill-governed boy 
and girl that compose it, and secure the good- will of the parents, 
then how are you to stimulate asses to attempt a passage of the Alps f 
If you run with footmen and they should weary you, how should you 
contend with horses ? If in the land of peace they have wearied yon, 
then how will you do in the swelling of Jordan ? Shall I answer the 
question myself? "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, 
who giveth liberally and upbraideth not." Let me say to you again, 



140 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1845. 

love them all, aud commend them and yourself to the God to whom 
Solomon sought in his youth, and he shall bring it to pass. You 
have heard me tell of dividing a school into two large spelling-classes, 
and of its effects j if you should think best, and can remember the 
process, you can try it. Let the grand reason, that one course is 
right and another wrong, be kept continually before your own mind 
and before your school. 

From your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 



AKRON, May 23, 1845. 

DEAR SON JOHN, Yours of the 28th April we did not get very 
seasonably, as we have been very busy, and not at the post-office 
often. We are all obliged for your letter, and I hope thankful for 
any comfort or success that may attend you. If the days of mourn 
ing have indeed and in truth ceased, then I trust all is well, all is 
well as it should be ; and I have known fair days to follow after very 
foul weather. The great trouble is, we are a.pt to get too damp in a 
wet, foggy spell. We are all well but little Annie, who is afflicted 
with a singular eruption of the skin, and is withal quite unwell. We 
get along in our business as well as we ever have done, I think. We 
have some sheep, but not as many as for two seasons past. Matters 
seem to go well betwixt us and our friend Perkins, and for anything 
that I know of, our worldly prospects are as good as we can bear. 
I hope that entire leanness of soul may not attend any little success 
in business. I do not know as we have yet any new plans ; when we 
have, we will let you hear. We are nearly through another yean 
ing time, and have lost but very few. Have not yet counted tails : 
think there may be about four hundred. Never had a finer or more 
thrifty lot. Expect to begin washing sheep next week. Have re 
ceived our medals and diploma. They are splendid toys, and appear 
to be knock-down arguments among the sheep-growers who have 
seen them. All were well at Hudson a few days since. Father was 
here, and had just moved into the Humiston house out west. You 
did not say in your letter whether you ever conversed with him in 
regard to his plans for his old age, as was talked of when you were 
here and were helping pick sheep ; should like to know if you did, 
etc. Cannot tell you much more now, except it be that we all appear 
to think a great deal more about this world than about the next, 
which proves that we are still very foolish. I leave room for some 
others of the family to write, if they will. 

Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 



1846.] FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME LIFE. 141 

May 30, 1845. 

DEAR SON, We are at this time all well, but very busy prepar 
ing for shearing. Have had a most dreadful frost over night, and am 
afraid the wheat is all killed. There will be here no article of fruit. 
I trust you will perform your service with patient spirit, doing with 
your might The children will write you hereafter. 
Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

AKRON, OHIO, June 6, 1846. 

DEAR SON AND DAUGHTER, I wrote you some time since, en 
closing five dollars ; but neither of you have let me know whether 
you received it or not, nor how much you were in immediate want of. 
Two lines would have told me all, and that you were or were not 
well. I now enclose you ten dollars ; and I want to hear from you 
without one moment's delay, or I cannot till I get to New England 
(possibly). Say to me how much you must have for your bills at 
Austinburg and expenses back to this place. I can calculate for 
John's expenses to Springfield from here, and will provide for that. 
I have some nice cloth for an entire suit, which I think I had better 
take for you (John) to Springfield, so that you can have it made up 
there if you have any want of clothes before winter. We have plenty 
of it on hand, and it will save paying out the money. We are getting 
a good pair of calfskin boots made for you. We intend to take on 
a good supply of nice well-made shirts, in order to save your paying 
there for such things more than is indispensable, and also to prevent 
your being delayed after you come back here with Euth. 

It is barely possible that Jason and I may come by way of Austin- 
burg. We expect to start in a little more than a week from this. 
If I do not come by your place on my way, you may look for another 
letter before I start for the East. It may be that some of your bills 
can lie unpaid till I can sell some of our wool, and let you draw on 
Perkins & Brown at Springfield for the amount, instead of making 
a remittance by mail. Some of your merchants or other business 
men might be glad to get a small draft of that kind, payable at sight. 
Let me know all about matters. All are well here. 
Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

The letter above printed was written to John and Euth 
Brown, who were then at school, or taking lessons, in Aus 
tinburg, Ohio. Their father was about removing to Massa 
chusetts. 



142 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1846. 

To his Wife and Children. 

SPRINGFIELD, Sept. 29, 1846. 

DEAR MARY, ... Your letter dated the 20th was received last 
night, and afforded me a real though a mournful satisfaction. That 
you had received, or were to receive, a letter from either John or 
Jason I was in perfect ignorance of till you informed me ; and I am 
glad to learn that, wholly uninfluenced by me, they have shown a 
disposition to afford you the comfort in your deep affliction which the 
nature of the case would admit of. Nothing is scarcely equal with 
me to the satisfaction of seeing that one portion of my remaining 
family are not disposed to exclude from their sympathies and their 
warm affections another portion. I accept it as one of the most 
grateful returns that can he made to me for any care or exertion on 
my part to promote either their present or their future well-being : 
and while I am able to discover such a feeling, I feel assured that 
notwithstanding God has chastised us often and sore, yet he has not 
entirely withdrawn himself from us nor forsaken us utterly. The 
sudden and dreadful manner in which he has seen fit to call our dear 
little Kitty to take her leave of us is, I need not tell you how much, 
in my mind ; but before Him I will bow my head in submission and 
hold my peace. ... I have sailed over a somewhat stormy sea for 
nearly half a century, and have experienced enough to teach me 
thoroughly that I may most reasonably buckle up and be prepared 
for the tempest. Mary, let us try to maintain a cheerful self-command 
while we are tossing up and down , and let our motto still be Action, 
Action, as we have but one life to live. 

Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., Jan 5, 1847. 

DEAR DAUGHTER RUTH, Yours dated the 20th and Jason's dated 
the 16th of December were both received in season, and were very 
grateful to our feelings, as we are anxious to hear from home often, 
and had become very uneasy before we got word from Jason. We 
are middling well, and very much perplexed with our work, accounts, 
and correspondence. We expect now to go home, if our lives and 
health are spared, next month, and we feel rejoiced that the time is 
so near when we hope to meet you all once more. Sometimes my 
imagination follows those of my family who have passed behind the 
scenes; and I would almost rejoice to be permitted to make them a 
personal visit. I have outlived nearly half of all my numerous fam 
ily, and I ought to realize that in any event a large proportion of my 
journey is travelled over. 



1847.] FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME LIFE. 143 

You say that you would like very much to have a letter from me, 
with as much good advice as I will give. Well, what do you sup 
pose I feel most anxious for in regard to yourself and all at home ? 
Would you believe that I ever had any such care on my mind about 
them as we read that Job had about his family (not that I would 
ever think to compare myself with Job) ? Would you believe that 
the long story would be that ye sin not, that you form no foolish 
attachments, and that you be not a companion of fools ? 
Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 



SPRINGFIELD, March 12, 1847. 

DEAR SON JOHN, Yours dated Feb. 27th I this day received. 
It was written about the same time I reached this place again. I 
am glad to learn that you are relieved in a good measure from another 
season of suffering. Hope you will make the right improvement of 
it. I have been here nearly two weeks. Have Captain Spencer, 
Freeman, the Hudsons, together with Schlessinger and Ramsden, all 
helping me again. Have turned about four thousand dollars' worth 
of wool into cash since I returned ; shall probably make it up to 
seven thousand by the 16th. Sold Musgrave the James Wallace lot 
yesterday for fifty-eight cents all round. Hope to get pretty much 
through by the middle of April. Have paid your account for the 
" Cincinnati Weekly Herald and Philanthropist," together with two 
dollars for one year's subscription to "National Era/' being in all 
three dollars. I should have directed to have the " National Era " 
sent you at Austinburg, but could not certainly know as you would 
be there to take it. You had better direct to have it sent to you 
there. I now intend to send Ruth on again soon after my return. 
Jason writes on the 3d that all are well at home. I feel better than 
when I left home, and send my health to all in and about Austinburg. 
Yours affectionately, 

JOHN BROWN. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., April 12, 1847. 

DEAR SON JOHN, Yours of the 5th is just received. I was very 
glad to learn by it that you were then well. I had begun to feel 
anxious, not hearing for so long a time since you wrote, that you 
were unwell. My own health is middling good ; and I learn that 
all at home were well a few days since. I enclose ten dollars; and 
I must say that when you continue to make INDEFINITE applica 
tions for money, without giving me the least idea of the amount you 
need, after I have before complained of the same thing, namely, 



144 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1847. 

your not telling me frankly how much you need, it makes me feel 
injured. Suffice it to say that it always affords me the greatest 
pleasure to assist you when I can; but if you want five, ten, twenty, 
or fifty dollars, why not say so, and then let me help you so far as I 
am able I It places me in an awkward fix. I am much more will 
ing to send you all you actually need (if in my power), than to send 
any when you do not tell what your wants require. 

I do not now see how we could make the exchange Mr. Walker 
proposes in regard to sheep, but should suppose it might be done to 
his mind somewhere in our direction. I should think your brother 
student might pay the postage of a letter ordering the " Era" to you 
at Austinburg till the year expires. I have ten times as many papers 
as I can read. Have got on middling well, since I wrote you, with 
the wool-trade, and mean to return shortly, and send Ruth to Austin- 
burg. Do not see how to take time to give you further particulars 
now, having so much every hour to attend to. Write me on receipt 
of this. Will send you a Steubenville report. 

Affectionately your father, 

JOHN BROWX. 

P. S. Had I sent you twenty dollars, you deprive me of the com 
fort of knowing that your wishes have been at all complied with. 



AKRON, July 9, 1847. 

DEAR SON JOHX, I wrote you yesterday to urge your coming 
here to keep up the family for a few months, as I knew of no way to 
provide for Jason or Owen's board ; but that matter is all got over, 
and the probability is that Jason will have a wife as soon as you. 
We mean to have the business done up before we leave, so as to 
have no breaking up of the family here. I would now say that if 
you can get ready and meet us at Buffalo on the 14th or 15th, we 
shall be glad to have you go on with us. I would be willing to 
delay for a day or more in order to bring it about. It would seem as 
though you might bring it about by that time, so early as to get here 
on the 16th, as you wrote. As matters now stand, I feel very anx 
ious to have you go on with us, and partly on Frederick's account. 
I sent you yesterday a certificate of deposit for fifty dollars, directed to 
Vernon, care of Miss Wealthy Hotchkiss. 1 Should it so happen that 
you get to Buffalo before we do, wait for us at Bennett's Hotel ; or 
we will wait for you awhile. Inquire for us at Bennett's, or of George 
Palmer, Esq. If you get this in season, you may perhaps get to 

1 Soon to be Mrs. John Brown, Jr. 



1851.] FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME LIFE. 145 

Buffalo before we can. Mary is still quite feeble. Frederick appears 
to be quite as well as when you left. Say to Ruth I remember her. 
Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

SPRINGFIELD, Sept. 1, 1847. 

DEAR DAUGHTER RUTH, I have not heard from you since John 
left to come on here ; and I can assure you it is not for want of inter 
est in your welfare that I have so long delayed writing you. We 
got over the tedious job of moving as well as we could expect, and 
have both families comfortably fixed. Frederick has been under the 
treatment of one of the most celebrated physicians in Massachusetts, 
and for some part of the time has appeared to be as well as ever, but 
has not appeared so well for a few days past. Your mother is quite 
unwell with a bilious fever, and has been so for a day or two. We 
think she is doing well now, and hope she will get around soon. 
We have almost all of us complained more or less since we got on 
here. We have heard from Akron every few days since we came on. 
All were well there a short time since. 

Our business here seems to go on middling well, and should noth 
ing befall me I hope to see you about the last of this month or early 
next. John says he will write you soon. I supposed he had done 
so before this, until now. We are very busy, and suppose we are 
likely to be for the present. We expect you to write us how you get 
along, of course. 

Affectionately yours, 

JOHN BROWN. 

VERNON, ONEIDA Co., N. Y., March 24, 1851. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I now enclose draft on New York for fifty 
dollars, which I think you can dispose of to some of the merchants 
for a premium at this time in the season. I shall pay you the bal 
ance as soon as I can ; but it may be out of my power until after we 
sell our wool, which I think there is a prospect now of doing early. 
I hope to get through here so as to be on our way again to Ohio be 
fore the week closes, but want you and Jason both to hold on and 
take the best possible care of the flock until I do get on, at any rate. 
I wrote you last week that the family is on the road : the boys are 
driving on the cattle, and my wife and the little girls are at Oneida 
Depot, waiting for me to go on with them. 1 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

1 The family were removing from North Elba to Akron, leaving Ruth 
and her husband, Henry Thompson, in the Adirondac woods. 

10 



146 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1851. 

To his Wife. 

BOSTON, MASS., Dec. 22, 1851. 

DEAR MARY, ... There is an unusual amount of very inter 
esting things happening in this and other countries at present, and no 
one can foresee what is yet to follow. The great excitement pro 
duced by the coming of Kossuth, and the last news of a new revolution 
in France, with the prospect that all Europe will soon again be in a 
blaze, seerns to have taken all by surprise. I have only to say in 
regard to those things, I rejoice in them, from the full belief that God 
is carrying out his eternal purpose in them all. I hope the boys 
will be particularly careful to have no waste of feed of any kind, for 
I a in strongly impressed with the idea that a long, severe winter is 
before us. 

This letter shows how closely Brown attended to politics 
in Europe as well as in America, notwithstanding his la 
borious life and the urgency of his private affairs. The 
" new revolution in France " was the coup d'etat of Louis 
Napoleon, which happened in this month of December, 
1851. At the same time the Hungarian patriot Kossuth 
was exciting great enthusiasm in Massachusetts and the 
Northern States in general ; Charles Sumner was celebrat 
ing him in an eloquent speech at Washington ; Emerson at 
Concord was bidding him welcome to the historic battle 
ground there ; and Theodore Parker, in his Boston pulpit, 
was preaching in behalf of Hungarian independence. The 
friends of Brown, on whom he relied in later years, were 
singularly in accord with him in 1851, though neither Emer 
son nor Parker nor Sumner had then seen Brown. I was 
then a student at Exeter, preparing for Harvard College, 
and I remember the interest that Kossuth aroused there. 
An old lady with whom I sometimes took tea, and with 
whom in her youth Daniel Webster had taken tea when a 
student at Exeter fifty-five years before, used to divide the 
talk at her little round tea-table between anecdotes of Web 
ster (whom she admired for his beauty and eloquence, but 
abhorred for his betrayal of the Northern cause) and eulogies 
of Kossuth, Sumner, Garrison, and the other friends of free 
dom in Europe and America. While Miss Betsey Clifford 
thus manifested her enthusiasm at the age of seventy, her 



1850.J FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME LIFE. 147 

young guest at the age of twenty was publishing verses ad 
dressed to Kossuth in praise and to Webster in censure of 
their public action. But the pithy comment of John Brown 
" God is carrying out his eternal purpose in them all " 
was as profitable an utterance as that of any scholar or 
statesman of that period. He belonged to the school of the 
prophets, though a herdsman like Amos the Hebrew and 
the Arabian seer. I have been able to find but few of 
Brown's letters in the years 1850-51, when the first general 
agitation against the aggression of Southern slaveholders 
took place in the North ; nor do his earlier letters contain 
much allusion to the antislavery crusade of Garrison, Gerrit 
Smith, Arthur Tappan, Wendell Phillips, and the other 
emancipationists. But he took the warmest interest in 
these discussions from the first, and like Garrison and his 
associates early declared against the colonizationists, who 
would send the free negroes away to Liberia. Milton Lusk, 
Brown's brother-in-law, already quoted, has given me some 
details of antislavery action at Hudson fifty years ago. At 
that time Rev. Henry R. Storrs, a devoted antislavery man, 
was at the head of the Western Reserve College in Hudson, 
and a communicant, if not pastor, of a Congregational church 
there. In that to which Mr. Lusk belonged it had been 
customary before 1835 to take up a collection occasionally 
for the cause of colonization, which was advocated from the 
pulpit by agents of the Colonization Society. On one of 
these occasions "Brother Lusk" was asked to take up the 
collection as usual, but refused. His pastor earnestly ques 
tioned him why ; whereupon Milton Lusk showed the cler 
gyman a speech or letter of Chief-Justice Marshall, in 
which colonization was advocated as a relief to the Virginia 
slaveholders, by removing the troublesome class of the free 
negroes from the State. " If that is genuine," argued Mr. 
Lusk, "then the slaveholders are asked to give money for 
colonization to protect slavery ; while we are asked for 
money to remove slavery by colonization. If our contri 
butions go into the same fund, I for one will never help 
to raise another dollar." The pastor could not deny the 
premises of his parishioner, and was forced to accept his 
conclusion ; but not long afterward Milton Lusk was ex- 



148 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1852. 

communicated for various errors of opinion, among which 
the colonization incident was not quite forgotten. 1 

TROY, N. Y., Jan. 23, 1852. 

DEAR CHILDREN, I returned here on the evening of the 19th 
inst., having left Akron on the 14th, the date of your letter to John. 
I was very glad to hear from you again in that way, not having re 
ceived 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 yqu are only tasting of a cup I have 
had to drink deeply, and very often, I need not tell you how fully I 
can sympathize with you in your anxiety. . . . 

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 Douglass 7 paper, I wish you 
would let me know, as I know I took liberty in ordering it contin 
ued. You have been very kind in helping me, and I do not mean 
to make myself a burden. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

AKRON, OHIO, March 20, 1852. 

DEAR CHILDREN, I reached home on the 18th at evening, meet 
ing with father on the way, who went home with me and left us 
yesterday ; he kept me so busied that I had no time to write you 
yesterday. I found all in usual health but Frederick, who has one 
of his poor turns again ; it is not severe, and we hope will not be so. 
I now enclose the Flanders lease. You will discover that the bar 
gain I had with him for the second year is simply an extension of the 

1 " ' I threw down Judge Marshall's speech and stamped on it,' said Mil 
ton Lusk. ' Why, Milton, what ails yon ? ' said my sister. I told her I 
had got through raising money for colonization. I asked our minister if 
our contributions here in Ohio went into the same chest with those from 
Virginia, where men sold slaves and put a part of the purchase-money into 
the contribution -box ? He said he supposed so. Then, I said, I could have 
nothing to do with it." 



1852.] FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME LIFE. 149 

time made on the back of it, except that for the last year I was to 
pay the taxes. Owen says he thinks the tooth fell out of the harrow 
while lying on a pile of sticks and old boards near the corner of the 
barn, between that and the house; and that if you do not find it 
among the rubbish, nor in the house or barn, over the door from 
the barn into the back shed, he cannot tell where it will be found. 
Expecting to hear from you again soon, 

I remain your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 



AKRON, OHIO, May 14, 1852. 

DEAR CHILDREN, I have a great deal to write, and but very 
little time in M'hich to do it. A letter was received from you, which 
Salmon put in his pocket before it had been opened, and lost it. This 
grieved me very much indeed j I could hardly be reconciled to it. 
We have been having the measles, and now have the whooping- 
cough among the children very bad. Your mother was confined by 
the birth of the largest and strongest boy she ever had two weeks 
ago, and has got along well considering all our difficulties. The 
little one took the measles, and was very sick, and has now the 
whooping-cough so bad that we expect to lose him; we thought 
him dying for some time last night. Annie and Sarah cough badly ; 
Oliver is getting over it. Our little one has dark hair and eyes like 
Watson's ; notwithstanding our large number, we are very anxious to 
retain him. 

Jason and Owen have gone on to a large farm of Mr. Perkins over 
in Talmadge. Frederick is with us, and is pretty well. The family 
of Mr. Perkins have the whooping-cough, and have had the measles. 
They have another son, a few days older than ours. Our other 
friends are well, so far as we know. Father was with us, quite well, 
a few days ago. We have had so much rain that we could do but 
little towards spring crops. Have planted our potatoes. The grass 
is forward ; great prospect of apples and cherries, but no peaches 
scarcely. Have twelve of the finest calves I ever saw. Our Troy 
suit went in our favor, but not to the extent that it ought. I 
have bought out the interests of Jason and Owen in the lot we 
got of Mr. Smith, on which, I suppose, you are living before this. 
I can send you no more now than my earnest wishes for your 
good, and my request that as soon as you can you send me the 
substance of your last letter, with such additions as you may be able 
to make. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 



150 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1852. 

AKRON, OHIO, July 20, 1852. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I wrote you a few days before the death of 
our infant son, saying we expected to lose him ; since then we have 
some of us been sick constantly. The measles and whooping-cough 
went so hard with Sarah that we were quite anxious on her account, 
but were much more alarmed on account of my wife, who was taken 
with bleeding at the lungs two or three days after the death of her 
child. She was pretty much confined to her bed for some weeks, and 
suffered a good deal of pain, but is now much more comfortable, and 
able to be around. About the time she got about I was taken with 
fever and ague, and am unable to do much now, but have got the 
shakes stopped for the present. The almost constant wet weather 
put us back very much about our crops, and prevented our getting in 
much corn. What we have is promising. Our wheat is a very good 
quality, but the crop is quite moderate. Our grass is good, and we 
have a good deal secured. We shall probably finish harvesting 
wheat to-day. Potatoes promise well. Sheep and cattle are doing 
well ; and I would most gladly be able to add that in wisdom and 
good morals we are all improving. The boys have done remarkably 
well about the work ; I wish I could see them manifest an equal 
regard for their future well-being. Blindness has happened to us in 
that which is of most importance. 

We are at a loss for a reason that we .do not hear a word from you. 
The friends are well, so far as I know. Heard from Henry and B,uth 
a few days since. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

AKRON, OHIO, Aug. 6, 1852. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I had just written a short letter to you, di 
rected and sealed it, when I got yours of the 1st instant. I am glad 
to hear from you again, and had been writing that I could not re 
member hearing anything from you since early last spring. I am 
pretty much laid up with the ague, and have been for more than a 
month. The family are about in their usual health. Your mother 
is not well, but is about the house at work. The other friends are 
well, so far as I know. After something of a drouth, the weather 
has become very unsteady ; yet we have not had a great amount of 
rain. We get a little so often that we progress slowly with our hay 
ing, of which we have yet considerable to do ; we have also some 
late oats to cut. Have our wheat secured. Our corn we had to 
plant over once ; it now looks promising. The prospect for potatoes, 
since the rains have begun to come, is good. Our sheep and cattle 



1852.] FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME LIFE. 151 

are doing well; we think of taking some to Cleveland to show. 
Have not heard from Henry and Ruth since June 26, when they were 
well. Mr. Ely of Boston writes us that our trial there will come on 
about the 21st September, and that we must then be ready. He says 
Mr. Beebe had not returned from Europe July 24, but is expected 
this month. We want you without fail to have your business so 
arranged that you can go on and be there by that date, as we cannot 
do without you at all. We have not yet sold our wool. I hope 
your corn and oats will recover ; ours that was blown down last year 
did in a good measure. 

One word in regard to the religious belief of yourself, and the ideas 
of several of my children. My affections are too deep-rooted to be 
alienated from them; but u iny gray hairs must go down in sorrow 
to the grave" unless the true God forgive their denial and rejection 
of him, and open their eyes. I am perfectly conscious that their 
eyes are blinded to the real truth, their minds prejudiced by hearts 
unreconciled to their Maker and Judge ; and that they have no right 
appreciation of his true character, nor of their own. "A deceived 
heart hath turned them aside." That God in infinite mercy, for 
Christ's sake, may grant to you and Wealthy, and to my other chil 
dren, " eyes to see," is the most earnest and constant prayer of 
Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 



AKRON, OHIO, Aug. 10, 1852. 

DEAR RUTH, Your letter to mother and children is this day 
received. We are always glad to hear from you, and are much 
pleased with the numerous particulars your letters contain. I have 
had a return of the ague (rather severe), so that I am pretty much 
laid up, and not good for much anyway; am now using means to 
break it up again. Your mother is still more or less troubled with 
her difficulties, but is able to keep about and accomplish a good deal. 
The remainder of the family (and friends, so far as I know) are quite 
well. We are getting nearly through haying and harvest. Our hay 
crop is most abundant ; and we have lately had frequent little rains, 
which for the present relieves us from our fears of a terrible drouth. 
We are much rejoiced to learn that God in mercy has given you some 
precious showers. It is a great mercy to us that we frequently are 
made to understand most thoroughly our absolute dependence on a 
power quite above ourselves. How blessed are all whose hearts and 
conduct do not set them at variance with that power ! Why will not 
my family endeavor to secure his favor, and to effect in the one only 
way a perfect reconciliation f 



152 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1852. 

The cars have been running regularly from Akron to Cleveland 
since July 5, so that there is now steam conveyance from Akron to 
Westport. This is a great comfort, as it reduces the journey to such 
a trifling affair. We are making a little preparation for the Ohio 
State Fair at Cleveland, on 15th, 16th, 17th September next, and 
think we shall exhibit some cattle and sheep. Mr. and Mrs. Per 
kins have been away at New York for about three weeks. Mr. 
Perkins is away for a great part of the time. We are quite obliged 
to our friend Mrs. Dickson for remembering us ; are glad she is with 
you, and hope you will do a little towards making her home with you 
happy on our account, as we very much respect her, and feel quite an 
interest in her welfare. 

Our Oliver has been speculating for some months past in hogs. I 
think he will probably come out about even, and maybe get the inter 
est of his money. Frederick manages the sheep mostly, and butchers 
mutton for the two families. Watson operates on the farm. Salmon 
is chief captain over the cows, calves, etc., and he has them all to 
shine. Jason and Owen appear to be getting along with their farm 
ing middling well. The prospect now is that the potato crop will be 
full middling good. Annie and Sarah go to school. Annie has be 
come a very correct reader. Sarah goes singing about as easy as an 
old shoe. Edward still continues in California. Father is carrying on 
his little farming on his own hook still, and seems to succeed very 
well. I am much gratified to have him able to do so, and he seems 
to enjoy it quite as much as ever he did. 1 I have now written about 
all I can well think of for this time. 

Your affectionate father, JOHN BROWN. 

AKRON, OHIO, Sept. 21, 1852. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I now enclose five dollars to pay you for the 
expense of your trip to Cleveland as near as I can. I would have 
given you more at Cleveland had I met with Mr. Perkins in season 
after you concluded to leave. We will hereafter arrange about your 
time so as to make that satisfactory. We drew three second pre 
miums at the fair, but no first premium. Our bull -by far the most 
extraordinary animal we have got no premium at all. We heard 
a very strong expression of dissatisfaction with the award on Devon 
bulls from numerous strangers, as well as from many good judges of 
our acquaintance, before we left the ground. We received a first 
premium on a yearling buck, and he was the meanest sheep of four 
teen that we exhibited ; we got no other premium on sheep. 

1 Owen Brown was now eighty-one years old. Edward was his youngest 
son. Sarah was John Brown's daughter, at this time six years old. 



1853.] FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME LIFE. 153 

AKRON, OHIO, Sept. 24, 1852. 

DEAR CHILDREN, We received Kuth's letter of the 31st August 
a few days before our State fair at Cleveland, which came off on the 
15th, 16th, and 17th instant. John and myself expected to go from 
there to Boston, and John came on to Cleveland for that purpose ; 
but just then we learned that our trial would not come on until 
November next. I may leave to go on to Boston before November, 
but cannot say now. We got four premiums on cattle and sheep at 
the fair, two of ten dollars e.ach, one of fifteen dollars, and one of 
twenty-five dollars. The Perkinses were much pleased with the 
show of stock we had to make, but felt, as many others did, that 
great injustice was done in not giving us but one first premium, and 
that on our poorest buck exhibited. The premiums were paid in 
silver cups, goblets, etc., and are of little use, except for mere show. 
All the friends were well at the time of the fair, and a large portion 
of them on the show-ground, father among the rest. It was sup 
posed to be the greatest exhibition ever had in the Western States, far 
exceeding those of the State of New York ; but a vast majority of 
those who were at much pains and cost to exhibit their stock and 
other things went away disappointed of any premiums. This is a 
mortifying reflection. 

We are busy taking care of our potatoes and apples, and preparing 
to sow our grain. I have had no shake of ague for some time, but 
am not strong. The family are in usual health. Write again. 



Your affectionate father, 



To his Wife. 



JOHN BROWN. 



BOSTON, MASS., Jan. 16, 1853. 

DEAR WIFE, I have the satisfaction to say that we have at last 
got to trial, and I now hope that a little more than another week will 
terminate it. Up to this time our prospects appear favorable. ... I 
have no word for the boys, except to say I am very glad to hear they 
are doing so well, and that every day increases iny anxiety that they 
all will decide to be wise and good ; and I close by saying that such 
is by far my most earnest wish for you all. 

Your affectionate husband, 

JOHN BROWN. 

The Boston trial went badly, as we have seen in a former 
chapter, nor did the religious views of Brown's children ever 
square perfectly with his own. As years went forward he 



154 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1853. 

became less anxious on this point, and was more willing to 
leave the matter with Providence ; but his own opinions 
never changed. 

AKUOX, Onio, Feb. 21, 1853. 

DEAR CHILDREN, It was my intention, on parting with John at 
Conneaut, to have written you soon; but as Mr. Perkins (imme 
diately on my return home) expressed a strong desire to have me 
continue with him at least for another year, I have deferred it, in 
hopes from day to day of being able to say to you on what terms I 
am to remain. His being absent almost the whole time has pre 
vented our making any definite bargain as yet, although we have 
talked considerably about it. Our bargain will not probably vary 
much from this, namely, he to furnish land, stock of all kinds, teams, 
and tools, pay taxes on lands, half the taxes on other property, and 
furnish half the salt ; I to furnish all the work, board the hands, pay 
half the taxes on personal property put in, half the interest on capital 
on stock, and half the insurance on same, and have half the proceeds 
of all grain and other crops raised, and of all the stock of cattle, 
sheep, hogs, etc. He seems so pleasant, and anxious to have me 
continue, that I cannot tear away from him. He is in quite as good 
spirits since he came home as I expected. 

We are all in good health; so also was father and other Hudson 
friends a few days ago. Our sheep, cattle, etc., have done very well 
through the winter. Got a letter from Ruth a few days ago. All 
appears well with them. She writes that they have had quite a 
revival of religion there, and that Henry is one of the hopefully con 
verted. My earnest and only wish is, that those seeming conversions 
may prove genuine, as I doubt not u there is joy over one sinner that 
repenteth." Will you write me ? 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 



AKRON, OHIO, Sept. 24, 1853. 

DEAR CHILDREN, We received Henry's letter of the 16th August 
in due time, and when it carne I intended to reply at once ; but not 
being very stout, and having many things to look after, it has been 
put off until now. We were very glad of that letter, and of the 
information it gave of your health and prosperity, as well as your 
future calculations. We have some nice turkeys and chickens fatten 
ing, to be ready by the time you come on to Akron. Father and 
Jason were both here this morning. Father is quite well. Jason, 
Ellen, Owen, and Fred have all been having the ague more or less 



1854.] FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME LIFE. 155 

since I wrote before. Other friends are in usual health, I believe. 
We have done part of our sowing, got our fine crop of corn all se 
cured against frosts yesterday, and are digging potatoes to-day. The 
season has been thus far one of great temporal blessing ; and I would 
fain hope that the Spirit of God has not done striving in our hard 
hearts. I sometimes feel encouraged to hope that my sons will give 
up their miserable delusions and believe in God and in his Son our 
Saviour. I think the family are more and more decided in favor of 
returning to Essex, and seem all disposed to be making little prepa 
rations for it as we suppose the time draws near. Our county fair 
comes off on the 12th and J3th October, but we suppose we can 
hardly expect you so soon. Should be much pleased to have you 
here then. . . . 

AKRON, OHIO, Jan. 25, 1854. 

DEAR CHILDREN, I remember I engaged to write you so soon as 
I had anything to tell worth the paper. I do not suppose the balance 
will be great now. So far as I know, the friends here are about in 
usual health, and are passing through the winter prosperously. My 
wife is not in as good health as when you were here. Have not 
heard from Hudson for some days. The loss of sheep has been merely 
a nominal one with us. We have skinned two full-blood Devon 
heifers, from the effects of poison, as we suspect ; for several of our 
young cattle were taken sick about the same time. The others appear 
to be nearly well. 

This world is not yet freed from real malice or envy. It appears 
to be well settled now that we go back to North Elba in the spring. 
I have had a good-natured talk with Mr. Perkins about going away, 
and both families are now preparing to carry out that plan. I do 
not yet know what his intentions are about our compensation for the 
last year. 1 Will write you when I do, as I want you to hold yourself 
(John, I mean) in readiness to come out at once, should he decide to 
give me a share of the stock, etc. Should that be the case, I intend 
to let you have what will give you a little start in the way of red 
cattle. 

I learn, by your letters to others of the family, that you have pretty 
much decided to call your boy John, and that in order to gratify the 
feelings of his great-grandfather and grandfather. I will only now 
say that I hope to be able sometime to convince you that I appreciate 
the sacrifices you may make to accommodate our feelings. I noticed 

1 By referring to a previous letter of Feb. 21, 1853, it will be seen that 
Mr. Perkins's mind had changed within the year. It has been intimated 
that political opinions had something to do with this change. 



156 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1854. 

your remark about the family settling near each other; to this I 
would say, I would like to have my posterity near enough to each 
other to be friendly, but would never wish them to' be brought so in 
contact as to be near neighbors or to intermarry. I may possibly 
write you again very soon. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

AKRON, OHIO, Feb. 9, 1854. 

DEAR SON JOHN, I write by direction of Mr. Perkins to ask you 
to come out immediately to assist him, instead of Mr. Newton, in 
closing up my accounts. He has seen the above, and it is a thing of 
his own naming ; so I want you, if possible, to come right away. 
He has told me he intends to give me one share, but would like to 
have the stock mostly. We are on excellent terms, so far as I know. 
All well except my wife, and I hope she will soon be better. 
Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

AKRON, OHIO, Feb. 24, 1854. 

DEAR SON JOHN, Since writing you before, I have agreed to go 
on to the Ward place for one year, as I found I could not dispose of 
my stuff in time to go to North Elba without great sacrifice this 
spring. We expect to move the first of next week, and do not wish 
you to come on until we get more settled and write you again. As I 
am not going away immediately, there will be no particular hurry 
about the settlement I wrote about before. On reckoning up our 
expenses for the past year, we find we have been quite prosperous. I 
have sold my interest in the increase of sheep to Mr. Perkins for 
about $700, in hogs for $51, in wheat on the ground for $176. These 
will pay our expenses for the year past, and the next year's rent for 
the Ward place, Crinlen place, and Old Portage place. These places 
I get for one year in exchange for my interest in wheat on the 
ground j and it leaves me half the wool of last season (which is on 
hand yet), half the pork, corn, wheat, oats, hay, potatoes, and 
calves sixteen in number. If I could have sold my share of the wool, 
I might have gone to Essex this spring quite comfortably ; but I 
have to pay Henry $100 before he leaves, and I cannot do that and 
have sufficient to move with until I can sell my wool. We are all 
middling well. Henry and Ruth intend to leave for home about the 
15th March, and to go by your place if they can. We have great 
reason to be thankful that we have had so prosperous a year, and 
have terminated our connection with Mr. Perkins so comfortably and 



1854.J FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME LIFE. 157 

on such friendly terms, to all appearance. Perry Warren, to whom 
Henry Warren conveyed his property, was here a few days ago, feel 
ing ahout for a compromise : did nothing, and left, to return again 
soon as he said. We think they are getting tired of the five years' 
war. I shall probably write you again before a great while. 
Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

AKRON, OHIO, April 3, 1854. 

DEAR SON JOHN, We received your letter of the 24th March two 
or three days since, and one from Henry, dated 25th March, about the 
same time. They had got on well so far, but had to go by stage the 
balance of the way. Father got home well, and was with us over 
night Friday last. We have all been middling well of late, but very 
busy, having had the care of the whole concern at Mr. Perkins's place 
until Friday night. I had a most comfortable time settling last year's 
business, and dividing with Mr. Perkins, and have to say of his deal 
ing with me that he has shown himself to be every inch a gentle 
man. I bring to my new home five of the red cows and ten calves ; 
he to have $100 out of my share of the last year's wool, to make us 
even on last year's business ; after dividing all crops, he paying me 
in hand $28.55, balance due me on all except four of the five cows. 
I am going now to work with a cheap team of two yoke oxen, on 
which I am indebted, till I can sell my wool, $89 ; $46 I have paid 
towards them. I would like to have all my children settle within a 
few miles of each other' and of me, but I cannot take the responsibil 
ity of advising you to make any forced move to change your location. 
Thousands have to regret that they did not let middling u well alone." 
I should think you ought to get for your place another $J25; and 
I think you may, if you are not too anxious. That would buy you 
considerable of a farm in Essex or elsewhere, and we may get the 
Homestead Law passed yet. It has been a question with me whether 
you would not do better to hire all your team work done than to have 
your little place overstocked possibly, after some trouble about buy 
ing them, paying taxes, insurance, and some expense for implements 
to use them with. If you get a little overstocked, everything will 
seem to do poorly. Frederick is very much better, but both he and 
Owen have been having the ague lately. They leave the Hill farm 
soon. I do not at this moment know of a good opening for you this 
way. One thing I do not fear to advise and even urge ; and that is 
the habitual " fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom." 
Commending you all to his mercy, I remain 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 



158 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1854. 

AKRON, OHIO, Aug. 24, 1854. 

DEAR CHILDREN, I have just received Henry's letter of the 
13th instant, and have much reason to be thankful for the good news 
it brings. We are all in middling health, so far as I know, in this 
quarter, although there is some sickness about us. Mother Brown, 
of Hudson, was complaining some last week ; have not heard from 
her since then. This part of the country is suffering the most dread 
ful drouth ever experienced during this nineteenth century. We 
have been much more highly favored than most of our neighbors in 
that we were enabled to secure a most excellent hay crop, whilst 
many others did not get theirs saved in time, and lost it notwith 
standing the dry weather. Our oats are no better than those of our 
neighbors, but we have a few. We shall probably have some corn, 
while others, to a great extent, will have none. Of garden vegetables 
we have more than twenty poor families have in many cases. Of 
fruit we shall have a comfortable supply, if our less favored neigh 
bors do not take it all from us. We ought to be willing to divide. 
Our cattle (of which we have thirty-three head) we are enabled to 
keep in excellent condition, on the little feed that grows on the moist 
grounds, and by feeding the stalks green that have failed of corn, 
and we have a good many of them. We have had two light frosts, 
on August the 9th and 18th, but have had more extreme hot 
weather in July and August than ever known before, thermometer 
often up to 98 in the shade, and was so yesterday } it now stands 
(eleven o'clock p. M.) at 93. 

I am thinking that it may be best for us to dispose of all the cattle 
we want to sell, and of all our winter feed, and move a few choice 
cattle to North Elba this fall, provided we can there buy hay and 
other stuff considerably cheaper than we might sell our stuff for here, 
and also provided we can get a comfortable house to winter in. I 
want you to keep writing me often, as you can learn how hay, all 
kinds of grain, and roots can be bought with you, so that I may be the 
better able to judge. Our last year's pork proves to be a most per 
fect article, but I think not best to ship any until the weather gets a 
little cooler. The price Mr. Washburn asks for his contract may not 
be much out of the way, but there seems to be some difficulty about 
a bargain yet. First, he wants' to hang on all his stock, and I do not 
know at present as I want any of them. I do not know what he has 
on hand ; he may perhaps be able to get them off himself. Then, 
again, I do not know as Mr. Smith 1 would give a deed of half the lot 
before the whole purchase-money for the entire lot and interest are 
paid. You may have further information than I have. Early in 

1 Gerrit Smith, who still owned much land at North Elba. 



1854.] FAMILY COUNSELS AND HOME LIFE. 159 

the season all kinds of cattle were high, scarce and ready cash; 
now, as the prospects are, I am entirely unable to make an estimate 
of what money I can realize on them, so as to be able to say just now 
how much money I can raise, provided those other impediments can 
be got over. I intend to turn all I consistently can into money, and 
as fast as I can, and would be glad to secure the purchase of Wash- 
burn, if it can be done consistently and without too much trouble. 
Write me again soon, and advise as far as you can about all these 
matters. We could probably sell all our produce at pretty high 
prices. How are cattle, horses, sheep, and hogs selling in your 
quarter ? 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

These family letters, full of repetitions, of petty concerns, 
of old-fashioned forms of expression, and with their whim 
sical mixture of important and unimportant affairs, have a 
value, in exhibiting the true character of John Brown, that 
more elaborate epistles, elegantly written with an eye to 
the public, could not possibly hold. Like the rude verses 
of Lucilius, they paint the whole life of the old man ; but 
they were written, unlike the Koman verses, without the 
least thought of publication. The later letters of the series 
written five years before he engaged in his Virginia 
campaign, which Colonel Perkins thought so foolish 
point to the final separation between these two unequally 
yoked partners. They had worked together, each in his own 
way, for more than ten years ; and they parted amicably, 
though with some after-thoughts which hindered them from 
ever uniting in sentiment again. At this time the sons of 
Brown were beginning to look towards Kansas as a place for 
their husbandry ; and we shall see in the next chapter why 
its open territory attracted them. 



160 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1784. 



CHAPTER VII. 
KANSAS, THE SKIRMISH-GROUND OF THE CIVIL WAR. 

HpHE State of Kansas, which gave John Brown his first 
* distinction, occupies territory with which the names of 
other famous men are associated, though with none is it 
more closely connected than with his. The first of Euro 
peans to visit Kansas was Vasquez de Coronado, a Spanish 
captain, who in 1541-42 reached its southern and western 
counties, coming up from Mexico in search of gold, silver, 
and fabulous cities. He called the land " Quivira," and de 
scribed it as " the best possible soil for all kinds of Spanish 
productions, very strong and black, and well watered by 
brooks, springs, and rivers ; " but in reaching it from Mex 
ico he marched nine hundred and fifty leagues, and traversed 
" mighty plains and sandy heaths, smooth and wearisome, 
and bare of wood." These plains he found " all the way 
as full of crook-back oxen [buffaloes] as the mountain Serena 
in Spain is full of sheep." At this very time De Soto was 
discovering the river Mississippi ; but neither he nor Father 
Marquette, one hundred and thirty years later, set foot in 
Kansas. La Salle, in 1687, might have crossed it, on his way 
from Texas to Canada, if he had not fallen by the hand of 
mutiny ; but the first Frenchman to explore it was Dutisne, 
in 1719, who, in travelling westward from the Osage River, 
may have crossed the Pottawatomie near where John Brown 
afterward labored and fought. It was then and long after a 
part of the French king's broad colony of Louisiana, and as 
such was ceded by Napoleon to Jefferson in 1802. Nearly 
twenty years before this, in 1784, Jefferson had undertaken 
to free the whole northwestern territory of the United States 
from the curse of slavery, by what has since been known 
as the Ordinance of 1787. As drawn by Jefferson in 1784, 



1820.] KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 161 

this great charter of Western freedom provided that all new 
States to be carved out of the national domain should in 
their governments uphold republican forms, " and after the 
year 1800 of the Christian era there shall be neither slavery 
nor involuntary servitude in any of them." This was de 
feated by a single vote in Congress, much to Jefferson's 
disgust. In 1786 he said : " The voice of a single individual 
would have prevented this abominable crime [the introduc 
tion of slavery into new territory]. Heaven will not always 
be silent ; the friends to the rights of human nature will in 
the end prevail." They did prevail in John Brown's time, 
and largely through his heroism ; and in the conflict Kansas 
became the skirmish-line of our Civil War. 

After the cession of Louisiana, which brought with it to 
the United States all the region then known as "the Mis 
souri territory," including Kansas, the latter was again de 
clared free soil by the Missouri Compromise of 1820 ; 1 for 
it was then enacted by Congress (March 6, 1820), when 
erecting Missouri into a State, 

" That in all that territory ceded by France to the United States, 
under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of 36 30' north lati 
tude, not included within the limits of the State contemplated by this 
act, slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punish 
ment of crimes, shall be. and is hereBy, forever prohibited." 

It was in the face of this solemn declaration that the 
slaveholders of 1854-56 undertook to establish slavery by 

1 The Missouri Compromise as Charles Sumner said in his great speech 
of May 19 and 20, 1856, "The Crime against Kansas" was the work of 
slaveholders, who insisted that Missouri should come into the Union as a 
slave State, but for this concession were willing to give up all the Northern 
territory to freedom. Sumner says : " It was hailed by slaveholders as a 
victory. Charles Pinckney, of South Carolina, in an oft-quoted letter 
written at eight o'clock on the night of its passage, says: ' It is considered 
here by the slaveholding States as a great triumph.' At the North it was 
accepted as a defeat, and the friends of freedom everywhere throughout the 
country bowed their heads with mortification. " The chief advocates of this 
compromise were William Pinkney, of Maryland, and Henry Clay, of Ken 
tucky ; among the chief advocates of excluding slaveiy from Missouri were 
Rufus King, then of New York, and Harrison Gray Otis, a nephew of the 
Revolutionary orator James Otis, of Massachusetts. 

11 



162 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1820. 

force and by fraud in Kansas. As a preliminary, they had 
carried through Congress, under the lead of Senator Douglas 
of Illinois, what was known as the " squatter sovereignty " 
clause of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, leaving the people at 
each election to determine the existence of slavery for them 
selves. This plausible form of words covered a purpose on 
the part of the South to fasten slavery upon the new States, 
which Jefferson had striven to free from the possibility of 
such a misfortune ; and when the prairies of Kansas were 
opened to settlement in 1854, this purpose became offensively 
manifest. Indeed, there could be no doubt why Douglas had 
introduced his bill, or what was the intention of the Demo 
cratic administration under Franklin Pierce of New Hamp 
shire, and of the presidential candidates, including Douglas, 
who hoped to succeed Pierce in office. A new slave State 
was wanted, since California had excluded slavery, and there 
were one or two Northern Territories likely soon to come in 
as States with slavery also excluded. By this time the 
Southern slaveholders, abandoning the early doctrine of 
Washington, Jefferson, George Mason, Madison, and Mar 
shall, and even the cautious ground that Clay arid Pinckney 
held in 1820, were thirsting to extend the area of their de 
testable institution. They had annexed Texas and made 
war on Mexico for this purpose ; and they were seeking to 
deprive Spain of Cuba, and conquer San Domingo, in order 
to re-establish slavery where it first cursed Spanish America, 
and to carry on the slave-trade openly once more. The 
prediction made by Taylor of New York, in opposing the 
Missouri Compromise, had been singularly verified. Taylor 
said to the slaveholders in 1820 : 

tl On an implied power to acquire territory by treaty, you raise an 
implied right to erect it into States, and imply a compromise by which 
slavery is to be established and slaves represented in Congress. Is 
this just? Is it fair? Where will it end? . . . Your lust of acquir 
ing is not yet satiated. You must have the Floridas. Your ambition 
rises. You covet Cuba, and obtain it; you stretch your arms to the 
other islands in the Gulf of Mexico, and they become yours. Are the 
millions of slaves inhabiting those countries to be incorporated into 
the Union and represented in Congress ? Are the freemen of the old 
States to become the slaves of the representations of foreign slaves ? '' 



1854.) KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 163 

Such was, indeed, the dream of South Carolina and Mis 
sissippi and Louisiana; such the purpose of Jefferson Davis, 
Soule of New Orleans, and Mason of Virginia, a degenerate 
descendant of Washington's friend George Mason. "Mani 
fest Destiny " was the watchword of these politicians, to 
whom the Northern Democrats Pierce, Buchanan, Cass, 
and Douglas basely submitted. As the discussion on 
Douglas's Kansas-Nebraska bill proceeded, it became evi 
dent, from the very nature of the case, that there was a 
purpose to force slavery into Kansas, the more southern 
Territory of the two. There would have been no need 
of repealing the Missouri Compromise except to carry out 
this purpose. It was also evident that the great mass of 
Northern and European emigration would turn away from 
Kansas if it became probable that slavery would enter there. 
"No single man or single family unwilling to enter a slave 
State would trust themselves, unsupported, in a Territory 
which would probably become one," said Edward Hale in 
1854, speaking as the organ of the Massachusetts Emigrant 
Aid Company, which Eli Thayer, Dr. Howe, Richard Hil- 
clreth, and other antislavery men of Boston and Worcester 
had joined with Mr. Hale, then a clergyman of Worcester, 
to organize, but which in its management soon fell into the 
hands of men like Amos A. Lawrence, Judge Chapman of 
Springfield, and others who were not considered fanatical 
against slavery. Mr. Hale further said: 1 

11 Meanwhile a rapid emigration has been going on into the Terri 
tories, particularly into Kansas, quite independent of the Emigrant 
Aid Companies. During the close of the winter of 1853-54, it is 
said, large numbers of persons from Northwestern States collected in 
the towns on the eastern side of the Missouri, awaiting the opening of 
the Territories, that they might go in and stake out their locations. As 
the spring opened, a rapid current of emigration began. At first the 
Northern settlers went generally into Nebraska ; but so soon as it. was 
known that determined and combined arrangements would be made to 
settle Kansas from the North, the natural attractions of that Territory 
began to exercise their influence, and the preponderance of emigration 

1 See "Kansas and Nebraska," by Edward E. Hale (Boston : Phillips, 
Sampson, & Co., 1854), a very useful book at the time. The passage 
cited is at pp. 233, 234. 



164 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1854. 

through the summer of 1854 has been into its borders. The Indian 
treaties were ratified only at the close of the session of the Senate ; 
some of them not till the beginning of August. Settlement on the 
Indian lands was therefore, until that time, strictly illegal. But per 
sons intending to emigrate, in many instances, made arrangements 
with the Indians, or, at the least, staked off the land on which they 
wished to settle, and made registry of the priority of their claim 
on the books of some ' Squatters' Association.' A large number of 
the residents of Western Missouri have in this manner passed over 
the line, and made claim to such sections as pleased them, intending, 
at some subsequent period, to make such improvements as will give 
them a right of pre-emption, when the lauds are offered for sale, but 
for the present not residing in the new Territory." t 

Some of these last-named persons were actually intending 
to settle in Kansas ; but most of them were either land-specu 
lators or slavery-propagandists, who meant to make Kansas 
a slave State, whether they lived there or not. The acting 
Vice-President of the United States, David R. Atchison, of 
Western Missouri, whose name, along with that of Presi 
dent Pierce, is signed to the Kansas-Nebraska law (May 30, 
1854), five months afterwards made a speech in the county 
of Platte, in which he said : 

" The people of Kansas in their first elections will decide the ques 
tion whether or not slaveholders are to be excluded. Now, if a set 
of fanatics and demagogues a thousand miles off [meaning Messrs. 
Lawrence, Chapman, John Carter Brown, etc.] can afford to ad 
vance their money and exert every nerve to aholitionize Kansas and 
exclude the slaveholder, what is your duty, when you reside within 
one day's journey of the Territory, and when your peace, quiet, and 
property depend on 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." 

This was the advice of Vice-President Atchison, much 
of the same character as if Senator Edmunds, of Vermont, 
who has honored the place that Atchison disgraced, should 
advise the citizens of Northern Vermont to march over into 
Canada and vote at the elections there. A Vermonter has 
now as much right to vote in Sherbrooke or Montreal as a 



1855.] KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 165 

Missourian in 1854 had to vote in Leavenworth or Law 
rence ; and this was practically admitted by a confederate 
of Atchison, General Stringfellow, of Missouri, who said 
in 1855 : 

u To those who have qualms of conscience as to violating laws, 
State or national, I say the time has come when such impositions 
must be disregarded, since your rights and property are in danger. 
And I advise you, one and all, to enter every election district in 
Kansas in defiance of Reeder and his vile myrmidons, and vote at 
the point of the bowie-knife and revolver. Neither give nor take 
quarter : our cause demands it. It is enough that the slaveholding 
interest wills it, from which there is no appeal." 

They acted on this advice, as appears by another speech 
of Atchison after the first invasion : 

" Well, what next? Why, an election for members of the Legis 
lature to organize the Territory must be held. What did I advise 
you to do then? Why, meet them on their own ground, and beat 
them at their own game again ; and, cold and inclement as the 
weather was, I went over with a company of men. My object in 
going was not to vote. I had no right to vote, unless I had dis 
franchised myself in Missouri. I was not within two miles of a 
voting place. My object in going was not to vote, but to settle a 
difficulty between two of our candidates. The Abolitionists of the 
North said, and published it abroad, that Atchison was there with 
bowie-knife and revolver, and, by God, ' tvas true ! I never did 
go into that Territory, I never intend to go into that Territory, 
without being prepared for all such kind of cattle." 

The whole South, and particularly South Carolina, Geor 
gia, and Alabama, were urged to send men into Kansas, as 
Atchison and Stringfellow urged the Missourians to go in, 
law or no law. to secure the triumph of slavery. String- 
fellow wrote to the " Montgomery Advertiser " (published 
at the town in Alabama where the Southern Confederacy 
first established its seat of government in 1861) : " Not 
only is it profitable for slaveholders to go to Kansas, but 
politically it is all-important.' 7 A South Carolina youth, 
Warren Wilkes by name, who commanded for a while an 
armed force of Carolina and Georgia settlers in Kansas, 



166 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1 856. 

wrote to the " Charleston Mercury," of South Carolina, 
in the spring of 1856 : 

. u By consent of parties, the present contest in Kansas is made the 
turning-point in the destinies of slavery and abolitionism. If the 
South triumphs, abolitionism will be defeated and shorn of its power 
for all time. If she is defeated, abolitionism will grow more insolent 
and aggressive, until the utter ruin of the South is consummated. If 
the South secures Kansas, she will extend slavery into all territory 
south of the fortieth parallel of north latitude, to the Eio Grande; 
and this, of course, will secure for her pent-up institution of slavery 
an ample outlet, and restore her power in Congress. If the North 
secures Kansas, the power of the South in Congress will be gradually 
diminished, and the slave population will become valueless. All 
depends upon the action of the present moment. " 

To this reasoning men like John Brown assented, and 
were ready to join issue for the control of Kansas upon this 
ground alone. But Brown had another and quite different 
object in view ; he meant to attack slavery by force, in the 
States themselves, and to destroy it, as it was finally de 
stroyed, by the weapons and influences of war. 

What, then, was the slavery which South Carolina wished 
to establish in Kansas and all over the Xorth, and upon 
what grounds was it advocated ? It is hard, at this distance 
of time and in the complete change of circumstances that 
the Civil War has produced, to show another person or make 
real to one's self the despotism which a few slaveholders ex 
ercised in 1856 over the rest of mankind in this country. 
Though a meagre minority in their own South, they abso 
lutely controlled there not only four millions of slaves, but 
six millions of white people, nominally free, while they 
directed the policy and the opinions of more than half the 
free people of the non-slaveholding States. They dictated 
the nomination and secured the election of Pierce and after 
ward of Buchanan as President, the most humble ser 
vants of the slave-power who ever held that office ; they had 
not only refused to terminate the slave-trade (as by treaty 
we were bound to assist in doing), but they had induced the. 
importation of a few cargoes of slaves into Carolina and 
Georgia ; they had not only broken down the Missouri 



1857.] KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 167 

Compromise of 1820 (imposed by themselves on the un 
willing North), but had done their best to extend slavery 
over the new Territories of the nation, and to legalize its 
existence in all the free States. Through the mouth of 
Chief-Justice Taney, who simply uttered the decrees of the 
slaveholding oligarchy, they were soon to make the Supreme 
Court of the nation declare virtually, if not in set terms, 
that four million Americans, of African descent,, had prac 
tically " no rights which a white man was bound to re 
spect ; " and they were exerting themselves in advance in 
every way to give effect to that foregone conclusion. The 
Dred Scott decision was not made by Taney until 1857, 
when it led at once to the execution of John Brown's long- 
cherished purpose of striking a. blow at slavery in its own 
Virginian stronghold. That decision flashed into the minds 
of Northern men the conviction which Brown held and John 
Quincy Adams had long before formulated and expressed, 
that " the preservation, propagation, and perpetuation of 
slavery was the vital and animating spirit of the National 
Government." It was this conviction that led to the elec 
tion of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, as it had led John Brown 
and his small band of followers to assert freedom by force in 
Kansas. 

At the time when the young South Carolinian wrote the 
words above-cited, his State was an oligarchy founded upon 
negro slavery, and its State Constitution provided that a 
citizen should not " be eligible to a seat in the House of Rep 
resentatives unless legally seized and possessed in his own 
right of a settled freehold estate of five hundred acres of 
land and ten negroes." A few years earlier, Chancellor 
Harper, of South Carolina, in an address before a Society 
for the Advancement of Learning, at Charleston, made 
these statements, which were cited by J. B. De Bow, a Lou 
isiana writer, in 1852 : 

" The institution of slavery is a principal cause of civilization. It 
is as much the order of nature that men should enslave each other as 
that other animals should prey upon each other. The African slave- 
trade has given the boon of existence to millions and millions in our 
country who would otherwise never have enjoyed it. It is true that 
the slave is driven to his labor by stripes. Such punishment would 



168 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1852. 

be degrading to a free man, who had the thoughts and aspirations of 
a freeman. In general, it is not degrading to a slave, nor is it felt to 
be so. Odium has been cast upon our legislation, on account of its 
forbidding the elements of education to be communicated to slaves. 
But, in truth, what injury is done them by this ? He who works 
during the day with his hands does not read in intervals of leisure for 
his amusement or the improvement of his mind. A knowledge of 
reading, writing, and the elements of arithmetic is convenient and 
important to the free laborer, but of what use would they be to the 
slave ? Would you do a benefit to the horse or the ox ~by giving him a 
cultivated understanding or fine feelings The law has not provided 
for making the marriages of slaves indissoluble, nor could it do so- 
It may perhaps be said that the chastity of wives is not protected by 
law. It is true that the passions of the men of the superior caste 
tempt and find gratification in the easy chastity of the female slave. 
But she is not a less useful member of society than before. She has 
done no great injury to herself or any other human being ; her off 
spring is not a burden, but an acquisition to her owner ; his support is 
provided for, and he is brought up to usefulness. If the fruit of in 
tercourse with a free man, his condition is perhaps raised somewhat 
above that of his mother. I am asked, How can that institution be 
tolerable, by which a large class of society is cut off from improve 
ment and knowledge, to whom blows are not degrading, theft no 
more than a fault, falsehood and the want of chastity almost venial ; 
and in which a husband or parent looks with comparative indifference 
on that which to a freeman would be the dishonor of wife or child ? 
But why not, if it produce the greatest aggregate of good ? Sin and 
ignorance are only evil because the)/ lead to misery." 



Except for these utterances of shame and guilt, the name 
of Chancellor Harper is now forgotten. But the name of 
JEFFERSON remains in honor, and rises higher with each 
succeeding year which, by the lapse of time, converts him 
from a statesman into a prophet. A hundred years ago 
(May 10, 1785), the printers in Paris finished Jefferson's 
"Notes on Virginia," which he at once sent to his most inti 
mate friends and disciples in America, Madison and Monroe, 
who afterwards succeeded him in the Presidency. In trans 
mitting the little book, he wrote to Madison : " I wish to 
put it into the hands of the young men at the college, as 
well on account of the political as physical parts ; but there 
are sentiments on some subjects which might be displeasing 



1782.] KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 169 

to the country, perhaps to the Assembly, or to some who lead 
it. I do not wish to be exposed to their censure, nor do I 
know how far their influence,, if exerted, might effect a mis 
application of law to such a publication, were it made. If you 
think it will give no offence, I will send a copy to each of 
the students of William and Mary College, and some others 
to my friends and to your disposal." 1 Being informed that 
he might send them to his Virginia friends without risk 
of censure, Jefferson did so. The eighteenth chapter, or 
" Query," contains these often-quoted words, written at 
Monticello in 1782 : 

"There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners 
of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The 
whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of 
the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism, on the 
one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see 
this, and learn to imitate it ; for man is an imitative animal. If a 
parent could find no motive, either in his philanthropy or his self-love, 
for restraining the intemperance of passion towards his slave, it should 
always be a sufficient one that his child is present. But generally it 
is not sufficient. The parent storms ; the child looks on, catches the 
lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller 
slaves, gives a loose rein to his worst passions, and thus nursed, 
educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by 
it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can 
retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. 
And with what execration should that statesman be loaded who, per 
mitting one half the citizens to trample on the rights of the other, 
transforms those into despots and these into enemies, destroys the 
morals of the one part and the amor patrice of the other? For if a 

1 It appears by a letter from Monroe to Jefferson (New York, Jan. 19, 
1786), that it was what he had said of the Indians of Virginia, rather than 
his attack upon negro slavery, which Jefferson feared might not be well re 
ceived in his native State, he loved to call it his "country." Monroe 
thanks Jefferson for the book, "which I have read with pleasure and im 
provement," and then says : " I should suppose the observations you have 
made on the subjects you allude to would have a very favorable effect, since 
no considerations would induce them but a love for the rights of Indians and 
for your country." It would seem that the passage concerning slavery gave 
no offence, but the eloquent speech of Logan did ; and in 1797, while Jef 
ferson was Vice-President, he felt compelled to give chapter and verse for 
the incidents of that world-famous affair of Logan and Cresap. 



170 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1782. 

slave can have a country in this world, it must be any other in pref 
erence to that in which he is born to live and labor for another ; in 
which he must lock up the faculties of his nature, contribute, as far 
as depends on his individual endeavors, to the evanishment of the 
human race, or entail his own miserable condition on the endless 
generations proceeding from him. 1 With the morals of the people 
their industry is also destroyed ; for in a warm climate no man will 
labor for himself who can make another labor for him. This is so 
true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed 
are ever seen to labor. And can the liberties of a nation be deemed 
secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction 
in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God, 
that they are not to be violated without his wrath? Indeed, I trem 
ble for my country [Virginia] when I reflect that God is just; that 
His justice cannot sleep forever; that considering numbers, nature, 
and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune is among 
possible events ; that it may become probable by supernatural inter 
ference. The Almighty has no attribute that can take sides with us 
in such a contest." 

After this generous outburst of indignation against what 
he saw everywhere about him in Virginia, Jefferson added, 
with that wise optimism which was so strong a feature in 
his character : " I think a change already perceptible since 
the origin of the present Revolution. The spirit of the mas 
ter is abating ; that of the slave is rising from the dust, his 
condition is mollifying; the way, I hope, preparing under 
the auspices of Heaven for a total emancipation ; and that 
this is disposed, in the order of events, to be with the consent 
of the masters rather than by their extirpation" This pre 
diction was fulfilled within half a century from Jefferson's 
death, though not in the way he had conceived, and not with 
out that manifestation of God's awakened justice, at the 
thought of which the true Virginian trembled for Virginia. 
Kansas, a part of the vast region which Jefferson had wrested 
from Spain and France and devoted to liberty, was to be the 
first theatre of God's judgments ; and John Brown, Jeffer- 

1 Sole estate his sire bequeathed 
(Hapless sire to hapless son), 
"Was the wailing song he breathed, 
And his chain when life was done. 

EMEIISON, Voluntaries. 



1854.] KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 171 

son's most radical disciple, who went even beyond his master 
in devotion to freedom, was that servant of the Lord who 
most clearly comprehended and fulfilled the divine purpose, 
whether in Kansas or Virginia. This the heart of the people 
instinctively recognized from the first, and to this even his 
enemies have borne witness. One of the most garrulous of 
these enemies (though formerly professing to be Brown's 
friend), Charles Kobinson of Kansas, wrote thus to a true 
friend of Brown, James Hanway, in February, 1878, con 
cerning one of the Kansas hero's most debated deeds : " I 
never had much doubt that Captain 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 necessity of some such blow, and had the nerve to 
strike it." 

The condition of affairs in Kansas when John Brown 
appeared there, in October, 1855, had become such that no 
milder measures than he adopted would meet the exigency. 
The advice given by Atchisoii and the leaders of the slave 
oligarchy all over the South had been followed, and had 
borne fruit accordingly. The first of many Territorial gov 
ernors of Kansas, a Pennsylvania Democrat, Andrew H. 
Reeder by name, reached Leaven worth in October, 1854, 
and established his office temporarily there. He ordered an 
election for delegate to Congress, Xov. 29, 1854, at which 
hundreds of Missourians voted, casting, with other pro- 
slavery men, 2,258 votes for Whitfielcl. the proslavery can 
didate, out of 2,905 votes thrown. On the 28th of February, 
1855, a census of the voters was completed by Governor 
Reeder, and the number declared to be 2,905, the whole num 
ber of inhabitants in eighteen election districts being then 
8,501. The most important election, that for members of 
the Territorial Legislature, was appointed for March 30, 
1855, at which time the genuine population could not have 
exceeded ten thousand, nor could there have been more than 
three thousand legal voters in Kansas. Yet the vote actu 
ally counted was 6,307, of which no less than 5,427 were for 
the proslavery candidates. Not less than four thousand of 
these were fraudulent votes. A writer, whose home was in 
Lawrence at the time, says that for some days before 



172 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

the election crowds of men began to assemble at certain 
rendezvous on the border counties of Missouri, " rough, 
brutal-looking men, of most nondescript appearance," but all 
wearing the proslavery badge, a white or blue ribbon. 
Many Missourians who did not or could not join these voting 
excursions gave money or provisions or lent their wagons to 
help on the expedition. At St. Joseph, near the Missouri 
border, Stringfellow made the speech already quoted, in 
which he also said, according to the " Leavenworth Herald," 
a proslavery newspaper : " I tell you to mark every scoun 
drel among you that is the least tainted with free-soilism or 
abolitionism, and exterminate him. Neither give nor take 

quarter from the d d rascals. I propose to mark them 

in this house and on the present occasion, so you may crush 
them out." This phrase, " Neither give nor take quarter," 
became the watchword of the Border Ruffians, as these in 
vaders were fitly called. Provisions were sent before these 
parties ; and those intended for use at Lawrence were stored 
in the house of one Lykins, for whose kinsman a county had 
been named. The polls were also opened at his house. Some 
of these Lawrence voters came in from Missouri the even 
ing before election, pitched tents near Lawrence, and held a 
meeting that night, in which Colonel Young, of Boone County, 
Mo., declared " that more voters were here than would be 
needed to carry the election," but that there was a scarcity 
at Tecumseh, Bloomington, Hickory Point, and other places 
eight, ten, and twelve miles distant. Volunteers came for 
ward for those elections, and the next morning left Lawrence 
to vote there. The village of Lawrence, then containing a 
few hundred persons, was entered March 30, 1855, by about 
a thousand men, under the command of Colonel Young 
and of a distinguished Missourian, Claiborne F. Jackson. 
They came in about a hundred wagons and on horseback, 
with music and banners ; armed with guns, pistols, rifles, 
and bowie-knives. They brought also two cannon loaded 
with musket balls, but had no occasion to use them, for 
the Lawrence people submitted quietly to this outrage. 
Colonel Young did not send off any of his armed volunteers 
to other points until he was satisfied, as he said, that " the 
citizens of Lawrence were not going to offer any resistance 



1855.] KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 173 

to their voting." Mrs. Charles Robinson, who published a 
volume about Kansas in 1856, says, what is confirmed by 
the testimony taken by the Congressional Committee of 
1856: l - 

" When this band of men were coming to LaM r rence, they met Mr. 
N. B. Blanton, formerly of Missouri, who had been appointed one of 
the judges of election by Governor Reeder. Upon his saying that he 
should feel bound, in executing the duties of his office, to demand the 
oath as to residence in the Territory, they attempted, by bribes first, 
and then with threats of hanging, to induce him to receive their votes 
without the oath. Mr. Blanton not appearing on the election day, 
a new judge, by name Robert A. Cummins, who claimed that a man 
had a right to vote if he had been in the Territory but an hour, was 
appointed in his place. The Missourians came to the polls from the 
second ravine west of the town, where they were encamped in tents, 
in parties of one hundred at a time. Before the voting commenced, 
however, they said that ' if the judges appointed by the governor did 
not allow them to vote, they would appoint judges who would.' 
They did so in the case of Mr. Abbott, one of the judges, who had 
become indignant, and resigned. The immediate occasion was Colo 
nel Young's refusing to take the oath that he was a resident of Kan 
sas. When asked by Mr. Abbott i if he intended to make Kansas 
his future home,' he replied that ' it was none of his business j ' that 
' if he was a resident there, he should ask no more.' Colonel Young 
then mounted on the window-sill, telling the crowd ' he had voted, 
and they could do the same.' He told the judges ' it was no use 
swearing them, as they would all swear as he had done.' The other 
judges deciding to receive such votes, Mr. Abbott resigned." 

At other voting-places the judges of election were treated 
with great indignity, and particularly at Bloomington, where 
an " old soldier," John A. Wakefield, was one of the chief 
citizens. Upon the refusal of the judges to resign, the mob 
broke in the windows of the polling-place, and, presenting 
pistols and guns, threatened to shoot them. A voice from 
the outside cried, "Do not shoot them ; there are proslavery 
men in the house ! " The two Free-State judges still refusing 
to allow Missourians to vote, one Jones led on a party with 
bowie-knives drawn and pistols cocked, telling the judges 

1 Of this committee John Sherman, now Senator from Ohio, was a 
member. 



174 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

"lie would give them five minutes to resign or die." The 
five minutes passed by. Jones said he " would give another 
minute, but no more." The proslavery judge snatched up 
the ballot-boxes, and, crying out " Hurrah for Missouri ! " 
ran into the crowd. The other judges, persuaded by their 
friends, who thought them in imminent peril, passed out, 
one of them putting the poll-books in his pocket. The Mis 
souri mob pursued him, took the books away, and then 
turned upon Wakefield, shouting, " Take him, dead or 
alive ! " What followed may be given in Wakefield's own 
words : 

" I ran into the house and told Mr. Ramsay to give me his double- 
barrelled shot-gun. The mob rode up, and I should think a dozen or 
more presented their pistols at me. I drew up the gun at Jones, the 
leader. We stood that way perhaps for a minute. A man profess 
ing to be my friend undertook to take the gun from me ? saying, ' If 
you shoot, we will all be killed : we can't fight this army.' My reply 
was, to stand off, or I would shoot him which he did. Then one 
of my friends spoke in a very calm manner and said, ' Judge, you 
had better surrender; we cannot fight this army without arms.' I 
then said I must know the conditions; and remarked to the mob, 
' Gentlemen, what do you want with me ? ' Some one said, ' We 
want you to go back to the polls and state whether it was not you 
that persuaded the judges to take away the poll-books.' I said I 
could easily say no, for I could not get in hearing of the judges ; but 
if I could have, I should have done it. I said I would go back, but 
go alone ; I went back, and got upon a wagon and made them a 
short speech. I told them I was an old soldier, and had fought 
through two wars for the rights of my country, and I thought I had 
a privilege there that day. I said they were in the wrong, that 
we were not the Abolitionists they represented us to be, but were 
Free-State men j that they were abusing us unjustly, and that their 
acts were contrary to organic law and the Constitution of the United 
States. A man cried out, while I was speaking, several times, 
' Shoot him ! he 's too saucy.' When I got through and got down 
from the wagon, a man came up and told me he wanted to tie a white 
ribbon in my button-hole, or ' the boys would kill me.' I first re 
fused ; but, he insisted, and I let him do it; then I turned round and 
cut it out with my knife. I then made an attempt to leave, when 
they cried out, ' Stay with us and vote ; we don't want you to leave.' 
I thanked them, but told them they could have it to themselves 
then, I should leave them ; and I went." 



1855.] KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 175 

There was something of Falstaff about this old Judge 
Wakefield, whose house was afterward burned in some of 
the raids of 1856, and of whom many anecdotes are told. 
But neither he nor the other brave men who took part in 
this election could do much against an invasion from Mis 
souri in such overwhelming numbers. An English traveller, 
Mr. Thomas H. Gladstone, distantly related to the English 
premier, who visited Kansas in 1856, and has written a book 
about it, 1 relates, on the authority of others, some incidents 
of this fraudulent, or "bogus," election thus: 

u A Presbyterian clergyman, the Rev. Frederic Starr, who was an 
eye- witness' of the fraud and intimidation practised at Leaven worth 
City, and lias published a statement of this and preceding events, 
describes a scene by no means rare on the occasion of this election. 
' Some four days later,' he writes, 1 1 was on my horse returning from 
Platte City to Weston, when four wagons came along, and on the 
bottoms sat six men. A pole about five feet high stuck bolt upright 
at the front of the wagon ; on its top stuck an inverted empty whiskey- 
bottle ; across the stick at right angles was tied a bowie-knife j a 
black cambric flag, with a death's-head-and-bones daubed on it in 
white paint, and a, long streamer of beautiful glossy Missouri hemp, 
floated from the pole j there was a revolver lashed across the pole, 
and a powder-horn hanging loosely by it. They bore the piratical 
symbols of Missouri ruffians returning from Kansas.' " 

A Missouri newspaper friendly to the Border Ruffians 
said, soon after this affair : 

11 From five to seven thousand men started from Missouri to attend 
the election ; some to remove, but the most to return to their fami 
lies, with an intention, if they liked the Territory, to make it their 
permanent abode at the earliest moment practicable. But they in 
tended to vote. The Missourians were, many of them, Douglas 
County men. There were one hundred and fifty voters from this 
county, one hundred and seventy-five from Howard, one hundred 
from Cooper. Indeed, every county furnished its quota; and when 
they set out it looked like an army. They were armed ; and as there 
were no houses in the Territory, they carried tents. Their mission 

1 The Englishman in Kansas ; or, Sqiiatter Life and Border Warfare. 
By T. H. Gladstone, Esq., author of the "Letters from Kansas" in the 
London Times. New York : Miller & Co., 1857. The hook has 328 
pages, and contains a clear statement of the Kansas question. 



176 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

was a peaceable one, to vote, and to drive down stakes for future 
homes. After the election, some fifteen hundred of the voters sent a 
committee to Mr. Reeder to ascertain if it was his purpose to ratify 
the election. He said that it was, and that the majority must carry 
the day. But it is not to be denied that the fifteen hundred, appre 
hending that the governor might attempt to play the tyrant, since 
his conduct had already been insidious and unjust, wore on their 
hats bunches of hemp. They icere resolved, if a tyrant attempted to 
trample on the rights of a sovereign people, to hang him." 

The Legislature chosen in the manner above described held 
its sessions within a mile or two of the Missouri border, at 
a place called the Shawnee Mission, but spent the time when 
they were not in session at the Missouri town of Westport. 
They unseated most of the few Free-State members who 
were declared by Governor Reeder elected ; but the most 
distinguished member of the Council, or upper house, Martin 
F. Conway (a Maryland lawyer, who afterward represented 
Kansas in Congress), resigned his seat on the ground that 
the whole election was illegal. Governor Reeder early no 
tified both houses that he could not recognize their legality 
or approve their legislation; but he was removed by the 
subservient President Pierce, who dared not resist the dic 
tates of the slaveholders ; and the " bogus " Legislature 
proceeded, in August and September, 1855, to the most ex 
treme and infamous action in support of slavery. A res 
olution offered by J. H. Stringfellow was adopted in these 
words : 

" Be it resolved by the House of Representatives, the Council concur 
ring therein, That it is the duty of the proslavery party, the Union- 
loving 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 Disunionism." 

The same Stringfellow (so appropriately named), in a 
letter to the " Montgomery Advertiser," wrote : " We have 
now laws more efficient to protect slave-property than any 
State in the Union. These laws have just taken effect 
(Sept. 1, 1855), and have already silenced Abolitionists ; for 
in spite of their heretofore boasting, these know they will be 



1855.] KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 177 

enforced to the very letter and with the utmost rigor." Let 
us see, then, what these laws were, which John Brown was 
even then journeying towards Kansas, through Illinois and 
Missouri, to confront and overthrow. Mr. Gladstone says of 
this Missouri-born Legislature : 

" Being in haste to give a code of laws to Kansas, they transferred 
into a volume of more than a thousand pages the greater part of the 
laws of their own State, substituting the words ' Territory of Kan 
sas ' for ' State of Missouri. 7 In protection of slavery they enacted 
far more rigorous laws than obtain in Missouri, or than were ever 
before conceived of, making it a felony to utter a word against the 
institution, or even to have in possession a book or paper which 
denies the right to hold slaves in Kansas. It will be seen that for 
every copy of a Free-State paper which a person might innocently 
purchase, the law would justify that person's condemnation to penal 
servitude for two or five years, dragging a heavy ball and chain at 
his ankle, and hired out for labor on the public roads or for the ser 
vice of individuals at the fixed price of fifty cents per diem. So com 
prehensive did these legislators make their slave-code, that by the 
authority they thus gave themselves they could in a very short time 
have made every Free-State man a chained convict, standing side by 
side, if they so pleased, with their slaves, and giving years of forced 
labor for the behoof of their proslavery fellow-citizens. The Legis 
lature proceeded also to elect officers for the Territory. Even the 
executive and judiciary were made to hold office from itself; and a 
board of commissioners chosen by the Legislature, instead of the in 
habitants themselves, was empowered to appoint the sheriffs, justices 
of the peace, constables, and all other officers in the various counties 
into which the Territory was divided. Every member of succeeding 
legislatures, every judge of election, every voter, must swear to his 
faithfulness on the test questions of slavery. Every officer in the 
Territory, judicial, executive, or legislative, every attorney admitted 
to practice in the courts, every juryman weighing evidence on the 
rights of slaveholders, must attest his soundness in the interest of 
slavery, and his readiness to indorse its most repugnant measures. 
For further security the members of the . assembly submitted their 
enactments to the chief-justice 1 for confirmation. This judicial 

1 " Had he not the Chief- Justice," said Burke, in his impeachment of 
Warren Hastings, "the tamed and domesticated Chief- Justice, who waited 
on him like a familiar spirit ?" The Kansas dignitary of this name and 
function was he of whom John Brown once said, "he had a perfect right to 
be hung." 

12 



178 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

confirmation \vas gratefully given. All they had done was declared 
legal j and the sheriffs and other local officers appointed by the Leg 
islature were equally ready with their aid in the execution of these 
unjust laws." 

To show that our English visitor, in his blunt indignation 
at the iniquity he found flagrant in Kansas, has exaggerated 
nothing, let me cite the very words of this slave-code : 

CHAPTER CLI. Slaves. An Act to punish Offences against Slave 

Property. 

SEC. 3. If any free person shall, hy speaking, writing, or print 
ing, advise, persuade, or induce any slaves to rebel, conspire against, 
or murder any citizen of this Territory, or shall bring into, print, write, 
publish, or circulate, or cause to be brought into, printed, written, 
published, or circulated, or shall knowingly aid or assist in the bring 
ing into, printing, writing, publishing, or circulating, in tliis Terri 
tory any look, pamphlet, paper, magazine, or circular, for the purpose 
of exciting insurrection, rebellion, revolt, or conspiracy on the part of 
the slaves, free negroes, or mulattoes, against the citizens of the Terri 
tory or any part of them, such person shall be guilty of felony, and 
suffer death. 

SEC. 4. If any person shall entice, decoy, or carry away out of this 
Territory any slave belonging to another, with intent to deprive the 
owner thereof of the services of such slave, or with intent to effect or 
procure the freedom of such slave, he shall be adjudged guilty of 
grand larceny, and on conviction thereof, shall suffer death, or be 
imprisoned at hard labor for not less than ten years. 

SEC. 5. If any person shall aid or assist in enticing, decoying, 
persuading, or carrying away, or sending out of this Territory any 
slave belonging to another, with intent to effect or procure the free 
dom of such slave, or with intent to deprive the owner thereof of the 
services of such slave, he shall be adjudged guilty of grand larceny, 
and on conviction thereof he shall suffer death, or be imprisoned at 
hard labor for not less than ten years. 

SEC. 6. If any person shall entice, decoy, or carry away out of 
any State or other Territory of the United States any slave belonging 
to another, with intent to procure or effect the freedom of such slave, 
or to deprive the owners thereof of the services of such slave, and shall 
bring such slave into this Territory, he shall be adjudged guilty of 
grand larceny, in the same manner as if such slave had been enticed, 
decoyed, or carried away out of this Territory; and in such case the 



1855.1 KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 179 

larceny may be charged to have been committed in any county of 
this Territory into or through which such slave shall have been 
brought by such person ; and on conviction thereof, the person oflend- 
ing shall suffer death, or be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than 
ten years. 

SEC. 9. If any person shall resist any officer while attempting to 
arrest any slave that may have escaped from the service of his master 
or owner, or shall rescue such slave when in the custody of any officer 
or other person, or shall entice, persuade, aid, or assist such slave 
from the custody of any officer or other person who may have such 
slave in custody, whether such slave have escaped from the service 
of his master or owner in this Territory or in any other State or Ter 
ritory, the person so offending shall be guilty of felony, and punished 
by imprisonment at hard labor for a term not less than two years. 

SEC. 11. If any person print, write, introduce into, publish, or 
circulate, or cause to be brought into, printed, written, published, or 
circulated, or shall knowingly aid or assist in bringing into, printing, 
publishing, or circulating within this Territory any book, paper, 
pamphlet, magazine, handbill, or circular containing any statements, 
arguments, opinions, sentiment, doctrine, advice, or innuendo calcu 
lated to produce a disorderly, dangerous, or rebellious disaffection 
among the slaves of this Territory, or to induce such slaves to escape 
from the service of their masters, or resist their authority, he shall be 
guilty of felony, and be punished by imprisonment at hard labor for 
a term not less than five years. 

SEC. 12. If any free person, by speaking or by writing, assert or 
maintain that persons have not the right to hold slaves in this Ter 
ritory, or shall introduce into this Territory, print, publish, write, 
circulate, or cause to be printed, published, written, circulated, or 
introduced into this Territory, any book, paper, magazine, pamphlet, 
or circular containing any denial of the right of persons to hold slaves 
in this Territory, such person shall be deemed guilty of felony, and 
punished by imprisonment at hard labor for a term not less than 
two years. 

SEC. 13. No person who is conscientiously opposed to holding 
slaves, or who does not admit the right to hold slaves in this Ter 
ritory, shall sit as a juror on the trial of any prosecution for any 
violation of any of the sections of this act. 

It is plain at a glance, that Thomas Jefferson, through 
whom the existence of Kansas as a part of the United States 



180 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

was made possible, and who wrote the first charter of our 
national existence, the Declaration of Independence, had he 
been living in Kansas under these detestable laws, could not 
have held office nor sat on a jury ; nay, he would have been 
liable to punishment as a felon, certainly under section eleven, 
and probably to the punishment of deatli under section three. 
If he dreaded in 1785 some mild " misapplication of law " 
which would have prevented the circulation of his " Notes 
on Virginia/' what would he have said in 1855 of that worse 
than British or French tyranny which punished all generous 
sentiments in favor of the poor slave with imprisonment 
and with death ? Yet the men who enacted these laws, and 
the baser men at Washington who had them enforced by the 
national courts and the national army, were the professed 
followers of Jefferson, and one of them, the Secretary of 
War, bore his name. 1 

Such a crisis could not escape the eye nor fail to command 
the presence of John Brown. The disciple of Franklin and 
Jefferson, he could not be other than the sworn foeman of 
Franklin Pierce and Jefferson Davis, whom God, for our 
sins, had allowed to be set in authority over us and over 
Kansas. He went far beyond Jefferson and Franklin, those 
founders of American democracy, in his sternness of hostil 
ity to oppression. Jefferson had said, quoting an imaginary 
epitaph on Bradshaw the regicide, " Rebellion to tyrants is 
obedience to God ; " and the spirit of that maxim had sought 
expression in the escutcheon of Virginia, with its proud 
legend, " Sic semper tyrannis" But Brown found in the 
tenets of Calvinism, in the practice of his Puritan ancestors, 
and in the oracles of the Bible, a more imperative and prac 
tical duty enjoined, which he hastened to perform at Potta- 
watomie and elsewhere. There rang in his ears those deep 
notes of " the ballad-singer of Calvinism " (as Emerson called 
Isaac Watts) chanting in Puritan verse the avenging justice 
of the Hebrew Jehovah : 



1 Jefferson Davis was Secretary of "War under Franklin Pierce ; but 
Franklin and Jefferson, for whom they were named, could both have been 
shot or hanged in Kansas under their administration, if then living and 
maintaining the doctrines which gave them renown. 



1856.1 KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 181 

" Judges who rule the world by laws, 
Will ye despise the righteous cause, 
When tli' injured poor before you stands ? 
Dare ye condemn the righteous poor, 
And let rich sinners 'scape secure, 
While gold and greatness bribe your hands ? 

" Ilavs ye forgot, or never knew, 
That God will judge the judges too ? 
High in the heavens his justice reigns ; 
Yet you invade the rights of God, 
And send your bold decrees abroad 
To bind the conscience in your chains. 

" Break out their teeth, eternal God ! 
Those teeth of lions dyed in blood, 
And crush the serpents in the dust ! 
As empty chaff, when whirlwinds rise, 
Before the sweeping tempest flies, 
So let their hopes and names be lost. 

" Thus shall the justice of the Lord 
Freedom and peace to men afford ; 
And all that hear shall join and say, 
' Sure there 's a God that rules on high, 
A God that hears his children cry, 
And all their sufferings will repay.' " 

Until Brown arrived on the scene in Kansas, few blows 
had been struck in the Lord's cause. Mr. Gladstone, who 
reached Kansas City May 22, 1856, at the very moment 
when Brown heard of the burning of Lawrence, says : 

li Among all the scenes of violence I witnessed it is remarkable 
that the offending parties were invariably on the proslavery side. 
The Free-State men appeared to me to be intimidated and overawed 
in consequence, not merely of the determination and defiant boldness 
of their opponents, but still more through the sanction given to these 
acts by the Government." 

He was deeply impressed with the wild and fierce aspect 
of the Border Ruffians, as he first saw them. He says : 

u It was on the night of May 22, 1856, that I first came in contact 
with the Missourian patriots. I had just arrived in Kansas City, and 
shall never forget the appearance of the lawless mob that poured into 
the place, inflamed with drink, glutted with the indulgence of the 



182 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

vilest passions, displaying with loud boasts the l plunder ' they had 
taken from the inhabitants, and thirsting for the opportunity of re 
peating the sack of Lawrence on some other offending place. Men, 
tor the most part of large frame, with red flannel shirts and immense 
boots worn outside their trousers, their faces unwashed and unshaven, 
still reeking with the dust and smoke of Lawrence, wearing their 
most savage looks, and gi\ 7 ing utterance to the most horrible impre 
cations and blasphemies; armed, moreover, to the teeth with ritles 
and revolvers, cutlasses, and bowie-knives, such were the men I 
saw around me. Some displayed a grotesque intermixture in their 
dress, having crossed their native red rough shirt with the satin vest 
or narrow dress-coat, pillaged from some Lawrence Yankee, or having 
girded themselves with the cords and tassels which the day before had 
adorned the curtains of the Free-State Hotel. Looking around at these 
groups of drunken, bellowing, blood-thirsty demons, who crowded 
around the bar of the hotel, shouting for drink, or vented their furious 
noise on the levee outside, I felt that all my former experiences of 
Border men and Missourians bore faint comparison with the spectacle 
presented by this wretched crew, who appeared only the more terrify 
ing from the darkness of the surrounding night. The hotel in Kan 
sas City, where we were, was the next, "they said, that should fall, 
the attack was being planned that night ; and such, they declared, 
should be the end of every place which was built by Free-State men, 
or harbored ' those rascally Abolitionists. 7 Happily, this threat was 
not fulfilled." 

Nor was the astonished Englishman left in any doubt 
what all this meant. He had visited New York, Washing 
ton, and most of the Southern States before going to Kansas, 
and went there from Mississippi. He says : " When in South 
Carolina and other Southern States, I witnessed extraordi 
nary meetings, presided over by men of influence, at which 
addresses of almost incredible violence were delivered on 
the necessity of 'forcing slavery into Kansas/ of 'spreading- 
the beneficent influence of Southern institutions over the 
new Territories,' of driving back at the point of the bayonet 
the nigger-stealing scum poured down by Northern fanati 
cism." He knew what was the temper of Pierce, Gushing, 
Davis, Mason, and Toombs at Washington ; and he had not 
learned, as many of his countrymen did a few years later, 
to identify the oligarchy of slavery with the aristocracy of 
Europe, and to exult in the anticipated downfall of demo 
cratic freedom in America. 



1859.J KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 183 

Long before Mr. Gladstone's arrival in Kansas, the real 
inhabitants of that Territory had declared their purpose to 
resist the " bogus " laws of the usurping Legislature. At a 
convention held in " Big Springs," Sept. 5, 1855, General 
Lane and ex-Governor Keeder had each brought forward res 
olutions, somewhat inconsistent with each other, but which 
the convention adopted. Those written by Keeder, which the 
Kansas people afterward fully confirmed by their action, 
contained these declarations : " We owe no allegiance or 
obedience to the tyrannical enactments of this spurious 
Legislature ; their laws have no binding force upon the peo 
ple of Kansas, and every freeman among us is at full liberty 
(consistent with all his obligations as a citizen and a man) 
to resist them if he chooses so to do. We will endure and 
submit to these laws no longer than the best interests of 
the Territory require as the least of two evils, and will re 
sist them to a bloody issue so soon as we ascertain that 
peaceable remedies shall fail, and forcible resistance shall 
furnish any reasonable prospect of success. In the mean 
time we recommend to our friends throughout the Territory 
the organization and discipline of volunteer companies, and 
the procurement and preparation of arms.' 7 Upon this plat 
form John Brown (who was not in Kansas when it was 
adopted, although four of his sons were) consistently acted 
from 1855 to 1859, when he finally left the Territory with 
a party of rescued slaves whom he carried to Canada early in 
1859, in utter defiance of the Kansas law r s and the Fugitive 
Slave Law of Senator Mason. What his course had been in 
the mean time will be seen in the following chapters. The 
contest in Kansas went forward, with many changes and re 
verses, in those four years ; and towards the close of 1859, 
just before Brown's death, the other great martyr of eman 
cipation, Abraham Lincoln, came for a few days to look 
upon the scene of conflict. Mr. Wilder, the Kansas his 
torian, speaking at Wathena, in Doniphan County, July 4, 
1884, said : - 

" The greatest man who ever set foot in this township arrived here 
on the first day of December, 1859, a warm and beautiful day. The 
late Judge Delahay and I met him at the depot in St. Joseph, Mo., 



184 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1859. 

that day, and rode up town with him ; took him to a barber's shop on 
Francis Street, just east of the Planter's House, where there is now a 
planing-mill ; and I went up to Wool worth's news-stand, in the next 
block, and bought him the latest papers. Then the three went down 
to the ferry landing, near the old Kobidoux building, and sat down in 
the dirt, on the bank, waiting for Captain Blackiston's boat. Mr. Lin 
coln's talk, sitting on that bank, was of Douglas and Colonel Thomas 
L. Harris, the famous Illinois Congressman. Mr. Lincoln always 
spoke kindly, almost tenderly, of his political opponents. On some 
occasion I asked him about John Calhoun, the first surveyor-general 
of Kansas and Nebraska, the president of the Lecompton Constitu 
tional Convention, and probably the ablest Democratic manager we 
have ever had in Kansas. Mr. Lincoln spoke of Calhoun in terms 
of the highest esteem, and with affection. Mr. Calhoun had given 
him a surveying job when he was poor, needy, unknown ; and the 
great and good man had never forgotten it. Calhouu did his best 
and that was much to plant slavery in Kansas, but he was not the 
monster that our papers and speeches pictured him. By the way, 
Mr. Lincoln made Mark Delahay Surveyor-General, and when Dela- 
hay resigned, gave the place to me without my asking for it. Mr. 
Lincoln made a speech that evening at the Great Western Hotel, in the 
dining-room, a very great speech, to an audience called together 
by a man who went through the town sounding a gong. The next 
day, December 2d, the day on which John Brown was hanged, lie 
spoke at Troy; and I think Colonel Ege replied to him, and fully 
vanquished the future President. He also spoke in Asahel Low's 
hotel in Doniphan ; and that completes the great man's connection 
with this county." 

The audiences in Kansas, even on the threshold of civil 
war, could not recognize the full greatness of the plain, awk 
ward Illinois lawyer who was to lead his people like a true 
shepherd through dark and bloody ways. The qualities of 
John Brown were more obvious, and they attracted more 
attention in Kansas ; yet it was only here and there that his 
real rank was seen and appreciated, and by a singular in 
gratitude it is in Kansas that his most malicious enemies 
are now found. Their malice cannot harm his renown ; he 
is as much above their reach now as he was above their 
comprehension while he fought in their cause, and traversed 
their prairies to make them glorious. "In a great age,' 7 
says Cousin, speaking of Pascal, " everything is great." 



1859.] KANSAS AND THE CIVIL WAR. 185 

John Brown, like Abraham Lincoln, came to prominence in 
an age by no means grand or noble ; but such was his own 
heroic character that he conferred importance on events in 
themselves trivial. His petty conflicts in Kansas and the 
details of his two days' campaign in Virginia will be remem 
bered when a hundred battles of our Civil War are forgot 
ten. He was one of ten thousand, and, as Thoreau said, 
could not be tried by a jury of his peers, because his peers 
did not exist ; yet so much was he in accord with what is 
best in the American character, that he will stand in history 
for one type of our people, as Franklin and Lincoln do, 
only with a difference. He embodied the distinctive quali 
ties of the Puritan, but with a strong tincture of the more 
humane sentiments of later times. No man could be more 
sincere in his faith toward God, more earnest in love for man ; 
his belief in foreordination was absolute, his courage not 
less. The emotion of fear seemed quite unknown to him, 
except in the form of diffidence, if that were not rather a 
sort of pride. He was diffident of his power in speech or 
writing ; yet who, of all his countrymen, has uttered more 
effective, imperishable words ? Part of the service he ren 
dered to his country was by this heroic impersonation of 
traits that all mankind recognize as noble. The cause of 
the poor slave had need of all the charm that romantic 
courage could give it ; his defenders were treated with the 
contempt which attached to himself. They were looked 
upon with aversion by patriots ; they were odious to trade, 
distasteful to fashion and learning, impious in the sight of 
the Church. At the stroke of Brown's sword all this was 
changed : the cause that had been despised suddenly became 
hated, feared, and respected ; and out of this new fear and 
hatred our national safety was born. 

It was on the soil of Kansas that this transformation be 
gan, though it was not completed until Brown's desperate 
onset and valiant death in Virginia. In Kansas he had with 
him the hopes and the support of millions, to whom he was 
then the defender of white men's rights ; in Virginia lie 
stood almost alone, the omen and harbinger of that na 
tional calamity which was to avenge the black man's wrongs. 
But in his devout mind the two causes united, as they were 



180 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1859. 

soon seen to unite in the event of the Civil War, to 
which the course and the result of the Kansas skirmish 
were as beacons lighting the way, and warning against use 
less concession. navis ! fortiter occi^a portuni, was the 
lesson of Kansas. 

NOTE. On page 162, the statement that the Kansas-Nebraska Act left 
the people i'ree "at each election to determine the existence of slavery for 
themselves " is too strong, and interprets this juggling bill of Douglas too 
favorably. All that it did was to declare that the Territory, " at the tima 
of its admission into the Union as a State, shall be received with or without 
slavery, as its Constitution may provide." But it also declared the right 
of the people "to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their 
own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States." The mis 
chief in this clause lay in the fact that by the Dred Scott decision the Fed 
eral Constitution was interpreted to hold slavery forever in a Territory, 
as Abraham Lincoln forcibly showed in his speech at Springfield, 111., June 
17, 1858, saying, "The second point of the Dred Scott decision is that, 
'subject to the Constitution of the United States,' neither Congress nor a 
Territorial Legislature can exclude slavery from any United States Terri 
tory." I am indebted to Mr. T. D wight Thacher, of Topeka, for calling 
my attention to this. 




JOHN BROWN. 
[1855.] 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 187 



CHAPTER VIII. 
THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 

long contest against Southern slavery ended at last 
in a revolution, of which Kansas saw the first outbreak. 
Then followed a bloody civil war, after which the South was 
reorganized, or, as it was called, " reconstructed," with 
the corner-stone of its old social structure, negro slavery, 
left out, and emancipation, " the stone which the builders 
rejected," at last adopted in its place. In this contest, 
continuing for almost a century, but active and violent for 
about fifty years, there were four distinct parties or groups 
of men, varying in number as the struggle proceeded, but 
now nearly all merged in one great antislavery party, just 
as the persecution of the Christians ended in the conver 
sion of the whole Roman world to Christianity. These par 
ties were (1) the Abolitionists, beginning with Franklin, 
Jefferson, and George Mason, and ending with Garrison, 
Lincoln, and Phillips ; (2) the proslavery men ; (3) the 
great body of neutrals ; and (4) the Brown family, by which 
I mean John Brown of Osawatomie, his father Owen Brown, 
and his children. This one household constituted itself an 
outpost of emancipation when the early Abolitionists had 
been defeated and Jefferson had grown silent ; it was an 
active force long before Garrison began his agitation (about 
1830), and it continued in the service until the freedom of 
the slaves was assured. There was no discharge in that- 
war for the Brown family. As one generation passed away, 
another took its place ; and when the struggle became one 
of arms, the sons replaced each other in the fight, as the 
children of the old clansman in Scott's romance came for 
ward to die one by one for their chieftain. " Another for 
Freedom ! " was as potent a call with them as " Another for 



188 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1854. 

Hector ! " with the sons of the defeated clan. The Browns 
too were defeated, but only for a time, and in such a way 
that their renown was increased thereby. From a local 
leader John Brown became a world-famous martyr. 

" Are you Captain Brown of Kansas ? " asked the Vir 
ginian at Harper's Ferry of the old hero, as he recovered 
from the stabs and blows of Lee's soldiers. 

" I am sometimes called so." 

" Are you Osawatomie Brown ? " 

" / tried to do my duty there" 

So long as these manly answers and the manly acts that 
preceded them remain on the record ; so long as the public 
murder of John Brown for the crime of emancipation is a 
part of the history of that republic which within five years 
completed emancipation at the cost of half a million lives, 
so long will the deeds and sufferings of the Brown family 
in Kansas be as important a chapter in the history of that 
State as any that can be written. 

Let us then resume the homely series of family letters in 
which the father and his children told each other the story 
of their pilgrimage to Kansas in 1854-55, and what befell 
them there ; beginning with the account given in November, 
1883, by the present head of the family, John Brown, Jr., 
of the circumstances attending and preceding this removal 
from Ohio and the Adirondac forest to Osawatomie in Kan 
sas. The town of this name is ten miles from the vari 
ous settlements of the Brown family on the branches of the 
Pottawatomie Creek (properly a river) ; but the brother-in- 
law of Brown, the Rev. S. L. Adair, established himself at 
Osawatomie in 1854, and his log-cabin served as a rendez 
vous for the family so long as they remained in Kansas. 
John Brown, Jr., says : 

" During the years 1853 and 1854 most of the leading Northern 
newspapers were not only full of glowing accounts of the extraordi 
nary fertility, healthfulness, and beauty of the Territory of Kansas, 
then newly opened for settlement, but of urgent appeals to all lovers 
of freedom who desired homes in a new region to go there as settlers, 
and by their votes save Kansas from the curse of slavery. Influenced 
by these considerations, in the month of October, 1854, five of the 
sons of John Brown, John, Jr., Jason, Owen, Frederick, and Sal- 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 189 

inou, then residents of the State of Ohio, made their arrangements 
to emigrate to Kansas. Their combined property consisted chiefly 
of eleven head of cattle, mostly young, and three horses. Ten of 
this number were valuable on account of the breed. Thinking these 
especially desirable in a new country, Owen, Frederick, and Salmon 
took them by way of the lakes to Chicago, thence to Meridosia, 111., 
where they 'were wintered; and in the following spring drove them 
into Kansas to a place selected by these brothers for settlement, about 
eight miles west of the town of Osawatomie. My brother Jason and 
his family, and I with my family followed at the opening of naviga 
tion in the spring of 1855, going by way of the Ohio and Mississippi 
rivers to St. Louis. There we purchased two small tents, a plough, 
and some smaller farming-tools, and a hand-mill for grinding corn. 
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 Kan 
sas. That they were from the South was plainly indicated by their 
language and dress; while their drinking, profanity, and display of re 
volvers and bowie-knives openly worn 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 plough, and the few agricultural implements 
we had on the deck of that steamer looked lonesome ; for these were 
all we could see which were adapted to the occupations of peace. 
Then for the first time arose in our minds the query : Must the fertile 
prairies of Kansas, through a struggle at arms, be first secured to free 
dom before free men can sow and reap ? If so, how poorly we were 
prepared for such work will be seen when I say that, for arms, five of 
us brothers 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 number of whom died. Among these 
brother Jason's son Austin, aged four years, the elder of his two chil 
dren, 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 lonely way illumined only by the 
lightning of a furious thunderstorm. 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. became very hungry, and endeavored to 



190 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

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 cat 
tle 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 plough our land, plant corn 
and other crops, fruit-trees, and vines, cut and secure as hay enough 
of the waving grass to supply our stock the coming winter. These 
cheering prospects beguiled our labors through late spring until mid 
summer, by which time nearly all of our number were prostrated by 
fever and ague that would not stay cured ; the grass cut for hay 
mouldered in the wet for want of the care we could not bestow, and 
our crop of corn wasted by cattle we could not restrain. If these 
minor ills and misfortunes were all, they could be easily borne ; but 
now began to gather the dark clouds of war. An election for a first 
Territorial Legislature had been held on the 30th of March of this 
year. On that day the residents of Missouri along the borders came 
into Kansas by thousands, and took forcible possession of the polls. 
In the words of Horace Greeley, ' There was no disguise, no pre 
tence of legality, no regard for decency. On the evening before and 
the morning of the day of election, nearly a thousand Missourians 
arrived at Lawrence in wagons and on horseback, well armed with 
rifles, pistols, and bbwie-kriives, and two pieces of cannon loaded 
with musket balls. Although but 831 legal electors in the Territory 
voted, there were no less than 6,320 votes polled. They elected all 
the members of the Legislature, with a single exception in either 
house, the two Free-Soilers being chosen from a remote district 
which the Missourians overlooked or did not care to reach.' 

" Early in the spring and summer of this year the actual settlers 
at their convention repudiated this fraudulently chosen Legislature, 
and refused to obey its enactments. Upon this, the border papers of 
Missouri in flaming appeals urged the ruffian horde that had pre 
viously invaded Kansas to arm, and otherwise prepare to march 
again into the Territory when called upon, as they soon would be, 
to ' aid in enforcing the laws.' War of some magnitude, at least, 
now appeared to us brothers to be inevitable ; and I wrote to our 
father, whose home was in North Elba, N. Y., asking him to procure 
and send to us, if he could, arms and ammunition, so that we could 
be better prepared to defend ourselves and our neighbors. He soon 
obtained them ; but instead of sending, he came on with them him- 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 191 

self, accompanied by my brother-in-law Henry Thompson, and my 
brother Oliver. In Iowa he bought a horse and covered wagon ; 
concealing the arms in this and conspicuously displaying his survey 
ing implements, he crossed into Missouri near Waverley, and at that 
place disinterred the body of his grandson, and brought all safely 
through to our settlement, arriving there about the 6th of October." 

In August, 1854, when John Brown, Jr., had first men 
tioned to his father his purpose of emigrating to Kansas, it 
was not the intention of the father to accompany them, 
although he was willing and rather desirous his children 
should go. In a letter written from Akron (Aug. 21, 1854), 
he said to John : " If you or any of my family are disposed to 
go to Kansas or Nebraska, with a view to help defeat Satan 
and his legions in that direction, I have not a word to say ; 
but I feel committed to operate in another part of the field. If 
I were not so committed, I would be on my way this fall. 
Mr. Adair [who married Brown's half-sister Florilla] is 
fixing to go, and wants to find 'good men and true' to go 
along. I would be glad if Jason would give away his Rock 
and go. Owen is fixing for some move ; I can hardly say 
what." In fact, the four brothers, John, Jason, Owen, and 
Frederick Brown, as above mentioned, set out for Kansas 
in 1854, arriving there in the early spring of 1855, and set 
tling near their uncle Mr. Adair. John Brown himself soon 
changed his mind and prepared to follow them, first visit 
ing North Elba and New England ; and at this point his let 
ters to his family at North Elba may be taken up, relating. 
in their simple way, the domestic history in these removals, 
and the frugal plans he formed for the maintenance and 
comfort of those dependent on him or under his guidance. 
Here will be found little speech of the great objects he had 
in view, but much concerning cattle and household affairs ; 
as in the correspondence, were it preserved, of some Oriental 
patriarch migrating from land to land in Scripture times. 

John Brown to his Children. 

AKRON, OHIO, Jan. 3, 1855. 

DEAR CHILDREN, Last night your letters to Jason were re 
ceived (dated December 26), and I had the reading of them. T 



192 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

conclude from the long time mine to you from Albany was on the 
way, that you did not reply to it. On my return here from North 
Elba I was disappointed of about three hundred dollars for cattle 
sold to brother Frederick, and am still in the same condition, he 
having gone to Illinois just before I left to go East, and not having 
returned nor written me a word since. This puts it out of my power 
to move my family at present, and will until 1 get my money, unless 
I sell off my Devon cattle, which I cannot, without great sacrifice, 
before spring opens. Your remarks about hay make me doubt the 
propriety of taking on any cattle till spring, as I have here an abun 
dance of feed. I am now entirely unable to say whether we can get 
off before spring or not. All are well here, so far as we know. Owen 
and Frederick were with their uncle Edward in Meridosia, 111. (where 
they expect to winter), on the 23d December; they were well, and 
much pleased with the country, and with him. You can write them 
at that place, care of Edward Lusk, Esq. I may send on one of the 
boys before the family go, but am not now determined. Can write 
no more now for want of time. Write me, on receipt of this, any and 
every thing of use or interest. 

Your affectionate father, JOHN BROWN. 

AKRON, OHIO, Feb. 13, 1855. 

DEAR CHILDREN, I have deferred answering your very accept 
able letter of January .30 for one week, in the hope of having some 
news to write you about Owen and Frederick ; but they are so negli 
gent about writing that I have not a word to send now. I got quite 
an encouraging word about Kansas from Mr. Adair the other day. 
He had before given quite a gloomy picture of things. He and fam 
ily were all well. The friends here were all well a few days since. 
John and Wealthy have gone back to Vernon, John taking with him 
my old surveyor's instruments, in consideration of having learned to 
survey. I have but little to write that will interest you, so I need 
not be lengthy. I think we may be able to get off in March, and I 
mean to sell some of our Devon cattle in order to effect it, if I can do 
no better. I should send on Watson within a few days, if I thought 
I could manage to get along with the family and cattle without his help. 
I may conclude to do so still before we get away. The last of January 
and February, up to yesterday, have been very remarkable for unin 
terrupted cold weather for this section. We were glad to learn that 
you had succeeded in getting the house so comfortable. I want 
Johnny should be so good a boy that " 95 will not turn him off." 
Can you tell whether the Stout lot was ever redeemed in December 
or not by the owners ? 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 193 

ROCKFORD, WIKNEBAGO COUNTY, ILL., May 7, 1855. 
DEAR CHILDREN, I am here with my stock of cattle to sell, in 
order to raise funds so that I can move to North Elba, and think I 
may get them off in about two weeks. Oliver is here with me. We 
shall get on so late that we can put in no crops (which I regret), so 
that you had perhaps better plant or sow what you can conveniently 
on u 95." 1 I heard from John and Jason and their families (all 
well) at St. Louis on the 21st April, expecting to leave there on the 
evening of that day to go up the Missouri for Kansas. My family 
at Akron were well on the 4th inst. As I may be detained here some 
days after you get this, I wish you to write me at once what wheat 
and corn are worth at Westport now, as near as you can learn. 
People are here so busy sowing their extensive fields of grain, that I 
cannot get them even to see my cattle now. Direct to this place, care 
of Shepard Leach, Esq. 

ROCKFOIID, WlNNEBAGO COUNTY, ILL., June 4, 1855. 

DEAR CHILDREN, I write just to say that I have sold my cattle 
without making much sacrifice, and expect to be on my way home 
to-morrow. Oliver expects to remain behind and go to Kansas. 
After I get home I expect to start with my family for North Elba as 
soon as we can get ready. We may possibly get off this week, but 
I hardly think we can. I have heard nothing further as yet from 
the boys in Kansas. All were well at home a few days since. 

HUDSON, OHIO, June 18, 1855. 

DEAR CHILDREN, I write to say that we are (after so long a 
time) on our way to North Elba, with our freight also delivered at 
the Akron depot; we look for it here to-night. If this reaches you 
before we get on, I would like to have some one with a good team go 
out to Westport on next Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday forenoon, 
to take us out or a load of our stuff. We have some little thought 
now of going with our freight by the Welland Canal and by Ogdens- 
burgh to Westport, in which case we may not get around until after 
you get this. All are well here, so far as we know. 

Your affectionate father, JOHN BROWN. 

To his Wife. 

SYRACUSE, June 28, 1855. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, I reached here on the first day 
of the convention, and I have reason to bless God that I came ; for 

1 Brown's farm at North Elba. 
13 



194 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

I have met with a most warm reception from all, so far as I know, 
and except by a few sincere, honest peace friends a most hearty 
approval of my intention of arming my sons and other friends in 
Kansas. I received to-day donations amounting to a little over sixty 
dollars, twenty from Gerrit Smith, five from an old British officer ; 1 
others giving smaller sums with such earnest and affectionate expres 
sions of their good wishes as did me more good than money even. 
John's two letters were introduced, and read with such effect by Ger 
rit Smith as to draw tears from numerous eyes in the great collection 
of people present. The convention has been one of the most in 
teresting meetings I ever attended in my life ; and I made a great 
addition to the number of warm-hearted and honest friends. 



Letters from John Brown's Sons in Kansas to their Father. 

BROWNSVILLE, BROWN Co., 2 K. T., 
Friday Morning, June 22, 1855. 

DEAR FATHER, Day before yesterday we received a letter from 
you dated Rockford, 111., 24th May, which for some unaccountable 
cause has been very long delayed on the road. We are exceed 
ingly glad to hear from you, and that you still intend coming on. 
Our health is now excellent, and our crops, cattle, and horses look 
finely. We have now about twelve acres of sod corn in the ground, 
more than a quarter acre of white beans, two and a half bushels seed 
potatoes planted and once hoed, besides a good garden containing corn, 
potatoes, beets, cabbages, turnips, a few onions, some peas, cucum 
bers, melons, squashes, etc. Jason's fruit-trees, grape-vines, etc., 
that survived the long period of transportation, look very well : prob 
ably more than half he started with are living, with the exception of 
peaches ; of these he has only one or two trees. As we arrived so 
late in the season, we have but little expectation of harvesting much 

1 This was Charles Stewart, a retired captain of the British army, who 
had served under Wellington in India or Spain, afterwards emigrated to 
America, and who became one of the zealous associates of Gerrit Smith in 
the antislavery crusade of 1835-50. He was visiting at Mr. Smith's house 
in 1855 ; and I found him there again in February, 1858, when I met 
Brown in Mrs. Smith's parlor, to hear the disclosure of his Virginia plans. 
The money given to Brown at Syracuse, in June, 1855, was in part ex 
pended by him at Springfield, in July, for arms. He then saw his old 
friend Thomas Thomas, the Maryland freedman, and urged him to join in 
the Kansas expedition ; but Thomas, who had made his arrangements to 
live in California, declined, and never met Brown again. 

2 This is now Cutler, in Franklin County. 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 195 

corn, and but few potatoes. The rainy season usually commences 
here early in April or before, and continues from six to eight weeks, 
during which a great amount of rain falls. This year we had no rain 
of any consequence before the 12th or 15th of May ; since then have 
had two heavy rains accompanied with some wind and most tremen 
dous thunder and lightning ; have also had a number of gentle rains, 
continuing from one to twenty-four hours ; but probably not more 
than half the usual fall of rain has yet come. As the season last 
year was irregular in this respect, probably this will be to some 
extent. We intend to keep our garden, beans, and some potatoes 
watered if we can, so as to have something if our corn should be a 
failure. As it is, the prospect is middling fair, and the ground is 
ploughed ready for early planting next year. Old settlers here say that 
people should calculate on having the spring's sowing and planting 
all done by the middle of April j in that case their crops are more 
abundant. The prairies are covered with grass, which begins to 
wave in the wind most beautifully ; shall be able to cut any quan 
tity of this, and it is of far better quality than I had any idea. 

In answer to your questions : Good oxen are from $50 to $80 per 
yoke, have been higher ; common cows, from $15 to $25, prob 
ably will not be higher ; heifers in proportion. Limited demand as 
yet for fine stock. Very best horses from $100 to $150 each ; aver 
age fair to good, $75 to $80. No great demand now for cattle or 
horses. A good strong buggy would sell well, probably a Lum- 
beree best. Mr. Adair has had several chances to sell his. Very few 
Lumberee buggies among the settlers. White beans, $5 per bushel ; 
corn meal, $1.75 per bushel of fifty pounds, tending downward; 
flour, $7 per hundred pounds ; dried apples, 12i cents per pound ; 
bacon, 12 to 14 cents here; fresh beef, 5 to 6 cents per pound. 
Enclosed is a slip cut from a late number of the " Kansas Tribune'' 
giving the markets there, which differ somewhat from prices in this 
section. It is the paper published at Lawrence by the Speers. 

I have no doubt it would be much cheaper and healthier for you 
to come in the way you propose, with a " covered lumber buggy and 
one horse or mule," especially from St. Louis here. The navigation 
of the Missouri River, except by the light-draught boats recently built 
for the Kansas River, is a horrid business in a low stage of water, 
which is a considerable portion of the year. You will be able to see 
much more of the country on your way, and if you carry some pro 
visions along it is altogether the cheaper mode of travelling ; besides, 
such a conveyance is just what you want here to carry on the busi 
ness of surveying. You can have a good road here whithersoever 
you may wish to go. Flour, white beans, and dried fruit will doubt 
less continue for some time to come to be high. It is believed that 



196 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

a much larger emigration will arrive here this fall than before. 
Should you buy anything to send by water, you can send it either to 
Lawrence, thirty-five miles north of us, or to Kansas City, Mo., care 
of Walker & Chick, sixty miles northeast of us. 

A surveyor would soon find that great numbers are holding more 
land, and especially timber, than can be covered by 160 acres, or 
even 320, and that great numbers are holding claims for their 
friends ; so that I have no doubt people will find a sufficient amount 
of timber yet for a long time. Owing to the rapid settlement of the 
country by squatters, it does not open a good field for speculators. 

The land on which we are located was ceded by the Pottawatoinie 
Indians to the Government. The Ottawa lands are soon to be sold, 
each person of the tribe reserving and choosing two hundred acres ; 
the remainder open to pre-emption after their choice is made. The 
Peoria lands have been bargained for by the Government, and are to 
be sold to the highest bidder without reservation. But Missourians 
have illegally gone on to these Peoria lands, intending to combine 
and prevent their going higher than $1.25 per acre, and then claim, 
if they go higher, a large amount of improvements, thus cheating 
the Indians. The Ottawas intend to divide into families, and cul 
tivate the soil and the habits of civilized life, as many of them are 
now doing. They are a fine people. The Peorias are well advanced, 
and might do the same but for a bad bargain with our Government. 

[Here is drawn a plan of the Brown settlement or claim.] 

There is a town site recently laid out on the space marked "village 
plat ; " as there are two or three in sight, it is uncertain which will 
be taken. The semicircle is even ground, sloping every way, and 
affording a view in every way of from twenty to thirty miles in every 
direction, except one small point in the direction of Osawatomie ; the 
view from this ground is beautiful beyond measure. The timbered 
lands on Middle Creek are covered with claims j the claimants, many 
of them from Ohio, Illinois, and the East, are mostly Free-State 
folks. There are probably twenty families within five or six miles 
of us. 

Day before yesterday Owen and I ran the Peoria line east to see 
if there might not be found a patch of timber on some of the numer 
ous small streams which put into the Osage, and which would be 
south of the Peoria line. We found on a clear little stream sufficient 
timber for a log-house, and wood enough to last say twenty families for 
two or three years, perhaps more, and until one could buy and raise 
more. Here a good claim could be made by some one. The prairie 
land which would be included is of the very best I have ever seen ; 
plenty of excellent stone on and adjoining it. Claims will soon be 
made here that will have no more than two or three acres of timber ; 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 197 

and after these are exhausted prairie claims will be taken, the claim 
ants depending on buying their timber. Already this is the case, and 
many are selling off twenty, thirty, and forty acres from their timber 
claims to those who have none. 

The above, though without signature, is in the handwrit 
ing of John Brown, Jr. ; and the plan of " Brown's Sta 
tion " is drawn in his neat surveyor's manner. In the same 
envelope evidently went the two following letters from Jason 
Brown (familiarly called " Jay " by his family) and Salmon, 
the eldest son of the second marriage. 

OSAWATOMIE, K. T., June 23, 1855. 

DEAR FATHER, MOTHER, BROTHERS, AND SISTERS, We re 
ceived a few days since a letter from mother, since then one from 
father, which we were all very glad to get. I should have written you 
before, but since we laid little Austin in the grave I have not felt as 
if I could write. I shall not attempt to say much now. We fully 
believe that Austin is happy with his Maker in another existence ; 
and if there is to be a separation of friends after death, we pray God 
to keep us in the way of truth, and that we may so run our short 
course as to be able to enjoy his company again. Ellen feels so 
lonely and discontented here without Austin, that we shall go back 
to Akron next fall if she does not enjoy herself better. I arn well 
pleased with the country, and can be as well content here as any 
where else if it proves to be healthy. It is a very rich and beautiful 
country. I should think it would be altogether best for father to 
come by land from St. Louis. Salmon has a very good claim (as 
well as the rest of us), and seems to be very much pleased with it. 
We are all living together in tents and in the wagon, and have no 
houses yet. I used all the money I had for freight and passage be 
fore I got here, and had to borrow of John. We have no stoves ; I 
wish now that we had brought ours along. We would all like to 
hear from you often. All well. 

Your affectionate son and brother, 

J. L. BROWN. 

P. S. If you should come by Akron on your way here, and could 
buy and box up a middle-sized stove and furniture, with about four 
lengths of pipe, and send or bring it to me at Kansas City, I will 
contrive some way to pay you for it. I think they can be got there 
and shipped here cheaper than they can be bought here. I would 
like to have you inquire, if you will. 



198 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

OSAWATOMIE, K. T., June 22, 1855. 

DEAR FATHER, We received your letter from Rockford, 111., this 
week, and are very glad that you are going to get through there soon, 
and that you are going to be here before fall. In answer to your 
questions about what you will need for your company, I would say 
that I have one acre of corn that looks very well, and some beans and 
squashes and turnips. You will want to get some pork and meal, 
and beans enough to last till the crop comes in, and then I think 
we will have enough grain to last through the winter. I will have a 
house up by the time that you will get here. My boots are very near 
worn out, and I shall need some summer pants and a hat, I bought 
an axe, and that you will riot have to get. There are slaves owned 
within three miles of us. 

Your affectionate son, 

SALMON BROWN. 



From Oliver Brown to his Mother at North Elba. 

EOCKFORD, WlNXEBAGO COUNTY, ILL., Aug. 8 [1855]. 

DEAR MOTHER, I just received yours of the 31st, and also of 
the 1st, and was very much pleased to hear that you were all well. 
I also received letters from father and Ruth at the same time, which 
I was very glad to get ; but I much more expected to see father than 
to hear from him. My health is very good at present, but has been 
very poor for a week or ten days back. I am working now for a man 
named Goodrich, getting $1.50 per day, which I have to earn, every 
cent of it. I never worked so hard before. I am quite sorry to hear 
that you are likely to have rather tough times of it for a year to come. 
Was I certain that father would not be distressed for money when he 
gets here, I would send you enough to buy another cow; but I think 
M*e must try and see what we can do for you when we get to Kansas. 
Have written to Salmon twice, but have received no answer as yet. 
My shirts hold out very well so far, but I think the ones you were 
going to send by father will come in play in course of the season. 
I very much hope to see Alexis Hinkley with him. Should much 
like to have Watson with us, but do not see that it is possible. I 
hope to see you all in Kansas in the course of a year or two. It hns 
been very dry here, but crops look very well. I received that receipt 
for cholera medicine, and went at once and got the whole dose mixed 
up. I do not think of more at present, so please all write me soon ; 
and Wat. you must spur up about writing, and Anna too. 
From your affectionate son, 

OLIVER BROWN. 



1855.1 THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 199 



From John Brown to his Family at North Elba. 

CHICAGO, ILL., Aug. 23, 1855. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, EVERY ONE, I see that Henry 
has given you so full a history of our matters that I have but little to 
say uow, but to add that we start from here this morning, all well. 
We have 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 prob 
ably to supply ourselves with game. We have provided ourselves 
with the most of what we need on our outward march. If you get 
this on Tuesday and answer it on Wednesday, some of you directing 
on the outside to Oliver, at Rock Island, 111., we should probably get 
your answer there. Oliver's name is not so common as either Henry's 
or mine. We shall write you often, and hope you will do so by us. 
You may direct one to Oliver at Kansas. City, Mo., as we may go 
there, and shall be very glad to hear from you. Write us soon at 
Osawatomie. Kansas, and may God Almighty bless you all ! 
Your affectionate husband and father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

SCOTT COUNTF, IOWA, Sept. 4 [1855], in Morning. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, ALL, I am writing in our tent 
about twenty miles west of the Mississippi, to let you know that we 
are all in good health and how we get along. We had some delay 
at Chicago on account of our freight not getting on as we expected ; 
while there we bought a stout young horse that proves to be a very 
good one, but he has been unable to travel fast for several days from 
having taken the distemper. We think he appears quite as well as 
he has, this morning ; and we hope he will not fail us. Our load is 
heavy, so that we have to walk most of the time ; indeed, all the 
time the last day. The roads are mostly very good, and we can 
make some progress if our horse does not fall us. We fare very well 
on crackers, herring, boiled eggs, prairie chicken, tea, and sometimes a 
little milk. Have three chickens now cooking for our breakfast. We 
shoot enough of them on the wing as we go along to supply us with 
fresh meat. Oliver succeeds in bringing them down quite as well as 
any of us. Our expenses before we got away from Chicago had been 
very heavy ; since then very light, so that we hope our money will 
not entirely fail us ; but we shall not have any of account left when 
we get through. 

We expect to go direct through Missouri, and if we are not obliged 
to stop on account of our horse, shall soon be there. We mean to 
write you often when we can. We got to Rock Island too soon for 



200 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

any letter from you, but shall not be too curly at Kansas City, where 
we hope to hear from you. The country through which we have 
travelled from Chicago has been mostly very good ; the worst fault 
is want of living streams of water. With all the comforts we have 
along our journey, I think, could I hope in any other way to an 
swer the end of my being, I would be quite content to be at North 
Elba. 

I have directed the sale of the cattle in Connecticut, and to have 
the rest sent in a New York draft payable to Watson's order, which 
I hope will make you all quite comfortable. Watson should get 
something more at Elizabethtown than the mere face of the draft. 
He will need to write his name across the back of the draft when he 
sells it : about two inches from the top end would be the proper place. 
I want you to make the most of the money you get, as I expect to be 
very poor about money from any other source. Commend you all to 
the mercy and infinite grace of God. I bid you all good-by for this 
time. 

Your affectionate husband and father, 

JOHN BROWN. 1 

OSAWATOMIE, K. T., Oct. 13, 1855. 
Saturday Eve. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, EVERY ONE, We reached the 
place where the boys are located one week ago, late at night; at 
least Henry and Oliver did. I, being tired, stayed behind in our 
tent, a mile or two back. As the mail goes from here early Monday 
morning, we could get nothing here in time for that mail. We found 
all more or less sick or feeble but Wealthy and Johnny. 2 All at 
Brownsville appear now to be mending, but all sick or feeble here at 

1 The following receipts belong in this portion of the family papers : the 
first one is for arms purchased with money contributed by Gen-it Smith 
and others for use in Kansas ; the second is for the wagon in which Brown 
made the journey to Kansas : 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., July 24, 1855. 

Received of John Brown one box firearms and flasks, to be forwarded by railroad 
to Albany, and consigned to him at Cleveland, Ohio, care of H. B. Spellman of that 
place. 

THOMAS O'CONNELL, 

For W. R. R. Company. 

$100. Received of John Brown one hundred dollars in full for a heavy horse wagon, 
this day sold him, and which we agree to ship immediately to J. B., Iowa City, Iowa, 
care of Dr. Jesse Bowen. 

BILLINGS & BRYANT. 

2 Son of John Brown, Jr. 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 201 

Mr. Adair's. Fever and ague and chill-fever seem to be very general. 
Oliver has had a turn, of the ague since he got here, but has got it 
broken. Henry has had no return since first breaking it. We met 
with no difficulty in passing through Missouri, but from the sickness 
of our horse and our heavy load. The horse has entirely recovered. 
We had, between us all, sixty cents in cash when we arrived. We 
found our folks in a most uncomfortable situation, with no houses to 
shelter one of them, no hay or corn fodder of any account secured, 
shivering over their little fires, all exposed to the dreadful cutting 
winds, morning and evening and stormy days. We have been trying 
to help them all in our power, and hope to get them more comfortable 
soon. I think much of their ill health is owing to most unreasonable 
exposure. Mr. Adair's folks would be quite comfortable if they were 
well. One letter from wife and Anne to Salmon, of August 10, and 
one from Ruth to John, of 19th September, is all I have seen from 
any of you since getting here. Henry found one from Ruth, which 
he has not shown me. Need I write that I shall be glad to hear 
from you ? I did not write while in Missouri, because I had no confi 
dence in your getting my letters. We took up little Austin and 
brought him on here, which appears to be a great comfort to Jason 
and Ellen. We were all out a good part of the last night, helping 
to keep the prairie fire from destroying everything ; so that I am 
almost blind to-day, or I would write you more. 



Sabbath Eve, October 14. 

I notice in your letter to Salmon your trouble about the means of 
having the house made more comfortable for winter, and I fondly 
hope you have been relieved on that score before now, by funds 
from Mr. Huiibut, of Winchester, Conn., from the sale of the cattle 
there. Write me all about your situation ; for, if disappointed from 
that source, I shall make every effort to relieve you in some other 
way. Last Tuesday was an election day with Free-State men in 
Kansas, and hearing that there was a prospect of difficulty we all 
turned out most thoroughly armed (except Jason, who was too fee 
ble) ; but no enemy appeared, nor have I heard of any disturbance 
in any part of the Territory. Indeed, I believe Missouri is fast be 
coming discouraged about making Kansas a slave State, and I think 
the prospect of its becoming free is brightening every day. Try to 
be cheerful, and always " hope in God," who will not leave nor for 
sake them that trust in him. Try to comfort and encourage each 
other all you can. You are all very dear to me, and I humbly trust 
we may be kept and spared to meet again on earth ; but if not, let 
us all endeavor earnestly to secure admission to that eternal home, 



202 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1854. 

where will be no more bitter separations, u where the wicked shall 
cease from troubling and the weary be at rest." We shall probably 
spend a few days more in helping the boys to provide some kind of 
shelter for winter, and mean to write you often. May God in infinite 
mercy bless, comfort, and save you all, for Christ's sake ! 
Your affectionate husband and father, 

JOHN BROWN 



In addition to the account given by John Brown, Jr., of 
the pilgrimage to Kansas, the following notice of it, written 
by the father, and found among his papers at North Elba, 
may here be cited. He wrote thus : 

" Tn 1854 the four eldest sons of John Brown, named John, Jr., 
Jason, Owen, and Frederick (all children by a first wife), then living 
in Ohio, determined to remove to Kansas. John, Jr., sold his place, 
a very desirable little property, near Vernon, in Trumbull County. 
Jason Brown had a very valuable collection of grape-vines, and also of 
choice fruit-trees, which he took up and shipped in boxes at a heavy 
cost. The other two sous held no landed property, but both were 
possessed of some valuable stock (as were als the two first-named) 
derived from that of their father, which had been often noticed by 
liberal premiums, both in the State of New York and also of Ohio. 
The two first-named, John and Jason, both had families. Owen had 
none. Frederick was engaged to be married, and was to return for 
his wife. 

" In consequence of an extreme dearth in 1854 the crops in North 
ern Ohio were almost an entire failure ; and it was decided by the 
four brothers that the two youngest should take the teams and entire 
stock, cattle and horses, and move them to Southwestern Illinois to 
winter, and to have them on early in the spring of 1855. This was 
done at a very considerable expense, and with some loss of stock to 
John, Jr., some of his best stock having been stolen on the way. 
The wintering of the animals was attended with great expense, and 
with no little suffering to the two youngest brothers, one of them, 
Owen, being to some extent a cripple from childhood by an injury 
of the right arm ; and Frederick, though a very stout man, was sub 
ject to periodical sickness for many years, attended with insanity. 
It has been stated that he was idiotic ; nothing could be more false. 
He had subjected himself to a most dreadful surgical operation but 
a short time before starting for Kansas, which had well-nigh cost 
him his life, and was but just through with his confinement when 
he started on his journey, pale and weak. They were obliged to 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 203 

husk corn all winter, out cf doors, in order to obtain fodder for their 
animals. Salmon Brown, a very strong minor son of the family, 
eighteen years old, was sent forward early in 1855, to assist 
the two last-named, and all three arrived in Kansas early in the 
spring." 

In such patriarchal fashion did the Browns enter the land 
which they were foreordained to defend. These young men 
were of the true stuff, worthy sons of such a sire ; active, 
enterprising persons, fond of labor, inured to hardship, and 
expecting, as their father had taught them, to earn their 
living with the toil of their own hands. The narrow cir 
cumstances of the family made it necessary that these young- 
men should support themselves somewhere. Love of free 
dom, love of adventure, and a desire for independence in 
fortune combined to tempt them ; but the father, besides his 
wish to aid them, had constantly in view his main object, 
as the last letter shows. 



More Family Letters. 

BROWNSVILLE, K. T., Nov. 2, 1855. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, EVERY ONE, We last week re 
ceived Watson's letter of October 3, too late to answer till now. I 
felt grateful to learn that you were all then well, and I think I fully 
sympathize with you in all the hardships and discouragements you 
have to meet ; but you may be assured you are not alone in having 
trials. I believe I wrote you that we found every one here more or less 
unwell but Wealthy and Johnny, without any sort of a place where 
a stout man even could protect himself from the cutting cold winds 
and storms, which prevail here (the winds, I mean, in particular) much 
more than in any place where we have ever lived ; and that no crops 
of hay or anything raised had been taken care of; with corn wasting 
by cattle and horses, without fences; and, I may add, without any 
meat ; and Jason's folks without sugar, or any kind of breadstuffs but 
corn ground with great labor in a hand-mill about two miles off. Since 
I wrote before, Wealthy, Johnny, Ellen, and myself have escaped 
being sick. Some have had the ague, but lightly ; but Jason and 
Oliver have had a hard time of it, and are yet feeble. They appear 
some better just now. Under existing circumstances we have made 
but little progress ; but we have made a little. We have got a shanty 
three logs high, chinked, and mudded, and roofed with our tent, and 



204 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

a chimney so far advanced tliat we can keep a fire in it for Jason. 1 
John has his shanty a little better fixed than it was, but miserable 
enough now ; and we have got their little crop of beans secured, 
which, together with johimycake, mush and milk, pumpkins, and 
squashes, constitute our fare. Potatoes they have none of any ac 
count; milk, beans, pumpkins, and squashes a very moderate supply, 
just for the present use. We have also got a few house- logs cut for 
Jason. I do not send you this account to render you more unhappy, 
but merely to let you know that those here are not altogether in 
paradise, while you have to stay in that miserable frosty region. 
We had here, October 25, the hardest freezing I ever witnessed south 
of North Elba at that season of the year. 

After all, God's tender mercies are not taken from us, and blessed 
be his name forever ! I believe things will a little brighten here 
before long, and as the winter approaches, and that we may be able 
to send you a more favorable account. There is no proper officer 
before whom a deed can be acknowledged short of Lawrence, and 
Jason and Owen have not been able to go there at all since we got 
here. 1 want to learn very much whether you have received any 
return from the cattle of Mr. Hurlbut, in Connecticut, so that I may 
at once write him if you have not. I trust you will not neglect this, 
as it takes so long to get letters through, and it will greatly lessen my 
anxiety about your being made in some measure comfortable for the 
winter. We hear that the fall has been very sickly in Ohio and other 
States. I can discover no reason why this country should continue 
sickly, but it has proven exceedingly so this fall. I feel more and 
more confident that slavery will soon die out here, and to God be 
the praise ! Commending you all to his infinite grace, I remain 
Your affectionate husband and father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

To his Family. 

OSAWATOMIE, K. T., Nov. 23, 1855. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, ALL, Ruth's letter to Henry, 
saying she was about moving, and dated 23d October (I think), 
was received by last week's mail. We were all glad to learn again 
of your welfare ; and as to your all staying in one house, I can see 
no possible objection, if you can only be well agreed, and try to 

1 His home was a freezing cabin, 
Too bare for the hungry rat ; 
Its roof was thatched with ragged grass, 
And bald enough of that. 

HOLMES, The Pilgrim's Vision. 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 205 

make each other as comfortable as may be. Nothing new of account 
has occurred amongst us since I wrote. Henry, Jason, and Oliver 
are unable to do much yet, but appear to have but little ague now. 
The others are all getting middling well. We have got both families 
so sheltered that they need not suffer hereafter ; have got part of the 
hay (which had lain in cocks) secured] made some progress in prep 
aration to build a house for John and Owen ; and Salmon has caught 
a prairie wolf in the steel trap. We continue to have a good deal of 
stormy weather, rains with severe winds, and forming into ice as 
they fall, together with cold nights that freeze the ground consider 
ably. " Still God has not forsaken us," and we get " day by day 
our daily bread," and I wish we all had a great deal more gratitude 
to mingle with our undeserved blessings. Much suffering would be 
avoided by people settling in Kansas, were they aware that they 
would need plenty of warm clothing and light warm houses as much 
as in New Hampshire or Vermont; for such is the fact. 

Since Watson wrote, I have felt a great deal troubled about your 
prospects of a cold house to winter in, and since I wrote last I have 
thought of a cheap ready way to help it much, at any rate. Take 
any common straight-edged boards, and run them from the ground 
up to the eaves, barn fashion, not driving the nails in so far but that 
they may easily be drawn, covering all but doors and windows as 
close as may be in that way, and breaking joints if need be. This 
can be done by any one, and in any weather not very severe, and the 
boards may afterwards be mostly saved for other uses. I think much, 
too, of your widowed state, and I sometimes allow myself to dream a 
little of again some time enjoying the comforts of home ; but I do 
not dare to dream much. May God abundantly reward all your 
sacrifices for the cause of humanity, and a thousandfold more than 
compensate your lack of worldly connections ! We have received two 
newspapers you sent us, which were indeed a great treat, shut away 
as we are from the means of getting the news of the day. Should 
you continue to direct them to some of the boys, after reading, we 
should prize them much. 

Your affectionate husband and father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

These letters disclose the hardships of the first year of 
pioneer life in Kansas, suffered from the elements and nat 
ural causes alone. Yet the troubles of this family were but 
just begun when the inclemency of the season had been in 
some measure guarded against. The Browns had " located," 
as already mentioned, ten or twelve miles from Osawatomie ; 



206 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

their kinsman Mr. Adair living between them and the 
village. James Haiiway, another pioneer, living on the 
Pottawatomie, near Dutch Henry's Crossing, in Franklin 
County, a few miles southeast of Brownsville (which is 
now in the township of Cutler), thus speaks of the loca 
tion : " On North Middle Creek, on the farm of Mr. Day, 
eight miles southeast of Ottawa, John Brown caused to be 
erected a cabin for the purpose of pre-empting a claim for 
his brother-in-law Mr. Day, the father of the present occu 
pant of the farm ; but I never learned that Brown lived on 
it, for after the month of May, 1856, he was never station 
ary, but all the time on the war-path, until he left Kansas 
for a season. After the Pottawatomie tragedy occurred, 
the John Brown, Jr., cabin, with a valuable library, was 
burned down by the ruffians. This cabin was located a 
short distance south of the Day cabin. The other sons of 
John Brown had claims about one and a half miles south, 
now known as ' Brown's Kim.' " The family were therefore 
within a circuit of two miles of each other, and at some dis 
tance from any other settlers. Their post-office was Osawa- 
tomie ; for there was then no town at Ottawa, which is now 
a thriving village, with a third part of the whole county 
population. The township of Pottawatomie, in which the 
Shermans and Doyles lived, was about as far south from 
the Browns as Osawatomie was on the east. 

Scarcely had the Brown family got over the first hard 
ships of the sickly season and the frosty autumn, when they 
were called upon to arm and muster for the defence of their 
threatened neighbors at Lawrence. The murdering of Free- 
State men had begun (Oct. 25, 1855) with the shooting of 
Samuel Collins at Doniphan by Pat Laughlin, a noisy pro- 
slavery Irishman, who was aided in his attack by three or 
four armed associates. No attempt was made to punish 
Laughlin. Four weeks later, November 21, Charles Dow 
was murdered by Franklin Coleman, a proslavery bully, 
near Hickory Point. The next night, Jacob Branson, a wit 
ness against Coleman, was arrested by the proslavery sheriff 
Jones, for taking part in a Free-State meeting, contrary to 
the " bogus laws ; " but before Jones and his posse could 
carry their prisoner to the proslavery capital, Lecompton, 



1855.J THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 207 

they were waylaid by an equal force of Free-State men, who 
rescued Branson, near Blanton's Bridge, on the very night 
of his arrest. J. R. Kennedy, now of Colorado, has given a 
graphic account of the rescue scene, which I will quote in 
his own words, for the sake of showing what men and what 
events might be heard of at any time in Kansas. 1 The date 
is Nov. 22, 1855 ; the men acting on the Free-State side 
were Major James B. Abbott, Captain Philip Hutchinson, 
Philip Hupp, and his son Miner Hupp, Colonel Samuel 1ST. 
Wood (an Ohio man, six months resident in Kansas), Elmore 
Allen, Edmund Curless, Lafayette Curless, William Hughes, 
Paul Jones, J. K. Kennedy, Collins Holloway, Isaac Shap- 

pet, John Smith, and Smith. The party were waiting 

at Abbott's house at eleven o'clock at night, when the 
chronicle begins. Kennedy says : 

11 While I was standing by the door, still on the watch, I heard 
Philip Hupp (and no braver man ever lived) say, ' Well, boys, I 
tell you what's the matter; they have taken Branson and crossed the 
Wakarusa at Cornelius's Crossing, and have him at old Crane's hotel. 
All we have to do, and what we ought to do, is to march right down 
there, and if Branson is in the house, tell him to come out, that he 
is a free man, and will be protected.' Just at this time I walked out 
a little from the door, and looking south saw fifteen or twenty mounted 
men riding slowly along the road toward the house. Stepping quickly 
back to the door, I caught Major Abbott's eye, and beckoned him to 
come out, which he did. I showed him the men, and exclaiming, 
* That 's the party ! ' he rushed into the house, telling the boys they 

1 Mr. Wilder, the Kansas historian, with the national turn for humor, 
says : "We had a Kansas war here once, civil, internecine, fratricidal. 
Some fellow in long hair and buckskin breeches, armed and mounted like 
Jesse James, would ride up to you and kill you because you could read and 
write, and were a Yankee. He controlled the elections in that way for 
several years. Those who fought you at the polls also counted the votes 
after the election. There was a proslavery bully here name happily for 
gotten who made it a business to fight on election day, to knock down 
and drag out, and to keep timid men from the polls. But at one election 
the bully woke up the wrong passenger, namely, John Lawler, of Elwood. 
When John came home that night, after taking a square Free-State drink, 
he said he had found the way to carry a Free-State election : ' Break a 
Democratic leg early in the morning.' And that was just what John had 
done." 



208 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

were coming, and to go out quick. Mrs. Abbott handed the boys 
their guns, and they did go out with a rush, Abbott going first, fol 
lowed by Philip Hupp ; then came Captain Hutchinson, PaulJones, 
and others. We turned to the left around the corner of the house 
into the road a few rods in front of the horsemen. Phil Hupp was 
the first man who crossed the road. He said afterwards he was 
watching the man on the gray horse, Sheriff Jones ; and he did 
watch him, sure enough. Next to Hupp was Paul Jones, and botli 
were armed with squirrel rifles. Next came Captain Hutchinson, 
armed with two large stones j next were Holloway and myself, I 
thinking Captain Hutchiuson was a good man to stay with, as he 
had been three years in the Mexican War. The rest of the boys 
ranged along the side of the road near the house. This was about the 
order we occupied when the party approached close to those in the 
road, and very close to those by the side of the road. Mr. Hupp 
being in front, and seeing the boys scattered along from where he was 
to the side of the house, called out, ( Boys, what the hell are you 
doing there ? Here is the place for you.' They then all crowded 
rapidly up in front of the other party, when one of these said, 
' What 's up ? ' Major Abbott replied, ; That is what we want to 
know/ which remark was followed by a shot on our side. (The 
Major had a self-cocking revolver, and he had, in his excitement, 
pulled it a little too hard, causing it to go off.) Then the question 
was asked him again by the other side, ' What 's up ? ' Thinking of 
what Mr. Hupp had said in the house, I said to Major Abbott, l Ask 
them if Branson is there.' He did so, and the answer was, ' Yes, I 
am here, and a prisoner.' Three or four of our men spoke at once, 
Major Abbott, Colonel Wood, and others whom I do not remem 
ber, saying, t Come out of that,' or i Come over to your friends,' 
or perhaps both were said. Branson replied, ' They say they will 
shoot me if I do.' Colonel Sam Wood answered quickly, ' Let 
them shoot and be damned ; we can shoot too.' Branson then said, 
' I will come if they do shoot,' starting his mule. (The man who 
was leading it let the halter slip through his hands very quietly.) 
The rest of the proslavery party raised their shot-guns and cocked 
them. Our little crowd raised their guns, and were ready in as 
good time as the others. Sam Wood and two or three of our 
men helped Branson. Wood asked Branson, ' Is this your mule ? ' 
1 No,' was the reply, whereupon Wood kicked the mule and said, 
1 Go back to your masters, damn you.' In the mean time Branson 
had disappeared, and was seen no more by these brave ' shot-gun ' 
men. 

" About this time some one of them said, l Why, Sam Wood, you 
are very brave to-night ; you must want to fight.' Colonel Wood 



1855.J THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 209 

replied that he l was always ready for a fight.' Just at this moment 
Sheriff Jones interposed, saying, ' There is no use to shed hlood in 
this affair; but it will be settled soon in a way that will not be very 
pleasant to Abolitionists/ and started to ride through those standing 
in the road. He did not then know old Philip Hupp, but soon made 
his acquaintance ; and I do not think he will be stopped by death any 
quicker than Phil Hupp stopped him that night. Just as soon as 
he started, old Philip set the trigger and cocked his old squirrel rifle 
quicker than he or any other man ever did it before, and said to Sheriff 
Jones, ' Halt ! or I will blow your damned brains out in a moment.' 
He stopped, and stayed right there, saying gently to Mr. Hupp, 
' Don't shoot.' There was then a general talk among all hands, and 
we were told about the ' Kansas militia, three thousand strong, that in 
three days' time would wipe that damned Abolition town Lawrence 
out, and corral all the Abolitionists and make pets of them.' How 
ever, Colonel Sam Wood and others out-talked them so bad that they 
were glad to get away on any terms. Miner Hupp, who wanted to 
square accounts with his two men, 1 was prevented from doing so. It 
was not his fault, for he had a ' bead ' on them several times ; but his 
father was watching him all the time after he got Sheriff Jones in 
shape." 

As the affair, thus described, was the first instance of 
combined and forcible resistance to the usurping authorities 
created by the fraudulent elections of March 30, 1855, it 
was naturally looked upon as very serious by both parties. 
Sheriff Jones (the notorious ruffian who afterward led the 
successful attack on Lawrence in May, 1856) was full of 
wrath and cursing. He rode on with his posse that night to 
a little village near Lawrence, then called Franklin, where 
they decided to appeal both to Wilson Shannon (the drunken 
governor of Kansas, who had superseded Governor Reeder), 
and to Colonel Boone, of Westport, Mo. (Jones's father-in- 
law and a descendant of Daniel Boone), for aid in punishing 
the rebellious Yankees. Jones wrote a despatch to W 7 est- 
port, which he sent by a mounted messenger, saying, as the 

1 This alludes to a previous saying of young Hupp, that he "wanted to 
square accounts with two of the posse that had threatened and abused him 
a day or two before, and was afraid the ball would be over before he got 
there." 'The above account is part of a letter written by Kennedy from 
Colorado Springs, where he was living in 1879, and may not be minutely 
accurate ; but it is the best I have seen. 

14 



210 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855 

man rode off, " That man is taking my despatch to Mis 
souri, and, by God ! I will have revenge before I see Missouri 
again." Being reminded that he had not notified his offi 
cial superior Governor Shannon, he next sent a message to 
him at the Sliawnee Mission by one Hargous, who was an 
accessory to the murder of Dow two days before. Mean 
time the Free-State men were not idle. They held a public 
meeting, November 27, at Lawrence, at which Branson the 
rescued prisoner spoke, telling the story of his friend's 
murder and his own arrest. Dow, he said, was a mild and 
peaceable young man, esteemed by those who knew him, an 
immigrant from Ohio, who was boarding at Branson's house. 
Coleman had repeatedly threatened to kill him, and on the 
morning of the 21st, when Dow went on some errand to the 
blacksmith's shop, Branson advised him to take his gun, 
but Dow did not. On his return to Branson's, and when a 
few steps from the shop, hearing the click of a gun, he turned 
round, and received in his breast the charge of a double- 
barrelled shot-gun loaded with slugs. This happened about 
one o'clock ; and the body was left lying by the side of the 
road where he fell until sundown, when some of the acces 
sories sent word to Branson " that a dead body was lying by 
the roadside." He had begun to fear some ill had befallen 
his friend, and at once recognizing the body, conveyed it to 
his house. Coleman then took refuge with Governor Shan 
non at the Shawnee Mission, and was nominally arrested by 
Jones, who was serving as sheriff of Douglas County in Kan 
sas, while living at Westport, and acting postmaster there. 
Branson had taken no part in the affair; but the next morn 
ing a proslavery justice at Lawrence, named Cameron, issued 
a " peace-warrant " against Branson on the complaint of a 
proslavery neighbor at Hickory Point, where the murder 
occurred. That evening, after Branson had gone to bed with 
his family, Sheriff Jones, with a party of mounted men, rode 
up to his lone cabin upon the prairies, a half-mile from 
neighbors, knocked at the door, and to the question " Who 
is there ? " replied, " A friend." " Come in then ; " and 
the little cabin was at once full of rough, savage^ armed 
men. Jones went to the bedside, and, presenting his 
pistol to Branson's breast, said, "You are my prisoner." 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 211 

Branson asked, " By what authority ? " Oaths, and the 
threat " I will blow you through," were the only an 
swer 5 the ruffians, with guns cocked, gathered round, and 
took him prisoner, an innocent, defenceless man, kid 
napped from his home and family by a gang of twenty- 
five half-drunken men, showing no papers of arrest, and 
answering with oaths and threats of death any question of 
their authority. 

Such was the story told by Branson and the other speak 
ers at the Lawrence meeting. Branson, a plain elderly 
farmer, "of quiet and modest deportment," says Mrs. Robin 
son, 1 then went on to say, " with tears at times stealing down 
his weather-beaten cheeks," that he had been requested by 
some friends to leave Lawrence, to seek some other place of 
safety, so that no excuse could be given to the enemy for an 
attack upon Lawrence. He said he would go, Lawrence 
should not be involved in difficulty on his account ; if it was 
the decision of the majority, he would go to his home, and 
die there, and be buried by the side of his friend. This 
statement was met by cries of " No ! no ! " The principal 
speakers after Branson were Grosvenor P. Lowry, a young 
lawyer from Pennsylvania, who proposed a committee of 
ten for the common defence ; Colonel Wood, who had taken 
part in the rescue ; and Martin F. Conway (born in Maryland 
in 1828), who had emigrated to Kansas in October, 1854, 
and had resigned his seat in the fraudulent Territorial 
Council of 1855. 2 

What Mr. Conway said had much weight, as coming from 
the best lawyer in Kansas. He advised them to move cau 
tiously, but boldly, having a care to take every step properly. 
They had ignored and repudiated the Legislature at the 
Shawnee Mission : they would never give their allegiance 

1 Kansas : Its Exterior and Interior Life, pp. 105-110. 

2 Mr. Conway was among the ablest of the men who made Kansas a free 
State, and was a steady friend of John Brown. He had been bred a Demo 
crat, and was a protege of Henry May, a Democratic Congressman from 
Baltimore, but was hostile to slavery, and a radical in his construction of 
the Constitution and laws. He was chosen Chief-Justice of Kansas under 
the Topeka Constitution, and was the first Congressman from the State. 
He died at Washington in 1883. 



212 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

to such a monstrous iniquity. To the United States author 
ities, to the organic act, to the courts created under it, and 
to the judges and marshals appointed by the President, they 
would yield obedience. These might oppress them, but they 
would submit, and seek redress for grievances at the United 
States Supreme Court, which would give them a fair hear 
ing. 1 He did not dissuade them from defending their rights 
and insisting on all the safeguards of the law. Fortunately, 
however, the friends of Kansas in New England and New 
York had not suffered their emigrants to rely wholly upon 
what proved to be a broken reed, the protection of the 
courts. Notwithstanding the protest of Mr. Amos Law 
rence and others before the Congressional Investigating 
Committee of May and June, 1856, that "the Emigrant Aid 
Company had never invested a dollar in cannon or rifles, in 
powder or lead, or in any of the implements of war," the 
truth is, that the officers and agents of this company (and 
Mr. Lawrence among the foremost) raised money and pur 
chased arms, which were sent to Kansas in May, 1855, in 
August, 1855, and at other times. The chief agent of this 
company in Kansas was Charles Robinson, who despatched 
G. W. Deitzler to Massachusetts in April, 1855, to obtain 
weapons, and again sent Major Abbott (already mentioned 
as the leader in the rescue of Branson) in July for the same 
purpose. Robinson gave Abbott a letter to Eli Thayer, 
the originator of the Emigrant Aid Company, in which he 
told Mr. Thayer that " the rifles in Lawrence [the so-called 
1 Beecher Bibles '] have had a very good effect, and T 
think the same kind of instruments in other places would 
do more to save Kansas than almost anything else." This 
was John Brown's opinion also, as was shown by his start 
ing for Kansas at that time with a supply of weapons. Mr. 
Branscomb, a Boston agent of the Emigrant Aid Com 
pany, indorsed Robinson's suggestion, and "cheerfully rec 
ommended Mr. J. B. Abbott to the public," under date of 

1 Judge Conway then supposed what the events of the next year sadly 
disproved by Taney's atrocious Dred Scott decision that the court of Mar 
shall and Story would decree justice, and not hasten to make itself the mere 
tool of the slave-power, as Pierce and Buchanan were. In fact, the United 
States Court in Kansas anticipated Taney in this submission. 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 213 

August 10, 1855. Mr. Lawrence, vice-president of the com 
pany, 011 the next day (August 11) wrote to Major Abbott 
at Hartford, Conn, (where iSharpe's rifles were then made), 
as follows : 

11 Request Mr. Palmer to have one hundred Sharpe's rifles packed 
in casks, like hardware, and to retain them subject to my order ; also 
to send the bill to me by mail. I will pay it either with my note, 
according to the terms agreed on between him and Dr. Webb, 1 or in 
cash, less interest at seven per cent per annum." 

August 20. 

This instalment of carbines is far from being enough, and I hope 
the measures you are taking will be followed up until every organized 
company of trusty men in the Territory shall be supplied. Dr. 
Cabot 2 will give me the names of any gentlemen here who subscribe 
money, and the amount, of which I shall keep a memorandum, and 
promise them that it shall be repaid, either in cash or rifles, whenever 
it is settled that Kansas shall not be a province of Missouri. There 
fore keep them in capital order, and, above all, take good care that 
they do not fall into the hands of the Missourians after you once get 
them into use. You must dispose of these ichere tliey will do the 
most good ; and for this purpose you should advise with Dr. Robin 
son and Mr. Pomeroy. 3 

August 24. 

The rifles ought to be on the way. Have you forwarded them ? 
How much money have you received f The Topeka people will 
require half of these. 

1 Secretary of the Emigrant Aid Company, and a devoted friend of free 
Kansas. 

2 Samuel Cabot, Jr., M.D., a noted surgeon in Boston, and one of the 
most active in raising money for rifles and other material aid to the Kansas 
farmers in 1855-57. He has preserved a list of the subscribers to the 
arms fund, which the historian of Kansas should print in his volume. 

3 In view of these manly letters of Mr. Lawrence, his statements to the 
Massachusetts Historical Society (May 8, 1884) in praise of the peaceful 
character of Charles Robinson are very grotesque. Mr. Lawrence then 
said : " Charles Robinson never bore arms, nor omitted to do whatever he 
considered to be his duty. He sternly held the people to their loyalty to the 
Government, against the arguments and the example of the ' higher law ' 
men, who were always armed." One of these "higher law " men was Major 
Abbott, who rescued Branson contrary to law, and who was armed by Mr. 
Lawrence himself, at the urgent request of Robinson ! Sad is the effect 
of time on the human memory. 



214 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

Ill presenting these letters of Kobinson and Lawrence to 
the Kansas Historical Society in 1882, Major Abbott said, 
among other things : " I went to the Emigrant Aid folks in 
Boston, and to Amos A. Lawrence, who immediately gave 
the money for the purchase of one hundred Sharpe's rifles. 
His action and these letters show what a friend of Kansas 
he was at that early period, and how quick he was to com 
prehend the character of the struggle into which we had 
been precipitated. When I reached home, the latter part 
of September, I found the rifles, which I had sent ahead of 
me, at Lawrence, and ready for use. The howitzer came 
later, but was in time to be brought to the defence of Law 
rence at the invasion in December, 1855, the pretence for 
which was the rescue of Branson, which rescue, as it 
happened, I had a hand in," To meet this invasion Kobin 
son was made a major-general, and in that capacity commis 
sioned John Brown as captain. 1 

The story of the arms earlier sent out by the " Emigrant 
Aid folks " may here be given as told by General Deitzler 
and the Kev. Edward E. Hale in 1879. General Deitzler 
said : 

" Some six weeks after my arrival in the Territory, and only a few 
days after the Territorial election of March 30, 1855, at which time 

1 The position of Kobinson towards Major Abbott and the rescuers of 
Branson may be inferred from the fact that they reported at Robinson's 
house, ten miles from Blanton's Bridge, before sunrise, November 23, the 
day after the affair. Mrs. Robinson thus tells the story in her book : "The 
slight form of the leader stood a little nearer the door ; and when his pecu 
liarly dry manner of speech fell upon the ear in his brief inquiry, ' Is Dr. 
R. in ?' his identit} r was also known. The Doctor opened the door and 
invited them in. The fact of the rescue was stated, and Mr. Branson, lie- 
ing in the ranks, was ordered to 'step forward and tell his story,' which 
he did with much feeling, and with the appearance of a person who is 
heart-broken. 1 shall never forget the appearance of the men in simple 
citizen's dress, some armed and some unarmed, standing in unbroken line, 
just visible in the breaking light of a November morning. This little band 
of less than twenty men had, through the cold and upon the frozen ground, 
walked ten miles since nine o'clock of the previous evening. Mr. Branson 
a large man, of fine proportions stood a little forward of the line, with his 
head slightly bent, which an old straw hat hardly protected from the cold, 
looking as though, in his hurry of departure from home in charge of the 
ruffianly men, he took whatever came first." 



1855.J THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 215 

Kansas was invaded by an armed force from the Southern States and 
the actual Free- State settlers were driven from the polls, Governor 
Charles Kohinson requested me to visit Boston with a view to secur 
ing arms for our people, to which I assented. . Preparations were 
quickly and quietly made, and no one knew of the object of my mis 
sion except Governor Kobinson and Joel Grover. At Worcester I 
presented my letter from Governor Robinson to Mr. Eli Thayer, just 
as he was leaving his Oread Home for the morning Boston train. 
Within an hour after our arrival in Boston, the Executive Committee 
of the Emigrant Aid Society held a meeting, and delivered to me 
an order for one hundred Sharpe's rifles, and I started for home on 
Monday morning. The boxes were marked ' Books.' I took the 
precaution to have the (cap) cones removed from the guns, and car 
ried them in my carpet-sack, which would have been missing in the 
event of the capture of the guns by the enemy. On the Missouri 
River I met John and Joseph L. Speer for the first time. They did 
not know me, but may remember the exciting incidents at Boone- 
ville and other points along the river. I arrived at Lawrence 
with the 'Beecher Bibles' several days before the special election 
in April, called by Governor Reeder. But no guns were needed 
upon that occasion, as the ruffians ignored said election; and when 
the persons elected upon that day presented their credentials at 
Pawnee, they were kicked out without ceremony. ... It was 
perhaps the first shipment of arms for our side ; and it incited a 
healthy feeling among the unarmed Free-State settlers, which 
permeated and energized them until even the Quakers were ready 
to fight." ! 

Mr. Hale gave his recollections as follows : 

" In the spring of 1855 my friend Mr. Deitzler came on in haste to 
New England, to say that fighting was certain, and that you must 
have more weapons. The breech-loading rifle was then a new and 
costly arm. It was then that we gave to the Sharpe's Rifle Com 
pany the first of a series of orders which became historical. In the 
next year Henry Ward Beecher won the nickname which he has 
never lost, ' Sharpe's Rifle Beecher ; ' and I fancy there is no nickname 
of which he is more proud. With your permission I will read the 
answer of the company to that order, and then I will ask our friend 
Mr. Adams to accept that letter as an historical document for his 
Society." 2 

1 Kansas Memorial, 1879, pp. 184, 185. 

2 Ibid., p. 147. 



216 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

SHARPE'S RIFLE MANUFACTURING Co., 
HARTFORD, May 7, 1855. 

DEAR SIR, Annexed find invoice of one hundred carbines, am 
munition; etc., delivered Mr. Deitzler this morning. For balance of 
account, I have ordered on Messrs. Lee, Higginson, & Co., at thirty 
days from this date, for $2,155.65, as directed by you. We shall be 
pleased to receive further orders from you, and will put up arms at 
our lowest cash prices to the trade, with interest added for time. The 
sample carbine for your use shall go forward immediately. Our 
negotiations with you I trust will be entirely confidential, as the trade 
in Boston and elsewhere might take offence if they understood that 
we had made you better terms than we grant to others. 
Your obedient servant, 

J. C. PALMER, Pres. 
THOS. H. WEBB, ESQ. 



Dr. Webb was then, and continued to be, the secretary of 
the Emigrant Aid Company ; and when Mr. Hale said " we," 
he meant the managers of that company, whose best title to 
the gratitude of Kansas and the nation is this very gift of 
arms to the emigrants, without which the invasion of Law 
rence in December, 1855, could not have been met. This 
invasion was made under a proclamation issued by Governor 
Shannon, November 29, calling out the "Kansas militia." 
He meant thereby the Missouri men, as appears by an early 
message sent from Woodson, the governor's secretary, to a 
proslavery commander at Leaven worth, named Eastin, who 
had been appointed by the usurping Legislature to be gen 
eral of the Territorial militia. 

(Private.) 

DEAR GENERAL, The Governor has called out the militia, and 
you will hereby organize your division, and proceed forthwith to 
Lecompton. As the Governor has no power, you may call out the 
Platte Rifle Company. They are always ready to help us. What 
ever you do, do not implicate the Governor. 

DANIEL WOODSON. 

On the same day (November 27) a despatch was sent from 
Westport to the capital of Missouri in these words : 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 217 

HON. E. C. McCLAREM, Jefferson City, Governor Shannon has 
ordered out the militia against Lawrence. They are now in open 
rebellion against the laws. Jones is in danger. 

From another border town in Missouri, this despatch was 
sent : 

WESTON, Mo., November 30. 

The greatest excitement continues to exist in Kansas. The offi 
cers have been resisted by the mobocrats, and the interposition of the 
militia has been called for. A secret letter from Secretary Woodson 
to General Eastin has been written, in which the writer requests 
General Eastin to call for the Rifle Company at Platte City, Mo., 
so as not to compromise Governor Shannon. Four hundred men 
from Jackson County are now en route for Douglas County, K. T. 
St. Joseph and Weston are requested to furnish each the same num 
ber. The people of Kansas are to be subjugated at all hazards. 

The invasion took place, and resulted in threats on the 
Missouri side, fortifications and drilling on the Lawrence 
side ; and finally this little " Wakarusa war " was ended by 
a treaty with Shannon, who conceded all that the Free-State 
men had asked. Brown and his family rallied to the de 
fence of their neighbors and their cause, and were said to 
be the best-armed men that came forward for service. They 
were mustered in as Kansas militia; John Brown was made 
captain, and his son John lieutenant, in the Osawatomle 
company. His own report of this affair is as follows : 

BROWN'S FIRST CAMPAIGN : THE WAKARUSA WAR. 

OSAWATOMIE, K. T., Dee. 10, 1855. 
Sabbath Evening. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, EVERY ONE, I improve the first 
mail since my return from the camp of volunteers, who lately turned 
out for the defence of the town of Lawrence in this Territory; and not 
withstanding I suppose you have learned the result before this (pos 
sibly), will give a brief account of the invasion in my own way. 

About three or four weeks ago news came that a Free-State man 
by the name of Dow had been murdered by a proslavery man by 
the name of Colernan, who had gone and given himself up for trial to 
the proslavery Governor Shannon. This was soon followed by fur 
ther news that a Free-State man who "was the only reliable witness 



218 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

against the murderer had been seized by a Missourian (appointed 
sheriff by the bogus Legislature of Kansas) upon false pretexts, ex 
amined, and held to bail under such heavy bonds, to ausvv r er to those 
false charges, as he could not give; that while on his way to trial, 
in charge of the bogus sheriff, he was rescued by some men belong 
ing to a company near Lawrence; and that in consequence of the 
rescue Governor Shannon had ordered out all the proslavery force he 
could muster in the Territory, and called on Missouri for further help ; 
that about two thousand had collected, demanding a surrender of the 
rescued witness and of the rescuers, the destruction of several build 
ings and printing-presses, and a giving up of the Sharpe's rifles by 
the Free-State men, threatening to destroy the town with cannon, 
with which they were provided, etc. ; that about an equal number of 
Free-State men had turned out to resist them, -and that a battle was 
hourly expected or supposed to have been already fought. 

These reports appeared to be well authenticated, but we could got 
no further account of matters; and I left this for the place where the 
boys are settled, at evening, intending to go to Lawrence to learn 
the facts the next day. John was, however, started on horseback ; 
but before he had gone many rods, word came that our help was im 
mediately wanted. On getting this last news, it was at once agreed 
to break up at John's camp, and take Wealthy and Johnny to Jason's 
camp (some two miles off), and that all the men but Henry, Jason, 
and 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 and meat, blankets, and cooking utensils, running bullets 
and loading all our guns, pistols, etc. The five set off in the after 
noon, and after a short rest in the night (which was quite dark), con 
tinued our march until after daylight next morning, when we got our 
breakfast, started again, and 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 Governor Shannon (having 
a force of some fifteen or sixteen hundred men) and the principal 
leaders of the Free-State men, they having a force of some five hun 
dred men at that time. These were busy, night and day, fortifying 
the town with embankments and circular earthworks, up to the time 
of the treaty with the Governor, as an attack was constantly looked 
for, notwithstanding the negotiations then pending. Tins state of 
things continued from Friday until Sunday evening. 1 On the even 
ing we left Osawatomie a company of the invaders, of from fifteen to 
twenty-five, attacked some three or four Free-State men, mostly un 
armed, killing a Mr. Barber from Ohio, wholly unarmed. His body 
was afterward brought in and lay for some days in the room after- 
1 December 7-9. 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 219 

ward occupied by a part of the company to which 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 and other 
friends of the murdered man. I will only say of this scene that it was 
heart-rending, and calculated to exasperate the men exceedingly, and 
one of the sure results of civil war. 

After frequently calling on the leaders of the Free- State men to 
come and have an interview with him, by Governor Shannon, and 
after as often getting for an answer that ii' lie had any business to 
transact with any one in Lawrence, to come and attend to it, he 
signified his wish to come into the town, 1 and an escort was sent to 
the invaders' camp to conduct him in. When there, the leading Free- 
State men, finding out his weakness, frailty, and consciousness of the 
awkward circumstances into which he had really got himself, took 
advantage of his cowardice and folly, and by means of that and the 
free use of whiskey and some trickery succeeded in getting a written 
arrangement with him much to their own liking. He stipulated with 
them to order the proslavery men of Kansas home, and to proclaim 
to the Missouri invaders that they must quit the Territory without 
delay, and also to give up General Pomeroy (a prisoner in their 
camp), which was all done; he also recognizing the volunteers as 
the militia of Kansas, and 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 (Governor Shan 
non) gave up all pretension of further attempt to enforce the enact 
ments of the bogus Legislature, and retired, subject to the derision 
and scoffs of the Free-State men (into whose hands he had committed 
the welfare and protection of Kansas), and to the pity of some and 
the curses of others of the invading force. 

So ended this last Kansas invasion, the Missourians returning 
with flying colors, after incurring heavy expenses, suffering great ex 
posure, hardships, and privations, not having fought any battles, 
burned or destroyed any infant towns or Abolition presses ; leaving 
the Free-State men organized and armed, and in full possession of 
the Territory; not having fulfilled any of all their dreadful threaten- 
ings, except to murder one unarmed man, and to commit some rob 
beries and waste of property upon defenceless families, unfortunately 
within their power. We learn by their papers that they boast of a 
great victory over the Abolitionists ; and well they may. 2 Free-State 

1 December 7, 8. 

2 Brown seems to have been divided in mind concerning this treaty with 
Shannon, at first denouncing it strongly, as well as the manner of making 



220 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

men have, oiily hereafter to retain the footing they have gained, 
and Kansas is free. Yesterday the people passed upon 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 
and ammunition) of which the invaders held possession ; but as the 
five of us had each a gun, with two large revolvers in a belt exposed 
to view, with a third in his pocket, and 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 and gave them notice. Five others of our company, 
well armed, who followed us some miles behind, met with equally 
civil treatment the same day. After we left to go to Lawrence, 
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; and I 
never expect again to see an equal number of such well-behaved, 

it, and afterward seeing the respite it gave the Kansas farmers to make 
good their position. Mr. E. A. Coleman writes me: "When Lawrence 
was besieged, we sent runners to all parts of the Territory, calling on every 
settler. We met at Lawrence. Robinson was commander-in-chief ; I was 
on his staff, appointed of course by order of the commander. We had gath 
ered to the number of about two hundred and fifty, all told. The ruffians 
were gathered at Franklin, four miles east, with four or five hundred men. 
We were not well armed, all of us, at the same time being somewhat 
afraid of getting into trouble with the General Government. Robinson sent 
to Shannon, at Lecompton, to come down and see if something could not 
be done to prevent bloodshed. He came ; we all knew his weakness. We 
had plenty of brandy, parleyed with him until he was drunk, and then he 
agreed to get the ruffians to go home, which he did b} r telling them we 
had agreed to obey all the laws, which was a lie. As soon as Brown heard 
what had been done, he came with his sons into our council-room, the 
maddest man I ever saw. He told Robinson that what he had done was 
all a farce ; that in less than six months the Missourians would find out 
the deception, and things would be worse than they were that day (and 
so it was) ; that he came up to help them fight, but if that was the way 
Robinson meant to do, not to send for him again." Mr. Foster, of Osa- 
watomie, meeting Brown on his return from Lawrence, asked him about 
Robinson and Lane. "They are both men without principle," said Brown ; 
" but when worst comes to worst, Lane will fight, and there is no fight in 
Robinson." 



1855.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 221 

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 and well, with 
the exception of hard colds, and found those left behind rather 
improving. 

We have received fifty dollars from father, and learn from him 
that he has sent you the same amount, for which we ought to be 
grateful, as we are much relieved, both as respects ourselves and you. 
The mails have been kept back during the invasion, but we hope to 
hear from you again soon. Mr. Adair's folks are well, or nearly so. 
Weather mostly pleasant, but sometimes quite severe. No snow of 
account as yet. Can think of but little more to-night. 

Monday Morning, December 17. 

The ground for the first time is barely whitened with snow, and it is 
quite cold ; but we have before had a good deal of cold weather, with 
heavy rains. Henry and Oliver and, I may [say], Jason were disap 
pointed in not being able to go to war. The disposition at both our 
camps to turn out was uniform. I believe I have before acknowl 
edged the receipt of a letter from you and Watson. Have just taken 
one from the office for Henry that I think to be from Ruth. Do 
write often, and let me know all about how you get along through 
the winter. May Gk>d abundantly bless you all, and make you 
faithful. 

Your affectionate husband and father, 

JOHN BROWN. 1 

1 Soon after this "Wakarasa war," and perhaps in consequence of his 
service therein, Brown became the owner of one small share in the Emigrant 
Aid Company, as appears by this certificate : 

No. 638. BOSTON, Jan. 15, 1856. 

This is to certify that John Brown, Lawrence, K. T., is proprietor of one share, of 
the par value of twenty dollars each, in the capital stock of the New England Emigrant 
Aid Company, transferable on the books of said Company, on the surrender of this 
certificate. 

JOHN M. S. WILLIAMS, Vice- President. 
THOMAS H. WEBB, Secretary. 

This paper is indorsed, in John Brown's handwriting, "Emigrant Aid 
Co., Certificate," and was found among his papers after his death. He 
derived no profit from it, as indeed was the case with the other sharehold 
ers ; but it perhaps gave him some standing among his Kansas neigh 
bors to have even this connection with a corporation supposed to be very 
rich. 



222 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

During this arctic winter Brown wrote as follows to the 
family at North Elba, where it was still more arctic : 

John Brown to his Family. 

OSAWATOMIK, K. T., Feb. 1, 1856. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, EVERY ONE, Yours and Watson's 
letters to the boys and myself, of December 30 and January 1, were 
received by last mail. We are all very glad to hear again of your 
welfare, and I am particularly grateful when I am noticed by a letter 
from you. I have just taken out two letters for Henry [Thompson], 
one of which, I suppose, is from Ruth. Salmon and myself are so 
far on our way home from Missouri, and only reached Mr. Adair's 
last night. They are all well, and we know of nothing but all are 
well at the boys' shanties. The weather continues very severe, and 
it is now nearly six weeks that the snow has been almost constantly 
driven, like dry sand, by the fierce winds of Kansas. Mr. Adair has 
been collecting ice of late from the Osage River, which is nine and 
a half inches thick, of perfect clear solid ice, formed under the 
snow. By means of the sale of our horse and wagon, our present 
wants are tolerably well met, so that, if health is continued to us, we 
shall not probably suffer much. The idea of again visiting those of 
my dear family at North Elba is so calculated to unman me, that I 
seldom allow my thoughts to dwell upon it, and I do not think best 
to write much about it ; suffice it to say, that God is abundantly 
able to keep both us and you, and in him let us all trust. We have 
just learned of some new and shocking outrages at Leavenworth, and 
that the Free-State people there have fled to Lawrence, which 
place is again threatened 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 and Oliver 
will have a chance. My judgment is, that we shall have no general 
disturbance until warmer weather. T have more to say, but not time 
now to say it ; so farewell for this time. Write ! 
Your affectionate husband and father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

OSAWATOMIE, K. T., Feb. 6, 1856. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, EVERY ONE, ... Thermometer 
on Sunday and Monday at twenty- eight to twenty-nine below zero. 
Tee in the river, in the timber, and under the snow, eighteen inches 
thick this week. On our return to where the boys live we found 
Jason again down with the ague, "but he was some better yesterday. 



1856.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 223 

Oliver was also laid up by freezing his toes, one great toe so badly 
frozen that the nail has come off. He will be crippled for some days 
yet. Owen has one foot some frozen. We have middling tough 
times (as some would call them), but have enough to eat, and abun 
dant reasons for the most unfeigned gratitude. It is likely that when 
the snow goes off, such high water will prevail as will render it diffi 
cult for Missouri to invade the Territory ; so that God by his elements 
may protect Kansas for some time yet. . . . Write me as to all your 
wants for the coming spring and summer. I hope you will all be led 
to seek God " with your whole heart: " and I pray him. in his mercy, 
to be found of you. All mail communications are entirely cut off by 
the snowdrifts, so that we get no news whatever this week. . . . 



OSAWATOMIE, K. T., Feb. 20, 1856. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, EVERY ONE, Your letter to 
Salmon, and Ruth's to Henry and Ellen, of 6th and 16th January, 
were received by last week's mail. This week we get neither letter 
nor paper from any of you. I need not continually repeat that we 
are always glad to hear from you. and to learn of your welfare. I 
wish that to be fully understood. Salmon and myself are here again, 
on our way back from Missouri, where we have been for corn, as 
what the boys had raised was used up, stock and families having to 
live on it mainly while it lasted. We had to pay thirty cents per 
bushel for corn. Salmon has had the ague again, while we have 
been gone, and had a hard shake yesterday. To-day is his well day. 
We found Henry and Frederick here helping Mr. Adair ; and I have 
been helping also yesterday and to-day. Those behind were as well 
as usual a day or two since. I have but little to write this time, 
except to tell you about the weather, and to complain of the almost 
lack of news from the United States. We are very anxious to 
know what Congress is doing. We hear that Frank Pierce means 
to crush the men of Kansas. I do not know how well he may suc 
ceed; but I think he may find his hands full before it is all over. 
For a few days the snow has melted a little, and it begins to seem 
like early March in Ohio. I have agreed either to buy the line- 
backed cow of Henry, or to pay five dollars for the use of her and 
keep her a year, whichever may hereafter appear best ; so that, if 
she lives, you can calculate on the use of her. I have also written 
Mr. Hurlbut, of Connecticut, further in regard to the cattle, and 
think you will soon hear something from him. No more now. May 
God Almighty bless you and all good friends at North Elba ! 
Your affectionate husband and father, 

JOHN BROWN. 



224 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

Brown seems to have written about this time to his 
former representative in Congress, Mr. Giddings of Ohio, 
to inquire the purpose of the Government, and was thus 
answered : 

HALL OF REPRESENTATIVES, U. S., 
March 17, 1856. 

MY DEAR SIR, We shall do all we can, but we are in a minor 
ity, and are dependent on the " Know Nothings" l for aid to effect 
anything, and they are in a very doubtful position ; we know not how 
they will act. All I can say is, we shall try to relieve you. In the 
mean time you need have no fear of the troops. The President never 
will 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 in 
volve every free State in your own fate. It loill 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. Your safety de 
pends on the supply of men and arms and money which will move 
forward to your relief as soon as the spring opens. I am confident 
there will be as many people in Kansas next winter as can be sup 
plied with provisions. I may be mistaken, but I feel confident there 
will be no war in Kansas. 

Very respectfully, 

J. E. GIDDINGS. 

JOHN BROWN, ESQ. 

In this last prediction Mr. Giddings was wide of the 
mark; for within two months from the time this letter 
reached Kansas, the Territory was again invaded, Lawrence 
was captured and pillaged, and the Pottawatomie execu 
tions had taken place. These events had been preceded by 
many others, which can here be noticed only briefly, though 
they were of great importance. An election had been held, 
Jan. 15, 1856, for State officers and a Legislature, under 
the Free-State constitution adopted at Topeka in 1855. At 
some points in Kansas, particularly at Leavenworth, the 
usurping proslavery men forbade this election ; and an ad 
journed election was held for that county at Easton (a few 
miles northwest of Leavenworth and near Kickapoo, where 
that infamous Border-Euffian military company, the " Kick 
apoo Eangers," had their headquarters) on the 17th of 

1 A political party (the "Native Americans ") so designated. 



1856.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 225 

January. That night, very late, while a Free-State man 
named Sparks was returning home with his sons, he was 
surrounded by the ruffians, and rescued by H. P. Brown 
(no relative of John Brown), who was a leader of the Free- 
State men in Leavenworth County, and a member elect of 
the Topeka Legislature, as Sparks also was. The next morn 
ing, as Brown, with seven other Free-State men, among 
whom was Henry J. Adams, afterward Mayor of Leaven- 
worth, was returning to his home, about half-way between 
Easton and Leavenworth, and near Kickapoo, he was sur 
rounded by a force of fifty men or more, all armed, and 
some of them drunk, who took them prisoners. The 
drunken ruffians tried to kill the Free-State men, but were 
prevented by their leaders, among whom were several per 
sons holding Territorial or United States office. The pris 
oners were carried by this howling mob back to Easton ; but 
Brown was separated from them. A rope was purchased 
and shown to the prisoners, who were threatened with 
hanging. Unwilling that all these men should be murdered, 
Martin, the Kickapoo captain, allowed Adams and the other 
prisoners to escape. Adams hastened to Fort Leavenworth 
in hopes of getting United States troops to rescue Brown, 
but was refused. Meantime Brown had surrendered his 
arms, and was helpless. His enemies, who dared not face 
him the night before, though they had a superior force, 
crowded around him ; and one of the " Eangers," a drunken 
wretch named Gibson, inflicted the fatal blow, a large 
hatchet gash in the side of the head, penetrating the skull 
and brain. The gallant man fell, while his enemies jumped 
on him and kicked him. Desperately wounded, he said, 
" Don't abuse me ! it is useless ; I am dying." One of the 
mob (afterward United States deputy marshal) stooped 
over the prostrate man, and spat tobacco juice in his eyes. 
Finally a few of the ruffians, whom a little spark of con 
science or fear of punishment animated, raised the dying 
man, still groaning, and placing him in a wagon, in a cold 
winter day, drove him to the grocery, where they dressed 
his wounds ; but seeing the hopelessness of his case they 
took him home to his wife, to whom he said, " I have 
been murdered by a gang of cowards in cold blood." 

15 



226 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [185G. 

To one of the neighbors who came to Brown's house at 
three o'clock on the morning of January 19, and found him 
lying on the floor soaked in blood, the murdered man said, 
" I am dying, but in a good cause." " I sat down," says 
this neighbor, " took his head upon my lap, and examined 
the wound in his head ; opened his vest, but found no other 
wound. He raised apparently from one side, as if he 
wanted to turn over, exclaimed, 'I am dying,' and imme 
diately died, with his head on my lap. Charles Dunn [a 
Border-Kuffian ' captain,' who brought Brown home] told 
me that after receiving the wound Brown had made his 
escape, fled to the woods, had been caught and brought 
back, and that he [Dunn] had been instrumental in keeping 
them from shooting or hanging him. Dunn was at that 
time very much intoxicated." 

The offence that this murdered man had committed was, 
first, voting ; second, defending the ballot-box from drunken 
ruffians who tried to break up the election ; and, finally, with 
fifteen men, rescuing his neighbor Sparks from twenty or 
thirty of these ruffians. A proslavery man of the better 
class, Pierce Kively, who kept a store near Brown's farm 
in " Salt Creek Valley," testified before the Congressional 
Committee, four months later: "I do not know that the 
grand jury has made any inquiry into this matter, or has 
ever attempted it. I have been a member of the grand 
jury since, and nothing was said about it ; " yet Eively was 
present when Brown received his death-blow, and helped 
the drunken Dunn to put him into the wagon. The wife 
and child of Brown went to live with a neighbor until 
spring, and then went back to Michigan. The wife of 
Stephen Sparks, the Free-State man whom Brown rescued, 
testified that on the day Brown was murdered a party of 
proslavery horsemen, commanded by Dunn, rode up to her 
cabin on Stranger Creek, four miles south of Easton. They 
first gave chase to two Free-State men near by, shooting at 
them and shouting, "Kill the damned Abolitionists," and 
then returned to the Sparks cabin, where Dunn cried, 
" Now we will take the house : shoot Captain Sparks at 
sight ! " Whereupon, Mrs. Sparks says : 



1856.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 227 

" I then told them I had an afflicted son, and that anything that 
excited him threw him into spasms right at once, and that his father 
and all but him were away from home. When I stepped back to the 
door and looked in, I saw Captain Dunn with a six-shooter presented 
at my son's breast. 1 did not hear the question asked, but I heard 
my son's answer, ' I 3 am on the Lord's side ; and if you want to kill 
me, kill me! lam not afraid to die.' Dunn then left him, and 
turned to my little son, twelve years old, put the pistol to his breast, 
and asked him where his father's Sharpens rifle was. My son told 
him he had none. Dunn then asked where those guns were, 
pointing to the racks, and told him if he did not tell the truth he 
would kill him. My son told him ' the men-folks generally took care 
of the guns.' When they came out, I asked Captain Duwn, ' What 
does all this mean ? ' He answered that ' they had taken the law into 
their own hands, and they intended to use it.' Late in February 
eight men came to the house ; two men came up first, and the others 
followed. They asked for Mr. Sparks, and left a paper with me, 
ending thus: ' Believing that your further residence among us is in 
compatible with the peace and welfare of this community, we advise 
you to leave as soon as you can conveniently do so.' This was 
signed by forty men, only one of whom is an actual resident in the 
neighborhood ; most of them are Kickapoo Rangers and Missourians. 
One of the two who first came to the door said his name was 
Kennedy, from Alabama ; the other, I think, emigrated from Mis 
souri. I asked him what he had against Mr. Sparks. He said 
he had nothing against him ; but he ' was too influential in his 
party, and they intended to break it down ; ' that I must tell Mr. 
Sparks to leave by March JO or abide the consequences. Anight 
or two before the 10th of March four men came into the house, 
about ten o'clock, and searched for Mr. Sparks, but did not find 
him. They asked for the 'notice to leave,' and if I had given it 
to Mr. Sparks, and made many threats, and charged us to leave 
at that time, saying that if he was there they would cut him to 
pieces." l 

1 This testimony was given by Mrs. " Esseneth " Sparks (who signed 
with a mark because she could not write), May 24, 1856, the very day 
that Brown with his party was executing the Doyles and other ruffians on 
the Pottawatomie. Stephen Sparks was a Missourian, who had lived in 
Platte County from 1845 to 1854, then moved into Kansas, and was in 
1856 elected to the Free-State Legislature. He was a man of cool courage, 
who behaved well throughout the violent scenes of January 17-19, and 
told the Congressional Committee, " I belong to the Free-State party, but 
am no Abolitionist, cither." On the night of the 17th, as he said, "My 
son was wounded (and knocked down within six or eight feet of me) in 



228 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

The Topeka Legislature (of which Sparks and the mur 
dered Brown were members, as well as John Brown, Jr., 
and Major Abbott, the rescuer of Branson) met on the 4th 
of March, and remained in session four days, adjourning to 
July 4. During this session they elected James H. Lane 
(who had commanded an Indiana regiment in the Mexican 
War and distinguished himself at Buena Vista) one of the 
United States senators from Kansas, not yet admitted as a 
State. On the 19th of March the House of Representatives 
at Washington voted a special committee (W. A. Howard 
of Michigan, John Sherman of Ohio, and M. 1ST. Oliver of 
Missouri) to investigate the troubles of Kansas j and on the 
24th of March General Cass presented in the United States 
Senate the Topeka Free-State Constitution. Early in April, 
Jefferson Buford, of Eufaula, Ala., who had left his home 
in March, reached Kansas with a large force of Southern 
men, armed champions of slavery, and encamped not far 
from Osawatomie ; while on the 16th of April the Free- 
State men round there John Brown and his son John, 
0. V. Dayton, Richard Mendenhall, Charles A. Foster of 
Massachusetts, and others met in public assembly, and 
agreed not to pay taxes to the usurping Legislature, for 
which they were afterward indicted as conspirators. These 
occurrences should be borne in mind when reading John 
Brown's next letter. 

John Brown to his Family at North Ella. 

BROWN'S STATION, K. T., April 7, 1856. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, EVERY ONE, I wrote you last 
week, enclosing New York draft for thirty dollars, made payable to 
Watson } twenty dollars of which were to be given to Ruth, in part 
payment for the spotted cow, the balance to be used as circumstances 
might require. I would have sent you more, but I had no way to do 
it, arid money is very scarce with me indeed. Since I wrote last, 
three letters have been received by the boys from Ruth, dated March 
5 and 9, and one of same date from Watson. The general tone of 
those letters I like exceedingly. We do not want yon to borrow 

the arm and head slightly ; but he raised afrain and fired." See Report 
of the Special Committee on the Troubles in Kansas, 1856, pp. 981-1020. 



1856.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 229 

trouble about us, but trust us to the care of " Him who feeds the young 
ravens when they cry." I have, as usual, but little to write. We 
are doing off a house for Orson Day, which we hope to get through 
with soon ; after which we shall probably soon leave this neighbor 
hood, but will advise you further when we do leave. It may be that 
Watson can manage to get a little money for shearing sheep if you 
do not get any from Connecticut. I still hope you will get help from 
that source. We have no wars as yet, but we still have abundance 
of " rumors." We still have frosty nights, but the grass starts a 
little. There are none of us complaining much just now, all being 
able to do something. John has just returned from Topeka, 1 not 
having met with any difficulty ; but we hear that preparations are 
making in the United States Court for numerous arrests of Free- 
State men. 2 For one, I have no desire (all things considered) to 
have the slave-power cease from its acts of aggression. " Their 
foot shall slide in due time." No more now. May God bless and 
keep you all ! 

Your affectionate husband and father. 

It was in the early part of May that John Brown exe 
cuted a manoeuvre which has often been related, not always 
in the same manner, and which he may have repeated when, 
necessary, his visit to the camp of the proslavery men 
in the guise of a land-surveyor. Mr. Foster, now living 
in Quincy, Mass,, but then a young lawyer at Osawatomie, 
newly married and beginning to practise in Miami County, 

1 The meeting of the Free-State Legislature. 

2 James Han way, of Pottawatomie, speaking of his old log-cabin, not 
far from Dutch Henry's Crossing, said, some years since : " It was in this 
cabin that the Pottawatomie Rifle Company, under Captain John Brown, 
Jr., stacked their arms when they paid a friendly visit to Judge Cato's 
court, in April, 1856. The Free-State settlers were anxious to learn what 
position Judge Cato would take, in his charge to the grand jury, concern 
ing the celebrated ' bogus laws ' of the Shawnee Mission. This visit of 
our citizens was .construed by the court as a demonstration unfavorable to 
the execution of the bogus laws. Before daylight the next morning Cato 
and his proslavery officials had left (they were on their way to Lecomp- 
ton), and the grand jury was dismissed from further labor. This was the 
first and the last time that this section of the country was visited by 
proslavery officials." But we shall see, when we come to consider the 
Pottawatomie executions, that this court did take action ; and perhaps 
their action led to the killing of the five proslavery men near Dutch 
Henry's. 



230 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

is authority for one version of it. Mention has just been 
made of the arrival of Jefferson Buford from Alabama, 
with an armed company, which divided into colonies. Two 
of these directed their course towards the town of Osa- 
watomie, one settling in a block-house 011 the Miami 
Reserve, about a mile and a half from the town ; the other, 
and larger, colony made their first halt in the Osage bottom, 
near the town of Stanton, about eight miles from where the 
Shermans, Wilkinson, and the Doyles lived. At this time 
John Brown was not generally known, although he had been 
in the country six months. It was a matter of importance 
to the Free-State men to know what was the purpose of these 
bodies of armed men, so that they might shape their action 
accordingly. Brown, without consulting any one, deter 
mined to visit their camp and ascertain their plans. He 
therefore took his tripod, chain, and other surveying imple 
ments, and with one of his younger sons started for the 
camp. Just before reaching the place he struck his tripod, 
sighted a line through the centre of the camp, and then 
with his son began "chaining" the distance. The Southern 
men supposed him to be a Government surveyor (in those 
times, of course, proslavery), and were very free in telling 
him their plans. They were going over to Pottawatomie 
Creek to drive off all the Free-State men ; and there was a 
settlement of Browns on North Middle Creek, who had some 
of the finest stock, these also they would " clean out," as 
well as the Dutch settlement between the two rivers. 1 They 
were asked who had given them information about the 
Browns, etc., and who was directing them about the county ; 
and without any hesitation the Shermans, Doyles, Wilkin 
son, George Wilson, and others were named. In the midst 
of the talk these men walked into the camp, as Mr. Foster 
says, and were received with manifestations of pleasure. A 
few days after, the camp was moved over to Pottawatomie 
Creek, and the men began stealing horses, arms, etc. This 

1 This was the neighborhood where Benjamin, Bondi, and Wiener had 
settled, and where the valuable warehouse of Wiener was afterward burned. 
The Doyles and Wilkinson were not far off, and the Shermans at Dutch 
Henry's Crossing were between the "Dutch settlement" and Buford's 
camp. 



1856.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 231 

Lad been going on for some weeks when the attack upon 
Lawrence was made in May. 1 

The immediate occasion of the invasion of Lawrence a 
second (or rather a third) time was the resistance of the 
Lawrence Free-State men to an attempt made by Sheriff 
Jones, as deputy marshal of the United States, to arrest 
S. N. Wood, one of the rescuers of Branson the previous 
November. Jones made the first attempt April 19, tried 
again on the 20th, and on the 23d came with a file of United 
States troops to support him. He arrested several citizens, 
but not Wood, and at night was himself shot at and wounded 
slightly. Advantage was taken of this act to inflame the 
minds of the Missourians ; and the United States District 
Court, which was organized by this time, with Judge Le- 
compte at its head, took up the matter as an affair of rebel 
lion and treason. Early in May Lecompte gave a charge to 
the grand jury at the town named for him (Lecompton), 
in which he said : 

" This Territory was organized by an act of Congress, and so far 
its authority is from the United States. It has a Legislature elected 
in pursuance of that organic act. This Legislature, being an instru 
ment of Congress by which it governs the Territory, has passed laws. 
These laws, therefore, are of United States authority and making ; 
and all that resist these laics resist the power and authority of the 
United States, and are therefore guilty of high-treason^ Now, gen 
tlemen, if you find that any persons have resisted these laws, then you 
must, under your oaths, find bills against them for high-treason. If 
you find that no such resistance has been made, but that combinations 
have been formed for the purpose of resisting them, and individuals 
of influence and notoriety have been aiding and abetting in such 
combinations, then must you still find hills for constructive treason." 

It was under this monstrous instruction, by which usur 
pation was made legal and put on a level with the existence 
of the United States, that indictments were soon found 
against the Browns, Robinson, and others for treason, con 
spiracy, etc. Robinson, who was seeking to leave Kansas, 
was arrested May 10, and held a prisoner four months, when 

1 See Mr. Coleman's version of this surveying adventure in the next 
chapter. 



232 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

he was released on bail. The grand jury then proceeded to 
indict other persons, and even the new hotel at Lawrence, 
- thus giving an air of burlesque to the tragedy they had 
begun. One of this jury, a Free-State man named Legate, 
who has since been conspicuous in Kansas now in one way 
and now in another, has told this amusing story of the secret 
proceedings at the Lecompton court-house : l 

" I was honored, as I have been oftentimes, "by holding distin 
guished positions in the State of Kansas, being a member of the 
grand jury ; and what a sweet-scented jury it was ! Uncle Jimmy 
McGee and myself were members from Lawrence. We had a caucus 
semi-occasionally. There were seventeen members, all told. Uncle 
Jimmy and I were temperate, but there were at least fifteen bottles 
of whiskey in the room all the time. The first and most important 
case to be tried was the indictment of Sam Wood and John Speer. 
I have forgotten whether it was John Speer for assuming to hold an 
office that he was not legally elected to, and Sam Wood for re 
sisting an officer, or vice versa. Attorney -General Isaacs was sent 
for. Like a great many Yankees I was inquisitive, and there was a 
very important point to be decided, in my mind; so I said to him, 
' You have John Speer charged with treason. Under what law or 
circumstance do you make his offence treason ? ' ' Well, sir,' said 
he, taking hold of the flask of whiskey, ' the facts are these : a man 
who pretends to hold an office, having once held that office, and is 
defunct, and assumes to still hold it against the constituted authori 
ties, commits treason.' Said I, l What about Sam Wood? 7 He 
replied, ' If a man undertakes to carry out the decrees of such an 
officer, he commits treason also.' I thought that was good enough. 
There were thirteen votes, Stuart not voting. Uncle Jimmy 
McGee and I voted no. 2 

1 See " The Kansas Memorial," 1879, pp. 62, 63. This volume contains 
much material for history, undigested and ill-arranged, along with some 
worthless stuff. 

2 " Uncle Jimmy McGee " was a Kansas settler of Scotch-Irish descent, 
a Methodist of some property, who when the defenders of Lawrence were 
throwing up rifle-works said to them, " "Work away, hoys ! there 's two 
thousand bushels of corn in Jimmy McGee's crib, and while it lasts ye 
sha'n't starve." James F. Legate himself is a Massachusetts man (born in 
Leominster in 1829), who saw a great deal of the machinery that in 1855-56 
was used to produce political effect in Kansas and in the East. He said in 
this speech of 1879 : "I remember, twenty-five years ago, when the Free- 
State men of Kansas (that meant Lawrence, Topeka, and a few fellows over 



1856.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 283 

" The next thing was this ' cussed ' Emigrant Aid Society. 
They had built a hotel here in Lawrence with about a foot and a 
half of wall above the roof, and fitted it up with port-holes, and they 
called that the Fort. It was designed to protect the town against 
the officers of the law from executing the decrees of court, they said. 
About that time I remembered that I had a pressing engagement out 
at old Judge Wakefield's. So I went out afoot (that is the way we 
used to ride a good deal in those days), and got a pony and saddle 
there, rode up to Tecumseh, where I had a talk with John Sherman, 
Governor Robinson, and Mr. Howard; and I gave them a pretty 
clear idea of what was going on, that is, I intimated it to them. I 
then went back to Judge Wakefield's, slept about an hour, walked 
over to Lecornpton, and was arrested for contempt of court. I went 
into the court-room, and the court wanted to know what excuse I 
had. I gave a truthful answer, as I always do. I said I went over 
to Judge Wakefield's, went to sleep, and had overslept myself. I 
was excused; and I went back to Judge Wakefield's, got the pony, 
and came over to Lawrence. I do not think Governor Robinson was 
there at the time. I believe he had pressing duties which called him 
East, and he went as far as Lexington, where he found a stopping- 
place. He came back by way of Leavenworth to Lecompton. They 
made some arrests in Lawrence, and then they went about abating 
the nuisance of the Fort hotel. They had a cannon on the opposite 
side of the street ; and old Atchisou got down on his knees, took de 
liberate aim at the hotel, and shot clear over it, and struck the hill 
near where a crowd of women were, who had left the town for safety. 
Their gunners were so good (?) that they could not hit the whole side 
of a hotel across the street. However, they finally demolished it." 

In this humorous chronicle Mr. Legate has comprised all 
the time from the 8th to the 20th of May, closing with the 
attack on Lawrence by the United States marshal and his 
posse, Sheriff Jones, too, with his posse, including the 

in Leavenworth) would hold a convention as often as the Yankees eat in 
hay-time, and that is, three regular meals a day and a luncheon between. 
And a solemn convention it would be, with ' Dr. Charles Robinson, presi 
dent,' ' George W. Brown, secretary ' (now and then Joel K. Goodin or John 
Speer for secretary }, and about a dozen awfully ragged, deplorably forlorn- 
looking cusses (who wanted to get back East again, and had n't the money 
to take them there) to make up the audience. And W. A. Phillips, Jim 
Redpath, and Hinton would report it, and it would make two and a half 
and sometimes three columns in the ' New York Tribune.' " It was after 
coming out of some such convention that John Brown said, " Great cry and 
little wool, all talk and no cider." 



234 LITE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

Border Ruffians, and Atchison, lately Vice-President of the 
United States, at their head. The marshal, Donaldson, 
acted under Judge Lecompte, and collected his men by this 
proclamation, dated May 11 : 

u Whereas certain judicial writs 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 largo 
number of the citizens of Lawrence ; and as there is every reason to 
believe that an 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 commanded to be and appear at Lecomptori, as 
soon as practicable, and in numbers sufficient for the proper execu 
tion of the law. 77 

Atchison, on the morning of May 20, made a foul speech 
near Lawrence to five hundred Border Ruffians, 1 among whom 
were the Kickapoo Rangers, who had murdered Brown at 
Easton. He said : 

u Boys, this day I am a Kickapoo Ranger, by God! This day 
we have entered Lawrence with ' Southern Rights ' inscribed upon 
our banner, and not one damned Abolitionist dared to fire a gun. 
Now, boys, this is the happiest day of my life. We have en 
tered that damned town, and taught the damned Abolitionists a 
Southern lesson that they will remember until the day they die. 
And now, boys, we will go in again, with our highly honorable 
Jones, and test the strength of that damned Free- State Hotel, and 
teach the Emigrant Aid Company that Kansas shall be ours. Boys, 
ladies should, and I hope will, be respected by every gentleman. 

1 I quote this speech, with all its profanity and drunken gravity, because 
in no other way than by reading their utterances can the men of to-day un 
derstand how vile and coarse were the men who were carrying out in Kansas 
the behests of the Southern slaveholders and their willing tools at Wash 
ington. The term "Border Ruffians" is also used for the same purpose, 
since none could be so descriptive of these men who followed Atchison and 
his comrades. Among their leaders were men of cultivation, wealth, and 
humanity; and such persons did much to mitigate the horrors of the brutal 
mob-despotism which then prevailed, by intervals, where the flag of the 
nation should have secured peace and justice to all who lived under it. 
But from the rabble who filled the ranks came in due time such outlaws as 
Quantrell, who in 1863 sacked Lawrence and murdered one hundred and 
fifty of its people ; and the James brothers, who were in his band. 



1856.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 235 

But when a woman takes upon herself the garb of a soldier by 
carrying a Sharpens rifle, then she is no longer worthy of respect. 
Trample her under your feet as you would a snake ! Come on, 
boys ! Now do your duty to yourselves and your Southern friends. 
Your duty I know you will do. If one man or woman dare stand 
before you, blow them to hell with a chunk of cold lead." 

As soon as Atchison concluded, the men moved towards 
the town until near the hotel, when the advance company 
halted. Jones said the hotel must be destroyed ; he was 
acting under orders ; he had writs issued by the First 
District Court of the United States to destroy the Free- 
State Hotel, and the offices of the " Herald of Freedom " and 
" Free State." The grand jury at Lecompton had indicted 
them as nuisances, and the court had ordered them to be 
destroyed. Here is the indictment : 

" The Grand Jury sitting for the adjourned term of the First, 
District Court, in and for the County of Douglas, in the Territory of 
Kansas, beg leave to report to the Honorable Court, from evidence 
laid before them showing it, that the newspaper known as * The 
Herald of Freedom,' published at the town of Lawrence, has from 
time to time issued publications of the most inflammatory and 
seditious character, denying the legality of the Territorial au 
thorities ; addressing and commanding forcible resistance to the 
same; demoralizing the popular mind, and rendering life and prop 
erty unsafe, even to the extent of advising assassination as a last 

resort. 

u Also, that the paper known as ' The Kansas Free State ' has 
been similarly engaged, and has recently reported the resolutions 
of a public meeting in Johnson County, in this Territory, in which 
resistance to the Territorial laius even unto blood has been agreed 
upon. And that we respectfully recommend their abatement as a 
nuisance. Also, that we are satisfied that the building known as 
the 'Free-State Hotel' in Lawrence has been constructed with the 
view to military occupation and defence, regularly parapeted and 
portholed for the use of cannon and small arms, and could only have 
been designed as a stronghold of resistance to law, thereby endanger 
ing the public safety and encouraging rebellion and sedition in this 
country, and respectfully recommend that steps be taken whereby 
this nuisance may be removed. 

" OWEN C. STEWART, Foreman." 



236 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

Incredible as it may now appear, this indictment was 
carried out : the hotel was destroyed, the offending news 
paper had its type and press thrown into the Kansas Eiver ; 
and all this was done under the cover of United States 
authority. The President (Fierce), his Cabinet, in which 
Jefferson Davis was a controlling member, the Senate of 
the United States, and the national courts appeared as the 
accomplices of murder, arson, and pillage, and as the cham 
pions of pettier tyrants who would hesitate at no crime. 
It was under these circumstances that John Brown now 
took the field ; and he shall be his own reporter. 



NEAR BROWN'S STATION, K. T., June, 1856. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, EVERY ONE, 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, turned out ; he staying with the women and children, 
and to take care of the cattle. 1 John was captain of a company to 
\vhich Jason belonged ; the other six were a little company by our 
selves. On our way to Lawrence we learned that it had been already 
destroyed, and we encamped with John's company overnight. Next 
day our little company left, and during the day we stopped and 
searched three men. 

Lawrence was destroyed in this way : Their leading men had (as 
I think) decided, in a very cowardly manner, not to resist any pro 
cess having any Government official to serve it, notwithstanding the 
process might be wholly a bogus affair. The consequence was that 
a man called a United States marshal came on with a horde of 
ruffians which he called his posse, and after arresting a few persons 
turned the ruffians loose on the defenceless people. They robbed the 
inhabitants of their money and other property, and even women of 
their ornaments, and burned considerable of the town. 

On the second day and evening after we left John's men we 
encountered quite a number of proslavery men, and took quite a 

1 " Orson " was Mr. Orson Day, a brother of Mrs. John Brown. The 
" other six " were probably John Brown, Owen, Frederick, Salmon, Oliver, 
and Henry Thompson. 



1856.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 237 

number prisoners. Our prisoners we let go ; but we kept some four 
or five horses. 1 We were immediately after this accused of murdering 
five men at Pottawatomie, and great efforts have since been made by 
the Missourians and their ruffian allies to capture us. John's com 
pany soon afterward disbanded, and also the Osawatomie men. 2 

Jason started to go and place himself under the protection of the 
Government troops; but on his way he was taken prisoner by the 
Bogus men, and is yet a prisoner, I suppose. John tried to hide for 
several days ; but from feelings of the ungrateful conduct of those 
who ought to have stood by him, excessive fatigue, anxiety, and con 
stant loss of sleep, he became quite insane, and in that situation 
gave up, or, as we are told, was betrayed at Osawatomie into the 
hands of the Bogus men. We do not know all the truth about this 
affair. He has since, we are told, been kept in irons, and brought to 
a trial before a bogus court, the result of which we have not yet 
learned. We have great anxiety both for him and Jason, and 
numerous other prisoners with the enemy (who have all the while 
had the Government troops to sustain them). We can only commend 
them to God. 3 

1 This is all that Brown says in this letter about the events of that night 
in May when the Doyles were executed. Doubtless his text for the next 
morning was from the Book of Judges : " Then Gideon took ten men of his 
servants, and did as the Lord had said unto him ; and so it was that he 
did it by night. And when the men of the city arose early in the morn 
ing, behold the altar of Baal was cast down. And they said, one to another, 
Who hath done this thing ? And when they inquired and asked, they said, 
Gideon, the son of Joash, hath done this thing." 

2 In the original something has been erased after this, to which this note 
seems to have been appended : "There are but very few who wish real 
facts about these matters to go out." Then is inserted the date " June 
26," as below. 

3 John Brown, Jr.'s, own account of this campaign, as given by him 
to a reporter of the "Cleveland Leader," April, 1879, is as follows: 
"During the winter of 1856 I raised a company of riflemen from the 
Free-State settlers who had their homes in the vicinity of Osawatomie and 
Pottawatomie Creek, and marched with this company to the defence of 
Lawrence, May, 1856, but did not reach the latter place in time to save it 
from being burned by the Missourians at that time. On this march I was 
joined by three other companies, and was chosen to the command of the 
combined forces. Returning to our homes, we found them burned to the 
ground by Buford's men from Alabama, who had marched in from Missouri 
on our rear. Our cattle and horses were driven off and dispersed, there 
only being three or four which we ultimately recovered. In that destruc 
tion of our houses I lost my library, consisting of about four hundred 
volumes, which I had been accumulating since I was sixteen. Reaching 



238 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

The cowardly mean conduct of Osawatomie and vicinity did not 
save them j for the ruffians came on them, made numerous prisoners, 
fired their buildings, and robbed them. After this a picked party of 
the Bogus men went to Brown's Station, 1 burned John's and Jason's 
houses, and their contents to ashes ; in which burning we have all 
suffered more or less. Orson and boy have been prisoners, but were 
soon set at liberty. They are well, and have not been seriously in 
jured. Owen and I have just come here for the first time to look at 
the ruins. All looks desolate and forsaken, the grass and weeds 
fast covering up the signs that these places were lately the abodes of 
quiet families. After burning the houses, this self-same party of 
picked men, some forty in number, set out as they supposed, and as 
was the fact, on the track of my little company, boasting, with awful 
profanity, that they would have our scalps. They however passed 
the place where we were hid, and robbed a little town some four or 
five miles beyond our camp in the timber. 2 I had omitted to say 
that some murders had been committed at the time Lawrence was 
sacked. 

On learning that this party were in pursuit of us, my little company, 
now increased to ten in all, started after them in company of a Cap 
tain Shore, with eighteen men, he included (June 1). We were all 
mounted as we travelled. We did not meet them on that day, but 
took five prisoners, four of whom were of their scouts, and well 
armed. We were out all night, but could find nothing of them until 

Osawatomie, my brother Jason and I were arrested on the charge of treason 
against the United States, by United States troops, acting as posse for the 
marshal of the Territory, and taken to Paola, where Judge Cato was to hold 
a preliminary examination ; but he did not hold his court. It was from the 
latter place that I was tied by Captain Wood of the United States cavalry, 
and driven on foot at the head of the column a distance of nine miles at 
full trot to Osawatomie. My arms were tied behind me, and so tightly as 
to cheek the circulation of the blood, especially in the right arm, causing 
the rope, which remained on me twenty-seven hours, to sink into the flesh, 
leaving a mark upon that arm which I have to this day. The captain of that 
company was, I think, a Georgian, and finally, I believe, entered the Con 
federate service during the late war. From there we were marched, chained 
two by two, carrying the chain between us, to a camp near Lecompton, 
where we met the other treason prisoners and were turned over to the cus 
tody of Colonel Sacket, who had command of a regiment of United States 
cavalry. We were held here until September of 1856, when we were re 
leased on bail ; and a few days after I took part in the defence of Lawrence 
against the third attack. At that time Franklin was burned, a few miles 
from Lawrence." 

1 Ten miles west of Osawatomie. 

2 This town was Palmyra. 



1856.] THE BKOWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 239 

about six o'clock next morning, when we prepared to attack them at 
once, on foot, leaving Frederick and one of Captain Shore's men to 
guard the horses. As I was much older than Captain Shore, the prin 
cipal 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 company the right. When within about sixty rods of the enemy, 
Captain Shore's men halted by mistake in a very exposed situation, 
and continued the fire, both his men arid 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. Captain 
Shore, after getting one man wounded, and exhausting his ammuni 
tion, came with part of his men to the right of my position, 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 con 
sent that he 1 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 con 
tinued for some two to three hours, Captain 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) 2 was badly wounded, and after con 
tinuing 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 lie and Henry are fast recovering. 

A day or two after the fight, Colonel Sumner of the United States 
army came suddenly upon us, while fortifying our camp and guard 
ing our prisoners (which, by the way, it had been agreed mutually 
should be exchanged for as many Free-State men, John and Jason 
included), and compelled us to let go our prisoners without being 
exchanged, and to give up their horses and arms. They did not go 
more than two or three miles before they began to rob and injure 
Free-State people. We consider this as in good keeping with the 

1 By "he" is apparently meant Captain Shore. 

2 Brown's son-in-law, the husband of Ruth Brown. The agreement 
with Pate, referred to above, is still in existence to confirm this letter ; 
both copies of it having found their way to the Historical Library at 



240 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

cruel and unjust course of the Administration and its tools through 
out this whole Kansas difficulty. Colonel Sumner also compelled us 
to disband ; and we, heing only a handful, were obliged to submit. 

Since then we have, like David of old, had our dwelling with the 
serpents of the rocks and wild beasts of the wilderness ; being obliged 
to hide away from our enemies. We are not disheartened, though 
nearly destitute of food, clothing, and money. God, who has not 
given us over to the will of our enemies, but has moreover deliv 
ered them into our hand, will, we humbly trust, still keep and deliver 
us. .We feel assured that He who sees not as men see, does not lay 
the guilt of innocent blood to our charge. 

I ought to have said that Captain Shore and his men stood their 
ground nobly in their unfortunate but mistaken position during the 
early part of the fight. I ought to say further that a Captain Ab 
bott, being some miles distant with a company, came onward promptly 
to sustain us, but could not reach us till the fight was over. 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. 

If, under God, this letter reaches you so that it can be read, T wish 
it at once carefully copied, and a copy of it sent to Gerrit Smith. I 
know of no other way to get these facts and our situation before the 
world, nor when I can write again. 

Topeka, where Mr. F. G. Adams, the secretary, showed them to me in 
1882. Here is a copy : 

This is an article of agreement between Captains John Brown, Sr., and Samuel T. 
Shore of the first part, and Captain H. C. Pate and Lieutenant W. B. Brockett of the 
second part ; and witnesses that, in consideration of the fact that the parties of the first 
part have a number of Captain 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, 
Osawatomie, and Pottawatomie, and so on, one of the former for one of the latter alter 
nately, xmtil all are liberated. It is understood and agreed by the parties that the sons 
of Captain John Brown, Sr. Captain John Brown, Jr., and Jason Brown are to be 
among the liberated parties (if not already liberated), and are to be exchanged for 
Captain Pate and Lieutenant Brockett, 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 Territory, and that those who have been 
arrested and have been liberated will be considered in the same light as those not liber 
ated ; 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. 

(Signed) JOHN BROWN. 

S. T. SHORE. 

H. C. PATE. 

W. B. BROCKETT. 
PRAIRIE CITY, K. T., June 2, 1856. 



1856.1 THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 241 

Owen has the ague to-day. Our camp is some miles off. Have 
heard that letters are in for some of us, but have not seen them. Do 
continue writing. We heard last mail brought only three letters, 
and all these for proslavery men. It is said that both the Lawrence 
and Osawatomie men, when the ruffians came on them, either hid or 
gave up their arms, and that their leading men counselled them to 
take such a course. 

May God bless and keep you all ! 

Your affectionate husband and father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

P. S. Ellen and Wealthy are staying at Osawatomie. 

The above is a true account of the first regular battle fought be 
tween Free-State and proslavery men in Kansas. May God still 
gird our loins and hold our right hands, and to him may we give the 
glory ! I ought in justice to say, that, after the sacking and burning 
of several towns, the Government troops appeared for their protection 
and drove off some of the enemy. J. B. 

June 26. Jason is set at liberty, and we have hopes for John. 
Owen, Salmon, and Oliver are down with fever (since inserted) ; 
Henry doing well. 

With this chapter of Brown's commentaries on the Kan 
sas war may properly go the following papers, although 
they were not written until some months later, the first 
in August, 1856, and the second after Brown left Kansas 
in October, 1856. The first is addressed to his friend Ed 
mund B. Whitman, who then lived at Lawrence. 

For Mr. Whitman. 

Names of sufferers and persons who have made sacrifices in en 
deavoring to maintain and advance the Free-State cause in Kansas, 
within my personal knowledge. 

1. Two German refugees (thoroughly Free-State), robbed at Pot- 
tawatomie, named Benjamin and Bondy (or Bandy). One has served 
under me as a volunteer ; namely, Bondy. Benjamin was prisoner 
for some time. Suffered by men under Coffee and Pate. 

2. Henry Thompson. Devoted several months to the Free -State 
cause, travelling nearly two thousand miles at his own expense for 
the purpose, leaving family and business for about one year. Served 
under me as a volunteer; was dangerously wounded at Palmyra, or 
Black Jack j has a bullet lodged beside his backbone ; has had a 

16 



242 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

severe turn of fever, and is still very feeble. Suffered a little in burn 
ing of the houses of John Brown, Jr., and Jason Brown. 

3. John, Jr., and Jason Brown. Both burned out ; both prisoners 
for some time, one a prisoner still ; both losing the use of valuable, 
partially improved claims. Both served repeatedly as volunteers for 
defence of Lawrence and other places, suffering great hardships and 
some cruelty. 

4. Owen and Frederick Brown. Both served at different periods 
as volunteers under me', were both in the battle of Palmyra; both 
suffered by the burning of their brothers' houses ; both have had 
sickness (Owen a severe one), and are yet feeble. Both lost the use 
of partially improved claims and their spring and summer work. 

5. Salmon Brown (minor). Twice served under me as a volun 
teer ; was dangerously wounded (if not permanently crippled) by 
accident near Palmyra ; had a severe sickness, and still feeble. 

6. Oliver Brown (minor). Served under me as a volunteer for 
some months; was in the battle of Palmyra, and had some sickness. 

7. [B. L. ] Cochran (at Pottawatouiie). Twice served under me 
as a volunteer ; was in the battle of Palmyra. 1 

8. Dr. Lucius Mills devoted some months to the Free-State cause, 
collecting and giving information, prescribing for and nursing the 
sick and wounded at his own cost. Is a worthy Free- State man. 

9. John Brown has devoted the service of himself and two minor 
sons to the Free-State cause for more than a year; suffered by the 
fire before named and by robbery ; has gone at his own cost for that 
period, except that he and his company together have received forty 
dollars in cash, two sacks of flour, thirty-five pounds bacon, thirty- 
five do. sugar, and twenty pounds rice. 

I propose to serve hereafter in the Free-State cause (provided my 
needful expenses can be met), should that be desired; and to raise a 
small regular force to serve on the same condition. My own means 
are so far exhausted that I can no longer continue in the service 
at present without the means of defraying rny expenses are fur 
nished me. 

I can give the names of some five or six more volunteers of special 
merit I would be glad to have particularly noticed in some way. 

J. BROWN. 

The second paper is part of the notes which Brown drew 
up for his speeches at Hartford, Boston, Concord, and other 
New England towns, in the spring of 1857. In this speech 
he laid stress not only on the sins of the Border Ruffians 

1 Better known as Black Jack. 



1356.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 243 

and the unpatriotic conduct of the National Government, but 
on the pecuniary loss which he and the other settlers had 
undergone in being kept from their work, at the busiest 
season of the year, by the raids from Missouri. This gives 
a strange air to the paper, which is otherwise noticeable for 
the facts set forth. 



AN IDEA OF THINGS IN KANSAS. 

I propose, in order to make this meeting as useful and interest 
ing as I can, to try and give a correct idea of the condition of things 
in Kansas, as they were while I was there, and as I suppose they 
still are, so far as the great question at issue is concerned. And here 
let me remark that in Kansas the question is never raised of a man, 
Is he a Democrat ? Is he a Republican ? The questions there 
raised are, Is he a Free-State man ? or, Is he a proslavery man ? 

I saw, while in Missouri in the fall of 1855, large numbers on 
their way to Kansas to vote, and also returning after they had so 
done, as they said. I, together with four of my sons, was called out 
to help defend Lawrence in the fall of 1855, and travelled most of the 
way on foot, and during a dark night, a distance of thirty-five miles, 
where we were detained with some five hundred others, or there 
about, from five to fifteen days, say an average of ten days, at 
a cost to each per day of $1.50 as wages, to. say nothing of the actual 
loss and suffering it occasioned ; many of them leaving their families 
at home sick, their crops not secured, their houses unprepared for 
winter, and many of them without houses at all. This was the case 
with myself and all my sons, who were unable to get any house 
built after our return. The loss in that case, as wages alone, would 
amount to $7,500. Loss and suffering in consequence cannot be 
estimated. I saw at that time the body of the murdered Barber, 
and was present when his wife and other friends were brought in 
to see him as he lay in the clothes he had on when killed, no very 
pleasant sight ! 

I went, in the spring of last year, with some of my sons among 
the Buford men, in the character of a surveyor, to see and hear from 
them their business into the Territory; this took us from our work. 
I and numerous others, in the spring of last year, travelled some ten 
miles or over on foot, to meet and advise as to what should be done 
to meet the gathering storm ; this occasioned much loss of time. I 
also, with many others, about the same time travelled on foot a sim 
ilar distance to attend a meeting of Judge Cato's court, to find out 
what kind of laws he intended to enforce ; this occasioned further 



244 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

loss of time. I with six sons and a son-in-law was again called out 
to defend Lawrence, May 20 and 21, and travelled most of the way 
on foot and during the night, being thirty-five miles. From that 
date none of us could do any work about our homes, but lost our 
whole time until we left, in October last, excepting one of my sons, 
who had a few weeks to devote to the care of his own and his broth 
er's family, who had been burned out of their houses while the two 
men were prisoners. 

From about the 20th of May of last year hundreds of men like 
ourselves lost their whole time, and entirely failed of securing any 
kind of crop whatever. I believe it safe to say that five hundred 
Free-State men lost each one hundred and twenty days, at $1.50 per 
day, which would be, to say nothing of attendant losses, $90,000. 
I saw the ruins of many Free- State men's houses at different places 
in the Territory, together witli stacks of grain wasted and burning, 
to the amount of, say $50,000 ; making, in lost time and destruction 
of property, more than $150,000. On or about the 30th of May last 
two of my sons, with several others, were imprisoned without other 
crime than opposition to bogus enactments, and most barbarously 
treated for a time, one being held about one month, the other 
about four months. Both had their families in Kansas, and destitute 
of homes, being burned out after they \vere imprisoned. In this 
burning all the eight were sufferers, as we all had our effects at the 
two houses. One of my sons had his oxen taken from him at this 
time, and never recovered them. Here is the chain with which one 
of them was confined, after the cruelty, sufferings, and anxiety he 
underwent had rendered him a maniac, yes, a maniac. 

On the 2d of June last my son-in-law was terribly wounded (sup 
posed to be mortally), and two other Free-State men, at Black Jack. 
On the 6th or 7th of June last one of my sons was wounded by acci 
dent in camp (supposed to be mortally), and may prove a cripple for 
life. In August last I was present and saw the mangled and shock 
ingly disfigured body of the murdered Hoyt, of Deerfield, Mass., 
brought into our camp. I knew him well. I saw several other 
Free-State men who were either killed or wounded, whose names I 
cannot now remember. I saw Dr. Graham, who was a prisoner with 
the ruffians on the 2d of June last, and was present when they 
wounded him, in an attempt to kill him, as he was trying to save 
himself from being murdered by them during the fight of Black Jack. 
I know that for much of the time during the last summer the travel 
over a portion of the Territory was entirely cut off, and that none but 
bodies of armed men dared to move at all. I know that for a con 
siderable time the mails on different routes were entirely stopped, and 
that notwithstanding there were abundant United States troops at 



1856.] THE BROWN FAMILY IN KANSAS. 245 

hand to escort the mails, such escorts were not furnished as they 
might or ought to have been. I saw while it was standing, and 
afterward saw the ruins of, a most valuable house, full of good arti 
cles and stores, which had been burned by the ruffians for a highly 
civilized, intelligent, and most exemplary Christian Indian, for be 
ing suspected of favoring Free-State men. He is known as Ottawa 
Jones, or John T. Jones. In September last I visited a beautiful 
little Free-State town called Stanton, on the north side of the Osage 
or Marais des Cygnes Kiver, as it is called, from which every inhab 
itant had fled (being in fear of their lives), after having built them, 
at a heavy expense, a strong block-house or wooden fort for their 
protection. Many of them had left their effects liable to be destroyed 
or carried off, not being able to remove them. This was a most 
gloomy scene, and like a visit to a vast sepulchre. 

During last summer and fall deserted houses and cornfields were to 
be met with in almost every direction south of the Kansas River. 
I saw the burning of Osawatomie by a body of some four hundred 
ruffians, and of Franklin afterward by some twenty-seven hundred 
men, the first-named on August 30, the last-named September 
14 or 15. Governor Geary had been for some time in the Territory, 
and might have saved Franklin with perfect ease. It would not have 
cost the United States one dollar to have saved Franklin. 

I, with five sick and wounded sons and son-in-law, was obliged for 
some time to lie on the ground, without shelter, our boots and clothes 
worn out, destitute of money, and at times almost in a state of starva 
tion, and dependent on the charities of the Christian Indian and his 
wife whom I before named. 1 I saw, in September last, a Mr. Parker, 

1 Notwithstanding the losses and chanties of this good Indian in 1856, 
he was the next year in condition to make further gifts to Brown, as 
appears by this letter : 

OTTAWA CREEK, K. T., Oct. 13, 1857. 
MR. JOHN BROWN. 

DEAR SIR, Respecting the account you have against us as a band, I would respect 
fully inform you that I have presented the matter before them two or three different 
times, and 1 cannot persuade them but what was paid by them was all that could be 
reasonably demanded of them, from the bargain they entered into with Jones the agent. 
For my part I think the charge is just, and it ought to be paid. The Ottawa payment 
comes off some time this week, and T will present your case before them again, and do 
what I can to induce them to attend to the account, though I entertain no hopes of its 
being allowed ; but nothing like trying. In contributing my rnite in aiding you in your 
benevolent enterprise, I enclose you ten dollars on the State Bank of Indiana (I presume 
it is good, though hundreds of other banks are worthless), and throw in the young 
man's bill and horse-hire, which amounts to four dollars. Accept it, sir, as a free-will 
offering from your friend. 

Times are coming round favorably in Kansas. Mr. Parrott for Congress will have 
8,000 to 10,000 majority over Ransom, and both branches of the Legislature the same in 
proportion. I am quite encouraged that all things will work together for good for those 
who are trying to work out righteousness hi the land. May God bless you in your work 



246 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

whom I well know, with his head all bruised over and his throat 
partly cut, having hefore been dragged, while sick, out of the house of 
Ottawa Jones, the Indian, when it was burned, and thrown for dead 
over the bank of the Ottawa Creek. 

I saw three mangled bodies of three young men, two of which 
were dead and had lain on the open ground for about eighteen hours 
for the flies to work at, the other living with twenty buckshot and 
bullet-holes in him. One of those two dead was my own son. 

Here, then, we may pause to review the position of the 
Brown family in Kansas, twelve months after John Brown 
had set forth from Illinois to support his children in making 
free and peaceful homes on those beautiful prairies. One 
of his sons was dead ; another a prisoner charged with trea 
son ; a third was desperately wounded ; a fourth stricken 
down with illness ; all had lost their cabins, their crops, 
their books and papers ; their wives and children were scat 
tered or far away. Only one son of the six remained in 
fighting condition ; all were in extreme poverty ; the cause 
of freedom, for which they had ventured so much, seemed 
almost lost. Everything was subdued except the inexorable 
will of John Brown. 1 That remained ; his faith in God and 
his obedience to the voice of God were as quick as ever ; and 
he had begun the warfare against slavery by a dire blow, 
which was destined in its consequences to make Kansas free, 
even as his master-stroke in Virginia, three years later, was 
to set in motion the avalanche that destroyed slavery in the 
whole land. This blow was the execution at Pottawatomie 
on the 24th of May. 

of benevolence and philanthropy ; and may God reward you more than double for your 
toil and losses in the work to bring about liberty for all men ! Write me if you can, and 
let me know how you are getting along, etc. 

I remain your sincere friend, JOHN T. JONES. 

By " us as a band " is meant the Ottawa tribe of Indians, and their 
" payment " was the allowance periodically given to them by the Federal 
Government. I saw one of the last nomadic Indians of this tribe sitting 
bareheaded on his pony in the busy streets of Ottawa, in August, 1882, 
staring with his stolid eye at the white man's way of life. 
1 Audire magnos jam videor duces 
Non indecoro pulvere sordidos, 
Ef, ctmcta terrarum subacta 
Prceter atrocem animum Catonis. 

HORACE, Odes, lib. ii. ear. i. 



1856.1 THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 247 



CHAPTER IX. 
THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 

/ *~PHE story of John Brown will mean little to those who 
J- do not believe that God governs the world, and that 
He makes His will known in advance to certain chosen men 
and women who perform it, consciously or unconsciously. 
Of such prophetic, Heaven-appointed men John Brown was 
the most conspicuous in our time, and his life must be con 
strued in the light of that fact, as the career of Cromwell 
must be, and has been, since Carlyle set it forth to the world 
in its true colors. Cotton Mather, in 1720, intimated to the 
young friend for whom he wrote his quaint " Directions for 
a Candidate of the Ministry," that he must not look at 
Cromwell through Clarendon's glasses. " I do particularly 
advertise you," said Mather, "that this mighty man has 
never yet had his history fully and fairly given ; and when 
you read it given with the greatest impartiality wherein 
you have hitherto seen it, you may bear this in your mind, 
that the principal stroke in his character, and the princi 
pal spring of his conduct, is forever defectively related." 
Brown has not suffered so much as Cromwell in this way, 
for his worldly success was not so great, and therefore he 
offered a lesser mark for envy and malice ; he was also a 
more simple and ingenuous Calvinist than Cromwell, and 
could not lay himself so open to the charge of hypocrisy 
and self-seeking. But the source of his greatness and the 
motive of his public conduct were essentially the same, 
an impression that God had called him to a high and pain 
ful work, and that he must accomplish this even with 
bloodshed and at the loss of friends, life, and reputation. 
Milton, in so many points like Cromwell, though in more 
like Brown (I speak not of his genius, but of his character), 



248 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

understood this, and also that there is a divine antinomi- 
anism as well as a loose and diabolic one. Therefore he 
said in one of those matchless choral passages of the 
<l Sainson,'' 

" Just are the ways of God, 
And justifiable to men ; 
Unless there be who think not God at all. 
If any be, they walk obscure ; 
For of such doctrine never was there school, 
But the heart of the fool, 
And no man therein doctor but himself. 

Yet more there be who doubt His ways not just, 
As to His own edicts found contradicting ; 

As if they would confine th' Interminable, 

And tie Him to His own prescript, 

Who made our laws to bind us, not Himself, 

And hath full right to exempt 

Whom it so pleases Him by choice 

From national obstriction, without taint 

Of sin or legal debt ; 

For with His own laws He can best dispense." 

This is a high doctrine, applying only to heroes ; but it 
holds good of John Brown, and particularly in regard to 
the Pottawatomie executions of May, 1856. Such a deed 
must not be judged by the every-day rules of conduct, which 
distinctly forbid violence and the infliction of death for 
private causes; branding the act, and justly, by the odious 
names of " murder " and " assassination." The cause here 
was a public one ; the crisis was momentous, and yet invisible 
to all but the eyes divinely appointed to see it and to foresee 
its consequences. Upon the swift and secret vengeance of 
John Brown in that midnight raid hinged the future of Kan 
sas, as we can now see ; and on that future again hinged the 
destinies of the whole country. Had Kansas in the death- 
struggle of 1856 fallen a prey to the slaveholders, slave- 
holding would to-day be the law of our imperial democracy ; 
the sanctions of the Union and the Constitution would now 
be on the side of human slavery, as they were from 1840 to 
1860. And the turning point in the Kansas conflict was 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 249 

that week of May, 1856, when the whole power of the 
United States was shamefully put forth to conquer the little 
town of Lawrence, to abase the free spirit of the Northern 
farmers on the Kansas prairies, and to give supremacy 
to the vilest and most inhuman elements in the American 
nationality. The attack on Lawrence (May 20) was coin 
cident in time with the close of Charles Simmer's great 
speech in the Senate on the " Crime against Kansas ; " and 
the temporary downfall of the Free-State cause west of 
the Missouri was echoed at Washington in the contrived 
and almost completed murder of Simmer by the weapons of 
South Carolina, as he sat in the Senate chamber two days 
after (May 22, 1856). One shout of exultation went up 
from the slaveholding States over the two events ; and one 
thrill of anguish ran through the free North when the 
tidings came in the same day from Kansas and from Wash 
ington. A venerable citizen of Boston, Josiah Quincy, 
then in his eighty-fifth year, who had seen the Indepen 
dence of America declared by Jefferson and maintained by 
Washington, Franklin, and Lafayette, raised his aged voice 
in protest against the degeneracy of their descendants. 
Writing to Judge Hoar, of Concord (May 27, 1856), Mr. 
Quincy said : 

" My mind is in no state to receive pleasure from social 
scenes and friendly intercourse. I can think and speak of 
nothing but the outrages of slaveholders at Kansas, and the 
outrages of slaveholders at Washington, outrages which, 
if not met in the spirit of our fathers of the Revolution 
(and I see no sign that they will be), our liberties are but a 
name, and our Union proves a curse. But, alas ! sir, I see 
no principle of vitality in what is called freedom in these 
times. The palsy of death rests on the spirit of freedom in 
the so-called free States." 

Thus Quincy spoke ; and in the same sense, to a result 
such as Quincy could not foresee, John Brown had already 
acted. He also felt that " our liberties are but a name and 
our Union proves a curse," if the deeds done at Lawrence, 
preceded by murders and followed by the flight of freemen 
from Kansas, were not to be met with retaliation. The 
blow at Pottawatomie followed, as a signal to every Kansas 



250 LIFE AND LETTEKS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

ruffian that blood must recompense blood. For every cold 
blooded murder heretofore perpetrated, for Dow, Barber, 
Brown, Stewart, and Jones, the sabres of Pottawatomie 
requited life with life. Five representative defenders of 
slavery were struck down in a single night, in reprisal for 
the five sons of liberty slain in the previous six months. 
The lesson was terrible, but salutary ; the oppressors of 
Kansas never forgave it, but they could not forget it, and 
it wrought their defeat in the end. It shocked the Free- 
State men, no doubt ; but it soon gave them confidence that 
God's justice did not sleep, and that their cause was not 
lost. I have already cited what Charles Robinson said of it 
in 1878, that he had always believed John Brown to be 
the author of the Pottawatomie executions, because he was 
the only man then in Kansas who comprehended the situ 
ation, and had the nerve to strike the blow. John Brown, 
Jr., in this respect agrees with Robinson, and says : "It has 
never been asserted by me, nor by any one else who compre 
hended the situation at that time, that the killing of those 
men at Pottawatomie was wholly on account of the emer 
gency in that neighborhood. That blow was struck for 
Kansas and the slave ; and he who attempts to limit its 
object to a mere settlement of accounts with a few proslav- 
ery desperadoes on that creek, shows himself incapable of 
rendering a just judgment in the case." When Jason Brown 
met his father for the first time after the executions, near 
the empty cabins from which the Brown families had fled for 
safety to Osawatomie, the tender-hearted son said : "Father, 
did you have anything to do with that bloody affair on the 
Pottawatomie ? " Brown's reply was, " I approved of it." 
Jason then said : " Whoever did it, the act was uncalled for 
and wicked." Brown answered, " God is my judge, the 
people of Kansas will yet justify my course." This predic 
tion was true. An old friend of his. James Hanway, who 
lived near the scene of the executions, and at first strongly 
abhorred them, has given this testimony on the point : 

11 In the month of January, 1859, the last time I met John Brown 
before he left the Territory for the last time, he asked me, in the 
presence of my family, ' What do the old settlers now think about 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 251 

the affair ? ' alludiiig to the killing of the Doyles, etc. My reply 
was, ' A great change in public opinion has taken place j it is not 
now looked upon with that feeling of horror which prevailed soon 
after the event took place.' Brown replied, < I knew all good men 
who loved freedom, when they became better acquainted with the 
circumstances connected with the case, would approve of it. The 
public mind was not ready tkeii to accept such hard blows.' Captain 
Brown firmly believed that he was an instrument in the hands of 
Providence to smite the slave-power, and roll back its blasphemous 
threats. The question with him was the proper time to strike the 
blow. He thought the hour had come, and the Pottawatomie tragedy 
was the result." 

The scene of this act of wild justice was one of the most 
romantic in Kansas. The broad prairies of that State are 
fertile and sunny, but they have the tameness and sameness 
of landscape that soon wearies the eye of the traveller. 
Around Osawatomie, however, this monotony is broken by 
winding streams, swelling hills, and steep ravines ; while 
along the streams is a noble border of woodland. That in 
stinctive love of the picturesque which led John Brown and 
his sons to the forests of Ohio, the mountains of the Adiron- 
dac wilderness, and the snow-capped heights of California, 
guided their steps in Kansas also, and pitched their tents in 
this wildest tract of a tame region. Two copious rivers, 
though condescending to bear the commonplace name of 
" creek," the Marais des Cygnes, and the Pottawatomie, 
unite near Osawatomie, in what was then the home of Indian 
tribes, to form the Osage River, the largest tributary of 
the Missouri below the mountain-torrents. Each of these 
Kansas rivers is formed by tributary streams, and all wind 
gracefully among fringes of woodland, below which in many 
places the banks shelve steeply down to the lazy waters. 1 

1 I visited Osawatomie, August 21, 1882, and made this entry in my 
journal : " Crossed the Marais des Cygnes by a bridge on the road from Paola 
between the insane asylum and the village of Osawatomie, a large stream 
with high banks, heavily timbered, perhaps one hundred feet wide at this 
season, and in some places twenty or thirty feet deep ; so that men fording 
it have often been drowned. It was on the northern bank of this river, one 
mile or more from the village, that John Brown was encamped (August 29, 
30) before the battle of Osawatomie. 1 saw one of Brown's friends, the 



252 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

Beyond this forest selvage stretches broad and grand the 
grassy, flower-enamelled prairie, now dotted at many points 
with orchards, groves, farm-houses and villages, but in 
1856 a virgin soil, which the plow had only scarred a little 
now and then, and over which ranged and flitted countless 
beasts and birds, with here and there a herd of cattle, or 
a group of half-wild horses. The Indian hunter pursued 
his game there, and the buffalo had not wholly forsaken his 
old grazing-ground. The villages of Osawatomie, which 
gave John Brown a distinctive name, and of Lane, which 
has grown up near the old ford of the Pottawatomie in 
the township of that ilk, once known as Dutch Henry's 
Crossing, are neither of them large or specially flourishing, 
but a historic interest attaches to both from their asso 
ciation with Brown's career. Lane is southwest of Osa 
watomie, and therefore, as the river runs, above it ; and 
above the old Crossing, where there is now a modern 
bridge, are the neighborhoods which Brown visited on 
that tragic night. Professor Spring, the latest historian 
of Kansas, thus describes the country as he saw it three 
years ago : 

11 The Dutch Henry's Crossing of 1882 is a paradise of rural peace 
and happiness. The fiercest sounds I heard during a visit to that 
region were the clatter of agricultural machinery and the fervent 
hallelujahs of a l holiness ' camp-meeting. Here quiet and security 
seem to have reached their utmost limit. The Pottawatomie half 
limpid, with slighter mixtures of discoloring mud than any Kansas 
stream that I have seen winds languidly between beautifully 
shaded banks toward the Mara is des Cygnes. The vast fields of 

Sniders of the Trading Post massacre, a blacksmith of Osawatomie now, 
standing tall and swarthy in his shop at the village ; and then drove the 
next morning two miles farther west to the log-house of Rev. S. L. Adair, 
on the high prairie along which the Missourians came the morning of the 
fight. The road from the village to Mr. Adair's is steep and rocky, more 
so than any I have } r et seen in Kansas. His house is the one he built in 
the spring of 1855, though it has since been enlarged ; it is the common 
cabin of squared logs, chinked in with clay, and the main room has two 
beds in it. In this room John Brown was sick with typhoid fever for six 
weeks, in 1858, Kagi and the Adairs taking care of him. The house has 
orchards about it, and in front two or three pine-trees which Mr. Adair 
brought from the East about 1860, one of which is now twenty feet high." 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 253 

corn and wheat, with their picturesque borders of orange hedge, lie 
mapped upon the rolling prairie in every direction, 

' As quietly as spots of sky 
Among the evening clouds.' 

" The Dutch Henry's Crossing of 1856 stands in antithesis to all 
this Arcadian repose. Then there was no law but force, no rule but 
violence, in the Territory of Kansas. A veritable reign of terror was 
inaugurated. Marauders were prowling about in whose eyes nothing 
was sacred that stood in the way of their passions. The opposing 
factions into whose hands the question of slavery or no slavery for 
Kansas had fallen, hunted each other like wolves. Pistol-shots and 
sword-slits were the prevailing style of argument. For purposes 
of ambush and concealment this location was admirably chosen. 
The surface is cut up by gulches affording natural defences which 
ten resolute men could hold against a hundred. I spent half a day in 
exploring this region with one of Brown's men, who had not been on 
the ground for twenty-six years, in an effort to recover the exact site 
of Brown's bivouac of May 23. But so marked is the change which 
time has wrought in the landscape, so great the number and similar 
ity of the ravines, that all our efforts failed. Indeed, nothing here 
remains as it was in the Border period. The earliest cabins have 
been pulled down, frontier characteristics are gone, and the customs 
of older civilizations appear. The ford retains its quaint and primitive 
name of Dutch Henry's Crossing, but has ceased to be used. The 
once broad and travelled road leading down to it has now shrunk to 
a narrow, weed-choked path, right across which lies a half-decayed 
tree. I found one direct, and to me pathetic, memorial of the Potta- 
watomie raid (even that is being rapidly obliterated), the grave 
of three of its victims. They were buried coffinless in one shallow 
trench. No stone or tablet marks their resting-place, only a slight 
heaving of the turf, in an open field near the ford." 

The two Shermans, Dutch Henry and Dutch Wil 
liam, who lived here and gave their name to the ford, 
were brothers, from Oldenburg in Germany, who had been 
long in America, and were among the earliest white settlers 
of this region. They were men of harsh and brutal charac 
ter, who profited by the neighborhood of peaceful Indians 
to advance their own interests at the expense of the red men, 
and who looked upon Indians and negroes with, equal con 
tempt. Their house was a sort of tavern, as many of the 
prairie cabins were in those days, and their most acceptable 



254 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

visitors were the proslavery men from Missouri and farther 
south. At this very time, in the words of John Brown the 
younger, " the Doyles, Wilkinsons, and Shermans were fur 
nishing places of rendezvous and active aid to the armed 
men who had sworn to kill us and others." With the Browns 
it was simply a question as to which, to use a Western phrase, 
should " first get the drop " on the others. Upon this point, 
which of late years has been the subject of controversy, the 
testimony is clear and ample. The men who suffered death 
were not only leagued with the Missouri invaders, but had 
themselves committed gross outrages, such as they had 
threatened a year before their death. An early citizen of 
Kansas (now or recently a police magistrate at Salina), Au 
gust Bondi by name, went to settle, in May, 1855, on the 
Musquito branch of the Pottawatomie, four miles from Dutch 
Henry's. Being a German, and having two compatriots 
(Theodore Wiener and Jacob Benjamin) owning near him, 
Bondi went to call on Henry Sherman, whom he had heard 
of as a German also, and therefore sought his acquaintance. 
After a short conversation with him, Henry Sherman said 
"he had heard that Bondi and Benjamin were Freesoilers, 
and therefore would advise them to clear out, or they might 
meet the fate of Baker," - a Vermont man whom the Bor 
der Euffians had taken from his cabin on the Marais des 
Cygnes, whipped, and hanged upon a tree, but had cut him 
down before death, and released him upon his promise to 
leave Kansas. Allen Wilkinson, who was a member of the 
usurping Legislature, talked to Bondi in much the same way. 
The two Germans (Bondi and Benjamin, for Wiener had 
not yet arrived) took counsel what should be done. Benja 
min, who had worked several days at the settlement on the 
Marais des Cygnes, reported that no help could be expected 
thence, where the settlers were all from Missouri or Arkan 
sas. He had heard, however, of a small settlement of Ohio 
men about five miles to the northeast, and both agreed that 
these ought to be seen. Next morning Benjamin went there, 
and about noon returned with Frederick Brown, who brought 
word from his three brothers that they would always be 
found ready to assist Bondi and his friend. No attack was 
made that summer, during which there was a large immi- 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 255 

gration into the Pottawatomie region, both from the North 
and the South, the Northern men in the majority, but the 
proslavery men having the advantage of being generally 
well armed and under better organization. On their side, 
too, were the gangs of robbers and murderers on the borders 
of Missouri and the Indian Territory. 

But in the spring of 1856 the Shermans and their com 
rades began to carry out their threats. George Grant, who 
then lived on the Pottawatomie, testified in 1879 : 

"My father, John T. Grant, came from Oneida County, N. Y., 
and settled on Pottawatomie Creek, in 1854. We were near neigh 
bors of the Shermans, of the Doyles, and of Wilkinson, who were 
afterward killed. There was a company of Georgia Border Ruffians 
encamped on the Marais des Cygnes, about four miles away from us, 
who had been committing outrages upon the Free-State people ; and 
these proslavery men were in constant communication with them. 
They had a courier who went backward and forward carrying mes 
sages. When we heard on the Pottawatomie that the Border Ruf 
fians were threatening Lawrence, and that the Free-State men wanted 
help, we immediately began to prepare to go to their assistance. 
Frederick Brown, sou of John Brown, went to a store at Dutch 
Henry's Crossing, kept by a Mr. Morse, from Michigan, known as 
old Squire Morse, a quiet, inoffensive old Free-State man, living 
there with his two boys, and bought some bars of lead, say twenty 
or thirty pounds. He brought the lead to my father's house on Sun 
day morning, and my brother Henry C. Grant and my sister Mary 
spent the whole day in running Sharpe's and other rifle bullets for 
the company. As Frederick Brown was bringing this lead to our 
house, he passed by Henry Sherman's house, and several proslavery 
men, among them Doyle and his sons, William Sherman, and others, 
were sitting on the fence, and inquired what he was going to do with 
it. He told them he was going to run it into bullets for Free-State 
guns. They were apparently much incensed at his reply, as they 
knew that the Free- State company was then preparing to go to 
Lawrence. The next morning, after tbe 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 arid went to old Squire Morse's house, and said they were 
going to hang him for selling the lead to the Free-State men. They 
frightened the old man terribly ; but 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 



256 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

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 gra^s. 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 store. The only thing they had against Mr. 
Morse was his selling the lead, and this he had previously bought of 
Henry Sherman, who had brought it from Kansas City. While the 
Free-State company was gone to Lawrence, Henry Sherman 1 came 
to my father's house and said : l We have ordered old Morse out of 
the country, and he has got to go, and a good many others of the 
Free-State families have got to go.' The general feeling among the 
Free-State people was one of terror while the company was gone, 
as we did not know at what moment the Georgia ruffians might come 
in and drive us all out." 



1 Mr. Foster, already quoted, who knew the Shermans and their repu 
tation, tells this story of the brutality of "Dutch Bill," who was one of the 
five men executed by Brown : "In the spring of 1856 William Sherman 
had taken a fancy to the daughter of one of his Free- State neighbors, and 
had been refused by her. The next time he met her he used the most vile 
and insulting language toward her, in the midst of which Frederick Brown 
appeared and was besought for protection, which was readily granted. 
Sherman then drew his knife, and, speaking to the young woman, said : 
' The day is soon coming when all the damned Abolitionists will be driven 
out or hanged ; we are not going to make any half-way work about it ; and 
as for you, Miss, you shall either marry me or I '11 drive this knife to the 
hilt until I find your life.' Frederick Brown quietly warned Sherman 
that if he attempted any violence he would be taken care of ; when, with 
an oath and threat, Sherman left them." His viler brother, Henry Sher 
man, who escaped Brown's avenging hand, was shot not long afterward, I 
have heard, by one of Brown's soldiers, not a member of the party which 
slew William Sherman. The chief wonder was, that a wretch so outra 
geous as Dutch Henry, in a country so full of tumult as Southern Kansas, 
had not been killed sooner. His house has long been destroyed, and only 
a few apple-trees remain to mark the spot where he lived and persecuted 
his Free- State neighbors. 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 257 

Notwithstanding the controversy which has so long been 
kept up concerning these executions, the facts are plain and 
simple, and are now almost universally accepted. The char 
acter of the men slain was notoriously bad, as has been 
shown ; and they had long been plotting with the Missou- 
rians, and more recently with Buford's armed colonists from 
the South, to exterminate the Free-State settlers along the 
Pottawatomie and its tributaries. While the Free-State 
men were on their way to the defence of Lawrence, and 
their families were left unprotected, word was sent to the 
camp of John Brown, Jr., who commanded the Pottawato 
mie Rifles, that the Free-State families along the Creek 
were to be attacked and driven out. This news followed 
hard upon the tidings that Lawrence had been captured and 
burned by the Missouri ruffians. After that dismal mes 
sage, John Brown, who was a member of his son's company, 
proposed marching at once on Lawrence. But word soon 
came from that town requesting the company not to come, 
since the ruffians had gone back to Missouri, and the Free- 
State men were short of provisions. A vote was therefore 
taken in the company not to visit Lawrence, but to go into 
camp near the house of Captain Shore on the Middle Ottawa 
Creek ; and this was done on the night of May 22. The 
place is about five miles from the town of Palmyra, and 
not more than ten miles from where Brown afterward won 
the fight of Black Jack. James Hanway, already quoted, 
was a member of the Pottawatomie Rifles, and a witness 
of entire credibility. He says : 

" When we were in camp on Middle Ottawa Creek, in Franklin 
County, a young man, son of Mr. Grant, 1 brought the intelligence 
that certain proslavery citizens of the Pottawatomie had visited some 
of the Free-State families, and threatened them with death, and their 
property with destruction, if they did not leave the neighborhood by 
the following Saturday or Sunday night. Old John Brown, who had 
a firm belief that Providence directed his steps in all undertakings, 
immediately raised a small party of men, and visited those who had 
been the instigators of this threatened movement. I think it was 
May 23, about two p. M., that John Brown and his party left our 

1 Others say another was the messenger. 
17 



258 LITE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

camp. When Brown was packing up his camp kettles, etc., at 
Middle Ottawa Creek. I was invited to become one of the party, by 
one of the eight who formed the company. I was informed at the 
time of the purpose of the expedition, and the necessity there was to 
carry out the programme. 

" The following day we camped at Palmyra. We had heard of the 
arrest of Governor Robinson, and our object was to rescue him if 
they brought him by the Santa Fe road to Lecompton. On Sunday 
morning, May 25, we broke camp, and took up quarters near Prairie 
City, on Liberty Hill. It was then and there that four persons came 
riding across the prairie, and reported what had taken place on the 
Pottawatomie. That night we camped in the yard of Ottawa Jones, 
and during the night John Brown's party, who had left our company 
several days before, made their appearance. I was with Jason Brown 
in what was called the Brown tent. John Brown asked if his son 
John was there. I replied no ; he was in Ottawa Jones's house. 
This was about the middle of the night." 

Between the departure of John Brown from his son's 
camp early in the afternoon of May 23, and his return 
thereto in the night of May 25-26, the deed of death was 
done. Those who accomplished it were under Brown's 
orders, and were directed in all their movements by him. 
Of this there is now no doubt, although at the time, and for 
many years afterward, John Brown's presence at the execu 
tions was denied ; and this denial was supposed to be sup 
ported by his words. But upon inquiry of all those who 
talked with him. on the subject, it does not appear that he 
ever denied his presence at the scene, while he constantly 
justified the act. One of the earliest witnesses has already 
been cited, Jason Brown. John Brown, Jr., was not in 
formed of the deed by his father. An old Kansas settler, 
E. A. Coleman, now living near Lawrence, where he was in 
1855-56, bears witness thus : 

" John Brown frequently visited me at my house, and stayed with 
me. In fact, my latch-string was always out for such men. John 
Brown knew where his friends lived, and could go to them night or 
day. One evening, not long before the fight at Osawatomie, we ate 
supper out of doors in the shade of my cabin at five o'clock. As 
soon as supper was over, Captain Brown commenced pacing back 
and forth in the shade of the house. My wife stood by the dishes, 



1856.1 THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 259 

and I sat in my chair. I finally said, ' Captain Brown, I want to 
ask you one question, and you can answer it or not as you please, 
and I shall not be offended.' He stopped his pacing, looked me 
square in the face, and said, ' What is it ? ' Said I, l Captain 
Brown, did you kill those five men on the Pottawatomie, or did you 
not?' He replied, 'I did not; but I do not pretend to say they 
were not killed by my order j and in doing so I believe I was doing 
God's service.' My wife spoke and said, ' Then, Captain, you think 
that God uses you as an instrument in his hands to kill men ? ' 
Brown replied, * I think he has used rne as an instrument to kill 
men ; and if I live, I think he will use me as an instrument to kill a 
good many more.' He went on and said : l Mr. Coleman, I will 
tell you all about it, and you can judge whether I did right or wrong. 
I had heard that these men were coming to the cabin that my son and 
I were staying in [I think he said the next Wednesday night] to 
set fire to it and shoot us as we ran out. Now, that was not proof 
enough for me ; but I thought I would satisfy myself, and if they 
had committed murder in their hearts, I would be justified in killing 
them. I was an old surveyor, so I disguised myself, took two men 
to carry the chain, and a flagman. The lines not being run, I knew 
that as soon as they saw me they would come out to find out where 
their lines would come.' And taking a book from his pocket, he 
said, 'Here is what every man said that was killed. I ran my 
lines close to each man's house. The first that came out said, u Is 
that my line, sir ? " I replied, " I cannot tell ; I am running test 
lines." I then said to him, u You have a fine country here; great 
pity there are so many Abolitionists in it." u Yes, but by God we 
will soon clean them all out," he said. I kept looking through my 
instrument, making motions to the flagman to move either way, and 
at the same time I wrote every word they said. Then I said, ' I 
hear there are some bad men about here by the name of Brown." 
" Yes, there are ; but next Wednesday night we will kill them." So 
I ran the lines by each one of their houses, and I took down every 
word; and here it is, word for word, by each one. [Shows wife and 
me the book]. I was satisfied that each one of them had committed 
murder in his heart, and according to the Scriptures they were guilty 
of murder, and I felt justified in having them killed ; but, as I told 
you, I did not do it myself.' He then said, ' Now, Mr. Coleman, 
what do you think ? ' I told him I thought he did right, and so did 
my wife. This statement we are both willing to be sworn to." 1 

1 See " The Kansas Memorial," 1879, pp. 196, 197. I have a letter from 
Mr. Coleman, written in 1885, in which he repeats this striking conversa 
tion, with some variations, but in substance as recited above. He says : 



260 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

John Brown, Jr., has thus expressed himself concerning 
the mystery which long concealed the true facts in this af 
fair ; and no person who knows him will doubt his word : 

" The only statement that I ever heard my father make in regard 
to this was, ' I did not myself kill any of those men at Pottawatomie, 
but I am as fully responsible as if I did. ? . This statement of his is 
strictly in accordance with the facts, as I have now abundant evi 
dence. The statements of others, giving a different version, I believe 

"The Browns were hunted as we hunt wolves to-day ; and because they un 
dertook to protect themselves, they are called cold-blooded murderers, 
merely because they ' had the dare,' and were contented to live and die a.s 
God intended them to. Brown was a Bible-man, he believed it all ; 
and though I am not, I give him credit for being honest, and the most 
consistent so-called Christian I have ever met. Brown and his sons had 
claims, and worked them, as I did mine, when these devils were not prowl 
ing about, killing a man now and then, stealing our stock arid running 
them off to Missouri." 

John Brown, Jr.'s, version of the surveying adventure, and doubtless 
the more correct one, is as follows : " Early in the spring of 1856, Colonel 
Buford, of Alabama, arrived with a regiment of armed men, mostly from 
South Carolina and Georgia. They came with the openly declared purpose 
to make Kansas a slave State at all hazards. A company of these men was 
reported to us as being encamped near the Marais des Cygnes, a little south 
of the town now called Rantoul, I think, and distant from our place about 
two miles. Father took his surveyor's compass, and with him four of my 
brothers, Owen, Frederick, Salmon, and Oliver, as chain-carriers, ax- 
man, and marker, and found a section line which, on following, led through 
the camp of these men. The Georgians indulged in the utmost freedom of ex 
pression. One of them, who appeared to be the leader of the company, said : 
' We' ve come here to stay. We won't make no war on them as minds 
their own business ; but all the Abolitionists, such as them damned Browns 
over there, we' re going to whip, drive out, or kill, any way to get shut of 
them, by God.' The elder Doyle was already there among them, having 
come from the Pottawatomie, a distance of nine miles, to show them the 
best fords of the river and creek." 

Upon reading Mr. Colernan's letter, John Brown has written me thus : 
"While we had in the spring of 1856 abundant and entirely satisfactory 
evidence that our family were marked for destruction, I am not aware of 
any information having been received by any of our number that a par 
ticular day had been decided upon for the undertaking. It is probable 
that father related to Mr. Coleman the story of his running that line 
through a camp of Buford's men and of the information he obtained ; but 
further than this I think he did not go. The running of that line occurred 
a few days before our second call to assist Lawrence, May 20, 1856." 



1859.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 261 

have been made in good faith upon reports which they supposed were 
true, or upon their interpretation of father's words as given above. I 
have yet to learn of any authentic statement made by him touching 
this matter which in substance differs from his words as I have given 
them. In the fall of 1856 I was told by one who as I supposed was 
in possession of the facts, that when my father and his men, on their 
return from our camp near Ottawa Creek, had reached Middle Creek, 
his party divided; that he and some of the men crossed the Marais 
des Cygues to reconnoitre the position of a party of Buford's men, and 
that consequently he was several miles away when those men were 
killed on the Pottawatomie. I accepted this statement as true, and 
whenever I had occasion to refer to the matter I stated it in accord 
ance with what I supposed was fact. It was not until July, 1860, 
that I was more correctly informed by one who had himself partici 
pated in that affair. At that time a large reward was offered by the 
State of Virginia for my capture. Soon after, stimulated by that 
reward, kidnappers attempted the work of my abduction: and from 
that time until the close of the Civil War other matters more urgent 
claimed my attention than the correction of my own statements in 
regard to Pottawatomie, or of Mr. Redpath's mistake, which I have 
no doubt was as innocently made as my own." x 

The most direct statement made by any of the party who 
accompanied John Brown on his expedition of May 23, 
that was made public before the Civil War, is, I think, a 
letter from one of his sons, who undertook, a few weeks 
after his father's death, to answer a question on the subject 
which was asked of his mother. She had no knowledge con 
cerning the matter, as she told me in 1882 ; but knowing 
that her son Salmon had been Brown's constant companion 
in Kansas, she requested him to reply. He was then living 
with her at North Elba, and he wrote as follows : 

NORTH ELBA, Dec. 27, 1859. 

DEAR SIR, Your letter to my mother was received to-night. 
You wish me to give you the facts in regard to the Pottawatomie 
execution, or murder, and to know whether my father was a partici 
pator in the act. I was one of his company at the time of the homi 
cide, and was never away from him one hour at a time after we took 
up arms in Kansas; therefore I say positively that he was not a 

1 In confirmation of this, I may say that my last letters from Mr. Red- 
path continued to declare that John Brown was not at the executions. 



262 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1859. 

participator in the deed, although I should think none the less of 
him if he had been there ; for it was the grandest thing that was 
ever done in Kansas. It was all that saved the Territory from "being 
overrun with drunken land-pirates from the Southern States. That 
was the first act in the history of Kansas which proved to the demon 
of Slavery that there was as much room to give blows as to take 
them. It was done to save life, and to strike terror through their 
wicked ranks. 

Yours respectfully, 

SALMON BROWN. 

The member of Brown's company of eight who first dis 
closed the details of the expedition of May 23-25, was James 
Townsley, a Maryland man, who had emigrated to Kansas 
in October, 1855, and settled on the Pottawatomie, a mile 
west of the present town of Greeley. This is several miles 
southwest of Dutch Henry's Crossing, and therefore higher 
up on the creek. Townsley had been a cavalry soldier in 
the United States army from 1839 to 1844, and had fought 
against Indians in Florida ; by trade he was a painter, and 
he was an acquaintance of Martin and Jefferson Conway, 
who like himself migrated from Maryland to Kansas, but 
were opposed to slavery. He set out from Baltimore with 
his wife and four children and eleven hundred dollars in 
money, and, leaving his family in Kansas City, went into 
the Pottawatomie region and bought a " claim," for which 
he paid eighty dollars, put up a rude cabin, and moved his 
family into it. They suffered much from cold during the 
winter, and were just beginning to plant their land in the 
spring, when Townsley, who had joined the "Pottawatomie 
Eifles " in April, was called upon to march for the protec 
tion of Lawrence. This was on the afternoon of May 21. 
What followed has thus been told by himself : 

" About two miles south of Middle Creek we were joined by the 
Osawatoraie company, under Captain Dayton, and proceeded to 
Mount Vernon, where we waited about two hours until the moon 
rose. We then marched all night, camping the next morning (the 
22d) for breakfast, near Ottawa Jones's. Before we arrived at this 
point news had been received that Lawrence had been destroyed, and 
a question was raised whether we should return or go on. During 
the forenoon, however, we proceeded up Ottawa Creek to within 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 263 

about five miles of Palmyra, and went into camp near the residence 
of Captain Shore. Here we remained undecided over night. About 
noon the next day, the 23d, old John Brown came to me and said he 
had just received information that trouble was expected on the Potta- 
watomie, and wanted to know if I would take my team and take him 
and his boys back, so that they could keep watch of what was going 
on. I told him I would do so. The party consisting of John Brown, 
Frederick Brown, Owen Brown, Watson Brown, Oliver Brown, 
Henry Thompson (John Brown's son-in-law), and Mr. Wiener were 
soon ready for the trip, and we started, as near as I can remember, 
about two o'clock p. M. All of the party except Mr. Wiener, who 
rode a pony, rode with me in my wagon. When within two or three 
miles of the Pottawatomie Creek we turned off the main road to the 
right, drove down into the edge of the timber between tw r o deep ra 
vines, and camped about one mile above Dutch Henry's Crossing. 
After my team was fed and the party had taken supper, John Brown 
told me for the first time what he proposed to do. He said he wanted 
me to pilot the company up to the forks of the creek, some five or 
six miles above, into the neighborhood in which I lived, and show 
them where all the proslavery men resided ; that he proposed to 
sweep the creek as he came down of all the proslavery men living on 
it. I positively refused to do it. He insisted upon it ; but when 
he found that I would not go he decided to postpone the expedition 
until the following night. I then wanted to take my team and go 
home, but he refused to let me do so, and said I should remain with 
them. We remained in camp that night and all day the next day. 
Sometime after dark we were ordered to march." 

Townsley has related, not always in the same manner, and 
with more or less variation from the fact (as in the above 
statement, which is somewhat incorrect, though mainly 
true), how the five men were called out and despatched, 
alleging that he had no hand in the actual slaughter, but 
that John Brown had. 1 I have talked with those present, 
and find reason to doubt this. Whatever Townsley's part 
may have been, I am convinced that John Brown did not 
raise his own hand or discharge his weapon against his vic 
tims. He was no less responsible for their death than if he 
had done so, and this he never denied. But for some reason 
he chose not to strike a blow himself; and this is what Sal 
mon Brown meant when he declared that his father " was 

1 Owen Brown and Henry Thompson deny this. 



264 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

not a participator in the deed." It was a very narrow inter 
pretation of the word " participator " which would permit 
such a denial ; but it was no doubt honestly made, although 
for the purpose of disguising what John Brown's real agency 
in the matter was. He was, in fact, the originator and per 
former of these executions, although the hands that dealt 
the wounds were those of others. The actual executioners 
were but three or four. The weapons used were short cut 
lasses, or artillery sabres, which had been originally worn by 
a military company in Ohio, and were brought from Akron 
in 1855 by John Brown. 1 They were straight and broad, 
like an old Roman sword, and were freshly ground for this 
expedition at the camp of John Brown, Jr. 2 When the 
bodies of the dead were found, there went up a cry that they 
had been mutilated ; but this was because of the weapons 
used. Their death was speedy and with little noise, the use 
of fire-arms being forbidden. A single shot was fired during 
the five executions ; but when, and for what purpose, the 
witnesses are in dispute. The Doyles were first slain, then 

1 The swords used were not sabres exactly, but weapons made like the 
Roman short-sword, of which six or eight had been given to Brown in 
Akron, Ohio, just before he went to Kansas, by General Bierce of that 
city, who took them from an old armory there. They had been the swords 
of an artillery company, then disbanded, which General Bierce had some 
thing to do with, and there were also some guns and old bayonets among 
these arms. The bayonets would not fit any guns the Kansas people 
had ; and so in December, 1855, when the Browns went up to defend 
Lawrence for the first time, they fastened some of them on sticks, and 
intended to use them in defending breastworks. They were thrown 
loosely "into the bed of the wagon," not set up about it for parade, as 
some have said. There were also some curved swords among these Akron 
arms. 

2 When Brown called for volunteers to go on a secret expedition, his son 
at first questioned the wisdom of reducing his main force in this way ; but 
as only eight men were wanted no serious opposition was made, and John 
Brown, Jr., says: "We aided him in his outfit, and I assisted in the 
sharpening of his cutlasses. James Townsley, who resided near Pottawa- 
tomie Creek, volunteered to return with his team, and offered to point out 
the abodes of such as he thought should be disposed of. No man of our 
entire number could fail to understand that a retaliatory blow would fall ; 
yet when father and his little band departed, they were saluted by all our 
men with a rousing cheer." All the survivors of the " little band," except 
Townsley, deny that Brown " proposed to sweep the creek." 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 265 

Wilkinson; and finally the Shermans were visited, their 
guests captured and questioned, but only William Sherman 
executed. The testimony of James Harris, one of the com 
rades of William Sherman, who was allowed to go unpun 
ished, was given in these words before the Congressional 
Committee of 1856 : 1 



" On Sunday morning, May 25, 1856, about two A. M., while my 
wife and child and myself were in bed in the house where we lived, 
near Henry Sherman's, 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 l old man Brown'), and his son Owen 
Brown. They came into 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 men who were then in the house with me were 
William Sherman and 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 came up to the bed, some had drawn 
sabres in their hands, and some revolvers. They then took into their 
possession two rifles and a bowie-knife, which I had there in the 
room (there was but one room in my house), and afterwards ran 
sacked 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 no others but us four. They asked 
me where Henry Sherman was. (Henry was a brother to William 
Sherman.) I told them he was out on the plains in search of some 
cattle which he had lost. They asked me if I had ever taken any 
hand in aiding proslavery men in coming to the Territory of Kansas, 
or had ever taken any hand in the last troubles at Lawrence ; they 
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 

1 James Hanway, who talked with Harris more than once after the 
affair, says that this testimony differed from the accounts Harris privately 
gave. 



266 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

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 the 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. Wil 
liam 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 an 
other 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 in with us until we heard a cap burst, and 
then these two men left. That morning, about ten o'clock, I found 
William Sherman dead in the creek near my house. I was looking 
for him; as he had not come back, I thought he had been murdered. 
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 w r as washed out by the water. A 
large hole was cut in his breast, and his left hand was cut off except 
a little piece of skin on one side. We buried him." 

Mr. Hanway used to declare that this James Harris told 
him that when the avenging party first entered the house 
his wife supposed they were Missouri men, arrived there for 
the purpose of driving out the Free-State settlers. Mrs. 
Wilkinson, an unfortunate woman who had tried in vain to 
keep her husband from engaging in the outrages against 
their Free-State neighbors, was visited early in the morn 
ing after the executions by Dr. Gilpatrick and Mr. Grant, 
two Free-State men, who went to her house (which was the 
post-office) to get their mail. They found the poor woman 
weeping, and saying that a party of men had been to the 
house during the night and taken her husband out ; she bad 
heard that morning that Mr. Doyle had been killed within 
the night, and she was afraid that her husband had been 
killed also. Among other reasons that she gave for fearing 
this, he had said to her the night before that there was going 
to be an attack made upon the Free-State men, and that 
by the next Saturday night there would not be a Free-State 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 267 

settler left on the creek. These, she said, were his last 
words to her the night before as they were going to sleep. 
Her testimony before the Congressional Committee was as 
follows : 

. . . "On the 25th of May last, somewhere between the hours of 
midnight and daybreak, I cannot say exactly at what hour, after we 
all had retired to bed, we were disturbed by the barking of the dog. 
I was sick with the measles, and woke up Mr. Wilkinson, and asked 
him if he heard the noise, and what it meant. He said it was only 
some one 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 ? ' Some one replied, ' I want you to 
tell me the way to Dutch Henry's.' He commenced to tell them, 
and they said, l 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 whispering ; but they immediately returned, and as they ap 
proached, one of them asked my husband, ' Are you a Northern 
arrnist ? ' He answered, 'I am. 7 I understood the answer to 
mean that my husband was opposed to the Northern or Free-Soil 
party. I cannot say that I understood the question. My husband 
was a proslavery man, and was a member of the Territorial Legisla 
ture held at Shawnee Mission. When my husband said, i I am,' 
one of them said, l You are my prisoner; do you surrender?' He 
said, ' Gentlemen, I do.' They said, l Open the door.' Mr. Wil 
kinson 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 ; four men came in ; 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. Wil 
kinson stay with me, saying that I was sick and helpless, and could 
not stay by myself. The old man, who seemed to be in command, 
looked at me, and then around at the children, and replied, l You 
have neighbors.' I said, l So I have ; but they are not here, and I 
cannot go for them.' The old man replied, f It matters not.' They 
then took my husband away. One of them came back and took two 
saddles; I asked what they were going to do with him, and he said, 
' Take him a prisoner to the camp.' I wanted one of them to stay 



268 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

with me. He said t 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 morn 
ing Mr. Wilkinson was found about one hundred and fifty yards from 
the house, in some dead brush. I believe that one of Captain Brown's 
sons was in the party who murdered my husband; I heard a voice 
like his. I do not know Captain Brown himself. The old man who 
seemed to be commander wore soiled clothes and a straw hat, pulled 
down over his face. He spoke quick j is a tall, narrow-faced, 
elderly man. I would recognize him if I could see him. My hus 
band was a quiet man, and was not engaged in arresting or disturbing 
anybody." l 

There is little reason to doubt that this account is sub 
stantially correct. The particulars of the action, like the 
deed itself, were bloody, and it is not pleasant to read them 
or relate them ; but they were the opening scenes of war, and 
in requital for bloodier and quite inexcusable deeds which 
had preceded them. Brown long foresaw the deadly conflict 
with the slave-power, which culminated in the Civil War, and 
was eager to begin it, that it might be the sooner over. He 
knew what few could then believe that slavery must 
perish in blood ; 2 and, though a peaceful man, he had no 
scruples about shedding blood in so good a cause. The 
American people a few years after engaged in organized 
bloodshed for the attack and defence of slavery, and hundreds 
of thousands of men died in the cause that Brown had killed 
and been killed to maintain. Yet we who praise Grant for 
those military movements which caused the bloody death 
of thousands, are so inconsistent as to denounce Brown for 
the death of these five men in Kansas. If Brown was a 
murderer, then Grant and Sherman, and Hancock and the 
other Union generals, are tenfold murderers, for they 
simply did on a grand scale what he did on a small one. 
War is murder, in one of its aspects it is deliberate and 
repeated murder ; and yet the patriot warrior who goes 

1 On the contrary, Mr. Grant and his other neighbors speak of him as 
a vicious, malignant man, who ill-treated his wife as well as the Free-State 
men. 

2 " Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins," was a 
favorite text with Brown. 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 269 

to battle in behalf of his country is not arraigned for murder, 
but honored as a hero. This is so even when by stratagem, 
or midnight assault, he slays hundreds of defenceless peo 
ple ; for the cause in which he fights is supposed to excuse 
all atrocious deeds. A like excuse must serve for this 
violent but salutary act of John Brown ; 1 and it was in this 
way that he defended it to those who served under him, 
and by whose hands the deed was done. I have talked 
with more than one of these men, and from one of them I 
had this statement : 

" John Brown did no shooting in my presence, and I think he had 
nothing to do with the killing of any of the five men. At a consul 
tation on Middle Creek the question came up who would join ; I 
opposed the scheme for a time, and - - opposed it all the time, 
and had nothing to do with it, except that he went along with us. 
John Brown thought it a matter of duty that there should be a little 
bloodletting on both sides ; he not only approved these executions, 
but planned and carried them through very successfully. 2 I reflected 
that these men were influential persons, leading men, and among the 
worst holding office [referring particularly to Wilkinson and George 
Wilson], and I agreed with Brown it was a matter of duty j yet I 

1 Charles Robinson, who had as many minds about the Pottawatomie 
affair as his Democratic friends used to have about slavery itself, charac 
terized it thus in a letter of Dec. 21, 1879, published in the Topeka " Com 
monwealth " of Jan. 8, 1880 (he has since called John Brown all sorts of 
names, jussit quod splendida bilis) : "It had the effect to strike terror 
into the hearts of all proslavery men, and had its influence in the general 
melee. The proslavery party could take no exceptions to it, as it had 
inaugurated the war, and all the Free-State men can say in its defence is, 
it was an incident of the civil war set on foot by the slave-power. . . . 
But was John Brown at heart a murderer in this butchery ? I think not. 
He worshipped the God of Joshua and David, who ordered all the enemies 
of his people slaughtered, including non-combatants, women, and children, 
flocks and herds, and ' everything that breathed.' John Brown seemed 
to believe he was the special messenger and servant of this God ; and he 
may have been as sincere as was Abraham when he stretched forth his 
hand to take the knife to slay his own son, or as Joshua when he slaughtered 
all that breathed of his enemies." 

2 The following anecdote is said to rest on the testimony of James 
Christian, a Kansas Democrat. How good authority this may be I can 
not say, but give it as I find it: "Jerome Glanville was the man who 
was stopping at Dutch Henry's on the night of the massacre, and was 
taken out to be killed, as the others were. On examination he was found 



270 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

was opposed to doing it myself. I saw the inconsistency of this, and 
afterwards acted consistently. I had seen Doyle and his boys two or 
three times, and knew them ; they harbored the worst ruffians, and 
I thought them as guilty as if they had done the deeds themselves. 
There was a signal understood, and no firing done in the first opera 
tion (at Doyle's). The signal was when John Brown was to raise a 
sword; then we were to begin, and there were to be no shots fired. I 
heard hut one shot when I was keeping guard over the family of 
Henry Sherman ; it was fired down the creek, half a mile away, and 
I did not know what it meant. The antislavery people in the Terri 
tory disapproved of the killing, Mr. Adair among them. He said 
to one of us, ' You are a marked man. You see what a terrible 
calamity you have brought upon your friends, and the sooner you go 
away the better.' The reply was, ' I intend to be a marked man. 7 
The Border Ruffians had for their watchword ' War to the knife, 
and the knife to the hilt,' in the spring before the Pottawatomie 
executions ; after that, they thought the knife might come from 
the other side. Liberty can only live or survive by the shedding 
of blood." 

Townsley declares that when he and others of the party 
were unwilling to slay men taken by surprise and unarmed, 
John Brown argued that it was a just and necessary stroke 
of war; and said, "It is better that ten guilty proslavery 
men should die, than that one Free-State settler should be 
driven out." Townsley adds that he was unwilling to have 
the proslavery men who lived in his neighborhood (Ander 
son County, near Greeley) attacked by Brown, because some 
of them were good men, and others had wives who had been 
kind to his wife. He thought as ill as Brown did of the 
proslavery probate judge Wilson, then supposed to be at 
Dutch Henry's, and was willing to have the attack made 
there. He was also ready to go to the Doyles, who, " when 
they had drunk a little whiskey, were ready to do what- 

to be only a traveller, but was kept a prisoner until morning and then 
discharged. He informed me personally who were the principal actors in 
that damning midnight tragedy, and said that the next morning, while 
the old man raised his hands to Heaven to ask a blessing, they were 
stained with the dried blood of his victims. For being too free in his 
expressions about the matter he was soon after shot in his wagon, between 
Black Jack and the head of Bull Creek, while on his way to Kansas 
City." 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 271 

ever Dutch Henry told them." According to Townsley, 
Wilkinson was born in the North, but had married a Ten 
nessee wife, and adopted her view of slavery ; he was the 
postmaster at Shermansville (now called Lane), and was an 
active proslavery leader, like Henry Sherman and George 
Wilson. 1 Townsley and all the witnesses agree that the 
horses of the Shermans were taken and carried with the 
party to the camp of John Brown, Jr., near Ottawa Jones's, 
where they arrived late on the night of the 24th. The next 
morning Oliver Brown showed his brother John a horse 
with his mane and tail sheared, saying, " Did you ever see 
that horse before ? That is Dutch Henry's gray pony.' 7 
This horse was soon after taken to northern Kansas by 
some Free-State men, who gave in exchange for that and 
other horses captured on the Pottawatomie some fast Ken 
tucky horses, on one of which Owen Brown afterward 
escaped from his pursuers. August Bondi says of the 
executions : 

11 Late in the evening of May 25 I arrived at my claim, in company 
with an old neighbor, Austin, who was afterward named Old Kill 
Devil, from a rifle he had of that name. The family of Benjamin 
(whom we had left when we departed for camp) had disappeared, 
and no cattle were to be seen. . This latter was a serious matter, for 
there was nothing left in the shape of provisions. When I told Aus 
tin that I was willing to stay with him until the last of the Border 
Ruffians had left the country, he encouraged me, and assured me 
that he would find Benjamin's family and protect them at all events. 
This the old man faithfully did. The next evening (May 26) I arrived, 
tired and hungry, at the camping-ground of John Brown, a log-cabin 
on the banks of Middle Creek upon the claim of his brother-in-law 
Orson Day. This is one of the houses which, under the name of 
' John Brown's cabin/ has since become famous. The Browns 
built it as a first shelter in the winter of 1855-56, and Day dwelt 

1 Mrs. Rising, a New Hampshire woman, who then lived next neighhor 
to the Wilkinsons, told a friend of mine that she knew Mrs. Wilkinson 
very well before and after the killing of her husband ; that Mrs. Wilkin 
son said she had persuaded him to take the proslavery side, but was sorry 
for it, since he was a worse man after it than before, and had treated 
her badly. Mrs. Rising added that he was harsh and cruel to his wife, 
who was a delicate, sickly woman ; and that he was a bad man in other 
respects. 



272 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

in it after March, 1856. It stands west from Osawatomie on the 
bottom land of North Middle Creek. Here also I found my friend 
Wiener, 1 from whom I first heard an account of the killing of Doyle 
and his sons, Wilkinson, and Dutch Henry's brother William. In 
this account Wiener never expressed himself positively as to who 
killed those persons, and I could only guess about it. I was as 
tonished, but not at all displeased. The men killed had been our 
neighbors, and I was sufficiently acquainted with their characters 
to know that they were of the stock from which afterwards came the 
James brothers, the Youngers, and the rest, who never shrank from 
perpetrating crime if it was done in the interest of the proslavery 
cause. As to their antecedents, the Doyles had been ' slave- 
hunters ' before they came to Kansas, and had brought along two of 
their blood -hounds. Dutch Bill (Sherman), a German from 
Oldenburg, and a resident of Kansas since 1845, had amassed con 
siderable property by robbing cattle droves and emigrant trains. He 
was a giant, six feet four inches high, and for the last weeks before 
his death had made it his pastime (in company with the Doyles) to 
break in the doors of Free-State settlers, frightening and insulting 
the families, or once in a while attacking and ill-treating a man 
whom they encountered alone. Wilkinson was one of the few 
Southerners who were able to read and write, and who prided him 
self accordingly. He was a member of the Border Ruffian Legisla 
ture, and a principal leader in all attempts to annoy and extirpate 
the Free-State men. Although he never directly participated in the 
murders and. robberies, still it was well understood that he was always 
informed a short time before an invasion of Missourians was to occur ; 
and on the very day of his death he had tauntingly said to some Free- 
State men that in a few days the last of them would be either dead 
or out of the Territory. In this he referred to the coming invasion 
of Cook, at the head of two hundred and fifty armed men from Bates 
County, Mo., who made his appearance about the 27th of May and 
plundered the whole region." 

A startling tale has been told, but without good authority, 
concerning the effect produced in the camp on the Ottawa 

1 Wiener, who took part in the Pottawatomie executions, was residing 
in St. Louis, September, 1855, but then agreed with Benjamin to go to 
Kansas and open a store on Bondi's claim. He invested some $7,000 in 
goods, and took them to Kansas just after Bondi had gone back to St. 
Louis, in November. In May, 1856, Wiener went there to buy more 
goods, and Bondi returned to Kansas with him. Wiener furnished as a 
gift all the provisions needed by the two rifle companies of sixty-five men, 
when they set out for Lawrence. 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 273 

by the return of John Brown, how his son resigned the 
command and became insane, and how general was the exe 
cration against Brown for his bloody deed. No doubt it was 
regretted by most of the company, and it is true that John 
Brown, Jr., resigned his captaincy. But this was for other 
reasons, and the insanity which soon appeared had other 
causes. Jason Brown, who was in his brother's company, 
says : " On the afternoon of Monday, May 26, a man came 
to us at Liberty Hill (eight miles north of Ottawa Jones's 
house), his horse reeking with sweat, and said, < Five men 
have been killed on the Pottawatomie, horribly cut and 
mangled ; and they say old John Brown did it.' Hearing 
this, I was afraid it was true, and it was the most ter 
rible shock that ever happened to my feelings in my life ; 
but brother John took a different view. The next day, 
as we were on the east side of Middle Creek, I asked 
father, ' Did you' have any hand in the killing ? ' He 
said, 'I did not, but I stood by and saw it.' I did not 
ask further, for fear I should hear something I did not 
wish to hear. Frederick said, ' I could not feel as if it was 
right ; ' but another of the party said it was justifiable as a 
means of self-defence and the defence of others. What I 
said against it seemed to hurt father very much ; but all he 
said was, ' God is my judge, we were justified under the 
circumstances.'" The occasion upon which John Brown, 
Jr., resigned his command had occurred the day before, the 
setting free by him of some slaves, who were afterward re 
turned to their master. On the Sunday following the Pot- 
tawatomie executions, but before the tidings reached him, 
he had gone with Captain Abbott, the rescuer of Branson, 
to see the ruins of Lawrence, and on his way back with a file 
of men, John Brown, Jr., liberated two slaves from their 
Missouri master, near Palmyra, and took them up to his 
camp, while the master fled to Missouri. 

The arrival of these slaves in camp caused a commotion. 
The act of freeing 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 they were or 
dered to go back to their master. The driver of the team 
which carried them back, overtaking him on his way to 

18 



274 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

Westport, received a side-saddle as Iris reward from the 
grateful slaveholder. Young Brown, feeling insulted by 
this act of his men, refused to command them any longer. 
But in the mean time (so fast did events move that day), 
while the company from Osawatomie was still at Liberty 
Hill, two or three miles south of Palmyra, a company of 
United States dragoons came up, and their leader, a lieuten 
ant, asked t<5 see the commander of the Free-State force. 
John Brown, Jr., who had not yet resigned, sent word that 
if the lieutenant would come forward without his men he 
(Brown) would meet him. Thereupon, says John Brown, 
Jr., " A solitary horseman from their number came toward 
us, and I rode out and met him. He introduced himself as 
Lieutenant Ives, if I am not mistaken, and told me that he 
had been sent by Colonel Sumner, then in command of the 
Federal troops in Kansas, with an order for all armed bodies 
of men on either side to disperse and return to their homes, 
adding that Colonel Sumner had undertaken to prevent 
hostile meetings of armed men. The lieutenant hoped we 
would not delay in complying with the order, and further 
said that he was then on his way to disperse the force of 
Georgians, who, he had been informed, were in camp a few 
miles east. He and his men then rode away in that direc 
tion, while I returned and related what the lieutenant had 
said. It gave much satisfaction ; for we were all anxious 
to be at home and attend to the planting of our spring 
crops, which had seemed likely to be prevented, in accord 
ance with the openly avowed plan of our enemies. We 
did not return to our first place of encampment, but at 
once began our homeward march, and reached Ottawa 
Jones's place, where we met my father, about ten o'clock 
that evening." The attack of insanity, which came on 
after this, does not seem to have been caused by the news 
from Pottawatomie, but by the hardships, exposure, and 
anxiety to which John Brown, Jr., had been subjected, and 
which were soon to be redoubled by the harsh treatment 
of his captors 

The tidings of the executions inflamed the Border Ruf 
fians greatly, as was natural, and gave an excuse for the 
activity of the Federal troops on the side of the slave- 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 275 

holders. Warrants had already been issued for the arrest 
of the Browns as conspirators against the Territorial gov 
ernment ; and these were now served bj civil officers who 
had a strong military force behind them. We saw in the 
last chapter John Brown's explanation of his sons' capture. 1 
I will now give in the words of those sons the events 
accompanying it. John Brown, Jr., says : 

" We got back to Osawatomie from our five days' campaign, toward 
evening on the 26th of May. The same night I went to the house of 
Mr. Adair, where I found my wife and son, Jason and his wife and 
their little boy. Jason and I remained there all night; but next 
morning, learning that a man named Hughes, of Osawatomie, a pre 
tended Free-State man, was heading a party to capture us, Mr. 
Adair did not consider it prudent for us to stay longer, and advised 
us to secrete ourselves in a ravine on his place well filled with small 
undergrowth. He told us he had received word that the United States 
Marshal had warrants for us and all of our family, also for Mr. 
Williams, William Partridge, and several others, and that Hughes 
wanted to distinguish himself by taking us, though pretending to be 
friendly. Jason started at once on foot for Lawrence, saying that 
if there was a warrant out for him he would go there and give 
himself up to a United States officer rather than be taken by & posse 
made up of Missourians and Buford's men. While on his way to 
Lawrence he was captured near Stanton (now called Rantoul) by 
just such a gang as he hoped to avoid, and was taken at once to 
Paola, then called Baptisteville. I took my rifle and horse and went 
into the ravine on Mr. Adair's land, remaining there through that 
day (May 27) and the following night. About four o'clock p. M. I 
was joined by my brother Owen, who had been informed at Mr. 
Adair's of my whereabouts. He brought with him into the brush 
a valuable running horse, mate of the one I had with me. These 
horses had been taken by Free-State men near the Nebraska line 
and exchanged for horses obtained in the way of reprisals further 
south ; and while on foot a few miles south of Ottawa Jones's place, 
May 26, 1 had been offered one of these to ride the remaining distance 
to Osawatomie. Owen's horse was wet with sweat j and he told me 
of the narrow escape he had just had from a number of armed pro- 
slavery men who had their headquarters at Tooley's, a house at the 
foot of the hill, about a mile and a half west of Mr. Adair's. Their 
guards, seeing him in the road coming down the hill, gave a signal, 

1 See Brown's Second Campaign in Kansas, p. 237. 



276 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

and at once the whole gang were in hot chase. The superior tieet- 
ness of the horse Owen rode alone saved him. He exchanged horses 
with me, and that night forded the Marais des Cygnes, and going by 
Stanton (or Standiford, as it was sometimes called), recrossed the 
river to father's camp about a mile north of the house of Mr. Day. 
Until Owen told me that night, 1 did not know where father could be 
found. The next morning early I went to Mr. Adair's house; and 
was there but a few moments when there suddenly rode up a number 
of United States cavalry, whom I was quite willing to see ; but while 
in conversation with them a large number of mounted Missourians 
came up also, and with them the United States Marshal; whom I 
knew, but did not wish to see. He read to me a warrant for my 
arrest, which charged me with treason against the United States. 
Resistance was of course out of the question. It was then I dis 
covered that the soldiers were there simply as a posse to aid the 
marshal ; and I went along in a wagon accompanied by all of 
these as far as where Captain Wood of the cavalry had his camp, 
near Osawatomie, when the soldiers returned to their camp, and 
the others went on with me to Paola. There I found Jason and 
several others of our men, including Mr. Williams, Mr. Partridge, 
and, I think, Mr. Benjamin." 

Such were the adventures of one brother, before he joined 
the other in captivity at Baptisteville, 1 now called Paola. 
Jason's adventures were even more romantic. He had 
parted from his father, May 26, early in the morning, after 
the conversation already quoted, and had returned with a 
heavy heart to Osawatomie, where his family were. His 
brother John was suffering from his sleepless anxieties, al 
though he afterward became much worse ; 2 and the conduct 

1 This is a town of some importance between Osawatomie and the 
Missouri border, and about ten miles northeast of Mr. Adair's house. 
Its name in 1856 (pronounced colloquially " Batteesville") was given 
in honor of an Indian, Baptiste Peoria, from whose last name, by 
corruption, the present title of the town seems to be derived. It was a 
proslavery settlement at that time, while Osawatomie was celebrated for 
its antislavery character. 

2 Mr. Adair told me, when I visited him in 1882, among his orchards 
and vines at Osawatomie, that John Brown, Jr., was "beside himself" 
when he came to the Adair place Monday night, May 26, with Jason ; that 
he had been without sleep several nights, and was perhaps disturbed also 
by the killing of the Doyles, etc. Thinking him in such a condition as 
made it unsafe to have him, fully armed, in the house, some of his friends, 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 277 

of his father at Pottawatomie weighed on Jason's compas 
sionate mind. His uncle Adair could give them no protec 
tion, and was endangered himself by their presence. Jason 
therefore set forth alone and on foot across the prairie 
north of the Marais des Cygnes, to go back to the friendly 
house of Ottawa Jones, the Christian Indian, and thence to 
Lawrence, where he meant to give himself up to " Uncle 
Sam's " troops, and not to the Border Kuffians. He had 
not gone far when he saw in the distance towards Paola a 
dozen horsemen, whom he took to be Missourians, moving 
southwest toward the Browns' settlement on Middle Creek, 
while he was travelling northwest from Osawatomie. Their 
lines of travel soon intersected, and Jason, going up to one 
of the horsemen, inquired the way to Ottawa Jones's. The 
leader of the party with an oath exclaimed : " You are one 
of the men we're hunting for; "and levelled his rifle at 
him. Jason stood still, and the men began to question him 
rapidly. " What is your name ? " " Jason Brown." " The 
son of old John Brown ? " " Yes." - - " Are you armed ? " 
"Yes, with a revolver." "Give it up. Have you any 
money ? " He produced two or three dollars, which he 
happened to have, and gave that up. "Now step in front 
of the horses." Upon this, he knew they meant to shoot 
him ; so he stepped backward, facing them, opened his 
bosom, and said : " I am an Abolitionist ; I believe that 
slavery is wrong, and that Kansas ought to be a free State. 
I never knowingly harmed any man in the world. If you 
want to take my blood for believing in the doctrines of the 
Declaration of Independence, do it now." When he said 
this with emphasis, 1 three or four of the Missourians laid 
their rifles across their saddles, but the rest kept aiming at 
him. The leader, who proved to be Martin Wliite, a pro- 
slavery preacher (the same who afterward shot Frederick 
Brown), said, " Well, we won't shoot you now, but make a 

or those who professed to be such, tried to have him give up his arms, 
and be himself given up to the United States troops and put under their 
protection. Owen Brown, who spent some hours with John the night be 
fore his arrest, denies this alleged insanity at that time. 

1 " I could talk then," said the modest man, telling me the story ; "I 
can't talk now." 



278 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

prisoner of you ; " and they took him back toward Paola. 
On the way they halted, and he, overcome with fatigue, sat 
down on the ground and fell asleep. He was waked by 
men who seemed to be threatening his life again; but he 
began to talk to them, denouncing slavery and declaring 
himself an Abolitionist, with the reasons why. One or 
two of the company, who seemed more intelligent than 
the rest, listened to him ; and when they reached Paola, 
these men Judge Cato and Judge Jacobs, as they were 
called caused their prisoner to be put in a good bed, and 
returned his money and revolver to him. He met his 
brother John the next day ; and there soon happened to 
them another adventure, which is related by the elder 
brother, and is a good example of the fear inspired by 
John Brown : 

" The day after we were taken to Paola, a proslavery man from near 
Stanton brought in and gave to the Missourians and Buford's men 
who held our little company as prisoners a scrap of paper containing 
only these words : ' I am aware that you hold my two sons, John 
and Jason, prisoners. John Brown.' The bearer of the paper said 
he brought it under the assurance that his own life depended on its 
delivery. Brother Jason and I occupied a room which contained a 
bed and a small lamp-stand or table. Two others also occupied the 
room as guards. The early part of the night of this day had been 
spent by our guards at card-playing at the little table. Jason, with 
out removing his clothes, had lain down on the front side of the bed, 
and was in deep sleep. Occupying in like manner the side of the 
bed next the wall, at about midnight, as near as I can judge, I was 
awakened by the sudden opening of the outside door and the rushing 
in of a number of men with drawn bowie-knives. Seizing the can 
dle, and saying, ' Which are they ? 7 they crowded around our bed 
with uplifted knives. Believing that our time had come, and wish 
ing to save Jason, still asleep, from prolonged suffering, I opened 
the bosom of his shirt, and pointing to the region of his heart, said, 
' Strike here ! ' At this moment the sudden and loud barking of 
dogs outside and a hurrying of steps on the porch caused a most 
lively stampede of our assailants within, and this attack was ended 
without a blow. From the hour at Pottawatomie, father had 
become to slaveholders and their allies in Kansas an omnipresent 
dread, filling them with forebodings of evil by day and the spec 
tre of their imaginings at night. Owing to that fear, our lives 
were saved.' 



1856.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 279 

The next day they were placed in custody of Captain 
Walker, of the United States cavalry, a Southerner, who 
himself tied John's arms back in such a manner as to pro 
duce the most intense suffering, with one end of a long rope, 
of which he gave the other end to a sergeant ; the captive 
was then placed a little in advance of the column headed by 
Captain Walker, and to avoid being trampled by the horses 
which had been ordered to trot, he was driven at this pace 
in the hot sun to Osawatomie, a distance of nine miles. 
The rope had been tied so tight as to stop circulation. In 
stead of loosening it at camp, a mile south of Osawatomie, 
no change was made in it through that day, all the follow 
ing night, nor until about noon the next day. By that time 
the poor man's arms and hands had swollen to nearly double 
their size, and turned black as if mortified. On removing 
the rope, a ring of the skin came off; and the scar of this, 
which he calls " slavery's bracelet," is still visible on Mr. 
Brown's arms. Such treatment, of course, increased his 
insanity, throwing him into a kind of fever, and for some 
time his recovery was doubtful. During this period he was 
sometimes chained with a common trace-chain, which his 
father afterward obtained, and occasionally exhibited in 
his journeys through the North, to show his hearers what 
slavery could do for white men in Kansas. 

John Brown, meanwhile, was pursuing the course de 
scribed by him in the long letter of June, 1856, printed in 
the last chapter. His fame was wonderfully increased by 
the bloody deed of Pottawatomie, which rumor instantly 
ascribed to him, and which was not doubted to be his act at 
the time, in Kansas or Missouri. He had counted, most 
likely, on this very result, and profited in his campaign by 
the terror and rage it inspired. The two or three weeks 
that intervened between the attack on Lawrence and the 
successful skirmishes of BroAvn in June, were the critical 
period of the contest for the Free-State men. Had he not 
held up the standard then, and checked the insolence of the 
slaveholders, Kansas would have been given up to them, 
and the immigration of Northern men prevented. This 
opinion has been expressed to me by many of the Kansas 



280 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [185G. 

people; while others, who do not go so far, admit that 
Brown's course was very useful to the cause. Colonel 
Walker, of Lawrence, in quoting to me Brown's saying in 
August, 1882, " the Pottawatomie execution w T as a just 
act, and did good," added, " I must say he told the truth. 
It did a great deal of good by terrifying the Missourians. I 
heard Governor Robinson say this himself in his speech at 
Osawatomie in 1877 ; he said he rejoiced in it then, though 
it put his own life in danger, for he [Robinson] was a 
prisoner at Lecomptoii, when Brown killed the men at 
Pottawatomie." 

This also was the deliberate and often-expressed opinion 
of Judge Hanway, who lived near the scene of the execu 
tions, and who knew all the circumstances. This worthy 
man published the following statement in December, 1879, 
in addition to what I have already quoted : 

" I was informed by one of the party of eight who left our camp on 
Ottawa Creek, May 22, 1856, to visit the Pottawatomie, what their 
object and purposes were. I protested, and begged them to desist. 
Of course my plea availed nothing. After the dreadful affair had 
taken place, and after a full investigation of the whole matter, I, like 
many others, modified my opinion. Good men and kind-hearted 
women in 1856 differed in regard to this affair in which John Brown 
and his party were the leading actors. John Brown justified it, and 
thought it a necessity; others differed from him then, as they do 
now. I have had an excellent opportunity to investigate the matter, 
and like others of the early settlers was finally forced to the conclu 
sion that the Pottawatomie ' massacre,' as it is called, prevented the 
ruffian hordes from carrying out their programme of expelling the 
Free-State men from this portion of the Territory of Kansas. It 
was this view of the case which reconciled the minds of the settlers 
on the Pottawatomie. They would whisper one to the other : ' It 
was fortunate for us ; for God only knows what our fate and condition 
would have been, if old John Brown had not driven terror and con 
sternation into the ranks of the proslavery party.' " 

Upon this result, as well as upon the ground first named 
in this chapter, that Brown believed himself to be, and 
in fact was, divinely inspired to make a slavish peace in 
Kansas impossible, must rest his justification for the 
bloody act I have described. Men will continue to doubt 



1359.] THE POTTAWATOMIE EXECUTIONS. 281 

whether his justification is ample ; but such he held it to 
be, and was willing to rest his cause with God, and with pos 
terity. A few men who now denounce him for this deed long 
upheld it, and have profited by its good consequences, - 
among them Charles Eobinson, whose emphatic approval 
in 1878 has already been cited. 1 With the excuses of such 
men for their change of tone, history has nothing to do. 
During the period when they must have best known the 
circumstances attending Brown's act, its provocations, 
its timeliness, and its results, they publicly excused it, 
and honored him. Their voice in accusation and mali 
cious interpretation of Brown will now be judged at its 
true value. Those of us who long refused to believe that 
Brown participated in these executions would not perhaps 

1 At a public meeting held in Lawrence, Dec. 19, 1859 (according to 
the newspaper reports at the time), the citizens passed resolutions concern 
ing the Pottawatomie executions, declaring " that according to the ordinary 
rules of war said transaction was not unjustifiable, but that it was per 
formed from the sad necessity which existed at that time to defend the 
lives and liberties of the settlers in that region." This resolution was 
supported by Charles Robinson, who said that he had always believed 
that John Brown was connected with that movement. Indeed, he believed 
Brown had told him so, or to that effect ; and when he first heard of the 
massacre, he thought it was about right. A war of extermination was in 
prospect, and it was as well for Free-State men to kill proslavery men, as 
for proslavery men to kill Free-State men. All he wanted to know was 
that these men were put out of the world decently, not hacked and cut to 
pieces, as was R. P. Brown. G. "W. Brown believed the murder of those 
men on Pottawatomie Creek was not justifiable ; but he (Robinson) thought 
it was. Mr. Adair, a nephew of John Brown, remarking that he had 
heard his uncle say he was present and approved of the deed, but that he 
did not raise a finger himself to injure the men, that his skirts were clear 
of blood, Robinson said it made no difference whether he raised his hand 
or otherwise. John Brown was present, aiding and advising ; he did not 
attempt to stop the bloodshed, and is of course responsible, though justi 
fiable according to Robinson's understanding of the matter. He added 
that while the war in Kansas continued, he was pleased with the co-oper 
ation of John Brown ; but after peace was restored, and the offices passed 
into Free-State hands, he thought the sheriffs of the several counties should 
have been called upon to preserve the peace. With them the responsibility 
should have rested, not with the unauthorized individuals, old John 
Brown or anybody else ; and any interference of Brown subsequent to 
the troubles in 1856 he repudiated. 



282 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

have honored or trusted him less had we known the whole 
truth. I for one should not ; though I should have deeply 
regretted the necessity for such deeds of dark and provi 
dential justice. 

" Not yet the wise of heart would cease 
To hold his hope through shame and guilt, 
And, with his hand against the hilt, 
Would pace the troubled land like Peace ; 
Would love the gleams of good that broke 
From either side, nor veil his eyes ; 
And if some dreadful need should rise, 
Would strike, and firmly, and one stroke." 



1856.1 THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 283 



CHAPTER X. 
THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 

THE events already chronicled are but a small part of 
those which took place in Kansas while John Brown 
maintained his connection with the friends of freedom there. 
It was more than three years from his first arrival at Osa- 
watomie before he finally withdrew (late in January, 1859) 
from the Territory, wliose admission as a free State was 
then secure, although the date was delayed. But he spent 
less than half those three years in Kansas. His first sum 
mer there, in 1856, was the most eventful portion of that 
period ; and this has been in part described. But much 
remains to be told, although the incidents of that sum 
mer, which then seemed so momentous, have shrunk almost 
into insignificance in comparison with the campaigns of 
the Civil War that so soon followed. What we used to 
call " battles " in Kansas, if the whole sum of them were 
thrown together, would hardly equal in their numbers or 
tangible results a single heavy skirmish along the front 
of Grant's army. The total loss of life on both sides 
during 185G, by the casualties of war, did not exceed a 
hundred men, and the property destroyed was hardly so 
much as a hundred thousand dollars. Yet though this com 
putation makes the struggle appear trivial, it was not so 
in fact ; while in the qualities of mind which it developed 
it became all-important. In Kansas, first of all, the patient 
and too submissive citizen of the North learned to stand 
firm against Southern arrogance and assumption ; for that 
scantily settled prairie exhibited more courage to the square 
mile than the most populous Northern States had before 
displayed. John Brown alone was worth all the trouble 
that Kansas gave the nation, and his significance atones for 
the littleness of the affair, even as we now view it. 



284 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

Yet, in truth, the creation of a free State, colonized by 
the best yeomanry of the North, on the western frontier of 
the slaveholding South, was in itself a great event ; and the 
possibility of success in the enterprise aroused an interest 
throughout the country that nothing else had excited. The 
attempt was made, too, on the eve of one of our periodic 
political contests, the election of President ; and this 
issue became inevitably connected with the canvass. It was 
the fear of losing the presidential vote of Pennsylvania for 
James Buchanan in 1856 that inspired the recall of the 
worst Territorial governors of Kansas, Shannon and Wood- 
son, and the appointment, just before the decisive October 
election, of that upright Pennsylvania Democrat Governor 
Geary. His private instructions were said to be, " Quiet 
the Territory at any cost ; for if the warfare continues in 
Kansas, Pennsylvania will vote for Fremont." This, as the 
other States then stood, would have defeated Buchanan. 
Just before Geary's appointment, Jefferson Davis (of all 
men in the world), who was then Secretary of War, had 
directed General Persifor Smith, who commanded the United 
States forces at Leavenworth, to put down the " open rebel 
lion" of the freemen of Kansas. 1 But more patriotic and 
peaceful counsels prevailed ; Governor Geary quieted the 
Territory, and Buchanan was elected President. 

The occasion for this manifesto from Jefferson Davis was 
the lively campaign, offensive as well as defensive, which had 
been carried on by John Brown, General Lane, Major Abbott, 
Captain Walker, and others, during the three months be 
tween the Pottawatomie executions and the burning of Osa- 
watomie at the end of August. Having already published 

1 Davis wrote to General Smith : "The President has directed rne to 
say to you that you are authorized from time to time to make requisitions 
upon the Governor [of Kansas] for such militia force as you may require to 
enable you to suppress the insurrection against the government of the Ter 
ritory of Kansas. Should you not be able to derive from the military of 
Kansas an adequate force for the purpose, you will derive such additional 
number of militia as may be necessary from the States of Illinois and 
Kentucky. . . . The position of the insurgents is that of open rebellion 
against the laws and constitutional anthoriti.es, with such manifestation of 
purpose to spread devastation over the land as no longer justifies further 
hesitation or indulgence." 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 285 

John Brown's report to his family of the fight at Black 
Jack, near Palmyra, early in June, I will i^ext quote from 
other authorities, and finally from Brown himself, some his 
torical notes of this disturbed summer. One of his soldiers, 
Luke F. Parsons, has within a few years made this statement 
respecting his own conduct in the Kansas feud : 

RECOLLECTIONS OF L. F. PARSONS. 

" At daylight on the morning of the 3d of June, ]856, Major Hoyt 
and I galloped to Black Jack, where I tendered my services to 
Captain Brown, and was immediately put on guard; and I was the 
only post sentinel who challenged Colonel Sumner when he came to 
release our prisoners. Again, sometime in the latter part of August 
I met John Brown in Lawrence ; he told me he came to get help to 
defend Osawatomie. I told him to try the ' Stubs ' (which was a 
Lawrence Sharpe's rifle company to which I belonged). He replied 
that he had, but they would not leave Lawrence. I told him I 
would get my rifle and go with him. He said he would surely show 
me how to fight, if the rascals would give him a chance. When I 
went for my gun Lieutenant Cutler asked what I was going to do. 
I told him, and he -said, l The guns belong to the company, and shall 
not be taken away.' Brown borrowed a Sharpe's rifle of Captain 
Harvey for me, and I went with him to his camp near Osawatomie. 

11 Aug. 30, 1856, we were camped a half-mile east of that town, 
at Mr. Crane's place. While we were cooking breakfast, before 
sunrise, a man dashed into camp, saying the Border Ruffians were 
coming from the west, and had just killed Fred Brown and David 
Garrison near Mr. Adair's. Brown started right off. and said, ' Men, 
come on! ' He did not say go. I started with him, and it was some 
minutes before any overtook us. While we were hurrying on by 
ourselves, Brown said, 'Parsons, were you ever under fire?' I re 
plied, l No ; but I will obey orders. Tell me what you want me to 
do.' He said, ' Take more care to end life well than to live long.' 

11 When we reached the blockhouse in the village he .motioned to 
several to go in, myself with the rest. He then said to me, ' Hold 
your position as long as possible, and hurt them all you can ; while 
we will go into the timber and annoy them from that side.' I fast 
ened the door with a large bar, and thought all secure. Soon firing 
commenced up the Marais des Cygnes, where Brown had gone. 
There was a second floor in the blockhouse, and part of the boys had 
gone up there. While we all selected our port-hole, Brown had drawn 
their attention, so that we were not molested. After some twenty 



286 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

minutes or so, some one on the second floor called out : ' They have 
cannon, and will blow us all to pieces in here. I am going to get 
out of this.' I said: t No, you must stay.' Old man Austin said, 
' Stay here, and let them blow us to hell and back again ! ' I went 
upstairs to get a better view of the enemy, and before I knew it the 
door was opened and most of the men gone. I don't know even 
where they went. Austin and I, and I think two others, four in 
all, then went up the Marais des Cygnes lliver, in the timber, and 
joined Brown at the fight, on his left. Clinc had gone before this. 
We had not been there long when we all fell back across the river. 
Partridge was shot while in the river. 

" At this place the water was deep, and I said to Austin, ' T cannot 
swim with my gun,' which I soon threw into the river. So we both 
ran down the river. The bank was high, so \ve were most of the 
time out of sight. I ran too fast for the old man [Austin], and 
he called to me not to leave him. As we approached the old saw 
mill the bank became lower, and we were seen by the ruffians, 
three of whom were after us. I told Austin that as I could see the 
bottom, I would cross. He replied, ' I won't run another inch ; ' 
and dropped down behind a large log. I waded through ; but the 
opposite bank was steep and high ; and as I was clinging to brush 
and scrambling up, I heard the words ' Halt ! halt ! halt ! ; in rapid 
succession, and immediately several guns were fired, and the dirt torn 
up by my side. I was on the bank in a twinkle, and returned their 
salute as well as I could. Two were putting spurs to their horses the 
best they could. One horse bore an empty saddle, and one man was 
kicking his last kick ; and Austin jumped up and came over to me. 
As we went up the river he told me that they did riot see him, but 
passed rather in front of him, and all shot at me ; while he shot one 
in the back just at the very moment they shot at me. In an hour or 
so after this we got together at a log-house on the north side of the 
river. Dr. Updegraff was then in the house, shot in the thigh. 
Brown was with him. But before we got together the smoke of the 
burning town was seen. They burned twenty-nine houses. 

'' The next day we moved to the south side, to a Mr. Hauser's. 
We commenced to fell timber round a place selected by Brown as pos 
sessing natural advantages for defence. We felled the tree-tops out, 
and trimmed them with sharp points. Most of the men became sick 
with the ague, and work was suspended. Soon after this, I too was 
taken with fever, and Brown hauled me to Lawrence. I was very 
sick. Brown asked me if he should take me to the hospital. I told 
him that I would rather go to Mrs. Killum's (a boarding-house 
where I had previously lodged), if she would take care of me. He 
went and found her, and returned saying, ' Mrs. Killnrn says, 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 287 

11 Bring him here : I would do as much for Luke Parsons as for my 
own son." 7 Under her care I recovered so that I was again under 
Brown's command. I shouldered my gun and marched out to meet 
the twenty-eight hundred men who came up from Missouri in 
September. If I remember aright, in about a year after this I went 
with John E. Cook to Tabor, Iowa, where I next saw Brown, and 
from Tabor went on to Springdale. 

u I also take pride in saying that I was under arms in Topeka, on 
July 4, 1856, when Colonel Stunner dispersed the Legislature. I 
was with Captain Walker in the capture of Colonel Titus, near 
Lecompton. I claim to be the man who shot Colonel Titus. 

" I was near our Captain Shombre when he was struck by the 
fatal ball. I received a very sore but slight wound there. It was on 
my shin, made by a very small ball or a buck-shot. 

'' Kansas was admitted into the Union in 1861, with every inch free 
soil, and still the object for which Brown fought was not entirely 
accomplished. I enlisted in the Union army, and fought for nearly 
four years, until that object ivas fully attained, and there was 
nowhere to be found a ' slave to clank his chains by the graves of 
Monticello or the shades of Mt. Vernon.' " 

The name of this soldier of Brown's company appears in 
the "Articles of Enlistment and By-Laws of the Kansas 
Regulars, made and established by the commander, A. D. 
1856, in whose handwriting it is," as Brown described the 
book to me when he gave me a copy in April, 1857. Here 
are its contents, given, as to spelling and punctuation, in 
exact accordance with the original : 

KANSAS TERRITORY, A. D. 1856. 
1. The Covenant. 

We whose names are found on these and the next following pages 
do hereby enlist ourselves to serve in the Free-State cause under 
John Brown as Commander : during the full period of time affixed 
to our names respectively and we severally pledge our word and our 
sacred honor to said Commander ; and to each other, that during the 
time for which we have enlisted we will faithfully and punctually 
perform our duty (in such capacity or place as may be assigned to us 
by a majority of all the votes of those associated with us : or of 
the companies to which we may belong as the case may be) as a 
regular volunteer force for the rnaintamance of the rights & liberties 
of the Free- State Citizens of Kansas : and we further agree ; that as 



288 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

individuals we will conform to the l)y Laics of this Organization & 
that we will insist on their regular & punctual enforcement as a first 
& last duty: & in short that we will observe & maintain a strict & 
thorough Military discipline at all times untill our term of service 
expires. 

Names, date of enlistment, and term of service on next Pages. 
Term of service omitted for want of room (principally for the 
War}. 

2. Names and date of enlistment. 

Aug. 22. * Wm. Patridge (imprisoned), John Salathiel, S. Z. 
Brown, John Goodell, L. F. Parsons, N. B. Phelps, Wm. B. 
Harris. 

Aug. 23. Jason Brown (son of commander ; imprisoned). 

Aug. 24. J. Benjamin (imprisoned). 

Aug. 25. Cyrus Taton, R. Reynolds (imprisoned), Noah Frazee 
(1st Lieut,), Wm. Miller, John P. Glenn, Wm. Quick, M. D. Lane, 
Amos Alderman, August Bonclie, Charles Kaiser (murdered Aug. 
30), Freeman Austin (aged 57 years), Samuel Hereson, John W. 
Troy, Jas. H. Holmes (Capt.). 

Aug. 26. Geo. Patridge (killed Aug. 30), Wm. A. Sears. 

Aug. 27. S. H. Wright, 

Aug. 29. B. Darrach (Surgeon), Saml. Farrar. 

Sept. 8. Timothy Kelly, Jas. Andrews. 

Sept, 9. W. H. Leman, Charles Oliver, D. H. Hurd. 

Sept. 15. Wm. F. Haniel. 

Sept. 16. Saml. Geer (Commissary). 

3. Bylaws of the Free- State regular Volunteers of Kansas enlisted 
under John Brown. 

Art. I. Those who agree to be governed by the following articles 
& whose names are appended will be known as the Kansas 
Regulars. 

Art,. II. Every officer connected with organization (except the 
Commander already named) shall be elected by a majority of the 
members if above a Captain ; & if a Captain ; or under a Captain, 
by a majority of the company to which they belong. 

Art. IE!. All vacancies shall be filled by vote of the majority of 
members or companies as the case may be, & all members shall be 
alike eligible to the highest office. 

Art. IV. All trials for misconduct of Officers ; or privates ; shall 
be by a jury of Twelve; chosen by a majority of Company, or 

1 1856. 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 289 

companies as the case may be. Each Company shall try its own 
members. 

Art. V. All valuable property taken by honorable warfare from 
the enemy, shall be held as the property of the whole company, or 
companies, as the case may be : equally, without distinction ; to be 
used for the common benefit or be placed in the hands of responsible 
agents for sale : the proceeds to be divided as nearly equally amongst 
the company : or companies capturing it as may be : except that no 
person shall be entitled to any dividend from property taken before 
he entered the service j and any person guilty of desertion, or 
convicted of gross violation of his obligations to those with whom 
he should act, whether officer or private: shall forfeit his interest in 
all dividends made after such misconduct has occurred. 

Art. VI. All property captured shall be delivered to the receiver 
of the force, or company as the case may be ; whose duty it shall be 
to make a full inventory of the same (assisted by such person, or 
persons as may be chosen for that purpose), a coppy of which shall 
be made into the Books of this organization ; & held subject to 
examination by any member, on all suitable occasions. 

Art. VII. The receiver shall give his receipts in a Book for that 
purpose for all moneys & other property of the regulars placed in his 
hands ; keep an inventory of the same & make copy as provided in 
Article VI. 

Art. VIII. Captured articles when used for the benefit of the 
members : shall be receipted for by the Commissary, the same as 
moneyes placed in his hands. The receiver to hold said receipts. 

Art. IX. A disorderly retreat shall not be suffered at any time & 
every Officer & private is by this article fully empowered to prevent 
the same by force if need be, & any attempt at leaving the ground 
during a fight is hereby declared disorderly unless the consent or di 
rection of the officer then in command have authorized the same. 

Art. X. A disorderly attack or charge ; shall not be suffered at 
any time. 

Art. XI. When in camp a thorough watch both regular and 
Piquet shall be maintained both by day, & by Night : and visitors 
shall not be suffered to pass or repass without leave from the 
Captain of the guard and under common or ordinary circumstances it 
is expected that the Officers will cheerfully share this service with 
the privates for examples sake. 

Art. XII. Keeping up Fires or lights after dark ; or firing of Guns, 
Pistols or Caps shall not be allowed, except Fires and lights when 
unavoidable. 

Art. XIII. When in Camp neither Officers shall be allowed to 
leave without consent of the Officer then in command. 

19 



290 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

Art. XIV. All uncivil ungentlemanly profane, vulgar talk or 
conversation shall be discountenanced. 

Art. XV. All acts of petty theft needless waste of the property of 
the members or of Citizens is hereby declared disorderly : together 
with all uncivil, or unkind treatment of Citizens or of prisoners. 

Art. XVI. In all cases of capturing property, a sufficient number 
of men shall be detailed to take charge of the same j all others shall 
keep in their position. 

Art. XVII. It shall at all times be the duty of the quarter 
Master to select ground for encampment subject however to the 
approbation of the commanding officer. 

Art. XVIII. The Commissary shall give his receipts in a Book for 
that purpose for all moneys provisions, and stores put into his hands. 

Art. XIX. The Officers of companies shall see that the arms of 
the same are in constant good order and a neglect of this duty shall 
be deemed disorderly. 

Art. XX. No person after having first surrendered himself a 
prisoner shall be put to death : or subjected to corporeal punishment, 
without first having had the benefit of an impartial trial. 

Art. XXI. A Waggon Master and an Assistant shall be chosen 
for each company whose duty it shall be to take a general care and 
oversight of the teams, waggons, harness and all other articles or 
property pertaining thereto : and who shall both be exempt from 
serving on guard. 

Art. XXII. The ordinary use or introduction into the camp of 
any intoxicating liquor, as a beverage : is hereby declared disorderly. 

Art. XXIII. A Majority of Two Thirds of all the Members may 
at any time alter or amend the foregoing articles. 

4. List of Volunteers either engaged or guarding Horses during the 
fight of Black Jack or Palmyra, June 2, 1856. 

1. Saml. T. Shore (Captain). 2. Silas More. 3. David Hen- 
dricks (Horse Guard). 4. Hiram McAllister. 5. Mr. Parmely 
(wounded). 6. Silvester Harris. 7. 0. A. Carpenter (wounded). 
8. Augustus Shore. 9. Mr. Townsley (of Pottawatotnie). 10. 
Wrn. B. Hayden. 11. John Mewhinney. 12. Montgomery Shore. 
13. Elkana Timmons. 14. T. Weiner. 15. August Bondy. 16. 
Hugh Mewhinney. 17. Charles Kaiser. 18. Elizur Hill. 19. 
William David. 20. B. L. Cochran. 21. Henry Thompson 
(wounded). 22. Elias Basinger. 23. 0\ven Brown. 24. Fredk. 
Brown (horse guard; murdered Aug. 30). 25. Salmon Brown. 
26. Oliver Brown. 27. This blank may be filled' by Capt. Shore 
as he may have the name. JOHN BROWN. 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 291 

5. List of names of the wounded in the Battle of Black Jack (or 
Palmyra) and also of the Eight who held out to receive the 
surrender of Capt. Pate and Twenty -Two men on that occasion. 
June 2, 1856. 

1. Mr. Parmely wounded in Nose, & Arm obliged to leave. 2. 
Henry Thompson dangerously wounded but fought for nearly one 
Hour afterward. 3. 0. A. Carpenter Badly wounded and obliged to 
leave. 4. Charles Kaiser, murdered Aug. 30. 5. Elizur Hill. 

6. Win. David. 7. Hugh Mewhinney (17 yrs. old). 8. B. L. 
Cochran. 9. Owen Brown, 10. Salmon Brown. Seriously 
wounded (soon after by accident). 11. Oliver Brown 17 years 
old. 

In the battle of Osawatomie Capt. (or Dr.) Updegraph ; and 
Two others whose names I have lost were severely (one of them 
shockingly) wounded before the fight began Aug. 30, 1856. 

JOHN BROWN. 

In these lists appear a few of the men who afterward 
fought under Captain Brown at Harper's Ferry ; but only a 
few, for most of them seem to have been settlers in Kansas 
who would fight to protect themselves, but not to attack 
slavery at a distance. The dates given in the list, when 
this man or that was " murdered,''" denote the day on which 
Brown's most famous engagement that of Osawatomie, 
Aug. 30, 1856 was fought. The fight at Black Jack, or 
Palmyra, on the 2d of June, 1856, was more remarkable, 
though the whole force engaged on both sides was less than 
eighty. I have quoted Brown's report of it, but will here 
describe it more fully. 

Brown had taken to the prairie for guerilla warfare 
against the Missourians and other Southern invaders of 
Kansas, after the Pottawatomie executions. Among their 
leaders was Captain Pate, a Virginian. Brown, hearing of 
the capture of his sons, pursued Pate, and came up with 
him on Monday, the 2d of June, at his camp on the Black 
Jack Creek (so called from the black oak growing on its 
banks), within the present limits of Palmyra. 

In the interval between the Pottawatomie executions and 
the fight at Black Jack, during which the sons of John 
Brown were captured as has been related, many important 
events occurred ; but I will confine my narrative chiefly to 



292 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [185G. 

those in which the Brown family were directly concerned. 
Several witnesses are still alive who took part in them ; but 
my chief reliance will be (besides the letters of John Brown) 
the detailed statements made by Owen Brown and by 
August Bondi (the German citizen of Kansas already men 
tioned), both of whom were in camp, or rather in hiding, 
with John Brown while the Border Ruffians and the United 
States dragoons were scouring the country between Law 
rence and Osawatomie to find the perpetrators of the bloody 
deed of May 24. Bondi has published a minute report, in 
which he says that he rode, with nine others, on the morn 
ing of May 26, to the claim of John Brown, Jr., on " Vine 
Branch, a mile and a half from Middle Creek Bottom," 
where they halted, and were joined in the afternoon by 
0. A. Carpenter, a Free-State man then living on Ottawa 
Creek, not far from Prairie City, who came to request John 
Brown in the name of the settlers there that he would come 
and protect them against the Missourians. This little vil 
lage of Prairie City (described by Redpath as " a munici 
pality consisting of two log-cabins and a well ") is a part 
of the township of Palmyra, and now figures as a railroad 
station on the route from Lawrence to the Indian Territory 
and Texas. It has been eclipsed by Baldwin City in the 
same township, which is the nearest station (on the South 
ern Kansas Railway) to the field of Black Jack. Baldwin 
City had three hundred and twenty-five inhabitants in 1880 ; 
while Prairie City has disappeared from separate enumera 
tion, and contributes its few citizens to the aggregate popu 
lation of Palmyra township, about twenty -five hundred. 
These places are in the southeastern corner of Douglas 
County, of which Lawrence is the chief town, and so near 
the Shawnee Mission and the Missouri border that they 
were peculiarly exposed to raids by the Ruffians. Moreover 
they lay near the road from Lawrence to Osawatomie (some 
forty miles apart), and the protection of the Free-State men 
there was important in keeping up communications between 
central and southern Kansas, as those terms were then used. 
South of Palmyra, in Miami County, was the armed colony 
of Buford's men, and eastward were the Missouri counties 
of Cass and Jackson. Carpenter's mission was, then, to 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 293 

secure Brown's small band as a protection for the southern 
part of Douglas County, checking the thieving raids which 
were then so frequent, and, if necessary, making reprisals. 
Brown accepted the duty, and at dusk on the 26th of May, 
with his force now increased to nine men besides himself, set 
out under Carpenter's guidance towards Prairie City, twenty 
miles northeastward. Bondi says : 

u There were ten of us, Captain Brown, Owen, Frederick, Sal 
mon, and Oliver Brown; Henry Thompson, Theodore Wiener, James 
Townsley, Carpenter, and myself. Our armament was this : Captain 
Brown carried a sabre and a heavy seven- shooting revolver ; all his 
sons and his son-in-law were armed with revolvers, long knives, and 
the common ' squirrel rifle; ' Townsley with an old musket, Wiener 
with a double-barrelled gun, I with an old-fashioned flint-lock mus 
ket, and Carpenter with a revolver. The three youngest men 
Salmon Brown, Oliver, and I rode without saddles. By order of 
Captain Brown, Fred Brown rode first, Owen and Carpenter next ; 
ten paces behind them, old Brown : and the rest of us behind him, 
two and two. Our way from Middle Creek to Ottawa Creek was 
along the old military road between Fort Scott and Fort Leav- 
enworth. When we had nearly reached the crossing of the old 
California road at the ford of the Marais des Cygnes, we saw by the 
fading watch-fires of a camp, hardly a hundred and fifty steps before 
us, an armed sentinel pacing. While Fred Brown rode slowly for 
ward, Carpenter turned back and told Captain Brown that here was 
probably a division of United States dragoons who were acting as 
posse for the marshal. Brown thereupon gave Carpenter his in 
structions in a few words. We were to ride forward slowly with no 
indication of the least anxiety, and otherwise to imitate his example. 
The sentry let Fred Brown and Carpenter approach within twenty- 
five paces, and then cried, i Who goes there ? ' Fred answered just as 
loud, l Free-State.' The sentry called the officer of the guard, and 
while he was coming the rest of us rode, by Brown's order, within five 
paces of where Fred and Carpenter were halted, forming ourselves 
in an irregular group. When the officer appeared, Carpenter spoke 
up and said we were farmers, living not far from Prairie City, who 
had gone to Osawatomie upon invitation of the settlers to protect 
them against an expected invasion from Missouri ; had been there 
two days, seen and heard nothing of the Missourians, and so had 
resolved to return home. Upon this Lieutenant Mclutosh, the com 
manding officer, appeared, and Carpenter repeated what he had said. 
None of the rest of us said a word ; but the deputy marshal came 



294 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN [185G. 

forward and requested the lieutenant to detain us till daylight, so that 
he might make further inquiries. Melntosh replied sternly : 1 1 have 
no orders to stop peaceable travellers, such as these people are ; they 
are going home to their farms;' adding to Carpenter and the rest of 
us : ' Pass on ! pass on ! ; We defiled slowly through the camp, 
forded the stream, and when the soldiers were a mile behind us pushed 
on rapidly. About four o'clock in the morning of May 27 we reached 
the secluded spot on Ottawa Creek which Carpenter had indicated to 
us as a safe place for camping. In the midst of a primeval wood, 
perhaps half a mile deep before you come to the creek, we pitched 
our camp beside a huge fallen oak, and tethered our horses in the un 
derwood. Old Brown inspected the region, and set guards ; Carpenter 
brought corn for the horses and coarse flour for ourselves, and then 
Brown began to get breakfast." 

In this secure retreat they remained until June 1, when 
they set forth to find the enemy, whom they defeated at 
Black Jack ; and it was here that James Redpath on May 
30, and Colonel Sumner on June 5, visited Brown. Red- 
path was at that time a Kansas correspondent of the 
" New York Tribune " and other Eastern newspapers, and 
was spending a few days near Prairie City to watch the 
movements of the Missouriaiis and the dragoons, and, if 
possible, to give some aid to the Free-State men. His 
horse had been stolen in Palmyra by one of the Border 
Ruffians, and he was arrested himself the next day on 
suspicion of stealing dragoon horses, but soon discharged. 
While looking about on Friday for an old preacher who 
lived near Ottawa Creek, and who was to carry his New 
York letter for mailing to Kansas City, some twenty miles 
off, the lively newspaper correspondent stumbled upon the 
hiding-place of John Brown, whom he then saw for the first 
time. Redpath's description of the adventure, somewhat 
abridged, is this : 

" The creeks of Kansas are all fringed with wood. I lost my way, 
or got off the path that crosses Ottawa Creek, when suddenly, thirty 
paces before me, I saw a wild-looking man, of fine proportions, with 
pistols of various sizes stuck in his belt, and a large Arkansas bowie- 
knife prominent among them. His head was uncovered ; his hair 
was uncombed ; his face had not been shaven for many months. We 
were similarly dressed, with red-topped boots worn over the pan- 



1856.1 THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 295 

taloons, a coarse blue shirt, and a pistol-belt. This was the usual 
fashion of the times. 

<; ' Hello ! ' he cried, ' you 7 re in our camp ! ' 

" He had nothing in his right hand, he carried a water-pail in his 
left ; but before he could speak again I had drawn and cocked my 
eight-inch Colt. I only answered in emphatic tones : ' Halt ! or I '11 
fire ! ' He stopped, and said that he knew me ; that he had seen me 
in Lawrence, and that I was true ; that he was Frederick Brown, 
the son of old John Brown ; and that I was now within the limits of 
their camp. After a parley of a few minutes I was satisfied that I 
was among my friends, shook hands with Frederick, and put up my 
pistol. He talked wildly as he walked before me, turning round 
every minute as he spoke of the then recent affair of Pottawatomic. 
His family, he said, had been accused of it ; he denied it indignantly, 
with the wild air of a maniac. His excitement was so great that he 
repeatedly recrossed the creek, until, getting anxious to reach the 
camp, I refused to listen to him until he took me to his father. He 
then quietly filled his pail with water, and after many strange turnings 
led me into camp. As we approached it we were twice challenged 
by sentries, who suddenly appeared before trees, and as suddenly 
disappeared behind them. 

"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 against the trees. In an open space, 
amid the shady and lofty woods, there was a great blazing fire with 
a pot on it ; 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, near by. One of them was the youngest son 
of old Brown, and the other was l Charley,' the brave Hungarian, 
who was subsequently murdered at Osawatomie. Old Brown himself 
stood near the fire, with his shirt-sleeves rolled up, and a large fork 
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 only 
for a moment, for the Captain ordered them to renew their work. 
He respectfully but firmly forbade conversation on the Pottawatomie 
affair; and said that if I desired any information from the company 
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 j no man of im 
moral character was allowed to stay, except as a prisoner of war. 

" . . . 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 



296 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

my camp, than a man without principles. It's a mistake, sir/ he 
continued, ' that our people make, when they think that bullies are 
the best fighters, or that they are the men fit to oppose these South 
erners. Give me men of good principles ; God-fearing men ; men 
who respect themselves, and with a dozen of them, I will op 
pose any hundred such men as these Buford ruffians.' I remained 
in the camp about an hour. Never before had I met sucli a band 
of men. They were not earnest, but earnestness incarnate. Six of 
them were John Brown's sons." l 

Bondi remembers this adventure of Kedpath, and relates 
some other conversation that then took place. Their chance 
visitor told them it looked well for their neighbors that in 
spite of the great rewards already offered for their arrest, 
no traitor had been found to pilot the enemy to that camp, 
although many in the neighborhood had by that time come 
to know where it was. He told them further that on their 
perseverance might depend the success of the good cause 
in Kansas ; that when he should go back to Lawrence he 
would try to have the Lawrence " Stubs," a small military 
company, join them ; and meantime hoped they would not 
forsake Douglas County, as Brown had threatened to do, 
unless the settlers took up arms to aid him in his warfare. 
The cheerful counsel of the young correspondent encouraged 
them, and, as Bondi says, " they felt as if they were the ex 
treme outpost of the free North in Kansas." Doubtless 
they were ; and with prophetic insight Brown said that day, 
" We shall stay here, young man ; we will not disappoint 
the hopes of our friends." 2 

" Charley, the brave Hungarian," of whom Eedpath 
speaks, was Charles Kaiser, a Bavarian, who had settled 

1 In fact, there were but four of Brown's sons here, and his son-in-law 
Thompson. In some other points the account is exaggerated ; but in the 
main it gives a true picture of the scene, as remembered by Bondi, Owen 
Brown, and others. At this time John and Jason Brown were prisoners, 
on their way to Lecompton. Jason was soon discharged ; but John Brown, 
Jr., remained at Lecompton until September 10, when he was released on 
bail and went to Lawrence. 

2 According to Bondi, Brown had suggested, a day or two before, that 
if they had to leave Kansas on account of the cowardice or indifference of 
their friends, they might go to Louisiana and head an uprising of the slaves 
there, to make a diversion in favor of Kansas. 



1856-1 THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 297 

in Hungary when young, and in 1849 had served in the 
Hungarian revolutionary army as a hussar. His face, says 
Bondi, was marked with lance and sabre-cuts ; and he had 
a taste for war. He was living on a claim three or four 
miles from this camp, and had made the acquaintance of 
Brown in the " Wakarusa war " the winter before. Kecog- 
nizing in Bondi and Wiener fellow-countrymen of the 
same political opinions, he became intimate with them as 
soon as he joined Brown's company on the 28th of May. 
The same day they had been joined by Ben Cochrane, a 
member of the Pottawatomie Rifles, and a neighbor of 
Bondi and Wiener, who told them how their houses had 
been burned, their cattle driven off, and their goods plun 
dered a day or two before ; while the United States dra 
goon officer refused to interfere on behalf of the settlers 
on the Pottawatomie, saying, " I have no orders." Bondi 
goes on to say : 

" The next day (May 29), Captain Shore, of the Prairie City Kifles, 
and Dr. Westfall, a neighbor of Carpenter, came to our camp and 
told us that many horses and other property had been stolen near Wil 
low Springs, ten or fifteen miles distant. They asked Brown ' what 
he calculated to do ? ' Brown replied, ' Captain Shore, how many 
men can you furnish me f ' Shore answered that his men were just 
now very unwilling to leave home ; to which Brown said, * Why did 
you send Carpenter after us ? I am not willing to sacrifice my 
men, without having some hope of accomplishing something.' That 
evening (May 29) Shore visited us again, and brought some flour, 
of which we had great need, as a present. Brown then said to him 
that if his neighbors did not soon take the offensive, he should cer 
tainly be compelled to leave that region, for the Missourians would 
sooner or later find out our hiding-place. Captain Shore asked him 
To delay his departure a few days, saying that he knew the Missou 
rians suspected we were in ambush somewhere near Prairie City, and 
that nothing save the foar of us had protected this neighborhood so 
long against attack and pillage ; but should Shannon's militia find 
out that we were away, it would be all over with the Free-State 
men. Brown gave him till next Sunday to gather the settlers, so that 
with combined forces we might hunt for the militia and offer them 
battle wherever we might find them; Shore promised to do his best, 
and so the matter stood when Redpath visited us. The day after his 
visit (May 31) Shore came to tell us that a large band of Shannon's 



298 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856, 

militia were encamped on the Santa Fe road, by Black Jack Spring, 
and at ten o'clock p. M. returned with Carpenter and Mewhinney 
bringing serious news. They said that three men from the Black 
Jack camp had attacked a block house in Palmyra, three miles from 
Prairie City, where several neighbors' families were visiting; that the 
seven Free-State men there, though well armed, had, upon a simple 
demand, given up to the three Missourians three rifles, three revolv 
ers, and five double-barrelled guns. Such a disgrace, our visitors 
thought, could not be endured patiently ; and Shore said he had 
sent word to all the settlers to muster at Prairie City by ten the next 
morning (Sunday), where he would expect us with our arms and 
horses. Captain Brown grasped his hand and said, ' We will be 
with you ! ' and our friends departed about midnight. The next morn 
ing Brown had breakfast earlier than common, and when Carpenter 
came back about nine o'clock, to escort us to Prairie City, we were 
ready to start. Carpenter, Kaiser, and Townsley assisted Wiener 
to empty his bottle. Captain Brown called out, ' Ready, Forward, 
March ! ' arid we were on the road towards the enemy. Our appear 
ance was indescribable. Except Kaiser, none of us had proper 
attire ; for our clothes readily showed the effects of bush-whacking, 
continued for the last eight days; we had come down to wearing 
ideas, suspicions, and memories of what had once been boots and 
hats. Still in the best of spirits, and with our appetite still better, 
just whetted by our scant breakfast, we followed Captain Brown, 
he alone remaining serious, and riding silent at our front." 1 

Prairie City is half -way between Lawrence and Osa- 
watomie, and near by is Hickory Point, where Dow was. 
murdered by Coleman. Pate had been encamped a day or 
two among the " black-jack oaks," which gave an uncouth 
name to the stream, and though Brown's force was much 
the smaller, only twenty-eight men including Brown him 
self, he did not hesitate to attack at once. The day was 
Sunday, and Brown had attended a prayer-meeting at Prairie 
City ; while there, three men who had been at the sack of 
Lawrence came up and brought exact word of Pate's where 
abouts. Brown set out that night, and at four o'clock the 
next morning reached a patch of black oaks on a slope to- 

1 I have abridged this account from the letters of Bondi, printed both 
in German and English in the Kansas newspapers of 1883-84. Occasion 
ally the English version varies from the German, and 1 follow the latter in 
preference. Prairie City is about five miles southwest of Black Jack. 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 299 

wards the north near Pate's camp, but away from the water. 
Leaving the horses there in the charge of his son Fred, he 
marched his other twenty-six men in double file until he 
came within reach of the enemy's fire, and still pushed for 
ward under fire until he gained a place of shelter in sight 
of Pate's tents, but screened by the slope of land, where he 
took position in a ravine ten feet deep. The firing began a 
little after six A. M., and lasted until one or two o'clock in 
the afternoon. During this time many of the men on both 
sides deserted ; but Captain Brown crept round on his hands 
and knees behind the ridge, and persuaded some of the de 
serters to fire on the horses of the enemy. At this point 
Fred Brown (who " was a little flighty," as his brother 
Owen says) came riding up on Ned Scarlet, Owen's colt, 
waving his sword, and shouting, " Hurrah ! come on, boys ! 
we 've got 'em surrounded ; we 've cut off all communica 
tion." He could be heard a long way off; and his great size 
and odd gestures alarmed the enemy. He was shot at, but 
not hit, and the firing upon Pate's horses was kept up by the 
stragglers. Alarmed at all this, Captain Pate tied a white 
handkerchief on a ramrod as a flag of truce, and sent a lieu 
tenant forward to meet Captain Brown, who was returning 
from his successful ruse. 1 Brown said to the lieutenant, 
" Are you the captain of that company ? " " No." " Then 
stay with me and send your companion back to call the cap 
tain out ; I will talk with him, and not with you." Thus 
summoned, Captain Pate himself appeared, saying that he 
was an officer acting under orders of the United States Mar 
shal of Kansas, and that he supposed they did not intend to 
fight against the United States. He was going on in this 

1 Owen Brown adds (April, 1885) : "When my brother Frederick rode 
' Ned Scarlet ' entirely around where the fight was going on, he was not so 
flighty but he knew well what he was doing ; he made a dashing appear 
ance, brandished his sword, and shouted so loud that all could distinctly 
hear, ' Come on, boys, we 've got them surrounded, and have cut off their 
communications.' At this very time Pate's horses and mules were tum 
bling down pretty lively, and within five or eight minutes Pate came out 
with his white handkerchief tied to a ramrod, and with him a Free-State 
prisoner. I think Fred's riding around there as he did, happened just at 
the right time, and had a most excellent effect." Like all the witnesses, 
Owen praises the courage of Captain Shore. 



300 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856 

way when Brown stopped him by saying, " I understand 
exactly what you are, and do not wish to hear any more 
about it. Have you any proposition to make me ? " There 
being no definite answer to this query, Brown continued, 
" Very well ; I have one to make to you : you must sur 
render unconditionally." Then, taking his pistol in hand, 
Brown returned with Captain Pate to the enemy's line, 
leading with him eight of his own men, and among them 
Owen Brown, to receive the surrender of the one-and-twenty 
men who were left under Pate's orders. As they drew near 
the line, where Pate's lieutenant Brockett was in command, 
Brown called upon him also to surrender. He hesitated ; and 
Captain Pate, to whom Brown turned requesting that he 
should order his lieutenant to yield, also hesitated, seeing 
the great apparent superiority of his force over Brown's. 
Quick as thought, Brown placed his pistol at Pate's head, 
and cried in a terrible voice, " Give the order ! " The Vir 
ginian yielded, and bade his men lay down their arms, which 
they sullenly did. Brown's force of eight unwounded men 
then took the guns and other arms of the discomfited party, 
threw them into wagons, and marched off the twenty odd 
prisoners to their own position. Here a treaty or agree 
ment was drawn up and signed by John Brown and Captain 
Shore on one side, and Captain Pate and Lieutenant Brockett 
on the other. 

This agreement (or rather Pate's copy of it) seems to have 
been folded as a letter, and indorsed or addressed on the back 
as follows : " United States Marshal Hays, Colonel Coffey, 
General Heiskell, or Judge Cato, or friends at Baptiste Pa- 
ola, K. T." These were the persons into whose hands Pate 
and Brockett hoped the paper would fall ; and it did appar 
ently reach William A. Heiskell, of Paola, one of the persons 
named, whose widow a few years since sent it to the Kansas 
Historical Society. 1 The agreement was not carried out, for 

1 Two copies of this agreement were made, one of which Brown kept, 
and it was sent by his widow, long after his death, to the Kansas Historical 
Society at Topeka, where it has been for six or eight years. Sometime 
after this, the duplicate, which had been retained by Pate, was also sent 
to the. librarian of the Historical Society, Mr. F. G. Adams ; and now 
the two papers, torn and faded, but still legible, are exhibited side by 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 301 

a knowledge of the capture of Pate (communicated to his 
friends perhaps by this very paper, sent to Paola) brought 
from Missouri a large force under General Whittield to res 
cue him. Brown also was presently largely reinforced ; and 
a sanguinary battle seemed imminent. But on the 5th of 
June Colonel Sumner appeared with a force of United 
States troops and summoned Captain Brown to an inter 
view, which resulted in his prisoners being set at liberty. 
It is said that Pate was at the sacking of Osawatomie two 
days afterward, while John Brown, Jr., was not liberated 
till the 10th of September following. 

Brown's report of his men after the fight, made to a com 
mittee at Lawrence, was much the same as the list already 
given : 

(On the face of the sheet.) 

List of names of men wounded in the battle of Palmyra or Black 
Jack ; also of eight volunteers who maintained their position during 
that fight, and to whom the surrender was made June 2d, 1856. 

Herty Thompson, } Bunded badly, Thompson dangerously. 

Mr. Parmely, wounded slightly in nose, also in arm so that he had 

to leave the ground. 
Charles Keiser. 
Elizur Hill. 
Wm. David. 
Hugh Mewhinney. 

Mr. Coohran, of Pottawatomie (B. L.). 
Owen Brown. 
Salmon Brown, accidentally wounded after the fight, and liable to 

remain a cripple. 
Oliver Brown. 

(Names of all who either fought or guarded the horses during the 
fight at Palmyra, June 2d, 1856, will be found on other side.) 

Respectfully submitted by JOHN BROWN. 

Messrs. WHITMAN, ELDRIGE, and others. 

side in Mr. Adams's invaluable collection. The copy printed on page 
240 was obtained by Mr. Bobinson, of Paola, from Mrs. Heiskell of the 
same town, which in the address is termed " Baptiste Paola." The form 
of the agreement and the order of signatures proves that Captain Brown 
and not Captain Shore was the real leader at Black Jack, a fact which 
some have questioned. 



302 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

(On the back of the sheet.) 

List of volunteers, either engaged or guarding horses during the fight 
at Palmyra or Black Jack, June 2d, 1856. 

Saml. T. Shore, Captain. 0. A. Carpenter, badly wounded. 

Silas More. Augustus Shore. 

David Hendricks, Horse Guard. Mr. Townsley, of Pottawatomie. 

Hiram McAllister. Win. B. Hay den. 

Mr. Pannely, wounded. John Mewhinney. 

Silvester Harris. Montgomery Shore. 

Elkanah Timmons. Henry Thompson, dangerously 

T. Werner. wounded. 

A. Bondy. Elias Basinger. 

Hugh Mewhinney. Owen Brown. 

Charles Reiser. Fred'k Brown, Horse Guard. 

Elizur Hill. Salmon Brown, wounded & 

Win. David. crippled. 

Mr. Cochran, of Pottawatomie. Oliver Brown. 

- (this blank to be filled). 

(Signed) JOHN BROWN. 

(Indorsed in Brown's handwriting, " List of Volunteers, etc., at 
Black Jack.") 

It will be noticed that Brown omits his own name in 
these lists, except as signed to the report ; and also that he 
puts Captain Shore first, as being next himself in rank. 
Apparently the fight would not have ended with the capture 
of Pate and his men had it not been for the daring of Brown 
and his sons, who were the true heroes of the day ; al though 
others did well. These sons were all worthy of their father ; 
they knew as little how to give way or to fear odds as he 
did. Owen Brown once said to me of his brothers, " I never 
could discover the least sign of cowardice about those boys ; " 
and to another person he said, "None of us ever made much 
pretension to being scared.'"' 

Mrs. Robinson, wife of the nominal Free-State governor 
of Kansas, whose husband had been under arrest for some 
weeks when the fight at Black Jack occurred, returned to 
Kansas from Massachusetts two days after this fight, and 
about ten days after the Pottawatomie executions. She 
came up the Missouri River from St. Louis by steamboat, '' 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 803 

and reached Kansas City, on the Missouri side of the 
Kansas border, at midnight of June 3, 1856. She says 
in her book : 

11 The last day or two of the trip on the Missouri River rumors of 
war hecame more frequent. Inflammatory extras were thrown upon 
the boats at different landings. People at Lexington and other 
points along the river were much excited and preparing for a new 
invasion. The extras stated the murder of eight proslavery men by 
the Abolitionists and the cruel mutilation of their bodies, the death 
of the United States Marshal, of H. C. Pate, and J. McGee. Deeds 
of blood and violence, of which they were hourly guilty, were charged 
upon the Free-State men. The following is a sample of the incen 
diary extras which flew through the border counties : ' Murder is 
the watchword and midnight deed of a scattered and scouting band of 
Abolitionists, who had courage only to fly from the face of a wronged 
and insulted people when met at their own solicitation. Men, peace 
able and quiet, cannot travel on the public roads of Kansas without 
being caught, searched, imprisoned, and their lives perhaps taken. 
No Southerner dare venture alone and unarmed on her roads ! ' ' 

Concerning the fight at Black Jack, Mrs. Eobinson says : 

" After a two hours' fire Pate sent forward one of his men with a 
prisoner and a white flag, and surrendered unconditionally. A few of 
his company fled into Missouri j among them was Coleman the mur 
derer. Twenty-six men were taken prisoners by Captain Brown, and 
a quantity of goods stolen from Lawrence was found in their wagons. 
The delegate to Congress, Whitfield (a proslavery man), left his seat 
before the Congressional Investigating Committee, June 2, at the 
head of a large body of armed men, his stated object being to relieve 
Pate. While Governor Shannon in every instance has stationed 
troops in a town after it has been sacked, he now saw the Free- State 
men rallying to protect themselves, and feared the slave-power would 
lose the ground gained through his servility. He heard, too, of aid 
coming from out of Kansas, and issued a proclamation on the 4th, 
1 commanding all persons belonging to military companies unau 
thorized by law, to disperse, otherwise they would be dispersed by 
the United States troops.' The President's proclamation of Febru 
ary 11 was appended, and Governor Shannon stated that it would 
be strictly enforced. A requisition was also made upon Colonel 
Sumner for a force sufficient to compel obedience to the proclama 
tion. On the 5th of June Colonel Sumner broke in upon the Free- 
State camp and released Captain Pate and his fellow-prisoners. 



304 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

Colonel Surrmer ordered the Free-State men to return quietly to 
their homes; and then, turning to Pate, said : i What business have 
you here ? ' 

u i I am here by orders of Governor Shannon.' 

"'I saw Governor Shannon yesterday, and your case was specially 
considered ; and he asserted you were not here by his orders.' He 
then added : l You are Missourians, all of you, and when you crossed 
your State line you trampled on State sovereignty. Now, go, sir, 
in the direction whence you came ; ' and as he closed his remarks 
Colonel Sumner waved his hand for Pate and his party to leave. So 
the brave Pate returned to Westport 1 and Kansas City. He ac 
knowledged the bravery of Brown, for he said Captain Brown rode 
about them sword in hand and commanded a surrender, and they 
were obliged to make it. He spoke well of them in their treatment 
of him while a prisoner." 

The victory of Brown at Black Jack roused the proslavery 
men in Missouri and in Kansas to new fury, while it stimu 
lated the freemen of Kansas to new efforts. Both parties 
mustered in large force near Palmyra ; and on the 5th of 
June a battle seemed unavoidable, until Colonel Sumner, as 
Mrs. Robinson mentions, came down with a force of United 
States cavalry and put a stop to hostilities. He also sent 
for Captain Brown, as soon as he heard where he was, desir- 

1 The title of this unfortunate Captain Pate, who was an editor in 
Westport, was derived from his commanding the Westport Sharpshoot 
ers, a Border Ruffian company, which seems to have emulated the repu 
tation of the Kickapoo Rangers. With his command he had obeyed the 
war proclamation of Governor Shannon, been mustered in as a part of 
the Kansas militia, though living in Missouri, and in that capacity had 
escorted Gaius Jenkins and George W. Brown, two of the Lawrence men 
arrested for treason, from Westport to a point near Lecompton, where they 
arrived on the evening of the 19th of May. He was present, taking part 
with his command, at the sacking of Lawrence ; after which he visited 
Lecompton, where he learned on the evening of the 25th of the executions 
on the Pottawatomie. As a United States deputy marshal he resolved to 
arrest John Brown and his party wherever found. "Without following 
his steps in detail to Palmyra and Prairie City, and noting the outrages 
which Pate perpetrated at these places and in their vicinity, enough to 
cover his name with infamy," says an enemy of Brown, "the two men 
came in contact at a place on the Santa Fe road known as Black Jack." 
What resulted from that contact we know ; the would-be captor was him 
self captured, held a prisoner for three days by Brown, and then released 
by the United States, only to engage again in the same career. 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 305 

ing an interview. Brown left his intrenched camp on the 
Ottawa and went into the camp of Colonel Suinner, who at 
once visited Brown's camp and came to terms with him, 
bidding him release his prisoners, but making no attempt to 
arrest or punish him, 1 except to ask the civil officer who 
accompanied him if he had not some warrants to serve. 
The officer declared that he saw no one whom he wished 
to arrest ; and Brown with his men, though charged with 
murder at the Pottawatomie, as well as with treason and 
conspiracy against the Territorial laws, was allowed to go 
forth unpunished and without being disarmed. Captain 
Pate and his men were chided by Colonel Sumner, as Mrs. 
Robinson says ; but their horses, arms, etc., were restored 
to them, even though their guns might have been stolen 
from the national arsenal in Missouri, as was done a few 
months before. Brown felt and complained of this injus 
tice, but to no avail. He and his little band dispersed at 
Colonel Sumner's command ; but they soon came together 
again, and kept up their organization during the whole 
summer. 

John Brown himself was near Topeka, July 4, when the 
proslavery usurpers in Kansas had determined to disperse 

1 All this is concisely described by John Brown in his letter of June, 
printed in a former chapter. The account by Mrs. Robinson varies in 
some points from that of Brown ; but in such variations Brown is almost 
always correct. The dispersal of the Free-State legislature at Topeka by 
Colonel Sumner, July 4, is described by William A. Phillips in the " Atlan 
tic Monthly " for 1879, who brings in Brown as present and advising resist 
ance, even to Federal authority. It is doubtless true that Brown did more 
than once, while in Kansas, declare that the Federal troops might properly 
be resisted when they upheld the usurping rulers of the Territory ; but 
there is no evidence that he ever sought to attack them. He did finally 
attack an arsenal of the United States in Virginia ; but that was when he 
had fully proved the complicity of the national Government in every evil 
design of the slave-power. The Government which he would have resisted 
in Kansas had Jefferson Davis for one of its ministers ; and the cabinet 
officer controlling the arsenal at Harper's Ferry was Floyd, who afterward 
put government arms into the hands of rebels, and led a division himself. 
In fact, the Federal authority from 1856 to 1861 was but a mask for the 
slave oligarchy. Colonel Phillips commanded a regiment of Indians dur 
ing the Civil War, then served in Congress, and now lives at Washington. 
I have condensed a little his " Atlantic " paper. 

20 



306 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

the Free-State legislature, which had adjourned to meet 
there on that day. Mr. W. A. Phillips has given some in 
teresting details of this period. He met Brown at Law 
rence, July 2, and rode with his party from Mount Oread, 
where the Kansas University now stands, along the Cali 
fornia road, by Coon Point, and within four miles of 
Lecompton, the proslavery capital (where Brown's son was 
a prisoner), until they reached Big Springs. Mr. Phillips 
says : 

u There we left the road, going in a southwesterly direction for a 
mile, when we halted on a hill, and the horses were stripped of their 
saddles, and picketed out to graze. The grass was wet with dew. 
The men ate of what provision they had with them, and I received a 
portion from the captain, dry beef (which was not so bad), and 
bread made from corn bruised between stones, then rolled in balls and 
cooked in the ashes of the camp fire. Captain Brown observed that 
I nibbled it very gingerly, and said, i I am afraid you will be hardly 
able to eat a soldier's harsh fare.' 

" We next placed our two saddles together, so that our heads lay 
only a few feet apart. Brown spread his blanket on the wet grass, 
and, when we lay together upon it, mine was spread over us. It 
was past eleven o'clock, and we lay there until two in the morning, 
but we slept none. 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 j he pointed out the different constel 
lations and their movements. ' Now,' he said, l 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 beautiful ! 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 space.' 

" He criticised both parties in Kansas. Of the proslavery men he 
said that slavery besotted everything, and made men more brutal and 
coarse j 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 reso 
lutions than act, and who criticised all who did real work. A profes 
sional politician, he went on, you never could trust ; for even if he had 
convictions, he was always ready to sacrifice his principles for his 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 307 

advantage. 1 One of the most interesting things in his conversa 
tion that night, and one that marked him as a theorist, was his treat 
ment 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 chattel, 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 villanies,' 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. 

" He ran on during these midnight hours in a conversation I can 
never forget. The stars grew sharper and clearer, and seemed to be 
looking down like watchers on that sleeping camp. My companion 
paused for a short time, and I thought he was going to sleep, when 
he said : * It is nearly two o'clock, and it must be nine or ten miles 
to Topeka 5 it is time we were marching,' and he again drew my 
attention to his index marks in the sky. He rose and called his men, 
who responded with alacrity. In less than ten minutes the company 
had saddled, packed, and mounted, and was again on the march. 
He declined following the road any farther, but insisted on taking a 
straight course over the country, guided by the stars. It was in vain 
that I expostulated with him, and told him that three or four creeks 
were in the way, and the country rough and broken, so that it would 
be difficult to find our way in the dark. We had a rough time of it 
that night, arid day broke while we were floundering in the thickets 
of a creek-bottom some miles from Topeka. As soon as daylight 
came and we could see our way, we rode more rapidly } but the sun 
had risen above the horizon before we rode down the slopes. Across 
the creek and nearly two miles to the right we saw the tents, and in 
the morning stillness could hear the bugles blow in Colonel Sumner's 
camp. Brown would not go into Topeka, but halted in the timber 
of the creek, sending one of his men with me as a messenger to bring 
him word when his company was needed. He had his horse picketed, 
and walked down by the side of my horse to the place where I crossed 
the creek. He sent messages to one or two gentlemen in town, 
and, as he wrung my hand at parting, urged that we should have 

1 In a later conversation with Phillips, speaking of a Kansas politician, 
he took out his pocket compass, uncovered it, and said : "You see that 
needle : it wobbles about, and is mighty unsteady ; but it wants to point to 
the North. Is your friend like that needle ? " 



308 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

the Legislature meet, resist all who should interfere with it, and 
fight, if necessary, even the United States troops. He had told me 
the night before of his visit to many of the fortifications in Europe, 
and criticised them sharply, holding that modern warfare did away 
with them, and that a well-armed brave soldier was the best fortifica 
tion. He criticised all the arms then in use, and showed me a fine 
repeating-rifle which he said would carry eight hundred yards j but, 
he added, 'the way to fight is to press to close quarters.'" 

In August Brown joined the forces of General James H. 
Lane in northern Kansas, having first carried his wounded 
son-in-law, Henry Thompson, into Iowa to be taken care of. 
Returning about the 10th of August with General Lane, 
he proceeded with him to Lawrence and to Franklin, where 
there was some skirmishing ; and from the middle of August 
to the 20th of September he was in the field with his com 
pany, fighting the Missourian invaders. The following de 
spatch invited him to join Lane (under the name of Cook) 
in an expedition : 

MR. BROWN, General Joe Cook wants you to come to Law 
rence 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. 

TOPEKA, 7 o'clock, p. M., Aug. 12, 1856. 

Concerning this affair Mr. Stratton (who now lives in 
Colorado) writes me in these words : 

u John Brown was with us when ' Fort Saunders,' on Wakarusa 
Creek (I think), was destroyed, and commanded the cavalry. A 
few days before this event Major Hoyt had been murdered at Fort 
Saunders, where he had gone trusting to the fact that he was a 
Free Mason ; but he was murdered, and partially buried out on the 
prairie. General Lane sent out an expedition under Captain Shorn- 
bre, 1 who was afterwards shot in the groin at Lecompton, and died 
from the wound. I was second in command of the expedition. We 
discovered Major Hoyt's remains, and removed them to our camp, 
which I believe was on the Wakarusa, west of Lawrence. The 
next day we marched on Fort, Saunders. General Lane drew up his 
forces in front of the fort, Captain Brown occupying the right wing 

1 Or Chambree. 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 309 

with his cavalry. A charge was ordered, and the fort taken ; but 
the murderers had fled into the timber and escaped. 

" Large stores of bacon, sugar, flour, etc., were captured and loaded 
into our train- wagons. The diuner was left uutasted on the tables 
by the ruffians, so precipitate had been their flight. Captain Brown, 
with his men, was among the first to reach the fort, which was 
surrounded by a high rail fence, inside of which heavy earth-works 
had been thrown up. I was acting as Aid to General Lane, and 
that night piloted him to Topeka. This is the only time I can 
call to mind when I was with Captain Brown on any expedition, 
though I used to meet him often at different points. I am not 
certain about Captain Brown being with our party when we carne 
in from Nebraska, but think he was. While with General Lane I 
was charged with his personal safety, as a price had been- offered for 
his head. If I could sit down with some one who was an active 
participant during the border war, I presume in talking over old 
times I could recall many incidents that have now escaped me." 

By this time Brown's name had become such a terror, 
that wherever the enemy were attacked they believed he 
was in command. In an appeal to the citizens of Lafay 
ette County, Missouri, urging them to take horses and guns 
and march into Kansas, General Atchison wrote thus, under 
date of Aug. 17, 1856 : - 

" On the 6th of August the notorious Brown, with a party of three 
hundred abolitionists, made an attack upon a colony of Georgians, 1 
murdering about two hundred and twenty-five souls, one hundred 
and seventy-five of whom were women, children, and slaves. Their 
houses were burned to the ground, all their property stolen, horses, 
cattle, clothing, money, provisions, all taken away from them, and 
their plows burned to ashes. August 1*2, at night, three hundred 
abolitionists, under this same Brown, attacked the town of Franklin, 
robbed, plundered, and burned, took all the arms in town, broke 
open and destroyed the post-office, captured the old cannon ' Sacra 
mento,' which our gallant Missourians captured in Mexico, and are 
now turning its mouth against our friends. August 15 Brown, with 
four hundred abolitionists, mostly Lane's men, mounted and armed, 
attacked Treadwell's Settlement, in Douglas County, numbering 
about thirty men. They planted the old cannon l Sacramento ' 
towards the colony, and surrounded them." 

1 At Baptisteville, ten miles northeast of Osawatomie, on an Indian 
reservation. " Preacher Stewart " really commanded the Free-State men. 



310 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

It is not necessary (nor was it in 1856) to believe all the 
stories of battles and sieges which were related on one side 
or the other during this Kansas imbroglio. Even when 
there was a desire to tell the truth, circumstances often 
proved too strong for the narrator. But the great reputa 
tion of Brown as a partisan leader is as fully proved by 
these fictions as by the authentic reports. 

The following letters from John Brown, Jr., in prison at 
Lecompton, seem to be in reply to a suggestion from his 
father that he might be visited arid rescued : 

From John Brown, Jr., to his Father. 

LECOMPTON, Aug. 14, 1856. 

You can, at any time you think it best, come to camp and see me, 
especially at evening, without observation. Come to the bouse of 
Mrs. Wesley, about fifty rods east from tbe camp, and she will send 
up her boy to let me know that a man wants to see me. You could 
no doubt find a temporary stopping-place either at Captain Thome's 
or at Mr. Lewis's, about a mile south of our camp, near tbe Cali 
fornia road. In coming here you will notice two camps ; ours is the 
more easterly. If you wish to see me, come at evening, early, to the 
captain's tent, and say that you wish to see the prisoners, and you 
will be admitted, without a doubt. The captain is very accommo 
dating ; you can come and go incog. The captain of Company I 
says he has been after you more than two months. Don't let them 
get you. I very much want to see you, but don't run any great risk 
on this account. At any time you wish to write me, direct to 
X. Y. Z., and enclose in an envelope to C. W. Babcock, Lawrence. 

Aug. 16, 1856. 

The prospect now appears so favorable for us that it does seem as 
though I had better not try to meet you just now. The prospect is 
that there will be either a writ of habeas corpus issued, or a change 
of venue, which will in either case take us into the States for trial. 
Have sent you several letters lately by persons going to Topeka, and 
I enclose one which I wrote on the 13th. 1 The bearer of it, not 
seeing you there, has returned it. I was in hearing of the attack on 
Colonel Titus this morning. A messenger has just come in, stating 
that he (Titus) and several others were taken prisoners ; Titus 
wounded. He also reports that a Free-State man was either killed 

1 Not extant. 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 311 

yesterday or last night, as he was found at Titus's stiff and cold. I 
saw the fire of Titus's house. Well, it seems that Heaven is 
smiling on our arms. The case may be that within a few days I 
shall think it altogether best to try to meet you. A very few days 
will determine. All well. May God bless you ! G-ood-by. 

I should be very glad to see you, if you think it prudent to visit 
me. There is nothing here, that I know of, in the way. If you 
come just at edge of evening, no one need know it is you ; but don't 
risk yourself if you are aware of danger. There are spies around. 
In view of present prospects, the prisoners think best that no at 
tempt should be made at present to release them. We are all well 
treated here. Captain Sackett is a noble man. Should be very 
glad to know where I could communicate with you from time to 
time. J. B., JR., in prison. 

Indorsed by John Brown. 

The allusion to the attack on (t Titus/' in the above letter, 
will be made more clear by a longer letter to Jason Brown, 
written in part on the same day, but apparently begun ear 
lier in the day. The same letter contains some notice of 
what had been happening in Kansas since the middle of 
July. These chronicles are not wholly exact ; but it was 
not possible then to obtain precise information in Kansas, 
and the news sent to the prisoners was likely to come from 
both sides. They were not held in strict confinement, and, 
after a while at first, did not suffer much hardship. Indeed, 
they might easily have escaped, as will soon appear. 



From John Brown, Jr. 

CAMP OF U. S. CAVALRY, NEAR LECOMPTON, KANSAS, 
Aug. 16, 1856. 

DEAR BROTHER JASON AND OTHERS, Agreeably with my 
promise to write often, I have sent you lately not less than four 
letters, one or two by private hands, the others by mail. Events 
of the most stirring character are now passing within hearing 
distance. I should think more than two hundred shots have been 
fired within the past half hour, and within a mile of our camp. 
Have just learned that some eighty of our Free- State men have 
11 pitched into " a proslavery camp this side of Lecornpton, which 
was commanded by a notorious proslavery scoundrel named Titus, 
one of the Buford party from Alabama. A dense volume of smoke 



312 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

is now rising in the vicinity of bis bouse. The firing has ceased, 
and we are most impatient to learn the result. 

During the past month the Kuffians have been actively at work, 
and have made not less than five intrenched camps, where they have 
in different parts of the Territory established themselves in armed 
bands, well provided with provisions, arms, and ammunition. From 
these camps they sally out, steal horses, and rob Free- State settlers 
(in several cases murdering them), and then slip back into their 
camp with their plunder. Last week a body of our men made a 
descent upon Franklin, 1 and after a skirmishing fight of about three 
hours took their barracks, and recovered some sixty guns and a 
cannon, of which our men had been robbed some months since, on 
the road from Westport. Our loss was one man killed and two 
severely wounded, but it is thought they will recover. The enemy 
were in a log building, from which they kept up a sharp fire, while 
they themselves were quite unexposed. Our men then had recourse 
to a system of tactics not laid down in Scott. They procured a 
wagon loaded with hay, and running it down against the building 
set it on fire, when the rascals immediately surrendered. Yesterday 
our men had invested another of their fortified camps on Washington 
Creek, a south branch of the Wakarusa ; and it was expected that 
an attack would be made upon it last night. 

Hurrah for our side ! A messenger has just come in, stating that 
on the approach of our men, some two hundred and fifty or three 
hundred in number, at Washington Creek yesterday, towards even 
ing, the enemy broke and fled, leaving behind, to fall into the hands 
of our men, a lot of provisions and a hundred stand of arms. But 
this is not all. The notorious Colonel Titus, who only a day or two 
since was heard to declare that " Free-State men had only two 
weeks longer to remain in Kansas," went out last night on a 
marauding expedition, in which he took six prisoners and a lot of 
horses. This morning our men followed him closely and fell upon 
his camp, killed two of his men, liberated the prisoners he had 
taken, took him and ten other prisoners, set fire to his house, and 
with a lot of arms, tents, provisions, etc., returned, having in the 
fight had only one of our men seriously wounded. 

August 19. 

The affair last mentioned was conducted with such expedition that 
the United States troops, located about a mile off, had not time to 
reach the scene before it was all over and our men on their return, 
marching in good order. Our men numbered four hundred, and had 

1 Four miles south of Lawrence. The fights that followed are those 
mentioned by Atchison on page 309. 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 313 

the cannon which they had taken at Franklin. With this they tired 
six balls, out of seven shots, through Colonel Titus's house before 
his gang surrendered. This series of victories has caused the greatest 
fear among the proslavery men. While the firing was going on, the 
citizens at Lecompton fled across the river in the greatest consterna 
tion. Great numbers are leaving for Missouri. Colonel Titus was 
seriously wounded by a Sharpe's-rifle ball passing through his hand, 
and lodging in his shoulder too deep to be reached. It is thought 
the wound will prove fatal. 

Day before yesterday Governor Shannon and Major Sedgwick of 
.the army went to Lawrence to obtain the prisoners our men had 
taken j but our men would consent to give them up only on condition 
that they on the other side should give up the prisoners that had been 
taken on warrants at Franklin, the next day after the battle there, 
for participating in it ; and, as a further condition, that they should 
give up the cannon which had been taken from Lawrence at the time 
it was sacked ; and still further agree to do all in their power to 
break up the camps of armed desperadoes, as well as to prevent their 
coming in from Missouri. These terms were complied with ; and 
yesterday the prisoners were exchanged and the cannon at Lecompton 
given up to our men, and it is now once more in Lawrence. Thus 
you see they have themselves set their own laws at nought by that 
exchange of prisoners whom they had taken on warrants for those 
we had taken by the might of the people. Lane's men were on hand 
and did good service. The Chicago company that had been turned 
back on the Missouri River were on hand and in the thickest of the 
fight. Some say Colonel Lane was in it himself. Father returned 
with the overland emigrants, leaving in Nebraska Henry Thompson, 
Owen, Salmon, Frederick, and Oliver, much improved in health. 
He was in the fight at Franklin, and also aided in routing the gang 
on Washington Creek, as well as in the capture of Titus and his 
crew. By this time he is in Iowa, or some other distant region. 
He is an omnipresent dread to the ruffians. I see by the Missouri 
papers that they regard him as the most terrible foe they have to 
encounter. He stands very high with the Free- State men who will 
fight ; and the great majority of these have made up their minds that 
nothing short of war to the death can save us from extermination. 
Say to the men of Osawatomie to become thoroughly prepared, for 
at any time their lives may depend upon their efficiency and vigi 
lance ; that military organization is needed for something else than 
amusement. Don't fail to urge the enrolment of every able-bodied 
Free-State man, and place yourselves in a position to act both offen 
sively and defensively in the most efficient manner. Stringfellow 
and Atchison are said to be again raising a force to come in from 



314 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

Missouri and carry out their long-cherished plan to drive out or ex 
terminate our people. If our men are wide awake we shall gain the 
day. The prospect for Kansas becoming a free State never looked 
brighter. Now is the time to prepare, and continue prepared. 

Have not yet learned of any definite action of Congress in regard 
to us prisoners, but we doubtless shall in a few days. Wealthy con 
tinues to have the chills and fever every few days. Write often. 
Ever your affectionate brother, 

JOHN. 

The last light at Osawatoinie, which for some reason or 
other was more celebrated than any of the encounters in 
which Brown engaged during 1856, was the third skirmish 
that had taken place at or near that historic village. The 
first was on June 2, and is mentioned by Brown in bis letter 
of June 24 ; the second was early in August, and is probably 
the same as the attack on Buford's men about Middle Creek, 
soon to be spoken of, which occurred August 5 ; l the third 
was on the 30th of August, and was provoked by the defeat 
of Buford's men. In both these August encounters John 
Brown bad some share. 

A Boston clergyman (Rev. J. W. Winkley). who was in 
Kansas as a young man in 1856, bas described to me with 
some detail John Brown on the war-path, as he saw him 
during the fights of August. Mr. Winkley was then liv 
ing on the South Pottawatomie, twenty miles above Osawa- 
tomie, and had enlisted to join Brown there, with twenty 
others, upon the news of an invasion of Missourians. They 
travelled all night, reached Osawatoinie in the morning, 
breakfasted there, and then went with Captains Cline and 
Shore (seventy men in all) to attack the enemy, whom they 
surprised and defeated to the number of two hundred or 
more. Soon after, Brown came up from Osawatoinie and 
congratulated the men on their victory, at which he had not 
been present. A Missourian, mortally wounded, wished 
greatly to see Brown before he died. The old hero rode up 
to the wagon where the wounded man was, and said with 
some sternness : " You wish to see me ; here I am. Take 
a good look at me, and tell your friends when you get back 
to Missouri what sort of man you saw." Then in a gentler 

1 This is one of the battles reported by Atchison. 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 315 

tone he added : " We wish no harm to you or your compan 
ions. Stay at home, let us alone, and we shall be friends. 
I wish you well." Meantime the wounded man had with 
an effort raised himself up, viewed Brown from head to 
foot, as if feasting his eyes on the greatest curiosity, and 
then sank back exhausted, saying : " I don't see as you are 
so bad ; you don't look or talk like it." Then, reaching out 
his hand, the dying Missourian said : " I thank you." Brown 
clasped his hand, said " God bless you ! " and rode away 
with tears in his eyes. Mr. Winkley also describes an onset 
made by Brown upon some of his own men, supposing them 
to be the enemy, the next morning. He had taken volun 
teers the day before, after the fight, and ridden away on 
some excursion, bidding the rest go home to their farms. 
They went back and camped where they had met the enemy 
that morning. While at breakfast Brown came upon them 
suddenly, supposed them to be foes, and in a moment went 
charging down upon them at the head of his little band of 
thirty men. Before he attacked he discovered who they 
were ; but had they been Missourians he would have put 
them to rout by his ready courage. 

The condition of matters in Kansas and Missouri was such 
at this time that it was almost impossible to obtain correct 
information of what was going on, even from eye-witnesses. 
Owen Brown, who had been badly injured after the campaign 
of June, and afterward very ill in Iowa, whither he had gone 
to regain his health, wrote just before the fight at Osawato- 
mie the following letter to his mother in the Adirondacs, 
which illustrates the exaggerations then everywhere current ; 
while it gives some true touches concerning men and things : 

Owen Brown to his Mother at North Elba. 

TABOR, FREMONT COUNTY, IOWA, Aug. 27, 1856. 
DEAR MOTHER, The last news we had from Kansas, father 
was at Lawrence, and had charge of a company, the bravest men 
the Territory could afford. Those who come through here from the 
Territory say that father is the most daring, courageous man in 
Kansas. You have no doubt heard that the Free-State men have 
taken two forts, or blockhouses, with a fine lot of arms, several 
prisoners, and two cannon. Shannon was obliged to flee for his life j 



S16 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

afterwards came to Lane to negotiate for peace. He proposed that 
the Free- State men should give up the prisoners and arms they 
had taken; at the same time they (the enemy) should still hold 
our men as prisoners, and keep all the arms they had taken from 
the Free-State men. But Lane would not consent to that ; he 
required Shannon to deliver up the howitzer they had taken at 
Lawrence, release some prisoners, disarm the proslavery men in 
the Territory, and do all in his power to remove the enemy from 
the Territory. With fear and trembling, Shannon consented to 
all of Lane's demands. 

There is now at this place a company of volunteers from Maine, 
Massachusetts, and Michigan, about eighty in all. We hear lately 
that about three thousand Missourians have crossed at St. Joe and 
other places, and have gone armed into the Territory; that Gov 
ernor Woodsou has sent four hundred mounted men on to the fron 
tier to intercept our volunteers and prevent them from carrying in 
provisions and ammunition, which are much needed now in Kansas. 
The last information comes from reliable sources, and is probably 
true, a portion of it. We also learn that the Free-State men 
have melted up all the old lead-pipe they can get hold of for ammu 
nition ; and now the news comes from reliable sources that Lane is 
about to enter Leavcnworth with two thousand men ; that he has 
sent word to the citizens of Leavenworth, requiring them to deliver 
up a few prisoners they had taken, with some wagons and other 
property, or he will destroy the town forthwith. Colonel Smith, of 
Leavenworth, commander of Government troops, refuses to protect 
the proslavery men of the Territory, replying that Lane is able to 
dress them all out, troops and all. Shannon made a speech to them, 
urging them to cease hostilities, that he could not defend them 
(that is, our enemies). At present our enemies and the Missourians 
are trembling in their boots, if reports are true. 

I have gained strength quite fast, and am now- determined to go 
back into the Territory, and try the elephant another pull. We 
hope that men will volunteer by the thousands from the States, well 
armed, with plenty of money to buy provisions with, which are 
scarce in Kansas Territory. There are probably several thousand 
acres less of corn in Kansas than there would have been had it not 
been for the \var. We look hard for help : now comes the tug of 
war. We have sent on men to learn the state of affairs on the 
frontier, and will move on into the Territory shortly. We are now 
waiting for one other company, which is within a few days' drive 
of here. For the want of time I leave out many particulars in 
connection with the taking of those forts, which would be quite 
interesting, and show Yankee skill and strategy, at least. If any 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 317 

of our folks write to us, or to me (I assume another mime, George 
Lyman), direct to George Lyman, Tabor, Fremont County, Iowa, 
care Jonas Jones, Esq. Mr. Jones will take them out of the office 
here and send them on by private conveyance. We cannot hear 
from you in any other way. Perhaps you know of a different way, 

but I do not. 

Your affectionate son, 

OWEN BROWN. 

P. S. Have not heard from Fred since Oliver and William 
Thompson took him into the camp ; nor have I heard from Henry, 
Salmon, William, and Oliver since they left this place to go home. 

" Fred " was John Brown's son Frederick, who three days 
after this letter was written was shot down by Missounans 
near his uncle Adair's house in Osawatomie, the morning 
of the fight there. William Thompson was the brother of 
Henry, and had just come from North Elba. 

John Brown made two written reports of the Osawato 
mie engagement of August 30. The more concise is that 
sent to his family ten days after. A longer report of the 
same date, which he published in the newspapers, follows 
it immediately : 

John Brown to his Family. 

LAWRENCE, KANSAS TERRITORY, Sept. 7, 1856. 
DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, EVERY ONE, I have one moment 
to write to you, to say that I am yet alive, that Jason and family 
were well yesterday ; John and family, I hear, arc well (he being 
yet a prisoner). On the morning of the 30th of August an attack 
was made by the Ruffians on Osawatomie, numbering some four 
hundred, by whose scouts our dear Frederick 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 Frederick was killed, and one badly 
wounded at the same time. At this time I was about three miles 
off, where I had some fourteen or fifteen men over night that I had 
just enlisted to serve under me as regulars. These I collected as 
well as I could, with some twelve or fifteen more ; and in about 
three quarters of an hour I attacked them from a wood with thick 
undergrowth. With this force we threw them into confusion for 
about fifteen or twenty minutes, during which time we killed or 
wounded from seventy to eighty of the enemy, as they say, and 



318 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

then we escaped as well as we could, with one killed while escaping, 
two or three wounded, and 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, and 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 has helped me," notwithstanding my afflictions. Things 
seem rather quiet just now, but what another hour will bring I can 
not say. I have seen three or four letters from Ruth, and one from 
Watson, of July or August, which are all I have seen since in June. 
I was very glad to hear once more from you, and 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 and save you all ! 

Your affectionate husband and father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

Monday morning, Sept. 8, 1856. 

Jason has just come in ; left all well as usual. John's trial is to 
come off or commence to-day. Yours ever, 

JOHN BROWN. 

THE FIGHT OF OSAWATOMIE. 

Early in the morning of the 30th of August the enemy's scouts 
approached to within one mile and a half of the western boundary of 
the town of Osawatomie. At this place my son Frederick (who was 
not attached to my force) had lodged, with some four other young 
men from Lawrence, and a young man named Garrison, from Middle 
Creek. The scouts, led by a proslavery preacher named White, 
shot my son dead in the road, while he as I have since ascer 
tained supposed them to be friendly. At the same time they 
butchered Mr. Garrison, and badly mangled one of the young men 
from Lawrence, who came with my son, leaving him for dead. 
This was not far from sunrise. I had stopped during the night 
about two and one half miles from them, and nearly one mile from 
Osawatomie. I had no organized force, but only some twelve or 
fifteen new recruits, who were ordered to leave their preparations for 
breakfast and follow me into the town, as soon as this news was 
brought to me. 

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 direc 
tion of the enemy. After going a few rods we could see them 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 319 

approaching 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 Captain 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. Here the men, numbering not more than thirty in all, 
were directed to scatter and secrete themselves as well as they could, 
aud await the approach of the enemy. This was done in full view 
of them (who must have seen the whole movement), and had to be 
done in the utmost haste. I believe Captain Cline and some of his 
men were not even dismounted in the fight, but cannot assert posi 
tively. When the left wing of the enemy had approached to within 
common rifle-shot, we commenced firing, arid very soon threw the 
northern branch of the enemy's line into disorder. This continued 
some fifteen or twenty minutes, which gave us an uncommon oppor 
tunity to annoy them. Captain Cline and his men soon got out of 
ammunition, and retired across the river. 

After the enemy rallied we kept up our fire, until, by the leaving 
of one and another, we had but six or seven left. We then retired 
across the river. We had one man killed a Mr. Powers, from 
Captain Cline's company in the fight. One of my men, a Mr. 
Partridge, was shot in crossing the river. Two or three of the 
party who took part in the fight are yet missing, and may be lost or 
taken prisoners. Two were wounded ; namely, Dr. Updegraff aud a 
Mr. Collis. I cannot speak in too high terms of them, and of many 
others I have not now time to mention. 

One of my best men, together with myself, was struck by a par 
tially spent ball from the enemy, in the commencement of the fight, 
but we were only bruised. The loss I refer to is one of my missing 
men. The loss of the enemy, as we learn by the different state 
ments of our own as well as their people, was some thirty-one or 
two killed, and from forty to fifty wounded. After burning the 
town to ashes and killing a Mr. Williams they had taken, whom 
neither party claimed, they took a hasty leave, carrying their dead 
and wounded with them. They did not attempt to cross the river, 
nor to search for us, and have not since returned to look over their 
work. 

I give this in great haste, in the midst of constant interruptions. 
My second son was with me in the fight, and escaped unharmed. 



320 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

This I mention for the benefit of his friends. Old Preacher White, 
I hear, boasts of having killed my son. Of course he is a lion. 

JOHN BROWN. 
LAWRENCE, KANSAS, Sept. 7, 1856. 

Jason Brown ("my second son"), who was his father's 
body-guard in this fight, relates this incident of the 
campaign : 

" Captain Shore is a good and brave man, but I cannot learn that 
he claims to be the hero of Black Jack. I care nothing for the 
honors of war. It matters but little whether the battles of Black 
Jack arid Osawatomie are looked upon as victories or defeats. I 
was at the latter engagement, but I do not know whether I had the 
honor of killing (as it is looked upon by some persons) anybody at 
Osawatomie or not. If I did, I would gladly transfer the honor of 
the whole slaughtering part of it to the Rev. David N. Utter, and to 
his brother in divinity, Rev. Martin White. The only real comfort 
ing recollection of my part in it is, that I did all in my power to 
alleviate the sufferings of a young and very intelligent Mississippian 
named Kline, if I remember correctly, who was terribly wounded, 
but able to talk. He had been wounded a day or two before, in an 
attack by Free-State men on a camp of Georgians, seven or eight 
miles southeast of Osawatomie. The weather was hot, and the 
wound below the knee of the right leg, which was terribly shattered 
by a Sharpe's-rifle ball, was filled with maggots. How it was that 
he did not have the right care I do not know. All about the house 
where he was lying was excitement and hurry, to be ready to meet 
the enemy we expected soon to attack us. I got help, cleansed his 
wound of the vermin, dressed it, bathed him, and changed his 
clothes. While this was being done he asked my name. I told 
him. He said, ( I thought the Abolitionists were savages before I 
was brought here.' As he lay there, pale and exhausted from loss of 
blood and suffering, he spoke of his home and friends in Mississippi, 
and how he wished he had never come to Kansas. He said he would 
soon be at rest. He asked me if I would not take care of him for 
the few hours he had to live. I told him I would. As I was sitting 
by his bed and saw the tears flowing from a heart full of sorrow and 
trouble, alone among strangers, and far from home, I thought this : 
If these are some of the things which make war glorious and honor 
able, deliver me from the honors of war. In a moment more I was 
suddenly called away to defend my own life, and probably to do more 
of such work. I would rather have the real good it did me then to 
care as best I could for a few hours for a misguided dying enemy, 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 321 

than to have all the glory ever gained by the proudest and most 
successful warrior that ever shook the earth with the thunder of his 
guns and the tread of his mighty armies of beasts and men, since the 
world began. I heard afterwards that this young man was rescued 
from ' the abolition fiends ' by Reid's army, and thrown into a 
wagon with other wounded men, and died somewhere on the way to 
Missouri. I don't know that this is true." 

A contemporary proslavery account of this fight is as 
follows, copied from a Missouri newspaper : 

11 The attack on Osawatomie was by part of an army of eleven 
hundred and fifty men, of whom Atchison was major-general. Gen 
eral Reid, with two hundred and fifty men and one piece of artillery, 
moved on to attack Osawatomie ; he arrived near that place, and was 
attacked by two hundred Abolitionists under the command of the no 
torious John Brown, who commenced firing upon Reid from a thick 
chaparral four hundred yards off. General Reid made a successful 
charge, killing thirty-one, and took seven prisoners. Among the 
killed was Frederick Brown. The notorious John Brown was also 
killed, by a proslavery man named White, in attempting to cross the 
Marais des Cygnes. The proslavery party have five wounded. On 
the same day Captain Hays, with forty men, attacked the house of 
the notorious Ottawa Jones, burned it, and killed two Abolitionists. 
Jones fled to the cornfield, was shot at by Hays, and is believed to 
be dead." 

The Indian missions in Kansas were little centres of civi 
lization, and that which was first established near the crossing 
of the Ottawa River, near what is now Ottawa, was long an 
oasis in the desert. There the Presbyterians and Baptists 
started missions ; thither the Rev. Joseph Meeker, in 1834, 
brought the first printing-press, and there the first Kansas 
book was printed ; there lived the famous Indian and his 
excellent white missionary wife, John Tecumseh Jones 
(usually called " Tawey Jones," Ottawa being properly pro 
nounced Ot-taw-wsi). There John Brown and his friends 
were always welcome, and the great house of this Christian 
Indian was " long the hospitable headquarters of Free-State 
men," as Wilder says, with whom Horace Greeley made this 
part of his tour in Kansas in 1859, spending a night at 
Jones's house. Brown said of it and its owner in 1857 : " I 

21 



322 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

saw while it was standing, and afterwards saw the ruins of, 
a most valuable house, the property of a highly civilized, in 
telligent, and exemplary Christian Indian, which was burned 
to the ground by the Ruffians, because its owner was sus 
pected of favoring Free-State men." l The house was after 
wards rebuilt. Its destruction by the Missouri invaders, 
a detachment from the force that burned Osawatomie, Au 
gust 30, has been described to me by Jason Brown : 

u On the 29th of August word came to my father, who was posted 
a mile from Osawatomie, on the road to Paola and West-port, on 
the Missouri side of the Marais des Cygnes, near where the State 
Insane Asylum now stands, that the Missourians were on their way 
from Westport. At the same time that they attacked Osawatomie, 
they sent a force of fifty men to burn the house of our friend Jones, 
and kill him if possible. He was a tall and stout Christian Indian, 
who had married a Miss Emery from Vermont ; he owned much 
land, had two or three hundred head of cattle, improved breeds of 
all domestic animals, and had committed no oifence, except being 
friendly to the Free-State men. A little after midnight he heard a 
great noise among his dogs, and sprang out of bed ; as he did so, he 
heard the scabbards of the Missourians strike on the flag-stones in 
front of his house as they dismounted from their horses. They had 
let down his cornfield fences, and ridden on all sides, hoping to 
find a force of Free- State men there in his double log-house, 
at that time the best in Kansas ; but there was nobody in it except 
Jones and his wife, an Indian boy, and a ' neutral ; named Parker 

1 Mr. Adair wrote from Osawatomie, July 16, 1856, to " Bro. John 
Brown," by Jason, informing him that of $49.50 received in June from 
" Bro. J. R. B.," he had assigned $25 to John Brown, Sr., and his unmar 
ried sons ; $10 to J. B., Jr. ; $7.25 to Jason, and $7.28 to S. L. Adair. 
He says lie had sent him $10 immediately, but it had come back to him, 
and he had now sent it by George Partridge to " you or some of your sons " 
at Ottawa Jones's ; $8 was paid to Frederick and $7 to Henry Thompson, 
July 2, at Jones's. This shows that the house of this Indian farmer was a 
rendezvous for Brown and his party, while they were under arms in that 
anxious summer, and while they were hunted like wolves over the prairie. 
Sarah Brown says : " On the day that my brother Frederick was killed, 
near Osawatomie, my father lost his hat in fighting. When he found the 
body of his son he was forced to take his hat to cover his own head. After 
ward, the Indian (Ottawa Jones), of whom he often spoke, gave him a cap. 
When on one of his visits home, at North Elba, he brought the cap with 
him, and said he wanted it kept in memory of Ottawa Jones." 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 323 

from Missouri. The Kuffians shouted, ' We 've got you now, 
come out, come, out ! ' Nobody replying, and fearing an ambush, 
they cried, ' Fire the house ! ' and began to do so, setting it on fire in 
several places. Jones had seized his gun and stood in his front hall, 
thinking what he could do. 1 1 knew we must shoot,' he told me ; 
1 we must fight, or make our escape the best way we could.' He 
opened the door and cocked his gun ; the enemy hearing it called 
out, ; Don't shoot ! ' whereupon he sprang out in his night-clothes, 
and ran as far as he could into a thirty-acre cornfield close by, the 
enemy shooting at him, but missing him. It was a wet and cold 
night (August 29). He ran through his corn, and far beyond, about 
two miles in all; looking back, he saw his house burning. The 
guide in this attack was Henry Sherman, of Pottawatomie, who had 
worked for Jones and knew the house well. Mrs. Jones, in the 
mean time, had put about four hundred dollars in gold and silver 
into a bag, and tried to conceal it and herself in the house. The 
captain of the Ruffians, looking through the door, saw her and said : 
1 Come out ! we won't hurt you, you have been kind to us.' As 
she went out, she dropped the money in the grass, and it w r as picked 
up by Sherman or some of the band. They found Parker, the Mis- 
sourian, ill in bed ; as they approached him with their weapons, he 
said, ' Don't kill me, I 'm sick.' ' We always find a good many 
sick men when we come round,' was the reply, and with that they 
dragged him out into the road, knocked him on the head and cut his 
throat, but did not sever the jugular vein ; then dragged him to the 
bank of the Ottawa and threw him in among some brush. I found 
him afterward in a hospital at Lawrence, able to tell his story ; to 
which he added, ' I 'm not a neutral any more ; I 'm a Free-State 
man now ; they '11 never take me alive again.' The Ruffians sacked 
the house, which was burned to the ground, as described by my father 
in one of his speeches." 

A marble monument now stands at Osawatomie, erected 
in 1877 to commemorate the battle there, and bearing on 
one side this legend : 

THIS INSCRIPTION IS ALSO IN COMMEMORATION OF THE 
HEROISM OF CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN, WHO COM 
MANDED AT THE BATTLE OF OSAWATOMIE, 

AUG. 30, 1856, WHO DIED AND CON 
QUERED AMERICAN SLAVERY 
AT CHARLESTON, VA., 
DEC. 2, 1859. 



324 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

In dedicating this monument on the twenty-first anni 
versary of the fight (Aug. 30, 1877), Charles Bobinson, of 
Lawrence, who presided, said among other thiogs : 

11 This is an occasion of no ordinary merit, being for no less an 
object than to honor and keep fresh the memory of those who freely 
offered their lives for their fellow-men. We are told that ' scarcely 
for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man 
some would dare to die ; ' but the men whose death we commemorate 
this day, cheerfully offered themselves a sacrifice for strangers and a 
despised race. They were men of convictions, though death stared 
them in the face. They were cordial haters of oppression, and would 
fight injustice wherever found ; if framed into law, then they would 
fight the law ; if upheld and enforced by government, then govern 
ment must be resisted. They were of Revolutionary stock, and held 
that when a long train of abuses had put the people under absolute 
despotism, it was right and duty to throw off such government and 
provide guards for future security. The soul of John Brown was the 
inspiration of the Union armies in the emancipation war, and it will 
be the inspiration of all men in the present and distant future who 
may revolt against tyranny and oppression ; because he dared to be 
a traitor to the government that he might be loyal to humanity. To 
the superficial observer John Brown was a failure. So was Jesus 
of Nazareth. 1 Both suffered ignominious death as traitors to the 

1 The comparison here drawn by this speaker is too close and literal to 
be accepted by all Christians, but it was designed to express the deepest 
reverence for John Brown, and to indicate that his memory is immortal. 
In fact, this Ohio Puritan is the best-known name in Kansas ; not that the 
million people, white, black, and red, who now dwell in this State, all 
know accurately who he was and what he did ; but they have all heard of 
him, and keep his memory alive by tales and disputes. And in the districts 
where he moved about, armed at all points, the air is full of legends con 
cerning him, some true, some false, and most of them neither true nor 
false, but a mixture of both. This is specially the case in the region around 
Osawatomie, that village of a single street and a few detached houses, in 
the angle where those two romantic rivers, the Marais des Cygnes (or as 
Brown spelled it, " Merodezene ") and the Pottawatomie, come together 
and form the Osage. The town takes its name from the first three letters 
of " Osage " prefixed to the last three syllables of " Pottawatomie." This 
centaur-like epithet was the work of another Brown, who early settled in 
this spot, but who is now quite forgotten in the greater fame of his name 
sake. The Marais des Cygnes has a more picturesque name, as if the old 
French voyageurs who gave the title had found the swan swimming there. 
They never did, but it was some other great bird to which they gave the 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 325 

government, yet one is now hailed as the savior of a world from sin, 
and the other of a race from bondage." 

On the 8th of September, after hearing the particulars of 
the Osawatoraie fight, John Brown, Jr., wrote to his father 
at Lawrence thus : 

MONDAY MORNING, Sept. 8, 1856. 

DEAR FATHER AND BROTHER, Colonel Blood has just handed 
me your letter, for which I am most grateful. Having before heard 
of Frederick's death and that you were missing, my anxiety on your 
account has been most intense. Though my dear brother I shall 
never again see here, yet I thank God you and Jason still live. Poor 
Frederick has perished in a good cause, the success of winch cause I 
trust will yet bring joy to millions. 

My ''circumstances and prospects" are much the same as when I 
last wrote you. The trial of Mr. Williams and me is before Cato, in 
October, T believe the 4th. Don't know whether or not the others 
will get any trial here. Judge Lecompte is reported sick, and as no 
notice of the names of the jurors and witnesses has been served on 
them, it looks as if the intention is to hold them over to another 
term. 

Wealthy has the chills and fever almost every day. She succeeds 
in checking it only a short time. It would afford us a great satisfac 
tion to see you and Jason ; he, and I have no doubt you, could come 
up with some one without any risk. If Governor Geary should not 
release us, I still think of going with you, whenever you think it best, 
to some place out of reach of a re-arrest. I can, I have no doubt, 
succeed in making my escape to you from here, where W. and Johnny 

old poetic name ; and here, too, on this " Marsh of the Swans," the 
vulture of slavery croaked its foulest note before committing suicide. A 
long, slow, winding, and sombre stream, fringed everywhere with dark 
woods, it creeps through the counties south of Lawrence, where the worst 
ruffians had their roosts, and where the darkest deeds were done. The 
annals of theft and murder and arson on the Scotch border, around which 
Walter Scott and the older ballad-makers cast an atmosphere of romance, 
were repeated in ruder ways in these Missouri Marches, of which John 
Brown and James Montgomery came to be the self-appointed wardens. 
Montgomery was himself a Scotchman by descent, whose great-grandfather 
had fought for the young Chevalier at Culloden ; but Brown was of the un 
mixed Puritan breed, and inherited from deacons and captains of Connec 
ticut " the sword of the Lord and of Gideon." Montgomery's widow and 
sons still live in Kansas, but none of the Browns remain there alive. 



326 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

might join us. There is some talk of our being removed to Leaven- 
worth soon. If we are, I suppose the difficulty of escape would be 
very much increased. I am anxious to see you both, in order to per 
fect some plan of escape in case it should appear best. Coine up if 
you consistently can. 

The battle of Osawatomie is considered here as the great fight so 
far, and, considering the enemy's loss, it is certainly a great victory 
for us. Certainly a very dear burning of the town for them. This 
has proven most unmistakably that u Yankees " will "fight." 
Every one I hear speaking of you is loud in your praise. The 
Missourians in this region show signs of great fear. Colonel Cook * 
was heard to say that if our party were prudent in view of their suc 
cess, there was nothing to prevent our having everything our own 
way. 

Hoping to see you both soon, I am as ever 

Your affectionate son and brother. 

(Not signed.) 

On the reverse, " Captain J. B , Lawrence." 

Near the above, in John Brown's handwriting, is " J. Brown, Jr., 
in prison." 

In connection with this fight, I may quote from a let 
ter concerning John Brown which I received after his 
death from Richard Mendenhall, a Quaker, then living 
near Osawatomie. He said : " I was at a public meeting 
held in the spring of 1856 at Osawatomie, for the purpose 
of considering what course should be pursued relative to 
submitting to the ' bogus laws ' (of Governor Shannon's Ter 
ritorial Legislature), more especially the payment of taxes 
under them. I was very unexpectedly chosen chairman of 
the meeting. John Brown was present, and made a very 
earnest, decisive, and characteristic speech. For the action 
of that meeting in taking a bold stand against the ' bogus 
laws ' we were all indicted, but the warrants were never 
served. I next met John Brown again on the evening before 
the battle of Osawatomie. He with a number of others was 
driving a herd of cattle which they had taken from proslavery 
men. He rode out of the company to speak to me, when I 
playfully asked him where he got those cattle. He replied, 
with a characteristic shake of the head, that < they were good 

1 Of the United States Army. 



1856] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 327 

Free-State cattle now.' In the tenth month, 1858, John 
Brown and two others one of them Stevens came to my 
house and stayed several days, being detained by high water. 
I found him capable of talking interestingly on almost every 
subject. He had travelled a good deal in Europe on account 
of his business, and he imparted to me some valuable hints 
on different branches of business. I once heard a stranger 
ask the Rev. S. L. Adair if he knew what John Brown's 
principles were ; and he replied that his relation to John 
Brown gave him a right to know that Brown had an idea 
impressed upon his mind from childhood that he was an 
instrument raised up by Providence to break the jaws of 
the wicked ; and his feelings becoming enlisted in the affairs 
of Kansas, he thought this was the field for his operations. 
Last winter, when Brown took those negroes from Missouri, 
he sent them directly to me ; but I had a school then at my 
house, and the children were just assembling when they 
came. I could not take them in, and was glad of an excuse, 
as I could not sanction his mode of procedure." Neverthe 
less, Richard Mendenhall added, much in the spirit of John 
A. Andrew's phrase ("Brown himself was right"), "Men 
are not always to be judged so much by their actions as by 
their motives. I believe that John Brown was a good man, 
and that he will be remembered for good in time long hence 
to come." 

The state of affairs immediately preceding the fight was 
made known by many letters such as the following, written 
by a Kansas farmer, Cyrus Adams, who emigrated from 
Massachusetts, to his brother at home : 

LAWRENCE, KANSAS, Aug. 24, 1856. 

DEAR BROTHER, You probably learn of the state of affairs here 
in Kansas as well as I can describe them. We live under a repub 
lican form of government, so called, a form of government which 
allows its people to be murdered every day, and lifts no hand for 
their protection ; and so we are all of us liable to be murdered any 
day. Every little while we are set upon by bands of ruffians acting 
under the officers of the General Government j towns are sacked and 
burned, men murdered, and property destroyed. Until lately the 
Free-State folks have not offered much resistance to these outrages. 



328 LIFE AND LETTEKS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

It was known that bands of these ruffians encamped in the vicinity, 
where they carried on their trade of horse-stealing and robbery ; and 
murdered a man with whom I was well acquainted : he was riding 
by near one of these camps, and was shot dead by some of the guard. 
His name was Major Hoyt, of Deerfield, Mass. Another man was 
shot near the same place. A few days ago a brother-in-law of Mr. 
Nute, whom you saw in Concord, came into the Territory. He in 
tended to stop in Leavenworth. He brought his wife, and left her 
with Mr. Nute until he could go back and put up a house. When 
returning, and within two miles of Leavenworth, he was shot, and, 
horrible to relate, was scalped in the Indian fashion. A man or 
a beast took his scalp and carried it about the streets of Leaven- 
worth on a long pole, saying that he " went out to get a damned 
Abolition scalp, and got one." Another man went to Kansas City 
for a load of lumber ; he was shot and scalped in the same way. So 
you may judge of the folks we have to deal with. If they catch a 
man alone they show no mercy. 

Two weeks after the date of this letter, Governor Geary 
reached Kansas to supersede Shannon and his proslavery 
secretary Woodson, who was acting governor. At that 
time Lawrence was a military camp. All the roads lead 
ing thither were blockaded by armed bodies of Southern 
marauders, and every day violence was offered to Free- 
State citizens. Guerilla parties of Free-State men were 
also abroad, making reprisals on proslavery men. Between 
these bodies there was little safety for any one. Geary at 
once distributed large numbers of his proclamations, order 
ing all bodies of armed men to lay down their arms and 
retire to their homes and ordinary occupations. He de 
clared his intention to protect the Territory from further 
violence, and this promise was tolerably well kept. When 
questioned by the people at Lawrence (which he visited 
for the first time September 12) whether it would be safe 
for them to go to their homes in other parts of the Terri 
tory, he replied : " You had better stay in town a few days 
longer, for mutual protection ; but be careful that you do 
nothing in violation of the spirit of my proclamation. To 
defend yourselves against an attack will not incur my dis 
pleasure." At this time there were some eight hundred 
Free-State men assembled in Lawrence, but a few days 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 329 

after the number was much reduced. Soon after Geary's 
removal by Buchanan, he wrote a " Farewell Address to 
the People of Kansas," dated March 12, 1857, in which he 
fully describes the condition of things on his first arrival, 
the time of which I am writing. He says : " 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 children, driven from their habi 
tations, wandered over the prairies and among the wood 
lands, or sought refuge and protection even among the 
Indian tribes. The highways were infested with numerous 
predatory bands, and the towns were fortified and garrisoned 
by armies of conflicting partisans, each excited almost to 
frenzy, and determined upon mutual extermination. Such 
was, without exaggeration, the condition of the Territory at 
this period." 

It was in the midst of such scenes that the Border Ruf 
fians, provoked by the recent successes of the Kansas farm 
ers, raised an army of twenty-seven hundred men for their 
last great invasion of the Territory, and what they meant 
should be a final attack on Lawrence, where John Brown 
then was. AVhile this force was mustering, Charles Robin 
son, who had just been discharged from prison, wrote a few 
letters to John Brown, of which the first is as follows : 

LAWRENCE, Sept. 13, 1856. 
CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN. 

DEAR SIR, Governor Geary has been here and talks very well. 
He promises to protect us, etc. There will be no attempt to arrest 
any one 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 to town and see us "I l I will then tell you all that the 
governor said, and talk of some other matters. 
Very respectfully, 

C. ROBINSON. 

1 The interview solicited by Robinson did take place at a house in 
Lawrence, and in course of it, according to John Brown, Jr., who was 
present, Robinson not only did not censure Brown for his Pottawatomie 



330 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

On the same sheet of letter-paper is a longer letter to 
Brown from his son John, written the same day : 

John Brown, Jr., to his Father. 

All seem to be pleased with Geary. They think that while he 
must talk of enforcing the Territorial laws, he has intended to let 
them lie a dead letter ; says no Territorial officer or court shall arrest 
or try. Although he says in his proclamation that all armed men 
must disband, yet he says our men better hold together a few days 
until he can clear the Territory of the militia ; requests our men to 
enroll themselves, choose their own officers, and consider him as chief 
and themselves as his guard. I am inclined to the belief that unless 
something unusual shall turn up within a few days, you had better 
return home, as I have no doubt an attempt will be made to arrest 
you, as well as Lane, whom Geary says he is under obligations to ar 
rest. His plan, no doubt, will be to get the assistance of Free-State 
men to aid in making arrests. Don't allow yourself to be trapped 
in that way. Captain Walker thinks of going East via Nebraska 
soon. I do hope you will go with him, for I am sure that you will 
be no more likely to be let alone than Lane. Don j t go into that 
secret military refugee plan as talked of by liobinson, I beg of you. 
I shall go into Mr. Whitman's house, about two and a half miles west 
of Lawrence, where I shall make arrangements for Jason and com 
mence cutting hay. 

Robinson to John Brown. 

LAWRENCE, Sept. 14, 1856. 
CAPTAIN 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 citi 
zens. History will give your name a proud place on her pages, 
and posterity will pay homage to your heroism in the cause of God 

executions, but urged him to undertake similar work elsewhere ; to which 
Brown replied, " If you know of any job of that sort that needs to be done, 
I advise you to do it yourself," or words to that effect. Robinson now 
denies that he made such a proposition. 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 331 

and humanity. Trusting that you will conclude to remain in Kan 
sas, 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 obedient servant, 

C. ROBINSON. 

LAWRENCE, Sept, 14, 1856. 

To THE SETTLERS OF KANSAS, If possible, please render 
Captain John Brown all the assistance he may require in defending 
Kansas from invaders and outlaws, and you will confer a favor upon 
your co-laborer and fellow-citizen, 

C. EOBINSON. 

At this time, as these letters prove, there was no question 
among the Free-State men of Kansas concerning the ser 
vices which Brown had rendered. The feeling against him 
in consequence of the Pottawatomie affair had subsided ; 
nor was it till years afterward that this feeling was mali 
ciously revived. The general effect of Brown's deadly blow 
has been described ; but it may be asked what were its im 
mediate consequences in the region where it was directly 
felt. There are no better witnesses to this than the two 
neighbors of the men that suffered, George Grant and 
James Hanway, already quoted. Grant said in 1880 : 
" Both parties were greatly alarmed at first. The proslav- 
ery settlers almost entirely left at once, and the Free-State 
people were constantly fearful of vengeance. As a matter 
of fact, there was no more killing on either side in that 
neighborhood. Dutch Henry, Henry Sherman, was 
killed in the spring of 1857, but politics had nothing to do 
with it." Judge Han way, who died in 1881, said : - 

" It was thought that the effect of the Pottawatomie affair would 
be disastrous to the settlers who had taken up their quarters in this 
locality. 1 For a few weeks it looked ominous. I spent most of my 

1 As to the wisdom of John Brown's general policy of brave resistance and 
stern retaliation, the sagacious Judge Hanway says : " In the early Kansas 
troubles, I considered the extreme measures which he adopted as not the 
best under the circumstances. We were weak and cut off, as it were, from 
our friends. Our most bitter enemies received their support from an ad 
joining State. We were not in a condition to resist by force the power of 



332 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

time in the brush. The settlement was overrun by the ' law and 
order ' men, who took every man prisoner whom they came across, 
'jay-hawked' horses and saddles, and even, in several cases, work 
cattle ; but after these raids ceased, the proslavery element became 
willing to bury the hatchet and live in peace. The most ultra of 
those who had been leaders left the Territory, only to return at 
periods to burn the house of some obnoxious Free-State man. The 
Pottawatomie affair sent a terror into the proslavery ranks, and those 
who remained on the creek were as desirous of peace as any class of 
the community." 

Brown's only autograph account, so far as I know, of the 
attack on Lawrence, in September, 1856, is the following, 
written in January, 1857, as part of his address before New 
England audiences : 

THE LAWRENCE FORAY. 

" I well know, that, on or about the 14th of September last, a large 
force of Missourians and other ruffians, numbering twenty-seven hun 
dred (as stated by Governor Geary), invaded the Territory, burned 
Franklin, and while the smoke of that place was going up behind 
them, they, on the same day, made their appearance in full view of, 
and within about a mile of, Lawrence. And I know of no possible 
reason why they did not attack and burn that place except that about 
one hundred Free-State men volunteered to go out on the open plain 
before the town and there give them the offer of a fight, which they de 
clined, after getting some few scattering shots from our men, and then 
retreated back towards Franklin. I saw that whole thing. The 
government troops at this time were with Governor Geary at Lecomp- 
ton, a distance of twelve miles only from Lawrence, and, notwith 
standing several runners had been to advise him in good time of the 
approach or of the setting out of the enemy, who had to inarch some 

the Border Ruffians, backed and supported as they were by the administra 
tion at Washington. Events afterward proved that the most desperate 
remedies, as in the Pottawatomie affair, were best. In place of being 
the forerunner of additional strife and turmoil, the result proved it was a 
peace measure." Charles Robinson, in an article written for the "Kansas 
Magazine" many years ago, said of the executions by Brown: "They had 
the effect of a clap of thunder from a clear sky. The slave men stood 
aghast. The officials were frightened at this new moA-e on the part of 
the supposed subdued free men. This was a warfare they were not pre 
pared to wage, as of the bona fide settlers there were four free men to one 
slave man." 



1856.J THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 333 

forty miles to reach Lawrence, he did not on that memorable occasion 
get a single soldier on the ground until after the enemy had retreated 
back to Franklin, and had been gone for more than five hours. He 
did get the troops there about midnight afterwards ; and that is the 
way he saved Lawrence, as he boasts of doing in his message to the 
bogus Legislature ! 

" This was just the kind of protection the administration and its 
tools have afforded the Free- State settlers of Kansas from the first. 
It has cost the United States more than half a million, for a year 
past, to harass poor Free-State settlers in Kansas, and to violate all 
law, and all right, moral and constitutional, for the sole and only 
purpose of forcing slavery upon that Territory. I challenge this 
whole nation to prove before God or mankind the contrary. Who 
paid this money to enslave the settlers of Kansas and worry them 
out ? I say nothing in this estimate of the money wasted by Con 
gress in the management of this horrible, tyrannical, and damnable 
affair." 

In what Brown here says of Governor Geary, he does 
some injustice to that officer, who proved to be the best 
governor that Kansas had during the reign of terror in 
1855-56. His motives were political, no doubt ; but he had 
the heart of a man and the courage of a soldier, and soon 
placed himself, in effect, on the Free-State side. He might 
have dispersed the invaders about Lawrence more speedily, 
but he was not then wholly master of the situation, or did 
not feel himself to be. As the course of events at Law 
rence, September 14-15, has been variously represented, I 
will here cite the evidence of eye-witnesses and contem 
porary reporters. H. L. Dunlop, then of Lawrence, but 
now of Topeka, says : 

11 1 was at that time a member of John Wright's company. What 
name I went by on the rolls I will not say. Many of us went under 
fictitious names. My next younger brother, who was with me in that 
command, went by the name of Henry Preston. You will find his 
name on the list of Lecornpton prisoners. He was captured at Hick 
ory Point with Colonel Harvey. On the day preceding the attack on 
Lawrence (September 13), I went east of Lawrence, through the 
town of Franklin, with a detachment of Captain Wright's men, on a 
scout, the balance of Captain Wright's company having gone with 
Colonel Harvey. We found a large body of men crossing at the 
lower ford of the Wakarusa ; they camped that night on the bottom. 



334 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

We counted their tents to ascertain about how many there were, as 
near as possible. The next morning they commenced to advance. 
We fell back slowly through Franklin, ducking their advance-guard 
occasionally. They fired the mill at Franklin and came on, and 
when we arrived near Lawrence their advance was pressing us 
closely. The Stub Rifles, Captain Walkers men, came up and 
deployed on our right, and we went into position in the rifle pits 
near the head of Massachusetts Street. John Brown was there. I 
think he had on a reddish plush cap, which had side pieces to turn 
down. I heard him talk to some of the boys who were playing 
cards, ' that it was no time or place for that,' saying that the pro- 
slavery men would soon be there. He cautioned them to fire low, 
and talked quite awhile. At this time Walker's men had opened 
fire on the proslavery advance, and they were falling back. 

u Just before sunset John Brown pointed out to me a stone huilding 
that stood south and west of where we were, and asked me to take some 
men and hold the position ready for the morrow. I called for volun 
teers, and selected ten or twelve men. They were mostly Wright's 
men; We inarched to the spot. The building was not completed ; 
no floor laid. I had boards laid so that we could fire from the window 
openings, and placed some videttes out. The balance went to sleep 
in the building. During the night I heard a rattling of sabres and a 
command to halt. I went to one of the sentinels, who was on the 
Santa Fe trail leading west towards Lecompton. I found there a 
detachment of United States troops, and conversed with the officer in 
command, gave him a detailed account of the day's doings arid the 
positions of the different forces. He said he would take a position 
between us, and inarched his men past. In the morning the regulars 
were between us and the proslavery men. You, no doubt, recollect 
that on the disbandment of the proslavery men it was proposed that 
a portion of them should cross the river at Lawrence, whereupon 
several of us notified Governor Geary that we should fire on them 
from the buildings, and the order was changed, and they crossed at 
De Soto." 

John Brown, who was in Lawrence September 8, soon after 
went to Topeka, and was on his way from that town to Osa- 
watomie, when the Missourians began to show themselves 
about Lawrence, September 12 or 13. The latter was the 
date of an expedition sent out from Lawrence to capture a 
fort of the Border Ruffians at Hickory Point. On the 14th, 
while many of the armed men of Lawrence were absent on 
this expedition, the people of the town were alarmed by the 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 335 

news " that twenty -eight hundred Missourians were march 
ing down upon Lawrence, with drums beating and with 
eagles upon their banners." The actual number reported 
by Governor Geary, who visited their camp at Franklin on 
Monday the loth, was twenty-seven hundred, and their 
leaders were General John W. Reid, David E. Atchison, B. 
F. Stringfellow, etc., the same who had led an invasion 
three weeks before. The whole number of fighting-men in 
Lawrence that Sunday did not exceed two hundred, and 
many of them were unarmed; but Brown was there, and 
soon made himself known. He was asked to take command 
of the defences of the town, and though he declined this, he 
did his whole duty. Between four and five o'clock in the 
afternoon he assembled the people in the main street, and, 
mounted on a dry-goods box in the midst of them, made 
this speech, which is reported by one who heard him : 

u 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. Now is probably the last opportunity 
you will have of seeing a fight, so that you had better do your best. 
If they should come up and attack us, don't yell and make a great 
noise, but remain perfectly silent and still. Wait 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 sights of your guns. It is from the neglect of this that I 
myself have so many times escaped ; for if all the bullets that have 
ever been aimed at me had hit, I should have been as full of holes as 
a riddle." 

After this exhortation, which reminds one of John Stark 
at Bunker Hill and Bennington, Brown sent a small force 
to the few defences about the town, and others ordered all 
the men who had the far-shooting Sharpe's rifle then a new 
weapon to go out upon the prairie, half a mile south, where 
by this time the invading horsemen could be seen, two miles 
off. After a halt for reconnoitring purposes, the enemy made 
an advance upon Brown's left, and came within half a mile 
of his advance guard, just as the sun was setting. Under 



336 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

cover of the dusk some approached nearer ; but the dis 
charge of a few Sharpe's rifles and the coining of a brass 
cannon, which had been ordered up to support the rifles, 
caused the enemy (who may have been only a reconnoitring 
party) to turn and retreat; and no further attack was 
made. The stone building which Dunlop mentions was a 
stone church, still standing, on the southwest side of Law 
rence ; and John Brown, Jr., was one of thirty or forty 
men sent out to hold that position. He is my authority 
for the statement that Brown placed men armed with 
pitchforks (for want of better weapons) in places of defence 
where they could be useful with such arms. He heard his 
father make the speech above cited, and says it was longer 
than reported, but the substance of it was caught and 
printed. Colonel Walker, of Lawrence, told me in 1882 
that on the 14th of September, 1856, Brown was not in 
command, " but went about with his rifle on his shoulder." 
In Lane's absence on an expedition the chief command fell 
to Captain Abbott, the rescuer of Branson, who was " officer 
of the day." There was little fighting, but much firing on 
both sides at long range. Walker himself went out toward 
Franklin with ten or fifteen mounted men, to reconnoitre ; 
saw the enemy, two or three thousand in number, as he 
judged, and fell back toward Lawrence, followed by two 
hundred or more of them. When these men came near 
Lawrence they were fired at by the few men who were 
there, but there was no engagement. If the main body had 
come up then, they might have captured Lawrence, in 
Colonel Walker's opinion. 

During his excursion northward, early in August, we get 
a glimpse of John Brown as he appeared to the armed 
emigrants from Massachusetts and New York. A brother 
of Brown's wounded son-in-law, on learning of the casual 
ties at Black Jack, at once left North Elba, and joined the 
second Massachusetts company of emigrants at Buffalo. 
Brown rode into their camp in Nebraska, inquiring if 
William Thompson was there, found him, and they left the 
camp together. " The Captain was riding a splendid horse, 
and was dressed in plain white summer clothing. He wore 
a large straw hat, and was closely shaven: everything 



t 
1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 337 

about him was scrupulously clean." He made a great im 
pression on several of the company, who, without knowing 
him, at once declared that he must be a distinguished man 
in disguise. Brown and his party then proceeded to Tabor, 
in Iowa, left the wounded man and his brother there, and 
went back to Kansas in company with General Lane and 
Colonel Walker. 

Let me make a digression here, in order to introduce 
some anecdotes which I heard from Colonel Walker con 
cerning Captain Brown and General Lane, the two Kansas 
men who were always ready for fighting. Colonel Walker 
was a Pennsylvania Democrat when he settled in Kansas, a 
little earlier than John Brown went there. He has always 
lived there, except when in the military service ; and no 
man's character for truth and courage stands higher. He 
told me that he first saw Brown when he came with his sons 
in a wagon from Osawatomie to Lawrence, to help defend 
it from the Missourians in the " Wakarusa War " of 1855. 
They were then the best-armed men he had seen in Kansas. 
There was no fighting then, but earthworks were thrown up 
near Governor Robinson's old house on Mount Oread, where 
now the State University stands ; and these old lines are 
still visible. Walker was sent by Robinson in August, 
1856, to meet General Lane, then comiug on with a party 
of emigrants who had crossed Iowa and Nebraska, and to 
prevent him from being intercepted by General Richardson 
and the Missourians or the United States troops, on his 
way into Kansas with his company of armed emigrants. 
Walker rode up to the Nemaha River, and found what he 
supposed was a camp of Missourians, but which turned out 
to be John Brown, with his sick son Owen and a few men, 
working their way along northward to where he was to 
leave Owen at Tabor, in Iowa. Brown and Walker then 
went northward together until they came near where Lane 
was. When Walker told Lane that he must not come into 
Kansas with his emigrants, for if he did he would certainly 
be arrested by the United States troops. Lane said : " Then 
I will shoot myself to-night; for I have told the Kansas 
people that I am coming back, and I have told these emi- 

22 



338 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

grants that I am going in with them ; if I give it up now it 
will be said that I deserted them, and there will be no way 
of disproving it. I must go back into Kansas." 

Walker then told Lane that he must disguise himself. 
" So we tried nitrate of silver on his face, but it would not 
change him ; and then we tried putting old clothes on him ; 
but the worse clothes we put on, the more like Jim Lane 
he looked." Then Walker said he would take him back 
under escort, with Brown's help ; and they started so, with 
twenty or thirty men, and Brown among them. When 
they camped for the night, Brown, according to his custom, 
went away to sleep by himself ; and Walker describes him 
as sitting bolt upright on his saddle, with his back against 
a tree, his horse " lariated " to the saddle-peak, and Brown 
asleep with his rifle across his knees. At early dawn 
Walker went up to waken Brown, and as he touched him 
on the shoulder Brown sprang up "quick as a cat," lev 
elled, cocked, and discharged his piece, which Walker 
threw up with his hand in time to escape death ; but the 
bullet grazed his shoulder. "That shows how quick he 
was ; but he was frightened afterward, when he saw it was 
I he had fired at." Then, said Walker, il As we rode along 
together, Brown was in a sort of study ; and I said to him, 
i Captain Brown, 1 would n't have your thoughts for any 
thing in the world.' Brown said, ' I suppose you are think 
ing about the Pottawatomie affair.' Said I, 'Yes/' Then 
he stopped and looked at me, and said, l Captain Walker, I 
saw that whole thing, but I did not strike a blow. I take 
the responsibility of it : but there were men who advised 
doing it, and afterward failed to justify it,' " meaning, 
as Walker supposed, Lane and Kobinson. Walker now 
believes Brown, and cannot think that Townsley's state 
ment about Brown's shooting Doyle through the head is 
correct ; " for Brown would never tell me what was not 
true, and would not deny to me anything he had really 
done." 

In respect to Governor Geary's friendly feeling toward 
Brown, Walker said that one morning, after a deed of Brown 
which had made much noise, Geary sent a note to Walker, 
as he was drilling his men out on the field, telling him to get 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 339 

word to Brown that a warrant was out against him, which 
must be served, and that Brown must get away. Walker saw 
a man looking on whom he had before seen in Brown's camp ; 
he took him one side, showed him Geary's note, and told him 
to find and warn Brown. Not long after came an orderly 
from Governor Geary with a warrant against Brown, which 
Walker must serve with his posse. " Take him dead or 
alive ; and for this I shall hold you, Captain Walker, per 
sonally responsible," was the order. Walker took the war 
rant and made search for Brown ; but of course he had 
gone. At that time Brown's camp was on the Wakarusa, 
eight or ten miles from Lawrence. The man who warned 
Brown, Walker afterwards found, was James Montgomery, 
who succeeded to the reputation of Brown as a good fighter 
in southern Kansas. 

Soon after Governor Geary came to Kansas, he persuaded 
Walker to become a deputy marshal of the United States, 
and to summon jurymen, serve processes, and make arrests. 
At first Walker refused, saying there were thirty-seven in 
dictments against himself found by the proslavery grand- 
jury ; and he feared he should be arrested if he undertook 
to serve warrants on other men. It was finally agreed that 
the District Attorney should refuse to prosecute (noL pros.) 
these indictments, and then Walker should be sworn in as 
a deputy, marshal of the United States, and should use his 
armed band of Free-State men as his posse in making arrests. 
Before the matter was thus settled, Governor Geary came 
to Lawrence from Lecompton one day, and sent word that 
he would dine at Walker's house ; but, as it happened, that 
very day the other United States Marshal with a posse of 
mounted proslavery men came into Lawrence to arrest 
Walker, went to his house, and was fired upon there by the 
people inside, Walker being on the street with Governor 
Geary at the time. His little boy came running up to him in 
the street, and said before the Governor, " Mother says the 
Marshal and his men are surrounding the house and firing ; 
and you must not come home." Geary turned white with 
anger, and said, "You're mistaken, boy; they are firing at 
birds." But he found it was the Marshal, and went back at 
once to Lecompton and put a stop to such proceedings. Soon 



340 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

after, Walker was sworn in ; and his first act was to sum 
mon a jury of Free-State men. He had his pocket full of 
warrants against Free-State men, some of which he served 
and some he would not serve. Several were against John 
Ritchie, with whom Walker often spent the night ; when 
Ritchie, who was a brave Free-State soldier, would say to 
him : " Walker, I like you as well as any man in Kansas ; 
but if you try to serve your warrants on me, by God, I '11 
kill you ! " " I never did try," said Walker ; " but by and 
by another deputy a Free-State man had the warrants 
given him to serve, and thought he must try it ; he did so, 
and Ritchie shot him.' 7 

It was probably upon the hint which Walker gave through 
Montgomery, that John Brown left Kansas in 1856, pursued 
by the United States troops. He started for northern Kan 
sas before the 20th of September, journeying with his four 
sons and with a fugitive slave, whom he picked up on the 
way. The old hero was sick, as he often was, and travelled 
slowly : appearing to be a land-surveyor on a journey. He 
had a light wagon in which he rode, with his surveyor's in 
struments ostentatiously in sight ; and inside, covered up in 
a blanket, was the fugitive slave. Sometimes he pitched 
his camp at night near the dragoons who were ordered to 
arrest him, but who little suspected that the formidable 
fighter was so near them in the guise of a feeble .old man. 
A spy had notified the dragoons that Brown was on the road, 
and they were on the watch for him, five hundred mounted 
men, as one of his sons told me, with four cannon. Early 
in the morning two of the sons, John and Jason, rose early 
and made a long circuit round the camp, while their father, 
ill and weak, followed on later in the day. It was proposed 
to carry him along this dangerous part of his journey con 
cealed in the wagon, as his fugitive slave was. " No," said 
Bro*wn, who scorned to hide himself; " I may as well die by 
the enemy as be jolted to death in the wagon." At Ply 
mouth, not far from the Nebraska border, Redpath, in one 
of his journeys through the Territory, found him lying ill 
in a log hut, while his four sons were camped near by. A 
few hours after, the dragoons, hearing he was so near them, 
came up to arrest him ; but he had crossed the border into 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 341 

Nebraska, and was out of their reach. He went forward 
till he came to Tabor in Iowa, not far northeast of Nebraska 
City, and there remained among friends for two weeks in 
early October. In the latter part of that month he reached 
Chicago, and made himself known to the National Kansas 
Committee, which then had headquarters in that city. 1 Af 
terward he travelled eastward, to Ohio, to Peterboro', N. Y., 
where he visited his friend Gerrit Smith ; to Albany and 
Springfield, and finally to Boston, where I first saw him in 
the early part of January, 1857. 

That Brown was in Chicago as early as October 25 will 
be seen by the two following letters, the first by General 
J. D. Webster, then a member of the National Kansas Com 
mittee, and the other by Mr. Horace White, its assistant 
secretary : 

NATIONAL KANSAS COMMITTEE ROOMS, 
CHICAGO, Oct. 25, 1856. 

DEAR SIR, We have requested Captain Brown to join you and 
give you the benefit of his counsel in reference to the safe transporta 
tion of your freight. 12 Colonel Dickey will also be able to assist you. 
We hope every precaution will be taken. Captain Brown says the 
immediate introduction of the supplies is not of much consequence 
compared to the danger of losing them. We trust your foresight and 

1 On his way from Kansas to Chicago he passed one of his sons, who 
was going to join his father in Kansas, as appears by this letter : 

ST. CHARLES, IOWA, Oct. 30, 1856. 

DEAR MOTHER, BROTHERS, AND SISTERS, I sent you a draft for thirty dollars a few- 
days ago in a sheet of paper with a very few words on it, they being all I had time to 
write then. We are well and in fine spirits, besides being in good company. We are in 
the company of a train of Kansas teams loaded with Sharpe's rifles and cannon. I heard 
a report that father had gone East. We travel very slow ; you can write to us at Tabor. 
On our way we saw Gerrit Smith, F. Douglass, and other old friends. We have each a 
.Sharpe's rifle. Oliver, your watch was all that saved us. I want you to write and let 
us know how you get along. No more now. 

Yours truly, WATSON BROWN. 

From this it would seem that Oliver Brown, the youngest son, had gone 
back to North Elba in advance of his father. Watson also turned back 
and joined his father at Chicago, and then returned home to the Adiron- 
dacs, where I saw him in the summer of 1857. 

2 This " freight" included the two hundred rifles sent forward in Sep 
tember by the Massachusetts Kansas Committee, and afterward carried by 
Brown to Virginia when he attacked Harper's Ferry. 



342 LITE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

discretion will prevent any loss, and be of essential aid to the good 
cause. 

Yours truly, J. D. WEBSTER. 

DR. J. P. ROOT. 

OFFICE NATIONAL KANSAS COMMITTEE, 

CHICAGO, Oct. 26, 1856. 

CAPTAIN BROWN, We expect Mr. Arny, our general agent, just 
from Kansas, to be in to-morrow 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 to-night, 1 
would recommend you to wait and see him. I shall confer with 
Colonel Dickey on this point. Rev. Theodore Parker, of Boston, is 
at the Briggs House, and wishes very much to see you. 
Yours truly. 

HORACE WHITE, Assist. Sec., etc. 

P. S. If you wish one or two of those rifles, 1 please call at our 
office between three and five this afternoon, or between seven and 
eight this evening. 

In his testimony before Senator Mason's investigating 
committee in January, 1860, Mr. White thus explained the 
allusion to rifles in the letter just cited : " Our committee 
sent John Brown, twenty -five navy revolvers of Colt's manu 
facture, in August, 1856, by Mr. Arny, our agent ; but they 
never reached him. They were sent to Lawrence and stored 
there for a time, subject to Brown's order ; but he did not- 
come forward to claim them, and they were loaned to a mili 
tary company in Lawrence called the 'Stubs;' but Brown 
never afterward appeared to claim them. He told me that 
the reason was, he had had so much trouble and fuss and 
difficulty with the people of Lawrence, that he never would 
go there again to claim anything. I gave no other arms to 
Brown himself, but gave rifles to two of his sons. After all 
the arms of the committee had been distributed in Kansas, 
or all but two or three, Mr. Brown made his appearance at 
the committee-rooms with two of his sons in October, 1856. 
One of them was Watson, and the other, I think, was Owen 
Brown. We ^had three or four rifles left, and I gave one to 

1 These were perhaps from the Massachusetts stock of rifles, but most 
likely belonged to another lot which was then on its way to Kansas. 



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 348 

each of those sous ; and, as they were very poorly clad, I 
went down^to a fur store in Chicago and purchased each of 
them a pair of fur gloves and fur overshoes and caps." Mr. 
White also fitted out Captain Brown with a new suit of 
clothes, in which he made his visits that winter to his New 
England friends, who had begun to take a strong interest in 
his course, as the following note from the Emigrant Aid 
Office in Boston sufficiently indicates : 

BOSTON, Sept. 22, 1856. 

No. 3 Winter Street. 
JOHN BROWN, ESQ. 

DEAR SIR, The Messrs. Chapin, who keep the Massasoit House 
in Springfield, in this State, wish to give you fifty or one hundred 
dollars, as a testimonial of their admiration of your brave conduct 
during the war. Will you write to them, stating how they can 
send you the money ? Call upon Mr. S. N. Simpson, of Lawrence. 
He will tell you who I am. 

Yours truly, 

CHARLES H. BRANSCOMB. 

Indeed, at this time Brown had the confidence of all 
lovers of liberty. 

NOTE. While these events were occurring in Kansas, Congress was 
in session at Washington, adjourning Aug. 30, 1856. The Senate was 
controlled by Senator Mason and his slaveholding associates, who were 
obediently followed by Cass, Douglass, and the other Northern " dough 
faces," as John Randolph called such persons. The House, under the lead 
of the Speaker, General Banks, of Massachusetts, was on the side of 
freedom, and votod that the Territorial laws of Kansas were oppressive ; 
it also refused for some weeks to pass the Army Bill, except with a clause 
forbidding the "dough-face" President Pierce to use the army against 
the freemen of Kansas. Finally, a few Northern men yielded, and the bill 
passed the House as Mason and Douglass forced it through the Senate (Aug. 
30, 1856). The American news from Kansas and Washington, "through 
some certain strainers well refined," reached London in a damaged state ; 
for Lord Malmesbury wrote in his diary, Sept. 6, 1856 : " Civil war has 
broken out in the United States between the Abolitionists and the proslav- 
ery party, and a great deal of blood has been already shed. The Govern 
ment refused to take part with either side, upon which the slave-party in 
Congress would not vote the supplies for the army, which accordingly must 
be disbanded." As this peer had been Foreign Secretary, he might have 
been supposed to know something about America ; but he writes in 1865, 
after the fighting around Richmond, that Grant and Sheridan "drove Lee 
into Pittsburg." Such is English material for American history ! 



344 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1854. 



CHAPTER XL 
JOHN BROWN AND THE KANSAS . COMMITTEES. 



'T^HE committees appointed from 1854 to 1859 to attend 
-*' to Kansas and its affairs were legion, and as various in 
kind as possible. The Boston Emigrant Aid Company was 
the first of these committees ; next the Free-State men of 
Lawrence formed a singular secret committee in 1855, to 
protect themselves from the Border Ruffians ; and of this 
the chief members were General Lane and Charles Robin 
son. A penitent or treacherous member, who had been 
admitted to this secret committee, disclosed what he said 
were its oaths and signs ; but there was much exaggeration 
in what Dr. Francis swore to before the next Kansas com 
mittee, that of Congress, sent out in the spring of 1856. 
Some parts of his testimony may here be cited to show what 
he wished to have us believe : 

THE KANSAS REGULATORS. 1 

" Offers were made to me by various persons to introduce me to 
a secret political organization. The only name I ever received as 
a member of the lodge was Kansas Regulators. ... I went with 

1 John Brown, Jr., says : I belonged to this secret organization, though 
I cannot say it had this name : it seems to me the name was "Kansas 
Defenders." I was initiated by Lane himself, in a room of Garvey's Hotel 
at Topeka, in the spring of 1856, at the time of the first assembling of the 
legislature under the Topeka Constitution. The oath, as stated by Dr. 
Francis, is the same substantially as administered by Lane to me. I do 
not think we were required by our oath to resist United States authorities 
in attempts to enforce the bogus laws, though it was understood by us that 
we might be driven to do so, when we ivould so resist, rather than tamely 
submit. Our badge was a narrow black ribbon, from six to eight inches 
long, tied in the button-hole of the shirt collar. 



1855.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 345 

Colonel Lane to the law-office of John Hutchinson, as I afterward 
found out. Governor Reeder did not go into the room where I was 
initiated. Dr. Robinson -was standing just before the door with a 
lady, I should think. Colonel Lane asked him to leave the lady and 
go into the office with us. Robinson rather objected at first, but 
finally came in with us, and said he would explain the nature of the 
organization he was about to initiate me into. The substance of 
the explanation was, that Kansas was a beautiful country and well 
adapted to freedom, and the best Territory in the world for the 
friends of freedom to operate on, more especially for those who were 
engaged in the free white State cause. After proceeding in that 
strain for a while, he asked me if I was willing to pledge my word 
and honor that I would keep secret what I saw there, and whom I 
saw there, provided he would pledge his word and honor that there 
was nothing which would interfere with my duties as a citizen, or that 
was disloyal in any respect." 

The oath was this : 

" I furthermore promise and swear that I will at all times and 
under all circumstances bear upon my person a weapon of death ; 
that I will at all times and under all circumstances keep in my house 
at least one gun, with a full supply of ammunition ; that I will at 
all times and under all circumstances, when I see the sign of distress 
given, rush to the assistance of the person giving it, where there is 
a greater probability of saving his life than of losing my own. I 
furthermore promise and swear that I will, to the utmost of my 
power, oppose the laws of the so-called Kansas Legislature; and 
that when 1 hear the words of danger given I will repair to the place 
where the danger is. ... 

"... The regalia was this: The private members wore a black 
ribbon tied upon their shirt-bosoms; the colonel wore a red sash; 
the lieutenant-colonel a green sash, the major a blue sash, the adju 
tant a black sash, the captains white sashes, the lieutenants yellow 
sashes, the orderly sergeant a very broad black ribbon upon his 
shirt-bosom. . . . Colonel Lane wore the red sash, and some one 
else, but I am not certain who it was. I do not recollect seeing any 
body with a green sash. Dr. Robinson had a beautiful sash on, 
looking like a blue and red one joined together, trimmed with gold 
lace. I was told it denoted some higher office than colonel ; but I 
did not learn what it was. . . . 

u In regard to the laws which were to be resisted, I understood 
from Dr. Robinson and Colonel Lane that they were the laws of 
the late Territorial Legislature. Colonel Lane said : t We will not 



346 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855. 

submit to any laws passed by that Legislature ; and we arc mak 
ing preparations to place in the hands of every Free-State man a 
Sharpe's rifle and a brace of Colt's revolvers j and, if need be, we 
will resist even the United States troops if they attempt to enforce 
those laws. 7 He also stated at the sumo time that an attack had 
been anticipated on the town of Lawrence the day before, and that 
he saw five hundred men there, at their business in the streets, 
armed. . . . Dr. Robinson and Col. Lane told me they expected 
to form lodges or councils in every county in the Territory. They 
proclaimed me a Kansas Regulator; and that was all the name 
I learned for a member of the organization ; and they gave me 
authority to institute lodges, and conferred upon me a sort of brevet 
rank of captain. This was at the time I was initiated. During the 
first Lawrence war they sent me a commission as captain, which I 
never used." 

A Free-State man, Mr. G. P. Lowrey, testified thus : 

"... I have no distinct recollection of all the oath, but I know 
Dr. Francis testifies to matters as being in the oath which were not 
contained in it. The oath required us to keep fire-arms and ammu 
nition ; to use all lawful and honorable means to make Kansas a free 
State ; to wear at all times upon our persons a weapon of death ; 
and I think to go to the assistance of a brother when the probability 
of saving his life was greater than of losing our own. I do not 
recollect anything in the oath which required us to deal with Free- 
State men in preference to proslavery men, or to wear upon the per 
son at all times the insignia of the order, or to obey at all times the 
orders of superior officers even unto death." 

That Brown had something to do with both these com 
mittees is probable, almost certain. He was at times in 
close relations with the officers of the Emigrant Aid Com 
pany, and, as we have seen, was a small stockholder there 
in. There is no record that he was ever initiated in the 
secret order of Robinson and Lane ; but it has been asserted 
that he executed the five men on the 24th of May in accord 
ance with a decree of these " Regulators." I have seen no 
good evidence of this, but have no doubt that some of the 
"Regulators " counselled such acts and justified them when 
done. The committees under which Brown chiefly acted 
however, when he would connect himself with any such 
organizations at all, were the National Kansas Committee, 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 347 

which was formed in Buffalo in the summer of 1856, and 
the State Kansas Committee of Massachusetts, formed about 
the same time, but continuing much longer in its work. 
The creation of such unofficial bodies for public service was 
natural enough, and in accord with a national custom. The 
people of the North had resolved that Kansas should be con 
trolled by freemen, and that slavery should never be toler 
ated there. In pursuance of this resolution, they formed 
these societies and committees to colonize Kansas with 
Northern men, who would never vote to establish slavery ; 
and by one of these organizations, the New England 
Emigrant Aid Company, a portion of Kansas was in fact 
colonized during the years 1854 and 1855. At that time I 
was in college, and so occupied with my private affairs that, 
except to vote and read the newspapers, I took little inter 
est in those of the public. But upon leaving college and 
going to reside in Concord in 1855, I became more actively 
concerned in regard to the political situation, and early took 
up the opinion that the battle between the North and the 
South was first to be fought in Kansas. In the spring of 1856 
one of my brothers became a Kansas colonist. Soon after, 
the outrages of the Missouri invaders of Kansas grew so fre 
quent and alarming that the indignation of Massachusetts 
and of the whole North was roused, and further action be 
gan to be taken in this form. " Kansas committees " were 
organized in towns, counties, and States, and very soon a 
national committee, among the members of which were 
Abraham Lincoln, Gerrit Smith, and Dr. S. G. Howe. Mr. 
Lincoln never acted, so far as I know ; but the committee 
did much work for a year, and raised thousands of dollars 
to colonize towns and support armed colonists in Kansas. 
Between May, 1856, and January, 1857, I passed through 
all the grades of these Kansas committees, beginning in 
June, 1856, as secretary of the Concord town committee ; 
then in July helping to organize a county committee for 
Middlesex, of which I was secretary ; then serving as secre 
tary to the Massachusetts State Kansas Committee, from 
December, 1856, until the committee dissolved in 1858-59 ; 
and finally serving upon the National Committee at its last 
meeting, in January, 1857, as proxy for Dr. Howe. 



348 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857- 

What a few years later the Sanitary Commission did for 
the Union armies as a whole, these committees of 1856-57 did 
for the pioneers of Kansas. Something more was done, too ; 
for they supplied rifles, cartridges, and cannon to the defend 
ers of freedom in Kansas, a work which the Sanitary Com 
mission could leave to the National Government. The first 
large sum of money raised to buy arms for Kansas was that 
contributed in Boston during the spring of 1855, some 
thousands of dollars, which were expended in the purchase 
of Sharpe's rifles. The Faneuil Hall Committee, of Bos 
ton, organized in May, 1856, pledged itself to raise money 
for use " in. a strictly lawful manner " in Kansas ; but most 
of the other committees were not so scrupulous, and gave 
their money freely to arm the colonists who went out to 
defend the Free-State cause. The National Kansas Com 
mittee, which had its headquarters at Chicago, had received 
and forwarded many of these arms ; but some members of 
this committee soon became distrustful of Captain Brown, 
who was too radical for them. A general meeting of this 
National Committee, which was made up of one or more 
members from each free State, assembled in New York on 
the 23d of January, 1857. At this meeting, which took 
place at the Astor House, and remained in session two days, 
Captain Brown was present, urging his plan to organize a 
company of mounted rangers for service in Kansas and Mis 
souri. I was there as a delegate from Massachusetts, and 
caused a resolution to be introduced, transferring the cus 
tody of two hundred Massachusetts rifles to our own State 
committee. This was passed without much opposition ; 
but another resolution, introduced I think by Mr. Newton, 
the delegate from Vermont, and appropriating five thousand 
or ten thousand dollars to Captain Brown for his special 
purposes, was vehemently opposed by Mr. Henry B. Hurd, 
of Chicago, and a few others, among them Mr. Arny, of 
Illinois, who had taken Abraham Lincoln's place on the 
committee. The reasons given by these gentlemen were 
that Captain Brown was so ultra and violent that he would 
use the money, if voted, in ways which the committee 
would not sanction ; and I remember that Mr. Hurd, when 
Captain Brown had withdrawn, urged this argument very 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 349 

earnestly. The views of the more radical Eastern members 
prevailed however, and the money was voted, although only 
one hundred and fifty dollars of it was ever paid over to 
Captain Brown. 

The friends of Kansas in Massachusetts, and particularly 
the State Kansas Committee (which grew out of the Faneuil 
Hall Committee and some others appointed in the Massachu 
setts counties), had no hesitation in buying rifles and ammu 
nition, and did, in fact, buy the rifles which John Brown 
carried to Harper's Ferry. This State committee, and its 
auxiliaries in the towns and counties, raised throughout 
Massachusetts, during 1856, nearly one hundred thousand 
dollars in money and supplies, which were sent to the Kan 
sas people. Some towns, Concord for example, raised in 
proportion to their population much more than this ; for it 
was estimated that if all Massachusetts had contributed as 
freely as Concord, the amount raised in the State would 
have been nearly a million dollars. Personally, I under 
took to canvass Middlesex County that summer and autumn, 
and visited more than half the towns to appoint committees, 
hold meetings, or solicit subscriptions. Enough was sub 
scribed, in Massachusetts and the other Northern States, to 
carry our colonists in Kansas through their worst year ; and 
but for these supplies of money, arms, and clothing, it is 
quite possible they would have been driven out or con 
quered by the Missourians, the United States troops, and 
their other enemies. 1 

1 The records of the Massachusetts Kansas Committee, including its 
large correspondence, were in my possession for a few years as secretary. 
Before the attack on Harper's Ferry, or soon after, I transferred them to 
the custody of the chairman of the committee, George L. Stearns, and 
some of them have since been destroyed. They contained much historical 
information and some curious revelations concerning political movements in 
those years. They will also confirm the statements made in the " Atlantic 
Monthly " in 1872, concerning the ownership of the arms carried by Brown 
to Virginia. The Massachusetts Committee voted them to John Brown as 
its agent in 1857, and though they were nominally reclaimed in 1858, they 
were never out of his custody till captured in Maryland. They had ceased 
to be the property of the committee, except in name, before the corres 
pondence of Ma)', 1858 (printed in Senator Mason's Report of 1860, pp. 
176, 177), in which Mr. Stearns, the real owner of the arms, warned 



350 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWX. [1856. 

Mr. Stearns, before Senator Mason's committee in 1860, 
gave this account of the State committee : 

" In the spring of 1856 I wont to the Boston Committee for the 
relief of sufferers in Kansas, and offered my services. I worked for 
them until June of that year; and then being willing to devote all my 
time to the cause, I was made chairman of the Kansas State Com 
mittee of Massachusetts, which took the place of the first-named com 
mittee, and continued the work throughout the State. In five months, 
including August and December of that year (1856), I. raised, through 
my agents, about $48,000 in money ; and in the same time my wife 
commenced the formation of societies for contributions of clothing, 
which resulted in sending from $'^0,000 to $30,000 more, in supplies 
of various kinds. In January, 1857, our work was stopped, by ad 
vices from Kansas that no more contributions were needed except 
for defence. If we had not been thus stopped, our arrangements 
then made would have enabled us to have collected $100,000 in the 
next six months. Soon after our State committee had commenced 
work, I think in August, 1856, a messenger from Kansas, 
who came through Iowa (for the Missouri River was then closed by 
the Missourhms to all Free-State travellers), came to us asking 
earnestly for arms and ammunition for defence of the Free-State 
party. Our committee met the next day, and immediately voted to 
send two hundred Sharpe's rifles, and the necessary quantity of ammu 
nition, which was procured and sent to the National Kansas Com- 

Brown not to use them for any other purpose than the defence of Kansas, 
"and to hold them subject to my order as chairman of the committee." 
On the 20th of May, 1858, Mr. Stearns wrote thus to Colonel Higginson, 
then cognizant of Brown's designs, but not a member of the Kansas Com 
mittee : "I have felt obliged, for reasons that cannot be written, to recall 

the arms committed to B 's custody. We are all agreed on that point; 

and if you come to Boston, I think we can convince you that it is for the 
best." That this recall was only nominal appears from a memorandum 
made by Higginson when he did " come to Boston " early in June. " I 
found," he says, " that the Kansas Committee had put some five hundred 
dollars in gold into Brown's hands, and all the arms, with only the under 
standing that he should go to Kansas, and then be left to his own discre 
tion." In fact, no member of the committee who was consulted ever 
suggested the actual recall of the arms from Brown, well knowing that he 
would not give them up unless he pleased. Nor, according to my recol 
lection, did any member who gave advice (probably only Mr. Stearns, Dr. 
Howe, and myself, who had long been the three acting members of a com 
mittee practically defunct, were consulted) desire to have Brown surrender 
them. 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 351 

mittee at Chicago, to be by them forwarded through Iowa to Kansas. 
From some cause, which I have never heard explained, these arms 
were delayed in Iowa ; and in November or December of that year 
we directed an agent to proceed to Iowa at our charge, and take 
possession of them as our property. Early in January, 1857, John 
Brown, of whom I had heard, but had not seen, came to Boston and 
was introduced to me by one of our Kansas agents ; and after repeated 
conferences with him, being strongly impressed with his sagacity, 
courage, and stern integrity, I, through a vote of our committee, 
made him our agent to receive and hold these arms and the ammu 
nition, for the defence of Kansas, appropriating $500 to pay his 
expenses. Subsequently, in April of that year, we authorized him 
to sell one hundred rifles, if expedient, and voted $500 more to 
enable him to proceed to Kansas with his armament. About this 
time, on his representing that the force to be organized in Kansas 
ought to be provided with revolvers, I authorized him to purchase 
two hundred from the Massachusetts Arms Company, and when they 
were delivered to him in Iowa, paid for them from my own funds : 
the amount was $1,300. At the same time I gave him, by a letter 
of credit, authority to draw on me at sight for $7,000 in sums as 
it might be wanted, for the subsistence of one hundred men, pro 
vided that it should be necessary at any time to call that num 
ber into the field for active service in the defence of Kansas, in 
1857. As the exigency contemplated did not occur, no money was 
drawn under it, and the letter was subsequently returned to me. 
Besides these transactions, which were for specific purposes, I have 
given him money from time to time, how much I do not know, as I 
never keep any account of my personal expenses, or of money I give 
to others ; it is all charged to my private account as paid me. I 
should think it might amount to, say, from $1,500 to $2,000. In 
addition to what I have before stated, I raised money and sent an 
agent to Kansas to aid the Free- State party in the Lecornpton 
election, and again for the election of 1858. 

11 Question. Was it at Brown's request that you put him in pos 
session of those arms in January, 1857 ? 

u Answer. No, sir ; but. because we needed an agent to secure 
them. They were left in Iowa, and under circumstances that made 
it doubtful whether they would not be lost entirely ; and we put them 
into his hands because it was necessary to have some agent to pro 
ceed there and reclaim them from the hands they were in, and take 
proper care of them." 

The operations of the National Kansas Committee (to 
which Gen-it Smith contributed one thousand dollars a 



352 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

month during the summer and autumn of 1856) were active 
and efficient for a time. 1 

This committee, through its assistant-secretary Horace 
White, reported, Jan. 25, 1857, at New York, as follows : 

11 There have been forwarded by this committee about two thousand 
emigrants. These have gone exclusively by the land route of Iowa 
and Nebraska. The committee have expended between $20,000 and 
$30,000 in provisions and groceries for the needy settlers. These sup 
plies have been purchased mostly in Western Missouri, where food 
is cheap and abundant. There were also forwarded prior to the 1st 
of December about four hundred boxes of clothing, valued at $60,000. 
The receipts in money have been as follows, classified by States : 

Massachusetts $26,107.17 

New York 33,707.39 

Illinois 8,882.00 

Ohio 2,709.41 

Connecticut 3,182.13 

Wisconsin 3,054.35 

Michigan 2,519.15 

Pennsylvania 1,360.19 

Indiana 1,349.20 

Vermont 956.25 

Rhode Island 643.37 

New Hampshire 138.00 

Iowa 313.85 

Minnesota 10.00 

New Jersey 254.00 

The Slave States 10.00 

Unknown 10.00 

1 The following were the names of its members : 

Dr. Samuel Cobb, Jr., ) Boston, S. S. Barnard, Detroit, Mich. 

Dr. S. G. Howe, ) Mass. J. H. Tweedy, Milwaukee, Wis. 

B. B. Newton, St. Albans, Vt. W. Perm Clark, Iowa City, Iowa. 

Governor W. W. Hoppiu, Providence, R. I. F. A. Hunt, St. Louis, Mo. 
W. H. Russell, New Haven, Conn. A. H. Reeder, Kansas. 

Thaddeus Hyatt, New York City. S. W. Eldridge, Kansas. 

Alexander Gordon, Pittsburgh, Pa. J.D.Webster, \ 

W. H. Stanley, Cleveland, Ohio. H. B. Kurd, I chicago< 

John W. Wright, Logansport, Ind. G. W. Dole, j 

W. F. M. Amy, Blooraington, 111. J. Y. Scammon, / 

OFFICERS. 

Thaddeus Hyatt, President, N. Y. City. Eli Thayer, Agent for Organization of States, 
J. D. Webster, Vice-President, Chicago. Worcester, Mass. 

H. B. Hurd, Secretary, Chicago. Edward Daniels, Agent of Emigration, Chi- 

Horace White, Assistant Secretary, Chicago. cago. 

G. W. Dole, Treasurer, Chicago. E. B. Whitman, General Agent, Lawrence, 

Kansas. 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 353 

" The New York 'Tribune' Fuud and Gerrit Smith's donations 
are included in the amount from New York. Gerrit Smith has paid 
in $10,000. These accounts do not indicate the entire amount con 
tributed for the Free-State cause by the various Northern States. 
Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio have given liberally through 
State organizations. Massachusetts has been the recipient of dona 
tions from other States, and has herself contributed largely without 
the intervention of the National Committee. 

u Of clothing, our committee have received seven hundred and 
sixty-three packages, valued at $110,000, and have incurred an 
expense on the same, up to the present date, of $4,108.79. 

" I have prepared a schedule exhibiting the receipts of clothing 
from each of the States by towns. The following are the totals re 
ceived from each of the States in the order of their precedence : 

Packages. 

Massachusetts 310 

New York 134 

Illinois 96 

Ohio 51 

Michigan 26 

Wisconsin 25 

New Hampshire 8 

Connecticut - 6 

Pennsylvania 6 

Rhode Island 5 

Vermont 4 

Indiana 2 

Unknown 89 

Total 762 

"It is proper to state that contributions from some -of the New 
England States were forwarded to the Boston and Massachusetts 
State Eelief committees, and by them forwarded to us at Chicago, 
and also, without our intervention, to the Territory direct. Thus, for 
example, Maine, which has very liberally contributed, her popu 
lation and resources considered, does not appear on my list, her 
donations being included in the list of packages forwarded by Dr. 
Cabot. The State of Iowa should also receive credit for large con 
tributions in clothing, grain, provisions, and money presented to the 
conductors of our different overland companies of emigrants." 

Mr. Bed path, who reported this meeting of the committee 
at New York, said at the time : " At least $250,000, in cash 
and clothing, have been contributed by the Republicans of 

23 



354 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

the North in various ways for the relief and protection 
of their brethren in Kansas." Of this sum, not less than 
$100,000 came from the single State of Massachusetts ; l and 
the whole amount of money alone raised there was more 
than $60,000, of which at least $20.000 was paid for the 
purchase and forwarding of arms to the Free-State men. 
Yet of all these supplies only a few rifles and a few hun 
dred dollars in money went into the hands of John Brown 
and his men in 1856. He sought to obtain a greater share 
in 1857, when, during the winter and spring, he was busily 
engaged in efforts to raise money enough to arm and equip 
a hundred mounted men for service in Kansas and Missouri, 
but without much success. Although the National Com 
mittee at its Astor House meeting voted him an appropria 
tion of five thousand dollars, he received nothing under this 
vote except one hundred and fifty dollars, and that not until 
the summer of 1857. The money voted him by the Massa 
chusetts Committee about the same time was soon exhausted, 
and so were the small collections he had made in New Eng 
land from January to April, 1857. The efforts made for 
legislative appropriations in Massachusetts, New York, and 
other Northern States in aid of the Kansas colonists all 
failed. Brown had labored in person for such an appropria 
tion in Massachusetts, going before the joint committee of 
the legislature in the State House at Boston, on the 18th 



1 Mr. White (who lias since been editor of the " Chicago Tribune," and 
connected with the "Evening Post" and other journals in New York) said 
at the close of his report, Jan. 26, 1857 : "I desire to bring before your 
notice the remarkable services rendered by Dr. Samuel Cabot, Jr., of Bos 
ton, from whom we received directly and indirectly over two hundred and 
fifty boxes of clothing Avithin the short space of two months. Let us not 
forget, however, that it is to women almost solely that the people of Kan 
sas are indebted for this invaluable aid. Everywhere they have been the 
most devoted and untiring friends of freedom. It is impossible to notice 
all who deserve especial mention : but I might specify the young ladies of 
the Oread Institute, at Worcester, Mass., who contributed forty-two water 
proof overcoats for the 'Stubs' of Lawrence ; the ladies of Norwalk, Ohio, 
who furnished one hundred new bed-comforters ; Mrs. Captain Cutter, of 
Warren, Mass., Mrs. Dr. Cabot, of Boston, Mass., Mrs. H. L. Hibbard, of 
Chicago, and Mrs. H. M. T. Cutler, of Dwight, 111., who have been partic 
ularly active in organizing the efforts of the ladies of the North." 



1856.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 355 

of February, and giving his testimony as an eye-witness of 
what had happened in Kansas the year before. 

With this preliminary explanation, I may now give some 
correspondence of these committees with Brown and others, 
beginning with a letter sent by the Massachusetts Kansas 
Committee, before they saw Brown, to the late Senator 
Grimes, of Iowa, then Governor of that State. 



STATE KANSAS AID COMMITTEE ROOMS, 
BOSTON, Dec. 20, 1856. 

DEAR SIR, Your letter of the 16th has been received, and we 
are glad to find that the importance of State action in regard to Kan 
sas is appreciated in Iowa as well as here. The first question seems 
to be, Is such action really needed ? And I will state what I believe 
to be substantially the views of this committee, who are now labor 
ing to obtain an appropriation from our legislature. 

There can be no doubt that the measures of which you speak (the 
purchase of land, erection of mills, etc.) could not well be engaged in 
by a State ; and certainly no grant for that purpose could be obtained 
here. But although present destitution may be relieved in Kansas, 
it is by no means certain that there will not be great suffering there 
in the spring, before any crops can be raised, especially if for any 
cause business should not be active. Then who can be sure that the 
scenes of last summer will not be acted again ? True, things look 
better ; but the experience of the past ought to teach us to prepare 
for the future. But even if things go on prosperously there, money 
may still be needed. Men have been subjected to unjust punish 
ments, or at least threatened with them, under the unconstitu 
tional laws of the Territory. It is desirable that these cases should 
be brought before a higher tribunal ; while the accused person may 
he a poor man unable to bear the expense of such a suit. The State 
appropriations could then be drawn upon for this purpose, and used 
to retain counsel, furnish evidence, and in other ways to forward the 
suit of the injured man. 

Would it not therefore be well for each State to make an appro 
priation, which should remain in the hands of the Governor, as in 
Vermont, or of a committee, until it should be needed in Kansas ? 
It would thus be a contingent fund, to be drawn on only in cases of 
necessity, and it would be ready against any emergency. It might 
never be called for, or only a portion of it might be used; but should 
occasion arise, it would save our citizens in Kansas from many of the 
horrors vrhich have afflicted them the past year. A bill embodying 



356 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856. 

these ideas will be introduced into our legislature ; and from the 
tone of our people we have good hope that it will pass. If a similar 
bill could pass your legislature I have no doubt the example would 
be followed by New York, Maine, Michigan, Connecticut, and per 
haps by Ohio, New Hampshire, and lihode Island. A general 
movement of this kind would give us all we want ; and we might 
make Kansas free, I think, without expending a dollar of the money 
voted. The moral effect of such action on emigration from the North, 
and on the employment of capital, would be very important. Secu 
rity would be given that the rights of emigrants would be supported ; 
and the first result would be the emigration of thousands as soon as 
spring opens ; so that by July we should have a force of Northern 
settlers there, enough to sustain any form of law which might be set 
up. Without this, I fear that next year, in spite of the nattering 
promises of the present, will only see the last year's history repeated. 
There will be no confidence in the tranquillity of the Territory ; 
capital will shun it ; emigration be almost stopped ; and a year hence 
we may be no better off than now, and perhaps worse. With these 
opinions, we look on State appropriations as the salvation of Kansas, 
and hope that the whole North may be led to the same view. 
With much respect, 

F. B. SANBORN, 
Corresponding Secretary of State Committee. 

Although my name is signed to this letter, it was the joint 
composition of the chairman (Mr. Stearns) and myself ; and 
had been preceded by the following letters : 

BOSTON, Dec. 18, 1856. 
H. H. VAN DYCK, ESQ. 

DEAR SIR, Since my return I have received a letter from Gov 
ernor Robinson, a copy of which is enclosed. 

In Connecticut they are ready to form a strong State committee to 
co-operate with New York and Massachusetts, but, like you, aro 
waiting for light. In Philadelphia they have a very large committee, 
and are taking measures for the ultimate formation of a State com 
mittee. We are taking measures to have a petition to our legisla 
ture signed in every town in our State, and find it meets the general 
approval of our citizens. We have also taken measures to get full 
information from Chicago and Kansas as to the past, which, when 
sent us, we will forward to you. Please let me know how you pro 
gress in the work, and believe me 

Your sincere friend, 

GEORGE L. STEARNS, 
Chairman M. S. K. Committee. 



1856.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 357 

BOSTON, Dec. 18, 1856. 
E. B. WHITMAN, ESQ. 

DEAR SIR, We have to-day written to H. B. Hurd, Esq., ask 
ing for permission for an examination of his committee's doings and 
accounts by you. We have endeavored from time to time to get 
from them definite information of their operations; and now, when 
grave charges are brought in our newspapers by Kansas men against 
them and their agents (the Central Committee in Kansas), we are 
entirely without the means of contradicting these assertions, and can 
only oppose our general knowledge of their good character arid 
belief in their wise conduct to the positive statements now daily 
current. We therefore wish you to inform yourself as fully as pos 
sible of all their operations from the commencement to the present 
time, taking such minutes of your researches as will enable you to 
give a full and close account to us, and also before our legislature, 
should you be called upon for that purpose. We want to know the 
disposition made of the money we have sent to them (about $21, GOO, 
and two hundred riHes), an account of which you have enclosed. 
We hope soon to see you in good health, and are 
Truly your friends, 

GEORGE L. STEARNS, 
Chairman M. S. K. Committee. 

In connection with the letter to Mr. Whitman given above, 
a letter was sent to Mr. Hurd, the Secretary of the National 
Committee, portions of which are as follows: 

STATE KANSAS COMMITTEE ROOMS, 17 NILES BLOCK, 

BOSTON, Dec. 18, 1856. 
H. B HURD, ESQ., CHICAGO, ILL. 

DEAR SIR, Yours of the 10th was received to-day, and the 
arrangement which you have made with regard to the money will 
no doubt be satisfactory. I am sorry to say, however, that our 
committee are not satisfied with the infrequent and irregular commu 
nication which exists between us and you. It is now more than 
four months since our committee has been expecting and hoping for 
an account of the money we have sent you, . . . and yet we can 
get no definite information as to the way in which your agents have 
expended our money ; nor have we had from time to time much 
knowledge of the general course of your operations. You say that 
you have no time for such communications; but certainly a com 
mittee like ours, representing so many people and so much money, 
ought to take precedence in a correspondence with individuals. 
Such information as we seek is absolutely necessary to our acting in 



358 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

concert with you; and for want of it we are now compelled to act 
by ourselves. In order to satisfy the committee and our contribu 
tors as to what lias been done, it is necessary that we should have 
copies of your accounts, so far, at least, as they relate to our 
money ; and therefore we ask for the copy mentioned in the indorsed 
vote. And I am further directed to request that you will give our 
agent, Mr. E. B. Whitman, such information on this point as he may 
desire. . . . All that our committee wish is a full and business-like 
statement of what you have done and are doing; for want of this 
they are compelled to cease acting as collectors of money for which 
they can obtain no sufficient vouchers. 
Truly yours, 

F. B. SANBORN, 
Corresponding Secretary Mass. State Committee. 

These letters, together with the movement to obtain 
legislative appropriations (one being actually voted by the 
State of Vermont), were the occasion of calling together 
the National Committee at the Astor House late in Jan 
uary. But previously it was found needful to notify that 
committee as follows : 

STATE KANSAS COMMITTEE ROOMS, 
BOSTON, Jan. 3, 1857. 

H. B. HTJRD, ESQ., Secy. National Kansas Committee. 

DEAR SIR, The Massachusetts Kansas Committee have thought 
it best to rescind the vote by which certain rifles OAvned by S. Cabot, 
Jr., are made subject to the order of the Kansas Central Committee, 
and to resume possession of the same. They were taken on to 
Tabor, it is understood, by Dr. J. P. Root ; but they seem to be 
still at Tabor, and not to be at present needed in Kansas. Any 
information which you can give our agent Mr. Clark, or any direc 
tions to your agents which will facilitate his business, we hope you 
will give him. The necessary expense of transporting the rifles will 
be reimbursed by this committee when they have obtained actual 
possession of them ; and they will be held in trust for the people 
of Kansas for the present. 

Truly yours, 

F. B. SANBORN, 

Cor. Sec. Mass. S. K. Com. 

These were the very rifles which were carried to Mary 
land by Brown, for use in Virginia, two years and a half 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 359 

later ; but at this time there was no thought of any such 
campaign. Brown's purpose, as he disclosed it in Boston in 
January, 1857, was to equip and arm a hundred mounted 
men for defence and reprisal in Kansas ; and it was upon 
this plan that the National Committee, when it assembled, 
held a warm discussion, in which Brown himself took part. 
His request was for arms and money which he might be at 
liberty to use in his own way, his past conduct being his 
guaranty that he would use them wisely. A compromise 
was the result. The arms chiefly in question were voted 
back to the Massachusetts Committee, who, it was under 
stood, would place them in Brown's hands ; and an appro 
priation of five thousand dollars was made from the almost 
empty treasury of the National Committee for his benefit ; 
while he was also to have the reversion of any arms in 
their possession not otherwise disposed of. This appears 
by the following votes : 

At a meeting of the National Kansas Committee, held at the 
Astor House, in the city of New York, on the twenty-fourth day of 
January, A. D. 1857, the following resolutions were adopted : 

1. Eesolved, That the treasurer be directed to reserve in the 
treasury, out of any unappropriated moneys in his custody, or which 
may he hereafter sent to the National committee, the sum of five 
thousand dollars, to be used by the committee in aid of Captain 
John Brown in any defensive measures that may become neces 
sary ; and that Captain Brown be, and he is hereby, authorized to 
draw upon the treasurer for the sum of five hundred dollars, as a 
portion of said sum, at such time as he may deem it expedient, 
for the said purposes. 

2. Resolved, That such arms and supplies as the committee may 
have, and which may be needed by Captain Brown, are appropri 
ated to his use, provided, that the arms and supplies be not more 
than enough for one hundred men ; and that a letter of approbation 
be given him by this committee. 

H. B. KURD, 
Sec. National Kansas Com. 

Any person having property covered by the above Resolution is 
requested to deliver the same to Mr. John Brown or his agent. 

H. B. KURD. 



360 LIFE AND LETTEKS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

In furtherance of these votes, Brown at once made out 
the following schedule, which he called a "Memorandum 
of small outfit : " 

Memorandum of articles wanted as an outfit for fifty volunteers to 
serve under my direction during the Kansas war, or for such speci 
fied time as they may each enlist for ; together 'with estimated cost 
of the same, delivered in Lawrence or Topeka. 

2 siibstantial (but not heavy) baggage wagons with 

good covers $200.00 

4 good serviceable wagon-horses . 400.00 

2 sets strong plain harness 50.00 

100 good heavy blankets, say at $2 or $2.50 .... 200.00 

8 substantial large-sized tents 100.00 

8 large camp-kettles 12.00 

50 tin basins 5.00 

50 tin spoons 2.00 

4 plain strong saddles and bridles 80.00 

4 picket ropes and pins 3.00 

8 wooden pails 2.00 

8 axes and helves 12.00 

8 frying-pans (large size) 8.00 

8 large size coffee-pots 10.00 

8 " l ' spiders or bake-ovens 10.00 

8 " " tin pans 6.00 

12 spades and shovels 18.00 

6 mattocks 6.00 

2 weeks provisions for men and horses 150.00 

fund for horse-hire and feed ; loss and damage of 

same 500.00 

$1774.00 

Upon this list Mr. White remarked as follows : 

ASTOR HOUSE, NEW YORK, Jan. 27, 1857. 
CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN. 

DEAR SIR, I am unable yet to give yon the schedule of articles 
which the committee propose placing in your hands. Please address 
me at Chicago, stating whether a letter may be still sent to you at 
the Massasoit House. It will be necessary for me to examine ship 
ping-books, etc., in our office at Chicago. I "brought your matters 
before the notice of the committee yesterday. Resolutions were 
passed directing the secretary to instruct Mr. Jones, of Tabor, to 
retain the supplies, etc., in his hands until you had made your 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 361 

selections. Resolutions were also adopted empowering me to ship 
clothing, boots, etc., to you at Tabor, which will be done on the 
opening of navigation. Very truly, 

HORACE WHITE. 

OFFICE NATIONAL KANSAS COMMITTEE, 
11 MARINE BANK BUILDING, CHICAGO, Feb. 18, 1857. 
JOHN BROWN, ESQ. 

MY DEAR SIR, The articles specified in the schedule and order 
which you gave me in New York will be forwarded next week. I 
think we shall be able to make out the whole number required, 
filling the blanks with 100. They will be shipped as directed, and 
freight paid through. Mr. Jones has been notified to expect them. 
We hope to hear from you soon. 

Very truly, 

HORACE WHITE, 

Ass't Sec. N. K. Com. 

If any evidence were needed of Mr. White's entire confi 
dence in Brown at this time, it would be furnished by this 
letter : 

CHICAGO, March 21, 1857. 
CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN. 

MY DEAR FRIEND, I find it quite impossible to prepare a sched 
ule of the property which belongs to you under the New York reso 
lution. It can only be ascertained in the Territory. I am going 
there myself about the first of next month, and I need not say that 
you may command my services at all times. Mr. Arny is there, and 
with the help of him and Mr. Whitman we shall probably be able 
to secure everything. At any rate we will work for it. Please let 
me hear how you are prospering. Write me a line directed to Chi 
cago. If I am not here it will be forwarded to me. State when you 
expect to be in Kansas. If you should think it undesirable to have 
one of your letters sent through Missouri, you need not sign your 
name to it. I shall know the handwriting. I anticipate perilous 
times ; and when the Philistines are upon us, I may possibly be found 
carrying a bayonet on the right side. 

Very truly, 

HORACE WHITE. 

P. S. I suppose the Boston people will fix you out with a return 
ticket. Perhaps it may not be amiss to send you the enclosed note. 
If you have other means of procuring just as well a free ticket, I 
would prefer you would not use this, because the railroads have done 
very liberally by us, and I do not wish to seem to be bleeding them. 



362 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

I would rather no one but yourself should have the benefit of the en 
closed, because our credit with the companies for the future depends 
somewhat upon the fairness which they experience this summer. 1 
Again very truly, 

H. W. 

Mr. Arn}', General Agent of this committee, also wrote to 
Brown as follows : 

LOUISVILLE, KY., March 11, 1857. 
CAPTAIN BROWN. 

DEAR SIR, I last week packed fourteen boxes clothing for you, 
marked " J. B., care Jonas Jones, Tabor, Iowa." In one of the 
boxes I put three mills to grind wheat or corn for bread, which I 
think will be useful to the men of your settlement. I could not get 
in every instance the full amount of clothing required ; but have done 
the best I could. Anything I can do further for you, please let me 
know ; and please acknowledge the receipt of this, directed to me, 
care of Simmons & Leadbeator, St. Louis, Mo. 

As ever your friend and well-wisher, 

W. F. M. ARNY. 

On the opposite page you will find a statement of the contents of 
the boxes. 2 

1 The note enclosed runs thus : 

OFFICE NATIONAL KANSAS COMMITTEE, 11 MARINE BANK BUILDING, 

CHICAGO, March 21, 1857. 

DEAR SIR, Allow me to introduce Captain Jolm Brown, of Osawatomie, Kansas 
Territory. If you could consistently give him a trip pass over your road it would be 
regarded a special favor by the committee, and a personal one to most of us. We shall 
not be in the habit of making such requests, but in the present instance it is peculiarly 
wanted, and will be rightly appreciated. 

Very respectfully, 

HORACE WHITE, 

Assistant Secretary N. K. Committee, 

To C. B. GREENOUGH, ESQ. , General Ticket Agent, New York & Erie Railroad, New 
York. 

WILLIAM R. BARR, ESQ., General Agent Lake Shore Railroad, Buffalo, N. Y. 
DUDLEY P. PHELPS, ESQ., General Ticket Agent, Michigan Southern Railroad, Toledo, 
Ohio. 

Upon which is the following indorsement in the handwriting of John 
Brown : "Horace White, March 21, 1857." 

2 These were given thus : 

"CONTENTS : Box No. 1,- 5 coats, 6 pairs pants, 1 vest, 6 quilts, 8 
pairs boots, 10 caps, 20 pairs socks, 10 pairs drawers, 22 shirts, and 5 pairs 
mits. Box No. 2, 24 coats, 22 pants, 12 vests, 12 quilts, 12 pairs 
drawers, 12 shirts. Box No. 3, 4 coats, 12 pants, 2 vests, 12 quilts, 2 
pairs boots, 2 caps, 13 socks, 5 shirts, 9 pairs mits. Box No. 4, 12 pairs 
boots. Box No. 5, 12 pairs boots. Box No. 6, 18 pairs pants, 6 
vests, 11 quilts, 13 pairs boots, 18 caps, 42 socks, 1 pair drawers, 18 shirts, 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 36B 

These votes arid letters, with the letters which had pre 
ceded them, and served as Brown's introduction where he 
was not personally known, fully refute the statements made 
many years later that Brown was looked upon with indif- 
erence or aversion by the friends of Kansas in 1856-57. 

The letter of Charles Robinson, dated Sept. 14, 1856, at 
Lawrence (printed on page 330), was filled with praise of 
John Brown, and when it reached me in Boston, Jan. 2, 
1857, it bore these two indorsements : 

Governor Chase's Indorsement. 

COLUMBUS, Dec. 20, 1856. 

Captain John Brown, of Kansas Territory, is commended to me 
by a highly reputable citizen of this State as a gentleman every way 
worthy of entire confidence. I have also seen a letter from Governor 
Charles Robinson, whose handwriting I recognize, speaking of Cap 
tain Brown and his services to the cause of the Free-State men in 
Kansas in terms of the warmest commendation. Upon these testi 
monials I cordially recommend him to the confidence and regard of 
all who desire to see Kansas a free State. 

S. P. CHASE. 1 

13 pairs raits. Box No. 7, 15 quilts. Box No. 8, 19 quilts. Box 
No. 9, 2 coats, 4 pants, 3 vests, 12 socks, 12 drawers, 16 shirts. Box 
No. 10, 12 pairs boots. Box No. 11, 48 coats, 4 quilts, 12 pairs 
boots. Box No. 12, 41 pairs pants, 15 vests, 9 quilts, 9 boots, 46 caps, 
16 pairs socks. Box No. 13, 1 coat, 2 pants, 7 quilts, 9 pairs socks, 56 
pairs drawers, 31 shirts. Box No. 14, 17 quilts. Whole amount as 
follows : 84 coats, 105 pairs pants, 39 vests, 100 quilts and blankets, 68 
pairs boots, 76 caps, 112 pairs socks, 91 pairs drawers, 104 shirts, 27 pairs 
mits. 3 hand-mills for grinding grain." 

Upon all which is the following indorsement in the handwriting of John 
Brown : " W. F. M. Amy. Aifcwered March 21." 

1 This eminent man, afterward Senator from Ohio and Chief-Justice of 
the United States, sent another letter to Brown six months later, but while 
he was still Governor of Ohio. It is interesting as showing that Governor 
Chase either did not know or did not choose to recognize the alias of 
" Nelson Hawkins," by which Brown was then addressed to avoid the open 
ing of his letters by proslavery postmasters. 

COLUMBUS, OHIO, June 6, 1857. 
NELSON HAWKINS. 

MY DEAR SIR, Captain John Brown lately wrote me, requesting that I put a sub 
scription paper in aid of the cause of freedom in Kansas in the hands of some reliable 
and efficient person here. I am sorry to say that on consideration I do not find there is 



364 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 



Gerrit Smith's Letter. 

PETERBORO', Dec. 30, 1856. 

CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN, You did not need to show me letters 
from Governor Chase and Governor Robinson to let me know who 
and what you are. I have known you many years, and have highly 
esteemed you as long as I have known you. I know your unshrink 
ing bravery, your self-sacrificing benevolence, your devotion to the 
cause of freedom, and have long known them. May Heaven preserve 
your life and health, and prosper your noble purposes ! 

GERRIT SMITH. 

I may also cite here a letter from one of Brown's neigh 
bors in Osawatomie, and still a resident of that town, writ 
ten a year later than Robinson's, but breathing the same 
admiration and respect for the old captain : 

Letter from Henry U. Williams. 

OSAWATOMIE, Oct. 12, 1857. 
CAPTAIN BROWN. 

DEAR SIR, Learning that there is a messenger in town from 
you, I will take the opportunity to drop you a line. We are just 
through with the October election, and as far as this county is con 
cerned it went off bright. This was owing in a great measure to 
our thorough military organization here, and the well-known repu 
tation that our boys have for fighting. There were about four 
hundred and twenty-five votes cast in this county : about three 
hundred and fifty Free- State. I have a company organized here of 
about eighty men, and we drilled twice a week for several weeks 
previous to election, which no doubt had a wholesome effect upon 
the borderers. Our company is a permanent institution. We have 
sent on to St. Louis for three drums and two fifes. We are very 

any probability of obtaining any contributions here beyond the twenty-five dollars which 
I obtained for the Captain when here early last winter. The capital of a State, where 
calls are so constant and must have attention, is a hard place to raise money ; and 
there are very few indeed who can be brought to see that the cause of freedom in Kansas 
at this time requires further contributions. I write this note to you at the request of 
Captain Brown, who speaks of you as his special friend. 

Very respectfully and truly, 

S. P. CHASE. 

Upon which is the following indorsement in the handwriting of John 
Brown: " S. P. Chase. Requires no reply." Probably the twenty-five 
dollars was Mr. Chase's own gift. 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 365 

poorly supplied with arms. However, I understand that you have 
some arms with you which you intend to bring into the Territory. 
I hope that you will not forget the ~boys here, a considerable number 
of whom have smelt gunpowder, and have had their courage tried on 
several occasions. I do not like to boast, but I think we have some 
of the best fighting stock here that there is in the Territory. Speak 
ing of arms reminds me that there was a box containing five dozen 
revolvers sent to you at Lawrence last fall to be distributed by you to 
your boys. K. and W. two renegade Free-State men from here 
went up to Lawrence about that- time, told a pitiful tale, and said 
that they were your boys ; and the committee that had the revolvers 
in charge gave them each one, and a Sharpe's rifle. A few days after, 
I was in Lawrence, and applied to the committee to know if they 
intended to distribute the revolvers; if they did, that I would like to 
have one. They refused, however, to let me have one, because for 
sooth I could not tell as big a yarn about what I had done for the 
Free-State cause as K. and W. could. I have since learned that 
the committee have distributed the revolvers to the " Stubs" and 
others about Lawrence, with the understanding that they are to 
return them at your order. But I think it is doubtful if you get 
them. There has been plenty of Sharpe's rifles and other arms dis 
tributed at Manhattan and other points remote from the Border, 
where they never have any disturbances, and a Border Ruffian is a 
curiosity ; while along the Border here, where we are liable to 
have an outbreak at any time, we have had no arms distributed 
at all. 

Two or three weeks before election I visited the Border counties 
south of this, and organized a company of one hundred men on the 
Little Osage, and a company on Sugar Creek ; also at Stanton and 
on the Pottawatomie above this point. According to the election 
returns, we have done much better in this and the Border counties 
south than they have in the Border counties north of this point. 
The boys would like to see you and shake you by the hand once 
more. Nearly all would unite in welcoming you back here; those 
that would not, you have nothing to fear from in this locality. The 
sentiment of the people and the strength and energy of the Free- 
State party here exercise a wholesome restraint upon those having 
Border Ruffian proclivities. 

Yours as of old for the right, 

HENRY H. WILLIAMS. 1 

1 This letter was addressed " To Captain John Brown, Tabor, Fremont 
County, Iowa," and among Brown's papers was accompanied with the 
following memorandum of the distribution made at Lawrence of the arms 



366 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

These letters, covering the whole period in 1856-57 during 
which Brown was absent from Kansas, are conclusive proof 
of the estimation in which he was held by the Free-State 
settlers during " the time that tried men's souls." The 
votes and letters of the National Committee show that they, 
too, as they came to know Brown better, trusted him more. 
But their affairs had not been very well managed, and their 
treasury became empty ; so that the money voted at New 
York did not appear, and when Brown wrote for it from 
New England, he received the following reply : 

which Mr. Williams mentions, and which are the same spoken of by Mr. 
White in his testimony on page 342. 

Memorandum of William flutchinson, Lcticrence. 

Bloomington. A. Curtis, Navy Revolver. No. 50,400 

Osawatomie. N. King, " " " 49,860 

J. B. Way, " " " 50,966 
Eeokuk. J. M. Arthur, eight revolvers with accoutre 
ments. Numbers not taken. 

Pottawatomie. Win. Partridge, Navy Revolver. No. 50,410 

Lawrence. E. C. Harrington, " " 51,171 

A. Cutler, " " " 50,995 

Minniola. O. A. Bassett, " 51,140 

The following are the numbers of others given to the " Stubs" : 

49,986, 51,208, 50,992, 50,410, 51,203, 50,963, 49,947, 51,101, 

50,998, 50,969, 50,944, 51,043, 51,021, 51,033, 51,195, 50,994, 

50,980, 49,741, 50,446, 50,040, 51,019, 51,218, 51,200, 51,204. 

51,059, 50,948, 51,149, 50,958, 51,255, 

Mr. Whitman has one, and I think the others were distributed by 
Eldridge without taking receipts. 

Feeling too unwell to walk the distance, I gave up going to my sister's, 
and have looked up the above numbers. Sorry to hear of your ill -health. 
Still it is nothing unusual to hear of sickness all over the Territory. 1 
have waited for Eldridge to act; but he has left, I think, without doing 
anything for you, and as soon as 1 can take the time I will make one more 
earnest effort for you in this place, and am sure that some can be obtained. 
Say to Mr. Kagi I gave the order for Parsons's gun into the hands of Mr. 
Lyon's family, and they promised to bring it to town, but it has not come 
yet. 

If you get any news of importance, please inform me. 

Yours again, 

WM. HUTCHINSON. 

Upon which is the following indorsement in the handwriting of John 
Brown : " Wm. Hutchinson's letter." The date is not given, but it must 
be in 1857-58. 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 367 

OFFICE NATIONAL KANSAS COMMITTEE, 

11 MARINE BANK BUILDING, 

CHICAGO, April ], 1857. 
CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN, Springfield, Mass. 

At a meeting of the National Kansas Committee, held this day, it 
was 

liesolved, That as according- to the present state of the public 
feeling, evinced by the almost total cessation of contributions to 
the funds of the committee, it appears that the means of carrying on 
our operations will not be forthcoming from the usual sources ; there 
fore, it is expedient to take immediate measures to settle the liabili 
ties, and close the accounts of the committee, and to reduce the 
current expenses to the lowest possible point ; and that the secretary 
be instructed to take measures accordingly. 

Resolved, further, That the secretary be instructed to write to the 
members of the committee residing in other cities, to Messrs. Gree- 
ley & McElrath, Hon. Gen-it Smith, and other prominent donors 
and friends, setting forth the fact of the cessation of contributions 
as above stated, and the necessity we arc under of closing our opera 
tions, unless immediately sustained by liberal contributions. 

We are sorry to be obliged to come to the above conclusion, but 
are compelled to do so. There are several important undertakings 
now in hand, which we shall have to abandon, unless further means 
are forthcoming. The committee are at present out of money, and 
are compelled to decline sending you the five hundred dollars you 
speak of. They are sorry this has become the case, but it was un 
avoidable. I need not state to you all the reasons why. The country 
has stopped sending us contributions, and we have no means of re 
plenishing our treasury. We shall need to have aid from some 
quarter to enable us to meet our present engagements. 

I send you a copy of the list of articles selected fur you by Mr. 
Amy. Our opinion is that some things have been selected that you 
do not need; such, for instance, as quilts, unless it is intended to 
supply the families of the company, and mits, which I suppose means 
ladies' mits. If he means mittens they would be useful. 1 
Yours, etc., 

H. B. KURD. 
Secretary National Kansas Committee. 

Thus ended the hopes of further material aid from the 
National Committee. The Massachusetts Committee kept 

1 Upon this is the following indorsement in the handwriting of John 
Brown : " H. B. Hurd. Needs no comment." 



368 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

its word better. Before the Astor House meeting it had 
made Browu the custodian of the two hundred rifles at Tabor, 
and had suggested to him the following receipt, which, with 
its erasures, is among the Brown Papers at Topeka : 

STATE KANSAS AID COMMITTEE ROOM, 

BOSTON, Jan. 7, 1857. 

Received of George L. Stearns, Chairman of the Massachusetts 
Kansas Aid Committee, an order on Edward Clark, Esq., of Law 
rence, K. T., for two hundred Sharpe's rifles, carbines, with four 
thousand ball cartridges, thirty-one thousand military caps, and six 
iron ladles, the same to be delivered to said committee, or to their 
order, on demand. It being further understood and agreed that I 
(am at liberty to distribute one hundred of the carbines, and to use 
the ammunition for maintaining the cause of freedom in Kansas and 
in the United States, and that such distribution and use shall be con 
sidered a delivery to said committee). [Have authority to use one 
hundred of the carbines, and all the ammunition, as I may think the 
interests of Kansas require. Keeping an account of my doings] ; 
and that such delivery and use shall be considered as such delivery. 1 

A week later I wrote to Edward Clark, another agent of 
our committee (Jan. 15, 1857) : 

il We have made the rifles subject to Captain Brown's order, as we 
wrote you. From Mr. Winchell's account, we conclude that you will 
find them in the Territory, and in the hands of the Central Commit 
tee. 2 In the quarrel between the National and the Central Com 
mittees, we hope you will keep yourself strictly neutral, and inform us 
how the case really stands. We hear charges of misconduct from both 

1 The words in parentheses are marked across in the original, evidently 
for the purpose of erasure ; the words in brackets are in a different hand 
writing from the rest of the paper. There is no indorsement except the 
word "Boston " written twice in Brown's handwriting. 

2 Originally they had been forwarded to this committee, as appears by 
the following note : 

STATE KANSAS AID COMMITTEE ROOMS, 

BOSTON, Sept. 30, 1856. 

DEAR SIR, At a meeting of this committee it was voted, That the arms purchased 
by Dr. Cabot, in accordance with a vote of the committee, passed September 10, be 
forwarded to the Kansas Central Committee at Lawrence, with instructions that they 
be loaned to actual settlers for defence against unlawful aggressions upon their rights 
and liberties. 

GEORGE L. STEARNS, Chairman. 
H. B. HURD, ESQ., Chicago. 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 369 

sides. The order of Captain Brown will not probably be issued till 
spring, if it is at all, since his use of the riiies depends on a contingency 
which may not occur.' 7 

On Jan. 30, 1857, still later instructions followed to Mr. 
Clark : 

" The National Committee, at their meeting in New York, voted 
to resign all claim to the rifles at Tabor to our committee ; and Mr. 
Hurd is to notify you of the fact officially. If, therefore, you have 
commenced any proceedings to get possession of them from the 
National Committee, you may suspend all action until you receive 
Mr. Kurd's letter, which will give you full power in the premises. 
We learn that the rilles are at Tabor, in charge of a certain Jonas 
Jones, and that they are properly stored and cared for. If this 
should not be so, or if the Central Committee at Lawrence have 
interfered with them at all, you may take measures to get immediate 
possession, as directed by us. All matters at issue between our 
committee and the National Committee have been satisfactorily 
settled, and we trust there will be no further misunderstandings. 
Mr. Hurd has been in Boston and arranged all things. We have 
been expecting a letter from you for some days. By the time this 
reaches you, you will have been at Tabor, we presume. There 
write us a full account of your proceedings, and also of the present 
condition of things in Kansas, the position of the Central Committee, 
etc. Much business was done at the New York meeting ; but no 
final settlement of accounts could be made, by reason of the absence 
of important persons and papers. Conway and Whitman are here, 
preparing to appear before the legislative committee about a State 
appropriation." 

The closing sentence of this letter indicates that the 
Massachusetts Committee, in furtherance of the policy ex 
plained to Governor Grimes, was preparing to obtain a 
State appropriation from the legislature which was then 
in session at Boston. John Brown was summoned as 
a witness before this legislature, and gave his testimony 
in the hall of the House of Representatives, February 
18, 1857, the committee on Federal Eelations holding a 
hearing in that place for the purpose. There are but 
few letters from Brown at this time. Here is one of 
them : 

24 



370 LITE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 



John Brown to the Rev. S. L. Adair. 

BOSTON, MASS., Feb. 16, 1857. 

DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER ADAIR, It is a long time since I 
have heard a word from you, but I suppose it is because I have been 
continually shifting about since my return to the States. I am 
getting quite anxious to hear from you, and to get your views on 
your own prospects and present condition, together with your ideas 
of Governor Geary and of Kansas matters generally. I have not 
heard a word from Hudson or Akron since December ; but that is 
owing to the fact that I have had no place fixed upon, till of late, 
where to receive letters. This has been from a kind of necessity ; 
but I can now say, do write me at Springfield, Mass., care of the 
Massasoit House, leaving the title of Captain off. I now expect to 
go to Kansas (quietly) before long ; but I do not wish it noised 
about at all. Can you tell me what has become of Captain Holmes 
of your place ? I expect to appear before a committee of the Massa 
chusetts legislature in a day or two. My family were well about a 
week ago. Your affectionate brother, 

JOHN BROWN. 

It fell to ray lot to introduce Brown to the legislative 
committee, February 18 ; and I did so in these words : 

" As one of the petitioners for State aid to the settlers of Kansas, 
I appear before you to state briefly the purpose of the petition. No 
labored argument seems necessary ; for if the events of the last 
two years in Kansas, and the prospect there for the future, are not of 
themselves enough to excite Massachusetts to action, certainly no 
words could do so. We have not provided ourselves with advocates, 
therefore, but with witnesses; and we expect that the statements of 
Captain Brown and Mr. Whitman will show conclusively that the 
rights and interests of Massachusetts have suffered gross outrage in 
Kansas, an outrage which is likely to be repeated unless measures 
are taken by you to prevent so shameful an abuse. Your petitioners 
desire that a contingent appropriation be made by the legislature, 
to be placed in the hands of a commission of responsible and conser 
vative men, and used only in case of necessity to relieve the distress 
of the settlers of Kansas, especially such as have gone from our 
own State. It is possible that no such necessity will occur; but 
nothing, in the opinion of your petitioners, would do so much to 
obviate it as the proposed appropriation. Such an act would both 
encourage our friends in Kansas and dishearten their oppressors ; and 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 371 

the moral effect of it would be greater than any which would follow 
from the expenditure of a much larger sum. 

11 Let it not be understood, however, that the petitioners ask for 
this as a simple act of charity, or are willing to rest their case on 
the common arguments for a charitable donation. The question 
involved is not merely whether the hungry shall be fed, the naked 
clothed, and the houseless sheltered ; it reaches far beyond this : it is 
the issue between freedom and slavery, in Kansas and in the nation. 
Why should we refuse to see this manifest fact? 

" Viewed in this light, we feel justified in regarding our petition as 
the most important matter which the General Court has now to con 
sider. The interests of banks and railroads, points of etiquette 
between different branches of the government, even the solemn 
discussions which involve the lives of condemned men, all seem 
trivial beside this most public and pressing business. I think, Mr. 
Chairman, that the people of Massachusetts will soon ask, if they 
have not already begun, ' What preparation are our Senators and 
Representatives making for the crisis which they were elected specially 
to meet ? How are they raising themselves to the height of this great 
argument ? ' Is it not true, sir, that yourself and nine tenths of 
your colleagues in this body were elected as declared supporters of 
two all-important measures, the re-election of Charles Sumner 
and the establishment of freedom in Kansas ? And do you believe 
that the one which you have so triumphantly accomplished is one 
whit more dear to the people than the other? Let the liberal con 
tributions of the whole State, in money and clothing, and the 
numerously signed petitions which are presented here daily, answer 
that. Can you hesitate, then, to give expression to the will of the 
people, not merely in words, which cost nothing and are worth 
nothing, but in substantial deeds? 

" It has been suggested that some persons doubt the constitution 
ality of the proposed measure. That is rather a question to be 
decided by the legislature than a point to be argued by the petition 
ers ; but should it be necessary, which I can hardly think possible, I 
have no doubt they can fully show its constitutionality, of which 
they make no question. The name of Judge Parker, attached to the 
Cambridge petition, and the decided opinion of several eminent 
jurists, confirm their belief. We have invited Captain Brown and 
Mr. Whitman to appear in our behalf, because these gentlemen are 
eminently qualified either to represent Massachusetts in Kansas or 
Kansas in Massachusetts. The best blood of the i Mayflower' runs 
in the veins of both, and each had an ancestor in the army of the 
Revolution. Mr. Whitman, seventh in descent from Miles Standish. 
laid the foundation of the first church and the first schoolhouse in 



372 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

Kansas j John Brown, the sixth descendant of Peter Browne, of the 
' Mayflower/ has been to Kansas what Standish was to the Plymouth 
Colony. These witnesses have seen the things of which they testify, 
and have felt the oppression we ask you to check. Ask this gray- 
haired man, gentlemen, if you have the heart to do it, where lies 
the body of his murdered son ; where are the homes of his four other 
sons, who a year ago were quiet farmers in Kansas. I am ashamed, 
in presence of this modest veteran, to express the admiration which 
his heroism excites in me. Yet he, so venerable for his years, his 
integrity, and his courage, a man whom all Massachusetts rises 
up to honor. is to-day an outlaw in Kansas. To these witnesses, 
whose unsworn testimony deserves arid will receive from you all 
the authority which an oath confers, I will now yield place." 

Brown then addressed the commitee and a large audience 
who had assembled to hear him. He made in substance the 
same speech which he gave that winter at Hartford, at Con 
cord, and elsewhere ; reading from his manuscript (which I 
have already cited) an account of the destruction of property 
and of life by the Missouri invaders in 1855-56, and speak 
ing of the inactivity of the Federal Government, except in 
the protection of these invaders. He described modestly 
the last attack -on Lawrence, and denied that it had been 
saved from destruction by Governor Geary. In answer to 
questions by the chairman of the committee (Senator Albee, 
of Marlborough) he gave the account since so well known 
of his visiting Buford's men near Osawatomie in the guise 
of a surveyor ; and quoted them as telling him that the 
Yankees could not be coaxed, driven, or whipped into a 
fight, and that one Southerner could whip a dozen Aboli 
tionists ; they intended to drive out the whole Free-State 
population of Kansas, if that should be necessary to estab 
lish slavery in the new State ; if Kansas was free, Missouri 
could not maintain slavery, they told him. When asked 
what sort of emigrants were needed to make Kansas free, 
Brown replied, " We want good men, industrious and honest, 
who respect themselves, and act only from principle, from 
the dictates of conscience ; men who fear God too much 
to fear anything human." Questioned by Senator Albee 
concerning the probable need and effect of such an appro 
priation as was sought for, Brown replied : " Whenever we 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 373 

heard last year that the people of the North were doing 
anything for us, we were encouraged and strengthened to 
keep up the contest. At present there is not much danger 
of an invasion from Missouri. God protects us in winter ; 
but when the grass gets high enough to feed the horses of 
the Border Ruffians we may have trouble, and should be 
prepared for the worst. Things do not look one iota more 
encouraging now except that the winter is milder than 
they did last year at this time. You may remember that 
from the Shannon treaty, which ended the Wakarusa war, 
till early in May, 1856, there was general quiet in Kansas. 
No violence was offered to our citizens when they went to 
Missouri. I frequently went there myself to buy corn and 
other supplies. I was known there ; yet they treated me 
well. I do not know that there will be another invasion, 
but should expect one. Yet the actual settlers who go to 
Kansas from the slave States have many of them turned to 
be the most determined Free-State men, fighting in all 
our battles. The comparative strength of the parties as 
regards numbers, intelligence, industry, and good habits gen 
erally, is all on our side ; but the machinery of a genuine 
territorial government is not yet in operation, while the 
Federal Government is wholly on the side of slavery." 

The movement for a State appropriation was unsuccessful, 
but the Massachusetts Committee continued their contribu 
tions to John Brown. 

Among the contributors to his fund was Mr. Amos Law 
rence, of Boston, who wrote to Brown as follows the day 
after the speech in the State House : 

BOSTON, Feb. 19, 1857. 

MY DEAR SIR, Enclosed you will find seventy dollars. Please 
write to John Conant, of East Jaffrey, N. H., and acknowledge re 
ceipt ; or write to me saying you have received the Jaffrey money, 
and I will send your letter to them. It is for your own personal use, 
and not for the cause in any other way than that. I am sorry not to 
have seen you hefore you left. It may not be amiss to say that you 
may find yourself disappointed if you rely on the National Kansas 
Committee for any considerable amount of money. Please to con 
sider this as confidential ; and it is only my own opinion, without 
definite knowledge of their operations. I hope they will get a great 



374 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

deal of money, but think they will not. The old managers have 
not inspired confidence, and therefore money will be hard for them 
to get now and hereafter. This check, you will see, needs your 
indorsement. 

May God bless you, my dear sir, is the wish of your friend, 

AMOS A. LAWRENCE. 

While Brown was ordering his pikes in Connecticut, Mr. 
Lawrence wrote him again in these words : 

(Private.) 

BOSTON, March 20, 1857. 

MY DEAR SIR, Your letter from New Haven is received. I 
have just sent to Kansas near fourteen thousand dollars to establish 
a fund to be used, first, to secure the best system of common schools 
for Kansas that exists in this country ; second, to establish Sunday- 
schools. 

The property is held by two trustees in Kansas, and cannot return 
to me. On this account, and because I am always short of money, 
I have not the cash to use for the purpose you name. But in case 
anything should occur, while you are engaged 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 John Brown of Osawatomie" will not be turned 
out to starve in this country, until Liberty herself is driven out. 
Yours with regard, 

AMOS A. LAWRENCE. 

I hope you will not run the risk of arrest. 

I never saw the offer to which you refer, in the ''Telegraph," and 
have now forgotten what it was. Come and see me when you have 
time. 

A. A. LAWRENCE. 

Soon after the Boston hearing, Brown visited his fam 
ily at North Elba ; and early in March returned to New 
England, where he revisited the graves of his ancestors in 
Connecticut. These letters relate to this period : 

John Brown to his Wife. 

HARTFORD, CONN., March 6, 1857. 

DEAR WIFE, I enclose with this a letter from Owen, written 
me from Albany. He appeared to be very much depressed before he^ 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 375 

left me ; but there was no possible misunderstanding between us that 
I knew of. I did not pay Samuel Thompson all that I ought to have 
given him for carrying us out, and wish you would make it up to 
him, if you can well, out of what I have sent you. If you get hay 
of him, I will send or fetch the money soon to pay for it. I shall 
send you some newspapers soon to let you see what different stories 
are told of me. None of them tell things as I tell them. Write me, 
care of the Massasoit House, Springfield, Mass. 
Your affectionate husband, 

JOHN BROWN. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., March 12, 1857. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN ALL, I have just got a letter from 
John. All middling well, March 2, but Johnny, who has the ague 
by turns. I now enclose another from Owen. 1 sent you some 
papers last week. Have just been speaking for three nights at Can 
ton, Conn., and at Collinsville, a village of that town. At the two 
places they gave me eighty dollars. Canton is where both father 
and mother were raised. They have agreed to send to my family at 
North Elba grandfather John Brown's old granite monument, about 
eighty years old, to be faced and inscribed in memory of our poor 
Frederick, who sleeps in Kansas. 1 I prize it very highly, and the 
family all will, I think. I want to see you all very much, but can 
not tell when I can go back yet. Hope to get something from you 
here soon. Direct as before. May God bless you all! 
Your affectionate husband and father. 

Mr. Rust, to whom the next letters were written, says 
that he had a " store " at Collinsville in 1857, and John 
Brown was there in April, showing to various persons the 
bowie-knife that he captured with Pate in Kansas. As he 
did so, Brown said : " Such a blade as this, mounted upon a 
strong shaft, or handle, would make a cheap and effective 
weapon. Our friends in Kansas are without arms or money 

1 This note from a friend in Connecticut shows how soon the gravestone 
was removed to North Elba : 

COLLINSVILLE, April 17, 1857. 
CAPTAIN J. BROWN. 

DEAR SIR, Your favor of the 16th is just at hand. The pistols I shall send to 
morrow morning. I received the package for S. Brown, and delivered it. The expense 
on the parcel was one dollar fifty, but I am very willing to pay that myself Your 
friends have sent the old stone to your place. Hoping to see you soon, I remain 
Yours respectfulh r , 

H. N. RUST. 



376 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

to get them ; and if I could put such weapons into their 
hands, they could make them very useful. A resolute wo 
man, with such a pike, could defend her cabin door against 
man or beast. What can such a weapon be made for ? " Mr. 
Rust guessed for a dollar each, in quantity. " Very well," 
said Brown ; " I would be glad to pay that price for a 
thousand ; " and it was agreed that Mr. Rust should try to 
get them made in Collinsville for that price, by Charles 
Blair. Mr. Rust further says : 

" During one of his visits I carried him to Canton to see his 
relatives. Not far from their house he noticed a tombstone leaning 
against the stone wall by the roadside. He got out and examined it, 
and found it to be his grandfather's ; whereupon he said, ' I will go 
back and see if my cousins will let me have it.' They consented, 
and afterwards brought it to me at Collinsville ; and I sent it to his 
address at North Elba. * That stone/ said he, l formerly marked 
the grave of my grandfather, who died fighting for the liberties of 
his country ; my son has just been murdered in the same cause in 
Kansas, and the Government applauded the murderer. This stone 
shall bear his name also ; and I will have it set up at North 
Elba.' " 

John Brown to H. N. Rust. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., April 16, 1857. 
H. N. RUST, ESQ. 

MY DEAR SIR, Your favor of the 9th is received. Please for 
ward to me by express the pistols you have received, and also send 
me with them the amount you had to pay on the whole package. Be 
kind. enough to say to my friend Blair that I expect funds within a 
day or two to meet my engagement, and that I mean to call on him. 
Please direct the package to John (not Captain) Brown, care Mas- 
easoit House, Springfield, Mass. Did you receive the package for 
SeldenH. Brown? 

Very respectfully your friend, 

JOHN BROWN. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., April 25, 1857. 
H. N. RUST, ESQ. 

MY DEAR SIR, I did not see you the other morning before I 
left, as I expected. Please hand line arid draft to Mr. Blair at once. 
The sabre you got is the identical one taken from Lieutenant 
Brocket at Black Jack surrender. I would on no account have you 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 377 

buy it of me, as you really have done, but that I am literally driven 
to beg, which is very humiliating. 

Very respectfully your friend, 

JOHN BROWN. 

(Note by Mr. Bust.) 

The draft was spoken of in the letter of April 16, and was 
handed to Mr. Blair ; the sabre was a present to me from Captain 
Brown, received with the pistols ; the pay spoken of was the bill 
for the pistols, which I did not send him as requested. The pistols 
had been used in Kansas and sent East for repairs ; the funds spoken 
of were to be the first payment for the pikes which had been ordered 
not long before. 

CHARLES BLAIR'S CONTRACT. 

COLLINSVILLE, CONN., March 30, 1857. 

The undersigned agree to the following: First, Charles Blair, of 
this place, is to make and deliver at the railroad depot in Collins- 
ville one thousand spears with handles fitted, of equal quality to one 
dozen already made and sent to Springfield, Mass. The handles are 
to t>e six feet in length, and the ferules to be made of strong malleable 
iron. The handles to be well tied in bundles ; and the blades with 
screws for fastening to be securely packed in strong boxes suitable 
for the transportation of edge tools. In consideration whereof, John 
Brown, late of Kansas, agrees to deposit five hundred dollars with 
Samuel W. Collins within ten days from this date, in part payment ; 
and four hundred and fifty dollars as payment in full for the above- 
named one thousand spears and handles within thirty days thereafter. 
The whole money to be deposited with said Collins at Collinsville, 
and the spears and handles to be held subject to the order of said 
Brown, on or before the first of July next. 

CHARLES BLAIR. 

JOHN BROWN. 

COLLINSVILLE, March 30, 1857. 

Received of John Brown, Esq., fifty dollars on account of spear 
contract. 

CHARLES BLAIR. 

Received on the within contract one hundred dollars. 

COLLINSVILLE, April 22, 1857. 
Received the same date two hundred dollars. 



378 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

Letters to John Brown by C. Blair. 

HARTFOKD, April 15, 1857. 
MR. BROWN. 

DEAR SIR, I received yours in relation to the funds which you 
expected from the Kansas Committee, and I would say that I have 
not taken any further measures with the spears than to ascertain 
where I can get the handles and ferules, etc. If you do not find it 
convenient to raise the funds for a thousand, I will make you five 
hundred at the same rate. I should think the committee were not 
treating you very fairly by not honoring your drafts after the promise 
they had made you. I shall wait further orders from you before I 
proceed further. 

Truly yours, 

CHARLES BLAIR. 

COLLINSVILLE, CONN., Aug. 27, 1857. 
MR. BROWN. 

DEAR SIR, Yours of the 14th instant came to hand last Satur 
day. In regard to those articles, I have to say that I commenced the 
whole number ; have all the handles well seasoned, the ferules and 
guards, screws, etc., and have some over five hundred of them ground, 
but not hearing anything further from you, I have let them rest until 
such times as you can make your arrangements. I thought I would 
not make any farther outlay upon them, at least until I heard from you. 
I did not know but things would take such a turn in Kansas that they 
would not be needed. Of this you can judge better than I can. I 
did not feel able to bear the loss of having them left on my hands 
after I had finished them up, as you are aware that we did not expect 
much profit on the manufacture of the articles; but I am not disposed 
to cast the least blame upon you. I very well know that when a man 
is depending upon the public for money he is very liable to be disap 
pointed, and I judge from the tenor of your letter that you will not 
blame me for stopping them, as I had used up the funds. I therefore 
wait your further orders whether to finish them up or to let them rest 
where they are. Don't give yourself any uneasiness about the affair, 
for if I go no'further with them, I shall lose nothing, or but little; 
and I have no doubt you and I can make the matter satisfactory in 
some way. Your son (Oliver) is in the village, but is not now at 
work for me. My work in the shop was too hard for him in the hot 
w r eather, and he has been out at haying. I think he may get some 
job in the shop soon. Let me hear from you when convenient. 
Very respectfully yours, 

CHARLES BLAIR. 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 379 

In speaking at Hartford and Canton, Brown used the 
same manuscript as at Boston ; but at the end of his ad 
dress made this appeal to the citizens of Connecticut, where 
he felt more at home than in Massachusetts : - 

"I am trying to raise from twenty to twenty- five thousand dol 
lars 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 ? Will the gentlemen and 
ladies of Hartford, where I make my first appeal in this State, set 
the example of an earnest effort f Will some gentleman or lady 
take hold and try what can be done by small contributions from 
counties, cities, towns, societies, or churches, or in some other way ? 
I think the little beggar-children in the streets are sufficiently inter 
ested to warrant their contributing, if there was any need of it, to 
secure the object. I was told that the newspapers in a certain city 
were dressed in mourning on hearing that I was killed and scalped 
in Kansas, but I did not know of it until I reached the place. Much 
good it did me. In the same place I met a more cool reception than 
in any other place where I have stopped. If my friends will hold up 
my hands while I live, I will freely absolve them from any expense 
over me when I am dead. I do not ask for pay, but shall be most 
grateful for all the assistance I can get." 

At the same time, or a little earlier, Brown published 
this letter in the "New York Tribune" of March 4, 
1857 : - 

To the Friends of Freedom. 

The undersigned, whose individual means "were exceedingly lim 
ited 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. 
T 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, 
Conn. It is 7ny intention to visit as many places as I can during 
my stay in the States, provided I am first informed of the disposition 



380 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

of the inhabitants to aid me in my efforts, as well as to receive my 
visit. Information may be communicated to me (care of 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. 

JOHN BROWN. 

About a mouth after his address in the State House at 
Boston, Brown visited me in Concord, and held a successful 
public meeting there. He afterwards spoke in Worces 
ter, and the following correspondence relates to matters 
there : 

Letters of Eli Thayer. 

WORCESTER, March 18, 1857. 

FRIEND BROWN, I have just returned from Albany, and find 
your favor of the 16th. I am glad you had a good meeting at Con 
cord, as I knew you would have, for the blood of heroes is not ex 
tinct in that locality. I will see some of our friends here to-morrow, 
and we will decide at once about your speaking here. If you are to 
speak, you will do well to be here a day or two in advance, and con 
verse with some of our citizens. I will write you again to-morrow. 

Truly yours, 

ELI THAYER. 

WORCESTER, March 19, 1857. 

FRIEND BROWN, I have seen some of our friends to-day, and 
they say you had better come here next Monday. There is to be an 
antislavery meeting in the evening, and I think it will be a very good 
time for you to present your cause, which is the Free-State cause 
of Kansas, which is the cause of mankind. I shall expect you to do 
me the favor of stopping at my house. 

Truly yours, 

ELI THAYER. 

Upon both these letters is this indorsement in the hand 
writing of John Brown : " Eli Thayer. Answered March 
23d in person." This means that he went to Worcester, 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES 381 

Monday, the 23d, and spoke that night at the antislavery 
meeting, 1 of which he had been notified. 

WORCESTER, March 30, 1857. 

CAPTAIN BROWN, I have received your letter from Easton, 
Perm. Some of the men engaged in the Virginia scheme care 
nothing for slavery or antislavery but to make money. Of course 
such will do nothing for Kansas ; but most of us have been doing, 
and shall continue to do, till the thing is settled. We have not 
the remotest idea of relinquishing Kansas, not at all. I have 
just seen Mr. Higginson, and he informs me that our county commit 
tee will let you have fifty dollars. Perhaps, also, something will be 
raised by subscription, I gave the papers to Mr. Higginson. He 
will write to you. Please let me know when you are coming this 
way. Do not pay postage on your letter to me, let Uncle Sam do 
his part. Truly yours, 

ELI THAYER. 2 

While Brown was at Worcester on this second visit, he 
was introduced by Mr. Thayer to the manufacturers of arms 

1 Dr. "Wayland, of Philadelphia, who was then a young clergyman in 
Worcester, thus writes respecting the occasion : 

" In the spring of 1857, just after the Dred Scott decision of the 
Supreme Court, I, being then a resident of Worcester, was getting up 
a lecture for Frederick Douglass, at which the then Mayor of the city 
for the first time in an American city presided at an address of Mr. 
Douglass. I called at the house of Eli Thayer, afterwards member of 
Congress from that District, to ask him to sit on the platform. Here I 
found a stranger, a man of tall, gaunt form, with a face smooth-shaven, 
destitute of the full beard that later became a part of history. The 
children were climbing over his knees ; he said, ' The children always 
come to me.' I was then introduced to John Brown of Osawatomie. 
How little one imagined then that within less than three years the name 
of this plain home-spun man would fill America and Europe ! Mr. Brown 
consented to occupy a place on the platform, and at the urgent request of 
the audience spoke briefly. It is one of the curious facts, that many men 
who do it are utterly unable to tell about it. John Brown, a flame of iire 
in action, was dull in speech." 

a This letter is indorsed by John Brown, " Hon. Eli Thayer. Answered 
1st April," which was soon after Brown's return from a visit he had made 
with Martin Conway and myself to Governor Eeeder at his home at Easton, 
in the hope of persuading him to go back and take the lead of the Free- 
State men in Kansas in place of Robinson, who had lost the confidence of 
the people. 



882 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

in that city, of which this note and the subsequent corres 
pondence is evidence : 

APRIL 4, 1857. 

MESSRS. ALLEN & WIIEELOCK, Captain Brown wishes to get 
a cannon and rifle which 1 have given him so sighted as to secure 
accuracy. I hope you will attend to his wishes. 

Truly yours, 

ELI THAYER. 

What the further errand of the Kansas hero was with 
this firm will be seen below : 



Letters to and from Eli Thayer, etc. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., April 16, 1857. 
Hon. ELI THAYER. 

MY DEAR SIR, I am advised that one of u Uncle Sam's hounds 
is on my track ; " and I have kept myself hid for a few days to let my 
track get cold. I have no idea of being taken, and intend (if God 
will) to go hack with irons in rather than upon my hands. Now, my 
dear sir, let me ask you to have Mr. Allen & Co. send me by express 
one or two navy-sized revolvers as soon as may be, together with his 
best cash terms (he warranting them) by the hundred with good 
moulds, flasks, etc. I wish the sample pistols sent to John (not 
Captain) Brown, care of Massasoit House, Springfield, Mass. I now 
enclose twenty dollars towards repairs done for me and revolvers ; the 
balance I will send as soon as I get the bill. I have written to have 
Dr. Howe send you by express a rifle and two pistols, which with the 
guns you gave me and fixings, together with the rifle given me by 
Mr. Allen & Co. , I wish them to pack in a suitable strong box, per 
fectly safe, directing to J. B., care of Orson M. Oviatt, Esq., Cleve 
land, Ohio, as freight, to keep dry. For box, trouble, and packing I 
will pay when I get the bill. I wish the box very plainly marked, 
and forwarded to Cleveland, as soon as you receive the articles from 
Dr. Howe. I got a fine list in Boston the other day, and hope Wor 
cester will not be entirely behind. I do not mean you or Mr. Allen 
&Co. 

Very respectfully your friend, 

JOHN BROWN. 

P. S. Direct all letters and bills to care of Massasoit House. 
Please acknowledge. 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 383 

April 17, 1857. 

FRIEND BROWN, I have received your letter containing twenty 
dollars, and have given it over with contents to Allen & Wheelock, 
who will attend to your requests. I shall leave to-night for New 
York City, and may not be back again to look after the things. Please 
send any directions you wish to Allen & Wheelock. The Boston 
people have done nobly, especially Mr. Stearns. Dr. Howe has not 
forwarded the articles named in your letter. As soon as received, I 
will place them in the hands of Allen & Wheelock. Ithought.it 
best to give them your letters, so that they might attend to your re 
quests understandingly. They will be secret. 

Will you allow me to suggest a name for your company ? I should 
call them " the Neighbors," from Luke, tenth chapter: "Which 
thinkest thou was neighbor to him who fell among thieves ? " 

Our Virginia scheme is gaining strength wonderfully. 1 Every 
mail brings me offers of land and men. The press universally favors 
it, that is, so far as we care for favor. It is bound to go ahead. 
You must have a home in Western Virginia. 
Very truly your friend, 

ELI THAYER. 

WORCESTER, April 20, 1857. 
JOHN BROWN, ESQ. 

DEAR SIR, Your letter to Mr. Thayer was handed us by him 
with the twenty dollars, and in reply would say that we are very 
sorry we cannot send you the sample revolvers, owing to great delay 
in some of our work, etc. We shall not be able to supply you with 
any at present, and recommend that you obtain Colt's pistols for your 
immediate use. We will send you one or more as soon as we can 
get them ready, if we can know where to send them, and would then 
be glad to supply you with what you may want. We have got the 
large gun ready ; and at the request of Mr. Thayer we have been 
and got the cannon and brought it here ; and are waiting for the rifle 
and pistols that you wrote were to be sent from Dr. Howe, on the 
receipt of which we shall forward them, together with the cannon, 
rifles, etc., as you directed ; which we hope will be safely received in 
due time. Yours truly, 

ALLEN & WHEELOCK. 

1 Lest it should be thought that this refers to Brown's plan for compul 
sory emancipation (which was not then disclosed), I hasten to say that this 
"Virginia scheme" was a combination of political campaigning and land 
speculation, which Mr. Thayer had originated and put in motion at a place 
named by him C'eredo, in West Virginia. 



384 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

Eli Thayer, whose support of Brown in his most aggres 
sive measures was at this time cordial and active> was one 
of the chief managers of the Emigrant Aid Company. 
Other managers took a like interest in Brown's character 
or his plans, or in both. Mr. Charles Higginson, a Boston 
cousin of Wentworth Higginson (who was then preaching 
at Worcester), had written somewhat earlier as follows : 

EMIGRANT AID ROOMS, BOSTON, Jan. 10, 1857. 
CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN OF OSAWATOMIE. 

DEAR SIR, I have a small fund in my hands to be used for the 
benefit of Kansas men. I enclose thirty dollars, with the request 
that you will use it as you see fit, remembering that you are to 
regard yourself and your sons as entitled to your consideration as 
well as any others. Respectfully yours, 

C. J. HIGGINSON. l 

Meantime the Massachusetts Kansas Committee had com 
pleted the transaction concerning the rifles at Tabor, and 
given Brown the following orders and votes to show his 
authority. The first is dated at Boston, Jan. 8, 1857 : 

DEAR SIR, Enclosed we hand you our order on Edward Clark, 
Esq., of Lawrence, K, T., for two hundred Sharpe's rifled carbines, 
with four thousand ball cartridges, thirty-one thousand military caps, 
and six iron ladles, all, as we suppose, now stored at Tabor in 
the State of Iowa. We wish you to take possession of this property, 
either at Tabor or wherever it may be found, as our agent, and to 
hold it subject to our order. For this purpose you are authorized 
to draw on our treasurer, Patrick T. Jackson, Esq., in Boston, for 
such sums as may be necessary to pay the expenses as they accrue, 
to an amount not exceeding five hundred dollars. 
Truly yours, 

GEORGE L. STEARNS, 

Chairman Massachusetts State Kansas Committee. 
MR. JOHN BROWN, 

Of Kansas Territory. 

1 Upon this is the following indorsement in Brown's handwriting : 
"C. J. Higginson, or H. L. Higginson." The latter was a kinsman of 
Charles Higginson ; and has since been known as the wealthy Boston 
banker, who supplies his native city with cheap concerts of the best music. 
I suppose he may have handed the above note or the money to Captain 
Brown. 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 385 

BOSTON, April 15, 1857. 

DEAR Sm, By the enclosed vote of the llth instant we place 
in your hands one hundred Sharpe's rifles to be sold in conformity 
therewith, and wish you to use the proceeds for the benefit of the 
Free-State men in Kansas ; keeping an account of your doings as 
far as practicable. Also a vote "placing a further sum of five hun 
dred dollars at your disposal, for which you can, in need, pass your 
draft on our treasurer, P. T. Jackson, Esq. 
Truly yours, 

GEORGE L. STEARNS, 

Chairman Massachusetts State Kansas Committee. 
MR. JOHN BROWN, 

Massasoit House, Springfield, Mass. 

BOSTON, April 15, 1857. 

At a meeting of the executive committee of the State Kansas Aid 
Committee of Massachusetts, held in Boston, April 11, 1857, it was 

Voted, That Captain John Brown be authorized to dispose of one 
hundred rifles, belonging to this committee, to such Free-State inhab 
itants of Kansas as he thinks to be reliable, at a price not less than 
fifteen dollars ; and that he account for the same agreeably to his 
instructions, for the relief of Kansas. 

At the same meeting it was 

Voted, That Captain John Brown be authorized to draw on P. T. 
Jackson, treasurer, for five hundred dollars, if on his arrival in Kan 
sas he is satisfied that such sum is necessary for the relief of persons 
iu Kansas. 

GEORGE L. STEARNS, 
Chairman Massachusetts State Kansas Committee. 

Having assumed so much responsibility for the property 
of the committee. Captain Brown, before leaving Boston, 
made the following will for the protection of his friends : 

I, John Brown, of North Elba, N. Y., intending to visit Kansas, 
and knowing the uncertainty of life, make my last will as follows : 
I give and bequeath all trust funds and personal property for the aid 
of the Free-State cause in Kansas, now in my hands or in the hands 
of W. H. D. Callender, of Hartford, Conn., to George L. Stearns, of 
Medford, Mass., Samuel Cabot, Jr , of Boston, Mass., and William 
H. Russell, of New Haven, Conn., to them and the survivor or sur 
vivors and their assigns forever, in trust that they will administer 
said funds and other property, including all now collected or hereafter 

25 



386 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

to be collected by me or in my behalf for the aid of the Free-State 
cause in Kansas, leaving the manner of so doing entirely at their 
discretion. 

Signed at Boston, Mass., this 13th day of April, A. D. 1857, in 
presence of us, who, in presence of said Brown and of each other, 
have at his request affixed our names as witnesses of his will. The 
words u and personal property" and u and other property" interlined 
before signature by said Brown, and u said Callender," erased. 

(Signed) JOHN BROWN. 

DANIEL FOSTER, } 

MARY ELLEN RUSSELL, > Witnesses. 

THOMAS RUSSELL, ) 

The purposes of the Massachusetts Committee will be seen 
by the letter of Mr. Stearns to a New York committee, dated 
May 18, 1857. He said : 

" Since the close of the last year we have confined our operations 
to aiding those persons in Kansas who were, or intended to become, 
citizens of that Territory, believing that sufficient inducements to 
immigrate existed in the prosperous state of affairs there; and we 
now believe that should quiet and prosperity continue there for an 
other year, the large influx of Northern and Eastern men will secure 
the State for freedom. To insure the present prosperity we propose 

" 1. To have our legislature make a grant of one hundred thousand 
dollars, to be placed in the hands of discreet persons, who shall use 
it for the relief of those in Kansas who are, or may become, destitute 
through Border-Ruffian outrage. We think it will be done. 

" 2. To organize a secret force, well armed, and under control of 
the famous John Brown, to repel Border-Ruffian outrage and defend 
the Free-State men from all alleged impositions. This organization 
is strictly to be a defensive one. 

' 3. To aid by timely donations of money those parties of settlers 
in the Territory who from misfortune are unable to provide for their 
present wants. 

" I am personally acquainted with Captain Brown, and have great 
confidence in his courage, prudence, and good judgment. He has 
control of the whole affair, including contributions of arms, clothing, 
etc., to the amount of thirteen thousand dollars. His presence in the 
Territory will, we think, give the Free- State men confidence in their 
cause, and also check the disposition of the Border Ruffians to impose 
on them. This I believe to be the most important work to be done 
in Kansas at the present time. Many of the Free-State leaders being 
engaged in speculations are willing to accept peace on any terms. 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 387 

Brown and his friends will hold to the original principle of making 
Kansas free, without regard to private interests. If you agree with 
me, I should like to have your money appropriated for the use of 
Captain John Brown. If not that, the other proposition, to aid par 
ties of settlers now in the Territory, will be the next best." 

As has already been mentioned, Captain Brown, in com 
pany with Martin F. Con way and myself, representing the 
Massachusetts Committee, met by appointment at the Metro 
politan Hotel in New York late in March, 1857, and pro 
ceeded in company to Easton, Penn., where Mr. Reeder, a 
former governor of Kansas, was living, for the purpose of 
inducing him, if possible, to return to Kansas and become 
the leader of the Free-State party there. The journey was 
undertaken at the request of the Massachusetts Committee, 
of which both Brown and Conway were agents. It resulted 
in nothing ; for Mr. Reeder was unwilling to leave his 
family and his occupations at Easton to engage again in the 
political contests of Kansas. Captain Brown had quite a 
different conception of his own duty to his family, as com 
pared with his duty to the cause. Although he had been 
absent from home nearly two years, he refrained from a visit 
to North Elba, where his family then were, until he had ar 
ranged his military affairs in Boston and New York ; and he 
finally reached his rough mountain home late in February. 
He found his daughter Ellen, whom he had left an infant 
in the cradle, old enough to hear him sing his favorite hymn, 
" Blow ye the trumpet, blow ! " to the old tune of Lenox. 
"He sung all his own children to sleep with it," writes 
his daughter Anne, " and some of his grandchildren, too. 
He seemed to be very partial to the first verse ; I think that 
he applied it to himself. When he was at home (I think it 
was the first time he came from Kansas), he told Ellen that 
he had sung it to all the rest, and must to her, too. She was 
afraid to go to him alone [the poor child had forgotten her 
father in his two years' absence], so father said that I 
must sit with her. He took Ellen on one knee and me on 
the other and sung it to us." His sons were now inclined 
to give up war and remain at North Elba, and so his wife 
wrote him, March 21. He replied : 



388 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 



To his Wife. 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., March 31, 1857. 

DEAR WIFE, Your letter of the 21st is just received. I have 
only to say as regards the resolution of the hoys to u learn and prac 
tice war no more,'' that it was not at my solicitation that they en 
gaged in it at first ; and 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 what is more to be dreaded, if such things do not now 
exist. ... I have just got a long letter from Mr. Adair. All 
middling well, March 11, but had fears of further trouble after a 
while. 9 

Your affectionate husband, 

JOHN BROWN. 

He found means to overcome the reluctance of his chil 
dren to sacrifice themselves for the cause of the slave, and 
this in spite of many discouragements of his own. In reply 
to Mr. Adair, he wrote this short note : 

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., March 31, 1857. 

DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER ADAIR, I received Mr. Adair's 
most welcome letter to-day, and am greatly obliged for it indeed. I 
also yesterday saw your letter to Mr. Burt, at Canton, Conn. Mr. 
Burt died in January. In him truth, right, and humanity lost a 
faithful friend. I have but a moment to write, and but little to say 
that would afford you any interest, except that friends are well, so far 
as I know, and that I think of going West somewhere, soon. The 
excitement is getting up this way in view of Supreme Court pro 
ceedings, 1 Walker's appointment as governor of Kansas, etc. May 
God still preserve and keep you all ! 

Your affectionate brother, 

JOHN BROWN. 

It was about this time that Brown made the unlucky 
acquaintance of Hugh Forbes, was pleased with him, and 
engaged him to drill his soldiers at a salary of one hundred 
dollars a month, even going so far as to pay him six hun 
dred dollars in advance, early in April. Mr. Callender, of 
the State Bank in Hartford, thus testified before Senator 
Mason's committee : 

1 The Dred Scott decision. 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 389 

"I had instructions from Mr. Brown to pay Forbes six hundred 
dollars ; that was about the 1st of April, 1857 j the two drafts I have 
with me. 

[The witness produced two drafts, which are in the following words and 
figures : 
No.. $400. NEW YORK, April 27, 1857. 

At sight, pay to the order of Ketclmm, Howe, & Co. four hundred dol 
lars, value received, and charge the same to account of 

(Signed) HUGH FORBKS. 

Indorsed : Cr. our account, 

KETCHUM, HOWE, & Co. 

No. . $200. NEW YORK, April 29, 1857. 

Pay to the order of Ketchum, Howe, & Co. two hundred dollars, value 
received, and charge the same to account of 

(Signed) HUGH FORBES. 

"W. H. D. CALLENDER, ESQ., Hartford, Conn.] 

" Mr. Brown told me that Mr. Forbes might draw upon me for six 
hundred dollars; that was about the 1st of April, 1857 ; these drafts 
soon afterwards came on, and I paid them. Brown furnished me, I 
think, with four hundred dollars, which came from Springfield." 

The fish had swallowed the golden hook, but it was not 
easy to " land " him. He should have followed Brown to 
the West in May, but he loitered in New York, and Brown 
was forced to warn him as follows. Mr. Callender says : 

" Here is an order drawn by John Brown, dated the 22d of June, 
1857, upon Colonel H. Forbes, at New York City, in these words : 

' SIR, If you have drawn on W. H. D. Callender, Esq., cashier at 
Hartford, Conn., for six hundred dollars, or any part of that amount, and 
are not prepared to come on and join me at once, you will please pay over to 
Joseph Bryant, Esq., who is my agent, six hundred dollars, or whatever 
amount you have so drawn.' 

" The indorsement on it is, 

* I did not present this to the colonel, as I presumed it would be of no 
use ; and then he is, I am persuaded, acting on good faith. 

(Signed) JOSEPH BRYANT.' " 

Forbes was printing his precious Manual in New York, 
and also enjoying the advantages of the city, instead of 
hurrying away to the prairies. Mr. Bryant at various dates 
thus reports him : 



390 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

June 1. I this day saw your friend Colonel Forbes; he is trying 
to raise funds to get his family brought to this country, but I fear he 
will not succeed very well. I will have, when collected, some six 
dollars only in my hands ; this I intend passing into his hands. I 
may get a few dollars more, but the prospects are not very good here 
at present to raise money. The colonel says he is getting along well 
in getting his printing done (and is losing no time). 

June 16. I called on the colonel last night ; found him well, ex 
cept very anxious about getting his family to this country. He is 
not ready to join you ; thinks nothing will be needed out West be 
fore winter, not till Congress have met and acted in favor of the 
constitution about being framed; so he thinks. He is getting along, 
he tells me, as fast as possible with his book ; will have it ready in 
about ten days ; has as yet raised no funds to pay the passage of his 
family. Thinks they will have to come in the third class passage, 
which grieves him very much, as his wife is not in good health. I 
had promised what money was in my hands to defray the expenses of 
publishing his book ; this I promised him on account of your intro 
duction to me of him. 

June 25. Yours of the 22d was duly received by me on yesterday, 
and I, according to your request, called on the colonel. I learned that 
he intends to leave here to join you in about ten days (certainly, barring 
accidents}. I learned, too, that he had drawn the money, and I think 
it is pretty well used up by this time. I did not say anything about 
his refunding, as he assured me, in the most positive way he could, 
that he would set out as soon as he got his book finished, which 
would be done in about a week. He says he is as anxious as you are 
to do everything that can be done; but he still thinks that there will 
be no need of action before winter. Yet he admitted it was best to be 
ready; and he thinks his book of extracts is all-important. a part of 
the necessary tools to work with. He has given up the idea of get 
ting his family over to this country, and is about sending his daughter 
back to her mother. She will leave in a few days. He sent his 
family (I understood from himself) about one hundred and twenty 
dollars some time ago of the money he drew, and I suppose it will 
take some hundred dollars for his daughter to go home on; yet I 
think the colonel is acting in good faith, and is an honorable man. 

The character of Hugh Forbes and his final connection 
with Brown will be considered hereafter. It is enough to 
say, now, that he was unfitted for the work given him to do, 
and that the money paid to him was worse than thrown 
away ; yet the lack of this sum six or seven hundred 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 391 

dollars embarrassed Brown at every step of his course in 
the summer of 1857, and prevented his reaching Kansas 
until late in the year. Meantime his friends there were 
expecting him, and he was corresponding with them at in 
tervals. Through one of these friends, Augustus Wattles, 
then living at Lawrence, he sent messages to others ; and 
one of these letters expresses so pungently his opinion of 
Kansas affairs in the early spring of 1857, that I will quote 
it here : 

BOSTON, MASS., April 8, 1857. 

MY DEAR SIR, Your favor of the 15th March, and that of friend 
Holmes of the 16th, I have just received. I cannot express my grati 
tude for them both. They give me just that kind of news I was most 
of all things anxious to hear. I bless God that he has not left the 
Free-State men of Kansas to pollute themselves by the foul and 
loathsome embrace 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 ! I would most gladly give my 
hand to all whose u 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 
chos'en. My efforts this way have not been altogether fruitless. I 
wish you and friend Holmes 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, 

NELSON HAWKINS. 

AUGUSTUS WATTLES, ESQ., Lawrence, K. T. 

" Friend Holmes " was Brown's youngest lieutenant, who 
thus wrote to him after he had left New England for North 
Elba : - 

Letters of J. H. Holmes to John Brown. 

LAWRENCE, KANSAS, April 30, 1857. 

MY DEAR FRIEND BROWN, I have been anxiously expecting to 
hear from you direct, but have only heard through Mr. Wattles. I 
want to see you as soon as possible after you arrive in the Territory.. 



392 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

I have .settled at Emporia, six miles above the junction of the Neo- 
sho and the Cottonwood. My address is either Emporia or Law- 
.rence, as you may choose. My letters all come and go safe. War, ere 
six months shall have passed away, is inevitable. Secretary Stanton 
has made a public speech in Lawrence, and says that those laws (the 
l)ogus) shall be enforced, and that the taxes shall be paid. The peo 
ple shout, " Never ! " " Then," he says, " there is war between you 
and me, war to the knife, and the knife to the hilt." There will be 
no voting ; no paying of taxes ; and I think the Free-State men will 
remove the Territorial Government and set up their own. Then we 
want you. Please write. All your friends, as far as I know, are 
well. Very truly yours, 

JAMES H. HOLMES. 1 

This letter was immediately followed by another, in 
which Holmes opens a little of the mystery of Kansas pol 
itics in this third year of the struggle there : 

LAWRENCE, KAN., 3 o'clock, p. M., April 30, 1857. 

DEAR FRIEND BROWN, This morning I received your letter 
which came by the way of Tabor, and also your letter which came 
through the mail. I had previously written you a short letter. I 
now write to let you know that I have received them, and to an 
swer them hastily ; though I presume you will leave Springfield for 
Kansas ere this reaches you. I do not think there is any disposition 
to ll back down " by the Free-State men, other than by the specu 
lators ; and they are, as a class, never to be relied on, of course. I 
have full faith in the virtue of the Free-State men of Kansas. You 
have something to learn in the political world here. 

You will hear of me either at Lawrence, through J. E. Cook, of the 
firm of Bacon, Cook, & Co., or I may be at Emporia, where I have 
taken a claim and make it my home. At any rate, Cook can tell 
you where I may be. A case has recently occurred of kidnapping a 
Free-State man, which is this : Archibald Kandell, a young fellow 
who came in with Redpath under Eldridge, last fall, and has been 
all winter on a claim near Osawatomie, was some two weeks since 
enticed out under pretence of trading horses, by four men, and 
abducted into Missouri. Archy was in my company, and is a good 

1 Holmes was at this time nineteen years old, the son of a New York 
broker, and had gone to Kansas to aid the cause of freedom. He has since 
been a journalist, and under President Lincoln was secretary of New 
Mexico. Brown used to call him "my little hornet." 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 393 

brave fellow. How long he is to remain incarcerated and in chains I 
will not in this place and time attempt to predict. 

Judge Conway is here, radical and right. Dr. Robinson recently 
made a proposition with some leading proslavery men to compro 
mise. The Free-State men won't do it. We are talking of running 
Phillips for governor next fall. 

Very truly your constant friend, 

JAMES. 

This letter was months in reaching Brown, who did not 
answer it until September 9. Mr. Wattles wrote in the 
summer, touching upon matters political, and in reply to a 
second letter from Brown, who was meditating his proposed 
attack on slavery in Missouri, and for this time called him 
self " James Smith," instead of "Hawkins.''* 

John Brown to A. Wattles. 

HUDSON, OHIO, June 3, 1857. 

MY DEAR SIR, I write to say that I started for Kansas some 
three weeks jer 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 ; namely, Daniel Foster, late of 
Boston, 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. Updeyraff and S. H. 
Wright, of Osawatomie ; or William Phillips, or CONWAY, 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 
Osawatomie, may supply fifty dollars (if need be) for expenses, on 
my account, on presentation of this. Write me at Tabor, Iowa, 
Fremont County. Very respectfully yours, 

JAMES SMITH. 1 

1 The persons mentioned in this letter were supposed by Brown to be 
specially friendly and true to him. Foster was a clergyman, formerly set 
tled at Concord, Mass., but then in Kansas. Holmes was Brown's lieu 
tenant in 1856, and afterward in 1858-59. Frazee was Brown's teamster 
and soldier in 1856, and fought at Black Jack, as did B. L. Cochran. Dr. 
Updegraff fought at Osawatomie. Concerning David, Hill, and Wright 
I have little information. Phillips was afterwards Congressman. 



394 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

The Reply. 

LAWRENCE, K. T., June 18, 1857. 
JAMES SMITH, ESQ. 

DKAR SIR, Your favor of the 3d instant was duly received. I 
am much pleased to hear from you. We talked over matters here, and 
concluded to say, come as quietly as possible, or not come at present, 
as you may choose. Holmes is at Emporia, plowing ; Con way is 
here, talking politics ; Phillips is here, trying to urge the Free-State 
men to galvanize the Topeka constitution into life. Dr. Robinson's 
absence at the assembling of the Free-State Legislature last winter 
dispirited thp Free-State party. It is difficult to make them rally 
again under him. Foster I do not know. Frazee has not returned. 
The others are as you left them. We are prospering finely. You 
will hear much against- G. W. Brown and the " Herald of Freedom," 
but be careful about believing it. Brown is as good as ever. 
Most truly your friend, 

AUGUSTUS WATTLES.* 

In reply to a letter of Brown, sent in August from 
Tabor, Mr. Wattles wrote again on Kansas politics, and 
more definitely. 

Letters from Kansas Friends. 

LAWRENCE, K. T., Aug. 21, 1857. 

DEAR SIR Your favor of August 8 came duly to hand, as did 
yours to Dr. Prentice. The business you speak of was put into the 
hands of Mr. Realf. Mr. Whitman and Mr. Edmonds 2 are both 
gone East. In regard to other inquiries, I can hardly tell you satis 
factorily. I think Dr. Robinson's failure to meet the legislature 
last winter disheartened the people so that they lost confidence in 
him and in the movement. Although in the Convention we invited 
him to withdraw his resignation (which he did), yet the masses 
could never be vitalized again into that enthusiasm and confidence 
which they had before. Another mistake which he made, equally 
fatal, was his attack upon George W. Brown and the " Herald of 
Freedom ; " thus leading off his friends into a party by themselves, 
and leaving all who doubted and hated him in another party. This 
war between the leaders settled the question of resistance to outside 

1 Indorsed by John Brown: "A. "Wattles, No. 2. Requires no, reply." 

2 Two names for the same man. 



1857.J THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 395 

authority at once. Those who had entertained the idea of resistance 
have entirely abandoned it. Dr. Robinson was not alone in his blun 
ders. Colonel Lane, Mr. Phillips, and "The Republican" made 
equally fatal ones. Colonel Lane boasted in his public speeches 
that the Constitutional Convention would be driven into the Kaw 
River, etc., by violence. Mr. Phillips boasted this, and much more, 
in the " New York Tribune." " The Republican" boasted that old 
Captain Brown would be down on Governor Walker and Co. like an 
avenging god, etc. This excited Walker and others to that degree 
they at once took refuge under the United States troops. Whatever 
might have been intended, much more was threatened and boasted 
of than could possibly have been performed, unless there was an 
extensive conspiracy. This, I believe, Governor Walker says was 
the case. 

I saw Con way to-day. He says he thinks all will go off quietly 
at the election. Phillips, you will see by the " Tribune," has come 
out in favor of voting in October. They intend to cheat us ; but we 
expect to beat them. Walker is as fair as he can be, under the 
circumstances. Yours truly, 

A. WATTLES. 1 

A few days earlier than this letter was written, Holmes, 
who differed a little from Wattles, sent a word of warning 
to his captain, along with other information, thus : 

LAWRENCE, K. T., Aug. 16, 1857. 

My DEAR FRIEND, I received your letter of the 8th inst. yes 
terday. I am glad to hear that you are so near. Messrs. Realf, 
Phillips, and Wattles also received letters from you yesterday. I 
have a word of caution to say in regard to Mr. Wattles. He is a 
friend whom I most highly esteem ; yet he is so connected in politics 
that I think it unsafe for you to communicate to him any plans you 
would not like to communicate directly to Governor Walker. For 
this reason : Mr. Wattles is under George W. Brown ; and both be 
lieve in submitting in good faith, under Governor Walker, to the Ter 
ritorial authorities. Governor Walker comes to town frequently, and 
stops at the " Herald of Freedom" office, in secret conclave with 
G. W. Brown. When you come here (if you should), you can judge 
for yourself. 

1 Indorsed by John Brown : " A. Wattles, ISTo. 6." The rest of these 
letters are not in my hands. The election mentioned was to occur in 
October, and was carried by the Free-State men. "Walker" was the 
new Governor, R. J. Walker, of Pennsylvania. 



396 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

Messrs. Phillips, Wattles, and Realf I have seen ; they will write 
to you themselves, and I will merely give you my own mind on 
the subject. T do not know what you would have me infer by 
"business." I presume, though, by the word being emphasized, 
that you refer to the business for which I learn you have a stock of 
material with you. If you mean this, I think quite strongly of a 
good(?) opening for this business about the first Monday in October 1 
next. If you wish other employments, I presume you will find just 
as profitable ones. I am sorry that you have not been here in the 
Territory before. I think that the sooner you come the better, so 
that the people and the Territorial authorities may become familiar 
ized 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. I 
have much to communicate to you, which I cannot do through this 
medium ; therefore you must try to let me know of your approach 
or arrival as soon as possible, through Mr. Phillips, or through the 
Lawrence postoffice. I presume Mr. Phillips wrote to you in re 
gard to teams and means, which, as Mr. Whitman is now East, will 
be, I fear, scarce. 

Most sincerely your friend, 

JAMES H. HOLMES. 



This letter was directed to " Captain Brown." and so was, 
perhaps, sent by a safe messenger ; for the Free-State men 
had much distrust of the mails. This was one reason for 
the change of names which John Brown adopted ; another 
was, that he was still proscribed in Kansas, as he had been 
in 1856, and might be arrested at any time by the Terri 
torial authorities. Mr. Whitman wrote to him soon after, 
arid wishing to free him from this anxiety, chose as his 
messenger the Englishman Realf, of whom we shall soon 
hear more : 

LAWRENCE, June 30, 1857. 

DEAR SIR, I send you by the bearer, Richard Realf, one hun 
dred and fifty dollars, minus the reasonable expenses of the messen 
ger on his way up. You will please make arrangements for him to 
return with you. Your friends are desirous of seeing you. The 
dangers that threatened the Territory and individuals have been 
removed, in the shape of quashed indictments. Y OUT furniture can 

1 Election day. 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 397 

be brought and safely stored while you are seeking a location ; and 
your family can find board among the settlers. Hoping to see you 
soon in good health, I remain, as ever, 

Yours truly, E. B. W. 

To CAPTAIN BROWN. 

Mr. Phillips, afterward in Congress from Kansas, and a 
general during the Civil War, wrote thus : 

LAWRENCE, K. T., June 24, 1857. 

MY DEAR FRIEND, I received your letter, dated from Ohio the 
9th instant, a few days ago. I fear I shall not be able to meet you 
at Tabor. I have just received (on the 13th) the task of superin 
tending and taking the census for the State election. As means are 
limited, those who can must do this. I have therefore assumed the 
task, which will require my presence and most active efforts until the 
15th of July. I have tried to arrange it so as to get off for a week ; 
but it is impossible without a sacrifice of duty. Should it be so, or 
if no one else can go, I will still try. Holmes I have seen ; he is 
busy, and will not be able to come up. Several of those you men 
tioned are gone, and others cannot go to Tabor. I sent a message 
to Osawatomie, and enclosed your letter to Mr. Adair ; told him that 
Holmes and the others could not go, and urged that some go from 
Osawatomie, if possible. I have not yet heard from him. I start 
to Osawatomie when I finish this ; I will make it on my round, ap 
pointing deputies and taking the census. Two young men from 
this place have promised me that they will go if possible ; but they 
have no horses, and horses cannot be hired for such a journey. I 
still hope to have a few friends at Tabor to meet you in a week. 

As to your future action, for fear I should be prevented from going 
to meet you, let me say I think you should come into Kansas, pro 
vided you desire to do so. I think it will be our duty to see you 
protected. There is no necessity for active military preparations at 
this time ; but so far as you have the elements of defence at your 
command, I think they are safer with you than with any one else. 
Your old claim has, I believe, been jumped. If you do not desire to 
contest it, let me suggest that you make a new settlement at some 
good point, of which you will be the head. Lay off a town and take 
claims around it. You would thus rally round you a class of useful 
men, who could be prepared for an emergency at the same time that 
they furthered their own interests, which they have a right to do. 
Any information I could render as to the best sites or otherwise you 
may cheerfully call upon. Should I not be able to come to meet you, 
I hope at least to see you shortly after you enter. I have not time to 



398 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

detail the present condition of the Free-State party. Until 1 see 
you, adieu. Respectfully, 

WILLIAM A. PHILLIPS. 
JAMES SMITH. 1 

Mr. Whitman's messenger reached Tabor nearly a month 
before Brown got there, and went back to Kansas again, 
leaving this note : 

TABOR, IOWA, July 6, 1857. 
JOHN BROWN, ESQ. 

DEAR SIR, I arrived here to-day from Lawrence, bringing $150, 
minus my expenses np and down. These will amount to ahout $40, 
leaving you $110. Mr. Whitman could not, as you will see from his 
note signed " Edmunds," spare you more; and the mule team you 
asked for could not he procured. I am sorry you have not arrived : 
I should like to have gone back with you. The Governor has in 
structed the Attorney- General of Kansas to enter a nolle prosequi in 
the case of the Free-State prisoners ; so that you need be under no 
apprehension of insecurity as to yourself or the munitions you may 
bring with you. By writing a line to me or Mr. Whitman or Phil 
lips at Lawrence immediately on your arrival here, we will come 
and meet you by way of Topeka. God speed you ! 

Truly, RICHARD REALF. 

Brown reported to me at the end of September his prog 
ress then made, as follows : 

TABOR, FREMONT COUNTY, IOWA, Oct. 1, 1857. 
F. B. SANBORN, Concord, Mass. 

MY DEAR SIR, Two days since I received your very kind letter 
of the 14th September; also one from James Hunnewell, Esq., say 
ing he had sent me $72.68 through P. T. Jackson, Esq., of Boston ; 
for both which I am very glad. 2 I cannot express my gratitude for 

1 Indorsed by John Brown : "William A. Phillips. Requires no reply. 
No. 1." The tone of this letter shows how Brown was regarded in Kansas 
as the custodian of arms, which, of course, was the "furniture" men 
tioned by Mr. Whitman. 

- This note explains the source and object of this seasonable contri 
bution : 

BOSTON, Sept. 14, 1857. 
NELSON HAWKINS, ESQ., care of Jonas Jones, Tabor, Iowa. 

DEAR SIR, By order of the (Mass.) Middlesex County Kansas Aid Committee, I 
have sent to you through P. T. Jackson, Esq. , treasurer of the State Committee, $72.68, 
" to be appropriated to the use of Captain John Brown, now at Tabor, Iowa, in support 
of the cause of freedom in Kansas." 

Very respectfully yours, 

JAMES HUNNEWELL, 
Treasurer of Middlesex County Kansas Aid Committee. 



1357.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 399 

your earnest and early attention to my wants and those of my family. 
I regret that Mr. Hunnewell did not at once send me either a check 
or a draft on New York or Boston, as it will probably be one month 
or more before I can realize it ; and I have not the means of paying 
my board bill here, not having as yet received anything from Mr. 
Whitman toward a balance of five hundred dollars, nor heard from 
him. If I get the money from Mr. Hunnewell and Mr. Whitman, it 
will answer my present wants, except the secret service I wrote you 
about. I have all the arms I am likely to need, but am destitute 
of saddle-bags or knapsacks, holsters and belts; have only a few 
blankets, no shovels or spades, no mattocks, but three or four adzes 
(ought to have been one hundred), and am nearly destitute of cook 
ing utensils. The greater part of what I have just named I must do 
without till another spring, at any rate. I found here one brass 
field-piece complete, and one damaged gun-carriage, with some am 
munition suitable for it ; some seventy to seventy-five old damaged 
United States rifles and muskets, one dozen old sabres, some powder 
and lead (enough for present use; weight not known), I suppose 
sent by National Committee. Also one dozen boxes and barrels of 
clothing, boots, etc., with three hand gristmills, sent to Nebraska 
City, from same source. I also got from Dr. Jesse Bowen, of Iowa 
City, one old wagon, which broke down with a light load on the 
M'ay; also nine full-rigged tents, three sets tent-poles (additional), 
eleven pairs blankets, and three axes, sent there by National Com 
mittee. Also from Mr. Hurd I got an order for fifty dollars' worth 
of tents, wagon-covering, ropes, etc., at Chicago, which was paid 
me. I find one hundred and ninety-four carbines, about thirty-three 
hundred ball cartridges, all the primers, but no iron ladles. This, I 
believe, with the teams and wagon I purchased, will give you a pretty 
good idea of the stuff I have. I had a gun and pair of pistols given 
me by Dr. Howe, and some three or four guns made for experiment 
by Mr. Thayer (a little cannon and carriage is one of them), and one 
nice rifle by the manufacturing company at Worcester. 1 I had also 
a few revolvers, common guns, and sabres left on hand, that I took 
on with me in 1855. While waiting here I and my son have been 
trying to learn a little of the arts of peace from Colonel F., who is 
still with us. That is the school I alluded to. 

Before I reached here, I had written particularly to friends in 
Kansas, saying that I wanted help to meet me here, and to wait for 
me should I be detained on the way. I also arranged with Mr. 
Whitman in regard to it in Chicago. He sent one man with one 
hundred and fifty dollars ; forty of it he kept, and went immediately 

1 These are the arms mentioned in Eli Thaver's letters. 



400 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

back. From that time I send you copies of some of the correspon 
dence between Kansas and me, as rather essential to give you a 
correct idea of things in connection with my statements yet to be 
made. When I got on here I immediately wrote Mr. Whitman 
and several others what was my situation and wants. He (Mr. 
Whitman) has not written me at all since what 1 send. Others 
have written, as you will see. I wrote the man Mr. Whitman 
sent me, among the rest, but get no word from him since what I 
now send. 

As to the policy of voting on Monday next, I think Lane hit his 
mark at the convention of Grasshopper's, if never before ; I mean 
" An escape into the filthy sluice of a prison." I had not been able 
to learn by papers or otherwise distinctly what course had been taken 
in Kansas till within a few days; and probably the less I have to 
say, the better. 

I omitted above to say that I paid out five hundred and fifty dol 
lars on a contract for one thousand superior pikes, as a cheap but 
effectual weapon to place in the hands of entirely unskilful and un 
practised men, which will not easily get out of order, and require no 
ammunition. They will cost, handles and all complete, a little short 
of one dollar each. That contract I have not been able to fulfil ; and 
wise military men may ridicule the idea; but "I take the whole 
responsibility of that job," so that I can only get them. 

On hearing that Lane had come into Nebraska, I at once sent a 
young man with a line, saying I had been hurt, and was exceedingly 
anxious to see him early in September. To this he scut me no reply, 
unless Kedpath's letter be one. 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, watered by the tears and 
blood of my children, shall yet be free or I fall. 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 communi 
cations, and can wait until we know better how to act than we now 
do. I send this whole package to you, thinking Concord a less offen 
sive name just now than Boston at this end of the route. I wish the 
whole conveyed to my friend Stearns and other friends, as old Brown's 
last report. 

Until further advised, I wish all communications addressed to Jonas 
Jones, Esq., Tabor, Fremont County, Iowa, outwardly ; and I hope 
you will all write often. 

I had forgotten to say, that day before yesterday one single man, 
with no team at all, came from Lane to have me start at once for 
Kansas, as you will see by copies. He said he had left ten fine 
fellows about thirty miles back. The names he gave me were all 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 401 

strange to me, as well as himself. Tabor folks (some of them) 
speak slightingly of him, notwithstanding that he too is a general. 

October 3, 1857. 

Yours, covering check, is this moment to hand, and will afford 
most seasonable relief. Express goes to K. at once to see how the 
land lies. You will hear again soon. 

Yours most truly, 

J. BROWN. 

The following correspondence will find its key in the 
letter just given. General Lane was at the head of the 
organization mentioned, and Mr. Whitman was his quarter 
master-general. 

(Private.) 

LAWRENCE, Sept. 7, 1857. 

SIR, We are earnestly engaged in perfecting an organization for 
the protection of the ballot-box at the October election (first Mon 
day). Whitman and Abbot have been East after money and arms 
for a mouth past; they write encouragingly, and 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 
and after your arrival. I went up to see you, but failed. Now what 
is wanted is this : write me concisely what transportation you require, 
how much money, and the number of men needed to escort you into 
the Territory safely; and if you desire it I will come up with them. 
Yours respectfully, 

J. H. LANE. 

To CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN, Tabor. 

Brown's answer was as follows : 

TABOR, FREMONT COUNTY, IOWA, Sept. 16, 1857. 
GENERAL JAMES H. LANE. 

MY DEAR SIR, Your favor of the 7th hist, is received. I had 
previously written you expressive of my strong desire to see you. I 
suppose you have my letter before this. As to the job of work you 
inquire about, I suppose that three good teams, with well covered 
wagons, and ten really ingenious, industrious (not gassy) men, with 
about one hundred and fifty dollars in cash, could bring it about 
in the course of eight or ten days. 

Very respectfully your friend, 

JOHN BROWN. 
26 



402 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

This letter was returned to Brown by Mr. Jamison, Sep 
tember 30, and the following note from General Lane came 
with it. Falls City is in southern Nebraska, comparatively 
near Tabor. In addressing Brown as " Dear General/'' 
Lane had in mind the fact that he had made Brown a brig 
adier of the new army which Lane had organized : 

FALLS CITY, Sept. 29, 18f>7. 

DEAR GENERAL, I send you Mr. Jamison (quartermaster-gen 
eral second division), to assist you in getting your articles into Kan 
sas in time. Mr. Whitman wrote us a week ago he would be at 
Wyandotte yesterday, and that he was supplied with the things ; but 
he had not arrived when I left. It is all-important to Kansas that 
your things should be in at the earliest possible moment, and that you 
should be much nearer at hand than you are. I send you all the money 
I have (fifty dollars), and General Jamison has some more. We 
want every gun and all the ammunition. I do not know that we will 
have to use them, but I do know we should be prepared. I send you 
ten true men. You can rely upon the General ; and what he tells 
you comes from me. Yours ever, 

J. H. LANE. 

To GENERAL JOHN BROWN, Tabor. 

To this Brown replied : 

TABOR, FREMONT COUNTY, IOWA, Sept. 30, 1857. 
GENERAL JAMES H. LANE. 

MY DEAR SIR, Your favor from Falls City by Mr. Jamison is 
just received; also 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 on such very short notice, four days only remain 
ing to get ready, load up, and go through. I think, considering all 
the uncertainties of the case, want of teams, etc., that I should do 
wrong to set out. I am disappointed in the extreme. 1 

Very respectfully your friend, JOHN BROWN. 

John Brown to E. B. Whitman. 

TABOR, FREMONT COUNTY, IOWA, Oct. 5, 1857. 
E. B. WHITMAN, ESQ. 

DEAR SIR, Please send me by Mr. Charles P. Tidd what money 
you have for me, not papers. He is the second man I have sent in 

1 Brown explained this refusal to comply with Lane's request in his letter 
to me of October 1, already given, as well as in the letter which follows. 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 403 

order to get the means of taking me through. General Lane sent a 
man \vho got here without any team, with but fifty dollars of Lane's 
money (as he said), which I returned to him, and wanted me to start 
right off, with only four days' time to load up and drive through before 
this bogus election day, which my state of health and the very wet 
weather rendered it impossible to do in time; and I did not think it 
right to start from here under such circumstances. Do try to make 
me up the money, all in good shape, before Mr. Tidd returns, and 
also write me everything you know about the aspect of things in 
Kansas. Please furnish Mr. Tidd with a horse to take him to Osa- 
watomie, and greatly oblige me. The fifty dollars Lane sent was 
only about enough to pay up my board bill here, with all I had on 
hand. I need not say my disappointments have been extreme. 
Your friend, 

JOHN BROWN. 

P. S. Before any teams are now sent, I want to hear further from 
Kansas. 

What was the object of Lane's organization will appear 
by Mr. Whitman's report below : 

(Order No. 2.) 

QUARTERMASTER'S DEPARTMENT, HEADQUARTERS KANSAS 

VOLUNTEERS FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE BALLOT-BOX, 

LAWRENCE, Oct. 19, 1857. 

Whereas, On the 3d day of August an order was issued from this 
department requesting the appointment of company, brigade, and 
division quartermasters, and an immediate return to be made of the 
number and description of all arms available for the use of the respec 
tive companies; and whereas, said returns have been generally made : 
Now, therefore, in reply, and in explanation of the failure to furnish 
an entire supply for the deficiency, it is deemed proper to declare, that 
while no efforts were spared by this department, and by the entire 
staff, promptly to supply the necessary quota of arms, yet the unex 
pected obstacles which the great financial pressure threw in their 
way have prevented the anticipated success for the time being. It 
is, however, a cause for congratulation, that while the reports show 
a considerable deficiency, yet the entire armament is by no means 
insignificant. 

The immense immigration of the past year, composed largely of 
those who deceived by official promises of protection had anticipated 
no occasion for personal defence, readily accounts for this deficiency. 
In our disappointment we may rejoice that the effect of the organiza- 



404 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

tion, with all its imperfections, has been in the highest degree satis 
factory. The knowledge that an outraged people had at length 
banded themselves together, almost to a man, for the protection of 
the most sacred rights of freemen, and were ready to die in their de 
fence, has most manifestly deterred an organized invasion. Voting- 
lists ready manufactured and false returns have been made to supply 
its place ; against this the organization could afford no protection. 

It remains to be seen whether the people of Kansas will have any 
further use for this organization. It is always true that the surest 
way to prevent an evil is to be prepared to meet it, and three years' 
experience in the past should teach us not to indulge in any pre 
mature feelings of security and safety. In view of possible contin 
gencies, this department hereby announces that it will still continue 
its exertions to furnish the means of protection and defence to all who 
may be destitute of them, and in all cases first to supply those locali 
ties most exposed to invasion and attack. 

E. B. WHITMAN, 
Quartermaster -General Kansas Volunteers. 

Approved : J. II. LANE, Organizer: 

Mr. Whitman replied as follows to Brown's letter of 
October 5 : 

LAWRENCE, Oct. 24, 1857. 

MY DEAR FRIEND, Your first two messengers are sick at 
Tecumseh. I helped them start back with the information that you 
should soon hear from me, but they were taken sick on their way. 
Mr. Tidd has been waiting some time for me to receive remittances 
from the East ; but as the crisis approaches I feel in a hurry to get 
him off. You are wanted here a week from Tuesday. I will wait 
no longer, but by great personal exertion have raised on my personal 
responsibility one hundred and fifty dollars. General Lane will send 
teams from Falls City, so that you may get your goods all in. 
Leave none behind if you can help it. Come direct to this place and 
see me before you make any disposition of your plunder, except to 
keep it safe. Make the Tabor people wait for what you owe them. 
They must. Make the money I send answer to get here, and I hope 
by that time to have more for you. Mr. Tidd will explain all. 
Very truly yours, 

E. B. WHITMAN. 1 

Finally, this correspondence closes with a letter from 
Lane. 

1 Indorsed by Brown : "Received at Tabor, Nov. 1." 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 405 

FALLS CITY, Oct. 30, 1357. 

DEAR SIR, By great sacrifice we have raised, and send by Mr. 
Tidd, one hundred and fifty dollars. I trust this money will.be used 
to get the guns to Kansas, or as near as possible. If you can get 
them to this point, we will try to get them on in some way. The 
probability is Kansas will never need the guns. One thing is cer 
tain : if they are to do her any good, it will be in the next few days. 
Let nothing interfere in bringing them on. 

Yours, J. H. LANE. 

Brown accepted this invitation, and entered Kansas ; 
but without the rifles, and with only a part of his other 
supplies. 

These tedious delays in the armed expedition under 
Brown's direction, from which the Massachusetts Com 
mittee and the majority of the National Committee hoped 
so much, were very annoying to Brown himself, more so, 
as it happened, than to those who had placed the arms and 
money in his hands. " God protects us in winter," he had 
told his Massachusetts friends ; and the same protection 
was extended throughout the whole year 1857 to the poor 
farmers of Kansas, who had suffered in 1856 to the verge 
of ruin. The resignation of Governor Geary in March and 
the appointment of Governor Walker had not led, as was 
feared, to a repetition of the scenes of Shannon's adminis 
tration. Peace was preserved, emigrants flocked into Kan 
sas, and the political campaign which ended in the October 
election had a result unexpectedly favorable to the Free- 
State men. Consequently the rifles and cannon of Brown 
were not needed, and but few of them ever were carried 
into Kansas. Had he gone in with them in June, as he ex 
pected, the result would not have been materially different, 
although his presence would have given more confidence to 
the radical wing in the Free-State party, which ultimately 
triumphed. In truth, Brown had done his work during the 
summer of 1856 that season of hardship and terror so 
thoroughly that there was no need to continue it in 1857. 
When resumed in 1858-59, it was chiefly to protect the 
settlers in the border counties, and to aid the escape of 
slaves in Missouri. What Brown thought and felt during 



406 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BKOWN. [1857. 

this year of inaction may be inferred from these letters, 
which begin with his final departure from New England in 
April : 

John Brown to his Family and Friends. 

NEW HAVEN, CONN., April 23, 1857. 

DEAR CHILDREN, I received your letter of the 6th and 8th inst. 
Will endeavor to get the article Ruth wrote for. I now expect to 
buy the place of Franklin and Samuel. I would be very glad to 
have some of the friends take a horse-team and meet me at West- 
port as soon as this is received. Inquire for me at Mr. Judd's, 
Elizabethtown. I want to get a passage, and to have some things 
taken out. Have but a moment to write. If I am not found at 
Westport, wait a little for me. 

Your affectionate father, 

JOHN BROWN. 

VERGKNNES, VT., May 13, 1857. 
GEORGE L. STEARNS, ESQ., Boston, Mass. 

MY DEAR SIR, ... In regard to the security you mention, 
for being responsible for Colonel Carter, I will say, it is most reason 
able ; but as I deem it most uncertain what will become of things I 
carry into the war, and as I need arms "more than I do bread," I 
propose not to draw on you for the amount named, thirteen hun 
dred dollars, and will not. 

This, I trust, will be entirely satisfactory to you, and a vastly bet 
ter security. I am exceeding glad of the arrangement with Colonel 
Carter, \vhom I have written. I leave here for the West to-day, 
with health some improved, and shall be much gratified with getting 
a line from you, addressed to Orson M. Oviatt, Esq., Cleveland, 
Ohio. Please remember me to Mrs. S., family, and other friends; 
and believe me 

Your sincere friend, 

JOHN BROWN. 

The allusion above is to the generous offer of Mr. Stearns 
to guarantee the payment for two hundred revolvers, made 
by him in these letters of May, 1857 : 

May 4. I have written to Colonel Carter that I will be responsi 
ble for the payment of thirteen hundred dollars for two hundred 
revolvers, as you propose, and have requested him to write to you if 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 407 

he accepts my proposal. 1 If he does not, I will write to you again. 
If I pay for these revolvers, I shall expect that all the arms and am 
munition, rifles as well as revolvers, not used for the defence of 
Kansas, shall be held as pledged to me for the payment of this 
amount. To this our committee have assented by a vote passed on 
Saturday, and I have no doubt you will assent to it. If you do not, 
let me know your reasons. 

May 6. I think you ought to go to Kansas as soon as possible, 
and give Robinson and the rest some backbone. 

May 11. I am glad to know that you are on your way to Kansas : 
the Free-State leaders need somebody to talk to them. I hope you 
will see Conway very soon after your arrival. I did not expect you 
to return, or hold pledged to me, any arms you used in Kansas, but 
only such as were not used. 

Truly yours, 

GEORGE L. STEARNS. 

Although Mr. Stearns had given authority to draw on 
him for seven thousand dollars during 1857, what John 
Brown actually did was to abstain from drawing for a dol 
lar, to take nothing from this abundance either for his 
own comforts or the wants of his family, but to push for 
ward with the work he had undertaken, burdened in heart, 
but faithful to the trust his friends reposed in him. They, 
alas ! were not always so thoughtful for him as he for them ; 
they did not consider that the promises of rich men to poor 
men should be kept not only sacredly but promptly. Bis 
dat qui cito dat would have been Greek to John Brown ; 
but the meaning of that maxim was burned into his soul by 
the delay in that petty subscription which Mr. Lawrence 
had undertaken for the relief of Brown's family. Here are 
some of the letters which Mr. Stearns and I received from 
him in the spring and summer of 1857 : 

1 Mr. Stearns's letter to Colonel Carter, agent of the Massachusetts 
Arms Company, was as follows : 

BOSTON, May 4, 1857. 

DEAR SIR, Being desirous of aiding Captain Brown in his Kansas enterprise, I am 
willing to purchase of you the two hundred revolvers, to be delivered to him as pro 
posed, and to pay you by my note at four months from date of delivery. This will give 
me time to get the money, should I wish to raise the amount by subscription. Should 
you accept my proposition, you will please notify Captain Brown that you are ready to 
deliver ; aud your draft, accompanied by his receipt for the property, will be accepted. 



408 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

To Mr. Stearns. 

VERGENNES, VT., May 13, 1857. 

Some days since, while on my way home [to North Elba, N. Y.], 
sick with fever and ague, I got your favor of the 29th April, saying, 
" Mr. Lawrence has agreed with me that the one thousand dollars 
shall be made up, and will write to Gerrit Smith to-day or to-mor 
row, to say that he can depend on the money from him. 7 ' After 
getting home I agreed with two young men (by the name of 
Thompson) who had bargained with Mr. Smith for the farm sev 
eral years ago, and paid him in part for it, and who had made the 
improvements on it, that I would take the farm, pay the balance 
due Mr. Smith (some two hundred dollars), and the remainder, 
about eight hundred dollars, to them; which would enable them 
TO pay for another farm which they had before bought of a Mr. 
Lawtori, and were unable to pay for. Three days ago one of these 
men set out for Peterboro' (the home of Gerrit Smith) to meet 
me there, on my way West, and have the thing completed. I 
will now say ( u frankly," as you suggest) that I must ask to have 
the one thousand dollars made up at once and forwarded to Gerrit 
Smith. I did not start the measure of getting up any subscription 
for me (although I was sufficiently needy, as God knows), nor had 
I a thought of further burdening either of my dear friends Stearns or 
Lawrence. 

To F. B. Sanborn. 

PETERBORO', N. Y., May 15, 1857. 

Your most kind letter of the 26th of April I did not get till 
within the last two or three days, and then I was on my way 
West, full of cares, and in feeble health. I have just written my 
friend Stearns a letter of explanation, in which I frankly ask that 
the one thousand dollars' donation I was so generously encouraged 
to expect for the permanent assistance of my wife and children be, 
under the circumstances as so explained, promptly raised. This, 
I think, much the cheapest and most proper way to provide for 
them, and far less humiliating to my wife, who, though not above 
getting her bread over the washtub, will never tell her trials or her 
wants to the world. This I know by the experience of the past two 
years, while I was absent ; but I would never utter a syllable in re 
gard to it, were I not conscious that I am performing that service 
which is equally the duty of millions, who need not forego a single 
hearty dinner by the efforts they are called on to make. I did not 
mean to burden my friends Stearns and Lawrence further with the 
thing. I do not love to " ride free horses till they fall down dead." 



1857.] THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 409 

In reply to Brown's letter of May 13, Mr. Stearns wrote 
on the 19th a letter containing this passage, the reference 
to Gerrit Smith on my authority being understood by me 
to concern Brown's main work, and not this purchase of 
land : 

BOSTON, May 19, 1857. 

Your favor of the 13th was received yesterday. Mr. Lawrence 
agreed with me that the one thousand dollars should he made up for 
you, and requested me to write you so. The next day he sent me a 
note stating that he had written to Mr. Smith to receive from him six 
hundred dollars, and let you mortgage for four hundred dollars. I 
learn to-day from Mr. Sanborn that Gerrit Smith intends to aid you 
in this, and also obtain something for your enterprise in his neigh 
borhood. My agreement with Mr. Lawrence was that he having 
live hundred and fifty dollars towards the one thousand dollars, I 
would be responsible for one-half of the deficiency, if he would 
provide the other half, and when he returns I shall tell him he must 
fulfil the agreement with me. He will be home the 1st of June. 

To this Brown replied at once : 

AKRON, OHIO, May 23, 1857. 
GEORGE L. STEAUNS, ESQ., Boston, Mass. 

MY DEAR SIR, On my arrival at Cleveland yesterday, I found 
with 0. M. Oviatt, Esq., your favors of the 16th and 19th inst. I 
had made no previous arrangement with Mr. Smith about the land, 
other than to say that I wanted the contract with the Thompsons 
made over to me on payment, or to that effect. He had given me no 
encouragement of any help about it from him; and when I met one 
of the Thompsons there, 1 all I could do was to get both parties to 
agree to the arrangement, and to wait until the money could get on 
from Boston. Mr. Smith had before written me that his last year's 
efforts for Kansas had embarrassed him, but that when the struggle 
was renewed he would do all he could. He gave me fifty dollars, 
Mrs. S. ten dollars and some little useful articles ; Peterboro' friends 
gave me thirty-one dollars, and I came on with the understanding 
that probably the thousand dollars would soon be sent on to Mr. 
Smith. I lost about one week on my way to my family with ague 
and fever, and left home feeble, and am still so. I could promise 
Colonel Carter no more than pay for primings, which I had not bar 
gained for. I shall redeem my promise to you as soon as I am able 

1 At Peterboro'. 



410 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1857. 

to do so. Please write me next to Dr. Jesse Brown, Iowa City, 
Iowa, on envelope. I send my earnest good wishes to Mrs. S. and 
the children. Am disappointed in not having Mr. Foster and child 
for company. 

Very respectfully your friend, 

JOHN BROWN. 

Upon this statement of the case, Mr. Stearns proposed 
to Mr. Lawrence that the money should be sent on at 
once. To this proposition he finally assented, but in the 
mean time wrote to Mr. Stearns as followd : 

JUNE 3 [1857]. 

MY DEAR SIR, I did not intend to do any more than to write a 
u heading" for a subscription for Captain Brown, and subscribe for 
myself. But he was desirous to have me do more, and I have, as 
the paper shows. I wish I could do the whole. But I am behind 
hand in everything. My business extends through a large part of 
the twenty-four hours, and prevents my devoting as much time as 
would be desirable to push on this and similar good projects for 
individual advantage. If Captain Brown should be killed or dis 
abled, then I should be held for the one thousand dollars. 1 

Yours truly, 

A. A. LAWRENCE. 

HUDSON, OHIO, May 27, 1857. 

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, EVERY ONE, ... I have got 
Salmon's letter of the 19th instant, and am much obliged for it. 
There is some prospect that Owen will go on with me. If I should 
never return, it is my particular request that no other monument 
be used to keep me in remembrance than the same plain one that 
records the death of my