Monday, December 2, 2013

Hanging of Ol' John Brown

Charlestown, Va, 2nd, December, 1859

"I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty, land: will never be purged away; but with Blood. I had as I now think: vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed; it might be done.”

One Hundred Fifty years ago today, John Brown, my Great, great, great Grandfather was hanged by the State of Virginia for the crimes of first-degree murder, inciting an insurrection among Virginia slaves and Treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The Hanging of John Brown. Drawing held in the archives of the Virginia Military Institute. 

Excerpt from letter written by John T. L. Preston, a founder of the Virginia Military Institute, to his wife following the execution of John Brown:
"He was now all ready. The sheriff asked him if he should give him a private signal before the fatal moment. He replied in a voice that seemed to me unnaturally natural, so composed was its tone, and so distinct its articulation, that "it did not matter to him, if only they would not keep him too long waiting." He was kept waiting, however. The troops that had formed his escort had to be put into their position, and while this was going on, he stood for some ten or fifteen minutes blindfold, the rope around his neck, and his feet on the treacherous platform, expecting instantly the fatal act. But he stood for this comparatively long time upright as a soldier in position, and motionless.
I was close to him, and watched him narrowly, to see if I could perceive any signs of shrinking or trembling in his person, but there was none. Once I thought I saw his knees tremble, but it was only the wind blowing his loose trousers. His firmness was subjected to still further trial by hearing Colonel Smith announce to the sheriff, "We are all ready, Mr. Campbell." The sheriff did not hear, or did not comprehend; and in a louder tone the same announcement was made. But the culprit still stood ready until the sheriff, descending the flight of steps, with a well-directed blow of a sharp hatchet, severed the rope that held up the trap door, which instantly sank beneath him, and he fell about three feet; and the man of strong and bloody hand, of fierce passions, of iron will, of wonderful vicissitudes, the terrible partisan of Kansas, the capturer of the United States Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, the would-be Catiline of the South, the demi-god of the abolitionists, the man execrated and lauded, damned and prayed for, the man who in his motives, his means, his plans, and his successes, must ever be a wonder, a puzzle, and a mystery---John Brown---was hanging between heaven and earth.
There was profound stillness during the time his struggles continued, growing feebler and feebler at each abortive attempt to breathe. He knees were scarcely bent, his arms were drawn up to a right angle at the elbow, with the hands clenched; but there was no writhing of the body, no violent heaving of the chest. At each feebler effort at respiration his arms sank lower, and his legs hung more relaxed, until at last, straight and lank he dangled, swayed to and fro by the wind."

A Tribute to John Brown by David Rovics

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Owen Brown Headstone Repaired

H. Scott Wolfe, Historical Librarian of the Galena, Illinois, Public Library District and frequent guest blogger on Louis DeCarlo's Blog "John Brown the Abolitionist -- A Biographer's Blog," contacted me recently to ask me a question about the family plot in the Old Hudson Township Burying Grounds, in Hudson, Ohio.

I wasn't able to answer his question, but he told me that the Owen Brown Gravestone had been repaired! Yeah. Great Great Great Great Grandpa's headstone is no longer languishing in the mud.

Photo by Alice Keesey Mecoy 2009
I first wrote about GGGG Grandpa Owen's broken headstone in this post in 2009.

At the time of my visit to Hudson, Owen's stone had broken off the base, and was lying at the base of his first wife's marker.  I contacted the Parks and Recreation Department in Hudson, and they assured me that they were looking at ways to repair the headstone.

Scott graciously sent me a photo that he took at the Old Hudson Township Burying Ground in April 2012. Thank you so much Scott! I appreciate you sharing your photography with me.

Photo by H. Scott Wolfe 2012

 I guess that great minds do think alike - I was going to do a followup writeup on the Old Hudson Township Burying Grounds, but while looking up the exact name of Lou's blog, I see that Scott beat me to it. So for more information about the Browns buried in Hudson Ohio, please see Scott's informative post on Lou's amazing blog.

To clarify - this is the grave of Owen Brown [B-1], John Brown's father, not the grave in California of John Brown's son Owen Brown [B1843]. We are still awaiting more information on that grave site!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

2013 National Abolitionist Fall of Fame and Museum Inductees Announced

Four Abolitionists Named to Hall of Fame
On January 31, 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was proposed to the legislatures of the States by the 38th Congress, and by the end of that year the amendment was ratified: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
On Thirteenth Amendment Day, 2013, the Cabinet of Freedom, the governing board of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) in Peterboro NY, announces plans to induct four 19th Century abolitionists on Saturday, October 19, 2013. The 2013 inductees are the fifth set of abolitionists to be inducted since NAHOF was formed in 2004. All four nominations were selected from public nominations to the Hall of Fame by the NAHOF Inductee Committee chaired by Cabinet member Carol Faulkner PhD. Dr. Faulkner worked with a committee of scholars from around the country who reviewed the written nomination forms.
An Abolition Symposia during the afternoon of October 19, 2013, will include lectures on each of the four inductees. Following the annual NAHOF dinner, evening induction ceremonies will include brief nomination speeches by family, associations, and societies, the unveiling of the official Hall of Fame portraits created by artist Joseph Flores of Rochester, and dramatic presentations. The public is encouraged to join.
The 2013 inductees to the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum:

 Elijah Parish Lovejoy (1802 – 1837)
Born in Maine, Lovejoy later became editor of the St. Louis Observer and a teacher. After becoming a Presbyterian minister he preached abolition and continued his anti-slavery newspaper even as his presses were destroyed by pro-slavery mobs.  As editor of the antislavery newspaper The Alton Observer in Alton, Illinois, Lovejoy committed himself to pursuing the ideals of universal freedom and human dignity. While defending his newspaper against threats from a proslavery mob in November of 1837, he was murdered. This early act of violence against abolitionists angered northern residents and stimulated participation in the growing movement to abolish slavery. In response to Lovejoy’s murder both John Brown, instigator of the Harpers Ferry invasion, and Wendell Phillips, wealthy Boston orator, committed their lives to the abolition of slavery.
Myrtilla Miner (1815-1864) was trained as a teacher in New York State and first taught in northern schools. Aware that slavery could not end if blacks were not educated, she dedicated her career to that purpose. As a teacher at the Newton Female Institute in Whitesville, Mississippi in 1845, she became appalled at the inhumanity of slavery, but was forbidden to teach blacks due to the intensity of local prejudice. In 1851, she established a school for black females in Washington, D.C. where she faced a constant barrage of bigotry, harassment and threats of violence. Her dedication to continue teaching arose, as she said, from the “moral courage I carry in my own soul.” Miner’s birthplace in North Brookfield, Madison County NY is a site on the Madison County Freedom Trail.
John Rankin (1793-1886), a white southerner by birth, was active in the original burst of antislavery sentiment from the American Revolution and Second Great Awakening. After moving to Ripley, Ohio in 1822, Rankin learned that his brother Thomas, a Virginian, had become a slaveholder. He composed a series of Letters on Slavery to his brother that became one of the earliest and most effective calls for immediate emancipation.  John Rankin became one of the nation’s best-known Underground Railroad conductors, and the source for the real-life story that inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s fictional character, Eliza Harris, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In partnership with African American John Parker, the two men and their families turned the small village of Ripley, Ohio into one of the key crossing points over the Ohio River for fugitives fleeing slavery, assisting approximately 2,000 runaways. Rankin’s notoriety grew among embittered Kentuckians so that a $3,000 bounty was placed on his head. His home was targeted by armed slave owners and hunters demanding to search for runaway slaves.  
Jonathan Walker (1799-1878), better known as the “Man with the Branded Hand,” was a Massachusetts-born antislavery author, lecturer, and agitator.  The case that secured Walker’s antislavery reputation occurred in 1844. Walker and his family had moved to Pensacola, Florida, where Walker managed a railroad property and invited black workers to his home for meals. Already known for his anti-racist activities, bounty hunters captured Walker and seven fugitive slaves sailing for freedom in the Bahamas. In jail for one year, Walker was punished for “stealing slaves” by being branded with an “SS” by a United States marshal. John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem about Walker, “The Branded Hand,” became nationally known. His speeches encouraged abolitionist activity, and he sold copies of abolitionist literature to raise funds for the movement.
The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) was launched in 2004 by the Smithfield Community Association in partnership with the Upstate Institute at Colgate University. NAHOF was provisionally chartered by the New York State Board of Regents in 2007.  The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum honors antislavery abolitionists, their work to end slavery, and the legacy of that struggle, and strives to complete the second and ongoing abolition – the moral conviction to end racism. The Hall of Fame encourages public participation at the October event, and for nominations of future inductees. For future details and updates on the event contact: National Abolition Hall of Fame & Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro, NY 13134-0055, or