Friday, May 22, 2009

Talk of a John Brown Movie Surface Again


While talking to this week from the set of Jonah Hex in New Orleans, Josh Brolin revealed that he is working on producing and probably starring in a movie about 19th century American abolitionist John Brown, who led the raid on Harper's Ferry in Virginia, attempting to free slaves in a 1859 event which many historians cite as a precursor to the Civil War. Despite John Brown's historical importance, he has been remarkably rarely depicted in film (though he was in the little-seen Seven Angry Men, 1955), and Josh Brolin notes in the linked interview that he thinks the time is finally right for a movie about this revolutionary abolitionist to get his own movie. Josh Brolin also mentioned talks he's had with Mel Gibson about a movie called Under and Alone, about the true story of an ATF agent who went undercover in a motorcycle gang.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Owen Brown's Gravesite Update

Today I heard back from Frank Comeriato, Superintendent of the City of Hudson Cemetery Department. His department is responsible for the upkeep of the various cemeteries in Hudson.

He is not only aware of the damage to Owen's grave stone, he is the one who laid the stone face up on the ground to prevent further breakage. He is working on getting the stone remounted in such a manner as to not damage the 153 year old stone, yet keep it standing for future generations.

Thank you to the people of Hudson for protecting this important historical site.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Research Trip to Hudson, Ohio

I recently returned from four days in Hudson, Ohio. I was there for research and to participate in the John Brown Symposium sponsored by the Hudson Library and Historical Society.

The participants were David S Reynolds, author of "John Brown, Abolitionist"; Paul Finkelman, editor of "Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown" and; and Louis DeCaro, Jr., author of "John Brown: The Cost of Freedom", "Fire from the Midst of You: A Religious Life of John Brown"; and "John Brown: The Man Who Lived". All are well versed in John Brown and their participation made for a riveting symposium.

I spent nearly 30 hours in the Hudson Library and Historical Society archives going through the Brown family collections, including the Dr Clarence Gee Brown Family Genealogy collection.

The Gee collection is amazing! I was only able to get through about six boxes! There are so many fascinating primary documents there: letters from family members, minutes and historian reports from the Brown family reunions; and Dr Gee's renowned work on the Brown family genealogy.

I chained myself to the copier and made copies like crazy. Here is a brief highlight of the treasures that I found:

· The complete family genealogy that Dr Gee compiled over 40 years

· Minutes and historian reports from the Brown Family reunions that were held from 1926 until 1966.

· Letters from numerous family members to Dr Gee with updates for the Brown family genealogy project.

· Newspaper articles about family, the Harper's Ferry raid, dedications of memorials and statues, obituaries, etc.

· Photographs of many family members I have never seen before.

What a treasure trove. I wish that I had more time to prowl through the boxes. I have to go back!

I visited the Old Towne Cemetery and placed flowers on the graves of Owen and Ruth Brown (JB's parents). I discovered that Owen's gravestone is broken off and now lying face up on the grass near Ruth's grave. I called the Cemetery Office in Hudson to see what needs to be done to repair this. Ruth's gravestone is tipped sideways and is now almost impossible to read. During my research, I found letters in the archives where the family reunion attendees were worried about the state of Owen and Ruth's gravestones in the 1940s and 1950s and were investigating what to do about them. We need to readdress the question again in 2009.

I went sightseeing with Gwen, the archivist at the HL&HS. She showed me where the Brown's had lived, Owen Brown Street, The John Brown House, and various other historical sites around town. Carole, who owns the John Brown House, was kind enough to give me a tour of the house and grounds. This historically preserved site is beautiful and she knows the full history of the house and renovations. The original house was four rooms on top of four rooms. Original walls and floor-layout are still visible. I signed the guest book and found it to be a "Who's Who" of John Brown aficionados. Carole took my picture in front of the house to add to her scrapbook. As I looked at the pictures of other descendants and John Brown scholars that have visited the house over the years, I saw many of my friends: Norman Marshall, Larry Lawrence, Kirke Meacham, Lou DeCaro – to name just a few.

I have spent the past week inputting the data from Dr Gee's research into my genealogy software and compiling family reports to send to descendants for review, corrections, and additions. I have also filed close to 2000 pieces of paper that I brought back with me for further research.

What an amazing trip! I cannot wait to go back.