This article was written by Grady Atwater, administrator of the John Brown State Historic Site in Osawatomie Kansas. After the article, I have added some genealogical information about Ruth.
Osawatomie Graphic News (link to original article) John Brown’s daughter, Ruth, remembered her father as a loving, but sometimes stern father with whom she was very close. F.B. Sanborn quoted Ruth Brown in The Life and Letters of John Brown, published in 1891, who stated of John Brown “Whenever he and I were alone, he never failed to give me the best of advice, just as a true and anxious mother would give a daughter. He always seemed interested in my work, and would come around to 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.’”
Ruth Brown also stated that John Brown was a tender, affectionate father, and told of her baptism as a child “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 a 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 me a great deal of tenderness in that and other ways.”
However, John Brown was stern with his children at times, but Brown’s views on child rearing changed as he grew older, and he became gentler with children. Ruth Brown stated “He sometimes seemed very stern and strict with me; yet his tenderness made me forget that he was stern.” Ruth Brown offered this insight into how John Brown’s view of rearing children changed as he grew older, for she reported “He told me, a few years before his death, to reason calmly with my children when they had done wrong, and in that way to encourage them to be truthful; and to never punish them, whatever they had done, if they told the truth about it.” Ruth Brown further related that John Brown told her, “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.”
John Brown had a reputation for being a cold father who was so dedicated to the abolitionist cause that he was distant from his family. The reality is that John Brown was a loving father who cared deeply about his children. His views of child rearing children changed over time, and he learned to be more tender in dealing with children as he grew older. John Brown had many facets, and being a loving father was a shining aspect of his personality.—
Ruth Brown, the first daughter born to John Brown and Dianthe Lusk Brown, was born on the 18th of February 1829 in New Richmond, Crawford County, Pennsylvania. She married Henry W. Thompson in North Elba, Essex County, New York on the 26th of September, 1850. The Thompsons were neighbors of the Browns in North Elba, also known as Timbucktoo.
Ruth gave birth to 6 children, 4 of which grew to adulthood. The family moved to Put-In-Bay Ohio, to be near Ruth's brother John Brown, Jr in the 1860's. In 1884 the Thompson family moved westward to Pasadena California, and both Ruth and Henry lived out their lives there. Ruth left this mortal realm on 18th of January 1904 at the age of 75 years of age, and Henry followed her to heaven on the 8th of February 1911. They are both buried in the Mt View Cemetery in Pasadena California.