Friday, September 30, 2011

Aspen Tree Best Describes The John Brown Family Tree

A large grove of aspen best describes the John Brown Family Tree.
Above ground, it looks like each-and-every family member is standing alone – some a few feet from the next family member and some miles and generations away. Never interacting, never sharing stories, because a relationship to John Brown has the perception of being somehow shameful, something to hide.

The wind blows the branches of the large group of trees back and forth, and occasionally the branches and leaves of one tree touch another. As if the trees are saying, "Yes, we are family and I am willing to share some of my information with you. But only a little bit, then I will stand up straight and be alone again."

However, just like the large groves of aspen that develop from a single root system, the many John Brown family members share the strength and stability of a single unified root system that spreads for miles connecting one to another.

The Brown family was well aware of the need of unification and the need to share in the early 20th century when annual Brown Family Reunions occurred in Hudson Ohio. These gatherings of extended family celebrated the kinship and family bonds of the descendants of Owen Brown, John Brown's father, until the early 1960s.

A spider web of roots connects the wide spanning Brown family into a cohesive community. I am trying, with my genealogical research and communications, to get the family back together. I look forward to the day when all of the "Brown Descendants" are proud of their interconnecting family tree roots.

Entire groves of aspen trees commonly develop from a single root system. This means that large groups of aspen trees can be essentially one organism growing together as a clone.

This post was written for the Carnival of Genealogy Blog # 110 What tree best represents your family’s history? 

Monday, September 26, 2011

John Brown in the News

25 Notable Kansans

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback announced the 25 Most Notable Kansans between Aug 15 and Sept 18, 2011. The full list and exhibit information is here. Each week the Governor unveiled 5 of the Notable Kansans at a special event. The list was compiled as part of the 150 year celebration of Kansas.

John Brown is, of course,  included on the list of Notable Kansans. 

True West Museums of the Year

The September Issue of True West Magazine has a story the Best Western Museums and exhibits of 2010, and the John Brown Museum in Osawatomie Kansas is # 5 on the list!  Tip of the Hat to Grady Atwater, the curator of this amazing piece of history! (and thanks to cousin Mary for alerting me to this honor)

Cousin Mary in the news!

Cousin Mary is at it again. She portrays Florella Brown Adair, John Brown's half sister, at the Freedom Festival at the above mentioned John Brown Museum in Osawatomie, each year. News article about her here

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Update on Salmon and Abigail Descendants

A reader asked for some clarification on who Abigail was and if I had the family relationships.  I have even better! I now have some pictures.  Thanks to cousin Holly, I have some new pictures. 

John Brown and his second wife, Mary Day Brown, had 13 children. Salmon was their second son.

Salmon Brown (1836 - 1919) married Abigail Clarissa Hinckley (1839 - 1929) in 1857. They had 10 children. Agnes was the ninth child.

Agnes Stuart Brown (1874 - 1967) married George Edwards Evans around 1909. They had 2 children. Muriel was the eldest.

Muriel Evans (1910- 1997) married  Morton Kingman Shields in 1933. They had 2 children. Nancy Joan Shields was the youngest.

Nancy Joan Shields (1935 - 1996) married Ben Hamilton in 1963.

The rest of the line is still living, so I will stop the lineage here. Enjoy the Pictures!!!!

Salmon Brown
Abigail Clarissa Hinckley Brown

Agnes Stuart Brown Shields
Nancy Joan Shields Hamilton

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Family Members Added To the Database

A newly found cousin has given me 22 new family members to add to the John Brown Family Database. 22 new people!!!!  And I have been able to fill in some other information I have been lacking. 

Happy Dance -- Happy Dance -- Happy Dance

I have learned that:

The C in Abigail C Hinckley's name stands for Clarissa

The S in Agnes S Brown's name stands for Stuart

Agnes Stuart Brown married George Edwards Evans from Melbourne, Australia - explains their son being named Melbourne

Salmon's daughter Agnes and granddaughter Muriel were both teachers, just like many of the other Brown women were over the years

One of John Brown's descendants was left crippled from the mass immunizations of WWI (Annie Brown, John's daughter, was against vaccinations of any kind)

But my favorite part of the email was this personal story from Holly tucked at the end-

I lived with Muriel as a teen and she would tease me when I would get passionate about social and political issues not to let the Brown blood boil into fanaticism.  I always thought that was amusing.

Gosh, but I love this stuff!!!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Another Reason to LOVE the Beatles

Circa 1965 The Beatles with Mary Wells Hulton Archive/Getty Image

A soon-to-be auctioned contract from The Beatles 1965 tour shows that the Fab Four's belief in a truly universal egalitarian sociaty was more than just pretty words and music. 

The contract for an Aug 31, 1965 concert to be held in the Cow Palace in Daly City, CA., will be auctioned on Sept 20, 2011 in Los Angeles and is expected to raise $3,000 to $5,000. The contract contains the phrase "not to be required to perform in front of a segregated audience."

This is not the first time The Beatles took a stand civil rights. In 1964,  halfway through a 23 City 1964 US Tour,  just weeks before a scheduled appearance at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, the Fab Four announced in a press release "We will not appear unless Negroes are allowed to sit anywhere." City Officials agreed and ticket sales were open to all for the concert.  The opening act for this concert was a black R&B vocal quartet, The Exciters, best known for the hit "Tell Him."  

The Beatles were unlike any other musical group in 1964. They held the fascination of an entire nation - young, old, liberal, conservative, black, white, everyone had an opinion about The Beatles. They were able to do what had never been done before in the rock and roll arena, they used their celebrity and musical status to open the eyes of Americans to social wrongs.

“I can see the Beatles coming over here and being assailed by this weird, unfair policy of segregation. They were not just good musicians. They had intellect. They spoke up.” said Mark Lindsay, lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders. 

Paul, John, Ringo, and George continued to support Civil and Human Rights even after the group disbanded and they pursued solo careers. These four young men, with their strange haircuts, crazy antics, British accents, and non-traditional ideas about society as a whole, will forever share the stage and spotlight with others who came before and after using music to change the world. Artists like Pete Seeger, Woodie Guthrie, Bess Lomax, David Rovics, Kim and Reggie Harris, Terry Leonino and Greg Atzner of Magpie, and of course, Harry Chapin.

I am not sure if John Brown would have liked the Beatles' music, but I am sure that he would have agreed with their message.

“We weren't into prejudice. We were always very keen on mixed-race audiences. With that being our attitude, shared by all the group, we never wanted to play South Africa or any places where blacks would be separated. It wasn't out of any goody-goody thing; we just thought, Why should you separate black people from white? That's just stupid, isn't it?”
                 ~ Paul McCartney 1966


Monday, September 12, 2011

This is me standing on my soapbox and venting!

I spent last evening looking at the "hints" that wags in my face. For the uneducated, constantly searches family trees, and historical documents for information that MIGHT be a match to a person in your tree. When they find one, they place a picture of a leaf on the screen that moves back and forth (get it? a hint is a small leaf on your giant family tree!)

This is one of the biggest ways that new genealogist end up with pages and pages of data that contradicts itself. If you do not closely review the data, and really research the information that is presented , you can be copying erroneous information from one tree to another, and then someone copies yours, and then 5 people copy theirs, and the errors just keep on growing around the web.

I have 2 great examples of this from my work in tonight.

1.  William P Thompson. Son of a neighbor of the John Brown family in North Elba. William is one of the Thompson boys that agreed to go with John Brown to Harper's Ferry in 1859. William was killed in the raid.  I was alerted to the possibility of new data by the wagging green leaf, and so I followed the link to see what was there. I found a Family Tree with some of the same information I have, plus a wife and a "story." A "story" is basically a note that you attach to your tree.  Here is the "Story"
"William was a strong, bold,rustic looking man with large features, ruddy complexion,very fair hair, bold but kindly blue eyes" wrote Hinton and Martin in John Brown and his Men.   
William served in the Union Army. When he returned he found his wife insane and his children scattered"
 Neat trick. Die in a raid in 1859, yet still serve in the Union Army in the 1860s. And return to a wife. Interesting since William was a bachelor when he joined John Brown's men.  The problem is that now there are many other trees on that also have this William Thompson married which is erroneous information.

2.  Photo of the Kennedy Farm with two young women on long porch IS NOT from 1859. ( I have been fighting this erroneous photo tag for almost 5 years!)   I am not denying that this is a picture of the Kennedy Farm where John Brown and his men hid in out prior to the raid of Harpers Ferry, but this picture is from the late 1880 or 1890s. I have a similar picture that I purchased from the Baltimore Sun photo Archives that is from 1904 and the house looks just like this picture.

But if you have ever visited the Kennedy farm, or reviewed Annie's descriptions and drawings of the farmhouse, you would know that this is not what the house looked like in 1859.  Captain South T Lynn, the current owner of the Kennedy Farm, has worked long and hard to recreate the look of the farmhouse in Oct 1859.  And NO the 2 charming young ladies standing on the porch are not Annie and Martha as reported in some of the family trees at Aside from the house looking wrong, their clothes date from the 1880s and Annie and Martha would not have posed for that picture, secrecy about the project was too important.

But just to show you that even scholars can get it wrong, the picture is in Tony Horwitz's pre-release copy of his new book about John Brown, and is incorrectly identified as being from 1859.

Okay, you are saying to yourself, why is she making such a big deal about these two little errors?  Because with the easy access of the internet, information in genealogy files and trees is being copied, and copied, and copied over and over again. It is hard enough to do research, what with newspapers and even Time magazine reprinting errors*, but add to that this level of error and it is no wonder that there are very confused researchers out there.

PLEASE always VERIFY and RESEARCH new information that is presented to you. Just because it sounds plausible, does not mean it is true.

{ahem} this is me stepping off my soapbox, picking it up, and walking back home.  Thank you for listening to my venting.

*I have collected 13 newspaper reports of the death of Annie Brown Adams in 1926. Annie was the last of John Brown's children to die, and lots of papers across the United States printed, and reprinted the story. Each and every one of the newspaper accounts state that "Annie was the only one of John Brown's children to attend his hanging."  Fifty years later, Time magazine reprinted this information on the "This Day in History" page.  None of the family was in Charlestown for the hanging, the town was on under military lock down, and all civilians remained in their homes. Annie was back home in North Elba on the day of the hanging. John's wife, Mary was on in a neighboring town, waiting to come and collect her husbands body, but none of the family saw him die. Even the big newspapers and national magazines get it wrong sometimes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bell of a Delimia - Bell Controversey Continues

The controversy of the so called "John Brown Bell" has once again been raised in the John Brown academic and historical circles.

Middlesex News article October 22, 199
History of the Bell  

The building known as "The John Brown Fort" was the armory building at Harpers Ferry prior to John Brown's raid in October 1859. The bell that hung in the bell tower was in all probability used as a fire alarm, to signal danger, and perhaps as a shift change signal for workers in the Federal Armory and other local buildings.

As with many aspects of John Brown and Harpers Ferry, there is a story that resurfaces periodicallyabout how John Brown planned to ring the bell to call the slaves to his side that fateful night. This is in all probability a myth (see below). There is no known historical data to support this idea, but it does make for great story telling.

Fast forward to 1861 - A newly formed militia group from Marlboro (original spelling) Massachusetts, the Company 1 of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers, were assigned to enter Harpers Ferry to seize anything of value for the US Government. The only thing they found of value was the 700 pound bell hanging in the bell tower of the armory building.  Knowing that their Hook and Ladder firehouse back home did not have a bell, they decided to take the bell with them.

According to a speech by James M. Gleason to the Sons of Veterans of the G.A.R in Marlborough, the soldiers realized the bell was the official property of the United States Government, and to take the bell back home, they would need to have permission from the Provast Marshall. So they hid the bell in the river, until they could obtain that permission. Accounts tell that the soldiers did obtain this permission and retrieved the bell and continued on their original mission.

Elizabeth Little Ensminger
While camped near Williamsport, Maryland, the soldiers befriended the family of William and Elizabeth Ensminger. William Thomas Ensminger was born in Williamsport, Maryland, on the 30th of November 1822. Elizabeth Little Ensminger was born in Clear Springs, Maryland on the 19th of February 1836. William died on 26th or April 1873, and Elizabeth Little Ensminger lived out her life on the farm. In 1874 she married George W Snyder.

When the Company was ordered to continue  into enemy territory, the men knew that they could not feasibly carry a 700 pound bell with them into battle, so they asked the Ensminger's to hold onto the bell for them. Elizabeth Ensminger promised the boys she would take care of the bell until they returned for it.

Many of the young men in Company 1 of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers died during the war, and no one returned to the Ensminger farm to retrieve the bell. During the Battle of Antietam, the Ensminger's had the bell buried in their yard to hide it from sight.  Seven years later, in 1869, they recovered the bell and rehung it on the stand the young soldiers had built for it in 1861. And there it remained for many more years.

The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) John A Rawlings Post #43 was established in Marlborough in 1868. The G.A.R held annual meetings, called encampments, where Veterans of the Union Army congregated together for support, recognition and a chance to social with other Veterans. The encampment for 1892 was held in Washington, DC, just 80 miles from the Ensminger farm. Some of the original members of Company 1 of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers attended the encampment and decided to travel the 80 miles to visit the Esnminger farm.

They located the farm, and the matron of the household, now Elizabeth Snyder, and she not only remembered "her boys" but insisted that they spend the night and talk about old times. The subject of the bell was raised, and the men were quite surprised to learn that not only had Elizabeth protected the bell during the Civil War, but she was still protecting it 30 years!

Marlborough Historical Society Archives
Money was raised, and the bell was shipped from Williamsport, PA to Marlborough, MA, where it was hung on the front of the G.A.R. building, and ownership was given to the John A. Rawlins Bldg. Assoc., with clauses prohibiting the sale, or loaning of the bell to anyone. This ownership continues through today. The bell hung on the building for many years.

In 1968 the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce voted to build an official bell tower for the celebrated bell. The tower was completed in  September and the bell has resided in the large brick tower ever since.
Joan Hartly Abshire


The newest controversy has been raised by a commercial real estate broker from Charleston, WV named Howard Swint.

Swint believes, and is willing to take his case to court, that the bell is the property of Harpers Ferry, belongs in the bell tower of "The John Brown Fort" and should be returned to Harpers Ferry post haste. He states that there is no documentation on file that granted permission to the Company 1 of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers to take possession of the bell and remove it to Massachusetts. The late Boyd Sutler, historian and John Brown scholar, also researched the "John Brown Bell" earlier this century, and he also concluded that he could not find the reported paperwork.

But, paperwork can and does get lost, misplaced and misfiled all the time (the indictment of Rev White for shooting Frederick Brown was just recently found in an old cardboard box at an historical society). Papers get lost, files get misfiled, records get distroyed either by natural disaster or for lack of storage space. How many people in the twentieth century would know the significance of a request to move a bell in 1862? It could have been trashed, for all we know. Swint is basing his case on the fact that there is no known paperwork for the transfer. 

But items get stolen, transferred, moved, taken, lost, destroyed and mishandled during war. This is a very sad fact of war, even today. This is why our troops take control of national treasures and museums in the Middle East, so we can prevent wholesale looting, smashing and mismanagement of items of value. Swint's argument is that the bell should be returned because it was stolen from a National Armory. If that is true, do we return everything that was "stolen" during the Civil War? As Louis Decaro, Jr. points out on his blog,

"Shouldn't the State of Virginia return John Brown's papers to Alice Keesey Mecoy and other Brown family descendants?  The point is lots of stuff gets stolen by superior force in times of conflict and a case can be made for this stuff to be returned.  But the city of Marlborough may wonder why they should be expected to do so, simply because some folks in West Virginia want "their" bell returned."

I find the entire "Bell Controversy" perplexing. John Brown had nothing to do with the bell - the only connection is that it hung in the fire house (now known as John Brown Fort) in Harper's Ferry when John Brown was there. He did not ring it, he did not touch it, I doubt he even gave it a passing thought. So why are people so insistent that "it must be brought home to Harpers Ferry?"

I am proud to show off my "John Brown treasures" - a piece of the Adair house, John Brown Jr's military manual, Annie's photograph. But why is the bell linked to my ancestor? Why is it so important to Swift, and others to return the bell?

I did quite a bit of research on the "John Brown Bell" years ago when I first heard about it. I thought it was an interesting story and one that I could publish easily, since at the time, I thought it was a wide open basically un-researched subject. While doing research, I found a wonderful publication by Joan Abshire that I highly recommend, 

Joan Abshire
"The John Brown Bell
The journey of the second-most important bell in American history, from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to Marlborough Massachusetts."

From what I have read about the bell, it is well respected and treated with honor in Marlborough. Probably with much more honor and respect than any bell in America, other than the Liberty Bell.

The bell is just a bell to me, no more and no less than that. I do not see any connection to Grandpa, or any need to return to it to Harpers Ferry.


The myth of John Brown Ringing the Bell -- while it makes for a great story and a wonderful visual; John Brown getting the weapons gathered together, and as he and his men are leaving the armory ringing the bell to alert the local slaves that the uprising has begun!  - it is not feasible.  Had John Brown succeeded in his plan, the town of Harpers Ferry would not have been aware of him and his men, yet ringing the fire alarm bell would have woken the entire town and alerted everyone in the area to the fact that something was wrong. After all his methodical planning, I do not see John Brown willing to make that much noise.  Below is an explanation as to the start of the myth, from Joan Abshire's book:

"4. The bell was going to be rung to summon the slaves
I really feel badly about this one because I think it would be so neat if it was true. But it just isn’t. I couldn’t find the least little shred of evidence that pointed to that conclusion. I think someone made it up, possibly my friend James Gleason, because his account is the first place that it appears. The fact is that the bell is never mentioned at all in any of the other accounts I read, except the book put out by the G.A.R. and the newspaper clippings that copied it. And in fact, one of the rangers at the park who went out of his way to help me, was of the same opinion. "

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ruth Brown reflected fondly on the memory of her father

  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.— 

Grady Atwater is the John Brown State Historic Site Administrator 
Content © 2011. NPG Newspapers Inc, 

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.
Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Photo Credit James Edward Hodges

Friday, September 9, 2011

Request for short strong statements against Slavery from strong women

Dear Friend of John Brown,
As the great great great granddaughter of John Brown, the abolitionist of Harpers Ferry fame, I continue to fight his fight eradicating slavery in not only America, but throughout the world.
I am proud to serve on the Advisory Board of the  Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, which is fighting to end the incidence of human trafficking and modern day slavery around the world. As you probably know, this is a crime that disproportionately affects women and girls. In an attempt to unite the voices of women of influence, we are gathering statements from around the world to publish collectively on December 2nd - the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. I'm writing to request one such statement from you. 
A description of our effort can be found on this link to a Huffington Post:

If you are willing to write a statement for publication, please forward it to me by September 30, 2011. Thank you in advance for adding your voice to the chorus of strong women fighting against slavery.

Warm regards,
Alice Mecoy
Great great great granddaughter of John Brown
PS here is the website of the Frederick Douglas Family Foundation if you would like to see more of our great work.
Alice Keesey Mecoy
469-371-5987 cell
Visit my blog

Great-Great-Great Grand Daughter of John Brown, Abolitionist
Alice Keesey Mecoy
 Daughter of Paul Keesey
  Son of Beatrice Cook
   Daughter of Bertha Adams
    Daughter of Annie Brown
     Daughter of John Brown, Abolitionist

Monday, September 5, 2011

Artcle on John Brown Jr. in Port Clinton News Herald

I was contacted a few weeks ago by Kristina Smith Horn, a reporter for the Port Clinton News Herald, who was doing a story on John Brown Jr. and his life in the Put-In-Bay area of Ohio.  Below is the article and the link to the article. At the end I have added some of my own photos.

Graves of John Brown Jr family

Standing up for freedom

Historic Put-in-Bay figure used non-violent approach to fight slavery

5:04 AM, Aug. 27, 2011 
Written by
Kristina Smith Horn

PUT-IN-BAY -- Though his father would be the family member best remembered and debated as a historical figure, John Brown Jr. also was a force in the anti-slavery movement.

John Brown Jr. served the Union in the Civil War, was jailed in the Wild West where he vocally opposed slavery and helped organize John Brown Sr.'s famous raid on Harpers Ferry, Va.

He distinguished himself through his non-violent, reasoned approach to fighting slavery, said Amy Huston of Put-in-Bay, a local historian.

"I would say that he was a man who thought about the means being ethical as well as the end," Huston said. "He tried to do the right thing."

At Put-in-Bay, he remains a well-known historical figure for a variety of reasons besides his famous father, including his Civil War service that included defending the Lake Erie Islands and his family's role in South Bass Island history.

Bleeding Kansas


Brown Jr. and his siblings inherited their father's disdain for slavery and desire to see it end.
"The clan raised by John Brown was the only white family in pre-Civil War America willing both to live with black people and to die for them," according to the book "John Brown Abolitionist" by David S. Reynolds.

In the 1850s, Brown Jr. -- a native of Hudson -- and some of his brothers moved to Kansas, partly for economic reasons, according to the book. While there, they distinguished themselves as staunchly anti-slavery, an unpopular view in the territory that was plagued with violence between those who wanted Kansas to be a free state and those who wanted slavery there, according to the book.

The Browns felt they needed to carry weapons for protection, Reynolds wrote. When they realized they didn't have enough guns, they wrote to Brown Sr. for help, said Alice Keesey Mecoy of Allen, Texas, Brown Jr.'s great-great grandniece.

He came to Kansas with supplies and found his sons living in tents, she said. So he decided to stay on and help them get settled in proper cabins.

The state, known as "Bleeding Kansas," was near anarchy at the time. Border ruffians, people from Missouri who rode into Kansas to cast illegal votes for pro-slavery candidates, and slavery supporters sometimes shot abolitionists on sight, according to the book.

Laws were passed that allowed anyone who had an abolitionist publication or who wrote for one to be sentenced to hard labor. Death was the penalty for anyone who induced slaves to revolt, according to the book.

"Yesterday, I told a man who I since learn has a slave here that no man has a right to hold a slave in Kansas, that I called on him to witness that I had broken the law and that I still intend to do so at all times and at all places and further that if any officer should attempt to arrest me for a violation and should put his villainous hands on me, I would surely kill him so help me God," Brown Jr. wrote to his family in September 1856.

In 1856, Brown Sr. and a small group -- not including Brown Jr. -- went on a killing spree in Pottawatomie Creek, Kan., in retaliation for the pro-slavery faction's actions, which included looting part of Lawrence, Kan., and destroying a hotel there, according to the book.

In the middle of the night, the small party stopped at homes, took five men prisoner and then killed them with swords, Reynolds wrote. Although Brown Jr. was not involved, he would pay for what his father's group had done.

"A messenger had preceded (Brown Sr. and his party) with the news that five pro-slavery men had been 'horribly cut and mangled' on the Pottawatomie and that old John Brown did it," according to the book. "John Jr. was at first exultant, but soon became confused and then deranged."

Jail and Harpers Ferry


After the incident, the members of the Brown family fled into hiding. A band of Missourians believed Brown Jr. was involved and captured him, according to the book.

They forced Brown Jr. to walk nine miles to jail behind horses, according to Huston and Mecoy. At some points, he grew too tired to run and was dragged, Huston said.

"His wrists and upper arms were bound tightly behind him, and a 40-foot rope was tied around him so that he could be tugged," according to the book. "His arms were bleeding and so swollen that the rope around them was no longer visible. His feet had been severely lacerated by flints from creek bottoms that had punctured his boots."

Brown Jr. had scars around his wrists for the rest of his life, and he referred to them as his "slave bracelets," Huston said. While held prisoner, he was often in a manic state, according to the book.
A few months after his arrest, Brown Jr. was released. The horrors of Bleeding Kansas later caused friends to commit Brown Jr. to the Northern Ohio Lunatic Asylum, later known as the Cleveland State Hospital.

In a letter to his family written in December 1867, shortly before he was released from the asylum, Brown Jr. said he felt the march to jail and other violence in Kansas caused his illness.
"I have had physicians here, they have so explained the relation of the shock," he wrote. "... I am now well-satisfied I should not be here if that did not occur."

After Bleeding Kansas came the raid on Harpers Ferry, a town in Virginia -- now West Virginia -- where Brown Sr. had planned to steal weapons from an arsenal in town, free the slaves and move them to a settlement in the mountains. The group invaded the town and took some people prisoner, but the plan ultimately failed when Brown Sr. and his followers were captured by then-Col. Robert E. Lee. Brown Sr. was later hanged.

Although Brown Jr. did not participate in the raid, he did help organize it. He sent weapons to his father and his father's men, Mecoy said. He also went to Canada to recruit men for the raid, she said.
"Obviously, he believed in what (Brown Sr.) was doing because he helped him," Mecoy said.
Brown Jr., however, did not know the details of the operation.

"The news of the attack on Harpers Ferry surprised me both on account of the place upon which it had been made and the time when it occurred, as I had not anticipated it to be at so early a period," he was later quoted as saying, according to Ohio Historical Society records in Huston's collection.

Still, the event made the members of the Brown family well-known, Huston said.
"Harpers Ferry put him into the spotlight for the rest of his life," she said.

Civil War service


In 1861, Brown Jr. pledged to fight for the Union cause and joined the Seventh Regiment Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, Co. K. After about a year, he was honorably discharged because he suffered from sciatica, a disorder that causes pain in the hip and thigh, Huston said.

In July 1862, he wrote to a friend describing how sleeping on the frozen ground throughout the winter seemed to cause the illness.

"One of my limbs is entirely useless," Huston quoted him as saying in the letter. "It is confined chiefly to my right hip, rendering me unable to step without the aid of crutches and a cane."
After he left the Army, he and his family moved to Put-in-Bay. But that was not the end of his Civil War service.

During the war, a boat from Canada called the "Island Queen" headed for Middle Bass Island, and Brown Jr. learned Confederates might be aboard and planning to break out their fellow rebels being held at the prison on Johnson's Island, according to an article by Roger Long, of Port Clinton, in the March 1987 edition of "Blue and Grey Magazine."

Brown Jr. quickly gathered some volunteers and set out in a rowboat for the mainland.
"The water was especially rough that night, and it took the rowers an inordinate time to fight the currents while keeping a lookout for pirates," according to the article.

They rowed to Catawba Island and then walked to Johnson's Island, which included crossing two channels. By dawn, they arrived at the prison, where guards were already awaiting a Confederate invasion, according to the article.

Brown Jr. volunteered for duty. Ultimately, he was not needed because the Confederates' plan fell apart.
The experience, however, prompted him to write the commander at Johnson's Island and request permission to form a militia at Put-in-Bay in 1864, Huston said. The militia was called Brown's Independent Company of Infantry, she said.

The state armed the men with rifles, bayonets and other weapons, and the group's call was to protect the islands and defend commerce on the lake, she said.

John Brown Jr.

Life at Put-in-Bay


While living on South Bass Island, Brown Jr. had a variety of jobs.

He surveyed lands for lots that would be used for farming, Huston said. He also grew grapes for the wine business and was interested in geology.

Later he was justice of the peace in Put-in-Bay, which was like being an associate judge, Huston said.

Brown Jr. also dined with Civil War financier Jay Cooke at Cooke's Castle on nearby Gibraltar Island.

"Brown was well-liked by his island neighbors, who looked up to him as a heroic and learned man," according to biographical information from the Encyclopedia Britannica Library Research Services in Chicago that Huston has in her Brown Jr. historical collection.

Brown's daughter, Edith, married an actor named Thomas Alexander, who later became mayor of Put-in-Bay. The couple owned the Crescent Tavern, which remains a popular stop in the village's downtown.

The Alexanders had no children, and neither did Brown Jr.'s son, John III. Brown Jr. and his wife and children and Thomas Alexander are buried in Crown Hill Cemetery on South Bass Island.

"John Brown Jr. was a very interesting man, very level-headed," Mecoy said. "He had a very hard life. He was very proud of what he did accomplish."

Email Kristina Smith Horn at

Link to original article 

Per Email I received from Kristina Smith Horn on Sept. 5, 2011, the photos in the original article were incorrectly attributed to Horn. The photos are courtesy of the Rutherford B Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio.

Below are close up photos of the grave sites of the John Brown Jr family at the Crown Hill Cemetery on South Bass Island, Put-In-Bay Ohio taken by my son Manfred Mecoy.

John Brown Jr

Wealthy Hotchkiss Brown

Thomas Alexander and Edith May Brown Alexander

John Brown the 3rd