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

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Funny - Gmom Keesey and The Bigfoot Hoax

Growing up I heard my elders telling stories about the Bigfoot Hoax in the Humboldt county area of California.

Gmom, the title my family used for my Grandmother Beatrice Cook Keesey,  was a good friend of the men who started and for years continued the Bigfoot Hoax in the woods of Northern California, but it turns out she actually played a part in the hoax.

Northern California Redwood Forest
Let's go back to the early 1950's in Humboldt County California. Logging camps and road work crews were sprouting up all over the richly forested Northern California area known as Humboldt County. The area was rough, wild, and sparsely inhabited. This was a simpler time, before the constant bombardment of images and information that today fill our world. People were still fascinated and amazed by simple things. The world was not yet a small place with no secrets left to expose, but a wide and wonderful adventure waiting to be explored. "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" presented people, places, and things from all over the world that  were "unbelievable" and mysterious.

The men working in the logging camps and road work crews were far away from their homes and families, sitting around a campfire doing what man has done since the start of time - telling each other spooky stories. Animated discussions of the Abominable Snowman, the Yeti and Sasquatch, as well as all manner of things that go bump in the night, were probably what gave the hoax its power.

Two men on these work crews were Wilbur "Shorty" Wallace and his brother Ray Wallace. They were funny men, prone to pulling practical jokes on friends and family. I can imagine the two of them bedding down after a particularly spirited evening of ghost and ghoul stories, whispering plans back and forth, setting up a practical joke that would spread beyond their wildest dreams; a practical joke that would take in scholars, scientists, newspaper reporters, authors, and everyday men for many years to come.

 Two brothers, time on their hands, weeks away from family, eager to get a laugh..... the scene was set for a great practical joke.

The Beginning of the Hoax
They carved a set of feet, sixteen inches in length, and left footprints around a work site for others to find. What started out to be a local laugh, a funny joke, a waste of time, and  a clever practical joke, became a national sensation. The story is foggy about the actual manner in which they made the tracks; some say they used a mechanical device, some say that they used the feet on a stick, however they did it, they made prints around a work site in the early 1950 around Trinidad. Workers found the prints and the word spread within the local workmen. Ray and Shorty left footprints at various work sites, moved equipment around, left evidence of visits from " a big footed" person.  Knowing that they were known for pulling practical jokes, the Wallace brothers asked Gmom to hide the carved feet in the store room of her small restaurant, Bella Vista, till the heat died down. Gmom agreed, and snickered about her part in the hoax for the rest of her life. 

Without the fake feet, the Wallace brothers involvement could not be proved in the early 1950s. The story died down, and Ray, Shorty and Gmom had a great laugh.

Too Good To Not Do Again
Fast forward to 1958, when the Hoax went from local laughs, to national spotlight. The Wallace boys continued to make footprints at work sites all through the 1950s, and the story continued in the local area. This all changed in 1958 when the story was picked up by various newspapers when Gerald Crew, and employee of the Granite Construction Company, made and displayed plaster casts of the big foot prints he found on a Bluff Creek road construction project.

[Photo Andrew Genzoli reviews plaster cast of large footprint made by Jerry Crew, Oct 5, 1958]

The Humboldt Times ran a above the fold story on October 14, 1958 comparing the large footprints with the comic strip character "Alley Opp, " and for the first time named the mystery beast "Bigfoot."

The story (which is fully transcribed at the end of this post) included a quote from Gmom about the earlier escapades of this creature being a prank. The story was picked up by many other papers, and the search for the elusive creature began in earnest.

Two Taxidermists, Al Corbett and Bob Titmus, are quoted in articles as believing that the creature was an escaped wild Indian who was over 7 feet tall. Geologist and Geophysicist Dr. R.Maurice Trip reported that based on the foot shape, size and distance of the gait, the creature had to weigh at least 800 pounds.

The articles go on and on, as does the speculation on whether the creature was real or an elaborate hoax.  Grainy films of a creature walking, sightings up and down the Northern California coast line, books, newspaper articles, tv shows - the list of Bigfoot goes on and on.

While researching this hoax, I found that Gmom is immortalized in a book about the Bigfoot incidents - "Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America'" by Loren Coleman features the Humboldt Times article which quoted my Gmom, so she is now forever quoted in print.

Hoax Reviled After Ray Wallace Dies
The Vancouver Sun ran the following story on December 7, 2002  "The Ray Wallace-Rant Mullins Mess," in which Ray's family publicly admitted that Ray and his wife were both involved in the 1950s Bigfoot Hoax. (full story below)

"To the horror of thousands of Bigfoot believers Dale Lee Wallace, the hoaxer's nephew, said: "He did it for the joke and then was afraid to tell anyone because they'd be so mad at him." "

So there you have it, the story of Gmom and her small part in the Bigfoot Hoax. I like to imagine that Gmom and Ray Wallace are sitting in rocking chairs side by side in Heaven, looking down on us and snickering  at "all the fuss!" Ray's hand carved fake feet  caused. I know that Gmom would love the fact that she not only had a part in this infamous Hoax, but that she is immortalized in print. What a legacy.


Humboldt Times October 14, 1958
Huge Footprints Found on Wilderness Road

Residents of northeastern Humboldt county today were attempting to solve the mystery of “Bigfoot!”
Hugh prints, made by a bare foot with five toes and measuring 16 inches long and seven inches wide, have been found across new road construction on Bluff Creek during the past six weeks.
Are the tracks the work of some practical joker, with a “big” sense of humor, or are they left by some strange animal – or perhaps a pre-historic type man such as the comic strip character, Alley Oop?
Readers of the Humboldt Standard, after viewing the evidence as presented this weekend by Gerald Crew of Salyer, will think at once of Mr. Oop, the pen and ink creations that was brought back (in the comic strip of course) from the stone age by a “Time Machine.”
The resemblance of the Alley Oop feer and Mr. Bigfoot’s extremities is startling.
However, those who actually have seen the foot-prints, including Crew and fellow workers on the Bluff Creek road, do not treat the strange occurrence lightly.
Crew probably expressed the feeling of many people in the Weitchpec-Hoopa area, when he said, “I tell you it’s a strange feeling to walk along a rood in that wilderness and suddenly see huge foot-prints!”
Crew is employed by the Granite Construction Company of Salyer which is building a timber access road for the Six Rivers National Forest into the wilderness along Bluff Creek about 12 miles north of Weitchpec. Man, or at least civilized man, has rarely penetrated this deep into the forest and brush there.
Residents, around the area, say that even wild game shy away from the dark woods. Yet, “Bigfoot” doesn’t seem to harm anything or anybody – rather he shows a considerable amount of curiosity about the construction activity.
“Bigfoot” made his latest appearance sometime Wednesday night. Workmen reporting for work found the tracks in almost the same area as those seen about a week ago.
Hundreds of these marks have been seen throughout the summer by the construction workers. However, for Crew this is not the first time hw has sighted the traces of the invisible visitor.
Two years ago, reports were flying of filled 50-gallon gasoline drums being juggled around like playthings on another project on which Crew worked. This was a timber access road about 20 miles up Bluff Creek for the Granite Logging and Wallace Brothers companies.
First Written Report
First written report of the unseen “Bigfoot” came to Eureka Newspapers on September 19 via a note from Mrs. Jess Bemis of Slayer. Mrs. Bemis wrote that her husband, Jesse Bemis, along with 15 other men on the project, saw the tracks.
“On their way to the job, tracks were seen going down the road. The tracks measured 14 to 16 inches in length. The toes were very short, but were 5 to each foot. The ground was soft and the prints were clear.
“In soft places the prints were deep, suggesting a great weight. The tracks were wide as well as long. Things, such as fruit, have been missed by those camping on the job.
If the latter is true, it seems to indicate that “Bigfoot” might be a vegetarian.
Travels of such a creature have not been restricted to the one area. Barry Knudsen of Fieldbrook, claims knowing men working in the Simpson timber land some eight miles north of Karbel on the north fork of the Mad River who have found similar tracks.
Jullian Pawlus, 2622 D street, Eureka, numbers amount the witnesses to the Korbel scene of the tracks sighted last spring on another logging road construction job.
They were “pretty heavy” and made by “bird or animal,” he believed. Pawlus, not sure of the implication of the tracks, said he preferred to call it a “paw” rather than a foot.
The edge of a creek marked the start of the tracks which then led into a freshly graded road. They were sunken sufficiently to indicate weight, Pawlus said. He described them as having three toes straight out and a couple of smaller ones on the side.
Some 25 persons observed them that time, he stated.
Crew in relating his experience with the “Bigfoot” visits, said the racks for the current impression, came down from a steep mountainside, through an old burn. Shale formed the surface of the ground until “it” hit soft earth turned over by construction equipment.
At this point the unseen traveler turned his tracks down the road, moving along for at least three-quarters of a mile, before changing course and moving off the road into more shale where the path faded.
50 Inch Stride
Raymond Wallace, a fellow member of the construction gang, also has inspected these tracks on several occasions. He estimated the normal stride of the big feet was 50 inches while its running stride, in the path of an evidently fleeing deer, measured ten feet.
Reports say the tracks are always made down-hill never up hill, except in the case of short inclines around the excavation work.
Authenticity of the origin of the tracks is being studied by Robert Titmus, taxidermist from Redding and an associate from Portland, Oregon, according to Crew.
At the present time, they do not feel the tracks were made by an animal, Crew said.
The mystery remains unsolved so far. Crew, whom neighbors and friends respect for reliability and honesty, doesn’t know. However, he doesn’t believe it is an animal either. He feels there would be claw marks as well as other indication if this was true.
“We often feel we are being watched,” claimed Crew. He said he and the men do not feel the “presence” is unfriendly since they never find any damage to their equipment; however, they always will find fresh imprints on each new piece of work as though “Bigfoot” has a “supervisory interest” in the project.
Whether it is a friend of “Mr. Oop”, or in reality a harmless wild-man, an expose may take place, if Crew can get a photographical setup working for the nocturnal visitor.
Possibility of a practical joker at work is felt by Mrs. Paul Keesey of Pepperwood. She writes:
            Work of Pranksters
“I have read with interest the articles on the huge footprints. I recall about eight years ago, when up around Trinidad on one of the logging roads, they had a similar thing happening.
“This was told to me in my restaurant at Bella Vista hill by several truck drivers. When they investigated, it turned out to be the work of a prankster.”
Tales of “Bigfoot” are Indian legend in that area. One of the legends originates in the Marble Mountain area. So the story goes, some practical jokers, possibly with the idea of keeping other hunters out, invented unseen visitors to the land – visitors who were described as being “little men with big feet.”
Capitalizing on this legend, about 25 years ago some “jokers” in the Weitchpec area revived the tale to scare away some unwanted residents.
Another legend centering around Onion Lake area (in the same region) relates activities of an unseen sea lion supposedly left there during the big floods of Biblical times.
It also has never been seen – only what people believe to be its traces.
Indian legend also claims that after any tragedy such as a drowning or a fire or similar disaster, footprints such as these will be found encircling the area.
Meanwhile residents of the present “Bigfoot” visiting grounds, do not seem to be worried about any danger from him. Mainly they are curious and are searching for an answer.
But whether or not “Bigfoot” is real or a hoax, tales of his activities while inspecting the logging road construction project will make good entertainment for fireside chats or for holding the attention of wide-eyed grandchildren in the years to come. 


The Ray Wallace-Rant Mullins Mess
The Vancouver Sun, Saturday, December 7, 2002
  Footprints big but 42-year Bigfoot hoax even larger

Fake turns out to be photographer's wife dressed in hairy ape suit with giant feet stuck to the bottom

Most of the pictures of bigfoot, a giant ape-like creature supposed to live in the dense forests of the American northwest, are in reality a hoaxer's wife dressed in a gorilla suit, the man's relatives revealed Friday.

For decades until his death last month Ray Wallace awed America with pictures of footprints, recordings and photographs of the creature, but his family admitted it had all been an elaborate practical joke.

To the horror of thousands of Bigfoot believers Dale Lee Wallace, the hoaxer's nephew, said: "He did it for the joke and then was afraid to tell anyone because they'd be so mad at him."

The first "evidence" for Bigfoot, a series of huge footprints, was found by Jerry Crew, a worker at Wallace's construction company in August, 1958.

They were in fact created by his boss with wooden carved feet to "freak him out," but the local newspaper, the Humboldt Times in Eureka, Calif. ran a front-page story on the prints the next day and coined the term "Bigfoot."

The tale was taken up by newspapers across the country and the public, fascinated at the time by tales of the Himalayan yeti, eagerly embraced the notion of a homegrown version.

Wallace continued with the prank for years, producing photographs of Bigfoot eating elk and frogs. These, it emerged Friday, were in fact members of his family — usually his wife, — dressed in a hairy ape suit with giant feet stuck to the bottom.

The most famous evidence for Bigfoot's existence, the so-called Pattersonfilm, a grainy, cinefilm image of an erect ape-like creature, was taken by Roger Patterson, a rodeo rider, in 1967.

It was another of Wallace's fakes, the family said — he told Patterson where to go to spot the creature and knew who had been inside the suit.

The family decided to finally reveal the truth after Wallace, 84, died from heart failure and a reporter for the Seattle Times approached them to ask about the rumors he had made it all up.

The news is a serious setback for the Bigfoot industry spawned by the legend. Dozens of books have been written, guides offer tours to search for sightings, and there is an International Bigfoot Society in Hillsboro, Oregon


Want more information - here are some links for your enjoyment


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday’s Obituary - Landon Adams

Obituary in Daily News [Red Bluff California] Sep. 3, 1980

Landon Adams

     Word has been received here of the death July 6 of Landon Augustus Adams, 95, of Fortuna. He was born in July 1884 in Eureka and was the last surviving grandchild of abolitionist John Brown. He was preceeded in death by his wife, who died Dec. 8, 1979.
     He is survived by a son, Merle, as well as several other children and grandchildren. Merle Adams, son of Landon Adams, sent the information to Keith Lingenfelter, who is well known for his historical and genealogical research.
     Landon's mother, Annie Brown, came to Red Bluff in 1864 by wagon train with her widowed mother, Mary, sisters, Sarah and Ellen, and brother Salmon. Mary Brown and her three daughters lived inn a house on Main Street (that still exists) until 1870 when they moved to Eureka.
     Annie Brown taught Negro children in the Oat Creek School in 1866, which was located near Proberta. She married Samuel S. Adams in Red Bluff Nov. 25, 1869. Annie Brown Adams died in Shively Oct. 3, 1926, the last surviving child of 20 children born to the John Browns.
     According to Merle Brown, Nell Brown Groves, granddaughter of Salmon Brown, is still living in Seattle Wash. She is 102 years of age.

Landon Augustus Adams {B184XV9} (1884 - 1980) was the ninth of Annie Brown Adams' ten children. He appears to have spent his entire life in the northern part of California. He married Margaret Josephine Kiley (1895 - 1979) on April 13, 1916. The 1940 census lists him as a farmer, which many of my uncles and great uncles were in the Humboldt county area of California. Landon is buried at Ferndale Cemetery, Ferndale, Humboldt County, California, USA. (Find a grave # 15474602)
Headstone reads
1884 Father 1980

Friday, January 11, 2013

Emancipation Proclamation and Watch Night

January 1, 2013 was the 150th anniversary of the signing of one of the most important documents in American History; The Emancipation Proclamation.

Stamp Available at

The night of December 31, 1862, churches, praying trees,  and other public meeting areas were the congregating points for slaves and freed blacks awaiting  news that President Lincoln had signed the long awaited Emancipation Proclamation. While the Proclamation did not free all slaves, if did facilitate the beginning of the end of slavery as America knew it in the 1800s.

Frederick Douglas declared the Proclamation to be "the first step on the part of the nation in its departure from the thralldom of the ages."

99 days earlier Lincoln had promised that a proclamation
freeing slaves in the "states in  rebellion" would be signed, sparking the creation of "watch night," where the people faithfully waited and watched.  In Boston, a line of messenger, or runners, spread out from the telegraph office to the Tremont Temple, where Douglass and hundred of others were awaiting the glorious news that Lincoln had signed the document that promised to bring the black Americans that much closer to the freedom they so desired.

When the news arrived in the wee hours of January 1, 1863, it was a time of jubilee for those engaged in the watch night. The news was greeted by sermons, cheers, songs, prayers, quiet contemplation, and much celebration throughout the states.

Watch nights have continued through today, in many churches across America. Many families continue the use of "watch night" as a way to honor those that came before. An amazing example of this is on

Fast forward to 2013  - we need to remember that 150 years later SLAVERY STILL HAS NOT BEEN ERADICATED.  
In the 1800s, slavery was an acceptable commercial transaction performed in the light of day and in public; now slavery is an ugly, silent, secretive, multimillion dollar a year business. 

Do something today to help fight slavery. 

Join one of the many organizations that work tirelessly to eradicate slavery in the 21st century 
See how many products you use have connections to slavery - you will never look at household items the same way again.
Protest the advertising of adult services on such sites as - these types of sites are known promoters of child trafficking sex traders

Here's to a new year - let's see what we can do to end slavery in 2013!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

John Brown's 2nd Great Grand Uncle - Samuel Higley

 Samuel Higley was the first blacksmith awarded the right to manufacture steel for use in the America's, and the first to strike non English coins for use in America.

John Brown's 2nd Great Grand Uncle was Samuel Higley (1687 - 1737), ninth child of John Higley (1649 -1714) and Hannah Drake Higley (1653 - 1694). The Higley family resided in Simsbury Connecticut and were leading citizens held in high regard.

Samuel graduated from Yale in 1714. He apprenticed for eleven years with Drs. Samuel Mather and Thomas Hooker  until qualified to practice medicine on his own. In the 1700's physicians were not highly paid, and it was not unusual for them to have another skill or occupation outside of medicine.  Samuel was schoolteacher and blacksmith.

He married Abigail Bement (1700 - 1746) on September 19, 1719. They had three children: Jonathan (1721-1771), Ann (1724-1761) and Abigail (1733-1810).

In 1728, Samuel was awarded the exclusive right to make steel in the Colony for ten years. Normally everything that could be manufactured and imported from England was forbidden to manufacture in the colonies. So the judgement to allow Samuel to manufacture all steel to be used in the colonies was a very big deal. From the declaration:
"with great pains and cost, found out and obtained a curious art, by which to convert, change, or transmute common ore into good steel, sufficient for any use, and was the very first that ever performed such an operation in America."
 Samuel's land in Simsbury included a copper mine, from which 97-98% pure copper was extracted. In 1736 Samuel began minting the very first coins not minted in England. This was a violation of the laws of the land, but the Higley Copper, as the coins came to be called, were in use as an equivalent to 3-pence coins for many years. The Higley family manufactured coins from 1737 until 1739. The coins were made from such pure copper, that future generations smelted down the coins for use in gold-smithing. The Higley Copper is now a very rare coin, and worth upwards of $285,000 each!

Samuel Higley was declared dead after his cargo ship carrying copper ore to England, was lost in the Atlantic during May 1737.