Sunday, October 19, 2014

Great Hanging of 1862 - Civil War History in Texas

I spend so much time and energy studying and writing about John Brown and family on the East coast before the war, and the family on the West coast after the war, I forget that many important and interesting Civil War related events happened in other places. One such event was commemorated yesterday in Gainesville, Texas.

In 1862 40 residents of Gainesville, Texas, ninety minutes north of Dallas,  were deemed to be Union sympathizers, tried, found guilty of treason and hanged over a three week period.

Photo Credit  Fred Mecoy  2014
Some people call the Great Hanging one of the largest examples of vigilante violence in American History, while others say the actions were necessary to ensure public safety in wartime.

When the Confederacy started a military draft in 1862, many local men protested the exemption clause that allowed large slaveholders to be exempt from the draft. The local provost marshal ordered the arrest of all able bodied men who did not report for duty. A trial with a jury of 12 slaveholders was convened, the men were found guilty of treason, and during the month of October, 40 men were hanged and two were shot trying to escape. The entire story is told in Tainted Breeze by Dr Richard McCaslin, Chair of University of North Texas History Department.

When I read they were charged with treason, I knew I needed to go to the commemoration and give my support - its not everyday you get to support others whose ancestors were tried and hanged for treason.

Photo Credit Fred Mecoy 2014
Photo Credit Fred Mecoy 2014
The monument erected consists of two 5' x 6' granite stones. One is carved with the names and dates of the hangings and shooting, while the other stone tells the story of the events. They are placed on what was private land that has been donated to the City of Gainesville specially for this momentum.

Around 100 people, most of them related in some way to one or more of the men listed on the granite block, attended the event. Earlier in the day there was a luncheon and a performance of a theatrical reading.
Photo Credit Fred Mecoy 2014

During the ceremony, the names of the 40 men were solemnly read and a hand bell rung.
It was very moving.

I enjoyed our afternoon in Gainesville, and look forward to reading the book for further information about this event in American History.

Alice Keesey Mecoy, great great great granddaughter of John Brown with Colleen Clark Clarri, great great granddaughter of Nathanial Clark, one of the men hanged in Gainesville, TX in 1862

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - 75th Anniversary of the Raid

Envelope postmarked at Harper's Ferry, 
October 16, 1934, 
in recognition of the 75th Anniversary of the Raid

From the collection of Alice Keesey Mecoy

(if you have ever looked at Ebay and wondered "who buys those post cards and old envelopes?" It's me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An Historic Meeting of Two Men

Article I found in the San Francisco Call Newspaper
Volume 80
Number 43
13 July 1896
Page 4

Chance Meeting of a Son of John Brown 
and a Son of the Sheriff Who 
Hanged Him.

     McMINNVILLE, Or., July 12 -- 
Two men of historical connections met by
chance here during the Bimetallic 
convention Thursday. As is the custom in 
all conventions in Oregon every delegate 
does his best to get acquainted with every
other one, and all delegates converse with
each other whether acquainted or not.
Several were going about introducing a 
rather handsome man of 40 or thereabouts
whom they called Mr. Booth of McMinn-
ville. They would say of him: "Mr. Booth 
is the son of the Sheriff who hanged
John Brown of Ossawatomie at Harper's
Ferry." This caused people to take more 
than a common interest in Mr. Booth.
     Finally Booth was introduced to a man 
of excellent appearance, whose name was 
Salmon Brown. After the introduction 
Mr. Booth and Mr. Brown chatted very 
pleasantly for a minute or two.
"Mr.Booth," said Mr. Brown, "was it 
your father who hanged John Brown at
Harper's Ferry?"
"Yes," said Mr. Booth. "He was Sheriff 
at the time and it was his duty to 
officiate at the execution. No relative 
of yours, I hope?"
     "Only my father." was the quiet reply. 
     Mr. Booth and Mr. Brown walked to a 
quiet corner in the hotel and talked over 
old times for a half hour and shook hands 
cordially when separating.

Wow! What an interesting little piece of history.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday - Hooray! I found Samuel Adams Obituary

Samuel Adams, husband of Annie Brown Adams, and my great great grandfather, died October 27, 1914 of "infirmities of old age" just shy of his 85th year.

Samuel has proven to be a very elusive man. I find bits and pieces of information here and there, but often come up dry when researching him.  Today, while going through a box of information sent to me by a cousin, I found a photocopy of Samuel Adams obituary. 
The Ferndale Enterprise
Ferndale, California
Page 8
Friday, October 30, 1914


     Last Tuesday morning at his home in Petrolia, Samuel S. Adams, one of the best known residents of the Mattole valley and a pioneer Californian, passed to the other shore, his demise being due to the infirmities of old age, he being within a few days of 85 years old.
     Samuel S. Adams was born on November 3, 1829, at Atwater, Ohio. He came to California in 1850, and thereafter made his home at Sutter's Mills, in Siskiyou county, Rohnerville and other places until 1888, when with his family he move to Petrolia and made his home on a ranch which he purchased there, continuously to the time of his death.
     He was a blacksmith by trade in his younger days, and led an active life in the mining towns of this state during the gold excitement. An account of the experiences witnessed by him in those golden days would doubtless make interesting reading for the younger generation.
     Deceased is survived by his wife, to whom he was married in 1870, and who is the youngest daughter of John Brown, of Harper's Ferry fame. He also leaves five sons and five daughters, as follows:
Grant of Silverlake, Oregon, Archie of San Francisco, Frank, Landon and Richard of Petrolia. Mrs. E.L. Hunt of Los Angeles, Mrs. Vivian Winzler of San Francisco, Mrs. Bertha Cook of Pepperwood, Mrs. S.W. Brown of Burbank and Mrs. Jacob Heyne of Petrolia. He also leaves many more distant relatives.
     He was highly respected by a large circle of friends in the Mattole county and elsewhere and the news of his death is received with feelings of sincere sorrow. To the relatives every sympathy is extended.
     The funeral was held Wednesday at two o'clock, services being conducted at the grave in the Petrolia cemetery by Rev. F. Grigg, assisted by a choir. A large number of friends were present and there were many beautiful floral offerings. The pall bearers were Jesse Walker, James Hart, Charles A. Johnston, M Shelbourne, C.C. Stewart and Aaron Boots.
Samuel S AdamsSamuel S Adams
 Photo Credit: David Anderson FindAGrave
Petrolia Pioneer Cemetery
Humboldt County
California, USA
Created by: David Anderson
Record added: Dec 10, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 45317115


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Poem about John Brown from 1859

How Old Brown Took Harper’s Ferry

Edmund Clarence Stedman


John Brown in Kansas settled, like a steadfast Yankee farmer,
   Brave and godly, with four sons, all stalwart men of might.
There he spoke aloud for Freedom, and the Border-strife grew
   Till the Rangers fired his dwelling, in his absence, in the night:                             [5]
            And Old Brown
            Osawatomie Brown,
Came homeward in the morning—to find his house burned down

Then he grasped his trusty rifle and boldly fought for Freedom,
   Smote from border unto border the fierce, invading band;                                     [10]
And he and his brave boys vowed—so might Heaven help and speed
   They would save those grand old prairies from the curse that
        blights the land:
.           And Old Brown,                                                                                             [15]
            Osawatomie Brown,
Said, “Boys, the Lord will aid us!” and he shoved his ramrod down.

And the Lord did aid these men, and the labored day and even,
   Saving Kansas from its peril; and their very lives seemed
        charmed,                                                                                                             [20]
Till the Ruffians killed one son, in the blessed light of Heaven—
   In cold blood the fellows slew him, as he journeyed all unarmed:
            And Old Brown,
            Osawatomie Brown,
Shed not a tear, but shut his teeth and frowned a terrible frown!                              [25]

Then they seized another brave boy—not amid the heat of battle,
   But in peace, behind his plow-share,—and they loaded him with
And with pikes, before their horses, even as the goad their cattle,
   Drive him cruelly, for their sport, and at last blew out his brains:                           [30]
            And Old Brown,
            Osawatomie Brown,
Raised his right hand up to Heaven, calling Heaven’s vengeance down.

And he swore a fearful oath, by the name of the Almighty,
   He would hunt this ravening evil that had scathed and torn                                   [35]
       him so;
He would seize it by the vitals; he would crush it day and night; he
   Would so pursue its footsteps, so return it blow for blow,
            That Old Brown,
            Osawatomie Brown,                                                                                       [40]
Should be a name to swear by, in backwoods or in town!

Then his beard became more grizzled, and his wild blue eye grew wilder,
   And more sharply curved his hawk’s nose, snuffing battle from afar;
And he and the two boys left, though the Kansas strife waxed milder,
   Grew more sullen, till was over the bloody Border War,                                        [45]
            And Old Brown,
            Osawatomie Brown,
Had gone crazy, as they reckoned by his fearful glare and frown.

So he left the plains of Kansas and their bitter woes behind him,
   Slept off into Virginia, where the statesmen all are born,                                       [50]
Hired a farm by Harper’s Ferry, and no one knew where to find him,
   Or whether he’d turned parson, or was jacketed and shorn;
            For Old Brown,
            Osawatomie Brown,
Mad as he was, knew texts enough to wear a parson’s gown.                                   [55]

He bought no plows and harrows, spades and shovels, or such
    But quietly to his rancho there came, by every train,
Boxes full of pikes and pistols, and his well-beloved Sharp’s rifles;
   And eighteen other madmen joined their leader there again:                                  [60]
            Says Old Brown,
            Osawatomie Brown,
“Boys, we have got an army large enough to whip the town!”

“Whip the town, and seize the muskets, free the negroes and then arm
       them;                                                                                                                    [65]
   Carry the County and the State, aye, and all the potent South.
On their own heads be the slaughter, if their victims rise to harm them—
   These Virginians, who believed not, nor would heed the warning
            Says Old Brown                                                                                             [70]
            Osawatomie Brown,
“The world shall see a Republic, or my name is not John Brown.”

'T was the sixteenth of October, on the evening of a Sunday:
   "This good work," declared the captain, "shall be on a holy night!"
It was on a Sunday evening, and before the noon of Monday,                                 [75]
   With two sons, and Captain Stephens, fifteen privates—black and
Captain Brown,
Osawatomie Brown,
Marched across the bridged Potomac, and knocked the sentinel down;                   [80]

Took the guarded armory-building, and the muskets and the cannon;
   Captured all the county majors and the colonels, one by one;
Scared to death each gallant scion of Virginia they ran on,
   And before the noon of Monday, I say, the deed was done.
Mad Old Brown,                                                                                            [85]
Osawatomie Brown,
With his eighteen other crazy men, went in and took the town.

Very little noise and bluster, little smell of powder made he;
   It was all done in the midnight, like the Emperor's coup d'état.
"Cut the wires! Stop the rail-cars! Hold the streets and bridges!"                              [90]
       said he,
Then declared the new Republic, with himself for guiding star,—
This Old Brown,
Osawatomie Brown;
And the bold two thousand citizens ran off and left the town.                                 [95]

Then was riding and railroading and expressing here and thither;
   And the Martinsburg Sharpshooters and the Charlestown Volun-
And the Shepherdstown and Winchester Militia hastened whither
   Old Brown was said to muster his ten thousand grenadiers.                                  [100]
General Brown!
Osawatomie Brown!!
Behind whose rampant banner all the North was pouring down.

But at last, 't is said, some prisoners escaped from Old Brown's durance,
   And the effervescent valor of Ye Chivalry broke forth,                                         [105]
When they learned that nineteen madmen had the marvellous assur-
   Only nineteen—thus to seize the place and drive them straight about;
And Old Brown,
Osawatomie Brown,                                                                                       [110]
Found an army come to take him, encamped around the town.

But to storm, with all the forces I have mentioned, was too risky;
   So they hurried off to Richmond for the Government Marines,
Tore them from their weeping matrons, fired their souls with Bourbon
       whiskey,                                                                                                               [115]
Till they battered down Brown's castle with their ladders and machines;
And Old Brown,
Osawatomie Brown,
Received three bayonet stabs, and a cut on his brave old crown.

Tallyho! the old Virginia gentry gather to the baying!                                   [120]
   In they rushed and killed the game, shooting lustily away;
And whene'er they slew a rebel, those who came too late for slaying,
   Not to lose a share of glory, fired their bullets in his clay;
And Old Brown,
Osawatomie Brown,                                                                           [125]
Saw his sons fall dead beside him, and between them laid him down.

How the conquerors wore their laurels; how they hastened on the
  How Old Brown was placed, half dying, on the Charlestown Court-
       House floor;                                                                                             [130]
How he spoke his grand oration, in the scorn of all denial;
What the brave old madman told them,—these are known the
       country o'er.
"Hang Old Brown,
Osawatomie Brown,"                                                                          [135]
Said the judge, "and all such rebels!" with his most judicial frown.

But, Virginians, don't do it! for I tell you that the flagon,
   Filled with blood of Old Brown's offspring, was first poured by
       Southern hands;
And each drop from Old Brown's life-veins, like the red gore of the            [140]
May spring up a vengeful Fury, hissing through your slave-worn
And Old Brown,
Osawatomie Brown,                                                                           [145]
May trouble you more than ever, when you've nailed his coffin down!
November, 1859.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Amanuensis Monday: Pages from Annie's School Autograph Book

In 1863, Annie Brown, daughter of John Brown, attended the Fort Edwards Institute in Fort Edwards, NY.  Friends and supporters of John Brown supplied the funds that allowed Annie and her younger sister, Sarah, to continue their educations after Brown's execution.

Annie's autograph book, which is like a handmade yearbook, has been passed down through our family and is now my sister's most prized possession.

This spread from the book appears to be signed by a brother and sister who attended Fort Edwards Institute with Annie.

Transcription of left hand page:                                    Transcription of right hand page:

Yours Tremendously                                                     Allow me to remain yours very truly
S. A. Knapp                                                                   Maria H Knapp
F. E. I.

I have not been able to find any further information on the siblings. 

Previous postings about the autograph book are here, here, here and here

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sentimental Sunday - Baby Shower for Me!

Newspaper article from the Humboldt Standard, Friday, July 10, 1959, Page 11

I love small town newspapers from days gone by. The fact that they reported on the really important news of the day, like who was going on vacation, who is back in town, and who attended a baby shower.

My Great Aunt Georgia and my Grandmother Beatrice were the hostesses for a baby shower that was held for my mother (and ME!) 3 months before my birth. My elder sister, Jane, assisted with the decorations and refreshments.

Most of the attendees are relatives and people that that I have heard stories about my whole life.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mom's Cookbooks - Sentimental Sunday

My mom, Jean Keesey, loved to clip out recipes from magazines and newspapers, as well as hand write recipes on scraps of paper. Then the scraps of paper and newspaper recipes were   stuffed them into her collection of cookbooks and recipes. She kept scissors next to her recliner so she was always ready to snip out that really fascinating recipe for "Sour Cream Jello Horseradish Salad." She wrote down recipes from TV cooking shows, radio shows, discussions with friends. She loved to collect recipes.

I have inherited many of her old cookbooks, and they are like a treasure hunt; you never know when a recipe clipped from a magazine, newspaper, or handwritten on whatever piece of paper was nearby, will fall out from between the pages.  I don't understand why she clipped some of these recipes. Many are for things we never ate, fancy sauces and prissy desserts.

While looking through one of her books today I found:
  • An incomplete recipe written on the back of my dad's May 15 1963 pay stub.
  • An icing recipe written on a piece of her Japanese Rice Paper, that she used for her painting. 
  •  A newspaper article about the wife of Arizona Senator Jay Stuckey, Sr. who makes sweets for her husband to take to the Senate every day, complete with the recipes.
  • A full recipe for making Cream of Tomato soup from a can of condensed soup! (really, a newspaper published the directions from the back of a can as a recipe?)
  • A recipe for Cheese and Apple Dessert - cut up cheese with cut up apples - A Favorite Of Steak Addicts!
  • A full newspaper page of recipes for Dove, since Sept was the opening of Dov season in Arizona. Anyone for Dove in Sour Cream?
  • Various backs of flour bags, labels from cans, inserts from ads, free recipe inserts. - I have recipes on every conceivable type of paper.  
Going through Mom's cookbooks brings back memories of sitting at the dining room table with her discussing cooking, recipes, and looking through cookbooks. I miss you Mom!

Let's play a game.  

I found this recipe - can anyone tell me what it is? And would you eat it? I copied it exactly as written on a scrap a paper by my mom
____ 18 tbs-red (27 blue) 
6 oz gelatine
3 c. cold water
4 1/2 quarts hot milk
6 # tuna
13 1/2 c. celery
1 1/2 c. green peppers
1 c. piminto
3/4 c. onion
3 c. relish
1 1/2 c. lemon juice
6 tsp. salt
6 c. mayonaise
18 hard boiled eggs

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I. Am. So. Jealous!

John Brown, Bleeding Kansas and the search for buried history

Bo Rader/ The Wichita Eagle

My fourth cousin twice removed, Mary Buster, just participated in a most exciting event near the Brown Cabin Memorial Park in Osawatomie, Kansas.

And. I. Am. So. Jealous!

Mary Buster, great-great granddaughter of Florilla Brown Adair, half sister to John Brown, recently participated in an archeological dig held at the original location of the Adair Cabin, where Florilla and Samuel Adair lived in Osawatomie during the years that led up to Kansas entering the United States as a free state.  They were Free-Staters and participated in the Kansas Underground Railroad. The actual cabin has been restored and moved a few miles from the original location to what is now called John Brown Memorial Park.

Mary participated in the dig, and got to hold a silver fork that was found during the dig. She held the fork to her cheek and experienced the amazing rush of touching something that was owned by an ancestor. A rush that I am familiar with - I have held items owned by my ancestors - bibles and autograph books, and I have even walked barefoot on the original floor planks in North Elba to feel closer to my kinfolk.

I know that Mary had a great time and I am excited for her......but I am still so jealous!

The full story is here.

Wordless Wednesday - The Quilt That Started It All

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Peterboro 22nd Civil War Weekend

Fred and I just returned from Peterboro NY where we spent the weekend participating in the 22nd  annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend.

Dot Wilsey, of the National Abolition Hall of Fame (NAHoF), and other historical groups in Peterboro, invited me to speak during the weekend. I was so honored and happy to participate in this amazing weekend.

Peterboro NY played a very important part in the fight against slavery and inequality during the 1800s. Gerrit Smith called the town home, and from there managed the North Elba NY land donations to free blacks starting in the late 1840s. If you owned land, you could vote, so Smith set up the land package to assist blacks become landowners.  Unfortunately, many of the families had never lived on a farm, and knew virtually nothing about farming, let alone farming in the cold long winters of North Elba. John Brow purchased 244 acres in 1848 and moved his family to North Elba to assist the new farmers, help them get started and to assist with the growth of the settlement also known as Timbucktoo.

Civil War Weekend 2014

The kids settling down. Photo Fred Mecoy 2014

On Friday I spoke to 150 5th graders who had spent the day participating in a "Living History" day in Peterboro. Groups of 15 - 20 kids spent 15 minutes at various areas listening and learning about life during the Civil War years. They learned about the wounds that soldiers experienced and how they were treated, or if necessary, amputated. They learned how soldiers slept and washed and cooked while on the battlefield. They learned about Abolitionists and the underground railroad. At the Gerrit Smith Estate they learned what the wealthy philanthropist did to fight slavery,  encourage equality and aid in the war effort.

Alice with kids. Photo Fred Mecoy 2014
Then, at the end of a day of running around the green in the middle of town, they filled the community center and sat down to listen to me. I gotta tell you, I was sure that they would bored, tired, and done with history by the time they got to me. Boy was I wrong!

They had studied John Brown, and his impact on the Civil War in school, and were very attentive and engaged with my talk. I told them about John Brown and Gerrit Smith, about North Elba, how big the Brown family was, how they lived, and of course, Harper's Ferry.

They were quiet, polite and FULL of questions. They were very interested in how old everyone was - John Brown when he married, Mary when she became his second wife, how old the children were when they died, and how old I was. One young man guessed I was 40, and I said that was a great answer and we will go with that!

150 kids sitting quietly. Photo Fred Mecoy 2014

But they also asked questions about the family, where they lived, how they lived and all seemed interested in learning more about Brown's fight against slavery. I had a great time and I hope that they will continue to ask questions and learn more about the fight against slavery.


Photo by Fred Mecoy 2014
Although it was cold and overcast, a number of people came out for the opening ceremonies. We watched a detachment of Civil War Reenactment Soldiers march on The Green. One of the longtime members of the group had recently passed away and the detachment fired musket shots in tribute to his memory.

Photo F. Mecoy 2014
We heard from the descendants of Aaron Bliss, who escaped from Andersonville Prison, who shared with us the decorative sword that was altered with a knife to serrate the edge and allow Bliss to cut his way out of the outhouse and escape. The knife used was supplied by freed slave Billy Smith, who had to report to work and was not able to escape with Bliss. A descendant of the freed slave, Billy Smith,  was also in attendance.

Photo Fred Mecoy 2014

Many people were dressed in period clothing, and all of the vendors were set up in canvas tents, so The Green resembled a camp during the Civil War. Soldiers sat around campfires, ladies spun and cooked, dentists and surgeons displayed there wares and even President Lincoln made an appearance.

Photo F Mecoy 2014

I gave a speech at 11:30 in the Community Center,"New York to Harper's Ferry - John Brown's Journey" to a group of 35 - 40 attendees. I talked about John Brown and Gerrit Smith's relationship from 1848 till Brown's death, and Brown's travels to fight slavery and solicit funds. Since I normally speak about the Brown women and the family, this was a completely new subject for me.  I enjoyed preparing for the talk, and the audience seemed to appreciate my sharing this information with them.


Photo F Mecoy 2014

Sunday the sun came out and the skies were clear. I presented on the family "Life after the hanging of John Brown - a family legacy." I had to give the talk twice, once at 11:30 and again at 12:15, due to an error in the posting of the time I was to speak.

After my talks, Fred and I wandered around The Green and watched the skirmish reenactment.

Then too soon, it was time to head home.