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'├ętat.
"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.