John Brown (1800-1859) Collection (KC218)
After a life marked by failure, the abolitionist John Brown, "Old Brown of Osawatomie," moved to Kansas in the Summer of 1855. His sons had arrived a few months previous to help secure the territory for the anti-slavery faction and, incidentally, to gain land and opportunity for themselves. Finding the situation difficult, John Brown, Jr. wrote his father urging him to come immediately and bring arms with which to fight for free soil. This John Brown did, driving a wagon filled with guns and power, and quickly assumed the leadership of the local militia.
After the sack of Lawrence, Kansas, in May 1856, in which a number of buildings were looted and burned, Brown determined to retaliate against the pro-slavery forces. On the night of May 24, 1856, he led a band of six men who captured and hacked five men to death with sabers. This incident was followed by other actions contributing to the ongoing guerrilla warfare along the Kansas-Missouri border.
Brown eventually conceived a plan to establish a free state in the South in which escaping slaves could find refuge. This led to Brown's fateful attack upon the United States Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, where he was captured. John Brown was tried for treason and hanged on December 2, 1859.
The collection contains photocopies of three letters written from Brown's Station, Kansas Territory by Brown and his son, John Brown, Jr. to Orson Day of White Hall, New York. Day may have been related to Brown's wife, Mary Anne Day. Brown, who "just returned from the Kansas War," details his concerns for the Territory and gives travel instructions to Day who apparently planned to move his family to Kansas in the near future. Also in the collection is a typescript copy of various newspaper accounts (1859) of the action at Harper's Ferry; and a reprint of an anti-Brown article from the Rockford Morning Star, written in 1904 by G.W. Brown, M.D., about the "massacre" performed by John Brown and his men on the night of May 24, 1856. 1855-1904
© WHMC-KC, University of Missouri
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Kansas City
(816) 235-1543 WHMCKC@umkc.edu