Brown, John (1800-1859)

Brown, John, abolitionist, was born in Torrington, Connecticut, May 9, 1800, of pilgrim descent. He was successively tanner and land-surveyor, shepherd and farmer, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York ; and, a strong abolitionist, wandered much through the country on anti-slavery enterprises. He was twice married and had twenty children. In 1854 five of his sons removed to Kansas, and joining them after the border conflict had begun, Brown became a leader in the strife. In reprisal, he once ordered five pro-slavery men at Pottawatomie to be shot. Ossawatornie, Brown's home, was burned in 1856, and a son killed. When the war in Kansas ceased, Brown began to drill men in Iowa. II is scheme next was to establish a stronghold in the mountains of Virginia as a refuge for runaway slaves, and in order to force attention and secure recruits he made his harebrained attack on the U.S. armoury at Harper's Ferry in Virginia. In 1859 he had assembled twenty-two men (six of them coloured) and boxes of rifles and pikes on his farm near the town ; and on the, night of the 18th October, with eighteen men, he broke into the armoury and took several citizens prisoners. The citizens shot some of the invaders, and next day Colonel Robert E. Lee (afterwards famous), with a company of marines, arrived from Washington. Brown and six men, barricading themselves in an engine-house, continued to fight until his two sons were killed and himself severely wounded. Tried by a Virginia court for insurrection, treason, and murder, he was convicted and hanged at Charlestown, Virginia, December 2, 1859. Four of his men were executed with him, and two others later. See the Lives by Redpath (1860), Sanborn (1885), Von Hoist (Boston, 1888), and Villard (1910).
1. Chamber's Biographical Dictionary, Philadelphia, 1926, page 139.

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