John Brown, Abolitionist and Terrorist?

John Brown at Harper's Ferry

Yesterday, 150 years ago, John Brown was hanged. He took justice in his own hands and killed several people during the 1850s in an attempt to end slavery in America. Obit magazine has a report. “Even though devotees flocked for decades to his grave as if it were the shrine of a saint,” St. John Barned-Smith writes, “the dispassionate massacre of people is the work of a bloodthirsty gangster, not a noble redeemer.”

7 thoughts on “John Brown, Abolitionist and Terrorist?”

  1. I took the Harpers Ferry tour some years ago, and had my view of Brown somewhat softened. Despite his bloody cruelty at Ossawatomie in Kansas, he comported himself with admirable (and surprising) decency at Harpers Ferry. Why? No one knows. He was a very complex man.

    But he deserved to be hanged for what he did in Kansas, regardless of Harpers Ferry.

  2. When I visited the Norway Museum in Decorah, Iowa, (Did I spell that right?), last year with the Mrs., we were pointed to a small window which we were instructed to look through to see the up-stairs building where Brown’s wife and children had hidden for some time before further flight was necessary.

    I’d no idea his family had come to Decorah! Interesting little taste of such history. The only connection to the Norway museum was the window’s view… Lars…another potential novel waiting to be written…!!

  3. There ya go, partner… take the tour, look out the window, see the building next door, check out the up-stairs imagine Mrs. Brown and the kids hanging out and wa-la, new novel!

    It’s almost half written for you…. well, almost…

  4. Does anyone know what brought his wife and children to Decorah? I ask because I am descended from what appears to be the predominant Brown line in Decorah at the time, so I am trying to understand if there might be a connection that I have not found (Decorah seems like an unusual destination if there weren’t some family tie). Per other accounts, she stayed for one year but was deterred by the harsh winter and then headed west to California at the urging of a cousin. My Browns also migrated from Decorah to California, so I wonder if the “cousin” may be from my line. It seems odd, as my line is presumably of German descent, whereas his is English primarily (unless there was a mistake somewhere along the way). Any thoughts?

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