Jan 2, 2017

John Brown and Hudson, Ohio

 No matter where I go there is always something new and interesting to do. John and I have been to Hudson, Ohio several times because our daughter and her family live there.  I thought I knew a fair amount about John Brown. We had been to his burial site North Elba, NY, near the ski jump in Lake Placid. For a time Brown settled in the black community which was created on land provided by the philanthropic and anti-slavery proponent Gerrit Smith.  

I knew that in the 1850s Brown and his sons fought against proslavery forces in Kansas. It was bloody and violent. We had also toured Harper’s Ferry, where Brown and a group of like-minded abolitionists led a raid on October 16, 1859 on the federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in an attempt to get arms needed to led a slave revolt. It was unsuccessful and led to the death of two of his sons. The wounded Brown was tried for treason and murder, and executed. On the date of his execution, 16 months before the Civil War, Brown prophetically wrote, “The crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” He is most often portrayed as a wild man but other photos show just a time-weathered man. 

I was surprised to learn that Brown lived in Hudson for 20 years.
 Hudson has a brochure listing all the places that were part of the Underground Railroad.  I did a drive-about to see the places. Hudson was settled in 1799 and one of the settlers was Owen Brown, an active abolitionist and a “station master” on the Underground Railroad. He passed on his hatred of slavery to his son, John Brown.  The Browns and many
others in Hudson were supporters of the anti-slavery movement. John Brown ran a tannery. Originally, the John Brown family lived in a log cabin on the tannery site. By 1825, John Brown replaced it with a frame house. John Brown Jr. recalled, that as a child, he observed his father and mother aiding fugitive slaves at the house. There are several houses in Hudson that were owned by staunch abolitionists and most likely runaway slaves were either hidden in the house or on the property then helped to the next station on the “railroad” including houses on the Hudson-Aurora Road owned by Owen Brown. 

Owen Brown established the Free Congregational Church. Members had to swear they would fight against slavery.  It was here that John Brown gave his first public speech opposing slavery after he heard about the murder in Illinois of the anti-slavery newspaperman, Elijah
Lovejoy. The church is no longer there and the present building is the Town Hall. There is a plaque commemorating the event outside the Town Hall. Brown made his last public appearance in Hudson in front of the Free
Congregational Church before heading to Harper’s Ferry. I am sure it was interesting because the anti-slavery people in Hudson we divided when it came to the course of action. The Colonizationists believed that freed slaves should be returned to Africa. Many were sent to the country of Liberia. Pres. Lincoln shared that idea in the early years of his presidency. The Abolitionists believed they should be freed as American citizens.  This group was also divided between those who thought violence was the way and those who did not.