Hi everyone! I hope you had a great week-end. I helped with some decorating for a wedding we attended on Saturday, and was pretty much of a slug for the remainder. We need that every now and then, don’t we? I thought today I’d take you on a short tour of the John Brown Farm in the Adirondacks. My sweet husband and I visited the farm last week-end on our little get-away to Lake Placid.
John Brown is a quirky character, a radical abolitionist who farmed in the Adirondacks, called Frederick Douglas and other well-known abolitionists “friend,” and fought in the “Bleeding Kansas” conflicts, to ensure that Kansas would become a free (rather than slave) state.
You may be familiar with the words of the folk song, “Old John Brown lies a-moldering in his grave.” Well, he was in fact buried on this site on December 8, 1859, having been hanged for treason in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia on December 2nd.
But prior to the events that transpired in Harper’s Ferry, John and his second wife, Anna, called this small cottage in the mountains home. They farmed the land and gave help and advice to their black neighbors in and around Essex and Franklin counties.
I’m not sure how they fit sixteen people in this small space, but to a farmhouse lover, the interior is simply charming.
I learned after taking a few shots that photographs were not allowed (oops!).
The day we stopped by, they opened a permanent exhibit–Timbuctoo–commemorating land grants of 120,000 acres made in the mid-1800’s to hundreds of African Americans by abolitionist Gerrit Smith. These 40 acre grants gave opportunities to families to start a new life, but perhaps more importantly, gave them the right to vote. At the time of the grants, black men had the right to vote, but only if they owned $250.00 worth of property.
While the John Brown farm looks lush and fertile, most of the land in the Adirondacks is quite rocky, and the black farmers, many of whom had never farmed before, found life their difficult. Despite the questionable success of Smith’s land grants, it did capture the imagination of many abolitionists, made headlines in newspapers, and helped galvanize participation in the abolitionist cause.
This able farmer, who fathered twenty children and generously gave aid to his African American neighbors, carried a burning rage against slavery. After participating in something like guerilla warfare in Kansas, he made plans and raised funds from well-known abolitionists to encourage a black insurrection in the south. He chose an armory in Harper’s Ferry, VA (now WV) for his opening salvo. Believing that God was leading him, he and a small band of men, including three of his sons, captured the armory, but killed seven men in the process. And just one day later, Col. Robert E. Lee liberated the site. Brown’s ultimate goal of freeing southern slaves and founding a new state for freed slaves failed completely.
The famous abolitionist and newspaper publisher, William Lloyd Garrision called him, “well-intended, but sadly misguided.” But Ralph Waldo Emerson predicted, “[John Brown] will make the gallows glorious like the cross.”
Love him or hate him, the life of John Brown certainly merits consideration, particularly given the horrific events in our recent history.
I have just one final thought on the man. Many historians believe his failed take over of the Harper’s Ferry armory hastened the start of the Civil War, which of course resulted in the end of slavery. Where do I fall on all of this? I’m a violence hater, but I can understand why someone might feel violence necessary to stop slavery. When I think about the human trafficking going on in the world today, I feel some burning rage. Don’t you? Surely the silver lining of Harper’s Ferry debacle was its hastening of the Civil War.
I had not planned to get quite so deep in this post, but for all of you who stuck with me, I hope you found this look at John Brown and his bucolic farm interesting, if not thought-provoking.
Here are two organizations dedicated to ending human trafficking:
A21 Campaign/Abolishing Injustice in the 21st Century
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