John Brown Family Descendant Celebrates Ancestry
John Brown’s descendants relived the raid on Harpers Ferry, W.Va., during the event’s sesquicentennial on Oct. 16.
Mary Buster, who grew up in Osawatomie and lived here until she was 23, is a direct descendant of Brown. Brown’s half-sister, Florella Adair, is her great-great-grandmother.
Buster made the drive to West Virginia to participate in the 150-year observance of Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, which was a plan to spark a revolt of slaves in the area and to arm them with weapons that Brown planned to capture from a federal arsenal.
The plan failed, and Brown and his men made a long last stand in a firehouse. The sesquicentennial involved a reenactment of this violent event.
“I loved just the excitement of getting to be where it all happened,” Buster said. “I felt like I was standing on holy ground.”
She said Brown’s plan had been lost on her until this trip, when it finally made sense to her.
“(It helped) getting to hear it from the authors there and the people who were talking about John Brown,” she said. “It was an excellent plan. People say he was crazy to think he could do this, but if it hadn’t been for one or two accidents, it probably would have worked. He really thought it out.”
Months prior to the attack, Brown stayed with his men at the Kennedy farmhouse four miles north of Harpers Ferry. The farmstead is still standing today, and Buster said that was her favorite part of the trip.
“I got a personal tour by the man who owns the house, through the entire house,” she said, “including the room Brown and his men hid for the months leading up to the raid.”
Buster also encountered a group in possession of the last letters John and Mary Brown exchanged during their final hours.
“It shows the human side of John Brown,” she said. Her plan is to get the letters to Osawatomie to be displayed for next year’s Freedom Festival.
“It was amazing to be so far from home and still have people talk about John Brown all the time,” Buster said. “It’s obvious in that park that John Brown is viewed as a hero. Every African-American I met threw their arms around me and hugged me. It was wonderful. (They were) very positive toward the man and what he was trying to do, and that was very nice to see.”
During her three-day stay, she met descendents of Brown’s men, townspeople of Harpers Ferry and others whose lives were affected by the event in some way.
“I am extremely proud,” she said. “The more I read about John Brown and his sister Florella, the more I am proud to say I am related to them.”