"Of all the men who were said to be my contemporaries, it seemed to me that John Brown was the only one who had not died. . . . I meet him at every turn. He is more alive than ever he was. He has earned immortality. He is not confined to North Elba nor to Kansas. He is no longer working in secret. He works in public, and in the clearest light that shines on this land." Henry David Thoreau<>"It would be difficult to find a parallel in all history for John Brown and his career."J. M. Buckley<>"His conversation was of the most pleasant and instructive character. One thing I observed that he never said a word that did not mean something. He always talked directly to the point and every word was big with meaning." C. G. Allen<>"It would have been as easy to drive a shadow into the centre of a block of granite as to force a pro-slavery falsehood into his brain or heart." James Redpath<>“People don’t realize, I believe, how thoughtfully Mr. Brown went into that expedition with the idea of sacrificing himself. All his preparations were made calmly and he went away as though going on a mere business trip. . . . he had weighed it all." Lyman Eppes<>"All that the courts could take cognizance of was a watch and a Bible and a few old guns. But to humanity he had left a firmer faith in virtue and in liberty." Clarence Macartney<>"He did much in his life and more in his death; he embodied the inspiration of the men of his generation." Theodore Roosevelt<>"Posterity will owe everlasting thanks to John Brown for lifting up once more to the gaze of a nation grown fat and flabby on the garbage of lust and oppression, a true standard of heroic philanthropy, and each coming generation will pay its installment of the debt. . . . John Brown saw slavery through no mist or cloud, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no one of its ten thousand horrors concealed." Frederick Douglass<>

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tentatively Speaking--
Should Owen Brown's Remains be Relocated?

Owen Brown was the fourth son/child of abolitionist John Brown and Dianthe Lusk Brown, born November 4, 1824, in Hudson, Ohio.  Like the rest of his siblings, he was a devoted antislavery man in his own right and his involvement both in the Kansas and Harper's Ferry episodes is a matter of historical record.  In later years, Owen moved westward and lived with his older brother Jason (b. 1823) in near seclusion, six miles north of Pasadena, California, in the Las Casitas homestead.  While Jason (who was married) returned to Ohio where he died in 1912, Owen died on January 10, 1889.  His closest residing relatives were his brother-in-law Henry Thompson (b. 1822) and sister Ruth Brown Thompson (b. 1829), of Pasadena.  Owen was well loved and regarded and in his later years was featured in newspaper articles and interviews.  When he died, he was given a notable burial and his gravesite was for many years a place of historical pilgrimage for white and black admirers.

Owen Brown from
Hinton's John Brown
and His Men
The simple (and actual) grave stone that marked Owen's final resting place was a point of interest well into this era but was never made a historical landmark and so remained on private property.  Unfortunately, in recent years the land and burial site fell into the hands of an owner who by all accounts has proven hostile toward tourists and pilgrims coming to visit Owen's resting place on his property; more recently, we have been told that the simple stone marker bearing Owen's name has disappeared--perhaps removed by the landowner, although this is speculation.

Lately there has been some interesting emailing going on about the possibility of having Owen's remains disinterred and moved from California to New York State, to be reinterred at the John Brown Farm at Lake Placid (North Elba, N.Y.), with the legendary body of his father, as well as his half-brothers and many of the Harper's Ferry raiders.

This is an exciting, admirable, and worthy idea given the fact that Owen's resting place has been subjected to the whims of a landowner who by all accounts seems something of an ogre.  It is easy to imagine that such a project could become quite a cause célèbre in John Brown circles from coast to coast.  However, in my opinion (and I have already expressed this via email to the friends of John Brown), any idea of moving Owen's remains from California to New York should have the approval of as many Brown family descendants as possible.  Owen never married nor had children, but there are direct descendants of his siblings and half-siblings (the children of John and Mary Day Brown), and a genuine effort should be made to poll their opinions as a family in order to determine whether they approve or not.
This stone marked the site of
Owen Brown's grave for many years

In the event that a sufficient basis of family approval can be determined, then we should be willing to strategically consider the effort, particularly from the standpoint of interstate concerns and funding since we cannot expect either the Golden State or the Empire State to take an interest in bearing the cost of such an effort.

On the other hand, depending on the outlook of Brown family descendants, we may want to consider whether it might be more worthwhile to consider a nationwide campaign to bring pressure to bear upon the landowner to make that portion of his property accessible to tourists and pilgrims, and to accept assistance in placing a worthy marker on Owen's gravesite.  

These are matters to be considered.  Owen Brown evidently chose to live out his days in California and perhaps we should begin by respecting this point in our best intended plans.

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