"Students search John Brown’s NY farm site for artifacts.” The Washington Times, July 15, 2017
|A view of the John Brown Farm at Lake Placid NY|
(photo by Martha Swan, John Brown Lives!)
The State University of New York at Potsdam has been conducting an archaeology field school at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site just outside the village of Lake Placid. The school’s archaeology students are hosting an open house at the historic site Saturday.
Brown and his family lived at the farm in the 1850s, when he opposed slavery in the United States. In October 1859, he led the attack on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in what is now West Virginia. Brown and supporters were captured. He was executed the following December. His body was returned to the farm in North Elba a week later and buried there.
“Students will give archaeology tours at John Brown Farm.” Adirondack Daily Enterprise [Saranac Lake, NY], July 14, 2017
The article notes that students from the Potsdam campus of the State University of New York had concluded their third week of a four-week field school at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid, N.Y., and opened their project to public viewing.
|Sierra Club President Aaron Mair, on May 6, after laying a wreath at the |
abolitionist's grave on John Brown Day, this past May 6
(Adirondack Enterprise--Antonio Olivero Photo
SUNY Potsdam archaeology students are wrapping up their third week of a four-week field school at John Brown Farm State Historic Site, and they invite the public to observe the archaeological dig.
"Archaeology students dig into John Brown Farm." Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 19, 2017
This article provides the most extensive details about the archaeology field school project at the John Brown farm, led by Prof. Hadley Kruczek-Aaron of the State University of New York at Potsdam.
To no surprise, many of the students involved in the project had never heard of John Brown before they took this course. "One student said he may have heard his name briefly mentioned in an AP history class."
|Professor Hadley Kruczek-Aaron of SUNY Potsdam |
(Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)
According to the article, Hadley Kruczek-Aaron "has looked for traces" particularly of Lyman Epps (Eppes), a black settler who became particularly close to the Browns. The Eppes family were perhaps the last of the black families to remain in the settlement, known as Timbucto. As the article points out, the Timbucto settlement in Essex County, near North Elba, as well as another one dubbed Blackville, in Franklin County, were made possible by land grants to free blacks in New York State. The grants were given by the wealthy abolitionist magnate, Gerrit Smith, of Peterboro, N.Y. Smith also gave land to others, but he had a particular interest in showing support to free blacks--something that got John Brown's attention in the 1840s and drew him to the location.
|Brown in the late 1840s, when|
he became enthusiastic supporter
of the Adirondack land grant program
Brown was seasoned in agricultural and livestock and knew how to adapt his skills to the cold mountain climate. Knowing that the black grantees were city folk unaccustomed to agrarian life, he wanted to place himself in their midst as a mentor. Smith thus provided him land, and a group of antislavery allies later raised money to pay for it while Brown was off fighting slavery in the 1850s. Unfortunately, the black settlements were not a success. From the onset, many settlers were fleeced and exploited by local opportunists, who thought nothing of taking advantage of black city folk, and no doubt racism was part of the difficulties they faced. However, many of the settlers found that their plots were difficult, with property lines falling in areas that they were difficult to cultivate.
Overall, the project was more idealistic than substantive. Most city dwellers are not inclined to wilderness life, black or white, and the black land grantees naturally would have to labored and suffered in 19th century Adirondack wilderness, something that demanded far more than most of them were prepared to undertake. Unscrupulous whites were ready to offer them money to buy them out, and others simply got weary of the thankless and difficult wilderness life and returned to life downstate in the thriving cities of New York. Even Willis Hodges, one of the black leaders and a good friend of John Brown, had returned to Brooklyn, N.Y. by the mid-1850s. Quite in contrast, John Brown himself loved Adirondack life and would have remained there, along with his family, had his life not ended on a Virginia gallows in 1859.
|Mary Brown with daughters Annie and Sarah ca. 1851|
As to the archaeological goals of the SUNY Potsdam expedition, the article quotes Kruczek-Aaron:
We, as archaeologists, are hoping to better understand their experience. So we know a lot about John Brown, but we know less about Mary’s experience and the family’s experience, and so that’s our goal, is to use archaeology to better understand their Adirondack story. And we do that by using archaeological evidence, which is artifacts, that can speak to everyday life.
|SUNY Potsdam archaeology students working |
at the John Brown farm in Lake Placid
(Enterprise photo — Dana Hatton)
After working the dig with brushes, root clippers, dustpans and other carpentry tools, the students recorded their findings "by recalling the soil color and texture, what they found, at what depth it was found and what stratum or hole they found it in, and eventually bag the artifact." Their artifacts are then taken to a lab at SUNY Potsdam to be cleaned and later analyzed during an archaeological lab techniques course.
scissors and ceramic fragment(Enterprise photo by Dana Hatton)
The most difficult aspect is understanding what time period the artifacts belong to. In the 1950s, the state wanted to return the house back to how it looked when John Brown died, destroying an addition and filling the hole with sand to grade the land. By understanding this history, the class has been able to look at the soil to determine the dates of the artifacts found above or below the sand.
|This 19th century postcard shows the John Brown farm as it|
existed after being expanded by Mary Brown in the Civil War era.
Excavations of the site must take into account that the farm house
has a history that extends well past the time of Brown's days
A high point of the excavation was the participation of John and Mary Brown's great-great-great-granddaughter, Alice Mecoy, who traveled from the southwest to join the students on the site. According to the article, "Mecoy hopes that the community continues to be intrigued by John Brown, 'or him to be perceived as the visionary he was. He was for equality of all people, not just men, not just women, blacks and whites, Japanese; he didn’t care. He thought everyone was equal. He taught his sons women’s work and his daughters sons’ work. He was very ahead of his time. And it’s the way we should all be striving to live.'"
Renovation of West Virginia Court House Where John Brown Was Tried
Richard Belisle, "Jefferson County Courthouse repairs cost $3M to date," Herald-Mail [Hagerstown, Md.], July 20, 2017 [excerpted]
CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — An ancient furnace in the basement of the Jefferson County (W.Va.) Courthouse was replaced about 15 years ago by modern equipment, a move that signaled the beginning of a long effort to renovate the 145-year-old building. To date, that effort has cost $3 million, said Bill Polk, the county’s maintenance supervisor. The West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority has approved nearly $700,000 in grants for the work thus far. The Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission has been advising the county to help ensure the building’s historic features are protected, Polk said.
|The court house in which John Brown was tried|
and convicted is now under renovation
When crews checked the condition of the bricks inside the cast-iron “boots” that surrounded the columns, they found crumbled bricks and piles of dust. The boots were removed, and the columns repaired and covered in a fiber wrap, Polk said.
Next came landscaping work in front of the courthouse’s main entrance. Acting on a recommendation from the landmarks commission, the county removed a huge boulder with “1863” carved in it to commemorate West Virginia’s 100th birthday. “People thought the rock was historic. It wasn’t,” Polk said. “It was put there during a 100th anniversary parade in 1963. The rock was removed and given to Wildwood Intermediate School to put on the lawn there.
|A 19th century sketch of the court house|
The stone wall along Washington and George streets had to be rebuilt, and the two large boxwoods on the front lawn were removed. The work also included renovations to the large second-floor circuit-court courtroom, judge’s chambers and offices.
The first Jefferson County Courthouse was built on the current site in 1803. It was replaced with a new, larger building in 1836. Abolitionist John Brown was tried in the first-floor courtroom in 1859.
In 1872, the Civil War damage to the building was repaired. It was enlarged, and the new courtroom was added to the second floor.
John Brown's Raid invoked in Case of Fired Palestinian Teacher in New Jersey
While this story does not deal directly with John Brown, the abolitionist's name popped up in a controversy that has made both local and national news for Raritan Township, New Jersey, over the past few years.
In 2015, Sireen Hashem, a history teacher at the Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, New Jersey, was fired after having a series of conflicts with the school district that seem to reflect local hostility toward her as a Palestinian and Muslim.
A December 2015 report by NJ.com stated that the school had ordered the history teacher not to "mention Islam in class," and reprimanded her for showing a movie about the young Nobel Laureate, Malala Yusufzai. In an initial court hearing, Hashem stated that she was fired because her Muslim religion "causes 'trouble."
|Sireen Hashem on CNN|
It seems rather that unfortunately she fell prey to expressing the "wrong" political views as a Palestinian and Muslim. Hashem's lawsuit, as reported in late 2015, seeks lost wages and punitive damages for employment discrimination, disparate treatment, retaliation, conspiracy, constitutional violations, discriminatory firing and defamation. We wish her the best given what appears to be a most unfortunate and unfair situation.
|Hunterdon High School|
The John Brown connection in the story is that Hashem was using the school curriculum which included a parallel between Osama bin Laden's 9/11 attack on the USA and John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. According to Hashem, she did not draw a parallel between Brown and bin Laden since this seems to have been inferred or suggested by the curriculum. Nor was this itself controversial, since many people in this nation are so besotted by the John Brown terrorist notion, and the supposed parallel between Brown and Muslim extremists has been made numerous times, including by Tony Horwitz in a New York Times Op-Ed in 2009.
While Brown remains a controversial figure in the minds of many whites, the school district has alleged that Hashem mismanaged the classroom discussion about Brown and the raid, and "editorialized" that Bin Laden "had no intention of killing as many Americans as he did" because he chose the attacks in the early morning of Sept. 11, 2001 "to minimize the number of people killed."
The school district also contends that Hashem said that Bin Laden "should be forgiven because he later apologized for the attacks and ought not to have been buried at sea but returned to his homeland for a proper burial."
Hashem seems to deny that she made such statements in class, and attributes them to the false charges of students and her critics. Clearly, the real conflict between Hashem and the school district is probably more related to the political bias of people in the community, including both anti-Muslim bias and pro-Israel defensiveness. Recently, the Committee to Support Sireen Hashem has asked the school district "to apologize to Sireen Hashem and to all Palestinians" for a statement made in legal papers that "Palestine is not a nation." That such sentiments have been espoused by Hashem's opponents suggests that the political interests of pro-Israel supporters may have been a key factor in her firing.
Hashem has since gone on to become as a teacher at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
It is increasingly difficult to imagine how such historical and cultural bigotry can ever be erased when even our high school curricula continue to deny the evils of slavery, elevate and idealize racists, and disdain and condemn those few men like John Brown who gave everything for the sake of freedom and human rights.
Don Lemon of CNN interviews Sireen Hashem here
The Facebook page of the Committee to Support Sireen Hashem here