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"The world needed John Brown and John Brown came, and time will do him justice." Frederick Douglass (1886)

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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Five for Freedom, One Not Entirely Trustworthy: Eugene Meyer's Big Lie About John Brown

I really would like to have greeted Eugene L. Meyer's recent publication, Five for Freedom: The African American Soldiers in John Brown's Army, I really would.  But I am quite disappointed and more than perturbed that Mr. Meyer could be so reckless and mistaken in making the following statement within a discussion about the African American expatriate community in Chatham, Canada West (Ontario):

Chatham, with its close‐knit community of Afro‐Canadian expatriates, would be a perfect plotting ground for Brown, who with his followers had infamously murdered slave sympathizers and one of their infants in Bleeding Kansas.  [p. 55]
Eugene L. Meyer:
Very Wrong on Brown
It is not altogether surprising that Meyer would be so careless as to portray the men killed at Pottawatomie by Brown and his men in 1856 merely as "slave sympathizers."  This is a typical error of misrepresentation and probably bias, although in Mr. Meyer's case, I'm not sure which is the more pronounced problem.

It is clear that the five men killed at Pottawatomie--the three Doyles, Sherman, and Wilkinson--were no mere "sympathizers," but tools of the slaveholding interest in the Kansas territory.  Indeed, they were conspirators committed to aiding and abetting terrorism in the territory--terrorism that targeted the Browns particularly.  John Brown NEVER killed a man for being a slave sympathizer unless that man endeavored to do violence.  Throughout his time in the territory, Brown interacted peacefully with proslavery settlers and even did business with Missourians.  He always approached the issue with reason and conversation and never considered using a weapon unless he felt it was a matter of necessity for the preservation of life, and this applies to Pottawatomie too.  At any rate, in this regard, Meyer's characterization make his work no different than many other journalistic and historical renderings that are lacking in substance and context.

More disturbing is Meyer's characterization that Brown . . . had a hand in the death of an infant or child belonging to a "slave sympathizer."  In this statement Meyer shows himself irresponsible beyond negligence. 

More disturbing is Meyer's characterization that Brown killed "one of their infants"--that is, that he had a hand in the death of an infant or child belonging to a "slave sympathizer."  In this statement Meyer shows himself irresponsible beyond negligence.  My understanding is that he is an accomplished, season journalist.  He has a very nice website which states that he is "an award-winning veteran journalist with eclectic interests but special passions for history, lifestyles, travel, real estate and the Chesapeake Bay."  This is all well and good and I certainly wish him well.  But one would think that any veteran journalist of his caliber would have made even a basic effort to research his material, and would have found that this claim has no evidence or basis in the record.  It certainly shows that he knows nothing about John Brown, and this is what concerns me about his writing.

I do not know Mr. Meyer and I appreciate the interest he has taken in the black raiders, and have nothing "aught" against him, so the Golden Rule requires that I grant him the benefit of the doubt.  However, the best I could conclude regarding this false and insulting characterization of John Brown is that he naively relied upon some proslavery source or some otherwise biased, hostile claim and didn't have the good sense to check it against the facts.  Until or unless proven otherwise, his erroneous, insulting characterization of John Brown as a terrorist baby killer must be marked against him and his work.

Unfortunately, if Meyer can make this kind of error with the record, it stands to reason that his Five for Freedom needs to be read with care and not taken at face value.  His annotations and sources and use of the latter should be considered carefully.  Without having read this book through or closely, I have also found another such misuse of a source in regard to Shields Green.  But I will address that at another time and in another medium.--LD


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

John Brown in the News

A NOVEL ABOUT JOHN BROWN COMES TO TELEVISION

Ethan Hawke is to star in Good Lord Bird, an eight-part, limited series based on the novel by James McBride.

Ethan Hawke will Play the Old Man
in a Showtime series
"Good Lord Bird is one of my favorite books, told with wit, grace and wisdom by the great James McBride," Hawke said in a statement Monday. "Bringing this story to the screen has been a passion project of mine, and I am incredibly fortunate to have partners who are equally enthusiastic and are making it a reality — my wife and producing partner Ryan Hawke, and my longtime friends at Blumhouse."

Hawke will play 19th-century abolitionist John Brown in the drama. He also is co-writing and executive producing the project, while Anthony Hemingway (True Blood, Shameless) is set to direct and executive produce.

"This is just the right time for The Good Lord Bird," McBride said. "I wrote it to show we Americans are family — dysfunctional, screwy, funny, even dangerous to one another at times, but still family nonetheless. Old John Brown always had a knack for landing into the right place at the right time. I'm delighted he's landed in the lap of one of America's most gifted and literate actors."

Hawke, 48, is a four-time Academy Award-nominated actor, who has also penned several novels. His screen credits include Dead Poets Society, Reality Bites, Gattaca, Training Day, Boyhood and First Reformed.

Source: Karen Butler, "Ethan Hawke to Star in Showtime's Adaptation of James McBride's 'The Good Lord Bird.'"  TV Insider, Mar. 12, 2019.  Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/2UAIIe1


BIOGRAPHER DAVID REYNOLDS AT DETROIT EVENT

University of Detroit Mercy School of Law recently hosted “Detroit’s Abolitionist Moment: 160 Years of Fighting for Justice,” a symposium celebrating the historic March 12, 1859 meeting of famous abolitionists Frederick Douglass and John Brown at the home of William Webb in Detroit. The event was scheduled for Tuesday, March 12 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Detroit Public Library’s Clara Stanton Jones Friends Auditorium at 5201 Woodward Avenue in Detroit. The event was open to the public.

The symposium, which is made possible with the support of the Dewitt C. Holbrook Memorial Trust, honors the 160-year anniversary of the historic Douglass and Brown meeting by exploring the context in terms of antislavery, black activism and the Underground Railroad in Detroit; the setting of the meeting at William Webb’s house; the series of events that brought John Brown to Detroit; and the intellectual anti-slavery approaches of Douglass and Brown.

David Reynolds, Biographer
John Brown traveled to Detroit with eleven former enslaved people that were seeking freedom in Canada. The audience will learn about the experience of freedom seekers who crossed the border into Canada. Descendants of the 1859 meeting participants, including a descendant of a former enslaved person who traveled to Detroit with John Brown, are among the presenters.

The symposium features a keynote address by David S. Reynolds, distinguished professor of English and U. S. History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Reynolds is the author of “John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights.”

Source: "Historic Detroit Meeting to be the subject of symposium." Forever Titans (Detroit Mercy), Feb. 18, 2019. (https://bit.ly/2TNoMrc)

Listen to David's interview with Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today (WDET) (https://bit.ly/2FaOP3p)




Friday, March 01, 2019

Rich Smyth's Where Are They Now: BLEEDING KANSAS (PART 2)

This month’s story is a continuation of "BLEEDING KANSAS" (Dec. 22, 2018)


Charles W. Dow died at the hands of Franklin Coleman. There is some confusion over the exact date of the shooting. One source says Dow died on November 21st 1855 while others say December 20th. Dow's tombstone in Oakwood Cemetery reads December 20th 1855. According to the Lawrence Herald of Freedom newspaper, Dow's obituary says November 21st.1


Original Sign Marking Dow Cemetery
(courtesy of
Bhall87 - https://bit.ly/2Xv6ABD)  
According to one source, Coleman raised his shotgun, aimed at Dow, and pulled the trigger. The percussion cap exploded but the gun did not discharge. Dow heard the noise and turned to Coleman, motioning with his arms and imploring him not to fire. Coleman replaced the exploded cap with a fresh one, aimed, and pulled the trigger again. The gun fired and Dow dropped dead in the road, having been hit in the chest by at least nine lead slugs.2  Dow was initially buried on his land claim but was later moved to Baldwin City's Oakwood Cemetery.  The cemetery is located on North 200 Road between 6th and 3rd Streets in Baldwin.
Charles W. Dow is buried in Oakwood Cemetery – Baldwin City, Kan.
(courtesy of Find A Grave contributor MrPeepers #46934056)

Replacement sign by the Santa
Fe Trail Historical Society
(courtesy of Find A Grave contributor
Brian #46966868)
 
  




James Burnett Abbott
James Burnett Abbott was one of the original settlers and Free-state activists in Kansas. During his life he worked as a teacher, shoemaker, representative and senator in the State Legislature, Indian agent, director of the Kansas State Historical Society, also involved in private business ventures, including the Leavenworth, De Soto, and Fort Scott Bridge Company along with the Western Medical and Chemical Company.3  

James was married twice. His first wife, Amanda Atwood died in 1851. The following year he married Elizabeth Watrous. They had nine children: Nellie Maria (1853-1858). Mabel (1856-1856), Willie (1858-1858), Lella (1859-1860), Katie (1864-1884), Burnett “Burnie” (1862-1864), Mattie (1867-1871), Frank (1868-1870) and Bell (1871-1909).

Abbott is buried in DeSoto Cemetery –
DeSoto, Kansas
(courtesy of Find A Grave contributor
Kathy Ross #47009468)
    
James died on March 2nd 1897 in Desoto. Kansas and was buried in DeSoto Cemetery within the city, lot 112. He was 79 years old.

Elizabeth died two years later on July 23, 1899 and is buried alongside her husband. All of their children are buried with them in the same plot.

James Abbott and his wife Elizabeth are marked by the stone in middle; Katie is on left; memorial with children's names on right.

The cemetery is located on West 87th Street in the town of Desoto.

It is not known when or where
Jacob Branson died or where he is buried
Jacob Branson was born in Ohio in 1807. He was an Indiana pioneer and Kansas Abolitionist. It appears Jacob was married twice. The first was to Polly Allen. He then married Lydia Jane Ward (1808-?), on February 20th 1827. Although it is believed that Jacob and Lydia did not have any children of their own, they adopted many.

Franklin Coleman claimed self-defense in the shooting of Charles Dow. He left his wife and child with friends and headed to Shawnee Mission to give himself up to the governor and also to avoid being captured by a Free-state mob. Indeed, a Free-state posse searched his claim and the house where his family had been staying, looking for him.

Henry Clay Pate
Coleman, not finding the governor at the territorial capitol surrendered to pro-slavery Sheriff Samuel Jones who released him on $500 bail. Franklin then moved his family to Westport, Missouri. On November 26, Coleman’s house in Kansas was burned to the ground.

Coleman returned to Kansas and was present at the Battle of Black Jack in which Henry Clay Pate, now leading a pro-slavery force succeeded in capturing three Free-state men.  In response, anti-slavery forces, led by John Brown, attacked Pate’s group near Baldwin City, Kansas on June 2nd 1856. 

After an intense three-hour battle, Pate and twenty-two of his men were defeated and taken prisoner by John Brown. As it became apparent that the pro-slavery militia was going to be routed, Coleman decided to kill the Free-state men who Pate and his men had earlier taken prisoner. As Coleman approached the tent where the prisoners were being held, they bolted, running for their lives. One, a Dr. Graham, a resident and founder of Prairie City, ran towards the Free-state lines. Coleman fired, and Graham was wounded twice, once in the thigh and once in the back, but he made it to safety. The injuries were not life threatening, and he would recover from his wounds. 

Coleman was never tried for killing Dow. After that, he disappears from the historical records.

There are two local legends about the demise of Coleman both concerning a cave located near Eisenhower Street in Baldwin, Kansas. 

The first has him being chased by Free-staters after the murder of Dow. He took refuge in a cave that collapsed when he began firing his gun. The other story is that Coleman was returning from the gold fields of Pikes Peak and was attacked by robbers, when he hid in the cave. Again, it collapsed killing him as he fired his gun.4  

It is not known where Franklin Coleman is buried or if his remains are still in the cave near Eisenhower Street in Baldwin, Kansas.

Charles Sumner, American politician and Massachusetts senator was the leader of the antislavery forces in that state. A bachelor, Charles was friendly with President Abraham Lincoln and friendlier with the President’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, often visiting her in the White House. 

After Lincoln’s death and the end of the Civil War he began a romantic relationship with Alice Mason Hooper, the widowed daughter-in-law of Massachusetts Representative Samuel Hooper. They married in October, 1866. There would be no children from the union and the marriage was a short, unhappy one. Almost immediately Alice began attending public events accompanied by a Prussian diplomat named Friedrich von Holstein. The marriage lasted less than a year.
Charles Sumner family plot,
Mount Auburn Cemetery –
Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Charles Sumner had been ill for quite some time prior to dying of a heart attack at his home in Washington, D.C., on March 11, 1874.

He was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, plot: Arethusa Path. The pallbearers included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Greenleaf Whittier.

Preston Smith Brooks was a Democratic Representative from South Carolina, and an advocate of slavery and states' rights. 

Preston Brooks
Image created by Adam B. Walter (1820-1875);
cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 02:14, 15
April 2015 (UTC) - Available from
the United States Library of Congress's
Prints and Photographs division.
He married Caroline Harper Means (1820–1843). While pregnant with their first child, Whitfield D. the birth proved complicated with both mother and child dying.

His second marriage was to Martha Caroline Means (1826-1901), his first wife’s cousin. There were three children from this marriage, Caroline Harper Bird Brooks (1849 - ?), Rosa Mcbee Brooks (1845 - ?), Mary Carroll Addison Brooks (1846-1881), Preston Brooks Smith Jr. (1854-?) and Sallie Means Brooks (1847-1851).  

Brooks died on January 27, 1857 unexpectedly from croup (viral infection of the upper airway). The official telegram announcing his death stated "He died a horrid death, and suffered intensely."

He was buried in Edgefield Village Cemetery - Edgefield, South Carolina along with second wife, Martha, and daughter, Sallie.



Of note is another Civil War figure buried in the same cemetery near Brooks; Lucy Petway Pickens. Known as the “Queen of the Confederacy”, she is the only female to be pictured on Confederate States currency. Lucy donated her jewelry to the cause and spent much effort aiding the Confederacy. Some claim she was the model for Scarlet O'Hara in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind. 
Brooks family plot - Edgefield Village Cemetery -
Edgefield, South Carolina
(courtesy of Find A Grave contributor
Scott F. Lewis.
 #46772895)   









Lucy’s husband was the Governor of South Carolina.

Edgefield Village Cemetery also known as Willow Brook Cemetery is located at 212 Church Street in the town of Edgefield.








=====================
Notes  

     1 Michael J. Malone, Douglas County Law Library, E-Mail Newsletter, Vol. 12, No. 9; September 2015, p. 6.

     2 Ibid.

    3 James Burnett Abbott Papers, 1815-1899, Kansas Historical Society - https://www.kshs.org/p/james-burnett-abbott-papers-1815-1899/13967

    4 Malone, Douglas County Law Library, E-Mail Newsletter.