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Friday, April 26, 2019

Rich Smyth's Where Are They Now? RICHARD REALF

Richard Realf (June 14, 1832-Oct. 28, 1878) was a poet, journalist and newspaper correspondent. He helped plan the raid on Harper's Ferry. His life consisted of adventure, vagrancy, idealism and romance. An Abolitionist and complicated man, above all he was a romantic. 

Richard Realf (Library of Congress)
Some of John Brown’s contemporaries and even today’s historians label Realf a traitor to the Abolitionist cause. After Brown’s execution Realf was arrested and testified before the Senate Committee Investigating the Attack at Harper's Ferry, which resulted in what would become known as the Mason Report. Realf named names and in a private letter was critical of Brown.1

Growing up in England as a young child protégée in poetry, he was introduced into upper class English society. In 1853 Lady Byron, wife of George Gordon (Lord) Byron assisted Richard in obtaining training in estate management by having him apprentice on one of her land holdings in Leichestershire.2

Lady Byron’s nephew was the current steward of the property and Richard lived with the family.  Caroline Noel a young blue-eyed, blonde had come to live with her uncle, the current steward, after both her parents succumbed to diphtheria.3

Soon, Richard (21 years old) and Caroline (14 years old) were meeting in the library at night. They held hands, kissed and exchanged locks of hair, his dark, hers honey blonde.4

One day on the way back from a local fair, the two stopped in the forest and it was from that encounter that Caroline became pregnant.5 

Regardless of protests that he loved her and wished to marry her, he was forced to leave the estate and not return.

Though he would never forget his first love, dejectedly, he left Europe for the United States.

Arriving in New York, he worked as a missionary in a lower Manhattan Bowery slum before joining a party of Free-state emigrants to Kansas, where he became a correspondent for several eastern newspapers sending back dispatches of the anti-slavery struggle.

It was in Kansas that Richard met John Brown, joining forces and accompanying him to Canada where he was to be secretary of state in Brown’s provisional government.

When John Brown launched his raid on Harpers Ferry in October, 1859, Realf was in Texas.  He was arrested as an accomplice and sent to Washington, D.C. where he testified before the committee investigating the raid.

During the Civil War (1862) he enlisted in the 88th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. On June 10th 1865 he married Sophia Emily Graves whom he met in Indiana. While he was away they communicated frequently and appeared to be very much in love. But, during the course of his travels, he met a belle of Washington society and was smitten. When the war ended, he moved to the capitol where he was also commissioned in a colored regiment until mustering out in 1866. He never saw Sophia again.6 

Sophia died in October 1882 at the age of 52 in Merriville, Indiana.

On October 26th 1867 he married Catherin (or Catherine) Cassidy of Rochester, New York. Realf later claimed to have been intoxicated during the ceremony to Catherin. This marriage was a nightmare for Realf and he filed for divorce. One writer, who did not have nice things to say about the wife, classified Catherin as a prostitute.7 

In 1868 he established a school for freedmen in South Carolina.

Winsor House (1892) then located on the
SW corner, 9th and Washington
(Oakland Public Library, 
History Room and Maps Division
)
His third marriage (between 1871-1875), was a common law marriage to Lizzie Whappen (AKA Elizabeth “Lizzie” Whapham or Eliza Wapham “1846-1926”) who bore him four children. Only later did he learn that his divorce from Catherin did not go through and he was still legally married to her. A bit crazed and knowing Catherin would cause him and his family trouble, he fled to San Francisco and rented a room with a family named Meade on Mission Street while working at the U.S. mint. He hoped to bring Lizzie and the children west and escape the reaches of his second wife.8

One night upon returning to his room, he found Catherin Cassidy waiting for him. He immediately fled the city finding accommodations at the Winsor House in Oakland, California. He spent his last money for a bottle of laudanum and drank it in his room. Waiting for the poison to have its effect, he wrote a final poem on scraps of paper. The last lines (see below) were blurred by the poison which had numbed his hand.


And all His arching skies were in eclipse.
He was a-weary, but he fought his fight
     And stood for simple manhood; and was joyed
To see the august broadening of the light.
     And new earths heaving heav'nward from the void.
He loved his fellows, and their love was sweet—
     Plant daisies at his head and at his feet.

The poison worked as intended and Realf died on October 28th 1878. Along with the poem was a letter to his friend Richard Josiah Hinton (Abolitionist and John Brown biographer) in which he issued the following request concerning Catherin Cassidy:
On no account is the person calling herself my wife to be permitted to approach my remains. I should quiver with horror, even in my death, at her touch. . . . I have had heavy burdens to bear, such as have sent stronger men than I reeling into hell. I have tried to bear them like a man, but can endure no more.
He also wrote out his last will and testament:

Oakland, Cal. Oct. 28, 1878
I, Richard Realf, poet, orator, journalist, workman, do hereby declare that I have deliberately accepted suicide as the only final relief from the incessant persecutions of my divorced wife… My poems and the MS of certain lectures to be found scattered promiscuously in my room, on the table, and in my trunk, are to be put in the possession of Gen. John F. Miller, who at his discretion will, or will not, surrender them to Col. R.J. Hinton, of the Post… But…she…who once bore my name, and who is now in San Francisco, must on no account be informed of the residence of my wife, who would be in constant danger…Now, God bless all. God pardon me as I pardon all. I love Gen. John F. Miller, Col. Tappan, Col. Hinton, Mr. Mariner Kent, John Finigan, E. Levy, Col. J.J. Lyon, and many others. There is, or should be, a tied lock of hair in the form of a rude bracelet, lying on the bathroom window sill of my boarding house. I should be glad to have it placed around my wrist.
Richard Realf
(Source: Richard J. Hinton, Richard Realf,
Poet…Soldier…Workman
[1898
]
The bracelet of blonde hair, now a quarter of a century old was the gift of Richard’s first true love.  He had kept the relic through all his travels, his turmoil’s and other loves. To be buried with Caroline’s hair was his last request. The bracelet was placed with Realf in his grave.

  
Rich Smyth

The author has included information obtained from Helen Delay, "Richard Realf, Poet and Soldier," The Home Monthly, May 8, 1899, pp. 10-11. [digital version: http://bit.ly/2W3XNFK]

*     *     *

Richard Realf was originally buried in Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery plot 100F.  He was reinterred in San Francisco National Cemetery on January 31st 1933, section OSA, row 72, grave #4, located in the Presidio of San Francisco, California.

The address of the cemetery is 1 Lincoln Boulevard, Presidio of San Francisco. The cemetery is located in the northern section of San Francisco. From San Francisco International Airport, take Hwy. 101 North to San Bruno/Hwy. 380 exit to Highway. 280 North. Take 19th Ave., exit (approximately 50 yards from the Golden Gate Toll Plaza). Yield right to Lincoln Blvd. Turn left onto Lincoln Blvd. and continue to the corner of Lincoln and Sheridan Blvds. 

(John Brown/Boyd Stutler Collection – West Virginia Division of Culture and History

-----
Notes

     1 In the preface to The Public Life of Capt. John Brown (Boston: Thayer & Eldridge, 1860), James Redpath labeled Richard Realf a Judas (p. 10).

      2 George Rathmell, A Passport to Hell, The Mystery of Richard Realf (Author's Choice/ iUniverse, 2002), pp. 21-25.

      3 Ibid.

      4 Ibid.

      5 Ibid.

      6 Sophia received letters from Richard including the last one on February 24,1866 saying he was on his way home after the war and mustering out. She never heard from or saw him again. In the 1880 census she was living with her younger sister Louisa Maria Graves and her husband Edwin Leigh Furness in Furnessville, Indiana. Sophia was fifty years old and teaching school.

      7 John Stauffer, "Richard Realf (1834-1878)," in The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery Vol. 1.  Edited by Junius P. Rodriguez (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, Inc.), pp. 435-36.

      8 Eliza Ann Whapham and Richard had four children; Richard (1875-1950), Alice (1878-?) Mabel (1878-?) and Minnie (1878-1971).



Thursday, April 11, 2019

Historical Real Estate: Salmon Brown's Home Up for Sale in Portland

The beautifully renovated home of Salmon Brown is currently on sale in Portland, Oregon.  Salmon was the seventh of John Brown's sons (who survived infancy), and lived out his days in the northwest, dying in this house in 1919.

The house, originally constructed in 1905, is listed by Zillow as a three bedroom and two bathrooms, has 2,250 square feet and is located at 8052 NE Couch Street, in Portland.  When Salmon lived there a century ago, the home was listed as 2024 East Couch Street.


Above, the Salmon Brown house in 2019 (Zillow)
Center, Salmon Brown gardening in front of the house in 1917
Below, another view of the Salmon Brown house in 2019 (Zillow)


Young Salmon Brown
(Stutler Collection)
Salmon Brown was born to John and his second wife Mary Day Brown in 1836, in Hudson, Ohio.  He took part in the drama in territorial Kansas in 1856, but did not follow his father to Harper's Ferry three years later.  In Kansas, he was one of the bold men gathered by John Brown to kill five proslavery conspirators, executing them in the vicinity of Pottawatomie Creek in May 1856.  The following month, Salmon fought in the the Battle of Palmyra (better known as The Battle of Black Jack) on June 2, 1856.  Afterward he accidentally wounded himself by gunshot, but survived to return east with his father and brothers and their families.  After returning to the Brown homestead in North Elba, New York, Salmon, now twenty-one-years-old, married Abbie Hinckley (b. 1839) on October 15, 1857, about two years before the Harper's Ferry raid. In 1864, Salmon accompanied his mother and sisters westward and ultimately settled in Oregon.


In 1919, at the age of eighty-two, Salmon apparently grew despondent after being laid up in bed with illness, and on May 10--the day after his famous father's 119th birthday--Salmon shot himself once again, this time deliberately, and this time taking his own life.  According to local press reports, such as theOregon Daily Journal, he used a .44 caliber pistol that had belonged to his father.1  Of his suicide, a confidant of Salmon concluded:
When I put myself in his place and think of how he, month after month, for years, from the same bed looked at the same four walls and realized as the days dragged slowly by that he might be for many more years a burden to his loved ones, I cannot feel it in my heart to judge him harshly.2
A sad footnote to his death is found in an article that appeared later the same year in Portland's Daily Journal, noting that Salmon's son--named for his grandfather John Brown--had been "bound over to the federal grand jury" for narcotics abuse.  This John Brown was a practicing dentist in Portland, and reportedly was quite unhappily married to a troublesome wife who allegedly had driven him to "seek surcease" from these difficulties in narcotics. Beside his abuse of prescription forms to obtain drugs, Brown enjoyed an "otherwise splendid reputation," and  promised that he would stop the use of narcotics, leading the court to release him on his own recognizance.3  Hopefully he was able to follow through on his promise.
=====
Sources

   1 “John Brown’s Son Bedridden Invalid For Several Years Dies By Own Hand; Octogenarian Uses Revolver Believed to Have Been Relic of Harper’s Ferry Raid,” Oregon Daily Journal, May 11, 1919, p. 1.
      2 Fred Lockley, “Observations and Impressions of the Journal Man,” Oregon Daily Journal, May 29, 1919, p. 8.
      3 "Man Says He Used Narcotics Because Wife Hounded Him," Oregon Daily Journal, Oct. 4, 1919, p. 2.