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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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Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Brown Fought In Spite of Unfavorable Odds

Luke Parsons* was an abolitionist who fought alongside John Brown at the Battle of Osawatomie on Aug. 30, 1856. Parsons delivered a speech in the town on “John Brown’s Day” on Aug. 30, 1913, and at the time was the last living survivor of the Battle of Osawatomie living in Kansas.

Parsons stated that John Reid and his pro-slavery force’s purpose in attacking here was to “destroy the town of Osawatomie and arrest John Brown and his little band, charging them with treason.”

According to Parsons, Brown was aware that he could not win the Battle of Osawatomie. He said that “Brown, through his spies and scouts, knew they were coming, knew their strength and purpose, and with his small band could offer but feeble resistance.”

Brown was most concerned about the safety of the citizens of Osawatomie and told Parsons: “We must save the women and children first, and then save ourselves if we can. We will attract their attention while the men get their families out of danger.”

Brown’s willingness to die for his abolitionist beliefs is made clear when he gave the order to “take more pains to end life well than to live long.”

Brown’s first plan was for Parsons to take 10 men and make a stand in a blockhouse while Brown and his men fired at the pro-slavery flank from the trees along the Marais des Cygnes River. However, when Parsons and his men observed that the pro-slavery force had a cannon that could blow the blockhouse to smithereens, they abandoned the structure.

Parsons reported that Brown “conducted this battle coolly, courageously and well. He showed no fear whatever.”

He also observed that Brown placed his men in the timber so Reid and his pro-slavery force did not know how many men Brown had with him. The pro-slavery forces initially charged Brown’s forces on horseback, but the charge failed, and Parsons noted: “There was never a better opportunity to shoot men, they in plain sight, mounted on green horses, trying to form a new line.” This gave ample time for Brown’s men to aim and fire, and Parsons could “see them fall all along the line until they got wise enough to dismount.”

The pro-slavery forces’ cannon proved to be no real threat, as Parsons reported: “The cannon bothered them more than us, for they fired too high.”

However, Parsons went on to say that “their overwhelming numbers began to tell to their advantage. They pressed us back slowly, we falling back one at a time until it got too hot for us, but we kept up the line well until we got to the riverbank; here. we gave way altogether, to take a new position in a log house on the other bank. “Brown waited there to fight on, but the pro-slavery forces rode into Osawatomie and sacked and burned the town.”

Grady Atwater is the esteemed curator and tourism director of the city of Osawatomie, Kansas, and an important grassroots scholar of John Brown studies. We are always delighted to publish his articles, which play a major role in keeping Brown's Kansas legacy alive in this generation.--LD

John Brown Museum Receives $92,000 for Building Repair

As the rain came down Aug. 26, a crew of workers scrambled to cover the roof of John Brown Museum with a tarp to keep the water from leaking through the unfinished roof.

Still, things are in much better condition than they were even two years ago, said Grady Atwater, administrator of John Brown State Historic Site.

The museum is receiving a $92,000 overhaul that will be completed during the next two years in three phases — the first of which involves the repair of a leaky roof, an issue Atwater has been talking about since 2005.

“I vividly remember the day,” said Atwater of his first encounter with the leak. He was a volunteer at the time.

“I looked around, and it was leaking all around, pouring down the walls,” he said.

But that was nothing compared with the woes he and countless others in Osawatomie faced during the 2007 flood.

“Water was about one inch above the ground (around the museum),” Atwater said. “I was in here literally pushing water away from the cabin.”

After vigorously lobbying the Kansas State Historical Society for the funding needed to fix the building, the issue was finally put on the front burner in 2008, when federal stimulus funding allowed the project to be put into motion. The work was handled by a crew from J.A. Lyden, a Topeka-based construction company that specializes in work on historic buildings. Crew superintendent Troy Carpenter said the group has been working on the roof since Aug. 12, and he hopes to have the first phase of the project completed by the end of September.

In the second phase of the project, an underground drainage-tile system will be installed around the museum to divert water away from the structure, and all the windows and doors will be replaced in the final phase.

Atwater said the available funding may not be sufficient to fully complete the last phase of the project, meaning donations to the museum are still as important as ever.

But, he said, the project is worth every penny.

“The only other cabin (people have) taken this much care to preserve belonged to Abraham Lincoln,” Atwater said of the Adair Cabin in the museum. “We have to protect this cabin; it’s a precious cabin.”

John Brown Memorial Park
10th and Main Streets
Osawatomie, Kansas 66064
September 19-20, 2009

Freedom Festival Arts and Crafts Fair, Frontier Artisans, Children's Activities, and Food Vendors

Program Summary

Saturday Sept. 19
10 a.m. Civil War weapons and drill demonstration
11 a.m. Debbie Shadden and Pony Express
1 p.m. Civil War weapons and drill demonstration
1:30 p.m. Florella Adair, portrayed by Mary Buster
2:00 p.m. Abraham Lincoln, portrayed by Tom Leahy
3:00 p.m. John Brown, portrayed by Kerry Altenbernd
4:00 p.m. Reenactment of the Battle of Osawatomie

Sunday Sept. 20
10 a.m. Church service in John Brown Memorial Park
11 a.m. Todd Mildfelt, Civil War era music
12 p.m. The Lecompton Reenactors play "Bleeding Kansas"
1 p.m. Reenactment of a Civil War battle between Confederate Partisans and Union Troops
2 p.m. Mary Jane Richie, abolitionist, underground railroad conductor, portrayed by Anne Hawkins
3 p.m. Amelia Earhart, portrayed by Ann Birney
1-5 p.m., Army National Guard Climbing Wall

Contact info: 913.755.4384 or adaircabin@kshs.org


Unknown said...

Exciting news about the museum. I will look forward to visiting there next time we are in Kansas. I am fascinated by the the Freedom Festival. Looks like a great event, and I wish I could be in two places at once. I wonder if there is any chance that some of the stage presentations might be video-recorded and that you might be able to get some of them linked through this blog site, such as you have with the other You Tube links? -Greg Artzner

Unknown said...

feel free to post responses to my email. -Greg Artzner