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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, September 04, 2010

FREDERICK and the LION: John Brown’s Murdered Son and His Killer

Why has white society made this man the
poster boy for "terrorism"?
John Brown’s role in the Pottawatomie so-called “massacre” of May 1856 is constantly held up as a case of so-called terrorism even though his critics never discuss the real circumstances of the case.  This is especially true of the myriad unqualified and ignorant people making random comments about Brown on “information” websites, on-line newspapers, and blogs across the country.  It is clear that there is an anti-Brown bias in this culture, particularly in “white” society.  Typically, this bias is inherited from family and community cultures, learned from school textbooks, or imbibed from novels, History Channel documentaries, or other popular venues produced by people with the very same biases.

[The complete entry is available only in the forthcoming book, John Brown: Emancipator]

Osawatomie Notebook
Martin White Murders Frederick Brown

Emma Adair — the daughter of the Rev. Samuel Adair and Florella Brown Adair, the half-sister of John Brown — witnessed the Battle of Osawatomie on Aug. 30, 1856. She was a child at the time, but the memory of the battle was burned into her mind for the rest of her life. 

She reported that Brown’s son Frederick had returned to Osawatomie from Lawrence on Aug. 29, with messages from Jim Lane, a free-state leader. That night, Frederick Brown visited with the Rev. Adair, saying he would come back in the morning to get any letters the pastor wanted him to take to Lawrence for the mail.

Emma reported that much to the Adair family’s horror, they discovered the next morning that Frederick Brown had been shot by proslavery scouts.

“We were awakened the next morning by firing and the sounds of horses’ feet moving rapidly past our cabin,” she wrote. “My father hastened out with his cousin, David Garrison, who had been sleeping in the north part of our cabin. They soon discovered the body of Fred Brown lying in the rode to the southeast of our house. He had been shot by one of a number of scouts sent in before daybreak to reconnoiter and to find if the town was unprotected, as they had been informed by a Mr. Hughes who lived there.”
Emma Adair recalled more details about the death. 

“So Fred Brown was the first victim on the day of the Battle of August 30, 1856,” she stated. “One of the young men, the one who slept with him that night, told afterwards that Fred said he would get up early, feed their horses, go over to Uncle Adair’s for breakfast and the letters, and be ready to start on their return to Lawrence. 

“As he came into to the road, the men riding from the direction of the town came up. Fred, thinking that they were friends, said, ‘Good morning boys. Are you going to Lawrence today? It seems I ought to know you.’ One of those scouts, called Martin White or old preacher White, replied, ‘I know you,’ and fired a shot into his heart.”

Frederick Brown’s body lay where he was killed by the Rev. Martin White until the evening of Aug. 30. “All that day,” Emma Adair wrote, “the body of Fred Brown had lain in the burning sun by the roadside. Settlers living south of the Pottawatomie had watched the burning of the town from the high hills, and when they saw that the enemy had departed, they hastened in to help gather up the wounded and the dead. Fred Brown’s body was brought into the north part of our cabin.”

Emma Adair later married J.B. Remington and was instrumental in preserving the site of the Battle of Osawatomie, now John Brown Memorial Park. Frederick Brown is buried under the soldiers’ monument at Ninth and Main streets, the first casualty of the battle.

John Brown’s Nephew, Charles Adair: An Unsung Hero of Osawatomie

Charles Adair, the son of the Rev. Samuel and Florella Brown Adair, is an unsung hero of the Battle of Osawatomie. 

When Samuel Adair found that the Rev. Martin White, the lead scout for a proslavery force, had shot Frederick Brown, he and his cousin, David Garrison, saw that the proslavery force was headed for town. The reverend sent his 13-year-old son, Charles, to ride to town and warn John Brown.

Emma Adair, the reverend’s daughter, reported that “when my father and Garrison discovered the body of Fred, my father ran back to our house, saddled and bridled our horse and started my 13-year-old brother to town to warn the people.”

Luke Parsons, a free-state guerilla who fought beside John Brown at the Battle of Osawatomie, gave a more detailed account of Charles Adair’s ride to warn Osawatomie’s citizens in a speech later to the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic (He stated that Charles Adair was 12 at the time of the battle). 
“There were 30 houses in the town , each containing one family, sometimes two,” Parsons said. “Brown expected they [the proslavery militia] would come from the east and therefore camped east of town, but had his pickets out both ways. They made a night march circling around the town, and came in from the west. 

“They killed two of our pickets in that direction which were posted near the Adair house. This was about daylight. Charles Adair, a boy of 12 years, was sent on his little pony to arouse the town and tell John Brown that the border ruffians were coming. We were camped east of town where the asylum now stands. And we were just getting our breakfast when we saw the little fellow coming up the hill on his pony under the whip. Brown recognized his nephew, and knowing he must have an important message, stepped out to meet him. Charlie shouted that the border ruffians are coming and have killed cousin Fred and Mr. Garrison.”

Because of Charles Adair’s courageous ride, the citizens of Osawatomie were warned and able to flee to safety, and John Brown and his free-state guerrillas were able to take a stand in present-day John Brown Memorial Park on Aug. 30, 1856, and defend the town from John Reid’s 200 to 400 proslavery militia men. Charles went on to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War and became an Osawatomie business owner. 

His courageous ride makes him one of Osawatomie’s unsung heroes, and we owe him a debt of gratitude and respect.

— Grady Atwater is administrator of John Brown State Historic Site, Osawatomie, Kan.

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