History, Research, and Current Themes

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

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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Archive Discovery--
Forgotten Indictment for Frederick Brown's Murderer is Found in Kansas

According to Annie Vangsnes, a reporter for the Miami County Republic, a newspaper/website based in Paola, Kansas, a museum director in that county recently came upon some important historical records relating to the Kansas episode of August 1856, when Frederick Brown and other free state men in Osawatomie were murdered by proslavery terrorists.

According to Vangsnes, Joe Hursey, the director of the Miami County Historical Museum "was digging through some boxes" in the museum, and came upon the records of Miami County, including grand jury indictments for 1856-1859.  Vangsnes says "Hursey was amazed to find the indictment of the Rev. Martin White, who was charged for murdering John Brown’s son, Frederick Brown.  White had agreed to act as a guide for proslavery forces entering the county for the Battle of Osawatomie."  Besides murdering Frederick Brown on sight, these terrorists also killed David Garrison in cold blood.  The record discovered by Hursey not only names White as Brown's murderer, but also names three men as Garrison's murderers: John Reed, John Bradbury and William Edwards. "Hursey said although the charges existed since 1856, no one was prosecuted until 1858 because many high offices were held by those with proslavery sympathies."  Vangsnes says the indictment for Martin White, a Methodist minister, was signed by B. F. Simpson, the first county prosecutor and later the youngest legislator in the history of Kansas.  Vangsnes says that these records were forgotten until Hursey came upon them.  Hursey concluded that the records show "that justice was taking place. There were men trying to prosecute.”  It's probably more correct to say that efforts at justice were made.  But these men were never prosecuted.  Contrary to the legend, the murderous Reverend Martin White was never felled by the bullet of a Brown ally.  He lived out his days, largely due to the determination by John Brown not to avenge his son's death.  This is an important theme when weighing the incidents of May 1856, wherein Brown is typically portrayed as a terrorist.  I hope that Tony Horwitz's forthcoming book will mention this fact.

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