History, Research, and Current Themes

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

Search This Blog & Links


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Rich Smyth's Where Are They Now? BEGINNINGS

Owen Brown, father
of John Brown
It seems as if John Brown was born fighting the evils of slavery. His father, Owen, believed that slavery was sinful. Owen worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and withdrew his support from Western Reserve College in Ohio because it refused to admit blacks. Owen once wrote, “Ever since, I have been an Abolitionist; I am so near the end of my life I think I shall die an Abolitionist.”1 

The son, inheriting his father’s traits was color blind, not physically but deep in his soul. He truly believed that all men were created equal, as directed by a higher authority than the United States Constitution which was less than truthful on the subject. That document, formulated by the countries founding fathers, many of which were slave owners, projected slaves as property with no rights whatsoever and as human beings…less than whole.2 

"I Consecrate My Life": Brown made
this daguerreotype image a decade
after making his Hudson vow
The issue of slavery began tearing at the fabric of the country from its humble beginnings. On November 7, 1837, a pro-slavery mob stormed a warehouse containing the printing press of Abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy. Confronting the armed crowd, Lovejoy was hit five times with slugs fired from a shotgun. The printing press was tossed out the window, then broken up and the pieces thrown in the Mississippi River. Abolitionists deplored the murder and called for action.3  

Laurens P. Hickok, a professor of theology at Western Reserve College spoke about the murder at the Hudson, Ohio’s Congregational Church stating, “The crisis has come.” John Brown quietly sitting in the church rose and raising his right hand pledged, “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery.”4  Like Father, like son. 

Elijah Lovejoy
His realization early on that the “peculiar institution” could not be ended peacefully with words, shaped his life. Brown would spend his whole adult life fighting slavery, first in Kansas where he fought pro-slavery forces Then in Missouri where he rescued slaves from their masters by gunpoint, escorting them north to freedom. And finally…the reckoning in Virginia.


Elijah Parish Lovejoy died on November 7, 1837 and is buried in Alton Cemetery in Alton, Illinois. The stone in front of his grave marker reads…”whose death at the hands of an angry mob…made him an enduring symbol of the fight for human liberty and freedom of the press.”5 
Lovejoy's resting place,
Alton Cemetery, Alton, Ill.
(courtesy Connie Nisinger)
Initially on November 9, 1837, Lovejoy was buried in an unmarked grave in the Alton City Cemetery. William “Scotch” Johnson, a Black man who assisted in the burial would be instrumental in locating the grave years later for reburial of the remains.  Decades had passed when his body was exhumed and reinterred in its present site in the Alton Cemetery, with the monument being dedicated on November 7, 1897, exactly sixty years after his murder.
Lovejoy's resting place, Alton, Ill.
(courtesy Connie Nisinger)
In 1835, Elijah married Celia Ann French, and they had two children; Edward Payton (1836-1891) and Ella F. Lovejoy Burrill (1854-1937). On March 19, 1835, Elijah wrote his mother describing Celia as “tall, well shaped, of a light, fair complexion, dark flaxen hair, large blue eyes, with features of a perfect Grecian contour. In short …very beautiful…pious…intelligent, refined…of agreeable manners…sweet-tempered, obliging, kind-hearted, industrious, good-humored, and possessed alike of a sound judgment and correct taste (and)…she loves me…”Celia died on July 11th 1870 in Weaverville, California. There is a cenotaph for her in Alton Cemetery. The exact location of her burial is not known. Alton cemetery is located at 600 Pearl Street, Alton, Illinois.


Hickok's resting place, Center 
Cemetery, Bethel, Conn. 
(Courtesy Gary Boughton

Find A Grave Contributor 

Laurens Perseus Hickok was the pastor that informed the congregation, including John Brown, of Lovejoy’s murder. Laurens was married to Elizabeth H. Taylor Hickcok (1805-1895). In 1866, he became president of Union College. Two years later he retired to Amherst, Massachusetts where he continued to study and write. A collection of his works was published in Boston in 1875. Hickok died on May 6, 1888 and was buried in Center Cemetery, Bethel, Connecticut.6  Elizabeth died on January 13, 1895 and was buried with her husband. Center Cemetery is located on South Street in Bethel, Connecticut.

Dr. Thomas Mordecai Hope (August 8th 1813 - October 15th 1885) claimed he was the one that murdered Elijah Lovejoy. In 1835, he married Elizabeth Pope, daughter of U.S. District Judge, Nathaniel Pope. In 1842 he was appointed U.S District Marshall. He ran for Governor of Illinois but was defeated. He was seventy-two-years-old when he died in Alton, Illinois. He is buried in Alton Cemetery (the same cemetery as Lovejoy), Alton, Illinois, block OY lot 296.

--Rich Smyth


      1 Quoted from Owen Brown’s 1850 autobiographical sketch in F. B. Sanborn, The Life and Letters of John Brown (1885; reprinted New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969), 11.

      2 The Three-Fifths Compromise, is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution, which reads:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
      3 “Elijah Parish Lovejoy Was Killed by a Pro-slavery Mob," The Saint Louis Observer, The Library of Congress; John Brown’s father, Owen opened a tannery in Hudson, Ohio. His apprentice was Jesse R. Grant, father of future general and U.S. President, Ulysses S. Grant.

      4 John Brown’s quote from David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist (New York: Knopf, 2005), 65; The following quotation is taken from Edward Brown, “Pioneer Days of the Western Reserve," Northwestern Congregationalist [Minneapolis] (Oct. 21, 1892)
Among the earliest of the pioneers at Hudson, O., was Owen Brown, my father's brother, in after years a trustee, of Oberlin College. His eldest son, John, a very bright and energetic young man, making a religious profession at sixteen years of age, was desirous of studying for the ministry, incited thereto chiefly by that ardent founder of the American Board, Samuel J. Mills, a kinsman. Unable to furnish him money, his father gave him two horses, which he took, riding one and leading the other, to Connecticut and sold. Then he went to Plainfleld, Mass., where, at an academy and under the private instruction of one Moses Hallock, he was fitted to enter the junior class of Yale College, which he was prevented from doing by a chronic disease of the eyes. . . . With his father he was among the earliest of Abolitionists. He had been a surveyor in the mountains near Harper's Ferry, Virginia and had often remarked that, with a good leader, the slaves, escaping to those fastnesses and fortifying themselves, could compel emancipation.
      5 "Shooter Arrested," The Utica Morning Herald [N.Y.], Sept. 22, 1862. "Dr. Thomas Mordecai Hope, of Alton, Illinois, who boasts that he was the man who shot the anti-slavery martyr, Lovejoy, was arrested a few weeks since for using treasonable language."

      6 Ancestry.com gives the date of Hickok's death as May 7, 1888.

No comments: