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


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Rich Smyth's Where Are They Now? FREDERICK BROWN and HIS KILLER

Brown Cemetery, Osawatomie, Kan.
(Courtesy of Joy Reavis)
Frederick Brown died on August 30, 1856, shot by pro-slavery clergyman, Rev. Marvin White. Along with Frederick, three other abolitionists killed during the Battle of Osawatomie are buried beneath a monument erected in their memory at the “The Brown Cemetery” located at the corner at 9th and Main Streets in Osawatomie, Kansas. The name of Charles Kaiser who was captured and later executed has been etched on the stone, although his body was never recovered.  Frederick is buried in the Brown Cemetery, located at the corner at 9th & Main Streets in Osawatomie, Kansas.

The memory of Frederick Brown (1830-56) in the John Brown family narrative evokes both a sense of sympathy and tragedy.  Frederick was youngest of seven surviving children born to John Brown and his first wife, Dianthe Lusk (1801-32), of Hudson, Ohio, when the couple lived in New Richmond, Pa., near Meadville.  In following the custom of that time and community, Frederick was named after other members of the family. One of John Brown's half-brothers was named Frederick (1807-77). However, in a somewhat peculiar circumstance, he was also named for his sickly four-year-old brother, Frederick (1827-31), who was still living at the time he was born. Probably the firstborn Frederick was not expected to live long, but somehow lived long enough for another son to be born.  In expectation of the first Frederick's death, the second Frederick was named; the two young Fredericks lived together for several months until the first finally died at the end of March 1831.

A measure of speculation has long surrounded Frederick, particularly pertaining to his mental health and the claim of "insanity."  Boyd Stutler, a master of the primary sources relating to John Brown, provided a provisional sketch of Frederick. "From scraps gathered here and there," Stutler speculated that Frederick began to exhibit symptoms of instability and disturbance as a teenager.  Although the term "insanity" was overly used in the mid-19th century, it may be that Frederick suffered from some form of mental illness, because he seems to have had spells of being moody, depressed, and engaging in over-eating. John Brown's letters over the years are marked by passing references to Frederick's health, including a troubling reference in 1854 to him having undergone "a most terrible operation for his breach."  Whatever the "operation" involved (and I will not address the speculations surrounding this procedure), Frederick recovered his health later that  year sufficiently to drive some cattle out to Illinois, and afterward join his brothers in the Kansas Territory.

Frederick's Gravestone
(Courtesy of Joy Reavis)
Despite these personal shadows, Frederick seems to have had extended periods of normalcy in his life.  He wrote with a beautiful hand, managed livestock, and did not seem otherwise any less among his siblings.  Certainly, he was an avid abolitionist and racial egalitarian in the tradition of his father and grandfather, and in route to Kansas, Frederick did not hesitate to "talk liberty" to enslaved black people he met in Missouri.  According to the reminiscence of the Rev. Samuel Adair, the brother-in-law of John Brown, in Kansas, Frederick "was considered by those acquainted with him as an intelligent, judicious and active young man.  In the fall of 1855 he was elected a delegate to the Topeka constitutional convention, but was prevented by sickness from attending." Interestingly, too, while in Kansas, Frederick carried on correspondence with a young lady back in Ohio named Lucy Ellis, although events in the territory tragically prevented the twenty-six-year-old from ever enjoying the comforts of love and marriage.

In the summer of 1856, Frederick was caught off guard by an advance party for an invading horde of proslavery terrorists.  The party was led by Martin White, a radical proslavery Baptist "elder" from Missouri. White intentionally and maliciously shot Frederick down in cold blood; family members who found his body noted that his pistol was still in his holster and the holster snapped closed, so it is clear White was not menaced. John Brown quietly wept over his murdered "sufferer," and then gave his boots to another free state man who needed them.  Not long afterward, when "Reverend" White was within easy reach, Brown deferred taking revenge, reportedly declaring that he hoped that White had repented. 

When John Brown took his grandfather's memorial stone from Connecticut in 1857, he did not think it would serve as a gravestone.  His intention was to set it up as a monument recalling the sacrifices made by the Brown family for liberty--on one side, the original inscription of his grandfather Captain John Brown, who died in the so-called American Revolution in 1776, and on the verso side, an inscription in honor of his son Frederick, who fell in Kansas Territory eighty years later. It was only with his defeat at Harper's Ferry and sentence of death that he reconsidered the purpose of the stone to mark his own grave as well.--LD 

Martin White's Gravestone
(Courtesy of Jennifer Umland)
White, who shot Frederick Brown, died on April 21, 1862 and is buried in the White cemetery, Bates County, Missouri. He was fifty-nine years old. His wife, Kiturah (Kitty) Ann Fletcher White (1805-67), is buried with him. They had twelve children; James Fletcher (1823-1910), Sally (1823-?, may have died in infancy), John Wesley (1825-78), Griffin (1827-67), William George (1830-52), Guilford (1847-65), Robert (1838-53), Rhoda Jane White Whitehead (1838-65), Martha Custis White Slayback (1841-1906), Sarah Dulcina (1843-43), Louisa Vashti Scott (1845-65) and Jilson Gallation (1847-1934)

White was shot and killed by Charles Metz, alias Marshall Cleveland, an ex-Missouri penitentiary convict who wanted the Reverend’s mule. White refused and was killed.*   

The cemetery is located in Deepwater Township, Bates County, Missouri. From Butler, at the intersection of Business Highway 71 and County Highway H, go east 9 ½ miles, turn left (north) on gravel road (county road # 9003) and go1 ¼ miles, turn left (west) on gravel road (county road # 4254) and go 1/8 mile.  Cemetery is on north side of road.--Rich Smyth

 * Cleveland was an outlaw. On November 16th 1861, his gang robbed the Northrup and Union Banks in Kansas City. A posse made up of Company E, Sixth Kansas Cavalry, surrounded him near the Marais des Cygnes River and shot him. His wife placed a tombstone atop his grave in a St. Joseph cemetery on which was etched “One hero less on earth/ One angel more in heaven.”  The Missouri in the Civil War Message Board – Archive by Donald L. Gilmore, November 10th 2006.  See "The Missouri in the Civil War Message Board" (http://bit.ly/2w8sVIR).

ALSO SEE "Forgotten Indictment for Frederick Brown's Murderer is Found in Kansas" (1 Sept. 2011)

No comments: