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Chapter 5: North Elba.

John Brown and his family removed to North Elba, in Essex County, New York, in 1849. It was about this time that Mr. Gerritt Smith, the eminent philanthropist, offered to colored settlers his wild lands in that district of the Adirondack wilderness. Many of them accepted the offer, and went there to make the experiment.

“At this period,” writes a friend, “John Brown appeared one day at Peterboroa, and said to Mr. Smith: ‘I see, by the newspapers, that you have offered so many acres of wild land to each of the colored men, on condition that they cultivate them. Now, they are mostly inexperienced in this kind of work, and unused to the climate, while I am familiar with both. I propose, therefore, to take a farm there myself, clear it and plant it, showing the negroes how such work should be done. I will also employ some of them on my land, and will look after them in all ways, and will be a kind of father to them.’ Mr. Smith accepted the generous proposal, gave John Brown the land, and allowed him to make the experiment, although he had never before seen him.”

So far as the negroes were concerned, this proved a failure, but through no fault of John Brown's. He did his part faithfully by them.

Captain Brown had a higher notion of the capacity of the negro race than most white men. I have often heard him dwell on this subject, and mention instances of their fitness to take care of themselves, [60] saying, in his quaint way, that” they behaved so much like folks that he almost thought they were so. “He thought that perhaps a forcible separation of the connection between master and slave was necessary to educate the blacks for self-government; 1 but this he threw out as a suggestion merely.”

The home of John Brown, and the romantic region around it, have been visited by a scholar worthy of the original, whose translation of their grandeur, physical and moral, into the English language, makes the journey henceforward unnecessary,--save only for “instruction in godliness.” We see both the glory of the mountains, and the grandeur of the faith that animates its greatest family, in the vivid and touching description of a visit to the home of John Brown, herewith subjoined,-- from the true and worthy pen of Thomas Wentworth Higginson. No woman can read it without being deeply moved; and if there be a man who can do so--God pity him.

The route to North Elba.

The traveller into the enchanted land of the Adirondack has his choice of two routes from Keeseville to the Lower Saranac Lake, where his out-door life is to begin. The one least frequented and most difficult should be selected, for it has the grandest mountain pass that the Northern States can show. After driving twenty-two miles of mountain road from Keeseville, past wild summits bristling with stumps, and through villages where every other man is black from the iron foundery, and every alternate one black from the charcoal pit, your pathway makes a turn at the little hamlet of Wilmington, and you soon find yourself facing a wall of mountain, with only glimpses of one wild gap through which you must penetrate. In two miles more you have passed the last house this side the Notch, and you then drive on over a rugged way, constantly ascending, with no companion but the stream which ripples and roars below. Soon the last charcoal clearing is past, and thick woods of cedar and birch [61] close around you-the high mountain on your right comes nearer and nearer, and close beside, upon your left, are glimpses of a wall, black and bare as iron, rising sheer for four hundred feet above your head. Coming from the soft marble country of Vermont, and from the pale granite of Massachusetts, there seems something weird and forbidding in this utter blackness. On your left the giant wall now appears nearer — now retreats again; on your right foams the merry stream, breaking into graceful cascades — and across it the great mountain White—face, seamed with slides. Now the woods upon your left are displaced by the iron wall, almost touching the road-side; against its steep abruptness scarcely a shrub can cling, scarcely a fern flutter; it takes your breath away; but five miles of perilous driving conduct you through it; and beyond this stern passway, this cave of iron, lie the lovely lakes and mountains of the Adirondack, and the homestead of John Brown.

The homestead and its ornaments.

The Notch seems beyond the world, North Elba and its half dozen houses are beyond the Notch, and there is a wilder little mountain road which rises beyond North Elba. But the house we seek is not even on that road, but behind it and beyond it; you ride a mile or two, then take down a pair of bars; beyond the bars, faith takes you across a half-cleared field, through the most difficult of wood-paths, and after half a mile of forest you come out upon a clearing. There is a little frame house, unpainted, set in a girdle of black stumps, and with all heaven about it for a wider girdle; on a high hill-side, forests on north and west,--the glorious line of the Adirondacks on the east, and on the south one slender road leading off to Westport, a road so straight that you could sight a United States marshal for five miles.

There stands the little house, with no ornament nor relief about it — it needs none with the setting of mountain horizon. Yes, there is one decoration which at once takes the eye, and which, stern and misplaced as it would seem elsewhere, seems appropriate here. It is a strange thing to see any thing so old, where all the works of man are new! but it is an old, mossy, time worn tombstone--not marking any grave, not set in the ground — but resting against the house as if its time were either past or not yet come. Both are true — it has a past duty and a future one. It bears the name of Captain John Brown, who died during the Revolution, eighty-three years ago; it was his tombstone brought hither by his grandson bearing the same name and title; the latter caused to be inscribed upon it, also, the name of his son Frederick, “murdered at Osawatamie for his adherence to the cause of freedom,” (so reads the inscription;) and he himself has said, for years, that no other tombstone should mark his grave. [62]

For two years, now, that stone has stood there — no oath has been taken upon it, no curses been invoked upon it — it marks the abode of a race who do not curse. But morning and noon, as the sons have gone out to their work on that upland farm, they have passed by it; the early light over the Adirondacks has gilded it, the red reflection of sunset has glowed back upon it; its silent appeal has perpetually strengthened and sanctified that home — and as the two lately wedded sons went forth joyfully on their father's call to keep their last pledge at Harper's Ferry, they issued from that doorway between their weeping wives on the one side and that ancestral stone upon the other.

The farm, and why John Brown bought it.

The farm is a wild place; cold and bleak. It is too cold to raise corn there; they can scarcely, in the most favorable seasons, obtain a few ears for roasting. Stock must be wintered there nearly six months in every year. I was there on the first of November; the ground was snowy, and winter had apparently begun — and it would last till the middle of May. They never raise any thing to sell off that farm, except sometimes a few fleeces. It was well, they said, if they raised their own provisions, and could spin their own wool for clothing.

Do you ask why they lived in such a bleak spot? With John Brown and his family there is a reason for every thing, and it is always the same reason. Strike into their lives any where, and you find the same firm purpose at bottom, and to the widest questioning the same prompt answer comes ringing back,--the very motto of the tombstone--“For adherence to the cause of freedom.” The same purpose, nay, the selfsame project that sent John Brown to Harper's Ferry, sent him to the Adirondack.

Twenty years ago, John Brown made up his mind that there was an irrepressible conflict between Freedom and Slavery, and that in that conflict he must take his share. He saw at a glance, moreover, what the rest of us are only beginning to see, even now — that Slavery must be met, first or last, on its own ground. The time has come to tell the whole truth now-that John Brown's whole Kansas life was the result of this self-imposed mission, not the cause of it. Let us do this man justice; he was not a vindictive guerilla, nor a maddened Indian; nor was he of so shallow a nature that it took the death of a son to convince him that right was right, and wrong was wrong. He had long before made up his mind to sacrifice every son he ever had, if necessary, in fighting Slavery. If it was John Brown against the world, no matter; for, as his friend Frederick Douglass had truly said, “In the right, one is a majority.” On this conviction, therefore, [63] he deliberately determined, twenty years ago this summer, that at some future period he would organize an armed party, go into a Slave State, and liberate a large number of slaves. Soon after, surveying professionally in the mountains of Virginia, he chose the very ground for his purpose. Visiting Europe afterwards, he studied military strategy for this purpose, even making designs (which I have seen) for a new style of forest fortification, simple and ingenious, to be used by parties of fugitive slaves when brought to bay. He knew the ground, he knew his plans, he knew himself; but where should he find his men? He came to the Adirondack to look for them.

Ten years ago, Gerritt Smith gave to a number of colored men tracts of ground in the Adirondack Mountains. The emigrants were grossly defrauded by a cheating surveyor, who, being in advance of his age, practically anticipated Judge Taney's opinion, that black men have no rights which white men are bound to respect. By his villany the colony was almost ruined in advance; nor did it ever recover itself; though some of the best farms which I have seen in that region are still in the hands of colored men. John Brown heard of this; he himself was a surveyor, and he would have gone to the Adirondack, or any where else, merely to right this wrong. But he had another object; he thought that among these men he should find coadjutors in his cherished plan. He was not wholly wrong, and yet he afterwards learned something more. Such men as he needed are not to be found ordinarily; they must be reared. John Brown did not merely look for men, therefore; he reared them in his sons. During long years of waiting and postponement, he found others; but his sons and their friends (the Thompsons) formed the nucleus of his force in all his enterprises. What services the females of his family may have rendered, it is not yet time to tell; but it is a satisfaction to think that he was repaid for his early friendship to these New York colored men, by some valuable aid from freed slaves and fugitive slaves at Harper's Ferry; especially from Dangerfield Newby, who, poor fellow! had a slave wife and nine slave children to fight for, all within thirty miles of that town.

To appreciate the character of the family, it is necessary to know these things; to understand that they have all been trained from childhood on this one principle, and for this one special project; taught to believe in it as they believed in their God or their father. It has given them a wider perspective than the Adirondacks. Five years before, when they first went to Kansas, the father and sons had a plan of going to Louisiana, trying this same project, and then retreating into Texas with the liberated slaves. Nurtured on it so long, for years sacrificing to it all the other objects of life, the thought of its failure [64] never crossed their minds; and it is an extraordinary fact that when the disastrous news first came to North Elba, the family utterly refused to believe it, and were saved from suffering by that incredulity till the arrival of the next weekly mail.

A pause at the threshold.

I had left the world outside, to raise the latch of this humble door amid the mountains; and now my pen falters on the threshold, as my steps did then. This house is a home of sacred sorrow. How shall we enter it? Its inmates are bereft and ruined men and women, as the world reckons; what can we say to them? Do not shrink; you are not near the world; you are near John Brown's household. “ In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer: they have overcome the world.”

It had been my privilege to live in the best society all my life — namely, that of abolitionists and fugitive slaves. I had seen the most eminent persons of the age: several men on whose heads tens of thousands of dollars had been set; a black woman, who, after escaping from slavery herself, had gone back secretly eight times into the jaws of death to bring out persons whom she had never seen; and a white man, who, after assisting away fugitives by the thousand, had twice been stripped of every dollar of his property in fines, and when taunted by the Court, had mildly said, “ Friend, if thee knows any poor fugitive in need of a breakfast, send him to Thomas Garrett's door.” I had known these, and such as these; but I had not known the Browns. Nothing short of knowing them can be called a liberal education. Lord Byron could not help clinging to Shelley, because he said he was the only person in whom he saw any thing like disinterested benevolence. He really believed that that man would give his life for another. Poor Byron! he might well have exchanged his wealth, his peerage, and his genius for a brief training at North Elba.

Let me pause a moment, and enumerate the members of the family. John Brown was born in 1800, and his wife in 1816, though both might have been supposed older than the ages thus indicated. He has had in all twenty children--seven being the offspring of his first wife, thirteen of his second. Four of each race are living--eight in all. The elder division of the surviving family are John and Jason, both married, and living in Ohio; Owen, unmarried, who escaped from Harper's Ferry, and Ruth, the wife of Henry Thompson, who lives on an adjoining farm at North Elba, an intelligent and noble woman. The younger division consists of Salmon, aged twenty-three, who resides with his young wife in his mother's house, and three unmarried daughters, Anne, (sixteen,) Sarah, (thirteen,) and Ellen, (five.) [65] In the same house dwell also the widows of the two slain sons — young girls, aged but sixteen and twenty. The latter is the sister of Henry Thompson, and of the two Thompsons who were killed at Harper's Ferry; they also lived in the same vicinity, and one of them also has left a widow. Thus complicated and intertangled is this genealogy of sorrow.

“All these young men went deliberately from North Elba for no other purpose than to join in this enterprise. ” They could not, “ they told their mother and their wives, ” live for themselves alone; “ and so they went. One young wife, less submissive than the others, prevailed on her husband to remain; and this is the only reason why Salmon Brown survives. Oliver Brown, the youngest son, only twenty, wrote back to his wife from Harper's Ferry in a sort of premonition of what was coming, , If I can do a single good action, my life will not have been all a failure.”

The family of John Brown.

Having had the honor of Captain Brown's acquaintance for some years, I was admitted into the confidence of the family, though I could see them observing me somewhat suspiciously as I approached the door. Every thing that was said of the absent father and husband bore testimony to the same simple, upright character. Though they had been much separated from him for the last few years, they all felt it to be a necessary absence, and had not only no complaint to make, but cordially approved it. Mrs. Brown had been always the sharer of his plans. “Her husband always believed,” she said, “that he was to be an. instrument in the hands of Providence, and she believed it too.” “This plan had occupied his thoughts and prayers for twenty years.” “ Many a night he had lain awake, and prayed concerning it.” “ Even now,” she did not doubt, “ he felt satisfied, because he thought it would be overruled by Providence for the best.” “ For herself,” she said, “she had always prayed that her husband might be killed in fight rather than fall alive into the hands of slaveholders; but she could not regret it now, in view of the noble words of freedom which it had been his privilege to utter.” When, the next day, on the railway, I was compelled to put into her hands the newspaper containing the death warrant of her husband, I felt no fears of her exposing herself to observation by any undue excitement. She read it, and then the tall, strong woman bent her head for a few minutes on the seat before us; then she raised it, and spoke calmly as before.

I thought that I had learned the lesson once for all in Kansas, which no one ever learns from books of history alone, of the readiness with which danger and death fit into the ordinary grooves of daily life, so that on the day of a battle, for instance, all may go on as [66] usual; breakfast and dinner are provided, children cared for, and all external existence has the same smoothness that one observes at Niagara, just above the American Fall; but it impressed me anew on visiting this household at this time. Here was a family out of which four noble young men had, within a fortnight, been killed. I say nothing of a father under sentence of death, and a brother fleeing for his life, but only speak of those killed. Now that word killed is a word which one hardly cares to mention in a mourning household circle, even under all mitigating circumstances, when sad unavailing kisses and tender funeral rites have softened the last memories; how much less here, then, where it suggested not merely wounds, and terror, and agony, but also coffinless graves in a hostile land, and the last ignominy of the dissecting room.

Yet there was not one of that family who could not pronounce that awful word with perfect quietness; never, of course, lightly, but always quietly. For instance, as I sat that evening, with the women busily sewing around me, preparing the mother for her sudden departure with me on the morrow, some daguerreotypes were brought out to show me, and some one said, “ This is Oliver, one of those who were killed at Harper's Ferry.” I glanced up sidelong at the young, fair-haired girl, who sat near me by the little table — a wife at fifteen, a widow at sixteen; and this was her husband, and he was killed. As the words were spoken in her hearing, not a muscle quivered, and her finger did not tremble as she drew the thread. For her life had become too real to leave room for wincing at mere words. She had lived through, beyond the word, to the sterner fact, and having confronted that, language was an empty shell. To the Browns, killing means simply dying — nothing more; one gate into heaven, and that one a good deal frequented by their family; that is all.

There was no hardness about all this, no mere stoicism of will; only God had inured them to the realities of things. They were not supported by any notions of worldly honor or applause, nor by that chilly reflection of it, the hope of future fame. In conversing with the different members of this family, I cannot recall a single instance of any heroics of that description. There, in that secluded home among the mountains, what have they to do with the world's opinion, even now, still less next century? You remember Carlyle and his Frenchman, to whom he was endeavoring to expound the Scottish Covenanters. “ These poor, persecuted people,” said Carlyle,--“they made their appeal.” “Yes,” interrupted the Frenchman, “they appealed to posterity, no doubt.” “Not a bit of it,” quoth Carlyle; “ they appealed to the Eternal God!” So with these whom I visited. I was :he first person who had penetrated their solitude from the outer [67] world since the thunderbolt had fallen. Do not imagine that they asked, What is the world saying of us? Will justice be done to the memory of our martyrs? Will men build the tombs of the prophets? Will the great thinkers of the age affirm that our father “makes the gallows glorious, like the cross”? 2 Not at all; they asked but one question after I had told them how little hope there was of acquittal or rescue. Does it seem as if freedom were to gain or lose by this? That was all. Their mother spoke the spirit of them all to me, next day, when she said, “I have had thirteen children, and only four are left; but if I am to see the ruin of my house, I cannot but hope that Providence may bring out of it some benefit to the poor slaves.”

No; this family work for a higher price than fame. You know it is said that in all Wellington's despatches you never meet with the word Glory; it is always duty. In Napoleon's you never meet with the word Duty; it is always Glory. The race of John Brown is of the Wellington type. Principle is the word I brought away with me as most familiar in their vocabulary. That is their standard of classification. A man may be brave, ardent, generous; no matter — if he is not all this from principle, it is nothing. The daughters, who knew all the Harper's Ferry men, had no confidence in Cook, because “ he was not a man of principle.” They would trust Stevens round the world, because “ he was a man of principle.” “ He tries the hardest to be good,” said Annie Brown, in her simple way, “ of any man I ever saw.”

It is pleasant to add that this same brave-hearted girl, who had known most of her father's associates, recognized them all but Cook as being men of principle. “People are surprised,” she said, “ at father's daring to invade Virginia with only twenty-three men; but I think if they knew what sort of men they were, there would be less surprise. I never saw such men.” 3

And it pleases me to remember that since this visit, on the day of execution, while our Worcester bells were tolling their melancholy refrain, I took from the post office a letter from this same young girl, expressing pity and sorrow for the recreant Cook, and uttering the hope that allowances might be made for his conduct, “ though she could not justify it.” And on the same day I read that infuriated letter of Mrs. Mahala Doyle--a letter which common charity bids us [68] suppose a forgery, uttering fiendish revenge in regard to a man, against whom, by her own showing, there is not one particle of evidence to identify him with her wrongs. Nothing impressed me more in my visit to the Brown family, and in subsequent correspondence with them, than the utter absence of the slightest vindictive spirit, even in words.

John Brown among his children.

The children spoke of their father as a person of absolute rectitude, thoughtful kindness, unfailing foresight, and inexhaustible activity. On his flying visits to the farm, every moment was used; he was up at three A. M., seeing to every thing himself, providing for every thing, and giving heed to the minutest points. It was evident that some of the older ones had stood a little in awe of him in their childish years. “ We boys felt a little pleased sometimes, after all,” said the son, “ when father left the farm for a few days.” “We girls never did,” said the married daughter, reproachfully, the tears gushing to her eyes. “Well,” said the brother, repenting, “we were always glad to see the old man come back again; for if we did get more holidays in his absence, we always missed him.”

Those dramatic points of character in him, which will of course make him the favorite hero of all American romance hereafter, are nowhere appreciated more fully than in his own family. In the midst of all their sorrow, their strong and healthy hearts could enjoy the record of his conversations with the Virginians, and applaud the keen, wise, simple answers which I read to them, selecting here and there from the ample file of newspapers I carried with me. When, for instance, I read the inquiry, “ Did you go out under the auspices of the Emigrant Aid Society?” and the answer, “ No, sir; I went out under the auspices of John Brown,” three voices eagerly burst in with, “That's true,” and “That's so.” And when it was related that the young Virginia volunteer taxed him with want of military foresight in bringing so small a party to conquer Virginia, and the veteran imperturbably informed the young man that probably their views on military matters would materially differ, there was a general delighted chorus of, “ That sounds just like father.” And his sublimer expressions of faith and self-devotion produced no excitement or surprise among them — since they knew in advance all which we now know of him — and these things only elicited, at times, a half-stifled sigh as they reflected that they might never hear that beloved voice again.

References to their father were constant. This book he brought them; the one sitting room had been plastered with the last money he sent; that desk, that gun, were his ; this was his daguerreotype; and at last the rosy little Ellen brought me, with reverend hands, her prime [69] treasure. It was a morocco case, enclosing a small Bible; and in the beginning, written in the plain, legible hand I knew so well, the following inscription, which would alone (in its touching simplicity) have been worthy the pilgrimage to North Elba to see.

This Bible, presented to my dearly beloved daughter Ellen Brown, is not intended for common use, but to be carefully preserved for her and by her, in remembrance of her father, (of whose care and attentions she was deprived in her infancy,) he being absent in the Territory of Kansas from the summer of 1855.

May the Holy Spirit of God incline your heart, in earliest childhood, “to receive the truth in the love of it,” and to form your thoughts, words, and actions by its wise and holy precepts, is my best wish and most earnest prayer to Him in whose care I leave you. Amen. From your affectionate father,

April 2, 1857.
John Brown.

This is dated two years ago; but the principles which dictated it were permanent. Almost on the eve of his last battle, October 1, 1859, he wrote home to his daughter Anne, in a letter which I saw, “Anne, I want you first of all to become a sincere, humble, and consistent Christian--and then [this is characteristic] to acquire good and efficient business habits. Save this, to remember your father by, Anne. God Almighty bless and save you all.”

John Brown's orthodoxy.

John Brown is almost the only radical abolitionist I have ever known who was not more or less radical in religious matters also. His theology was Puritan, like his practice; and accustomed as we now are to see Puritan doctrines and Puritan virtues separately exhibited, it seems quite strange to behold them combined in one person again. He and his wife were regular communicants of the Presbyterian church; but it tried his soul to see the juvenile clerical gentlemen who came into the pulpits up that way, and dared to call themselves Presbyterians — preachers of the gospel with all the hard applications left out. Since they had lived in North Elba, his wife said but twice had the slave been mentioned in the Sunday services, and she had great doubts about the propriety of taking part in such worship as that. But when the head of the family made his visits home from Kansas, he commonly held a Sunday meeting in the little church, “under the auspices of John Brown,” and the Lord heard the slave mentioned pretty freely then.

In speaking of religious opinions, Mrs. Brown mentioned two [70] preachers whose sermons her sons liked to read, and “ whose antislavery principles she enjoyed, though she could not agree with all their doctrines.” She seemed to regard their positions as essentially the same. I need not say who the two are — the thunders of Brooklyn and of Boston acquire much the same sound as they roll up among the echoes of the Adirondacks.


In respect to politics, Mrs. Brown told me that her husband had taken little interest in them since the election of Jackson, because he thought that politics merely followed the condition of public sentiment on the slavery question, and that this public sentiment was mainly created by actual collisions between slavery and freedom. Such, at least, was the view which I was led to attribute to him, by combining this fact which she mentioned with my own personal knowledge of his opinions. He had an almost exaggerated aversion to words and speeches, and a profound conviction of the importance of bringing all questions to a direct issue, and subjecting every theory to the test of practical application.

The charge of insanity.

I did not, of course, insult Mrs. Brown by any reference to that most shallow charge of insanity against her husband, which some even of his friends have, with what seems most cruel kindness, encouraged, -thereby doing their best to degrade one of the age's prime heroes into a mere monomaniac,--but it may be well to record that she spoke of it with surprise, and said that if her husband were insane, he had been consistent in his insanity from the first moment she knew him.

Pecuniary condition of the family.

Now that all is over, and we appear to have decided, for the present, not to employ any carnal weapons, such as steel or iron, for the rescue of John Brown, but only to use the safer metals of gold and silver for the aid of his family, it may be natural for those who read this narrative to ask, What is the pecuniary condition of this household? It is hard to answer, because the whole standard is different, as to such matters, in North Elba and in Massachusetts. The ordinary condition of the Brown family may be stated as follows: They own the farm, such as it is, without incumbrance, except so far as unfelled forest constitutes one. They have ordinarily enough to eat of what the farm yields, namely, bread and potatoes, pork and mutton — not any great abundance of these, but ordinarily enough. They have ordinarily enough to wear, at least of woollen clothing, spun by themselves. [71] And they have no money. When I say this I do not merely mean that they have no superfluous cash to go shopping with, but I mean almost literally that they have none. For nearly a whole winter, Mrs. Brown said, they had no money with which to pay postage, except a tiny treasury which the younger girls had earned for that express object, during the previous summer, by picking berries for a neighbor three miles off.

The reason of these privations simply was, that it cost money to live in Kansas in “ adherence to the cause of freedom,” (see the tombstone inscription again,) but not so much to live at North Elba; and therefore the women must stint themselves that the men might continue their Kansas work. But when the father came upon his visits, he never came empty-handed, but brought a little money, some plain household stores, flour, sugar, rice, salt fish; tea and coffee they do not use. But what their standard of expense is may be seen from the fact that Mrs. Brown seemed to speak as if her youngest widowed daughter were not totally and absolutely destitute, because her husband had left a property of five sheep, which would belong to her. These sheep, I found on inquiry, were worth, at that place and season, two dollars apiece: a child of sixteen, left a widow in the world, with an estate amounting to ten dollars! The immediate financial anxieties of Mrs. Brown herself seemed chiefly to relate to a certain formidable tax bill, due at New Year's time; if they could only weather that, all was clear for the immediate future. How much was it, I asked, rather surprised that that wild country should produce a high rate of taxation. It was from eight to ten dollars, she gravely said; and she had put by ten dollars for the purpose, but had had occasion to lend most of it to a poor black woman, with no great hope of repayment. And one of the first things done by her husband, on recovering his money in Virginia, was to send her, through me, fifteen dollars, to make sure of that tax bill.

I see, on looking back, how bare and inexpressive this hasty narrative is; but I could not bear to suffer such a privilege as this visit to pass away unrecorded. I spent but one night at the house, and drove away with Mrs. Brown, in the early frosty morning, from that breezy mountain home, which her husband loved (as one of them told me) “because he seemed to think there was something romantic in that kind of scenery.” There was, indeed, always a sort of thrill in John Brown's voice when he spoke of mountains. I never shall forget the quiet way in which he once told me that “ God had established the Alleghany Mountains from the foundation of the world that they might one day be a refuge for fugitive slaves.” I did not then know that his own home was among the Adirondacks. [72]

Just before we went, I remember, I said something or ether to Salmon Brown about the sacrifices of their family; and he looked up in a quiet, manly way, which I shall never forget, and said briefly, “ I sometimes think that is what we came into the world for — to make sacrifices.” And I know that the murmuring echo of those words went with me all that day, as we came down from the mountains, and out through the iron gorge; and it seemed to me that any one must be very unworthy the society which I had been permitted to enter who did not come forth from it a wiser and a better man.

From the family we learn that:

1851 John Brown and his family returned to Akron, Ohio, where he managed Mr. Perkins's farm, and carried on the wool business. In 1855, on starting for Kansas, he again moved his household to North Elba, where they still reside, and where his body lies buried.

At the Agricultural Fair of Essex County, for 1850, a great sensation was created by the unlooked — for appearance on the grounds of a beautiful herd of Devon cattle. They were the first that had been exhibited at the county festival, and every one was surprised and delighted at the incident. The inquiry was universal, Whose are these cattle, and from whence do they come? The surprise and excitement were not diminished when it was understood that a certain John Brown was the owner, and that he resided in the town of North Elba. The report of the society for that year contains the following reference to that event: The appearance upon the grounds of a number of very choice and beautiful Devons, from the herd of Mr. John Brown, residing in one of our most remote and secluded towns, attracted great attention, and added much to the interest of the fair. The interest and admiration they excited have attracted public attention to the subject, and have already resulted in the introduction of several choice animals into this region. We have no doubt that this influence upon the character of the stock of our county will be permanent and decisive. (Trans. 1850, page 229.)

The writer of this article soon after opened a correspondence with Brown in relation to these cattle. His reply is now before me. The letter is written in a strong and vigorous hand, and by its orthography, accurate punctuation, and careful arrangement of paragraphs, evinces far more than ordinary taste and scholarship. I consider it remarkable, not only for the force and precision of the language, for a business letter, and for the distinctness of its statements, but equally for its sound sense and honesty of representation. I think I am not wrong in the impression that an extract will interest your readers, as illustrating the former habits and pursuits of a man who has impressed an ill-omened episode upon our national history.

Your favor of the 30th of September came on seasonably; but it was during my absence in Ohio, so that I could not reply sooner. In the first place, none of my cattle are pure Devons, but are a mixture of that and a particular favorite stock from Connecticut, a cross of which I much prefer to any pure English cattle after many years' experience of different breeds of imported cattle. ... I was several months in England last season, and saw no one stock on any farm that would average better than my own, and would like to have you see them all together. Correspondence of the New York Observer.

1 There is a terrible truth wrapped up in this suggestion. To obtain a recognition of their equality in countries where negro slavery has existed, the blacks must either fight the whites and defeat them, or seek to establish a separate nationality elsewhere.

2 It was Emerson who uttered this truth of John Brown's death. J. R.


“ It was so in Kansas “I never saw such men” outside of John Brown's camp as I saw when in it. When the old hero was last in Boston, I said of Cook: “he is brave, generous, but too talkative, and without discretion; he has no moral foundation for his bravery.”

“You've hit the nail, exactly, sir,” he said. “That's just my opinion of him.”

J. R.

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