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Book 1: he keepeth the sheep.


11. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and behold he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him ; for we will not sit down till he come hither.

12. And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.

--1 Samuel, Chapter 16.


Chapter 1: the child and his ancestors.

December 2, 1859.
How, worthily, write the Life of worthy John Brown? The task is as difficult as the man was heroic. In every part and phase of it, numerous and serious obstacles present themselves. For to-day John Brown was ranged by a semi-barbarous Commonwealth, as a traitor, murderer, and robber, and fifteen despotic States are rejoicing at his death; while, in the free North, every noble heart is sighing at his fate, or admiring his devotion to the principles of justice, or cursing the executioners of their warrior-saint. Thus opposite are the views men have of him; and this is the first difficulty that confronts his biographer.

But putting it aside, by utterly disregarding the opinions and denunciations of the mob, looking steadily at the old man only, and drawing him as he strove to be and was,--a warrior of the Lord and of Gideon: to satisfy the public expectation, and, at the same time, to do justice to the hero of their hearts, is a far more important, and a still more embarrassing task. For an immediate publication is demanded; and it is [14] impossible, at once, to collate all the facts that should be told of him. But one alternative remains — to do the best that is possible for the present day, and, if a still more extended biography be demanded, to endeavor, at another time, to supply that want.

Paternal ancestry of John Brown.

Among the group of godly exiles who knelt at Plymouth Rock, on the 22d of December, 1620, and returned thanks to the Almighty for His goodness to them in preserving them from the dangers of the Deep, was an unmarried English Puritan, a carpenter by trade, of whose personal history all that now can be known is, that his name was Peter Brown. That he came over in the Mayflower, is evidence enough that he feared his God, respected himself, and strove prayerfully to obey the divine commands; choosing rather to sacrifice the comforts of English civilization, and enjoy in the wilderness his inherent rights, than calmly contemplate the perpetration of wrong by sinners in high places, or to rest satisfied with the sophistical belief, that, by the philosophy of an enlightened selfishness, or the diffusion of correct principles of political economy, all the evils of the age would peacefully be rectified — in a century or two! He died in 1633.

Peter Brown, the second, was born in 1632. A monument in the churchyard of Windsor, Connecticut, is his only biography. It tells us that he married Mary Gillett in 1658, and died October 16, 1692.

He had four boys: the second-born named John

Brown; who, in his turn, married Elizabeth Loomis in [15] 1692, had eight daughters and three sons, the eldest of whom was his namesake.

John, the second, had seven girls and two boys, of whom the first-born son became the third of the name in the family. He died in 1790, at the age of ninety, having been the husband of Mary Eggleston, (who preceded him twelve months to the spirit world,) for the long period of sixty-five years. Mary, the eldest child of this marriage, remained a spinster till her death at the age of one hundred.

John, the third, was born November 4, 1728; married Hannah Owen in 1758; 1 was the father of John, Frederick, Owen, and Abiel Brown; and the honored grandfather of Captain John Brown, the hero of Kansas and Harper's Ferry. John Brown, the third, at the outbreak of the revolutionary war, was chosen Captain of the West Simsbury (now Canton2) trainband; and, in the spring of 1776, joined the forces of the continental army at New York.3 His commission from Governor Trumbull is dated May 23, 1776. After a service of two months duration, he fell a victim to the prevailing epidemic of the camp, at the age of forty-eight years. t He died in a barn, attended only by a faithful subordinate, a few miles north of [16] New York City, where the continental army was at that time encamped. His body was buried on the Highlands, near the western banks of the East River. On a marble monument in the graveyard of Canton Centre, this inscription may be seen:--

In memory of Captain John Brown, who died in the revolutionary army, at New York, September 3, 1776. He was of the fourth generation, in regular descent, from Peter Brown, one of the Pilgrim Fathers, who landed from the Mayflower, at Plymouth, Massachusetts, December 22, 1620.

Thus far we see that same spirit of resistance to wrong, which, recently,--nay, at this very hour,men are branding as insane! Why did Captain John Brown, “of the fourth generation, in regular descent,” risk his life--“throw it away,” as our politicians phrase it — by opposing it to the hitherto resistless strength of a mighty empire? Why not wait until, by the aid of a “constitutional republican party,” the evils then endured should have been peacefully abolished? What was he to Massachusetts, or Massachusetts to him, that he should leave his family and fight her battles? Personal liberty he had; his house was his castle; no power on earth dared molest his property, or wife, or children. It was only a petty question of taxation that called him to the field, but in it there lay embodied a political right; and, rather than submit to an infringement of it, he resolved to throw “his life away,” if need be. We now honor him for it; for we see in it the spirit of the first Peter Brown, who would not wait for the convenient season of corrupt and heartless demagogues, but close rather to abandon his [17] native land, and enjoy his liberty at once. But it is far nobler than the first Peter's conduct; for it is not solely for himself, as in the Puritan's case, that he abandons home and friends. It is for a neighboring colony, and the rights of his race, rather than for his personal immunities. Only one step further was possible in the ladder of disinterested benevolence — to fight for a race, poor, despised, friendless, and inferior; and this crowning glory to the family of Peter Brown, the Puritan, was reserved for the grandson of the revolutionary captain.

Captain John Brown, the third, left a widow and eleven children, of whom the eldest daughter was eighteen years of age, and the first son nine years only. “They were reared by his widow, with singular tact and judgment, to habits of industry and principles of virtue, and all became distinguished citizens in the communities in which they resided. One of the sons became a judge in one of the courts of Ohio. One of the daughters had the honor of giving to one of our most flourishing New England colleges a president for twenty years, in the person of her son.” 4

“ She was a woman of great energy and economy,” writes a descendant,5 “the economy being a needful [18] virtue. I have heard my grandfather tell of her cooking always just what the children needed, and no more, and they always ‘licked their trenchers,’ when they had done with knife and fork. They all grew up to respectability. Their average age was considerable, that of five of them being seventy years, and I forget how much more.”

Of the sons of these parents, John — afterwards known as Deacon Brown--lived many years in New Hartford, and died there. Abiel lived and died on the old homestead in Canton, Connecticut, while Frederick and Owen both lie buried in the State of Ohio.

Maternal ancestry of John Brown.

Owen Brown, the last named of these sons, and the father of Captain John Brown, the greatest and most heroic of the race, married the daughter of Gideon Mills, “who was himself an officer in the revolutionary army, and was intrusted with the command who had in charge a large portion of the prisoners comprising ‘Burgoyne's army: thus proving that John Brown ’ inherits his military spirit through a patriotic ancestry.”

A very brief record of John Brown's maternal ancestry, (all that it is now possible to write,) will prove that his descent was as honorable and patriotic by his --mother's family, as from Peter Brown, the Puritan of the Mayflower.

Peter Miles was an emigrant from Holland, who settled at Bloomfield, Connecticut, near the confines of Windsor Plain. He had seven sons, was a tailor by trade, and died in 1754, at the age of eighty-eight. [19]

Of these seven sons, Jedediah graduated at Yale College in 1722, and was a clergyman and theological author of considerable note. Pelatiah was a useful citizen, and an able attorney at law. John was the father of two clergymen. Peter had a numerous offspring, one of whom was the first minister of East Granby. Of two other and younger sons no record exists; of Return, a daughter, all that is told is the date of her death, 1689.

Gideon, the seventh son, and the great grandfather of John Brown, the liberator, married Elizabeth Higley, a cousin of the first Governor Trumbull, of Lebanon. He was the minister at Old Simsbury about ten years previous to 1755; and, after living and preaching one or two years at West Simsbury, was installed in 1759, and died there in 1772. His character may be judged by the following interesting incident of his life:

At the time of his ministry in ‘West Simsbury, he lived two and a half miles from the meeting house, over a very hilly, cold, and uneven road, which would now be called a hard Sabbath-day's journey for a clergyman or a layman. This road he travelled weekly, and sometimes much oftener. One incident respecting the Rev. Gideon 3Mills is thought worthy of notice. He was habitually fond of sacred music, and would request others that could sing to join with him, and he retained his relish for singing even to his dying moments. He died of a cancer in the face, which kept him in great suffering for many of the last weeks of his life. He dwelt much on the sentiments expressed in the thirty-eighth psalm, (Watts,) ’ Amidst thy wrath remember love, ‘ &c.; also, the thirty-ninth--God of my life, look gently down.’ Just before he expired, he requested the friends in attendance to sing the thirty-eighth psalm- ‘Amidst thy wrath remember love,’ --and attempted to join with them, but when the fore part of the psalm was sung he expired; so that it was said by Mr. Hallock, on a certain occasion, that he died singing the thirty-eighth psalm.


This stout-hearted Puritan left three sons and three daughters.

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