John Brown Junior

John Brown Jr. (July 25, 1821 – May 3, 1895) was the eldest son of the abolitionist John Brown. His mother was Brown's first wife, Dianthe Lusk Brown, who died when John Jr. was 11. He was born in Hudson, Ohio. In 1841 he tried teaching in a country school, but left it after one year, finding it frustrating and the children "snotty". In spring 1842 he enrolled at the Grand River Institute in Austinburg, Ohio.[1]:128 In July 1847 he married Wealthy Hotchkiss (1829–1911). The couple settled in Springfield, Massachusetts.[2] Their children were John (1852–1917) and Edith Mae Brown Alexander (1866–1935).[3]

John Brown, Jr., son of the John Brown of the raid on Harpers Ferry.

He was described by a Kansas acquaintance as "a man of education, and of more than common abilities. Strictly honest and conscientious."[4]


Brown moved with four of his brothers to Kansas Territory in spring 1855. While his brothers Frederick, Owen, and Salmon traveled by land, Brown, his brother Jason, and their families traveled by boat, across the state of Missouri on the Missouri River. John Jr. dedcribed the trip as "a horrid business in a low stage of water which is a considerable portion of the year." Most of the passengers and crew were pro-slavery, and the captain deliberately left the two boys' parties behind at a stop in Waverly, Missouri.[5]

He was elected to the territorial legislature—the Topeka Legislature—in 1856.[6]

Brown did not join his father and brothers in the Pottawatomie Massacre of May, 1856. However, he was captured by Henry Clay Pate, a border ruffian and commander of a proslavery militia, in connection with the murders. He was turned over to federal authority, Captain Thomas J. Wood. He was beaten by the soldiers and suffered a mental breakdown.[2] His father, John Brown, plotted a rescue. His troops overtook proslavery men in the Battle of Black Jack near Palmyra on June 2, 1856. The elder Brown captured Pate and his men, provisions, horses, mules, and equipment. He agreed to release the prisoners in exchange for his sons.[2]

A proslavery court in Lecompton charged John Brown Jr. with high treason because he was a free-state politician. He was finally released from prison in September.[7] Shortly after this, John Jr. left Kansas with his father.

The raid on Harpers FerryEdit

John Jr. did not participate in his father's raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia (since 1863, West Virginia). Kansapedia says that when the time came to make a decision on participation, "Brown, who was suffering from mental illness, experienced more anxiety."[8] However, he knew all the details and was part of the process of preparing for the raid.

John Brown sent John Jr. on a journey throughout the state of Pennsylvania,[when?] wanting him to find men "of the right stripe", willing to join John Brown's raiders. The areas that John Jr. was ordered to visit, specifically, were Gettysburg, Bedford, Chambersburg, and Uniontown.[9] John Jr. also spent time[when?] visiting Massachusetts, New York, and Canada, trying to enlist black supporters. Neither of these missions produced the desired results, and the "army" attacking the Arsenal was merely twenty-one men.

John Jr. acted as his father's liaison for the raid in Virginia.[10][failed verification] In 1858, John Brown sent John Jr. to Virginia. This mission was to survey the area surrounding Harper's Ferry.[citation needed]

Because of tensions between John Brown and other members of the plans and cause, John Brown appointed John Jr. as the intelligence agent and liaison.[11] This meant that John Jr. would be the go-between for John Brown and other members. This provided safety for John Brown and secrecy.

John Jr. received word from his father[when?] to move the "tools" for the raid.[12] The letter told John Jr. to do this "with perfect quiet" and to move only the tools, "not the other stuff", to a safe place where only Jr. and "the keeper" would know where they were. This cryptic message was received and Jr. travelled to Conneaut, Ohio, where the weapons had been secretly shipped, and moved them several miles south to a farm in Cherry Valley Township, Ohio.[12]

When his brother Owen escaped capture, he took safe refuge with John Jr. at this home in northeast Ohio.

In early 1860, the U.S. Senate created a Select Committee to report on the invasion of Harper's Ferry. James M. Mason, head of the committee, submitted a resolution to compel John Jr. and two others to testify. A deputy of the Senate's Sergeant-at-Arms was sent to arrest the individuals—according to the report, Brown was then living in Ashtabula County, Ohio—and bring them to Washington. The deputy reported that Brown could not be arrested without the employment of armed force.[13]

Civil War and Jennison's JayhawkersEdit

In the summer of 1860, John Jr. was an agent of the "Haytian Bureau of Emigration", working under his father's former associate and biographer James Redpath.[14]:166

Brown served as the agent of emigration for the British North American Provinces between 1860 and 1861.[2]

In July 1861, Brown decided to recruit a company of soldiers that would travel to Kansas and enlist with Kansas volunteer forces then operating in Missouri under the auspices of Kansas Senator James H. Lane. His intention was to enlist "abolitionists of the intense sort"[15] and muster them under Colonel James Montgomery, one of Lane's three Lieutenants.[16] In August he wrote to Gerrit Smith from Jefferson, Ashtabula County, Ohio, returning to him the land he had been given in North Elba.[17] John Brown's "Sharpshooters" garnered significant press attention as they traveled from Ohio to Kansas.[18][19] However, on its arrival, the company had only signed 66 men. On November 9, 1861, while Brown was still recruiting in Michigan, the company elected to join Colonel Charles R. Jennison's First Kansas Cavalry, later designated the Kansas Seventh Volunteer Cavalry, and known in Missouri as Jennison's Jayhawkers.[16] Upon his own arrival in December, Brown was mustered in as the captain of Company K of the Kansas Seventh. Brown served as captain of the company until May 1862, when he resigned because of his rheumatoid arthritis.[15][20] He was succeeded as captain of the company by his second lieutenant, George H. Hoyt, who had been one of his father's lawyers following the Harpers Ferry attack.[15]


Left to right, Jason Brown, visitor John Jr., and Owen Brown, with their livestock. 1888? Near Pasadena, California.

Following his resignation, in 1862 Brown purchased 10 acres (4.0 ha) on the south shore of South Bass Island at Put-in-Bay, Ohio,[21][20] He and his brother Owen appear on an 1863 list of people in Put-in-Bay subject to Civil War Draft Registration.[22] He remained there until his death, supporting himself by raising fruit.[23] An obituary said that on a plot of 7 acres (2.8 ha) he raised "grapes for the Detroit market", and "no doubt it would have pleased his father that he never sold grapes for wine-making."[24] A visitor about 1871 described him as a "quiet, genial, warm-hearted farmer, amateur geologist, and land surveyor".[25]

His sister Ruth and her husband Henry Thompson also lived for nineteen yeads at Put-In-Bay.[26]

He became a socialist later in life.[27] He "traveled for a time as a lecturer on phrenology".[28]

In 1882 John Jr. travelled to Martinsville, Indiana, to identify the body of his brother Watson. (See Burning of Winchester Medical College.) He was the guest of the Governor of Indiana for dinner.

In 1883 he penned a lengthy reply to an attack[29] upon his father's actions in Kansas, especially at the Pottawatomie massacre.[30] Kansas Senator John James Ingalls also published a reply.[31]

In 1887 he was a justice of the peace.[32] He remained at Put-In-Bay until his death on May 3, 1895.[33] He received a Masonic funeral, and thousands attended; it was described as the largest funeral ever held in Put-in-Bay.[34][35] He is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery there.

In popular cultureEdit

He is portrayed by Dennis Weaver in the 1955 American historical drama film Seven Angry Men.[36]

In The Good Lord Bird, a 2020 Showtime Limited Series based on the 2013 novel of the same name, he is played by Nick Eversman.[37]

Archival materialEdit

Papers of John Brown Jr. are held by the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Fremont, Ohio, and the Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio.[38] His 1861–63 correspondence with his wife Wealthy (162 pages) is at the Kansas Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas. Several pages in various letters are written in numerical code, which he left us a key to, and they have been transcribed. Those under 18 require a parent's permission to read these letters.[39] A few other letters of John Jr. are also available there.


  1. ^ DeCaro Jr., Louis A. (2020). "Fire from the midst of you" : A Religious Life of John Brown. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 978-0814719213.
  2. ^ a b c d "John Brown, Jr". Kansas Historical Society. 2019. Archived from the original on January 21, 2021. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
  3. ^ "John Brown Jr". Find a Grave. 2007. Archived from the original on April 27, 2021. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  4. ^ "Ventilating Kansas History". Herald of Freedom (Lawrence, Kansas). November 5, 1859. p. 2. Archived from the original on April 30, 2021. Retrieved April 30, 2021 – via
  5. ^ Haldeman-Julius, E. (May 16, 1925). "John Brown—The Facts of his Life and Martyrdom". Haldeman-Julius Weekly (Girard, Kansas). p. 2 of 3. Archived from the original on April 30, 2021. Retrieved April 30, 2021 – via
  6. ^ "Old John Brown". Herald of Freedom (Lawrence, Kansas). October 29, 1859. p. 2. Archived from the original on October 31, 2020. Retrieved April 27, 2021 – via
  7. ^ Warch & Fanton 1973, p. 10.
  8. ^ "John Brown, Jr.". Kansapedia. Kansas Historical Society. November 2019 [July 2016]. Archived from the original on 2021-01-21. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  9. ^ Oates 1970, p. 226.
  10. ^ DeCaro, Louis. "John Brown the Abolitionist – A Biographer's Blog". Archived from the original on 2010-08-05. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
  11. ^ Oates 1970, p. 223.
  12. ^ a b Oates 1970, p. 252.
  13. ^ "United States Congressional Serial Set". 1893. Archived from the original on 2021-07-20. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  14. ^ Quarles, Benjamin (1974). Allies for Freedom. Blacks and John Brown. New York: Oxford University Press. LCCN 73-90372.
  15. ^ a b c Fox 1902, p. 14.
  16. ^ a b Brown, John Jr. (Dec 13, 1861). "Correspondence". Letter to Wealthy Brown. Topeka, KS.: Kansas State Historical Society.
  17. ^ Brown Jr., John (August 6, 1861), Letter to Gerrit Smith, archived from the original on July 20, 2021, retrieved July 20, 2021
  18. ^ "John Brown Jr.'s Company". Liberator. Nov 8, 1861.
  19. ^ "A Significant Letter". Daily True Delta. Sep 25, 1861.
  20. ^ a b "John Brown, Jr". Cleveland Tri-Weekly Leader (Cleveland, Ohio. October 23, 1862. p. 2. Archived from the original on June 29, 2021. Retrieved June 29, 2021 – via
  21. ^ Hinton, Richard J. (1894). John Brown and His Men. New York: Funk and Wagnalls. p. 14.
  22. ^ Provost Marshal General (July 11, 1863). "Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records 1863-1865". U.S. National Archives. Archived from the original on July 20, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2021 – via
  23. ^ "John Brown Is Dead. The Son of the Hero of Harper's Ferry Passes Away. He Died Suddenly at His Home on Put–in–Bay Last Evening". Sandusky Register (Sandusky, Ohio). May 3, 1895. p. 6. Archived from the original on April 27, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2021 – via
  24. ^ "An Echo of Harper's Ferry". Buffalo Courier (Buffalo, New York). May 4, 1895. p. 4. Archived from the original on July 20, 2021. Retrieved May 4, 2021 – via
  25. ^ Keeler, Ralph (March 1874). "Owen Brown's Escape From Harper's Ferry". Atlantic Monthly: 342–365, at p. 342. Archived from the original on 2020-11-07. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  26. ^ "Jonn Brown's daughter". Los Angeles Times. January 16, 1904. p. 1. Archived from the original on July 20, 2021. Retrieved July 16, 2021 – via
  27. ^ Reynolds, David (29 July 2009). John Brown, Abolitionist The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 82. ISBN 9780307486660. Archived from the original on 20 July 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  28. ^ McGlone, Robert E. (March 1989). "Rescripting a Troubled Past: John Brown's Family and the Harpers Ferry Conspiracy". Journal of American History. 75 (4): 1179–1200, at p. 1190. Archived from the original on 2021-05-04. Retrieved 2021-05-04.
  29. ^ Utter, David N. (November 1883). "John Brown of Osawatomie". North American Review: 435–446.
  30. ^ Brown Jr., John (November 29, 1883). "John Brown, Jr.,Takes Up the Pen in Defense of His Immortal Father. A Vivid Account of the Troubles of the Early Kansas Settlers. The First Signs of War—Six Browns Take the Field for Freedom. John Brown, Disguised as a Surveyor, Enters the Pro-Slavery Camp. Slavery's Bracelet—The Day of Reckoning Near at Hand. "John Brown of Osawatomie."—A History, not an Apology". Cleveland Leader. Archived from the original on January 19, 2020. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  31. ^ Ingalls, J. J. (February 1884). "John Brown's Place in History". North American Review: 138–150.
  32. ^ "About men". Marion Star (Marion, Ohio). August 5, 1887. p. 2. Archived from the original on April 27, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2021 – via
  33. ^ "John Brown, Jr., eldest son of 'Osawatomie Brown'". Springfield Republican. Springfield, Massachusetts. May 4, 1895.
  34. ^ "Death of John Brown Jr. The Son of John Brown of Harper's Ferry passes away". Salina Herald (Salina, Kansas). May 17, 1895. p. 1. Archived from the original on April 27, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2021 – via
  35. ^ "LAID TO REST. Impressive Services Over the Remains of John Brown. Jr. Thousands in Attendance to Do the Son of the Hero Homage. Judge Colver Pays an Eloquent Tribute to the Memory of the Noted Abolitionist. James M. French Made Remarks on Behalf of the Liberated Freemen". Sandusky Register (Sandusky, Ohio). May 6, 1895. p. 5. Archived from the original on April 27, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2021 – via
  36. ^ "Seven Angry Men". IMDB. Archived from the original on 2021-07-20. Retrieved 2020-11-11.
  37. ^ "Nick Eversman". IMDB. Archived from the original on 2020-10-30. Retrieved 2020-11-11.
  38. ^ Ohio Historical Society (1962). "Inventory and calendar of the John Brown, Jr., papers, 1830-1932". Archived from the original on July 21, 2021. Retrieved July 20, 2021.
  39. ^ "John Brown, Jr., correspondence". Kansas Memory. Kansas Historical Society. 1861–1863. Archived from the original on 2019-04-11. Retrieved 2021-05-04.


  • Ables, Jules (1971). Man On Fire: John Brown and the Cause of Liberty.
  • Fox, Simeon M. (1902). Story of the Seventh Kansas. Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society.
  • Hoyt, Bill (2012). Good Hater: George Henry Hoyt's War on Slavery. Garland, KS: Bill Hoyt.
  • Oates, Stephen B. (1970). To Purge this Land with Blood. New York: Harper & Rowe.
  • Sanborn, Franklin, ed. (1891). The Life and Letters of John Brown.
  • Warch, Richard; Fanton, Jonathan, eds. (1973). Great Lives Observed: John Brown.