Monday, September 21, 2009

John Brown, Farmer, Surveyor, Tanner: Hero or Villan






150 Years Ago and an Elusive Verdict

Freedom fighter or home grown terrorist – the verdict is still elusive as the 150th anniversary of John Brown's raid on the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry approaches October 16, 1859. There have been many commemorative events held at or near Harper's Ferry marking what many believe to be the opening shots of the tragic American Civil War. There are many more events planned in the upcoming weeks.

John Brown lived in New Richmond, Crawford County for nearly ten years. He was executed by hanging weeks afterwards on December 2, 1859 for the ill fated raid on the arsenal which Brown hoped would spark a general uprising against the slave owners He became an instant folk hero for the north, a despised murderer in the south.

His plan was to conduct a guerrilla war based in the Appalachian Mountains to fight against the institution of slavery. It was a plan which sent shock waves of fear among the rich plantation owners who stood to loose much of their wealth created by human slavery.

Brown's farm, has a a small museum, and parts of the old tannery are still standing; it is located off of Route 77, on John Brown Road, not far from Meadville, or Cambridge Springs or from Canadohta Lake. Brown's first wife and two small children are buried at the place; and Brown married his second wife, who was from Meadville and worked in his tannery at the farm.

Brown was the first Post Master in that region, turned his farmhouse into a church on Sunday mornings; other days of the week the farmhouse served as the community's first school. He was also the area's surveyor and many of the roads today in that region were the result of his work. He was also a major player in the area's Underground Railroad activity, something highly illegal back in the day. The government would arrest the activists and the supporters who faced stiff fines and a jail sentence. The Underground Railroad was a civil disobedience movement against the immoral institution of slavery.

The small museum is owned and operated by Gary and his wife, Donna Coburn. Both live on the property. Gary Coburn's grandfather built the museum in 1951. There is no entrance fee.

“My grandfather, Charles Olsen, didn't believe it was right to charge people a fee to learn about slavery and the Civil War, Gary said. “We've kept the same attitude. We not going to have any special events here to remember Harper's Ferry. That is their thing. The events happened there. But we will be open if people want to visit.”

Donna Coburn is the person usually running the day to day museum operations in between working as a waitress at the Riverside Inn. Donna spends countless hours every year organizing a traditional “John Brown Freedom Day Picnic” every week, held in early June. It is always, like this past June, a well attended event. “It is an event that has happened at the farm for about as long as anyone can remember,” she told me, “no one is sure exactly when the Freedom Day picnic started.”.


It is important to remember. Hundreds of thousands of American were killed during the bloody Civil War. Freedom came at a terrible price; the graves are in cemeteries large and small such as this grave in a lonely isolated spot. Luke Quinn, a US marine was the first and only US soldier to be killed at Harpers Ferry in defense of the arsenal, October 16, a 150 years ago.

Buy a Book

Learn more about John Brown and the Civil War. Buy a book from your independent book store. Recommended is Blessed Abduction by Vincent di Fondi and also the novels by Sam Hossler on some of the history of northwestern Pennsylvania. Check the authors out by clicking on search found in the link below.
Shop Indie Bookstores

Container Herbs to Consider


Parsley, sage, basil and thyme are all good herbs for containers. They are great cooking herbs and used fresh have many health qualities. Parsley, thyme and sage all all winter hardy; basil can either be dried or frozen; it can also be grown indoors during the winter as a houseplant. If purchased this spring and planted in the soil, they can be dug and planted in containers with drainage holes. It is a good way to save money, eat well, and good for health.For more Fall agrden suggestions, click here.

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For the Heck of It

October is the last full month of Daylight Savings Time. Clocks back on November 1.

September 25 is Native American Day. Learn more about Sitting Bull.


Good Blogs to Read

Vincent di Fondi

On Your Way to the Top

New York's Southern Tier

Urban Veggie Garden

Simply Snickers









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