This Month In History
November 2014

This Month in NYS History – Abolitionist John Brown Buys Adirondack Farm – November 1849

John Brown's strong religious beliefs influenced his later support and fervor for the anti-slavery movement.
John Brown's strong religious beliefs influenced his later support and fervor for the anti-slavery movement.
High in New York State's Adirondack Mountains is the home and grave of abolitionist John Brown. Many Americans know the song "John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave," but few would associate the words with a simple farm in North Elba, New York.

Brown purchased the property – located outside Lake Placid – in November 1849 from fellow abolitionist and philanthropist Gerrit Smith. Brown wanted to establish a farm where he could provide guidance and assistance to the black settlers who had moved to the Adirondack North Country after receiving land grants from Smith.

At a young age, Brown witnessed the severe beating of an African-American youth. That scene, along with his strong religious beliefs, influenced his later support and fervor for the anti-slavery movement.

Turmoil over slavery erupted in Kansas and Brown traveled there to join his sons in "the cause of freedom." Brown, in an open rebellion against slavery, led armed raids in Kansas during 1856. After “Free-staters” won control of the legislature in Kansas, Brown moved his rebellion back east.

In October 1859, Brown and his followers raided the U.S. Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia – planning to use the captured arms in an extensive campaign for the liberation of the slaves in the South. The attack failed. Brown was tried and convicted of murder, slave insurrection, and treason against the state and sentenced to death by hanging.

John Brown's journey into the history books began when his widow, Mary Brown, accompanied by the famed orator, Wendall Philips, took possession of his body and made the long trip home to North Elba.

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