March 12, 1860
My dear Sir
Your note and the order to Thayer & Eldridge has been received and the book read by my family. It has given us much interesting matter, and on the whole is I doubt not a correct life of the old man - many of the incidents in Brown's Kansas life, of course we who have lived here during the trouble, know to be as recorded.
But, my dear Sir, I am sorry to see that you have fell into a very common error, with most of those friends of Brown who live at a distance in stating that "The old man declared that he did not, in any way, participate in their execution; but thought here, in jail, as he had believed in Kansas, that he act was just necessary" page 374 alluding to the Pottawatomie affair. On page 117 it reads "on the 23 of May John Brown left the camp of his son, at Osawatomie and" this ought to read as Ottawa Creek; on page 118 in regard to the conduct of the ruffians to Brown's daughter & daughter in law, 'we on the creek understood that this affair was after the killing of Doyle Wilkinson & not before. Now Adair at whos house they fled says this is all news to him.
Permit me to give you a short outline of facts, which I am knowing to personally. I was a member of John Brown Jr. company, we had started to protect Lawrence. We received a dispatch from Lawrence, containing the news of it being sacked and also requesting us not to come to Lawrence till further orders. Our military company camped on Ottawa Creek, near Capt Shores residence for 2 or 3 days Old John Brown & I think 7 others of our company formed a camp of their own. And left us to go to the Pottawatomie Creek. John Brown Jr. and Jason remaided with us. Frederick Brown & the Thompson and another son, were I think in the company
They started in the afternoon; and 3 cheers were given to the success of Capt Brown & his men. Now sir, what I am going to relate to you, I have never mentioned to but one man living. And that is, one of the party made a proposition to me to win the company, and also gave me such information in regard to their contemplated enterprise as to satisfy my mind that they were the chief actors in the Pottawatomie tragedy.
A few days after we received the news of the killings of the pro-slavery ruffians. It was on Sunday afternoon; I was out side of the guard, in company of Jason Brown when the news arrived. Our camp march to Ottowa, Jones the same night. About 1 o'clock AM, old John Brown & his party arrived. I spoke to the old man, he asked me if there was any news, I told him of the report received from the Pottawatomie. He wanted to see his son John, who was sleeping in Jones house.
The next morning John Brown Jr. resigned his office of Captain, and we elected another person in his place - Than portion of the company who resided near the Shermans on the Potte. Creek, recognized several horses which belonged to the ruffians - And several of our men remarked that they hoped they would not take them in the neighborhood of Osawatomie because they were well known - one was a stallion.
The parties started towards Osawatomie - John Brown Jr. accompanied the Osawatomie party, and those belonging to the Pottawatomie Rifle Company separated near Middle Creek - the old man Brown & his sons & a few other remainded at North Middle creek, were his sons had taken claims, and resided --
Two of my neighbors, who are still living here, called
on me as soon as I arrived home from camp duty. They asked me various questions about the dress of old John Brown - his leather cravat - light coat etc etc. One of these men remarked, "I am perfectly satisfied, it is impossible to be mistaking." I enquired more fully into the matter, and they informed me that they had just arrived from Kansas City; and the morning after the killing of these men - they called at Wilkinsons for mail matter. Wilkinson's wife was sick in bed, and she informed them that she feared that her husband was killed. They found the body, and buried it; in company with several other neighbors. They also assisted in the burial of Doyle & his two sons.
The description of the dress of the "old man who appeared to be leader" was described by Mrs.W & by other women & men at Shermans. All I have to say is, that it agreeded precisely to that worn by John Brown Sr. Of this, there is no doubt. The testimony under oath as published in the Investigation Committee, page 1193 & 4,5 is not all true.Testimony to the contrary might be obtained on this head.
I was personally acquainted with the Doyals, Wilkinsons & Sherman; and I am fully satisfied , as every body else is who lived on the Creek in '56; that a base conspiracy was on foot to drive out, burn, and kill: - in a word the Pottawatomie Creek from its mouth to its founded head was to be cleared of every man, woman, or child who was for Kansas being a free state.
I will give one item, which has never been published, and perhaps I may be considered as infringing on private conversation; but the importance of the question demands it. When the party called at the house of the Shermans, Mrs. Harris who was living there - commenced getting breakfast, believing that the party who
had arrived were friends who were expected from Missouri to carry out the border ruffian plan of clearing the Creek of Abolitionists. This important fact alone is evidence that John Brown was correct in his predictions. This incident came through a moderate pro-slavery man, who was astonished to hear that such a plan was under consideration. Names I am not permitted to give, but the facts are indisputable.
The remarks you have made in regard to the causes which lead to the killing of these men, are correct. I have personal knowledge of these facts. Threats were made to various persons Squire Morse, John Grant & his family, Mr. Winer & others. And I will here add that the abscence from home saved the lives of other pro-slavery men on the creek.
My dear sir, I will sum up the whole question of the Pottawatomie matter in a few words.
Old John Brown was at my house several days, at various times in 1858. We had a long talk over the political difficulties of Kansas. He asked me "how do the people on the Creek regard the killing of the Shermans etc at this time." My remark was, that I did not know a settler of 56, but what regarded it as amongst the most fortunate events in the history of Kansas - that this event saved the lives of the free state men on the creek: that those who did the act were looked upon our deliverers. The old man remarked, that the first shock frightened the free state men, almost as bad as the ruffians, but he knew when the facts were understood that a reaction would take place. He then remarked that "if the killing of these men was murder, then he was an accessory."
This remark did not surprise me, because I heard his brother in law, Revd Mr. Adair say that the old man had said the same to him.
The question is how can we reconcile the various
reports which have been published on this Pottawatomie affair? In the first place, it was a matter the old man did not think prudent to communicate his thoughts, to everyone. He could truely say "I did not kill them". I was not present when they were killed etc etc Because from the best of evidence which I can obtain he did not kill any of them. The old man undertook the examination, and others carried out the verdict. They were all takeing from the premises & slain By a cap being discharged, the signal was given to retreat.
I could give you many other circumstances in connections with this affair, but I deem I have said enough to convince you that old John Brown & his party knew all about the affair, and I may add that no man in this section of the country feels confident that Brown was the chief leader in the Pottawatomie affair, and honors him for it.
This incident in the life of Capt Brown may "shock" men who have passed their lives in Eastern cities etc but we in Kansas who have known John Brown for many years, and have a warm friendship from his memory, do hope that the whole facts may yet be published in his life.
I have heard one of the Shermans declare that he would rather take the life of certain men on the Creek, than kill a rattlesnake - I heard Squire Morse relate the threats made by the Doyals and also by the Shermans, because he sold some powder & lead to our military company. I have heard frequently the violent threats which Mr. Grant and his whole family received from the two Shermans. Also Mr. Winer, because he gave promises to the free state organizations - & in this case they burnt his storehouse and its contents and narrowly escaped with his life, by being fired on several times while detained by high water on the Osage River. Take in connection the fact of John Brown running in the
border ruffian camp with his surveying instruments and there hearing the plans on foot to drive out and exterminate the settlers on our Creek - And I think we have good & sufficient testimony to believe that our lives were in danger, and that John Brown and his little band saved us from a premature grave --
You may ask, why has not this matter been examined into before, it has been; but one fact I do know that various Rep. papers in the fall of 56 objected to publishing the corrected version -- thinking it would act [xxx] to the Rep. nominee & party. I sent a full report in 56 to the [xxx] Commercial and altho I never saw it myself, I understood the article was published. It was difficult to receive mail matter in the fall & summer of 56 in Kansas.
Miss Mary Partridge has engaged quite a number of names in the life of Brown. Your friend H called on me a few weeks since, and obtained incident of Browns men who fell at Harper Ferry. He also took notes on the subject matter of this letter.
In conclusion if there is any matter which you deem would be of interest to your future publication, and I can aid you in any way, I shall most willingly comply to your request.
There is one remark which I will now make, and that is -- that many of our citizens who knew something of the Pottawatomie affair has said but little about it, outside of a certain circle as they did not wish to be brought up as witnesses before the courts, or do anything to injure those who they believed acted in the matter. Some have now fell at Harper Ferry, but still others are living - whos names as better kept from paper.
I send this to your publishers, not knowing your address. I should like to receive a line from you, and have your opinion on the matter of this letter.
John Browns sons & his son in laws took claims in Franklin Co and not in Lykins Co - as stated in your book. We have 2 middle creeks. one is called North Middle Ck Franklin Co the other South Middle Creek which is in Lykins Co -- thus the mistake -- we claim the Brown family for Franklin