Magazine article History Today

Birth of John Brown

Magazine article History Today

Birth of John Brown

Article excerpt

May 9th, 1800

EARLY IN 1799 a young tanner named Owen Brown arrived to start a new life in a farmhouse he had bought at Torrington in Connecticut with his wife Ruth and two small children. Owen, who had been working as an itinerant cobbler, claimed descent from one of the Mayflower pilgrims, Peter Browne (though this is now considered doubtful). He and his wife were both deeply religious and Owen believed that the United States of America was God's vehicle for the return of Christ to the earth, but that the Second Coming was being prevented by the abominable evil of slavery.

Owen's tanning business failed to prosper, but in May Ruth gave birth to a boy they named John alter his paternal grandfather. There were three more children to come. Young John was a thin, solemn child, who grew up among incessant prayers and Bible readings in a dour household where the rod was not spared and he was frequently thrashed. He recalled afterwards that his father had taught him `to fear God and keep His commandments' and to be kind to blacks, whose enslavement was a sin against the Almighty.

When John had just turned five, in June 1805, the Browns packed all they possessed into an ox-drawn wagon and moved to Ohio. Another family went with them. It was a thrilling experience for a small boy, and his father let him help with the driving, as they moved through a vast wilderness where there might be Indians and there were certainly rattlesnakes of alarming proportions. …

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