I am spending this weekend in Lake Placid – and as always, we have a favorite place to stop: John Brown’s farm and homestead, just outside of Lake Placid, NY. Any American History enthusiast is certainly familiar with John Brown, who’s good-intentioned philosophy went horribly wrong. But for the sake of those who may not be so familiar with the legend, this post will serve as a brief introduction to the John Brown that my 12th grade AP US History class was so fond of (as well as display some pictures from the location of his homestead and grave site).
John Brown was born in 1800 in Connecticut, to a family that was very much anti-slavery as compared to the majority of their counterparts. Throughout his life, Brown worked as an abolitionist, “…helping finance the publication of David Walker’s Appeal and Henry Highland’s “Call to Rebellion” speech. He gave land to fugitive slaves. He and his wife agreed to raise a black youth as one of their own. He also participated in the Underground Railroad and, in 1851, helped establish the League of Gileadites, an organization that worked to protect escaped slaves from slave catchers.” (source)
Below is an aerial view of the location:
Brown moved just outside of Lake Placid in 1849 (technically in North Elba) with his wife and children. The house and farm still exist, as do the grounds, now accompanied by a commemorative statue of Brown. He hoped to encourage African American locals to join him in creating a utopian farming commune-style community, and was met with little resistance due to the relative anti-slavery spirit of the area. Although Brown left the Lake Placid area to join his sons in their anti-abolition work in Kanas, he often returned to this area to visit the wife and children who remained in the homestead.
Tours of the interior of his home are available (however I have never had the opportunity to tour it, and have to wonder if the goods within the home are the original furnishings or recreations.
At the time in which Brown moved to the Lake Placid region, “The community had been established thanks to the philanthropy of Gerrit Smith, who donated tracts of at least 50 acres to black families willing to clear and farm the land. Brown, knowing that many of the families were finding life in this isolated area difficult, offered to establish his own farm there as well, in order to lead the blacks by his example and to act as a “kind father to them.” (source)
My highschool class was always fascinated by Brown’s cohort, Dangerfield Newby – perhaps one of the best names in American History. “Dangerfield Newby, a strong, 6’2″ African American, was the first of Brown’s men to die in the fighting. Born a slave in 1815 but later freed by his white, Scottish father, Newby married a slave who was still in bondage in Virginia. A letter found on his dead body revealed his motive for joining Brown.” (source)
Brown is most often remembered for the events surrounding the raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859. On October 16, 17, and 18, 1859, John Brown and his “Provisional Army of the United States” took possession of the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Brown had come to arm an uprising of slaves. Instead, the raid drew militia companies and federal troops from Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. On the morning of October 18, a storming party of 12 Marines broke down the door of the Armory’s fire enginehouse, taking Brown and the remaining raiders captive.” (source)
Brown was executed by hanging on December 2nd, 1859 – ten years after he originally moved to upstate New York. “His body was returned to North Elba and was buried in front of his home on December 8, 1859. The remains of several of Brown’s followers, who fought and died at Harper’s Ferry, were moved to this small graveyard in 1899.” (source)
This is an image of John Brown’s grave site (formerly referred to as ‘Big Rock’) before it was protected by the NPS. This photo was taken in 1896, before the remains of other Harper’s Ferry participants were moved there.
Below is a Vine video taken at John Brown’s homestead earlier this afternoon:
If you ever find yourself without anything to do in the Lake Placid area, make sure to stop by the John Brown homestead. Even if the home isn’t open to tour, there are some great walking trails behind the barn, and it’s a lovely place to walk a dog. You can take a peek at the historic cemetery, take photos of the beautiful landscape and enjoy the serenity of the region while immersing yourself in American history!
– John Brown Bio on PBS
– John Brown wikipedia page
– Dangerfield Newby wikipedia page
– Dangerfield Newby on PBS
– NPS – Harper’s Ferry
– John Brown Farm-site on wiki
– NPS – State Historic Site
Below is a map with directions to get from Lake Placid to John Brown’s Farm/Homestead, check it out next time you’re up there!