Florella Brown Adair was John Brown’s half sister, and her courage in the face of pro-slavery militia men saved the Adair Cabin from destruction following the Battle of Osawatomie on Aug. 30, 1856.

Following the Battle of Osawatomie, pro-slavery militia men were searching the countryside near Osawatomie to find John Brown and his sons.

They started at the most logical place to look — the cabin of the Rev. Samuel Adair and Florella Brown Adair, which was known to be a safe house where John Brown and his abolitionist guerillas sought shelter when they were in or near Osawatomie.

Fresh from the Battle of Osawatomie, a force of around 24 to 30 pro-slavery militia men surrounded the Adair Cabin and pointed the cannon that they had used at the battle of Osawatomie at the door of the Adair Cabin, certain that they were going to come face-to-face with John Brown and his sons.

The member of the Brown family that they encountered was a more formidable and determined foe than John Brown, for when the door opened, the pro-slavery militia men faced Florella Brown Adair.

Florella was seven months pregnant, and she did not know whether her husband was alive or dead. She was equally committed to the abolitionist cause as John Brown, but in a peaceful manner, and she was now face-to-face with the perpetrators of the misery that she was living on Aug. 30, 1856.

She grimly opened the door to the Adair Cabin and firmly informed the pro-slavery militia men that they could have anything in and about the house or property, but asked them to spare the Adair Cabin.

The pro-slavery militia men had expected a battle, but they instead were involved in a test of wills with a woman who stood strong in the door of the Adair Cabin, not backing down an inch.

It was at this point that the southern code of honor came to fore, and after seeing that Florella Brown Adair was not going to back down, the pro-slavery militia men refrained from burning down the Adair Cabin. They did, though, take all of the Adairs’ livestock and food supplies.

When they rode away, they left the Adair Cabin intact, preserving it for future generations, all due to the courage and strong will of Florella Brown Adair.

The women who stood beside their husbands and families during the guerrilla war during the Bleeding Kansas era of Kansas and American history are often overlooked in accounts of the events of that time.

That is a shameful reality, for the women who stood up with their husbands and cared for their families during Bleeding Kansas were a courageous group of women to whom we owe a debt of gratitude and respect.

Grady Atwater is site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site.

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