John Brown was a dedicated foe of slavery and regarded anyone who sided with, or was neutral on the slavery issue, with suspicion.

Ely Moore Jr. was neutral in the fight over slavery and enforced federal government Indian policy in the area, which made him an ally of the pro-slavery Federal Government in Brown’s eyes and an enemy.

Moore and Brown therefore had an antagonistic relationship, and Moore’s account of John Brown’s conduct in Kansas Territory reveals the disdain both men had for each other.

Moore reported in Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1911-1912, that “In the late summer or early fall of 1855 an evil bird swooped down upon us, arrogantly invading our territory. True, the bird assumed the form of a man, but carried a heart of stone that could not be mellowed save by the flow of human blood. The noxious visant, though by some crowned as a saint and a martyr, was but a dangerous paranoiac at large-John Brown.”

Moore’s opposition to Brown’s abolitionist crusade in Kansas territory was compounded when Brown refused to allow him and a companion to enter their camp during December 24-25th of 1855.

Brown’s reaction angered Moore, for Moore had rescued Brown earlier in November, 1855, from nearly drowning and freezing to death in Rabbit Creek. However, Brown was an abolitionist guerilla fighter, and the last thing he wanted was to have a Federal Government agent in his camp to report to the authorities how many men he had and his whereabouts.

Ely Moore Jr. firmly stated his opinion of John Brown when he said, “The adoration which many entertain for John Brown and his acts here and elsewhere is incomprehensible. Even the State Historical Society insults the heirs of many good and brave Kansans by placing on the walls of the honorable secretaries’ office the portrait of John Brown, surrounded by the portraits of those gallant men who placed Kansas on her sturdy feet, even giving up their gifted lives in so doing.”

John Brown is a deeply controversial character in American and World history. Brown’s actions in Kansas Territory and his raid in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, helped to spark the Civil War. The reality that his actions in and around Osawatomie were a part of changing American history made Osawatomie history of national and international importance.

However, there is another aspect of Brown’s abolitionist crusade that makes him and Osawatomie historically important. John Brown has become a philosophical example when people nationally and internationally discuss the issue of ideologically based violence. Historians and other disciplines analyze Brown’s actions in Kansas, studying his motives and the ramifications of his abolitionist crusade.

John Brown’s abolitionist crusade inspires debate about his actions that began when Brown battled pro-slavery forces during Bleeding Kansas, and his raid at Harpers Ferry. The debate continues in the present and shows no sign of fading out in the future. Brown’s actions in and around Osawatomie are a part of that debate, and the controversy over John Brown puts Osawatomie on the historical map, which brings visitors to the community from all over the nation and the world.

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

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