John Brown was born in Torrington, Connecticut, on May 9, 1800, to Owen and Ruth Mills Brown, and Florella Brown Adair was born on May 19, 1816.

John Brown was the fourth of eight children that Owen and Ruth Mills Brown had together. In addition, Owen and Ruth Brown adopted Levi Blakeslee as an infant. Following Ruth Mills Brown’s death in 1808, Owen Brown married Sally Root Brown. Owen and Sally Root Brown had eight children together, making John Brown the fourth of 16 children and one adopted child from Owen Brown, Ruth Mills Brown and Sally Root Brown.

Large families were not uncommon during the early 19th century, and Owen and Ruth Mills Brown and Sally Root Brown reared John Brown in a family culture that centered on the deep Christian faith of Owen Brown. That included a strong belief in the equality of all people in the Christian faith, which contributed to John Brown’s and Florella Brown Adair’s abolitionist beliefs.

Owen Brown inculcated all of his children with the Christian faith and his abolitionist beliefs, and in John Brown he found fertile ground for his Christian faith and abolitionist beliefs. Owen Brown was a peaceful abolitionist, and John Brown took his father’s abolitionist beliefs and applied them in a different manner than Owen Brown and advocated a militant solution to the slavery issue.

John Brown was not the only child of Owen Brown who became a dedicated abolitionist. John Brown’s half-sister, Florella Brown Adair, was born on May 19, 1816, and was Owen Brown’s third child with Sally Root Brown and Owen Brown’s 11th child. Florella Brown Adair was also a dedicated Christian and a peaceful abolitionist, and was as dedicated to the abolitionist cause as her half-brother, John Brown.

John Brown and Florella Brown Adair both brought Owen Brown’s abolitionist beliefs to Osawatomie and Miami County in 1855, and through his militant abolitionist crusade in Kansas Territory, not only had a dramatic effect on Osawatomie’s and Miami County’s history, but also on the nation and the world’s history. John Brown’s abolitionist crusade sparked the Civil War, and John Brown became an archetype of ideologically motivated action that is still studied today.

Florella Brown Adair was a courageous abolitionist who reared a family in Kansas Territory during the Bleeding Kansas Era and also operated an Underground Railroad Station at the Adair Cabin and helped slaves to escape to freedom.

She also was one of the first women to graduate from college in the United States, graduating from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio in 1839. She was a pioneer and a radical in even attending college at a time when most women did not even attend school past the eighth grade, if they had that much formal education.

Owen Brown, Ruth Mills Brown, and Sally Root Brown are names not known to many in history, but they had a dramatic effect on not only Osawatomie’s and Miami County’s history, but Kansas’ and America’s history as well.

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

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