The Rev. Samuel Adair and his wife, Florella Brown Adair, were busy preparing for Christmas Day when the sound of a wagon and a team of horses pierced the cold, clear winter night on Christmas Eve of 1858.

The Adairs all stopped and became quiet, as the threat of a proslavery attack on their home was a reality that they could not ignore in 1858. A quiet knock and a quiet voice stating “Reverend Adair?” drew Rev. Adair to the door of the Adair Cabin, and the man in the cold, Kansas winter night stated, “Would you be willing to provide shelter for eleven fugitive slaves that John Brown liberated in Missouri? They are cold and hungry and in dire need of shelter.”

Rev. Adair looked at Florella, and they both understood the danger that sheltering the eleven fugitive slaves created for the Adairs, for the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was still in effect, and Rev. Adair and Florella both faced imprisonment or worse. If proslavery guerillas found them sheltering the fugitive slaves, Rev. Adair would most certainly be shot or hung, and Florella would be widowed.

Rev. Adair quietly stated that they had a moral duty to shelter the fugitive slaves, but he understood the risk that they would be taking in doing so, and sought her choice. Florella straightened up and firmly stated “I cannot turn them away!” and the cold, hungry fugitive slaves were brought into the Adair Cabin.

Reverend Adair, Florella and the Adairs’ children set about getting warm clothing and prepared supper for the family and the eleven fugitive slaves. They fellowshipped with the fugitive slaves, giving them the warmth of freedom from slavery as a Christmas gift on that cold winter night in 1858. They spent Christmas Day with the fugitive slaves, sending them on their way to the next station on the Underground Railroad as the sun set on Christmas Day.

Rev. Samuel Adair, Florella and their children translated their Christian faith and abolitionist beliefs into practice on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1858, risking their own freedom and lives to give sanctuary to eleven fugitive slaves.

They, and the other abolitionist founders of Osawatomie, had the courage to risk and sometimes give their lives for their Christian faith and abolitionist beliefs. One of the gifts that the abolitionist founders of Osawatomie gave to the generations of Osawatomie citizens who have followed them is the foundation of spiritual and moral courage upon which they and we today can draw on as they faced and we now face the challenges of making the choice to stand strong in the face of adversity in all areas of both our personal and collective lives as citizens of Osawatomie.

The Adairs and other abolitionist founders of Osawatomie have left us an example of courage in the face of adversity, and we owe them a debt of gratitude and respect.

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

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