the Engine House
(Harper's Weekly, Nov. 1859)
| May 1800
|John Brown is born in Torrington, Connecticut.
|While in Michigan, John Brown lodges with a slave-owning
man. Brown's memory of seeing the man beat his slave
shovel inspires his hatred of slavery.
|Brown marries Dianthe Lusk. His wife will bear
children, but the birth of the last child causes her death
|Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion in Virginia that
in the deaths of fifty-five white plantation residents and
blacks. (Turner is captured and hanged with sixteen
cohorts two months later.) Turner's rebellion shocks
and influences Brown's planning for his later attack at
||Brown weds the stable and stoical Mary Day, who is only
sixteen at the
time. Mary will give Brown thirteen more
Mary's children will outlive her.
|Brown moves to central Ohio. Although beset with
economic difficulties, Brown establishes important
Ohio's abolitionist network. His life's work begins
to come into
focus as he becomes a stationmaster of the Underground
gives speeches in support of repeal of state laws
|Brown is expelled from his church for escorting blacks
pews reserved for white parishioners.
|Anti-slavery minister and editor Elijah Lovejoy, who
editorialized against the lynching of a black, is killed
when a mob of
angry whites storm his printing press in Alton,
murder of Lovejoy further radicalizes John Brown, and he
vows during a
memorial service to end slavery.
|Brown begins to consider a plan to lead a slave revolt.
|Brown is adjudged bankrupt by a federal court. He
his family is left only with the bare essentials necessary
|John Brown and two of his sons move to Springfield,
Massachusetts, where he runs a wool distribution center.
|Black abolitionist leader Frederick Douglas visits the
home, where Brown lays out his plan to lead a group of men
on raids of
slave-holding southern plantations, followed by retreats
|Brown moves to a farm in North Elba, N. Y., near Lake
Placid. North Elba is perhaps the first American
blacks and whites live together on generally equal terms.
||Brown begins to focus on Harper's Ferry as the site of
attack, drawing sketches of log forts that he intended to
build in the
mountains surrounding the town.
|The Kansas-Nebraska Act puts the decision of whether or
to allow slavery in the new territories into the hands of
in those terrorities.
|At a convention of Radical Political Abolitionists,
Frederick Douglas, Gerrit Smith, and Lewis
Tappan, Brown held raise money for the Free State
|John Brown and his party arrive in Brown's Station,
Kansas. A state of near anarchy exists in Kansas,
ruffians from Missouri perpetuate voter fraud and organize
legislature in Shawnee Mission that enacts draconian
laws. A competing Free State constitution is
presented in Topeka
and ratified by settlers opposed to slavery.
|President Franklin Pierce declares the proslavery
|A Northern antislavery party, the Republican Party, is
in Pittsburgh, largely in response to news of fraud and
proslavery forces in Kansas.
|Proslavery forces storm the antislavery center of
Kansas, ransacking Free State printing presses and looting
|After delivering an antislavery speech on the floor of
United States Senate, Senator Charles Sumner of
severely beaten with a cane by proslavery Senator Preston
|Enraged by news of the storming of Lawrence and the
Senator Sumner, John Brown and six other radical
themselves with guns and swords and leave Ottawa Creek,
heading in the
direction of a proslavery settlement.
|Brown directs the murder of five proslavery settlers in
Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas. The massacre causes
misread Brown's extremism as typical of the feelings of
abolitionists, greatly affecting the course of subsequent
events on the
|Brown leaves Kansas for the East, the month after his
outnumbered men won a battle against proslavery forces at
Kansas. Brown is henceforth often referred to as
|In Boston, Brown is introduced to important
will provide financial and moral support for his
activities. This group becomes known as the "Secret
Brown collects arms and hires Hugh Forbes, an experienced
English military tactician, to be the drillmaster for the
forces he is
mustering for his planned attack at Harper's Ferry and
|Brown arrives in Tabor, Iowa, where he and Forbes, for a
period of weeks, refine the plans for an assault on
slavery. He travels
later to Kansas, where he finds the situation moving
towards peaceful resolution, as antislavery voters become
majority in the territory.
|Brown seeks recruits in Kansas for what by now is a
emerging plan to lead an attack on the federal arsenel in
||Concerned about possible arrest for his activities,
hides out for
three weeks in the Rochester, New York home of his friend,
|Brown proposes a new
(rather utopian) constitution, based on complete
equality of the
races, at a convention in Chatham, Ontario. The convention
commander-in-chief, John Kagi as Secretary of War, and
Richard Realf as
Secretary of State.
|Brown, with Forbes now leaking information to key
about Brown's plans to attack slaveholders, travels to
|Brown and his followers invade Missouri and appropriate
property and liberate slaves from two farms. Brown
the slaves on an 82-day one-thousand-mile journey to
freedom in Canada.
|Brown travels through the northeast raising money and
increasing support for his cause.
|Brown leaves his home in North Elba for the last time.
|Brown and three of his soldiers arrive in Harper's
Virginia to scout out the federal arsenal for his planned
|Brown rents a Maryland farmhouse near Harper's Ferry
Booth Kennedy. He and various of his forces will
stay at the Kennedy farm
until their attack.
|Brown meets secretly with Frederick Douglas at a rock
in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where Brown unsuccessfully
convince Douglas to join him at Harper's Ferry.
|Brown leads 21 men on an attack on the armory at
Ferry. They meet little early resistance and capture
armory. Hostages are rounded up from nearby
farms. In an
effort to prevent news of the attack from reaching
baggage master of an eastbound train is shot, but then the
allowed to proceed.
|With the arrival of the Baltimore & Ohio train in
Washington, news of the attack at Harper's Ferry reaches
officials. Local citizens begin to fire on the
effectively pinning down Brown and his men. The
bridge is seized
cutting off Brown's escape route, and he is forced to move
hostages into the engine house, a small brick building in
|U. S. marines, under the command of Lt. Col. Robert E.
surround the engine house. Brown refuses to
surrender and the
marines storm the building. Brown and six of his men
captured. Ten of his men (including two of his sons)
killed. Brown is questioned for three hours.
|After being declared fit for trial by a doctor, John
faces the first day of trial for murder, conspiracy, and
|The defense concludes its case, having argued that Brown
killed no one and he owed no duty of loyalty to Virginia,
could not be guilty of treason against the state.
|After 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury finds Brown
of conspiracy, murder, and treason. Brown in
sentenced to be
hanged in public on December 2.
|After declining rescue attempts, Brown has a last meal
|Brown writes a final letter to his wife. Around
he is led through a crowd of 2,000 spectators and soldiers
scaffold. He is pronounced dead at 11:50 AM.
His body is
later taken to North Elba
for burial at
the family farm.
|Confederate forces fire on Fort Sumter and the Civil War
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