Friday, June 30, 2017

John Brown to Franklin B. Sanborn et al, July 20, 1858

Missouri Line (on Kansas Side), July 20, 1858.

F. B. Sanborn, Esq., And Friends At Boston And WorcesTer, — I am here with about ten of my men, located on the same quarter-section where the terrible murders of the 19th of May were committed, called the Hamilton or trading-post murders. Deserted farms and dwellings lie in all directions for some miles along the line, and the remaining inhabitants watch every appearance of persons moving about, with anxious jealousy and vigilance. Four of the persons wounded or attacked on that occasion are staying with me. The blacksmith Snyder, who fought the murderers, with his brother and son, are of the number. Old Mr. Hairgrove, who was terribly wounded at the same time, is another. The blacksmith returned here with me, and intends to bring back his family on to his claim within two or three days. A constant fear of new troubles seems to prevail on both sides of the line, and on both sides are companies of armed men. Any little affair may open the quarrel afresh. Two murders and cases of robbery are reported of late. I have also a man with me who lied from his family and farm in Missouri but a day or two since, his life being threatened on account of being accused of informing Kansas men of the whereabouts of one of the murderers, who was lately taken and brought to this side. I have concealed the fact of my presence pretty much, lest it should tend to create excitement; but it is getting leaked out, and will soon be known to all. As I am not here to seek or secure revenge, I do not mean to be the first to reopen the quarrel. How soon it may be raised against me I cannot say; nor am I over anxious. A portion of my men arc in other neighborhoods. We shall soon be in great want of a small amount in a draft or drafts on New York, to feed us. We cannot work for wages, and provisions are not easily obtained on the frontier.

I cannot refrain from quoting, or rather referring to, a notice of the terrible affair before alluded to, in an account found in the “New York Tribune” of May 31, dated at Westport, May 21. The writer says: “From one of the prisoners it was ascertained that a number of persons were stationed at Snyder's, a short distance from the Post, a house built in the gorge of two mounds, and flanked by rock-walls, — a fit place for robbers and murderers.” At a spring in a rocky ravine stands a very small open blacksmith's-shop, made of thin slabs from a saw-mill. This is the only building that has ever been known to stand there, and in that article is called a “fortification.” It is today, just as it was on the 19th of May, — a little pent-up shop, containing Snyder's tools (what have not been carried off) all covered with rust, — and had never been thought of as a “fortification” before the poor man attempted in it his own and his brother's and son's defence. I give this as an illustration of the truthfulness of that whole account. It should be left to stand while it may last, and should be known hereafter as Fort Snyder.

I may continue here for some time. Mr. Russell and other friends at New Haven assured me before I left, that if the Lecompton abomination should pass through Congress something could be done there to relieve me from a difficulty I am in, and which they understand. Will not some of my Boston friends “stir up their minds” in the matter? I do believe they would be listened to.1
You may use this as you think best. Please let friends in New York and at North Elba2 hear from me. I am not very stout; have much to think of and to do, and have but little time or chance for writing. The weather, of late, has been very hot. I will write you all when I can.

I believe all honest, sensible Free-State men in Kansas consider George Washington Brown's “Herald of Freedom” one of the most mischievous, traitorous publications in the whole country.

1 The allusion here 1s to Brown's contract with Charles Blair, who was to make the thousand pikes. Brown had not been able, for lack of money, to complete the payment, and was afraid his contract would he forfeited, and the money paid would be lost. He therefore communicated the facts to Mr. Russell, who was then the head of a military school at New Haven, and had some assurance from him of money to be raised in Connecticut to meet this contract.

2 Gerrit Smith, and his own family.

SOURCE: Franklin B. Sanborn, The Life and Letters of John Brown, p. 474-6

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