“Slain with a short sword by one of the younger Browns”

John Brown

Louisa Wilkinson would get no consideration from John Brown. Sick with measels, she pleaded with him to let her husband Allen stay with her through the night. He agreed to go quietly with Brown and his band of murderous free state men, coming when called and not trying to flee or cause trouble. He just wanted to make sure that someone could take care of Louisa. Brown pointed out that the Wilkinsons had neighbors. Allen pointed out that those neighbors all lived some distance away and at the present hour likely resided in the Land of Nod. Brown shrugged it off, saying it didn’t matter. He had a proslavery man to kill, after all.

At this point, Louisa’s testimony has a confusing passage:

I told him to get ready. My husband wanted to put on his boots and get ready, so as to be protected from the damp and night air, but they wouldn’t let him. They then took my husband away.

Brown’s biographer Villard thinks that Louisa meant Brown told Allen Wilkinson to get ready, but then she goes on to say that Brown would not let him get ready. She may have misspoken or in the moment she might have urged her husband to bundle up against the night air. If he had to go, no sense in him getting sick. In stressful times people have odd reactions and Louisa might have done just that, focusing on mundane dangers instead of what these strange armed men might do to her husband. Or maybe Brown let Wilkinson put on a coat or something but drew the line at boots because it started to feel like stalling.

However it happened, Brown and his men took Allen Wilkinson outside. One of the men returned and collected two saddles from the cabin, at which point Louisa asked what they meant to do with Allen. The antislavery man answered that they meant to keep Wilkinson as a prisoner, the same as Brown told her. She pleaded then for someone to stay with her thought the night, which the antislavery man said he would do but the others would not allow it.

After they were gone, I thought I heard my husband’s voice, in complaint, but do not know; went do the door and all was still.

According to Townsley, who stayed outside just as he had at the Doyle’s,

Wilkinson was taken and marched some distance south of his house and slain in the road with a short sword by one of the younger Browns. After he was killed his body was dragged out to one side and left.

Salmon Brown blamed Wilkinson’s death on his brother-in-law, Henry Thompson. He also tells that the party split up and he didn’t see or participate in any way with the Wilkinson murder. Townsley’s younger Browns present would have included Salmon (born 1836) and Oliver (1839). He specifically excludes Frederick (1827) from that distinction and Owen (1824) has three years on him. That narrows Wilkinson’s murderer down to Salmon or Oliver. Given that Salmon obscured his own role in putting the Doyles to the sword, we must take the notion that he did the same again as a reasonable supposition. He had no trouble naming Owen as a co-perpetrator, so if Oliver did it then he probably would have named names again.

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