A Vile Murderer and Two Stolen Horses

John Brown


Deeply troubled, to the point where he considered himself insane, John Brown’s namesake son left his Aunt Florilla, Samuel Adair, and his brother Jason to vanish into the woods and hide. Word had reached them that proslavery men wanted the Brown’s locked up, at best, and a general manhunt had begun. Jason remained behind at the cabin. Samuel Adair only granted the two Browns temporary shelter on their word that they had nothing to do with their father’s murders and impressed on them that that he and his wife risked their lives doing it. From him, we learn that a third Brown boy called at the Adair place that night, Owen.

Owen Brown, unlike his brothers, had committed bloody murder beside the Pottawatomie. His and Salmon Brown’s hands wielded the swords that claimed the lives of James, William, and Drury Doyle at least. Owen wept afterwards, but his tears could not undo the killing. He knocked at the cabin door around two or three in the morning. Jason informed Samuel Adair of everything he knew about the murders, so he did not receive a warm welcome:

“You are a vile murderer, a marked man!” said he. “I intend to be a marked man!” shouted Owen, and rode away – on one of the murdered men’s horses.

Jason told it that way and his version makes sense in light of everything else he and John say about the Adairs that night. Blood and general compassion counted for a lot, but they would not share their roof and fire with killers. John Junior adds a bit more:

I took my rifle and horse and went into the ravine on Mr. Adair’s land, remaining there through that day (May 27 )and the following night.. About four o’clock P.M. I was joined by my brother Owen, who had been informed at Mr. Adair’s of my whereabouts. He brought with him into the brush a valuable running horse, mate of the one I had with me.

According to Jason, Owen rode a horse taken from the Shermans. John Junior has both their mounts seized by Free State men up toward Nebraska, so in proslavery country, and swapped for other animals, apparently on the grounds that someone nearby would recognize them. John came to his horse just the previous day, not far from Ottawa Jones’. Except for the notion that the horses came down from near Nebraska, that all would fit for John Junior to have with him one of the horses that his father and brothers stole. Probably he did and they didn’t tell him the whole truth about where it came from or Junior couldn’t put it together with all the strain.


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