The Arrest of John Brown, Junior

John Brown

John Brown’s namesake son hid out in the woods. There Junior’s frayed nerves made him a man, by his own account, not quite in his right mind. Mounted on a horse he might have suspected belonged to men his brother’s and father killed, knowing that men already hunted him as a likely conspirator on the killings, the whole world must have seemed set against him. The arrival of his brother Owen, who had hacked men to death with their father the night prior, can’t have helped with the strain. Owen came, rejected at his Aunt’s home, his own stolen horse wet with swat, and carrying urgent and further traumatic news:

he told me of the narrow escape he had just had from a number of armed proslavery men who had their headquarters at Tooley’s, -a house at the foot of the hill, about a mile and a half west of Mr. Adair’s. Their guards, seeing him in the road coming down the hill, gave a signal, and at once the whole gang were in hot pursuit.

Not only did men hunt the Browns, they had come within two miles and nearly caught one. Only superior, purloined horseflesh kept Owen from their grasp. Owen traded his spent animal for John Junior’s and rode off to rejoin their father. Junior spent a sleepless night in the woods and came out in the morning, seeking the Adairs again. He

was there but a few moments when there suddenly rode up a number of United states cavalry, whom I was quite willing to see; but while in conversation with them a large number of mounted Missourians came up also, and with them the United States Marshal, whom I knew, but did not wish to see.

Given how Missourians and posses had worked for Lawrence, which Junior had seen the aftermath of only days before, nothing about that meant good news to him. Less still when the Marshal read him a warrant that charged him with treason. With that formality taken care of, the cavalry informed John that they had not come in their official capacity as soldiers, but rather as members of the same posse. The warrant came from the court of Sterling Cato, now at Paola, thus realizing one of the fears the Browns had when he opened up shop at Osawatomie: he meant to have them behind bars after all.

News of the Pottawatomie murders threw Paola into a chaos that disrupted Cato’s court. He questioned militia members who had visited the sites, wrote a report for Governor Shannon, and launched a proper investigation of his own. Free state militia men answered his questions and all fingered the Browns, Weiner, Thompson, and Townsley. Once he got going, Cato decided to make a clean sweep of things and also indicted the Browns and several others for resisting the collection of the bogus legislature’s taxes.

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