The Arrest of Jason Brown

John Brown

The posse took John Brown, Jr., not far from the home of his aunt and uncle. He came up and approached a group of soldiers, with the Missourians and federal marshal out of sight. They appeared in due course, making for a most unwelcome surprise. Judge Sterling Cato, informed of the murders that Brown’s father and brothers committed, issued warrants for everyone’s arrest. He even swept up an unrelated man named O.C. Brown. Brown deemed resistance “out of the question” in the face of professional soldiers and “a large number” of Missourians. The group took him back toward Paola, where Cato had his court. Along the way, the soldiers split off to make for a separate camp, leaving John Brown’s eldest in the hands of the proslavery men. There he met some familiar faces. Cato issued warrants for H.H. Williams, who had replaced Brown in charge of the Pottawatomie Rifles, and he arrived at Paolo ahead of Brown. So had his brother Jason.

Jason Brown parted ways with his father on the morning of May 26, rejoining his family at the Adair’s just as John Junior had. The murders his father and brothers committed on the night of May 24-25 weighed on him. The Adairs almost didn’t give them shelter and told him and Junior that their presence put the family at risk. All that in mind, Jason set off on foot on the morning of the 27th, hoping to reach Lawrence by way of Ottawa Jones’ and turn himself in to United States troops. In a friendly setting and in the hands of a neutral party, he might not have much to fear. According to Sanborn’s Brown biography, he first saw trouble when he looked off in the direction of Paola and spotted a dozen Missourians riding toward Brown’s Station.

The Missourians’ course intersected with Jason’s. He went right up and asked the way to Jones’ place, apparently gambling that they wouldn’t know him.

The leader of the party with an oath exclaimed: “You are one of the men we’re hunting for;” and levelled his rifle at him. Jason stood still, and the men began to question him rapidly. “What is your name?” “Jason Brown.” – “the son of old John Brown?” “Yes.” – “Are you armed?” “Yes, with a revolver.” – “Give it up. Have you any money?”

Jason had a few dollars and handed it over to the Missourians. All of this seems to have put Jason amid the party. After they collected his gun and money, they ordered him out in front of them. There they could get a clean shot, which Jason realized.

so he stepped backward, facing them, opened his bosom, and said: “I am an Abolitionist; I believe that slavery is wrong, and that Kansas ought to be a free state. I never knowingly harmed any man in the world. If you want to take my blood for believing in the doctrines of the Declaration of Independence, do it now.”

The dramatic show of courage and conviction, which they would probably have understood as “manhood,” moved a few of the Missourians to lay down their rifles. The others remained trained on Jason, but their leader felt otherwise. Martin White told Brown:

“Well, we won’t shoot you now, but make a  prisoner of you.”

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