Funeral Of Owen Brown - The Last Survivor Of John Brown's Historic Raid On Harpers Ferry, Va., In 1859

Pasadena Standard 12 January 1889

Died, at the residence of his brother-in-law, Henry Thompson, in this city, on January 8, 1889, Owen Brown, aged 64 years, 2 months and 4 days.

Owen Brown was born at Hudson, Ohio, November 4, 1824, and was the third son of John Brown's first family, there being twenty children in all.

Owen was with his father all through the struggle between the free state men and border ruffians in Kansas in 1836 and following years, and took part in the first pitched battle at Black jack on the Missouri and Kansas border, and also at Ossawatomie where his younger brother, an unarmed lad, was deliberately shot down in the street. Jason was also in these battles.

Owen was with his father at Harpers Ferry, a participant in that memorable raid which struck the death knell of slavery, not only in the United States but throughout the civilized world. He was one of seven who escaped from there through mountain fastnesses and swamps and forests and sassafras leaves, and such things as they could possibly devour without making a fire to cook. For they were pursued by soldiers and citizens with dogs and guns, and a price was set on their heads. The Atlantic Monthly some 15 or 20 years ago published a narrative of their escape, which excels in thrilling pathos, and in plain matter-of-fact incidents of hardship, endurance, and apparently supernatural deliverances from discovery and capture, the most vivid conceptions of fiction. Two of them made reckless ventures to get food and were captured and hung. The remaining five escaped, Owen finally reaching his brother John's home on an island in Lake Erie.

About five years ago Jason and Owen Brown took a homestead on a bench of mountain land five or six miles north of Pasadena, at the settlement now called Las Casitas. This they subsequently sold and took land higher up the mountain side, built a cabin, cleared and worked a few acres, and lied there-two feeble old men, alone. (Jason was with his father in the Kansas struggle, but was not at Harpers Ferry.) They were much visited by tourists and citizens, some from mere curiosity and others from a warm sympathy with the historic career of the family. They had made a good wagon trail up to their mountain hermitage, and were continuing it as a donkey path to the top of the mountain known as Brown's Peak, but it is not completed yet. Owen had a desire to be buried on the top of Brown's Peak; and if Jason ever succeeds in finishing the trail he will try to have his brother's grave up there as he desired. But meanwhile he is buried on a lesser peak on their mountain homestead.1 Owen Brown was never married.

Last Days.-December 30th the aged brothers came down to the city to attend Col. Woodford's gospel temperance meeting in the tabernacle. We met them there both Sunday and Monday nights. But Owen was taken sick and had a chill after going to his sister Ruth's home from the meeting, and in a week he died of typhoid pneumonia. He had been failing for some months; this had been noticed by his relatives and friends. Monday he had worked pretty hard, then lay down in the bright sunshine on the banks of the Arroyo and slept. In the evening he went to the great temperance meeting, and being very deeply and ardently interested in the cause, he put his last cent of money into the collection; had nothing to pay street car fare with, and so walked over two miles to his sister's house, after the meeting. These over-exertions were probably the immediate cause of his last sickness, although he was out some on several days after the first attack, but was not able to attend the meetings any more.

At the women's meting on Tuesday he and Jason were elected honorary members of the W. C. T. U. He was much pleased with this, and said there was no cause he would more gladly contribute his $1.00 membership fee to aid. So he was buried with the W. C. T. U. white ribbon on his breast.

The last words he uttered that could be distinguished were: "It is better-to be-in a place-and suffer wrong-than to do wrong."

The Funeral.-The last rites were paid to his mortal remains on Thursday, January 10. It was a historic day in Pasadena. The tabernacle was well filled-about 2000 people in attendance. The exercises were conducted by Rev. R. H. Hartley, pastor of the Friends church. The great choristry was filled with singers who sang appropriate hymns with fervor and pathos as if the very spirit of the Browns had woven itself into heavenly music.

Prayer was offered by Rev. Dr. Bresee, pastor of the M. E. Church, which went to the heart of the historic occasion and was an uplift of sould in all noble aspirations. Remarks were made by Rev. Mr. Hartley; also by Rev. D. D. Hill, pastor of the Congregational church; Rev. E. L. Conger, pastor of the Universalist church; Col. George Woodford, the gospel temperance evangelist; and by H. N. Rust, a life-long friend and neighbor of John Brown and his family.

The city trustees, who are all old-time republicans, attended in a body and took seats on the platform, as a token of respect for the memory of John Brown and his sons.

The students of the Pasadena Academy attended in a body. And members of the G. A. R. and Sons of Veterans who could leave their business places attended the funeral.

On conclusion of the services the casket was removed to the corridor and the face cover removed. Then the vast audience passed out in columns by each aisle on each side of the bier and thus all had an opportunity to view the face of Owen Brown. It was perfectly natural-a little paler than in life, and looked as though he was only lying asleep.

The bier was covered with floral emblems and tokens of love. A cross, a wreath, and boquets, composed of calla lillies, roses, violets, marguerites, sweet elyssum, geraniums, smilax, and feather palms.

Relatives Present.--Jason Brown, brother of the deceased.

Ruth Brown Thompson, sister of the deceased, with her husband, Henry Thompson and their youngest daughter, Maimie. Mr. Thompson was one of John Brown's soldiers in Kansas.

Mrs. Grace Simmons, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, with her husband and son, who reside in Las Cacitas, California.

Mrs. Town (another daughter) with her husband and son, who also reside in Las Cacitas, California.

Mrs. Hand, from Wellington, Ohio, a sister of John Brown, aunt to the decease and now visiting her daughter in Los Angeles, formerly Mrs. Hood of Pasadena.

Mrs. Hopson, cousin of the deceased, from Sacramento.

Mrs. Quinn, a cousin, from Saratoga Springs, N. Y.

The Pall Bearers.--It is quite remarkable that there should have been found in Pasadena so many men who were associated with John Brown in his mighty work, which up-heaved the nation and made the entering wedge for the overthrow of slavery thirty years ago. In charge of the pall bearers was H. N. Rust, president of the Pasadena Library Association, who was an old-time friend and neighbor of the John Brown family in East Hampton, Massachusetts, and also for many years in this city.

James Townsend, of Spring Dale, Cedar County, Iowa, who was John Brown's intimate and confidential friend; and at his house Brown took his last meal before starting from West Liberty, Iowa, to Chicago with his men and twelve escaped slaves. This was a marvelous event in which John Brown, with $2,000.00 reward offered for him, dead or alive, took a lot of slaves in a care on the C.R.I. & P. Railroad to the cities of Davenport, La Salle, Joliet, Chicago and on to freedom on the soil of Canada. And from thence moved on to his final operations at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. In Dr. H. A. Reid's "History of Johnson County, Iowa," a volume of 966 pages, on page 466 mention is made of James Townsend's Travelers Rest," the tavern at West Branch (near Spring Dale, Iowa), where John Brown and his mule, captured from the Border Ruffians at the battle of Black Jack on the Kansas and Missouri line, were always on the "free list." On page 467 of the same work may be read: "Brown himself had his quarters at the home of Mr. John H. Painter."

John H. Painter, who was the Justice of the Peace at Spring Dale, and Brown's intimate and confidential friend. He boxed up the guns, sabers, pikes, etc., that Brown had gathered for his anticipated army of liberation and shipped them to him at Harpers Ferry, labeled "carpenter's tools." For this he was unchurched by the Friends' Yearly Meeting, to which he belonged; but he believed he was doing God's service for the rights of man, and history since has vindicated the act. He is father to our prominent citizens M. D. Painter, A. J. Painter, Mrs. L. H. Michener, and Mrs. Dr. J. C. Michener.

William H. Coffin, was associated with John Brown and his sons in the Kansas Struggle for a free state against the slave-hunting Border Ruffians, in 1856-7-8-9.

Benjamin A. Rice, who was taken prisoner by the Border Ruffians in Kansas, and was released by John Brown after hair's-breath escapes from the murderous vengeance of the Ruffians. Mr. Rice served through the war of the rebellion, is an old citizen of Pasadena, and is now chaplain of the G.A.R. Post here.

Wilson T. Kirk, a nephew of James Townsend above mentioned, resided at Spring Dale, Iowa, and was intimate with John Brown and his men in the days when it was perilous to be know as their friend.

W. B. VanKirk is commander of the G.A.R. post in this city, and took part as the special representative of that patriotic order of men who marched to the music of "John Brown's Soul is Marching On."

These are the historic men who bore Owen Brown to his grave.2 The hearse was followed by a long procession of vehicles, and four photographic instruments were trained upon the scene to take views of different incidents in the course of the day.


This funeral notice was supplied by the person who originally asked me the question about the location of Brown's grave. I'd credit him by name, but his email address no longer works and he never gave me his name.

  1 Jason was never able to do anything more with the mountain trail. He finally lost this home place by debt, and Owen Brown's grave remains at Las Casitas, as one of Pasadena's notable historic points. Their first place was not a "homestead," but land bought from Painter & Ball, where the Las Casitas Sanitarium now stands.

  2 It was Dr. H. A. Reid's plan, and by his special effort, that these particular men were gotten together for this duty, and their historic relations to the deceased or his father made known to the public.

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