Kansas, as a tendon, has created motion for change since its inception as a territory. As a territory in the Nineteenth Century, Kansas was a part of a network of trails. Examples of those trails were the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, and numerous military trails that the United States Army used to resupply the forts across Kansas to protect the wagon trains moving settlers on the Oregon Trail and trade goods along the Santa Fe. Another trail came into Kansas and it was spoken in whispers by abolitionists seeking to move runaway slaves to the freedom of Canada. That trail was the Underground Railroad.
One of the stations along the Underground Railroad is located in Osawatomie, Kansas at the John Brown Memorial Park where the Adair Cabin is enclosed in a rock building to preserve it as a museum of Territorial Kansas and Bleeding Kansas. The park is also the battlefield of the Battle of Osawatomie where John Brown and his abolitionists fought the proslavery Missouri Border Ruffians. The historical site is an excellent resource for historians and a great place for living history people to represent Kansas history of Bleeding Kansas. The John Brown Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization funded entirely by private donations.
Anyone who gives a tax-deductible contribution contributes to the success of the preservation of the site, the exhibits, and the educational opportunities to all of the visitors. Supporting the John Brown Foundation are the living-history historians who volunteer their time, travel, and regalia of the era, known as Bleeding Kansas. Living historians, while donating much of their time and experience, are provided with supplies for making campfire meals at their bivouac site by the foundation. This allows the visitors to observe life as one of John Brown’s men or one of the pro-slave guerillas would have lived while in the field.
Additionally, the John Brown Museum and John Brown Memorial Park are operated in partnership with the City of Osawatomie and the Kansas State Historical Society. Working together the legacy of John Brown and his efforts to exterminate slavery in the United States is protected, preserved, and shared for educational purposes. The Adair Cabin Museum is dedicated to the exhibition of the Adair family’s involvement in the Underground Railroad. In the pring of 1855, peaceful abolitionists, Reverend Samuel and Florella Adair and their children lived in the cabin that is housed inside the stone building.
Also in 1855, Florella’s half-brother, John Brown, and five of his sons settled near Osawatomie, Kansas. The Browns and Adairs became involved in the armed conflict known as Bleeding Kansas as supporters and militia fighting to make Kansas a free state after the Kansas-Nebraska Act that put the decision of statehood in the hands of voters. The Adair home became a stop on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves fleeing the slave states of the South. Among the fugitive slaves that stayed briefly in the cabin, were the slaves which John Brown liberated during a raid on Stotesbury, Missouri in 1858.
On August 30, 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Osawatomie to dedicate a memorial at the John Brown Memorial Park. In 1912 the Adair cabin was dismantled and relocated to the memorial park. In 1928 the state of Kansas appropriated $6,000 of a stone pergola to surround the cabin, protecting it from further deterioration. In 1935, the site placed a statue of John Brown southeast of the museum. It was cast by he Borbedine Foundry in Paris, France which also cast the Statue of Liberty. The site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and now operates as John Brown Museum State Historic Site.
This site has a number of positions where one can read accounts of the battle between John Brown’s Free State fighters of Kansas and John Reid’s proslavery militia. Inside the Adair Cabin Museum, one can view the exterior and interior of the cabin. It is set up as it would have been during the era. The front room has a low ceiling so that the fireplace could easily heat the room. The upstairs was set up as a sleeping chamber while the backroom of the cabin served as the kitchen which originally had a root cellar that was used to hide runaway slaves.
Many displays adorn the cabin, such as sabers, muskets, knives, a manual drill, a portrait of John Brown, and pictograms of historical facts. The cabin is best experienced when its curator, Grady Atwater is present. Grady is one of the most knowledgeable historians on John Brown as he has read many primary sources of historical works such as letters written by persons on both sides of Bleeding Kansas. As one researches he facts and myths about John Brown and the events he was involved in, one learns that numbers and facts vary as well as whether or not John Brown was a crazed killer.
Grady has thoroughly researched the subject and can give the closest accounts based on facts. One such fact is that John Brown refused to take revenge on the man who killed one of his sons, which does not support the crazed killer myth. The John Brown Memorial Park each year hosts a living history weekend where the forces of John Brown and John Reid battle over the issue of Kansas entering the Union as a free state or as a slave state. The author witnessed this event as one of John Brown’s men. Approximately seventy-five living historians acted out events for a crowd of interested history buffs.
The first battle allowed for John Brown’s men to seize the high ground and capture an artillery piece which was somewhat historically correct. Unfortunately, the Elliot’s Scouts, a living history group that represented the Missouri Border Ruffians, outnumbered the John Brown living history group. The final battle of the day was historically inaccurate as the battle is lost by John Brown and his men. Elliot’s Scouts rounded up John Brown and his men here they escorted them to the audience. Elliot’s Scouts formed a firing squad and executed John Brown and his men.
Unbelievably, the crowd cheered as if a tyrant criminal had been executed. The author being an abolitionist minded living historian refused to participate in the final act. However, the reaction of the audience represented current views of John Brown who is grossly misunderstood, which means that better education to the public is needed to bring to light the real John Brown. Contrasting the argument of the inaccurate representation of the Battle of Osawatomie, the museum displayed and epresented a strong argument on behalf of John Brown and the Adair family as abolitionists fighting for the rights of slaves.
Grady Atwater, the curator, presented the argument that John Brown was a God fearing Calvinist who was trying to eliminate the sins of slavery. Grady’s narrative of John Brown’s refusal to execute the man who killed one of his sons soundly defeated any other narrative that supported the notion that John Brown was a crazed killer. Because Grady has analyzed letters as primary sources, as well as government correspondence, his argument is very persuasive to anyone who understands critical hinking, unless you are from Missouri or live across the street, displaying the Confederate battle flag.
In conclusion, the John Brown Memorial Park offered many onsite artifacts, historical markers, and facts about the Battle of Osawatomie, Territorial Kansas, and Bleeding Kansas. The site offered a lot of interesting pieces that represent the era with a great deal of historical accuracy. The intended audience of people wanting to learn more about the Underground Railroad, abolitionists, Bleeding Kansas, John Brown and the Battle of Osawatomie are able to experience a great deal of it at one historical site