The next time you are on Route 169 between Kansas City and Tulsa, stop in and see John Brown’s cabin in Osawatomie, Kansas. It is well worth the time to take a short detour.
John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave… a verse from a Civil War song that you may have heard as a child. John Brown attempted to keep slavery out of Kansas and led an abolitionist campaign that ended when he was hanged in 1859 after a raid on the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry Armory.
Three years before, in 1856, the Browns lived in Kansas and were deeply involved in the abolitionist movement. Believing he was being obedient to a just god, Brown and his sons used broad swords to hack to death five of their pro-slavery neighbors. This was the spark that ignited pitched battles between abolitionists and pro-slavery forces and became known as Bleeding Kansas.
In the early 20th century, the cabin was moved to its present site and was protected by a stone building built around it. On August 31st 1910, 30,000 people came to the tiny town of Osawatomie, Kansas to hear Theodore Roosevelt dedicate the new historic site. Roosevelt gave his “New Nationalism Address”, arguably, one of the most important speeches of his entire career.
No huge crowds at the cabin, today. Perhaps a good place to contemplate America’s continuing struggle with racism and the paradox of John Brown.