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John Brown Accepts Money, and a Pair of Pants, for the Anti-Slavery Cause – A Year to the Day Before His Execution for Leading the Failed Harper’s Ferry Slave Insurrection
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JOHN BROWN. Autograph Document Signed Twice. Receipt to Samuel L. Adair, Osawatomie, Kansas, December 2, 1858, 1 p. 3½ x 7½ in.

Inventory #23687.01       Price: $12,000

Historical Background

The National Kansas Committee was established in Massachusetts as a direct result of the 1856 sacking of Lawrence, Kansas. Its purpose was to supply funds and other support (i.e., arms) to the anti-slavery or Free State residents of Kansas and to do whatever necessary to discourage the so-called Border Ruffians from Missouri in their efforts to establish Kansas as a slave state. Adair was one of Brown’s brothers-in-law.

Osawatomie was the site of an August 30, 1856, battle between Brown and a massive force of Border Ruffians. The ensuing fracas resulted in the town’s sacking. Later, Brown and some followers murdered five pro-slavery settlers at Pottawatomie Creek. By the time this receipt was written, things had settled down in Bleeding Kansas, but plans were afoot to foment a “servile insurrection” to put an end to slavery.

Complete Transcript

$10.                                                                  Osawatomie, Kansas, 2d Decem, 1858.

Received of Rev. S. L. Adair $10, Ten Dollars in part payment of the National Kansas Committee claim against Andrew Updegraff

                                                 John Brown Agent / of National Kansas Committee

Also received of same One pair of Pants, & one pair Mitts
Decem 2d 1858                                    John Brown Agent of / of National Kansas Committee

John Brown (1800-1859) rejected the pacifism of other abolitionists and instead believed that slavery could only be overthrown by violence. To that end, he planned a raid against the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in 1859 hoping to start a slave uprising. Instead, he was captured and executed for treason. Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry was the culmination of anti-slavery activities in Kansas in 1855 and 1856, as well as earlier Underground Railroad activities.

Samuel Lyle Adair (1811-1898) was born in Ohio and graduated from Oberlin College in 1838 and from the seminary in 1841, when he married Florella Brown, John Brown’s half sister. For the next thirteen years, Adair served as pastor of Congregational churches in Ohio and Michigan. In 1854, he moved to Kansas with the second New England Emigrant Aid Company party and organized the Osawatomie Congregational Church. Adair provided shelter and spiritual and material assistance to John Brown after his arrival in the fall of 1855. He was a devoted abolitionist and during the Civil War, Adair served for three years as a military chaplain at Fort Leavenworth. Adair returned to Osawatomie, where he continued to serve the church until his death.

Andrew Updegraff (1816-1887) was born in Ohio and moved to Kansas in 1855. He had fifteen children with his first wife and three with his second wife. Updegraff aided Adair with the distribution of clothing, bedding, and food to families in need around Osawatomie in 1856.

National Kansas Committee (also known as the Kansas Relief Committee) was an organization established in 1856 to encourage emigration to Kansas Territory and to aid free soil immigrants once they arrived. It raised $100,000 to sponsor two thousand settlers, but had dispersed its supplies and funds and ceased to function by mid-1857.  Thaddeus Hyatt (1816-1901) was president of the National Kansas Committee, and its general agent was William F. M. Arny (1813-1881).

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