Saturday, July 13, 2013

John Brown's birthplace: Interactive panoramas, photos

                                  Click on images for full-screen interactive panorama.

John Brown, about 1856.

"Move along, there's not much to see here," the little voice in my head said as I shot the interactive panoramas above this afternoon at the site of abolitionist leader John Brown's birthplace in Torrington, Conn. Well, Little Voice was correct.

Aside from a pile of rocks forming the outline of the house Brown was born in in 1800 and the remains of the foundation of an outbuilding, there definitely isn't much to see of  the former home of one of the most polarizing figures in American history. Nearly two decades ago, there apparently was some sentiment to restore Brown's birthplace, which was destroyed by a chimney fire in 1918, but the effort never got off the ground.

"There's nothing to admire in John Brown,'' former John Brown Association president John Brooks, 96, told the Hartford Courant in 1995. "I wouldn't honor him. That guy got us into the Civil War. John Brown was born here, but that isn't anything we should be proud of. That scoundrel took the law into his own hands.'' The ruins of the house lay in a clearing off John Brown Road on the outskirts of Torrington.

John Brown was baptized in this church in
Torrington, Conn.
If you remember from your high school textbooks -- and for those too young to know about a textbook, it is two pieces of thick cardboard-like material with lots of paper and printed material in between -- Brown led an armed insurrection in Harpers Ferry, Va., in 1859. His aim was to overthrow the institution of slavery, but his failed effort was one of the sparks that led to a Civil War in which at least 750,000 Americans died. Before he was hanged on Nov. 2, 1859, Brown said:  "If it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments -- I submit; so let it be done."

Tough talk from the fiery leader whose proclamation that he was "quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood" proved to be prophetic. While his 1859 effort may have been noble, Brown did indeed have a lot of scoundrel in him -- and a lot of blood on his hands. He and his band of merry men murdered five men with pro-slavery ties in Kansas in 1856. 

Brown's birthplace is just one of many remnants of the abolitionist's life within a short distance of our house here in the miniature state of Connecticut. In Collinsville, Brown arranged to by pikes with which he hoped to incite the slave rebellion in Harpers Ferry. One of the pikes is on display at the Unionville (Conn.) Museum, a little more than a mile from our house. The Torrington church in which Brown was baptized still exists, although it was moved to its present location well after that blessed event.

A marker at the site includes an illustration of Brown's birthplace before it burned to the ground.
This granite marker was placed at Brown's birthplace in 1932.
Ruins of an outbuilding at Brown's birthplace in Torrington, Conn.
A flower blooms near the ruins of  Brown's birthplace.

1 comment:

  1. I learned a lot in this post. Great blog!