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John Brown Historical Association of Illinois
In memory of The Reverend Sherwood A. Nelson of Chicago who was fascinated with the figure of John Brown, traveled to historic sites, and organized this association.
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The John Brown Historical Association of Illinois was founded by the late Reverend Sherwood A. Nelson who served as pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Chicago, Illinois, from 1967 to 1990. Pastor Nelson was fascinated with the figure of John Brown as an abolitionist organizer and did considerable research and writing concerning him. Though the association is no longer active, this web page makes some of its material available to others.
For further information you may contact:
The John Brown Historical Association of Illinois, Inc.
10425 S. 75TH Court
Palos Hills, IL 60465
John Brown Forte Newsletter, Vol. 1AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL HISTORIANS WHO ENGAGE HISTORY ON THIS EARTH
From: A. Sherwood Nelson
Greetings from Chicago. We are sending this to JOHN BROWN SITES, Curators we know, Historical Societies and everyone we have an address on ... our first copy of THE JOHN BROWN FORTE. The purpose of this first issue is to allow us to get acquainted and to let you know we are just one little group of people in this location who have been "making the rounds." The type on this issue is poor and from here on we will pick up accordingly. That typewriter we all have at home in our little space... well, that is the one that did the job and it will be its last.
Our next issue will be moving into research and here we invite you to consider contributing articles from your post and your perspective. We are attempting to move communication "along" between and among some of the finest American people who do things like can tomatoes or save a book or encourage one more person to get involved in helping to preserve pieces of our American heritage. We have much to contribute to each other and to the world public.
A reminder of the importance of what we are saying is brought out in the STUTLER EXHIBIT at Wheeling, West Virginia, with three floors being used, two of them on John Brown...and many people WOULD HAVE TRAVELED THAT FAR HAD THEY KNOWN OF THIS EXCELLENT PRESENTATION. It was on throughout the summer and now returns to Charleston. What is happening out in Baldwin, Kansas and Pleasanton, Kansas are equally important, both annual occurences in October. THE Marais Des Cygnes Massacre will be dramatized the second weekend in October. In Chicago we are debating if we can make it, having completed two whirlwind trips, and two others, but we know the significance is more important to us than the World Series. WILL YOU DEAR READER BEGIN NOW TO THINK ABOUT CONTRIBUTIONS YOU MIGHT MAKE TO THE JOHN BROWN FORTE?
Louis Gottschalk edited a book in 1963, GENERALIZATION IN THE WRITING OF HISTORY, he distinguished between "descriptive historians" and "theoretical historians," and moves to be concerned with "history-as-actuality"... that is the effort to recapture it is what is important. He goes on to raise such questions as "what kind of imagination is valid?" and so on. The point is that this book, (The University of Chicago Press) is in the ball park for a lot of us as we print our first primitive edition. We are throwing out the first ball!
Too many citizens of our country, let alone Chicago, have little idea of the whereabouts of the state site and burial ground of Stephen A. Douglas, the tomb spiral and flag facing Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive on 35th Street. The Senator from Illinois was probably the most popular of the Democrats in the early 1850's, a man "opening the way to the dynasty of a new generation." Douglas owned a lot of land around this area and was interested in building new railroads to Territories like Nebraska and the principle of "popular sovereignty," where local residents could decide for or against slavery. It was his sponsorship of the KANSAS-NEBRASKA BILL in 1854. Months of debate and division brought about its passage.
The point we are making is that with the efforts of Douglas and the Democrats, the state of Kansas was wide open for war between slavery and freedom, between pro-slave settlers and free-staters. Many of the free-staters came from Illinois and New England. The John Brown Story cannot be told without the Douglas action which began to actually create larger and larger numbers of people against slavery and give slow birth to the Republican party. Illinois, by electing Douglas, was heavily involved in the destiny of Kansas and John Brown's destiny as well.
We take tour groups often by the Douglas monument, passing the Victory monument on 35th and King Drive which is dedicated to Black soldiers who fought for their country in World War I. It is not a bad area to look at American history and gather in a base for perspective.
In fact a little farther North on Wabash, we come to a very interesting scene. A lock-company (store your stuff here) that now exists in the area of 1330-1343 South Wabash Ave is the place that the engine house (standing for over 30 hard years below the platform at the railroad station in Harper's Ferry) was brought to Chicago in 1892 for the World's Fair of 1893. A group at Washington D.C. headed by Adoniram J. Holmes of Boone, Iowa, former Congressman and Civil War veteran was the leader and President of the syndicate.
Dr. Clarence Gee wrote an article, "John Brown's Fort," in Volume XIX, January, 1958 of the WEST VIRGINIA HISTORY, a Quarterly Magazine, published by the State Dept. of Archives and History at Charleston, Rand, McNally & Co.'s GUIDE TO CHICAGO published in 1983, has the "Fort" on their map. It was headed for use as a horse stable by a Department store after it was a complete financial bust by the public.
In 1895 it went back to Harper's Ferry, thanks to Ms. Kate Field, noted journalist, actress, lecturer and publisher (who had raised funds to purchase the John Brown Farm at North Elba, New York).
Kate Field met with prominent group at QUINN CHAPEL, one of the oldest institutions in Chicago, at Wabash Avenue and Twenty-fourth Street (right on the same block as the Chicago Defender). It was decided to move the old building on Boliver Heights which overlook the Shenandoah and Potomac Valleys (later moved to Storer College, then back to Harper's Ferry and it awaits a short move to its original location). A group of 11 people (this number is the total some say paid 50 cents admission to see the Fort in Chicago, also the number of our Charter members) was appointed to come up with a plan, including F.L. Barnett; County Commissioner T.W. Jones, the Rev. J.M. Townsend, Mrs. Ida B. Wells-Barnett and others. The moving years for the Fort would be respectively, 1892, 1895, 1902 and 1968.
Rev. W.W. Patton lectured at First Congregational Church on December 4th, 1859, two days after Brown's execution, (in Chicago), on "THE EXECUTION OF JOHN BROWN, A DISCOURSE." We found a copy in the Spencer Library Kansas Collection.
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