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Public Theology: John Brown Historical Association of Illinois
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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.

| Purpose | Newsletter | Links | Board |

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 Though the association is no longer active, this web page makes some of its material available to others.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
Phone: 708-430-9009


  1. To maintain a library, archival materials, pictures and art and records of their location which contribute to the historical collection of John Brown 1800-1859.
  2. To identify and communicate with individuals and groups interested in maintaining the historical collection of John Brown for educational purposes. This to include correspondence, sharing research data, information, literature, tours, lectures, media, pictures and other relevant materials.
  3. To encourage and promote research, contributions and resources for the purpose of maintaining a historical collection of John Brown. This to be in support of historical societies, chambers of commerce, libraries, public and private schools, colleges, organizations and seminaries.
  4. To encourage every human person to judge others on the basis of the content of their character with respect for the dignity and worth of their human personality.

John Brown Forte Newsletter, Vol. 1


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.


    These links were added in 1995 and many may not work.
  • Historic Kansas--John Brown Museum - The cabin which now houses the John Brown Museum was frequented by Brown during several journies to Kansas between 1855-1858.
  • MSN on John Brown - this is a brief note on Brown in the Encarta encyclopedia from Microsoft. John Brown was a radical abolitionist whose efforts to gain freedom for the slaves often resulted in violence and led to a number of deaths. Many historians believe Brown’s actions helped bring on the Civil War.
  • Harper's Ferry National Historical Park Virtual Visitor Center - John Brown was a militant American Abolitionist whose raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry,Va in 1859 made him a martyr to the antislavery cause and was instrumental in heightening sectional animosities that led to the American Civil War.
  • John Brown - This is a page by a seventh grade class in Livingston, Montana - interesting!
  • Conflict of Abolition and Slavery - This interesting page from the Library of Congress includes a picture reproduced here under the heading Idealized Portrayal of John Brown.
    John Brown (1800-1859) was an abolitionist who took direct action to free slaves by force. Following his raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, in mid-October 1859, he was convicted of treason, conspiracy, and murder. One of the most controversial abolitionists, Brown was regarded by some as a martyr and by others as a common assassin. Brown's dignified bearing in prison and at his trial moved many spectators. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that Brown's death would "make the gallows as glorious as the cross." This image shows a heroic Brown being adored by a slave mother and child as he walks to his execution on December 2, 1859.
  • John Brown Articles - Actual articles in the Valley Spirit of Chambersburg, PA. This is part of a whole series. You can start at the beginning at John Brown Homepage.
  • The Valley of the Shadow: Living the Civil War in Virginia and Pennsylvania - This is an excellent site: This is the gateway into the story of the Civil War as seen by the people of two communities in the Great Valley of the United States: Franklin County, Pennsylvania and Augusta County, Virginia. This project weaves together the histories of these two places, separated by a few hundred miles and the Mason-Dixon Line. What you see here is the first of three installments. This section of the project covers the late 1850s and early 1860s, focusing on the years between John Brown's raid in October 1859 and the beginning of the Civil War in April 1861. Future sections will discuss the war itself, and then the effects of Emancipation and Reconstruction on these two communities.
  • Maps, Drawings, and Photographs - Some miscellaneous John Brown/Harper's Ferry Images.
  • Harper's Ferry by Teresa Morton - narrative and pictures.
  • Uncle Horace and Old Osawatomie Brown - by Lloyd Chiasson Jr. of the Department of Mass Communication, Nicholls State University. This presents a perspective on John Brown. John Brown wielded the sword; Horace Greeley the pen. Both acted upon their passions.
  • Lincoln's Cooper Union Address - Speech by Abraham Lincoln which gives his view of John Brown.
  • Frederick Douglass Home Page - This includes recordings of his speeches.
  • Russell Banks Interview - Banks discusses John Brown as a key figure in the history of race relations: The fact that John Brown is the only white figure who is included in the pantheon of black heroes by black people but almost across the board amongst white people is regarded as a madman, is to me very clarifying about race in America.
  • John Brown - a view from Canada including a letter Brown wrote.

Charter Board of Directors

  • Rev. Kent Carlander
  • Ms. Hope Davis
  • Ms. Frances Dinkins
  • Rev. Ed Knudson
  • Rev. David Lindberg, Ph.D
  • Ms. Louise Martin
  • Ms. Patricia Nelson

Please Comment - See More Articles in this Section - Submitted By: 5520

Date Added: 6/12/2002 Date Revised: 6/12/2002

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