ALS, signed "Yours in truth, John Brown," one page, 7.75 x 9.75, May 7, 1849. Letter to Willis A. Hodges, a free black man and publisher of the abolitionist newspaper The Ram's Horn. In full: "I send you a few words to say that I have provided an excellent team to bring on with me some milk cows &c &c and that I have some hope of getting on my way this week. The ill health of my sons has crippled me very much. Dot not get discouraged." Addressed on the integral address leaf in Brown's hand, "Mr. Willis A. Hodges, Near Loon Lake, Merrillsville Post Office, Franklin Co., New York." In very good to fine condition, with splitting, light toning, and minor paper loss along the intersecting folds.
With the flare-up of the slavery issue at the time of the Mexican-American War, Brown's passive interest in abolitionism transformed into the driving force of his life. Nearing the end of an unsuccessful wool-growing venture, Brown was eager to pursue a more promising career aligned with his newfound ideals. Opportunity presented itself when Gerrit Smith set aside 12,000 acres of farmland in northern New York to be given to free African-Americans. In 1848, Brown developed an interest in Smith's project, and became acquainted with Willis A. Hodges, who was helping farmers at nearby Blacksville in Franklin County; Hodges was also known to shelter fugitive slaves at his cabin on Loon Lake, where this letter is addressed. Brown soon moved to North Elba, New York, where he received Gerrit Smith's financial assistance; Smith would later help to fund Brown's attempted capture of the armory at Harpers Ferry.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.