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The American Experience
Timeline of John Brown's Life
1800 PictureMay: John Brown is born in Torrington, Connecticut. His father, Owen, a strict Calvinist, hated slavery and believed that holding humans in bondage was a sin against God.
1812 The War of 1812: A 12-year-old John Brown travels through the Michigan wilderness to deliver a herd of cattle. He lodged with a man who owned a boy slave. Brown was treated well, but the slave was beaten before his eyes with an iron shovel. The memory would forever haunt John Brown.
1820 June 21: John Brown marries Dianthe Lusk. In 1826 they left for the wilderness in Pennsylvania, where Brown built a tannery. She will die in 1832, shortly after the death of her newborn.
1833 PictureJune 14: John Brown weds sixteen-year-old Mary Day. Mary takes cares of Brown's five children and will later bear him thirteen of her own. Economic hardships will escalate as he attempts to provide for his ever expanding family.
1836 January: Land speculation reaches dizzying heights. Brown moves his family to Franklin Mills, Ohio, and borrows money to buy land in the area, only to be crushed in the economic turmoil of 1837.
1837 November 7: Elijah Lovejoy, publisher of an antislavery newspaper, is shot to death by a proslavery mob. During his memorial service, John Brown stood and made a vow to end slavery.
1842 Picture of John BrownSeptember 28, 1842: A federal court decides John Brown's bankruptcy case. Creditors took all but the essentials on which Brown and his family needed to live. It is the culmination of years of poor business decisions made by Brown.
1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854: The Missouri Compromise, which restricted the expansion of slavery, is swept aside. With a nod to Southern power, the federal government placed the volatile issue of slavery into the hands of those settling the new territories. The people will decide, by popular vote, whether to be "free" or "slave."
1855 June: John Brown follows his sons to Kansas.
1856 May 24: Brown goes to nearby Pottawatomie Creek and directs his men in the murder of five proslavery settlers.
1857 pictureJanuary: Franklin Sanborn, secretary for the Massachusetts State Kansas Committee, introduces Brown to influential abolitionists in the Boston area in effort to further antislavery fight in Kansas. These acquaintances will later constitute the members of the "Secret Six."
1858 January: John Brown rides into Missouri and attacks two proslavery homesteads, confiscating property and liberating eleven of their slaves. Brown travels eighty-two days and covers over a thousand miles to deliver the slaves to freedom in Canada.
1859 July 3: A few miles outside of Harpers Ferry, John Brown rents farmhouse under the name, "Isaac Smith."

August 16: John Brown and Frederick Douglass have a clandestine meeting at a rock quarry at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Brown tried to convince Douglass to join him at Harpers Ferry.

October 16: John Brown attacks the armory at Harpers Ferry.

November 2: A Viginia jury finds John Brown guilty of murder, treason, and inciting a slave insurrection after a week of trial and forty-five minutes of deliberation.

December 2: John Brown is hanged.
1861 April 12: Confederate batteries open fire on Fort Sumter; the first shots of the Civil War.
1865 The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolishes slavery.



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