The black and white postcard I chose to present for your viewing pleasure is titled: “Tomb and Old Homestead in Essex County, N.Y., where “John Brow’s Body Lies a-Mouldering in the Grave.” Copyright 1908 by W. L. Erwin. I purchased this postcard on ebay.
W. L. Erwin produced most of the early twentieth century postcards relating to John Brown, Harpers Ferry, WV and North Elba, NY. Using a mixture of black & white photographs and period pen & ink drawings, the Erwin produced cards dominated the John Brown postcard market.
This postcard features two views of the John Brown Farm in North Elba, NY. The top view is of John Brown’s gravestone. The bottom view is of the farmhouse as it looked in 1908. I have supplied detailed information about the two views below.
History of the Headstone:
There are five names on the headstone. This stone was originally carved as a memorial for John Brown’s grandfather, John Brown (1728-1776) who was a Captain in the 8th Company, 18th Regiment of Connecticut during the Revolutionary war, who was buried where he died, near New York City, NY. This stone rested in small cemetery near Simsbury, Hartford, Connecticut, marking the family plot. When John’s mother, Hannah, died in 1831 the stone was replaced with a larger marker.
In 1858, Brown had the old gravestone shipped to his farm in North Elba, where he arranged to have an inscription carved on the back honoring his son, Frederick, who was killed and buried in Kansas in 1856. Prior to his hanging on December 2, 1859, Brown left instructions to have his name as well as the names of Oliver and Watson, who died during the Harpers Ferry Raid added to the stone and placed at the head of his grave.
The headstone was originally free standing and open to the elements. A wooden case (shown in the postcard) was erected to protect the stone. A glass case was later erected around the stone.
Front of Grave stone
In Memory of Capt. John Brown
Who Died At New York Sept. 3 1776
in the 48 year of his age
Born May 9, 1800
was Executed at Charleston, Va.
Dec. 2, 1859
Born Mar. 9, 1839, was
Killed at Harper’s Ferry
Oct. 17, 1859
Back of Grave stone
In memory of FREDERICK
son of John & Dianthe Brown
Born Dec. 21, 1830, and
murdered at Osawatomie
Kansas, Aug. 30, 1856
for his adherence to
the cause of freedom
Born Oct. 7, 1835, was
wounded at Harper’s Ferry
Oct. 17 & Died Oct.
History of the Farmhouse
The two story high, wood frame house was home to the Brown family from 1855 until 1863, when the family moved to California. Brown’s son-in-law, Henry Thompson, originally built the house for approximately $100.00 in 1855. The original house was 30 x 25 feet with three rooms on the ground floor: a parlor, John and Mary’s bedroom and a kitchen/dining area. The upper level was open and served as sleep quarters for all of the children. Temporary walls, or curtains, were installed to give privacy on a limited level. There was also a rough excavated basement for food storage. The house was heated with two stoves, a cooking stove in the middle of the kitchen and a smaller warming stove inn the parlor.
The Farm was owned by the Browns from 1855 to 1866, when it sold for $700.00 to Alexis Hinckley, a neighbor who had been renting the farm from 1863 – 1866. Hinckley sold the property to a coalition headed by Kate Field in 1870, for $2000.00. The coalition rented to the farm to Reuben Lawrence who lived in the house with his wife and eight children. To make the small house livable for this large family, many additions were made to the house. The picture on the postcard shows the house with additional porches on the front and rooms added to the back of the house. Look closely and you can see two of the Lawrence women sitting on the porch. The Lawrence family continued to live at and operate the farm until 1914. Various other caretakers lived in the house until the 1920s when the caretaker house was built.
In the 1950s the John Brown Farmhouse was restored to the original status.
- James A Beckman, Postcard History Series: Harpers Ferry, Copyright 2006, ISBN 0-7385-4291-1 Published by Arcadia Publishing, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 2006924193
- Edwin Cotter, Site Assessment and Analysis for use in the preparation of A Master Plan For John Brown Farm State Historic Site, June 1988
- Sate of New York, John Brown Farm State Historical Site, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Presevation, Printed 4/2004