John Brown Resources

The Hudson Library & Historical Society has taken particular interest in the life and history of John Brown, who spent over 20 years in Hudson, Ohio. It was at the First Congregational Church in Hudson that John Brown famously vowed during an 1837 prayer meeting that he would dedicate his life to abolishing slavery.

The Hudson Library & Historical Society’s collections on John Brown are particularly valuable for researchers interested in the life of John Brown and the family of John Brown. Our collections include an extensive collection of books written about John Brown, an ongoing project to document the genealogy of John Brown, as well as several manuscript collections including the entire research collection of Clarence S. Gee, the premier Brown scholar.

A Brief History

John Brown was born May 9, 1800, in Torrington, Litchfield County, Connecticut, the son of Owen and Ruth Mills Brown. The Brown family moved to the Western Reserve in 1805, settling in Hudson, Ohio. John’s mother, Ruth Mills Brown died in Hudson in December of 1808 and the following year, his father married again, to Sally Root. In 1817, young John was sent to the Morris Academy in Litchfield, Connecticut. Illness forced him to return to Hudson before the academic year was done. John married his first wife, Dianthe Lusk, in Hudson in 1820.

In 1826, he moved to New Richmond, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, but his tannery there did not succeed. His first wife, Dianthe, died in New Richmond in 1832. The widowed John married Mary Ann Day in 1833. In 1835, John and Mary moved to Franklin Mills (now Kent), Portage County, Ohio where John entered into a partnership with Zenas B. Kent, with the idea of building a tannery along the banks of the Cuyahoga River. He stayed in the community off and on until 1839. In 1837, while visiting family in Hudson, John Brown denounced slavery after learning of the death of Elijah Lovejoy. Eventually, John and his family moved back to Hudson by 1840, where he was subsequently forced into bankruptcy. His home was sold at a sheriff’s sale and Brown was jailed in Akron for resisting. In 1841, in cooperation with Heman Oviatt, Brown became involved in the effort in Richfield, Summit County, Ohio to raise sheep. John and Mary Brown moved to Richfield in 1842. Four of his children died in an epidemic there in September of 1843. In 1844, the Brown family moved to Akron, Summit County, Ohio and John became a partner in the Perkins and Brown wool business with Simon Perkins Jr.

Manuscript Collections


Clarence S. Gee collection
on John Brown, 1839-1962

Clarence S. Gee (1885-1975) was the former pastor of the First Congregational Church of Hudson and premier scholar on John Brown. He spent more than 50 years researching and collecting material on John Brown. This collection includes all of Gee’s extensive research and writings.

Collection on the John Brown family

A collection created by the Hudson Library & Historical Society consisting of various John Brown documents and research. An autobiography of Owen Brown (edited by Clarence S. Gee), wills and letters of Owen Brown (some original), research and correspondence about John Brown’s last letter to friend Hudsonite Lora Case. Also includes several documents signed by John Brown and some photographs of John Brown and family. Also, various newspaper clippings and photocopies of original John Brown letters.

Adair family collection

Florella Brown Adair was John Brown’s half sister. The collection includes correspondence of the Adair, McFarland, Remington, Crothers, and Ward families, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and a genealogical chart of the Adair family.

Jeremiah Root Brown and Clark family papers, 1809-1971

The collection consists of the papers of various descendants of Jeremiah Root Brown (John Brown’s half-brother), including the Clow, Clark, Drake, and Hinsdale families.

Oliver O. Brown collection, 1828-1897

Oliver O. Brown was John Brown’s brother. The collection consists of various holographs, copies, and transcriptions of Oliver O. Brown documents, including correspondence and deeds. The collection also includes a few original letters (from Oliver Brown) and various genealogical notes.

Brown Family Association reunion records, 1903-1966

Records of the Brown Family Association reunion, includes reunion letters and regrets, historian reports, programs and pamphlets, miscellaneous notes, reunion scrapbooks, postcards, newspaper clippings, minute book, and correspondence.

Oswald Garrison Villard Ohio interviews, 1908

Includes copies of interviews (transcripts) of Ohio (and Hudson) citizens conducted by Oswald Garrison Villard in 1908 for research for his book John Brown: A Biography Fifty Years After. Originals are owned by Columbia University.