One hundred fifty-two years ago this evening, one of the most fascinating persons who walked on Ashtabula County soil led a raid on the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry.
His name was John Brown, a frequent visitor to Ashtabula County as a result his friendship with several key leaders of the abolitionist movement here and the home of his son, John Brown Jr., being in the community. John Jr. studied at Grand River Institute (Academy) in the 1840s, while his father lived in Hudson. While a student at Grand River, John Jr. met his future wife, Wealthy Hotchkiss, whom he married in 1848. Wealthy was the sister of Eunica Hotchkiss, who would marry E.A. Fobes, a Wayne Township farmer with room to spare in his barn at the corner of McClelland and Hayes roads.
And so it was that the weapons used in Harpers Ferry affair were stored in the haymow of the Fobes barn. Packed in wooden boxes marked “fence castings,” the supplies for the insurrection arrived in Conneaut by rail in the winter of 1859.
“Owing to bad roads, I have delay in moving the freight, and it is all yet at the Depot at C(onneaut),” John Brown Jr., wrote from Lindenville, Ashtabula County, Feb. 13, 1858. “I yesterday read your letters to the (Mr.) King and to Mr. Hosington, who were much gratified.”
John Jr. was writing to his father, a.ka. Isaac Smith, who spent a portion of the winter holed up at the home of Horace Lindsley. Lindsley lived on Creek Road in West Andover and was sympathetic to Brown’s militant approach to dealing with the slavery issue.
The stash of weapons entrusted to the care of John Jr. was impressive and, had they been discovered, would have been damning for the men handled them. There were 200 Sharp’s rifles and 200 pistols, in addition to 58 powder flasks, 10 kegs of gunpowder and more than 400 spears, swords and bayonets. Some of the spears were allegedly made in a blacksmith’s shop in Wick, a Wayne Township ghost town.