The following items involve the Townsend Surname
|The Story of West Branch by Maud Stratton||James Townsend|
|1856 in West Branch||Funeral of Owen Brown|
HOOVER'S HOME TOWN, THE STORY OF WEST BRANCH
BY MAUD STRATTON
"T. T. Barrington, a grandson of William Townsend recalls the first settlement at West Branch in the following concise and accurate statement:
William and James Townsend moved from Frederickstown, Ohio, and settled on farms on which West Branch now stands; also Hannah Townsend Kirk. William Townsend settled on the eighty acres all east of Fourth street, and James Townsend on the next eighty on the east; and Timothy Kirk and Hannah Townsend Kirk on the eighty acres south of Main street and west of Downey street. The eighty acres north of Main street and east of Downey street to Fourth was vacant...
When the first settlers came James Townsend had opened an inn at his home just beyond the east edge of the present corporation limits, calling it the "Travelers' Rest." This became a station of the underground railway by which escaping slaves found their way to freedom.
Here John Brown, the famous abolitionist, and his old brown mule, found hospitality, and here he stopped on several occasions when he brought his little band of followers who spent the winter of 1857-58 in training at the William Maxson farm several miles to the northeast, near the Cedar river."
1856 in West Branch
The post office had been moved to
the one of James Townsend, who
kept an inn, the "Traveler's Rest." It was moved there from the Timothy
Kirk home where it was located for a time after Samuel King left the
John Brown, the famous abolitionist, had traveled with a son, riding a
mule and leading a horse from Kansas to enter the Quaker settlement of
Cedar County, where among the Friends he found kind treatment. About
December 1856 he stopped at the Traveler's Rest at West Branch and
dismounting, astonished the genial landlord by asking: "Have you ever
heard of John Brown?" Without replying, Mr. Townsend took a piece of
chalk from his breast pocket, and taking Brown's hat, marked thereon a
large X; replaced the hat; deliberately marked Brown on the back thus
"XX," then he placed a broad X on the back of the mule and said, "Just
put the animal into the stable and walk right into the house; thou art
Funeral of Owen Brown, the last survivor of John Brown's Historic Raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in 1859
James Townsend and his nephew Wilson
T. Kirk attended and served as Pall
Bearers at the funeral of Owen Brown...
Here is a copy of Owen Brown's Obituary
- As printed in the "Pasadena Standard" 12 January 1889
Died, at the residence of his brother-in-law,
Henry Thompson, in this
city, on January 8, 1889, Owen Brown, aged 64 years, 2 months and 4
days. (Picture of his grave marker)
Owen Brown was born at Hudson, Ohio, November 4, 1824, and was the
third son of John Brown's first family, there being twenty children in
Owen was with his father all through the struggle between the free
state men and border ruffians in Kansas in 1836 and following years, and
took part in the first pitched battle at Black Jack on the Missouri and
Kansas border, and also at Osawatomie where his younger brother, an
unarmed lad, was deliberately shot down in the street. Jason was also
in these battles.
Owen was with his father at Harpers Ferry, a participant in that
memorable raid which struck the death knell of slavery, not only in the
United States but throughout the civilized world. He was one of seven
who escaped from there through mountain fastnesses and swamps and
forests and sassafras leaves, and such things as they could possibly
devour without making a fire to cook. For they were pursued by soldiers
and citizens with dogs and guns, and a price was set on their heads.
The Atlantic Monthly some 15 or 20 years ago published a narrative of
their escape, which excels in thrilling pathos, and in plain
matter-of-fact incidents of hardship, endurance, and apparently
supernatural deliverances from discovery and capture, the most vivid
conceptions of fiction. Two of them made reckless ventures to get food
and were captured and hung. The remaining five escaped, Owen finally
reaching his brother John's home on an island in Lake Erie.
Photo of homestead
About five years ago Jason and Owen
Brown took a homestead on a bench of
mountain land five or six miles north of Pasadena, at the settlement now
called Las Casitas. This they subsequently sold and took land higher up
the mountain side, built a cabin, cleared and worked a few acres, and
lived there-two feeble old men, alone. (Jason was with his father in
the Kansas struggle, but was not at Harpers Ferry.) They were much visited by tourists and citizens, some from mere curiosity and others from a warm sympathy with
the historic career of the family. They had made a good wagon trail up
to their mountain hermitage, and were continuing it as a donkey path to
the top of the mountain known as Brown's Peak, but it is not completed
yet. Owen had a desire to be buried on the top of Brown's Peak; and if
Jason ever succeeds in finishing the trail he will try to have his
brother's grave up there as he desired. But meanwhile he is buried on a
lesser peak on their mountain homestead.*
Owen Brown was never married.
Last Days.-December 30th the aged brothers came down to the city to
attend Col. Woodford's gospel temperance meeting in the tabernacle. We
met them there both Sunday and Monday nights. But Owen was taken sick
and had a chill after going to his sister Ruth's home from the meeting,
and in a week he died of typhoid pneumonia. He had been failing for
some months; this had been noticed by his relatives and friends. Monday
he had worked pretty hard, then lay down in the bright sunshine on the
banks of the Arroyo and slept. In the evening he went to the great
temperance meeting, and being very deeply and ardently interested in the
cause, he put his last cent of money into the collection; had nothing to
pay street car fare with, and so walked over two miles to his sister's
house, after the meeting. These over-exertions were probably the
immediate cause of his last sickness, although he was out some on
several days after the first attack, but was not able to attend the
meetings any more.
At the women's meeting on Tuesday he and Jason were elected honorary
members of the W. C. T. U. He was much pleased with this, and said
there was no cause he would more gladly contribute his $1.00 membership
fee to aid. So he was buried with the W. C. T. U. white ribbon on his
The last words he uttered that could be distinguished were: "It is
better-to be-in a place-and suffer wrong-than to do wrong."
The Funeral.-The last rites were paid to his mortal remains on
Thursday, January 10. It was a historic day in Pasadena. The
tabernacle was well filled-about 2000 people in attendance. The
exercises were conducted by Rev. R. H. Hartley, pastor of the Friends
church. The great choristry was filled with singers who sang
appropriate hymns with fervor and pathos as if the very spirit of the
Browns had woven itself into heavenly music.
Prayer was offered by Rev. Dr. Bresee, pastor of the M. E. Church,
which went to the heart of the historic occasion and was an uplift of
soul in all noble aspirations. Remarks were made by Rev. Mr. Hartley;
also by Rev. D. D. Hill, pastor of the Congregational church; Rev. E.
L. Conger, pastor of the Universalist church; Col. George Woodford, the
gospel temperance evangelist; and by H. N. Rust, a life-long friend and
neighbor of John Brown and his family.
The city trustees, who are all old-time republicans, attended in a body
and took seats on the platform, as a token of respect for the memory of
John Brown and his sons.
The students of the Pasadena Academy attended in a body. And members
of the G. A. R. and Sons of Veterans who could leave their business
places attended the funeral.
On conclusion of the services the casket was removed to the corridor
and the face cover removed. Then the vast audience passed out in
columns by each aisle on each side of the bier and thus all had an
opportunity to view the face of Owen Brown. It was perfectly natural-a
little paler than in life, and looked as though he was only lying
The bier was covered with floral emblems and tokens of love. A cross,
a wreath, and boquets, composed of calla lillies, roses, violets,
marguerites, sweet alyssum, geraniums, smilax, and feather palms.
Relatives Present.--Jason Brown, brother of the deceased.
Ruth Brown Thompson, sister of the deceased, with her husband, Henry
Thompson and their youngest daughter, Maimie. Mr. Thompson was one of
John Brown's soldiers in Kansas.
Mrs. Grace Simmons, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, with her husband
and son, who reside in Las Casitas.
Mrs. Town (another daughter) with her husband and son, who also reside
in Las Casitas.
Mrs. Hand, from Wellington, Ohio, a sister of John Brown, aunt to the
decease and now visiting her daughter in Los Angeles, formerly Mrs. Hood
Mrs. Hopson, cousin of the deceased, from Sacramento.
Mrs. Quinn, a cousin, from Saratoga Springs, N. Y.
The Pall Bearers.--It is quite remarkable that there should have been
found in Pasadena so many men who were associated with John Brown in his
mighty work, which up-heaved the nation and made the entering wedge for
the overthrow of slavery thirty years ago. In charge of the pall
bearers was H. N. Rust, president of the Pasadena Library Association,
who was an old-time friend and neighbor of the John Brown family in East
Hampton, Massachusetts, and also for many years in this city.
James Townsend, of Spring Dale, Cedar County, Iowa, who was John
Brown's intimate and confidential friend; and at his house Brown took
his last meal before starting from West Liberty, Iowa, to Chicago with
his men and twelve escaped slaves. This was a marvelous event in which
John Brown, with $2,000.00 reward offered for him, dead or alive, took a
lot of slaves in a car on the C.R.I. & P. Railroad to the cities of
Davenport, La Salle, Joliet, Chicago and on to freedom on the soil of
Canada. And from thence moved on to his final operations at Harper's
Ferry, Virginia. In Dr. H. A. Reid's "History of Johnson County, Iowa,"
a volume of 966 pages, on page 466 mention is made of James Townsend's
Travelers Rest," the tavern at West Branch (near Spring Dale, Iowa),
where John Brown and his mule, captured from the Border Ruffians at the
battle of Black Jack on the Kansas and Missouri line, were always on the
"free list." On page 467 of the same work may be read: "Brown himself
had his quarters at the home of Mr. John H. Painter."
John H. Painter, who was the Justice of the Peace at Spring Dale, and
Brown's intimate and confidential friend. He boxed up the guns, sabers,
pikes, etc., that Brown had gathered for his anticipated army of
liberation and shipped them to him at Harper's Ferry, labeled
"carpenter's tools." For this he was unchurched by the Friends' Yearly
Meeting, to which he belonged; but he believed he was doing God's
service for the rights of man, and history since has vindicated the
act. He is father to our prominent citizens M. D. Painter, A. J.
Painter, Mrs. L. H. Michener, and Mrs. Dr. J. C. Michener.
William H. Coffin, was associated with John Brown and his sons in the
Kansas Struggle for a free state against the slave-hunting Border
Ruffians, in 1856-7-8-9.
Benjamin A. Rice, who was taken prisoner by the Border Ruffians in
Kansas, and was released by John Brown after hair's-breath escapes from
the murderous vengeance of the Ruffians. Mr. Rice served through the
war of the rebellion, is an old citizen of Pasadena, and is now chaplain
of the G.A.R. Post here.
Wilson T. Kirk, a nephew of James Townsend above mentioned, resided at
Spring Dale, Iowa, and was intimate with John Brown and his men in the
days when it was perilous to be know as their friend.
W. B. VanKirk is commander of the G.A.R. post in this city, and took
part as the special representative of that patriotic order of men who
marched to the music of "John Brown's Soul is Marching On."
These are the historic men who bore Owen Brown to his grave.** The
hearse was followed by a long procession of vehicles, and four
photographic instruments were trained upon the scene to take views of
different incidents in the course of the day.
* Jason was never able to do anything more with the mountain trail. He
finally lost this home place by debt, and Owen Brown's grave remains at
Las Casitas, as one of Pasadena's notable historic points. Their first
place was not a "homestead," but land bought from Painter & Ball, where
the Las Casitas Sanitarium now stands.
** It was Dr. H. A. Reid's plan, and by his special effort, that these
particular men were gotten together for this duty, and their historic
relations to the deceased or his father made known to the public.
a Half-niece of James writes the following:
Uncle James indicated his religion by his cheeriness, at least Uncle
James was of a cheery disposition and so his religion was of a joyful
nature. Psalms 37 furnished him his favorite quotation. According to
"his" version it begins, "Fret not thy Gizzard..." One time after he
was past eighty, he was suffering from rheumatism and some of his good
friends wanted him to let them pray for his healing, but he said "No, I
haven't the cheek to bother the Lord about a little rheumatism when he
has been so good to keep me from pain for eighty years.
James Townsend and his wife Susanna B. (Rodgers) are buried in the
Quaker Cemetery in West Branch, Iowa.
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