John Brown lived for a time at North Elba, New York near Lake Placid. He moved there in 1849 to work along side free blacks who had been granted land in that area under a program instituted by the Garrit Smith. Brown hoped to teach farm skills to the new rural residents.
Brown was born in 1800 in Torrington, Connecticut and lived as a child in Ohio. He lived in Springfield, Massachusetts from 1846 to 1849. In 1849 he moved to North Elba.
In 1855 he and his five sons went to Kansas to help keep it from entering the Union as a slave state. They were involved in the fighting in “Bleeding Kansas” over the slavery issue. In 1857 he began to collect arms, men and supplies for a campaign to free slaves through an invasion of the south. Toward this end he raided the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia with 18 followers on October 16, 1859. The next day he and his men were defeated by federal troops led by Robert E. Lee and arrested. He was tried for treason. He was convicted and hanged on December 2, 1859.
Brown’s larger historical importance stems from his role in bringing about the Civil War and the end of slavery. He also played an important part in assisting fugitives to escape slavery, providing support to free settlements in Canada. Many regarded him highly at the time because he gave his life to set others free. He is buried in North Elba.