Historical Markers
John Brown Historical Marker
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John Brown

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
225 E. King St., Chambersburg

Behind the Marker

John Brown rented this farm outside of Chambersburg under an assumed name to plan the raid on nearby Harpers Ferry.
Farm house rented by John Brown outside of Chambersburg, PA, circa 1860.
Photograph showing three-quarter length portrait of John Brown, with beard, facing slightly right.
John Brown, by Martin Lawrence, 1859.
Abolitionist John Brown left Kansas, where he had been engaged in violent antislavery activities, and arrived in Pennsylvania in June of 1859 to prepare for his raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. He remained in Chambersburg until July when he rented a farmhouse closer to Harpers Ferry. He told local residents that he was Isaac Smith, a cattle-buyer from New York.

The weapons that arrived for the expedition ranged from 15 boxes of rifles and revolvers to 1,000 six-foot long sharpened pikes. Brown had the pikes custom-made by a forge in Connecticut from his own design. He was less attentive to detail when it came to the revolvers, which proved unworkable because he had mistakenly ordered the wrong type of caps.

John Brown's goal in raiding Harpers Ferry was to capture weapons and ammunition. He planned to use these weapons to arm slaves who would help him conduct guerrilla warfare against slavery from the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. With 21 members of his "army of liberation," John Brown led the raid in 1859. The confrontation lasted 36 hours before Brown was captured by a force of U.S. Marines.

Ultimately tried for crimes of conspiring with slaves to commit treason and murder, John Brown was executed on December 2, 1859. Although the raid failed, it escalated the national conflict over slavery.