The Kennedy Farm--Staging a Raid

The Kennedy Farm--Staging a Raid

On July 3, 1859, infamous abolitionist John Brown, sons, Owen and Oliver and Brown's trusty Lieutenant, Jeremiah Anderson arrived by train at Sandy Hook, Maryland--a small village about one mile beyond Harpers Ferry on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. At this point in his life Brown was a "wanted man" with a large price on his head for his actions in the Kansas Territory.
The four men presented themselves as Issac Smith & Sons, cattlemen from New York. They sought a small farm to serve as a feeding lot for the cattle they intended to purchase and fatten--in fact, they were searching for a staging area for their intended raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. John Unseld, a resident of the neighborhood, suggested the old Kennedy farm. Doctor Kennedy had died earlier that spring and the farmhouse was vacant and unfurnished, a perfectly isolated, hide-away for Brown and his men. John Brown and his bunch went to the farm. Liking what they saw, they leased the deserted residence for $35 in gold for nine months.
Brown was afraid that a home filled with men might arouse suspicion to outsiders, so he request that his wife join him. Brown's wife, Mary Ann, was much too busy at home, so she sent her daughter-in-law, Martha, Oliver's 17 year old wife, and her 16 year old daughter Annie.
They arrived in mid-July. Annie and Martha served as the cook and housekeepers for the Provisional Army of the United States as they arrived, one or two at a time throughout the summer months. Throughout the rest of July and August men arrived at the farm almost daily. John Kagi, in Chambersburg, sent a shipment of rifles, pikes, and pistols to the farm, in boxes marked "Hardware and Castings."
In late September, as it grew closer to the time of attack, Annie and Martha were sent back home, to North Elba, and the men made their final preparations. There were twenty-one members of the army hidden in the attic loft. Brown and his followers spent some 3 1/2 months at Kennedy Farm in the summer of 1859.
Life at the farm grated on the men's nerves. In order to keep a low local profile, the men had to stay inside all day, cooped up in two buildings, playing checkers, reading, and, of course, arguing. They drilled frequently, studying a military manual on guerrilla warfare. At night, they went outside for fresh air and exercise.
The farm passed through many owners throughout the years, altered extensively with each family. In 1950, the National Negro Elks purchased it when Leonard Curlin, a Hagerstown Elk, persuaded the Tri-State Elks Lodge of its worth. These men hoped that they could restore the house and turn it into a museum and shrine for John Brown. But that wasn't in their future. Funds came in slowly and eventually the Elks couldn't maintain the property and sold it. The Federal Government has since deemed the house a National Historic Landmark. The old farmhouse has been completely restored. The Kennedy Farm is located at 2406 Chestnut Grove Road, Sharpsburg, Maryland.