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Research Shows John Brown Riders Had Ties Back to Cincinnati

In looking at history from the western frontier in the Civil War, UC Professor of History Mark Lause found the unexpected – names that kept tracing back to events here in Greater Cincinnati.

Date: 3/9/2010 12:00:00 AM
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825

UC ingot   An unexpected thing happened to University of Cincinnati Professor of History Mark Lause when he began researching pre-Civil War era figures in frontier Kansas – he began seeing a lot of familiar names from previous research into the 1840s Fourierism movement in places farther east in America like Cincinnati.

In looking at the people surrounding John Brown in Kansas in the 1850s, “I began encountering some very familiar names to me as a labor historian, names of people involved in the land reform movement. The ones who leapt out most immediately had Cincinnati connections,” says Lause.
Augustus Waddles
Augustus Waddles

Among them were men like Augustus Wattles. He had come to Cincinnati to attend the Lane Theological Seminary and soon thereafter helped start a school for freed slaves and runaways.  He later helped start the settlement of Utopia, Ohio, located in eastern Clermont County on the Ohio River and dedicated to the idealistic principles of Fourierism. He and his brother John O. Wattles both later moved to Kansas in 1855 and became allies of John Brown.

Main story: UC Historian Uncovers Lost History of 'Tri-racial Army' Experiment in Civil War

Sidebar: Second New Book by Lause Looks Eastward to New York Bohemians

Another name with local ties was Luke Parsons. He attended the Cincinnati Law School, the forerunner to today’s UC College of Law. He also rode with John Brown, and was part of the original group that headed for the raid at Harper’s Ferry, but only made it as far as Ohio. After Brown was captured, according to Lause, Parsons headed for Charles Town, Va., where the trial was to take place. Parsons joined the militia in hopes of becoming a guard for Brown and help him escape, but was ultimately foiled by the measures taken to keep Brown securely locked up.

“The closer I looked at John Brown’s milieu, the more I started seeing familiar names,” Lause says. “It was clear that something interesting had happened, not just in the struggle for Kansas, but as sort of a broader republican movement in a global context, in the context of 1848 and ’49.”
John O. Wattles
John O. Wattles

The path in pursuing that lead took Lause to a place where he felt he had to try and write what became “Race & Radicalism in the Union Army.”