Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia

Union or Secession
  • "Old Brown of Kansas notoriety"
  • "Old Brown of Kansas notoriety"
  • "Old Brown of Kansas notoriety"
On December 1, 1859, a young woman wrote to her friend Callie Anthony, in Campbell County, relating the news in Norfolk regarding the imminent hanging of John Brown and the rumors of an uprising of slaves.
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My Dear Callie

"Old Brown of Kansas notoriety"

Sallie [surname unknown] to Callie Anthony, December [1], 1859, Anthony Family Papers, 1785–1952, Acc. 35647, 35648, Library of Virginia.

Callie Anthony says: My friend Sallie lives in Norfolk. She's been really depressed lately, but it seems to me she doesn't have anything to be sad about. I wish she'd snap out of it. Maybe my letters and the one she mentioned from our friend Jennie will cheer her up.

It sounds like there has been quite a panic in Norfolk over John Brown and his raid on the United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry a couple of months ago. There has been lots of talk that he might be freed by Northern abolitionists before his scheduled hanging in Charles Town on December 2. It makes me glad I don't live in such a big city. I'm glad that Sallie doesn't believe there will be an uprising of the slaves. I'm sure she is right that they prefer slavery to freedom.

Sallie [surname unknown] to Callie Anthony, December [1], 1859, Anthony Family Papers, 1785–1952, Acc. 35647, 35648, Library of Virginia.

Norfolk Dec. 1859

Dearest Darling Callie
I have been trying to take the time, to write all day, but company coming in prevented me from doing so. & now while the rest are eating their suppers, I will improve the time, to a better advantage by writing to my Dear Callie but I must hasten on. Dad dislikes so much for any of us to be absent, when he is home (which is mostly evenings) that I always try to be on hand & here in my own little den, is the only place, in which I can compose my thoughts sufficiently, to commit them to paper.
It seems you think, that I have little, or no cause for sadness, well, perhaps you are justifiable, in thinking so, circumstanced as you are. & I am sorry that I have hitherto let anything like sadness, breathe forth in my letters, I always try to be as cheerful as possible & take things as they come, but with all that I sometimes feel so miserable, that I feel like it is impossible, for me to live, almost, sometimes I feel so disgusted (if I may use the expression) that I'm almost tempted to wish, I'd never been born. I know it is wrong, to have such feelings, & I try to strive against them, with all my power, but seems they will come up, undermining my peace, & making me very unhappy. I hope I'm forgiven for speaking at such length; upon such a disagreeable subject, but I could not refrain from speaking the honest feeling of my heart, but I should be the comforter & as such, I will now try my hand. I wrote to Jennie to day, & told her to thank you for it. I've written to her so often without receiving any answer that I shall have to give up writing until she sees fit to write. I am as anxious to hear from her, as she is from me, & more so I expect, it seems like when a person gets married, their feelings change entirely. I guess before you will have received this Old Brown of Kansas notoriety, will have expiated his numerous crimes upon the gallows, to morrow, being the day fixed upon for his execution. There seems to be a great deal of talk, about a probability of his being rescued when the time approaches, but the time is so near, & he is not rescued yet. I think people might as well make themselves easy. It was is reported, last that to night, there is to be a general rising of the slaves but I do not believe it, & I do not fear anything of the kind. my honest opinion is, that they know which side their "bread is buttered" on & prefer slavery, to freedom, & starvation, which go hand, in hand; with each other. I hear that some persons, have predicted that our Soldiery, will never return, but no such thought will has ever entered my mind, & I will not suffer it now, although I may be too self confident when I think that right must always triumph enough. I went to see Sue one day, this week, she is perfectly devoted to her children, as she calls them, I had not been long in the room before she reminded me, that I had n't inquired after her children. I told her one day, what you said, in one your letters, about her heart being so small, &c. she said she loved us all very much. Peters was present, & seemed very much pleased at the thought, of our being Jealous of him. some one has dropped in, I guess, as I heard the door bell ring, & Maa has just called to me to come down, so I must put up my pen, for to night, excuse brevity, this time, & I will try to write more next time, remember us each, & all affectly to your Maa if she is with you sharing for yourself, a large portion. Write soon, & believe me as ever.
Yours truly & fondly