Brown, Mary Ann Day

Life Span
    Full name
    Mary Ann Day Brown
    Place of Birth
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Free State
    Charles Day (father), John Brown (husband)
    Relation to Slavery
    White non-slaveholder
    Other Affiliations
    Abolitionists (Anti-Slavery Society)
    Slaveholding in 1860
    Marital status in 1860

    Mary Ann Day Brown (Reynolds, 2005)

    Unlike the erratic Dianthe [Lusk Brown], Mary would prove to be a rock of stability for John Brown. Staunch and stoical, she set a tone of quiet courage that would influence the whole family. At the time of her marriage she was only half Brown's age and four years older than his oldest son, but her stepchildren would always call her "Mother." She would endure the deaths of nine of the thirteen children she had with John Brown, including four in one terrible week in 1842. Only four of her children outlived her. She stood behind her husband in times of poverty, long separation, and mortal danger. During his trial friends suggested that she try to save him by testifying that he was insane. She replied flatly, "It would be untrue, and therefore impossible."
    David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights, rev. ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 2005), 49-50.

    Mary Ann Day Brown (Wilson, 1918)

    A second marriage was contracted on July 11, 1833, his bridebeing Miss Mary Anne Day, daughter of Charles Day of Whitehall, New York. Thirteen children were bom of this union ; seven of whom died in early childhood ; two — Watson and Oliver — were killed at Harper's Ferry.
    Hill Peebles Wilson, John Brown Soldier of Fortune: A Critique (Boston: The Cornhill Company, 1918), 28.

    Mary Ann Day Brown, Letter From John Brown (Wilson, 1918)

    Immediately after Brown's incarceration, a movement was started by Mr. Higginson to have Mrs. Brown go to Harper's Ferry to visit her husband. But when the information reached Brown, he peremptorily forbade her coming; wiring Mr. Higginson: "For God's sake don't let Mrs. Brown come. Send her word by telegraph wherever she is."

    This arbitrary action should not excite surprise. There was no atonement that Brown could make for the ruin which he had wrought: for the dead who would never return. There were no words that he could say which would carry consolation to this woman's stricken heart, nor was it possible for him to make any rift in the clouds of her unutterable woe. He shrank, instinctively, from a presence of the bleeding heart of the woman whom he had wronged. November 9th, he wrote to Mr. Higginson:

    If my wife were to come here just now it would only tend to distract her mind TENFOLD; and would only add to my affliction; and can not possibly do me any good. It will also use up the scanty means she has to supply Bread & cheap but comfortable clothing, fuel, &c for herself & children through the winter. DO PERSUADE her to remain at home for a time (at least) till she can learn further from me. She will receive a thousand times the consolation AT HOME that she can possibly find elsewhere. I have just written her there & will write her CONSTANTLY. Her presence here would deepen my affliction a thousand fold. I beg of her to be calm and submissive; & not to go wild on my account. I lack for nothing & was feeling quite cheerful before I heard she talked of coming on — I ask her to compose her mind & to remain quiet till the last of this month; out of pity to me. I can certainly judge better in the matter than any one ELSE. My warmest thanks to yourself and all other kind friends.

    God bless you all. Please send this line to my afflicted wife by first possible conveyance.
    Hill Peebles Wilson, John Brown, Soldier of Fortune: A Critique (Boston: The Cornhill Company, 1918), 381.

    Mary Ann Day Brown, visting Harpers Ferry (Wilson, 1918)

    From the home of Mr. J. M. McKim, in Philadelphia, November 21st, Mrs. Brown addressed a letter to the Governor asking for the "mortal remains of my husband and his sons'' for burial, to which he replied as follows:

    I am happy, Madam, that you seem to have the wisdom and virtue to appreciate my position of duty. Would to God that "public considerations could avert his doom," for The Omniscient knows that I take not the slightest pleasure in the execution of any whom the laws condemn. May He have mercy on the erring and the afflicted. Enclosed is an order to Major Genl. Wm. B. Taliaferro, in command at Charlestown, Va. to deliver to your order, the mortal remains of your husband "when all shall be over"; to be delivered to your agent at Harper's Ferry; and if you attend the reception in person, to guard you sacredly in your solemn mission.

    With Tenderness and Truth,
    I am Very respectfully, your humble servant,


    Under the authority of this letter, Mrs. Brown, in company with Mrs. McKim and Mr. Hector Tyndale arrived at Harper's Ferry, November 30th. There she received a telegram from the Governor giving her permission to visit her husband, alone, on the following day, stipulating that she return to Harper's Ferry the same evening.
    Hill Peebles Wilson, John Brown, Soldier of Fortune: A Critique (Boston: The Cornhill Company, 1918), 392.

    Mary Brown, Overview of California Trip (Libby, 1989)

    After a severe Iowa winter, when Annie and Sarah returned from their last formal schooling, 47-year-old Mary, her four surviving children and two small grandchildren joined a wagon train for California. Their journey, begun in April of 1864, would take six months, fraught with not only the normal dangers that plagued westerning families but also hazards unique to the family of abolitionist John Brown. Because their emigration was of great interest to the reading public, pro-Union reporters eagerly - and perhaps, in retrospect, thoughtlessly - published the route plans of the Browns in newspapers read by those on both sides of a bitterly-divided nation still at war.
    Jean Libby, "John Brown's Family and their California Refuge," The Californians 7, no. 1 (1989): 16.
    Chicago Style Entry Link
    Bofinger, Minnie. California Haven for John Brown's Widow. Tehama County, CA: S.I. Bofinger, 1900. view record
    Fox, Theron. After Harper's Ferry: John Brown's Widow - Her Family and the Saratoga Years. Saratoga, CA: Saratoga Historical Foundation, 1964. view record
    Goodwin, Karen. Mrs. Mary Anne (Day) Brown. Red Bluff, CA: Goodwin, 1968. view record
    Hampton, Kathlin. Mrs. John Brown. Red Bluff, CA: Hampton, 1967. view record
    Libby, Jean. "John Brown's Family and Their California Refuge." Californians 7, no. 1 (1989): 14-19, 22-23. view record
    Libby, Jean. John Brown's Family in California. Palo Alto, CA: Allies for Freedom, 2006. view record
    McFarland, Gerald. "A Legacy Left Behind." American History Illustrated 19, no. 1 (1984): 21-25. view record
    Phay, Wilbert L. John Brown's Family in Red Bluff. Chico, CA: Association for Northern California Records and Research, 1986. view record
    Reed, Karen. The Widow Brown after Red Bluff. Red Bluff, CA: Reed, 1968. view record
    Rosenberg, Daniel. Mary Brown: From Harpers Ferry to California. New York: American Institute for Marxist Studies, 1975. view record
    How to Cite This Page: "Brown, Mary Ann Day ," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,