Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sword of the Spirit, John and Mary Brown

At Hoover Auditorium last night we were treated to an excellent two person play based on the life and letters of John and Mary Brown by Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino (6th Annual Civil War Week at Lakeside). The Browns lived in Hudson, Ohio, as well as North Elba, NY, site of the Brown family cemetery, where Mary said it's winter 6 months and cold the rest of the year. She is buried in Saratoga, California where she went to live after John's death. There were also family ties to Put-in-Bay and Decorah, Iowa, as well as other sites because John Brown was a passionate abolitionist, fanatical Christian and a not-so-great provider who moved frequently, uprooting his family when they weren't burying their children.

Mary Brown sounded a bit familiar to me, so when I got home I browsed my little shelf of cottage books, many of which are about northern Ohio or the lake, and found "Ohio scenes and citizens" by Grace Goulder, a very popular Cleveland writer who died in 1984 at 91. Mine is an orange paperback in excellent condition, Landfall Press, 1973, reprinted from the 1950 World Publishing Co. The chapter on John Brown's wives is probably the only one I'd read in this collection of articles that originally appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Her work on Dianthe and Mary Brown is just a masterpiece of research, with material taken from letters diaries, interviews with relatives, and trips to archives, cemeteries and libraries. I didn't see anything that was in conflict with last night's presentation, although Mr. Artzner commented after the play that within the past decade there have been many new books on John Brown. Maybe so, but if you want to know anything about his wives, check out Grace Goulder. Really terrific.

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