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This is just one of 140 extensive and informative Articles in
Washington County  Architectural & Historic Treasures Book
Architectural
& Historic Treasures of Washington County, Maryland

Kennedy Farm

John Brown's hideout used to stage raid on Harper's Ferry


"It's the best kept secret in the state!" declares South Lynn as he gazes toward a small log cabin perched on high stone foundations. Then he launches into the story of the old place.

This rustic cabin is a National Historic Landmark, one of only two in the county, a place considered to have national significance. Lynn's love affair with the little place began in 1965 when he saw a story in the Washington Star headlined, John Brown Hideout for Sale, with a photograph of the building and a Hagerstown dateline.

In 1859, abolitionist John Brown came into this area with a plan for an insurrection of slaves. He searched for a private piece of property where he could organize his raid on the arsenal at Harper's Ferry without being noticed by neighbors.

Dr. R. F. Kennedy had purchased a collier's cabin and 194 acres of land from Antietam Iron Works in 1852 as an investment. He had the story-high stone foundation built and raised the one-room cabin onto it, then added a larger, two-story wing to the northeast. Kennedy died seven years later, and his farm was empty. Brown, using the name Isaac Smith because he was wanted for abolitionist activities in Kansas, rented it for $35 in gold from the trustee of Kennedy's estate. He stayed there while he gathered troops and organized his abortive raid on Harper's Ferry. His sixteen-year-old daughter Annie and his seventeen-year-old daughter-in-law Martha served as cooks and housekeepers for this Provisional Army, which grew to number 21 soldiers, including Brown's sons Owen, Watson and Oliver. It is this three-and-a-half month period that is nationally significant.

The farm passed through many owners and was altered extensively over the years. In 1950, the National Negro Elks purchased it when Leonard Curlin, a Hagerstown Elk, persuaded the Tri-State Elks Lodge of its worth. The Elks had hoped to restore the house and make it a museum and shrine for Brown, who, Curlin said, ...struck the first blow for my people. Funds were slow in coming, and after some years the Elks could no longer maintain the property. They had placed the farm on the market when Lynn saw the story in the paper. When he first saw the place, he was overwhelmed even though it was in very bad shape. Meanwhile Bonnard Morgan had purchased the farm for resale in 1966. In 1972, Lynn leased the house for a year. He took this time to do research in the Maryland and National Archives to make certain that this really was what people said it was: the place that John Brown used to stage his raid on Harper's Ferry. At the end of the lease, Lynn convinced three friends to join him to buy the house with about two acres for $40,000.

Note: Kennedy Farm is located at 2406 Chestnut Grove Road, Sharpsburg, Maryland. To learn more, please visit www.johnbrown.org.

The entire article and more photos are featured in the book, Architectural & Historic Treasures of Washington County, Maryland.



Southern Washington County
circa 1852

John Brown's hideout


John Brown's hideout

click on photo for
larger view


Photos by
Patricia Schooley

washington county This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, September 12, 1999 as the 119th in the series.
washington county