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Descendants Seek Historical Status for Tombstone of John Brown’s Son

Times Staff Writer

High on an isolated summit above Altadena sits a crudely hewn headstone that may soon become a state point of historical interest. The stone marks the resting place of Owen Brown, son of abolitionist John Brown.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, responding to an appeal from John Brown’s great-great granddaughters, on Tuesday asked the state Office of Historic Preservation to declare the site an official point of interest.

The designation is usually sought to provide recognition to little-known sites that are “significant in the architectural, social, political, military or cultural annals of California.” In this case, it was requested by Altadena Heritage, a preservationist group, after the anti-slavery leader’s descendants expressed fear that the headstone might be threatened someday by development.

The designation could require preparation of environmental studies before the privately owned property could be developed.

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The site is worthy of special recognition, said Tim Gregory, chairman of Altadena Heritage, because Owen Brown took part in the ill-fated raid at Harper’s Ferry, Va., in 1859 for which his father was hanged for treason. Owen Brown escaped capture, and he and a brother later became early settlers of Altadena, according to documents attached to the application.

Owen Brown’s funeral was one of the largest in Pasadena at the time, attracting about 2,000 people, including the Pasadena Board of Directors, according to the application. The band leading the procession played the song “John Brown’s Body.”

The stone marker reads “Owen Brown, son of John Brown, the Liberator, Died Jan. 9, 1889, aged 64 years.”

Gregory said he applied for the designation after receiving a phone call from John Brown’s great-great-granddaughters, Eleanor Blangsted and Adelene Craig, who live in Oceanside.

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Blangsted said she contacted Gregory after receiving a phone call from the owner of the land where the grave site is located, who said he was considering building on the property and might have to move the head stone.

“We think there is too much of our history being done away with,” said Blangsted.


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