In my last column, I mentioned somewhat of a connection between pre-Civil War abolitionist John Brown and the father of Ulysses S. Grant, Jesse Grant. I will try to explain how this came about, plus the addition to the famous Tod family of Youngstown, who are also involved in this strange connection.
Jesse Grant was born near Greensburg in Westmoreland County, Pa., on Jan. 23, 1794. The family moved to East Liverpool in 1799. The family added more children and seemed to move back and forth between Youngstown and Deerfield between 1802 and 1805. Jesse's mother passed away in 1805, and he became an orphan. Along with his sister, Susan, he eventually was taken in by a judge and justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, George Tod, and his family in Youngstown. Jesse's sister Margaret and brother Roswell lived with another prominent Youngstowner by the name of James Hillman. At that time, Judge Tod had a young son David, who became a famous industrialist, and during the Civil War in 1862 became the governor of Ohio.
Between 1810 and 1812, Jesse took up the trade of hide tanning when he was between 16 and 18 years old. He lived with and worked for Owen Brown at his tannery in Deerfield. That home still survives and is still lived in. Also living there was Owen's 10-12-year-old son John Brown, who later on in life became the famous abolitionist and anti-slavery martyr of Kansas and Harpers Ferry. Owen Brown also had a very strong anti-slavery sentiment, and all this seemed to rub off on son John. At one time in Deerfield we had, living in the same house, Jesse Grant, who was father of Gen. UIysses S. Grant, and Owen Brown, who was father of John Brown, who became famous in his own rite as raiding Harpers Ferry. The big difference between Owen Brown and his son was that Owen was a very successful businessman and John was not. The flame of anti-slavery seemed to burn within him with a militant passion. David Tod, also in the Civil War, became as mentioned earlier the Governor of Ohio.
From the memoirs of UIysses S. Grant:
Speaking about his father, Jesse: "There must have been a cordiality in his welcome into the Tod family, for to the day of his death he looked upon Judge Tod and his wife with all the reverence he could have felt if they had been his parents instead of benefactors. I have often heard him speak of Mrs. Tod as the most admirable woman he had ever known. He remained with the Tod family only a few years, until old enough to learn a trade. He went first I believe with his half-brother Peter Grant who owned a tannery in Maysville, Kentucky and returned to Deerfield and worked for and lived with the family of a Mr. Brown, the father of John Brown 'whose body lies mouldering in the grave, while his soul goes marching on.' I have often heard my father speak of John Brown particularly since the events of Harper's Ferry. Brown was just a boy when they lived in the same house, but he knew him afterwards and regarded him as a man of great purity of character of high moral and physical courage, but a fanatic and extremist in whatever he advocated. It was certainly the act of an insane man to attempt the invasion of the south and the overthrow of slavery with less than twenty men."
David Tod was reared as a farm boy at Brier Hill outside of Youngstown at the family farm and became a lawyer and postmaster in Warren. After his father's death, he came into possession of the entire Brier Hill farm. It became a source of great wealth and a starting point for a great and profitable industry in coal. This made our valley at that time one of the wealthiest in Ohio and perhaps the whole country. Naturally, it was called the Brier Hill Coal Mines. The industry seemed to snow ball in conjunction with the Cleveland and Mahoning Railroad enterprise also started by Tod. He became an Ohio senator, later minister to Brazil. Afterwards, he returned to Youngstown to give his attention to his many industries in coal, steel and the railroads, where he accumulated a fortune.
He changed parties from Democratic to the new Lincoln Republican Party and became Ohio's governor during the Civil War.
Thus, we do seem to have a connection between Gen. Grant's father, Jesse, with the Tod family and John Brown. David Tod was governor of Ohio during the Civil War. John Brown was hung for his attempt to overthrow slavery by force and raided the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry on Oct. 16, 1859. Who would have thought that Deerfield held such a role in the Civil War. Oh, another little twist, Robert E. Lee and the U.S. Marines captured John Brown.