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John Brown Museum

Samuel and Florella AdairDuring 1854 to 1855 many Northern newspapers urged people to move to Kansas, a new land of opportunity. The pioneer family could cultivate fertile land, enjoy the peaceful countryside, and protect the territory from the spread of slavery. This was the dream of Samuel Adair and Florella Brown Adair, both graduates of Oberlin, a progressive coeducational and biracial college in Ohio. Samuel finished his theology program while he courted Florella. Then they married and moved westward.


John BrownFive of the sons of John Brown, Florella's half brother, soon followed the Adairs to Kansas, bringing with them their families and expectations for a better life in the new territory. After settling in the Osawatomie area, severe illness and the "clouds of war" closed in on the pioneers. John Brown came to Kansas to help his sons, although he did not plan to stay permanently in the new territory. In Kansas the steadfast abolitionist found a place where he could act on his radical ideas. The territory officially was under the control of a proslavery government which sometimes prompted free-state men to take desperate action. They fought armed proslavery men, often from Missouri, who invaded the territory, destroying crops and murdering free-state opponents. These troubled times became known as Bleeding Kansas. Osawatomie was attacked and burned by proslavery forces on August 30, 1856, but the Adair Cabin, located some distance northwest of the town, survived.

Pioneer life was difficult enough under any circumstances. The Adairs were exceptional people who faced incredible hardships. As a Congregational minister, Reverend Samuel Adair struggled to gather a faithful flock. The walnut lumber and native stone used in the construction of the church building were supplied from his own claim. This was the first church in Osawatomie and the third of its denomination in Kansas. The work on the meeting house was a labor of love and a source of comfort in troubling times. It was dedicated July 14, 1861, and still stands.

The Civil War, when it came in 1861, separated the Adairs. Samuel served at Fort Leavenworth as military chaplain, while Florella added her husband's responsibilities to her own at home. Eventually ill health forced her to join Samuel at Leavenworth, where she died in 1865.

Following the death of his wife, Samuel returned to his church and cabin in Osawatomie. He helped establish the first insane asylum in Kansas (present-day Osawatomie State Hospital), giving his services voluntarily as chaplain for 11 years. Samuel died in 1898, leaving the cabin to his son, Charles Storrs Adair.

On August 30, 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Osawatomie to dedicate a memorial at the John Brown Memorial Park. In 1912 the Adair cabin was dismantled and relocated to the memorial park. In 1928 the state of Kansas appropriated $6,000 of a stone pergola to surround the cabin, protecting it from further deterioration. The state legislature appointed the Kansas Historical Society to maintain the site, and it does so in partnership with the city of Osawatomie. The site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and now operates as John Brown Museum State Historic Site.

Entry: John Brown Museum

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: August 2002

Date Modified: November 2012

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.