A replica of abolitionist Owen Brown’s headstone will be placed in the park on Altadena Drive near Lake Avenue, which up until now has only recognized Altadena residents who fought in World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War.
Brown participated in a raid led by his father, John Brown, on the US arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia in 1859, but evaded capture. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War and came to Altadena in 1884. The last surviving member of the raiding party, he died of pneumonia on Jan. 8, 1889, at the age of 64. Mourners totaling more than 2,000, equaling the population of Pasadena, marched in the funeral procession to Brown’s resting place on Little Roundtop Hill on Brown’s Mountain in Altadena.
John Brown thought if he freed slaves they would join an expanding army which would march through the South and forcibly end slavery. The plan failed when slaves freed by Brown from nearby plantations did not join in the fighting and instead fled in hopes of securing freedom. The elder Brown and several others from the raiding party were captured and hanged. Two of Brown’s sons were killed during the raid.
The incident is considered by some to be the first shots fired in the Civil War, which started a year later.
Owen Brown’s headstone was placed at his burial site on Brown’s Mountain where he lived with his brother Jason. The headstone vanished in 2002, but was discovered 10 years later.
No one is saying where the headstone is being kept, except that it is in a secure location, said Rene Amy, who is setting the replica headstone in the park.
The former education activist became involved in the project via Nextdoor, an app that allows locals to stay abreast of community developments.
Last week, several high school students volunteered to work on the project.
“I’m hoping that the example of volunteerism will help inspire other people in the community,” Amy said.
Amy said he was glad that the memorial is being placed in the park, but is worried some people might believe it’s the original headstone. Signs will be posted to inform visitors the headstone is a replica.
“I like the idea of people being able to access the replica and learn the history of this man,” said Amy.