January 11, 1860.
Lind F. Currie sworn and examined.
By the Chairman:
Question. Will you state what your age is, and where you reside, and what is your occupation?
Answer. I am in my thirty-third year; I live about three miles and a half from Charlestown, Jefferson county, Virginia; I am a farmer there. In connection with my farming operations I have been also teaching school.
Question. Where was your school at the time of the invasion of Brown?
Answer. It was about half way, I think, between the house occupied by Brown, in Maryland, and the Ferry, probably about three miles from the Ferry.
Question. Will you state whether your school was in session on Monday the 17th of October last?
Answer. It was.
Question. How many pupils had you generally?
Answer. I think I averaged from twenty-five to thirty, probably; I think the full number was about thirty.
Question. Of both sexes?
Answer. Of both sexes.
Question. What were the ages of the children?
Answer. They varied from eight to fifteen or sixteen.
Question. Will you state whether an armed party appeared at the school-house on the morning of the 17th of October; and if so, who they were, what brought them there, what they brought with them, and what they did?
Answer. They came there on the morning of the 17th, I think, about ten o'clock; it was sometime after I had opened my school, and Cook seemed to be the leader of the party. There were three white men, Cook and Tidd, and the third I have heard since was Leeman; but I think there is no certainty about that.
Question. Were there any negroes with them?
Answer. Some negroes; I do not recollect the number exactly. There might have been five and might have been ten, but I cannot recollect very distinctly the exact number. There were not less than five, though, I know; Mr. Cook came there in company with Mr. Byrne.
Question. Did he come before the other men?
Answer. They all came together with the wagon with arms; Mr. Cook came in and demanded possession of the school-house.
Question. Were all the party armed?
Answer. They were all fully armed; Cook, I recollect, had a couple of revolvers sticking around his belt, and a large Bowie knife and a Sharp's rifle; I presume they were loaded.
Question. Had the negroes any arms?
Answer. These long pikes, nothing else.
Question. Was it such a pike as that you see now in the corner of the committee room?
Answer. Yes, sir; exactly.
Question. You say Cook came in the school-house; now go on with the narrative.
Answer. Yes, sir; he came in and demanded possession of the school-house. He said he was going to occupy it as a sort of depot for their arms; that they intended depositing their arms and implements of war there; and they brought them in. At the same time he did not want me to dismiss the school. He thought I had better keep on the school and we should not be interrupted. I told him I thought that would not answer. The children were then very much alarmed, and I could not do anything with them. They were not in a condition to engage in their usual duties, and it would be impossible to keep them there.
Question. Were the children alarmed by it?
Answer. Very much alarmed.
Question. What evidences did they give of alarm?
Answer. Their manner of acting, their expressions, and so on, indicated the greatest alarm, so much so that he tried to pacify them as much as he could, but it was impossible to do it, and I finally dismissed them.
Question. What was in the wagon?
Answer. There were long boxes containing probably a dozen Sharp's rifles, I should think.
Question. Do you remember how many boxes there were?
Answer. I do not know the number; there were a good many of them; the wagon was loaded; it was full.
Question. They brought them in and deposited them in the school-house?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Was there anything in the wagon but these boxes?
Answer. They took out at the same time one very large black trunk and put it in the school-house; I think that was all except these boxes.
Question. Did they tell you anything about what their design or purpose was?
Answer. Yes, sir; Cook said their intention was to free the negroes; that they intended to adopt such measures as would effectually free them, though he said nothing about running them off or anything of that kind. He said this, too: that those slave-holders who would give up their slaves voluntarily would meet with protection, but those who refused to give them up would be quartered upon and their property confiscated, used in such ways as they might think proper; at least they would receive no protection from their organization or party. I distinctly recollect that he said that.
Question. Did he ask you if you were a slave-holder?
Answer. No, sir, he did not; but I am under the impression that he discovered it afterwards. I should have stated probably before, that after I was there awhile there was a little boy of a friend of mine going to my school, and I felt a special interest in him, and he was extremely alarmed, and I was fearful that bad consequences might follow if I could not get him home very soon or do something with him to get him out of that fix. I asked Cook if he would allow me to take him home; he said yes, he had no objection; and I took him home to his father's house, about half a mile from there; I was gone probably an hour.
Question. Did you leave these men at the school-house when you went away?
Answer. I left them all there with the wagon; their wagon was not unloaded when I left.
By Mr. Collamer:
Question. Had the children generally gone off then?
Answer. Yes, sir; most of them went before I left; I dismissed school and allowed the children to go, but I kept this little boy because I wished to take him home myself. There was no one going his road, and I felt rather a special interest in him. I would not have gone back, but that there was no way of getting out that I knew of. My road lay in that direction across the river. There were two other roads, one through the Ferry, but both were occupied. The Ferry at that time was occupied by these men, and I could not get through the Ferry. There was another road passing up by Brown's house, which would have led me some miles out of my route home, but I did not go that way because I presumed that also was occupied by these men.
By the Chairman:
Question. You did go back to the school-house?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. What did you find there?
Answer. I found, then, nobody there but Cook and one black man with this wagon, the load of arms stowed about in the school-house. I did not know the negroes, but they knew me I presume; they were Colonel Washington's negroes, and I lived but a mile from his house. I learned afterwards that they stated to Cook who I was, that I was a Virginian, a farmer and slave holder over there; and I noticed some slight change in his manner after I came back; he was rather cooler; but after I was there sometime he became rather more communicative, and spoke of a great many things.
Question. Did you remain there?
Answer. Yes, sir; until late in the evening.
Question. Did he detain you, or was it your voluntary act?
Answer. I felt as if I was detained; he did not tell me so in so many words, but, when I made motions to move about, he would rather get in my way and endeavor as if he would prevent me, and I scarcely knew what course to pursue. I asked his permission, however, to go towards night. I saw the sun was getting down, and I told him I was anxious to get home. He told me I might go, but exacted a promise that I would not reveal what I had seen going on there. I suppose between two and three o'clock, probably, in the afternoon, somewhere, the shots became very rapid and continuous; we could hear them from the Ferry; they were constantly firing, and I asked him, "Mr. Cook, what does that mean?" "Well," said he, "it simply means this: that those people down there are resisting our men, and we are shooting them down."
Question. When you got back, in what position or what duty apparently was the negro whom he retained with him?
Answer. He seemed to be there as an assistant in guarding those arms. Mr. Cook told me he was there under orders from Brown, and that he could not get away. His orders from Brown were to remain there and take care of that point and protect those arms.
Question. What was the negro doing, apparently?
Answer. He appeared to be an assistant of his; they were both sitting there watching.
Question. What arms had the negro?
Answer. Nothing but the pike.
Question. Did the negro recognize you there; did he speak to you?
Answer. No, sir; he did not recognize me; he evidently knew me, though he did not speak to me or make himself known. I did not know until afterwards that he was one of Colonel Washington's negroes.
Question. Have you seen him since?
Answer. No, sir; I have not.
Question. You were then allowed by Cook to go away on a promise that you would not reveal what you saw. What direction did you take to get home; did you go by the Ferry?
Answer. No, sir; I went down by a road directly leading to the river; I did not go by the Ferry; it was then occupied; I did not go to the Ferry at all that night; I went immediately home; there was nobody there but my mother and the negroes, and I was anxious to get home; I started the next morning, however, for the Ferry. I asked Cook, at the school-house, "with how many men did you commence this foray down there." He did not answer me directly, but said, "I do not know how many men are there now; there may be 5,000 or there may be 10,000 for aught I know." I believed it; I supposed it was all true; I had no idea that twenty-two men were going to attempt such a foray as that.
Question. Did he tell you anything about their expecting assistance, or where it was to come from?
Answer. Oh, yes, sir. I did not ask him; but I presumed it was to come from the north.
Question. What did he tell you about expecting assistance?
Mr. Collamer. Tell what he said.
Answer. He said these men were to be there. I did not ask him where they were to come from, and he did not say. I just formed that impression.
By Mr. Collamer:
Question. That is, when he told you there might be 5,000 there, those were the men you understood him to say he expected there?
Answer. Yes, sir. He was speaking, too, about different personages. Gerrit Smith and Fred Douglass he mentioned.
Question. What did he say of them?
Answer. He said they were interested in it, and knew of it. Those were the remarks he made. These, I think, were almost precisely the words he used: That Gerrit Smith knew of it, and was interested in it, and also Fred Douglass; and I asked him especially if Mr. Seward was concerned or interested in it, and I think he said he did not know.
By the Chairman:
Question. Was there any other conversation in the school-house besides what you have given us?
Answer. Yes, sir. Cook and myself were talking of the feeling entertained towards the south by the north generally. He said he had no doubt that the efforts would be strong now and unfailing in order to extirpate the institution of slavery from the entire land. I forget in what connection exactly he brought that in; but that was about the gist of what he was saying. He said, "We, as a little band, may perish in this attempt, but," said he, "there are thousands ready at all times to occupy our places, and to step into the breach." He said, further: "It is our design to use every effort to disseminate our sentiments in regard to the institution of slavery among your own people; we will scatter them among you in different ways; we will send our people among you as colporteurs and peddlers, and we will place them in your pulpits and schools; in different ways we will send our men among you, and by such means circulate our opinions and sentiments." Our conversation was long and varied. Those are the leading points that I recollect now.
By Mr. Doolittle:
Question. On that subject of any others being concerned than those there, were these persons the only persons you recollect that were named -- Fred Douglass and Gerrit Smith?
Answer. Those were the only persons he named as knowing of it and interested in it. He used those words.
Question. Those are the only two he named?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Lind F. Currie.