Cool local Altadena story. An old stone grave marker for Owen Brown, the son of Civil War abolitionist John Brown, had been missing from its old spot in the Altadena hills for a decade or so, under mysterious circumstances involving a development dispute. It was found recently by artist Ian White, who got in touch with the Paul Ayers of Save the Altadena Trails to help relocate the marker. It is currently in a secure spot while potential owners haggle over the stone, say White and Ayers.
According to the Pasadena Star-News, Owen Brown was nearby when his father staged the famous slave revolt in 1859 at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. He moved to the Altadena area and died in 1889 at age 64, according to the stone. The paper has an online gallery of photos showing the stone.
Larry Wilson, the Star-News' public editor, says in a column that White was the fitting person to find the missing stone gravestone.
As I wrote last spring after Ian gave a talk at the Pacific Asia Museum about his family's artistic legacy, White is the son of the great African-American artist Charles White.
He has long lived in the Meadows, where his parents - a mixed-race couple in that now-grand tradition of Altadena - were among the first residents. Even though it's thought of now as the town's premier middle-class black neighborhood, Charles White was the first African American there in the 1950s. Now, the late artist's works are big-time - I wrote about how his "J'Accuse No. 10" charcoal drawing from 1966 sold for $170,000 at auction in Manhattan in February. Then, he was teaching at Otis and just becoming well known. And beginning a family.
In his museum talk this year, Ian White, spoke about his love for hiking, and about how he lived just below Owen Brown's grave. So the fact that a black man, an artist, is the one who came across and rescued the gravestone of the son of the fiery abolitionist - "The Liberator," they called John Brown, and his sons were involved in his famously violent anti-slavery raids - well, it's just kismet.
This whole tombstone business has long been viewed with suspicion by Altadenans who knew it went missing only when hiking groups and historians were seeking access to the gravesite from property owners wanting to develop the hillside. In the years since, that access has been granted by the courts
* Added: Here's a story on the gravestone's original disappearance that Becky Oskin did for the Star-News. "It's been 10 years since I wrote the story, and nine since I left the Star-News," she emails. "Glad to see it's turned up!"
Ian White, Glen Samuel and Paul Ayers move the gravestone. Courtesy of Ayers, via Star-News