Monday, September 15, 2014

Jason Brown, Ben Lomond Mountain Resident, Flying Machine Experimentalist, and Son of John Brown

Jason Brown
San Francisco Call 1899
Jason Brown was not with his father John Brown or his two brothers at Harpers Ferry. Jason had been injured in a prior incident and was recovering from his wounds. But Jason was, and remained all his life, an avid abolitionist. 

He was a very private individual and lived a minimalist life denying himself "all but the necessities that he may aid a blind orphan." The orphan in question was his adopted daughter who resided in an institution in Ohio. 

Jason and his ill wife had moved from Ohio to Southern California for her health. She died just a year after the move. Jason and his brother Owen, lived in a cabin close to Pasadena. Owen passed away in 1889. More information on this period can be found here.

Jason's Cabin on Ben Lomond Mountain
San Francisco Call 1899
Jason moved to Ben Lomond Mountain in the 1890s. The cabin he built was constructed of roughly hewn boards, paneless windows, and no door covering the door frame. Boxes were used as chairs and his bed was a bunk of boards halfway between the floor and the ceiling.

The land he had acquired on Ben Lomond Mountain was owned by Wesley Fanning. He hadn't the money to buy the property outright so each day he worked constructing a wagon road from the Fanning property (now Fanning Grade). Jason was now in his 70s.

In the 1900 census he lists his occupation as a Day Laborer, however, Jason was an intellectual.  He had a significant library of scientific books and was building a machine for "aerial navigation" but rarely talked to anyone about it for being fearful of being called a crank. His interest in flying was not new. In the 1850s, his father had written a letter to an American scientist describing the work his son was doing, saying he was "experimenting with a ship that was to sail the air."

Ben Lomond resident and local historian Alice Wilder remembered Jason in an article written in the Santa Cruz Sentinel in 1965. She recalled him saying that: "Someday ... I'm going to fly down to Ben Lomond and surprise the whole town."

Jason died on a trip to New York in 1912. A neighbor who had agreed to look after his property contacted his family about his "mountains of old books" and other priceless records of the Civil War. Sadly, they were uninterested and for three days she burned them. 

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