Owen Brown Event at Mountain View Mausoleum

We held our April Third Thursday event in the beautiful upstairs courtyard terrace at the Mountain View Mausoleum. Three panelists told the incredible story behind the restoration of Owen Brown’s gravesite in Altadena’s foothills.

Paul Ayers, who successfully litigated public access to the gravesite, gave an illustrated talk on its legal history, and how he used forensic techniques to determine the correct spot to replace the gravestone that had gone missing (and put back in wrong places several times), before it was finally restored to its proper position last July.

Dr. William Deverell, Director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, painted a broad history of the Brown family’s abolitionist activities in the run up to the Civil War, drawing the arc of how John Brown’s children Owen, Jason, and Ruth Thompson Brown arrived in the Pasadena/Altadena area.

He spoke movingly about how the Brown’s actions at Harpers Ferry are relevant to issues in the news today, and provided cultural context on who decides what events and people involved in the Civil War are memorialized.

Michele Zack, Altadena historian and chair of the current LA County-sponsored Owen Brown Gravesite Committee overseeing its restoration, recounted the long and ultimately successful civic quest to preserve the site, involving years of effort and finally, a surprising grand bargain struck between LA County with the developer of the La Viña housing development.

The event was recorded and can be viewed under Past Events, “Restoring Owen Brown’s History and His Gravesite,” at altadenaheritage.org. You may also view a short video on Presidents Day Commemoration at the gravesite in February.