Cleveland's Black History: John Brown and his family

Barber and real estate investor

He would have starred in the original "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."

John Brown was born in 1798 and became Cleveland's wealthiest African American. He was known for 40 years as John Brown "The Barber," one of the best in town. Born to free parents in Virginia he arrived in Cleveland in 1828 and started cutting hair. He married the widow of a barber in 1838.

Brown was the owner of a barber shop in one of Cleveland's finest hotels, the New England House, until it burned down in 1854. So he put his money into real estate investments and his estate was estimated to be worth 35 to 40 thousand dollars.

Many acknowledged him as more than just a barber. He was known to spark very spirited discussions on politics, religion and philosophy. His downtown shop was a stop for fugitive slaves using the Underground Railroad.

John Brown had two sons, John and Charles, who joined a black regiment in Massachusetts during the Civil War. He also had two daughters and his stepdaughter, Lucy Stanton became the first black woman to complete the Ladies Course at Oberlin College. She later married abolitionist and publisher William Howard Day.

John Brown died in 1869.

Print this article Back to Top