Grave Thursday: Dr. William Queen

Each week we are highlighting the final resting place of someone related to the Lincoln assassination story. It may be the grave of someone whose name looms large in assassination literature, like a conspirator, or the grave of one of the many minor characters who crossed paths with history. Welcome to Grave Thursday.


Dr. William Queen

dr-william-queen-grave-1

Burial Location: St. Mary’s Cemetery, Bryantown, Maryland

Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

Dr. William Queen was a physician in Charles County, Maryland who lived about six miles south of Bryantown. On November 11, 1864, John Wilkes Booth rode the stage down from Washington, D.C. to Bryantown where he spent the night. In his possession, Booth carried a letter of introduction to Dr. Queen. Booth had acquired this letter while he was in Montreal, Canada in the middle of October from a Confederate smuggler named Patrick Martin. Martin was from St. Mary’s County and still had contacts with the underground network of Confederate sympathizers and operatives back in Southern Maryland. Booth was anxious to connect with these individuals for his planned abduction plot against Abraham Lincoln. When Booth arrived in Bryantown the first time, he was able to send word to Dr. Queen that he wanted to meet with him. The next day Dr. Queen’s son, Joseph, picked Booth up at the Bryantown Tavern and brought him to his father’s home. John Wilkes Booth spent the night of November 12, at Dr. Queen’s home.

Dr. Queen’s son-in-law, John Thompson, would later testify at the trial of the conspirators that Booth’s letter of introduction to the doctor only mentioned that the actor was looking to purchase some land in the area and asked Dr. Queen to furnish him with assistance in this regard. This, however, is likely just a cover story that Booth and the Queen family committed to using. Booth’s true purpose was to scout the lands and roads of Charles County while simultaneously looking for individuals who would assist him in his abduction plot.

Dr. Queen was about 73 years old when Booth first arrived at his home. He was quite infirm and less than a year later he would become bedridden. So while Dr. Queen could not provide Booth with much in the way of physical assistance, his knowledge of the people and land was helpful. The next day, on November 13th, John Wilkes Booth joined Dr. Queen and his family in attending church at St. Mary’s Church in Bryantown. “Coincidentally” Dr. Samuel Mudd made the decision to attend St. Mary’s Church that Sunday rather than his home church of St. Peter’s. John Thompson introduced John Wilkes Booth to Dr. Mudd outside of the church before services commenced.

St. Mary's Church Oldroyd

John Wilkes Booth would return to Dr. Queen’s home after church was over and subsequently return back to Washington.

Booth was not absent from Charles County for very long, however. On December 17th, he returned to Bryantown and spent another night with Dr. Queen and his family. The next morning, a Sunday, Booth once again attended church at St. Mary’s before he met up with Dr. Mudd. For the next few days, Dr. Mudd, not Dr. Queen, would be Booth’s host. In this way, Dr. Mudd came to replace Dr. Queen as a more able bodied facilitator of Booth’s plot. Mudd introduced the actor to Thomas Harbin, a Confederate agent who signed on to help with the abduction plot. It was also during this trip that Dr. Mudd helped Booth to purchase a horse from the doctor’s next door neighbor, George Gardiner. Booth returned to Washington on December 22nd, and, the very next day, Dr. Mudd took a visit to Washington where he happened to introduce Booth to John Surratt, who would become another willing and helpful participant in Booth’s plot.

After the assassination of Lincoln and the subsequent investigation, Dr. Queen avoided arrest due to his declining health that had left him bedridden. His son-in-law, John Thompson, was taken up to Washington in his stead. Thompson would testify at the trial about Booth’s arrival in the county and his introduction to Dr. Mudd.

dr-queen-obit-1866

Dr. Queen’s health continued to deteriorate and, on March 1, 1866, he died at his home near Bryantown. He was buried next to his first wife and his son Joseph (the son who had transported Booth to the Queen home in November of 1864) who had died in November of 1865. The family plot is near the back of St. Mary’s Church cemetery, the same cemetery where Dr. Mudd would later be buried.

One of the artifacts in the collection of the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum is a newspaper clipping that was owned by one of Dr. Queen’s daughters, Molly Queen. The clipping contains a poem called “Then and Now” which was a piece of political propaganda related to the election of 1864. The poem laments the poor condition of the country due to the last four years of Lincoln’s presidency and encourages the reader to vote for the Democratic candidate, George McClellan. The poem ends with the line: “Three cheers for Mac and the good times coming; And a groan for Abraham!”

While this piece completely fits with the political point of view of the Queen family and so many others in Southern Maryland, what makes this artifact unique and worth saving is an ambiguous signature which is affixed in pencil to the side of the clipping:

queen-clipping-mudd-house

queen-clipping-booth-signature

John Wilkes Booth did visit the Queen family for the first time just a few days after the election of 1864 and so it is likely that Molly Queen had this clipping out and around during the actor’s visit. Even if this is not actually John Wilkes Booth’s signature, it still is a fascinating artifact connecting John Wilkes Booth and the family of Dr. William Queen.

GPS coordinates for Dr. William Queen’s grave: 38.539667, -76.836000

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Grave Thursday: Dr. William Queen

  1. Richard Sloan

    I always thought it was obvious (to me, at least) that the explanation for Booth’s forays into Chls County were transparent for this reason — November and December are not good months to look over lands to buy. It’s cold; the grounds are hard, not fertile, and the trips by carriage or horseback must have been bone chilling. (There must have been plenty of stops to eat and get warmed up by peoples’ fireplaces. No McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts for hot chocolate (Hmm. The Surratt tavern would have been a convenient stop for Booth, but I guess we’ll never know if he made tit one of his stops.

  2. Dennis D. Urban

    Dave, did your research determine if any of the Queen family is still in the Charles County area?

    • David Hamilton Steele

      Dr. Queen is my GGGF. I was born in Leonardtown in 1953.. Emma Queen (Hamilton), daughter of Billy Queen – Dr. Queen’s son, was my Grandmother. I have lived in Augusta GA since 1973. I don’t know if there are any Queen”s left in Charles Co.

      • Joseph Mannard

        Mr. Steele,

        I was wondering if you ever ran across the name Ann Gertrude Wightt, a cousin of Dr. William Queen. In her will drawn up in 1865, Wightt named Dr. Queen her main beneficiary. Wightt was born MaryAnn Wightt in Prince George’s County in 1799 to Benjamin and Mary Wightt. After her father died in 1800 and her uncle John Wightt died in 1806, Mary and her younger sister Susannah began boarding at Georgetown Visitation Convent . Both girls became early members of that Catholic institution. Mary Ann took the name Sister Ann Gertrude and Susannah took the name Mary Margaret. Sister Mary Margaret died of consumption in 1820. Wightt secretly left the convent in 1831 and took refuge at the home of her first cousin Marcia Burnes Van Ness, wife of the then Mayor of Washington, DC, John Peter.Van Ness. Wightt then became a regular hostess and guest in Washington society. She had distinct Confederate sympathies during and after the war until her death in 1867,

        I am currently researching and writing a biography of this remarkable, yet little known, antebellum woman. If you have any leads on where I might find material about her, especially any family records, I would be most grateful.

        Best,
        Dr. Joseph Mannard
        Department of History
        Indiana University of Pennsylvania
        Indiana, Pennsylvania 15705

        • Laurie Verge

          Just some thoughts: Dr. William Queen died in 1865, I believe shortly before the LIncoln assassination. Did he have a son by the same name who could have been the will’s beneficiary?

          The Van Ness Mansion was one of the places mentioned in early thoughts about plots to kidnap Lincoln. Have you contacted the D.C. Historical Society for any information on this prestigious family?

          Prince George’s County’s Historical Society also has a very good library that might have information on the Wightt family. The same can be said for the Charles County Historical Society for ties to the Queens. Finally, the Southern Maryland Studies Center at the College of Southern Maryland is very helpful also on retrieving information on Southern Maryland families and subjects.

          If Google doesn’t give you contact information for any of these, email me after the holidays at laurie.verge@pgparks.com. I’m director of the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Maryland, and can help with getting in touch with these folks.

          P.S. I am sure that there are a number of Queen descendants still around Southern Maryland. Some of them married into my Huntt family lines many years ago.

          • Joseph Mannard

            Laurie,

            Thank you for your comments and suggestions. I am in the midst of finals week at present, but will make a longer reply to your message later this week.

  3. KENNETH L GOCHENOUR

    I am trying to find an ancestor that worked at the Ford’s theater during the Lincoln’s assignation. Her last name is Moody, and she was the seamstress for Ford’s theater. She lived in Washington’s DC, and I believe her full name was I Think) Lottie Moody. Any help would be much appreciated.

    • Laurie Verge

      Are you aware of an excellent book by Thomas Bogar titled Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination? It studies the murder from the angle of the Ford’s Theatre employees, etc. I don’t have my copy handy right now, and Tom may not have included her, but there’s a chance that he ran across her in his research.

      He’s a wonderful person to deal with, but I generally do not give out email addresses without folks’ permission. If you want to send me your questions, etc., I will forward it to Tom and have him get in touch with you. He travels a lot, so I don’t know how soon this will happen.

      Reach me at laurie.verge@pgparks.com. I’m the director of the Surratt House Museum.

  4. Wade Kirby

    Your blog, is like real comfort food for the historical mind! I always look forward to reading them.

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