Sometimes you go into a research rabbit hole, thinking you’ve found something completely new, only to have it turn out to be nothing. That happen to me over the last few days when, while researching my post on Alexius Thomas, I accidentally stumbled across a newspaper advertisement in the Port Tobacco Times that looked promising.
The name at the top of this advertisement for fertilizer should be familiar to those who study the Lincoln assassination. One of the key witnesses against Mary Surratt at the trial of the conspirators was the renter of her tavern, John Minchin Lloyd. At the trial Lloyd stated, on the day of Lincoln’s assassination, Mrs. Surratt came down to her tavern, gave him a wrapped pair of field glasses, and told him to “have the shooting irons ready” and that a party would call for them that night. Mary Surratt was executed largely due to Lloyd’s testimony.
Lloyd is no stranger to this blog. Back in 2015, Kate and I found the homestead Lloyd grew up on in Charles County. John M. Lloyd spent his formative years in the Southern Maryland area and knew the people well. Though he was consistently listed as a brick layer in the census records and city directories of D.C., it seemed perfectly reasonable that he also took up a side job as a fertilizer agent in the post Civil War years. I started the process of tracking his different enterprises, the earliest of which was as a produce agent. Everything seemed to fall into place. Some of the longer advertisements mentioned that Lloyd was a native of Southern Maryland but no longer lived there. He made yearly trips down into Charles and St. Mary’s counties to visit his friends and clients and discusses their fertilizer needs. His advertisements in the Port Tobacco Times ceased in 1890 which seemed to make perfect sense seeing as Lloyd died in 1892 while back at his “day job” as a brick layer and contractor. And finally, one advertisement gave his full name as John Minchin Lloyd, which assuaged my fear that this was a different John M. Lloyd.
I was preparing a whole blog post about John M. Lloyd’s other career in which he was likely Southern Maryland’s leading supplier of guano. For the “John M. Lloyd was guilty and lied about Mary Surratt to save his own hide” crowd, I was ready to cleverly point out that he proved himself to be very good at getting people to “buy his crap”. Everything was ready to go, and then I did one last piece of research in a book that should have been my first source.
The Lloyds of Southern Maryland is a wonderful genealogical record of the Lloyd family. It has about 6 pages in it devoted to John M. Lloyd and was very helpful to me when I was doing research about his early life. When I consulted the book again (fortunately it’s accessible on the Internet Archive for free), I was saddened when I turned to the index to find the right page:
The John M.¹ listed above is “our” John M. Lloyd. The John M.² is his cousin…a successful businessman who specialized in fertilizer (cue sad trombone sound). Yes, it appears that all of the advertisements I had found were for the other John Minchin Lloyd, ten years younger than the drunken tavern keeper who doomed Mrs. Surratt.
Admittedly, I felt silly for not consulting this book first. But confusing the two cousins Lloyd, is an easy enough thing to do since they had the same exact name and grew up in the same area. Even the author of the genealogy book mistakenly associates one of businessman Lloyd’s enterprises to hard-drinking, bricklayer Lloyd.
After the assassination of Lincoln and the trial of the conspirators, John M. Lloyd¹ left the tavern at Surrattsville and returned to Washington. He lived in the District consistently for the rest of his life. While he had been a founding member of the Metropolitan Police Force in the years prior to the Civil War, he did not return to that career. From October of 1865 onward, John M. Lloyd worked as a brick layer and contractor, and that’s it. He was not a produce agent. He didn’t sell fertilizer. He wasn’t the Southern Maryland bat poop king. He was just a brick layer.
That’s not to say that Lloyd was completely off of the radar while living in D.C. with his wife. When John Surratt was brought back to the United States after his escape to Europe, John M. Lloyd testified at his trial as well. After that, Lloyd disappeared for a bit. Then, on one night in 1883, John M. Lloyd discovered that his house was being robbed and he took action:
You’ll notice that the article states that the thief was spattered with blood when he appeared before the judge demonstrating that the ex-cop Lloyd really let him have it. A succeeding article stated that Lloyd’s burglar was sentenced to three years in prison in Concord, New Hampshire, which seems like a pretty severe punishment for the theft of a clock.
John M. Lloyd also popped up again on a slow news day in 1892 when he threw a leap year party for his friends and relatives:
This dance was one of John M. Lloyd’s last, however. Later that year, while working on a construction site, Lloyd suffered a fatal accident. Lloyd, a life long brick layer, found his life ended by a layer of bricks. Years later, his great-niece, Beatrice Petty, recalled her uncle and his unfortunate death.
“I was a small child but remember him quite well. He was a very kindly man, and were were devoted to him; he was a large man and sort of a Santa Claus to all of us. We called him Uncle Lloyd.
He was in the construction business and died of an accident that occurred on one of his building projects. He wasn’t satisfied with some work that had been done and went up on a scaffold to inspect it. Near the other end of the scaffold flooring a load of brick had just been deposited. As he reached the scaffold and stood on it, the boards gave way and he fell to the ground. The bricks tumbling down upon him crushed his head, kidneys, and other parts of his body.”
John M. Lloyd survived a little over a week after his accident but knew his injuries were fatal. He died on December 18, 1892, his 68th birthday. His death certificate lists his cause of death as “cerebro-spinal concussion”.
The Washington papers carried a brief obituary about Lloyd with no mention of his connection the events of 1865.
Papers in other cities, however, spoke of his death only as a means of rehashing his connection to Mrs. Surratt.
After his death, Lloyd was buried in a plot he had owned in Mount Olivet Cemetery since 1865. On his grave was placed a small, marble stone bearing only the words “John M. Lloyd”. Over the years, Lloyd’s grave fell over and was even buried for a time until assassination author Richard Smyth dug it back up one day.
Mount Olivet, a popular cemetery for D.C.’s Catholics, contains the graves of several other people connected to the Lincoln assassination. Thomas Harbin, Detective James McDevitt, Honora Fitzpatrick,and Father Jacob Walter are just a few of the others buried there. The most notable interment in the cemetery, however, is Mary Surratt. She also has a small stone bearing only her name.
I suppose it’s only fitting that John M. Lloyd¹, a man who never sold fertilizer, is now fertilizing the ground about 100 yards away from the woman he helped to condemn.
The Lloyds of Southern Maryland by Daniel B. Lloyd
Newspaper clippings from GenealogyBank.com