Grave Thursday: Francis Dooley

On select Thursdays 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.


Francis Xavier Dooley

Burial Location: Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

Connection to the Lincoln assassination: 

Trial testimony can be thrilling and insightful. Trial testimony can also be a complete waste of time. Regardless, the witness is forever written onto the pages of history, even if their contribution to the overall story is minuscule at best. Take this grave here. It looks ordinary and that’s because it is ordinary. It’s the grave of Francis Dooley, a pharmacist who was placed on the witness stand during the trial of the century to answer a question about candy. That’s essentially it. His testimony is one of the shortest given during the seven week trial of the conspirators.

You see, after the assassination, a search was conducted of George Atzerodt’s rented room at the Kirkwood House hotel. Two of the objects found were a toothbrush and a piece of licorice. Apparently, Atzerodt’s attorney, William Doster, felt that Dooley would be able to shed light on these mundane objects. It turns out Doster was wrong. This is Francis Dooley’s entire contribution to the Lincoln conspiracy trial:

Perhaps Doster was hoping that George Atzerodt had frequented the pharmacy and Mr. Dooley would provide some insight into his character. This never came to be and Francis Dooley went down in history as the 1865 Candy Man whose testimony seemed to be completely pointless.

Today, visitors who wish to see a man whose sole claim to fame is getting less than five minutes of it, can visit the grave of Francis Dooley in Congressional Cemetery, not far from conspirator David Herold.

Here’s the part where I would usually write something insightful about how even the smallest anecdotes can shed their own light but, in actuality, the statement of Francis Dooley isn’t deep or thought provoking at all. However, it’s funny in its bizzarrity, reminds us that even the most profound moments in history can take strange paths, and gives researchers a good chuckle.

Until next time,

Kate

GPS coordinates to Francis Dooley’s grave: 38.881563, -76.979789

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Grave Thursday: Francis Dooley

  1. William B Canfield III

    Five minutes of fame but at least he left something for his grandchildren to remember him by.

    • Kate H.

      And there’s nothing like a discussion about candy to relieve the doom and gloom for a moment.

  2. Brilliant!

  3. Richard Johnson

    I love Grave Thursdays! This one was super obscure. So why is he buried in Congressional Cemetery? Could anyone be approved for burial here?

    • Kate H.

      Congressional Cemetery was originally the Washington Parish Burial Ground and the deceased did not have to be a member of Congress to be buried there. As the land was owned by Christ Church, many of its members were laid to rest there. (Today Congressional only requires death as a requirement for burial on the site). Due to its location though, the cemetery became popular for congressional burials and memorials for those who died in office.

  4. Lane Zangwill

    Most pharmacies no longer sell penny candy,so I don’t know if a licorice’s trademark could be identified without the packaging in today’s workplace,let alone be a witness to the purchasers character.

    • Kate H.

      How times have changed. Even some modern candies cannot be identified without their packaging.

  5. Jeffrey Bloomfield

    Actually all it would seem to reveal is that George Atzerodt would have had a sweet tooth, like many other people. I am positive that there may have been boxes of sweet meats and bon bons at the Surratt’s Boarding House too.

    • Kate H.

      Who doesn’t have a little bit of a sweet tooth sometimes? Even the commission members probably enjoyed candy.

  6. Arthur Candenquist

    “Bizarrity”?
    That in itself is bizarre.

    Thanks for bringing Mr Francis Dooley into the spotlight, Miz Kate. He didn’t even get 15 minutes of fame. The fact that he was an apothecary led me to think his testimony might have had some relevance to the case of Davy Herold. Had it been so, Mr Dooley might have been on the stand for a few minutes more than he was.

    • Kate H.

      Perhaps speaking on Herold would have gained Dooley a few more minutes of attention. Although some of Herold’s employers did not give long statements either.

  7. Chris Shelton

    I emailed you guys a photo of Louis Weichmann’s grave a few days ago. It rests in a cemetery in Anderson, IN. Hopefully you received it (and can use it as well.) His marker is spelled Wiechmann – which is apparently the way his families name was originally spelled.

    • Kate H.

      Dave and I visited Weichmann’s grave in Indiana last summer. There have been many spellings and pronunciations of that name throughout history. It will probably be debated until the end of time.

      • Chris Shelton

        I hope you didn’t drive out all the way out to Anderson, IN just to see Louis Weichmann’s grave. 🙂

        • Kate H.

          We went on a month-long road trip that included a visit to Anderson.

      • Laurie Verge

        I believe there is mention in Weichmann’s book about Louis, himself, choosing to accept the reporters’ version of the spelling of his name – he was tired of fighting it. Similarly, the Herold family did not change the spelling (and David has no tombstone), but the press and similar writers often felt compelled to spell his last name as “Harold.”

        In the past few months, I have seen a number of current letters, blog comments,, trip reviews, etc. spelling JWB’s surname as “Boothe.”

        • Kate H.

          Reporters and officials came up with many different spellings of the same name. For example, the wanted poster spells both Herold and Surratt wrong. I’m sure even Lincoln was misspelled from time to time. As in any field, you can still find inaccuracies today – “Herland” for “Herold” and a pronunciation of Surratt like “Sur-rit.”

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