Posts Tagged With: John Wilkes Booth

Grave Thursday: Julia Ward Howe

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.


Julia Ward Howe

Burial Location: Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts

A Happy Women’s History Month to you all you researchers out there. This is Kate, taking over for Dave today.

For this Grave Thursday, we are going to discuss the strong willed social activist and suffragist who not only gave the Union one of its most recognized anthems but also wrote a lesser known, though equally beautiful, poem for the Booth family.

Julia Ward Howe is most often remembered for transforming the lyrics of “John Brown’s Body” into the patriotic hymn “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” This is rather appropriate considering her husband, Samuel, was a member of the Secret Six, a staunch abolitionist group that financed John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. However, Howe wrote many other poems during her lifetime that were never set to music.

Long before the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Julia Ward Howe had made the acquaintances of various members of the Booth family, specifically John Wilkes’ older brother, Edwin, with whom she developed a close friendship. In writing about her life, Howe spoke of her early admiration and introduction to the great actor:

“It was in the days now spoken of that I first saw Edwin Booth. Dr. Howe and I betook ourselves to the Boston Theatre one rainy evening, expecting to see nothing more than an ordinary performance. The play was “Richelieu,” and we had seen but little of Mr. Booth’s part in it before we turned to each other and said, “This is the real thing.” In every word, in every gesture, the touch of genius made itself felt. A little later I saw him in “Hamlet,” and was even more astonished and delighted. While he was still completing this his first engagement in Boston, I received a letter from his manager, proposing that I should write a play for Mr. Booth. My first drama, though not a success, had made me somewhat known to theatrical people. I had been made painfully aware of its defects, and desired nothing more than to profit by the lesson of experience in producing something that should deserve entire approbation. It was therefore with a good hope of success that I undertook to write the play. Mr. Booth himself called upon me, in pursuance of his request. The favorable impression which he had made upon me was not lessened by a nearer view. I found him modest, intelligent, and above all genuine, — the man as worthy of admiration as the artist. Although I had seen Mr. Booth in a variety of characters, I could only think of representing him as Hippolytus, a beautiful youth, of heroic type, enamored of a high ideal. This was the part which I desired to create for him. I undertook the composition without much delay, and devoted to it the months of one summer’s sojourn at Lawton’s Valley…

Edwin Booth circa 1860

And here, through the summer heats, and in spite of many wasps, I wrote my five-act drama, dreaming of the fine emphasis which Mr. Booth would give to its best passages and of the beautiful appearance he would make in classic costume. He, meanwhile, was growing into great fame and favor with the public, and was called hither and thither by numerous engagements. The period of his courtship and marriage intervened, and a number of years elapsed between the completion of the play and his first reading of it.

At last there came a time in which the production of the play seemed possible. Charlotte Cushman and Edwin Booth were both in Boston performing, as I remember, but not at the same theatre. They agreed to act in my play. E. L. Davenport, manager of the Howard Athenaeum, undertook to produce it, and my dream was very near becoming a reality. But lo! On a sudden, the manager bethought him that the time was rather late in the season; that the play would require new scenery; and, more than all, that his wife, who was also an actress, was not pleased with a secondary part assigned to her. A polite note informed me of his change of mind. This was, I think, the greatest ‘let down’ that I ever experienced. It affected me seriously for some days, after which I determined to attempt nothing more for the stage.

In truth, there appeared to be little reason for this action on the part of the manager. Miss Cushman, speaking of it, said to me, “My dear, if Edwin Booth and I had done nothing more than to stand upon the stage and say ‘good evening’ to each other, the house would have been filled.””

Despite Howe’s deep disappointment over Edwin never performing the play she had written for him, the two remained close friends. This friendship extended to the woman who would become Edwin’s wife and the love of his life, Mary Devlin. Howe recalled the object of Edwin’s affection with great fondness:

“Mr. Booth, in the course of these years, experienced great happiness and great sorrow. On the occasion of our first meeting he had spoken to me of “little Mary Devlin” as an actress of much promise, who had recently been admired in several heavy parts.” In process of time he became engaged to this young girl. Before the announcement of this fact he appeared with her several times before the Boston public. Few that saw it will ever forget a performance of Romeo and Juliet in which the two true lovers were at their best, ideally young, beautiful, and identified with their parts. I soon became well acquainted with this exquisite little woman…”

Mary Devlin Booth, Edwin Booth’s first wife

In time, Howe’s friendship with the Booths extended to their daughter, Edwina. Much later in her life, Howe maintained a correspondence with Edwina Booth, even after her father’s death. In 1908, just two years before Howe’s own death in 1910, the 89 year-old Howe sent two poems to Edwina. According to the accompanying letter, Edwina, who was 48 at the time, had come across two poems that had been in her father’s possession. She believed one or both of them to have been written by Howe many years before. Edwina asked Howe to write her name below the verses she recognized as her own so she could correctly identify them. One of the pieces included with the letter was authored by Mary Elizabeth Blake, though Howe mislabeled the work as belonging to poet T. W. Parsons. The other poem, which was the work of Howe herself, was entitled To Mary. This poem had been written by Howe in 1863, upon her attendance at the funeral for Mary Devlin Booth.

To Mary

Thou gracious atom, verging to decay,
What wert thou in the moment of thy stay?
The flowers in thy faded hands that lie
More briefly than thyself scarce bloom and die.

How was it when swift feet thy beauty bore,
And Life’s warm ripple sunned thy marble o’er?
A slender maiden, captured by a kiss,
Wed at the altar for a three year’s bliss;

No longer space my life’s indenture gave,
From Juliet’s courtship to Ophelia’s grave.
The modest helper of heroic art,
The heaven bound anchor of a sinking heart.

Ask him who wooed me, earliest and last,
What was my office in Love’s sacred past?
What was she, here in silken shell empearled?
But my life’s life – the comfort of the world.

In addition to the poem, Howe recalled Mary Devlin Booth’s funeral in her autobiography:

“These lines recall to me the scene of Mary Booth’s funeral, which took place in wintry weather, the service being held at the chapel in Mount Auburn. Hers was a most pathetic figure as she lay, serene and lovely, surrounded with flowers. As Edwin Booth followed the casket, his eyes heavy with grief, I could not but remember how often I had seen him enact the part of Hamlet at the stage burial of Ophelia.”

Julia Ward Howe was one of the few guests present at Mary Devlin’s funeral. Edwin was also joined by his mother, Mary Ann Holmes Booth, who had traveled from New York to Massachusetts to comfort her son. Edwin’s brother-in-law, John Sleeper Clarke was present but not his wife Asia Booth. Asia had never liked Mary Devlin (or really any other woman) and stayed home in Philadelphia. Howe described the only other family member who tended to Edwin in his grief:

“Beside or behind [Edwin] walked a young man of remarkable beauty, to be sadly known at a later date as Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Lincoln and the victim of his own crime.”

John Wilkes Booth was the only Booth sibling who was able/willing to attend the funeral service of his sister-in-law. John Wilkes cancelled his upcoming acting engagement and hastened to Cambridge to be with his grieving brother.

Though life expectancy in the nineteenth century was much lower than today, Julia Ward Howe was one of the exceptions to the rule, living to the old age of 91. During that time, she buried her own husband at Mount Auburn Cemetery in a grave about 80 yards away from Mary Devlin’s. In 1893, Howe returned to Mount Auburn to mourn the loss of Mary’s husband, Edwin. She returned to Edwin’s grave a year later when his beautiful monument was unveiled.

Julia Ward Howe, the groundbreaking poet, abolitionist, and suffragist died of pneumonia on October 17, 1910. She was laid to rest next to her husband in Mount Auburn Cemetery. Howe now lies just across from the hill atop which, 47 years earlier, she witnessed the funeral of a soul taken too soon. She never forgot the picture of the heartbroken husband, “his eyes heavy with grief,” and the dutiful brother by his side, “a young man of remarkable beauty.”

Until next time.

Kate

P.S. By Dave: Julia Ward Howe stated that one of her greatest disappointments in life was that the play she had written for Edwin Booth was never performed. After Howe’s death, actress Margaret Anglin sought to rectify this oversight. During her engagement in Boston in March of 1911, Anglin received permission to perform Howe’s forgotten play. Hippolytus was performed for one night only on March 24, 1911 with all the proceedings going to benefit the Julia Ward Howe Memorial Fund. The title role, which had been written for Edwin, was played by Walter Hampden with high praise. Years later, Hampden would become the fourth president of Edwin Booth’s private club, The Players. Today, the research library housed in The Players is known as the Hampden-Booth Library.

GPS coordinates for Julia Ward Howe’s grave: 42.369612, -71.147075

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

“An Evening with John Wilkes Booth”

On March 3, 2017, Kate and I presented at an event for the Friends of Rich Hill and the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco. The event venue was the restored Port Tobacco courthouse in Port Tobacco, Maryland. Though Port Tobacco is the former stomping grounds of conspirator George Atzerodt, the subject of this event was the lead assassin, John Wilkes Booth. While I have given speeches about Booth in the past, including my 2016 speech for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum volunteers, I had never previously attempted to portray John Wilkes Booth in the first person. The event in Port Tobacco, billed as “An Evening with John Wilkes Booth”, was my first attempt at being John Wilkes Booth, rather than just discussing John Wilkes Booth.

The following play is meant to provide an insight into the mind of John Wilkes Booth by utilizing much of his own words and writings. Some of the words said by Booth are uncomfortable to hear, but they are vital if we are to truly understand the world view of Lincoln’s assassin. The video of the performance is embedded below or you can watch it directly on YouTube by clicking here.

If you are interested in more first person portrayals of conspirators, Kate will be performing as Mary Surratt twice in April, 2017. On April 1st, Kate will be performing her one woman show about Mrs. Surratt’s imprisonment at the annual Surratt Society Conference in Clinton, Maryland. To sign up for the conference please visit the Surratt House Museum’s website. Kate will also be portraying Mary Surratt at an event in Port Tobacco, Maryland on Friday, April 7th at 6:00 pm. At this performance, Mrs. Suratt will be joined by George Atzerodt and the two of them will discuss their involvement in the conspiracy against Lincoln. The event at Port Tobacco is free and open to the public.

EDIT: I just realized that today is the five year anniversary of my very first posting here on BoothieBarn. When I started this site, it was an outlet for me to share some of the interesting things I had learned while researching the Lincoln assassination. I didn’t really know if it would be of interest to anyone other than myself. However, through this site I have made many wonderful friends and have been fortunate enough to speak about John Wilkes Booth and Lincoln’s assassination in several venues. And so after 5 years, 400+ posts and almost 600 followers later, I want to thank you all for your much appreciated support. As long as I keep finding interesting things about the Lincoln assassination to share, I expect posts will continue here on BoothieBarn for many more years to come. 

Categories: History, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Grave Thursday: Dr. Charles Urquhart

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. Charles Urquhart, Jr.

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Burial Location: Urquhart Family Cemetery, Locust Grove, Virginia

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Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

At about 4:00 am on the morning of April 26, 1865, Dr. Charles Urquhart, Jr. was hastily awakened from his bed in Port Royal, Virginia. The doctor was just a little shy of 65 years old and had been the resident physician in Port Royal since he first moved to Caroline County from Germanna, Virginia in 1821. Over the last forty years, Dr. Urquhart had become a pillar of the Port Royal community, serving not only as town doctor but also as a deacon at St. Peter’s Church and master of the masonic lodge in town for about 10 years. In 1853, Dr. Urquhart had married Louisa Care, a long time neighbor of his who was about 30 years his junior. The pair’s only child, a daughter named Finella “Nellie” Urquhart, was born in 1861. The Urquhart family owned several pieces of property in Port Royal but made their home right on the shore of the Rappahannock River. Their home was located just a few yards away from the landing for the ferry that ran between Port Royal and Port Conway on the other side of the river.

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Dr. Urquhart’s home in Port Royal, Virginia as it appeared circa 1930. Image Source: Surratt House Museum

The good doctor may have been accustomed to receiving late night/early morning visitors who were in need of medical attention, but nothing could prepare him for this unique house call. Upon answering the door, Dr. Urquhart was met by a Union soldier who hastening him to get dressed and come with him a few miles south of Port Royal to the farm of Richard H. Garrett. By following the soldier’s command, Dr. Urquhart rode into the pages of history.

When the doctor arrived at the Garrett farm, he saw a tobacco barn being completely consumed by fire, a man with his arms tied behind a tree, and a detachment of over 20 Union solders meandering about the grounds. On the front porch of the house, Dr. Urquhart was presented with his patient; a young man about 25 years of age who was suffering from an apparent bullet wound to the neck. His name was John Wilkes Booth and he was the wanted assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.  The soldiers and detectives that were present pounced on the doctor to give his prognosis of the patient. Detective Luther Byron Baker stated:

“We asked the surgeon to examine him, to see if he would live. The surgeon examined him for ten or fifteen minutes, & probed the wound, though I told him the ball had gone through the neck. At first he said he thought Booth might live, he then expressed a different opinion, saying he could not survive… While the surgeon was examining him, he seemed to be unconscious. He slowly rallied afterwards, then sunk away. His mouth and lips began to look purple, and his throat became swollen.”

There was nothing Dr. Urquhart could do for the assassin other than to monitor him and direct the soldiers and Garrett ladies who were tending to him. Booth, as stated, had already lost consciousness before the doctor had arrived. Urquhart was, therefore, not present when Booth issued his final words of “Useless, Useless” while looking at his own hands. According to Baker, John Wilkes Booth died, “not half an hour after the physician pronounced his case hopeless.”

death-of-the-assassin-booth-urquhart

It was at the death of John Wilkes Booth that the Garrett family procured a small remembrance of the man they had unknowingly cared for during the past two days – a small lock of the assassin’s hair. There are many stories about who exactly cut the lock from Booth’s head, with one of the stories giving the credit to Dr. Urquhart. Lucinda Holloway, Mrs. Garrett’s sister and live-in teacher of her children, later told the story of Booth’s death to a newspaperman. The reporter then wrote, “A little struggle just as [Booth] died threw a lock of his jet black hair over his marble white forehead, which Dr. Urquhart clipped off at the request of Miss H[olloway], she thinking it would be a sweet memento for some friend or relation of his.” It would take a few years but eventually, in 1878, Edwin Booth did receive from the Garrett family a lock of hair cut from his brother’s head at the time of his death. It was not, however, the complete lock of hair the family had procured. The balance of the treasured item remained in the Garrett family for many years more.

Despite his brush with a note worthy event, it does not appear that Dr. Urquhart ever recorded his thoughts on being present at the death of John Wilkes Booth. In truth, however, he didn’t have that much time to reflect on his involvement with history. In June of 1866, Dr. Urquhart and his family went to visit his sister-in-law in Culpepper, Virginia. While enjoying their hospitality Dr. Urquhart suffered a stroke that left him speechless. Knowing his condition was mortal, he was able to make his final wishes known through writing. He asked to be buried alongside his mother in the family burial ground in Germanna. Dr. Charles Urquhart, Jr. died on July 7, 1866.

After his death, Dr. Urquhart’s brother-in-law, Ezra Bauder, wrote a touching letter to another of their relatives about the doctor’s death and burial:

“It is with the most painful emotions that I feel called upon to announce the death of our dear friend & connection Dr. Chas. Urquhart. He is gone – calmly, tranquilly, oh! how quietly he has passed away! He is now sleeping his last sleep. He has fought his last battle with the rude world. There will be no other struggle. He now reposes by the side of his mother. His ashes will mingle with his kindred, whilst the sod which he trod in his infancy covers his remains. He is buried in a beautiful spot. The winds will not sigh through the big walnut, which shelters his father’s grave & his because a noble form is buried there. A life of quiet benevolence & Christian virtue has been illustrated in that now lifeless form, the tenement of that spirit which we know reposes on ‘the bosom of his Father & his God.'”

The doctor’s final wishes were granted and he was buried beside his mother and father in the old Urquhart burying ground in Germanna. Given his wealth and his family’s tenderness for him, it seems likely that Dr. Urquhart had a gravestone when he was buried in 1866. However, as time went by, the Urquhart family cemetery was slowly covered by overgrowth and the victim of vandalism. Around 1960, the land where the Urquhart Family Cemetery was located was acquired by the Germanna Foundation, which is an organization that “preserves the heritage of the earliest organized settlements of Germans in colonial Virginia”. At the time of the Germanna Foundation’s initial possession of the cemetery, there was only one gravestone left in the cemetery and it, too, had been felled and broken by vandals. The sole gravestone in the cemetery was that of Dr. Urquhart’s mother, Finella Urquhart. The stone, which is heavily eroded from time, is engraved with the following:

“Finella Urquhart – wife of Charles Urquhart – departed this life May 23rd, 1816 in the 30th year of her age – this tomb is dedicated to her remains as a memorial of her worth by an affectionate husband. Her virtues are recorded in the memory of her neighbors and filial tears consecrate her resting place”

In the 1980’s an effort was made by Carroll M. Garnett, a descendant of one of Mrs. Urquhart’s sisters, to put a marker on the grave of Dr. Urquhart. This task was accomplished on April 12, 1983 with a special ceremony. The quote for Dr. Urquhart’s memorial comes from the letter written by his brother-in-law after his death. At the 1983 ceremony a foot stone for Dr. Urquhart was also put in that read “The Physician who Attended John Wilkes Booth, Garrett’s Farm, Caroline County, VA, April 26, 1865”. In the years since the dedication ceremony, however, this foot stone has gone missing.

Mr. Garnett also attempted to get two historic highway markers put in to honor Dr. Urquhart. Though neither of the signs came to fruition, one marker was to be placed on the site of Dr. Urquhart’s home in Port Royal. The home (which burned down in 1935) was not far from St. Peter’s Church where Louisa Urquhart and her daughter Nellie are buried. The proposed text for that marker was:

“HOME OF BOOTH’S DOCTOR

During the early morning of April 26, 1865, Dr. Charles Urquhart, Jr., residing at this site, was roused by Union cavalrymen and ordered to the Garrett farm, located 4 miles SW, to give medical attention to John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln’s assassin. Dr. Urquhart treated Booth for his gunshot wound and later pronounced him dead.”

The other proposed highway marker was to be near what is now the Brawdus Martin Germanna Visitor Center in Locust Grove, Virginia. It is from this visitor center that the Germanna Foundation continues to care for the Urquhart Family Cemetery. One can visit the cemetery by parking at the visitor center, which is adjacent to Germanna Community College. The Foundation has cut a path through the grass and woods that leads right to the Urquhart cemetery.

dr-urquhart-cemetery-trail

Dr. Charles Urquhart was probably pretty tired after being awakened so early on the morning of April 26, 1865. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that, “he is now sleeping his last sleep,” under the trees of his family burying ground in Germanna.

References:
Program: Honoring Dr. Charles Urquhart, Jr. at Germanna, Orange County, Va, Tuesday, April 12, 1983
Carroll M. Garnett’s application for historic highway markers, August 15, 1982

GPS coordinates for Dr. Chalres Urquhart’s grave: 38.376483, -77.784450

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

John Wilkes Booth’s Crimson Claw!

Our friend and fellow Lincoln assassination researcher, Scott Schroeder, was a recent guest on a podcast that discusses comic books of the horror genre. The subject of Scott’s appearance on Midnight The Podcasting Hour stems from his own interest in depictions of Abraham Lincoln and his assassination in comic books. On the podcast, Scott shared one of the many unique stories he had found that centers around Lincoln and his assassination. Specifically, Scott highlighted a story from a 1972 issue of the analogy Ghosts entitled The Crimson Claw!

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In the podcast, Scott leads a fascinating discussion with the host regarding the almost unbelievable facts behind this work of artistic fiction. The entire podcast is 51 minutes long but Scott doesn’t really start in until the 5:30 mark and his segment ends at 39:30. You can listen to the podcast by clicking here to stream it, or by clicking here to download it.

Scott Schroeder will be speaking more on the topic of the Lincoln assassination in comic books at this year’s annual Surratt Society Conference on April 1, 2017. The conference is put on by the Surratt House Museum and takes place at the Colony South Hotel and Conference Center in Clinton, Maryland. Scott’s speech topic perfectly fits my description of the event as Boothie Comic-Con. The conference is a wonderful way to learn more about the Lincoln assassination and meet others who share an interest in the history. Please visit the Surratt House Museum website for information on how to register. Both Kate and I will be joining Scott as presenters at this year’s conference, so I hope you’ll be able join us.

I want to thank Scott for his kind references to BoothieBarn and Roger Norton’s Lincoln Discussion Symposium during the podcast.

To tide you all over until Scott’s speech in April, here is a far inferior post I put up a few years ago about some of the other depictions of The Lincoln Assassination in Comic Books.

Categories: History, Levity | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

A John Wilkes Booth Poem

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and the many poems being shared today, here is a poem written by John Wilkes Booth in February of 1860.

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This poem by Booth is an acrostic poem and as such the beginning letter in each line spells out the names of the poem’s recipient and author. Here is a transcript of the poem including Booth’s incorrect spelling of the words distressed and despair.

Miss White

May all good angels guard & bless thee.
And from thy heart remove all care.
Remember you should ne’re distrest be.
Youth & hope, can crush dispare.
+
Joy can be found, by all, who seek it.
Only be, right, the path, we move upon
Heaven has marked it; Find & keep it
Ne’re forget the wish of – John.

Richmond Feb 18th 1860

He who will ever be your friend

J. Wilkes Booth

Booth wrote this poem as he was learning the acting trade in Richmond’s Marshall Theatre. The date of this poem places it just a couple of months after Booth had returned from his soldiering. For two weeks in late November and early December Booth had stood guard at the imprisonment and execution of abolitionist John Brown. When he returned to his theatrical company only the pleas of his friends allowed him to rejoin the troupe after his impromptu departure. At this point he was still being billed, when his minor part warranted any sort of billing that is, as Mr. J. B. Wilkes.

j-b-wilkes-in-romeo-juliet-1860

The recipient of this poem was a woman by the name of Mary C. White. Little is known about her. Booth’s poem is located in a “Forget Me Not” autograph album that is inscribed with Ms. White’s name and the words “Richmond, Va. December 10 1859”. In addition to the poem by Booth, there are also other farewell like notes from W. H Caskie (a Richmond native who would later join the Confederacy), George Wren (a fellow actor in Booth’s troupe), two poems signed under the aliases of Fido and Junius (not Booth’s brother), and Samuel Knapp Chester (another troupe member and a man Booth would try to recruit into his abduction plot against Lincoln in the future).

In their book, “Right or Wrong, God Judge Me”: The Writings of John Wilkes Booth, editors John Rhodehamel and Louise Taper suggest that Mary C. White might be a fellow actress. They cite an entry in T. Allston Brown’s History of the American Stage, which is essentially an early encyclopedia of actors and actresses, for a Mary Ann White “attached to the Richmond, Va. Theatre for some time” who “died 1860, in that city, June 20”. Rhodehamel and Taper point out that there are no other poems or farewells in the album past June of 1860, which might coincide with the owner’s death. I have been unable to find a record of a Ms. White in the theater troupe, but, if she was young, as many of the poems about her allude to, she may have played only minor roles in which she would receive no mention in the papers. I’m not 100% convinced Ms. White was an actress, but without more information, it’s as good a guess as any.

The album containing Booth’s signature is in the collection of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. Kate and I were fortunate enough to see it in person after my talk to the ALPLM’s volunteers last summer. The ALPLM has digitized this poem and many other Booth related items they acquired from the collection of Louise Taper. You can see more of their digitized items here.

References:
The Taper Collection at the ALPLM
“Right or Wrong, God Judge Me”: The Writings of John Wilkes Booth edited by John Rhodehamel and Louise Taper

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Honor, God, and Reward Money: A New Boston Corbett Letter

You’d be amazed what you can turn up nowadays with a just Google search and a friendly inquiry. A few weeks ago I was working on the Maps page of BoothieBarn looking for more sites around the country that have a connection to the Lincoln assassination. While most of the time I’m looking for the graves of certain individuals involved in the story, for some reason I decided to change my method and focus on an certain city and see what I could turn up by Googling. For no reason in particular, I chose Omaha, Nebraska as a place to search for folks connected to the assassination. I happily discovered that Omaha is the final resting place of Pvt. Augutus Lockner, a Union soldier who was saved by conspirator Lewis Powell in December of 1864. If you want to read more about that fascinating story, pick up the second edition of Betty Ownsbey’s book, Alias “Paine”: Lewis Thornton Powell, the Mystery Man of the Lincoln Conspiracy.

KENT SIEVERS/THE WORLD-HERALDI also stumbled across an article from the Omaha World-Herald in which the newspaper went behind the scenes of The Durham Museum to see some of the objects in the museum’s large and varied Byron Reed collection. One of the items mentioned in the article was a playbill from Edwin Booth’s namesake theater (pictured).

After tweeting out the image of the playbill, both myself and Carolyn Mitchell from Tudor Hall, the home of the Booth family, sent a message asking The Durham Museum if they had any other artifacts connected to the Booths or the assassination. The collection’s manager graciously searched their archives and found four other playbills for Booth’s Theatre and two 1865 newspapers announcing the news of Lincoln’s death.

The collections manager also informed us that the Byron Reed collection contained a letter written by the avenger of Lincoln himself, Sergeant Boston Corbett. She kindly photographed the letter and sent the images to us. I then contacted Steve Miller, a fellow assassination researcher and the foremost expert on Boston Corbett. I was happily surprised to find that this letter was a new discovery for him and that he had not yet come across it during his years of research. Working together, Steve and I were able to produce a transcript of the letter which had been somewhat damaged with age.

Corbett wrote the letter to his former commanding officer, the then Lieutenant of the 16th New York Cavalry that tracked down John Wilkes Booth and David Herold, Edward P. Doherty. Writing on December 1, 1866, Corbett is responding to Doherty’s request for an affidavit relating to his role in the capture of Booth. Before sharing the letter, however, some historical context is needed.


On July 26, 1866, Representative Giles Hotchkiss of New York presented to the House of Representatives the findings of the Committee of Claims in reference to the reward money. Prior to this, the War Department had presented Congress with their recommendations of how to divide up the money. Mr. Hotchkiss’ committee took the War Department’s advice when it came to the division of monies for the capture of Jefferson Davis and only made a few changes to the War Department’s allotment for reward money for the arrests of George Atzerodt, Lewis Powell, and Mary Surratt. However when it came to the reward money for capture of Booth and Herold, there was much debate. Rep. Hotchkiss’ committee put forth a bill recommending that Gen. Lafayette Baker, the head of the National Detective Police who sent detectives Everton Conger and Luther Baker with Doherty and the 16th New York into Virginia, receive $17,500 in reward money. Detective Conger was also to receive $17,500. Luther Baker would get $5,000, Lieutenant Doherty would receive $2,500, and Corbett and the rest of the 16th NY would each get $1,000. This allotment did not sit well will some of the other members of the House. Several felt it unfair for Gen. Baker to receive such a lion’s share of the reward money when he was not even present at Booth’s capture. Rep. Hotchkiss replied that Gen. Baker had been the mastermind of the entire manhunt and therefore desired the highest amount, with Conger receiving the same amount since he was in charge of the group that captured Booth. This point about Conger being in charge was disputed by Lieut. Doherty who had produced papers to counter the claim. However, within the House of Representatives there was great sympathy for Everton Conger since he was a veteran who had been wounded earlier in the war.

Representative Giles Hotchkiss of New York circa 1865

Representative Giles Hotchkiss of New York circa 1865

As the debate over amounts continued, Hotchkiss seemed to become angry with his fellow lawmakers. One of the other congressmen tactlessly pressed Hotchkiss to provide more money for one of his constituents who aided in the manhunt, noting how he had presented this claim to Hotchkiss personally and was disappointed to see how little had been allotted. This exasperated Hotchkiss, leading him to express that this whole matter had been trouble from the start. Hotchkiss said he had consulted the mountains of reward claims that had been submitted to the War Department in an effort to divvy up the money as best as he could, noting that there was no protocol for him to follow. He did not like the insinuation that he was playing favorites, noting that neither Gen. Baker or the other claimants were friends of his and that he was merely doing, “the duty I was called upon to perform”.

In attempting to show his impartiality, an angry Hotchkiss decided to make a point using Lieut. Doherty:

“During this session a telegram has been shown me from Lieutenant Doherty, saying that there was a great fraud being perpetrated here, and he wanted the American Congress to stop the wheels of legislation and wait until he could be here. Lieutenant Doherty has been here pretty much all winter, and has been before me time and time again in regard to this matter. I have had rolls of documents from him, and I wish to avoid saying anything about him. But now, since he has had the impudence to come here and charge a man who has been engaged in the honest discharge of his duty, without fear or favor, one who is a stranger to all these men, who does not care personally whether they get a cent, and since gentlemen have shown the want of confidence in the committee to make the remarks they have, I feel constrained to say that I believe Lieutenant Doherty was a downright coward in this expedition.

From all the evidence, I believe that while these five men where guarding that tobacco-house where these prisoners were secreted, and while Lieutenant Colonel Conger was endeavoring to get a guard around the building, Doherty stayed under a shed, and no power could drive him out of it. And now he comes in and claims that he did the whole. Such is the evidence in the case, as it has been presented. If there is anything to contradict it, let it be brought in.”

Hotchkiss then points out that despite his strong belief that Lt. Doherty was an coward who deserved no portion of the reward money, the committee still allotted him some funds “in deference in part to popular clamour”.

Hotchkiss also spoke harshly of Boston Corbett. He said the evidence he saw supported the idea that Corbett defied orders by leaving his assigned post, made his way close to the barn where he was not supposed to be, and then shot Booth who was attempting to surrender himself. He described Corbett as, “an insane man” at the shooting of Booth. “I am told that Corbett has since died in a lunatic asylum, and he was then evidently an insane man. Yet he is given the same sum as the other soldiers receive. For a two days’ ride I think that is an ample compensation.”

While Hotchkiss provided a defense of the committee’s reasoning for their proposed reward allotments, he didn’t feel it worth a prolonged fight. After an hour of debate, Hotchkiss was tired of the insinuations from his colleagues and just wanted the whole mess to be over. Another representative had put forth an amendment to his bill, changing the amounts provided for Booth and Herold’s capture and, in the end, Hotchkiss did not fight it and the amended bill was approved. “When you cannot do as you would, you must do as you must,” Hotchkiss stated.

The amended bill still gave Everton Conger the largest share of reward money at $15,000, a decrease from Hotchkiss’ $17,500. General Lafayette Baker dropped way down from $17,500 to $3,750. Luther Baker fell from $5,000 to $3,000. Ironically, it was Lt. Doherty, Boston Corbett, and the rest of the soldiers who benefited the most from this amended bill. Doherty’s reward money went from $2,500 in Hotchkiss’ bill to $5,250 in the amended version. Corbett and all the other soldiers also got pay increases from $1,000 to $1,653.84 each. In the end, it would be these amounts that would be passed in the Senate and given out.

Lieutenant Doherty's reward money

Lieutenant Doherty’s reward money

While Doherty ended up receiving a good deal of money, when he learned of what Giles Hotchkiss had said about him on the floor of the House of Representatives, remarks that were carried in newspapers around the country, he became very offended at the attack on his honor. On August 1st, while stationed in South Carolina, Doherty sent off a letter to the New York Herald promising a rebuttal to Hotchkiss’ lies.

“I cannot remain quiet under such charges affecting my character as a soldier, and my conduct as an officer, coming from such a quarter. In the course of a short time I shall place before the people of the United States such evidence as will convince them that the charges made by the honorable member are untrue. The language used by the member from New York, did not come to my notice until after the adjournment of Congress, and when I no longer had an opportunity of vindicating myself before that body.

Chance has connected my name with a great historical event; and I simply desire that the army with whom I served, and the people for whom I fought, should know that in the performance of my duty I was not a laggard and a coward.

Edward P. Doherty
Second Lieutenant Fifth Cavalry, U. S. Army”

Doherty quickly sent off a letter to Boston Corbett, a man he knew would support him and could help tell the real story of what happened at the Garrett farm. Corbett was still a bit of a hero for slaying Booth and Doherty was hoping he could depend on Corbett to publicly refute Hotchkiss since he, too, had been a victim of the Congressman’s lies. The very much alive and not (quite) insane former sergeant responded just as Doherty had hoped. He wrote a letter back to Doherty in South Carolina on August 6, 1866. Doherty then had the text of the letter was published in the New York Citizen on August 25th:

“God bless you, my dear sir; the slander and lie that was told by Mr. Hotchkiss, in Congress, about you, makes me love you more than ever. And I do not believe that such a wicked lie and such a malicious slander will be allowed to go altogether unpunished, or to have the effect on the public mind that was intended. I do not doubt, though, that it did have the effect desired in Congress; and I do truly believe that it was told and used there for the express purpose of getting the largest share of the reward for the Detectives, and getting the military into disgrace, and consequently the small apportionment that was made to us.

I do without hesitation pronounce the assertion that you was under a shed, and that the Detective could not force you out, to be a wicked lie. For I well know that you not only commanded the party, but commanded it well; and at the time that the house and barn of Mr. Garrett was surrounded, it was done by your orders; and that you took the leading part in all that was done there, as also in the whole expedition.

I am aware, also, that you placed me next in command to yourself before leaving Washington, giving me charge as acting orderly sergeant, and had you been killed I should myself have been in command of the party, and not the Detective. I am also aware of the fact that when you got track of the assassins, you had to send men after the Detective (Conger), who was off in another direction at the time.

Boston Corbett and Edward Doherty

Boston Corbett and Edward Doherty

The injury that has been done us by giving us a small share, instead of the principal share of the rewards, cannot now be remedied, since it has passed Congress in that way. But be assured, dear sir, that I stand ready to give a certificate at any time, properly attested if needs be, that I have ever known you to be a brave and efficient officer, and never in my life saw any act on your part that indicated cowardice in the least degree.

I always liked to go on a scout with you, because I knew you to go forward in the work, and a true officer and soldier, having the welfare of your command always in view, and losing no opportunity of doing good service for your country.

With kindest regards and earnest prayers for your welfare, and that you may outlive all such wicked slanders, I remain, as ever

Boston Corbett”

As grateful as Doherty must have been for Corbett to come to his aid, Hotchkiss’ slanderous remarks apparently continued to gnaw at the lieutenant. Over three months later, on November 26th, Doherty wrote another letter to Corbett seemingly asking the late sergeant to write out a more thorough or perhaps notarized affidavit regarding Doherty’s services in apprehending Booth. It is Boston Corbett’s letter to Doherty’s second communique, months after the Hotchkiss affair, that is housed in The Durham Museum in Omaha.


Even though Corbett had written in August of 1866 that he stood ready, “to give a certificate at any time, properly attested if needs be,” regarding Doherty’s actions and character, in this response to his former commander in December of 1866, it appears that Corbett is trying to get Doherty to put the whole incident aside.

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91 Attorney St
New York
Dec 1st 1866

Lieut E. P. Doherty

Dear Sir

Your letter of Nov 26th reached me yesterday. And as I was not sure by the heading of it wether [sic] it meant South Carolina, or Lower Canada; I concluded to write to you for the Address in full; And also to suggest that it might be best to drop the whole matter; And let it end as it is.

For my own part as a Christian I freely forgive Mr. Hotchkiss for the injury that he has done; And so would rather let end thus. But if you still insist upon the Affidavit being made to clear your character, I feel that I owe it to you to do it. And so would not further refuse.

But while I sincerely desire to see your Character Vindicated: how much rather would I see your soul saved, And you brought to love and serve God with all your heart. I expect you think it very strange that I appear so indifferent to that which is a point of honor; but the secret of it all is this the Christian knows that the time will soon come when the secrets of all hearts will be made bare in the judgement And he feels that he can well afford to be hid about here.  So that he stands justified there. This with me is the only cause of reluctance to make the Affidavit, which I believe I can do with a clear conscience if you think best after reading this.

If you have written me lately before; the letter never reached me, for the only letter that I have got from you before this since you have been in the Service again; was dated Sumter, S.C. August 1st. Which I promptly answered

Will you please inform me if you have taken any steps to get the Local Rewards collected. When I was in Washington to get the Amount that Congress Awarded me, I went to Johnson, Brown & Co, at the Intelligencer Building and put my interest in their [sic] hands to collect for me. They advised me to consult with you, which I fully intended doing before, but rather expected to hear from you. They have written to the Pennsylvania Govt. and received Answer by Official Document which I have. That this Reward was on condition that Booth be taken in the State.

With kindest regards Boston Corbett

boston-corbett-1866-letter-to-doherty-durham-signature

Please direct to 91 Attorney St. Mr. Peck is out of Business now and no longer holds the store where I was working.

Boston Corbett was a deeply devoted Christian almost to the point of being a zealot (the man castrated himself in order to avoid the temptations of the flesh, after all). While his preaching helped to bring hope to his fellow prisoners at the Andersonville prisoner of war camp during the war, I highly doubt Lieut. Doherty was pleased to find that Corbett had responded to his request for help with a lesson on Christian forgiveness.

After side-stepping the issue of Hotchkiss with his talk of saving Doherty’s soul, Corbett then went into a topic he knew would be of mutual interest to them both: more reward money. While both of them had received their share of the reward money offered by the federal government, Corbett mentioned his attempt to procure some of the smaller rewards that certain states and cities were offering after the assassination of Lincoln. He apparently made application in Pennsylvania for a reward they had offered, only to learn that the reward was contingent on the fact that Booth was actually found in Pennsylvania.

Coincidentally, Doherty was pursuing the same type of course with a reward that had been offered in D.C.. It’s possible that Doherty’s renewed desire to get an affidavit from Corbett was not just to seek vindication against Hotchkiss, but was designed to strengthen his bid for this local reward.  Doherty certainly did not want to be maligned again as he sought a portion of the $20,000 the city of Washington had offered. This is especially true since most of the major players from the federal rewards case sought out their own share of the D.C. rewards as well.

For the D.C. money, Doherty was once again up against General Baker, Everton Conger, and Luther Baker. But the other claimants quickly grew as the case went through the courts. Washington was not as willing to pay out their reward and so the legal process lasted years. Lieutenant Doherty had submitted his claim in November of 1866, and by September of 1870, the case was still unresolved. By that time the number of claimants had swelled to 39, and rather than fighting with each other over who should get what amount, they were all working together to force D.C. to pay out the money they had promised. In the end, however, their case was dismissed when the judge determined that the city of Washington, funded by Congress, never had the authority to offer the $20,000 reward in the first place. The only legitimate reward the claimants could have hoped for in the city of Washington was the federal one which had been paid out in 1866.


This letter by Boston Corbett provides a new look into the unique mind of the man who avenged Abraham Lincoln. It is also a great artifact for teaching about the drama and intrigue that was involved in the avengers’ quest for reward money. I’m thankful to The Durham Museum for sharing it with us. It never hurts to ask a museum what they might have hiding in their collections. As shown from this letter, the results can be pretty interesting.

boston-corbett-cdv-boothiebarn

References:
The Byron Reed collection at The Durham Museum
Steven G. Miller
The Congressional Globe: Containing the Debates and Proceedings of First Session of the 39th Congress
The Lincoln Archives Digital Project
Genealogybank.com
The Omaha World-Herald

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Grave Thursday: Cora Lee Garrett

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.


Cora Lee Garrett

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Burial Location: Carlisle Cemetery, Carlisle, Kentucky

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Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

On Monday, April 24, 1865, at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, three men rode up on horseback to the farmhouse of Richard Henry Garrett and his family. Mr. Garrett was asked by the leader of the trio, a solider named Jett, if he would be willing to take care of one of their compatriots who had been wounded in the leg. The other two men promised to come back for their infirm friend on Wednesday morning. This temporary refuge was agreed upon with little deliberation by Mr. Garrett. He would later recall, “As it has always been one of the principles of my religion to entertain strangers, especially any in distress, I at once consented and promised I would do the best I could for him.”  Little did Mr. Garrett know at the time that he had just invited into his home the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth.

Booth, portraying himself as Mr. Boyd, was kindly tended to by Mr. Garrett and his family. The occupants of the farm at that time numbered more than a dozen with Mr. Garrett, his wife, and ten children consisting of the bulk of the population. The children present on the farm were, in order: Mary Elizabeth, Jack, Kate, Will, Annie, Richard, Lillie, Robert, Nettie, and, the youngest, Cora Lee.

Though his broken leg pained him, John Wilkes Booth did make an effort to entertain the five youngest Garrett children, all of whom were 10 or younger. He mystified them by moving the needle of a compass around with his pocketknife and he even told them jokes and stories. However, it was to three year-old Cora Lee Garrett that Booth paid the greatest of attention.

Lillie Garrett, who was 8 years-old at the time of Booth’s visit would later give an account of Booth’s stay at the family farm to a newspaperman. In her account she detailed Booth’s fondness for Cora:

“We children were about him and with him nearly all of the time. Of course, we were full of romp and frolic, and sometimes he would attempt to be cheerful and encourage us in our play. Our little baby sister, then about 4 [sic] years old, he took a great fancy to, and used to pet her a great deal, but the rest of us he paid little attention to…

He talked more to my little sister than to any one else. He called her his little blue-eyed pet, and, at the last meal he took with us, she sat by his side in her high chair. We were all gathered around the table, when she began making a noise; mother spoke up quite sharply to her, and she burst into tears. Booth at once began soothing her, and said, “What, is that my little blue-eyes crying?”

Within twelve hours of drying his little blue-eyed pet’s tears, John Wilkes Booth was dead, shot in the tobacco barn belonging to her father. And while Cora may have made a distinct mark on John Wilkes Booth in his final hours, he might have been disappointed to learn that he did not make such a mark on her.

In 1881, a newspaper reporter named Col. Frank Burr visited the Garrett farm to talk with its inhabitants. Cora, then a young woman of 19, was still living with her sisters. Burr described his interaction with her:

“In a minute a bright rather handsome young girl, just budding into womanhood, stepped into the room, dressed in her riding habit. She had a full, round face and pleasant countenance lit up by a pair of large, poetic, blue eyes, and a wealth of golden hair fell down her back in a graceful braid, reaching below her waist. A jaunty riding hat evidently of home construction, set upon her shapely head…”

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“‘I don’t remember anything about Booth,’ said the cheerful girl, ‘but they have told me a great deal about him since his death. How I wish I could remember him! I’m just going for a ride,’ and, after a few moments’ conversation, she stepped up and took her riding-whip from its place near the old fashioned fire-place, and a moment later had darted out the door to where her pony was hitched. She put the saddle upon the horse herself, and sprang into it without assistance, and in less time than it takes to tell the story her black pony was flying down the country road, bearing toward a neighboring farm house John Wilkes Booth’s last sweetheart.”

Cora, like the rest of her siblings, would move away from the old farmstead. When her brother, Richard Baynham Garrett, became a Baptist minister in 1882, she accompanied him when he accepted a pastorate located in Carlisle, Kentucky. While in Carlisle she likely made the acquaintance of a widower by the name of William Henry Fritts. Henry was 22 years older than Cora and had a son that was only six years younger than she was. It appears that any romantic feelings between the two took a while to develop as Cora left Kentucky in 1889 when her brother took up a new pastorate in Austin, Texas. Eventually, Henry Fritts followed her to Austin and the two were married by her brother Rev. Richard Baynham Garrett in 1892.

Cora moved back to Carlisle with Henry and the pair had two children together. Sadly, however, both of the children died in childhood. In 1899, Rev. Garrett accepted a pastorate at a Baptist church located in Portsmouth, Virginia. Whether Cora was homesick for her native state or wanted to be closer to her family, we don’t know, but, regardless, within a couple years of Rev. Garrett’s move to Portsmouth, Henry Fritts also accepted a job in Portsmouth, Virginia. He and Cora reunited with her brother. Cora and Henry had a nice life in Portsmouth with Henry working at the Navy Yard. However, in 1913 Henry Fritts died. Cora had his body transported back to Carlisle for burial next to his mother and father. She then returned to Portsmouth. Cora outlived her brother, the Rev. Garrett, who died in 1922 and was buried in Portsmouth.

Cora Lee Garrett Fritts died at the age of 70 on November 18, 1932. She was the penultimate witness to John Wilkes Booth’s death (albeit without any memory of the event), and left her brother, Robert Clarence Garrett, as the only remaining person alive who had witnessed the assassin’s end.

Since Cora had no children of her own (she also outlived her step-son), her final arrangements were tended to by her nephew. The original thought was to bury her back near the old farmstead in Caroline County, Virginia where she was born. There she would have joined her father, mother, and several of her siblings in the Enon Baptist Church Cemetery. But it was later decided that she should be transported to Kentucky and be laid next to her husband.

Cora Lee Garrett, John Wilkes Booth’s blue-eyed pet and last “sweetheart”, is buried in the Fritts family plot in Carlisle Cemetery.

GPS coordinates for Cora Lee Garrett’s grave: 38.314908, -84.034176

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Grave Thursday: Silas T. Cobb

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.


Sgt. Silas Tower Cobb

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Burial Location: Central Burying Ground, Holliston, Massachusetts

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Good evening enthusiasts of all things historic, 

This is Kate, returning for another Grave Thursday installment. For this post, I decided to incorporate my work with Dave’s to bring you the full story of the watchman on the bridge, Silas T. Cobb. 

Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

Sergeant Silas Tower Cobb is most remembered to history as the man who unknowingly created the John Wilkes Booth Escape Route. On April 14, 1865, Cobb allowed John Wilkes Booth and David Herold to cross the Navy Yard Bridge out of Washington City and into Southern Maryland. Riders were not allowed to cross the bridge after 9 PM but Booth and Herold arrived at almost 11. Unaware that President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward were mortally and severely wounded, Cobb allowed Booth and Herold passage. Rules had been lax since the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and riders wishing to leave the Capitol City did not seem nearly as dangerous as riders seeking entrance. Cobb drowned two years later at the age of 29 during a boating accident in Grand Haven, Michigan.

You can read more about Cobb’s later life here. This is the story of his life leading up to April of 1865. 

Named after his father, Silas Cobb was born on October 13, 1838 in Holliston, Massachusetts to Silas and Sophia Cobb. He spent his childhood training as a boot maker, a trade which he would resume after the Civil War, and sailed to the Arctic when he was 19 as a crewman aboard a whaling ship. Cobb did not immediately enlist in the Union Army following the firing on Fort Sumter. Instead, he married Sophia Treen. The couple had one child together, a daughter named Ada, but she died in infancy about a month after the execution of the conspirators. In 1863, Cobb enlisted in the Union Army, joining the 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. The regiment remained in its home state until it was called to Washington City to guard its various bridges and passageways. In 1862, General Lee had attempted a march on Maryland to put pressure on Washington and by 1863 had invaded Pennsylvania. Perhaps one reason the 3rd Massachusetts was sent south was to barricade the Capitol in the event that Lee managed to break significant Union lines. Lee’s campaign ultimately failed but it placed Cobb on the Navy Yard Bridge, keeping him from being lost to the pages of history as another name on another roster. While Lee never appeared, on April 14th Cobb received a different kind of Southern sympathizer on the bridge. The rest is history.

It is not known for certain why Cobb was in Grand Haven when he died. Some historians theorize that he was attempting to sell boots, having been honorably discharged from the Union Army and resumed his shoe making. Evidence for this theory points to a friend Cobb knew from his time in Holliston, Edgar Fletcher, who was also a boot maker. The pair were traveling through Michigan together. Both perished in the accident.

The body of Silas T. Cobb was brought back home to Holliston where it was laid to rest in the Central Burying Ground. A small military headstone marks the site today. Much like Cobb, it is a stop on the road to more recognized places (Fall River to the South, Boston and Salem to the North) but it is still a stop worth discussing due to its brush with history.  

Until next time.

-Kate 

GPS coordinates for Silas Cobb’s grave: 42.202776, -71.429104

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