Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Booth Cemetery Plot

During my recent trip back to Maryland, I made a quick sidestep into Baltimore to see the Booth Family plot in Green Mount Cemetery.  All who know me know of my fascination with Abraham Lincoln, specifically the event of his assassination and the days both leading up to and following.  For years, I have been absorbing as much information as possible: reading books, visiting locations, talking to other assassinationphiles.  The more I learn about the event, the more questions arise about more than meets the eye.  Lately, my interest has been re-piqued by a new blog I found called BoothieBarn.  The owner/author of the blog is a school teacher who believes that all of us who are interested in this topic should be known as "Boothies" after the assassin, John Wilkes Booth - said to be the most handsome man in America at the time.  The BoothieBarn site is chock full of information that I devoured in one afternoon.

But back to my trip to the cemetery.  Immediately after JWB's body was recovered and his autopsy complete, he was buried under a floor in the Old Washington Arsenal Penitentiary, a site now occupied by Fort McNair in SW Washington, DC.  Four years following the assassination, JWB's older brother, Edwin Booth, petitioned then-President Andrew Johnson in 1869 for the body so that it could be interred in the Booth family plot in Green Mount, a 20' x 30' plot of land which houses 4 generations of the Booth family.  Johnson, knowing he would not be re-elected to the presidency, permitted the transference.  JWB's body was buried in the middle of the night without fanfare of any kind in an unmarked section of the plot for fear of both retribution or celebration.

Most people erroneously believe that JWB is buried to the far lower left of the plot. Check out the photo and you will see a small, unmarked tombstone in the lower left corner of the plot, with flowers and some sardonic pennies sitting on top of it.  When I visited, there was even a note from someone placed at that stone - a note from a woman, forgiving JWB for his actions.  What these same people don't realize is that this particular stone is actually the footstone for JWB and Edwin's sister, Asia.  Each grave in this plot has a headstone and a footstone.  Asia's headstone is in the lower center with a cross.  To the right of her headstone are the footstones for Junius Brutus and MaryAnn Booth, the parents of the Booth children.  Others buried in this plot are children Rosalie Booth and Joseph Booth, and Joseph's wife Cora and son, Edwin (named after Joseph, Asia, and JWB's older brother).  Also here is Richard Booth, Junius' British father, and three Booth children who died of cholera, were previously buried on the family farm in Harford County, MD, but later moved here: Mary Ann, Elizabeth, and Frederick - all three in unmarked graves.

However, other assassination scholars, including information on BoothieBarn, will tell you that while JWB's name does appear on the Booth Family tombstone, his grave is actually not marked.  JWB is believed to be buried behind the obelisk in the patch of grass with no other form of acknowledgment.

And while I was standing in that space the other day, I experienced a feeling I never had in a cemetery before.  Now, I've been in LOTS of cemeteries.  I've been researching my dad's family tree for about 10 years and with the exception of court records, tombstones are the most reliable sources of names and dates.  But while standing in this space, I realized that as fictional or real John Wilkes Booth has always been to me, I was now standing just 6 or so feet away from him.  It struck me that despite him dying 99 years before I was even born, his body and mine were now only a few feet apart.  I had never had that realization before.

It was amazing. 

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