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Mary Surratt grave section 12 – Mt Olivet – Washington DC – 2014-07-18
Image by Tim Evanson
Grave of Mary Surratt in section 12 at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C., in the United States.
Mary Elizabeth Jenkins was born to Archibald and Elizabeth Anne (née Webster) Jenkins on a tobacco plantation near the southern Maryland town of Waterloo (now known as Clinton). Sources differ as to whether she was born in 1820 or 1823.
Her father died in the fall of 1825, and Mary’s mother inherited the property. Surratt was enrolled in the Academy for Young Ladies in Alexandria, Virginia, on November 25, 1835. It was a Catholic boarding school, and she converted to Roman Catholicism in 1837. She stayed until 1839, when the school closed.
After leaving school, she met John Harrison Surratt. She was 16 or 19 and he was 26. An orphan, he was adopted by Richard and Sarah Neale of Washington, D.C., a wealthy couple who owned a farm. He was a bad seed, and had fathered at least one bastard child by the time he met Mary. Nonetheless, they wed in August 1840. John purchased a mill in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and the couple moved there. The Surratts had three children over the next few years: Isaac (born 1841), Elizabeth Susanna (nicknamed "Anna", born 1843), and John, Jr. (born 1844).
The Neales had already given John a portion of their film, but in 1843 he purchased another 236 acres of land ("Foxhall") from his father near where Wheeler Road and Owens Road in D.C. is today. Richard Neale died in September 1843, and a month later John purchased 119 acres of land adjoining Foxhall. The Surratts moved into Mrs. Neale’s house in the District of Columbia in 1845, but Sarah Neale and died in August. John’s behavior deteriorated over the next few years: He drank heavily, failed to pay debts, and had an increasingly volatile and violent temper.
The Neale farmhouse burned to the ground in 1851, and Mary moved into the home of her cousin, Thomas Jenkins, in Waterloo. John didn’t live with them, instead working a construction gang on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Despite already owning more than 650 acres of farmland, John purchased 200 more acres near Waterloo, and by 1853 had constructed a tavern and an inn there. When Mary refused to move into the new residence, John sold both the Neale farm and Foxhall in May to pay debts and she was forced to move back in with him in December.
With the money he earned from the tavern and sale of his other property, John Surratt bought a townhouse at 541 H Street in Washington, D.C., and began renting it out to tenants.
The area round the tavern was officially named Surrattsville in 1854. The community did not amount to much — just the tavern, a post office (inside the tavern), a forge, and a dozen or so houses (some of them log cabins). But John Surratt quickly built up his family’s holdings by selling off land and building a carriage house, corn crib, general store, forge, granary, gristmill, stable, tobacco curing house, and wheelwright’s shop at Surratt’s Tavern. The family by now was making enough money to send all three children to nearby Roman Catholic boarding schools.
But as John’s drinking worsened, so did the family’s debts. John sold another 120 acres of land in 1856, and then most of the family’s slaves. More land was sold, and a mortgage taken out on the D.C. townhouse.
The Civil War began on April 12, 1861. Although Maryland remained part of the United States (martial law in the state prevented it from seceding), but the Surratts were Confederate sympathizers and their tavern was being used as a "safe house" for Confederate spies. Isaac Surratt enlisted in the Confederate States Army and John Jr. moved back home and became a courier for the Confederate Secret Service, moving messages, cash, and contraband back and forth across enemy lines.
John Surratt collapsed suddenly and died in August 1862 from a stroke. The family owned only two middle-age male slaves, but Mary’s management of the estate raised this to six slaves in just two years. Nonetheless, Mary discovered that her husband left many unpaid debts. Several of her slaves ran away and Mary tired of running the farm, tavern, and other businesses without her son’s help.
Surratt began moving her belongings into the D.C. townhouse in October 1864, and on December 1 leased the Surrattsville tavern in Surrattsville to former D.C. policeman and Confederate sympathizer John M. Lloyd for 0 a year. She began advertising for tenants shortly after moving into the city.
The Surratt boardinghouse quickly became a hotbed of Confederate activity — and a plot of kidnap, and then kill, Abraham Lincoln. Louis J. Weichmann moved into Mary Surratt’s boarding house on November 1, 1864. On December 23, 1864, Dr. Samuel Mudd introduced John Surratt, Jr. to John Wilkes Booth, and Booth recruited him into his plot to kidnap Lincoln. Other Confederate agents began frequenting the boarding house. Booth visited the boarding house many times over the next few months, sometimes at Mary Surratt’s request.
George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell also boarded at the townhouse for short periods. Atzerodt, a friend of John Jr.’s and Booth’s and a co-conspirator in the kidnap plot visited the boarding house several times in the first two months of 1865. He stayed at the Surratt boarding house in February 1865 (whether one night or several is unclear, as sources differ). Lewis Powell posed as a Baptist preacher and stayed at the boarding house for three days in March 1865. David Herold also called at the home several times.
As part of the plot to kidnap Lincoln in March 1865, John Surratt, Atzerodt, and Herold hid two Spencer carbines, ammunition, and some other supplies at the Surratt tavern in Surrattsville with Lloyd’s help. On April 11, Mary Surratt rented a carriage and drove to the tavern. She said she made the trip to collect a debt owed her by a former neighbor. But according to Lloyd, Surratt made the trip to tell him to get the "shooting irons" ready to be picked up. On April 14, Mary Surratt once again visited the tavern in Surrattsville to collect a debt. Shortly before she left, Booth visited her, giving her a package (binoculars) to give to Lloyd. He also told Lloyd that someone would pick them up later that evening. Surratt gave the field glasses to Lloyd and once again told him to have the "shooting irons" ready for pick-up (Booth and Herold would pick up the rifles and binoculars that evening as they fled Washington after Lincoln’s assassination.) Lloyd repaired a broken spring on Mrs. Surratt’s wagon before she left.
Lincoln was shot at about 9:45 PM on April 14.
Around 2 A.M. on April 15, 1865, the D.C. police visited the Surratt boarding house, seeking John Wilkes Booth and John Surratt. Mary lied and said her son had been in Canada for two weeks. (Her lie later was used as evidence that she knew her son was involved in the Lincoln assassination.)
By April 17, it was clear to military and civilian police that the Surratt boardinghouse had been a hotbed of activity regarding Lincoln’s murder. Federal soldiers arrived late that evening to arrest everyone found there. They discovered a hidden photo of Booth, pictures of Confederate leaders, a pistol, a mold for making bullets, and percussion caps. As Mary Surratt was being arrested, Lewis Powell appeared at her door in disguise. The soldiers asked him what he was doing there, and although it was nearly midnight he claimed he was there to dig a ditch. Surratt denied knowing him, later explaining that she was so blind that she didn’t recognize a man standing a few feet from her.
Mary Surratt was held at the Old Capitol Prison (the U.S. Supreme Court is located there now) before being transferred to the Washington Arsenal (now Ft. Leslie J. McNair) on April 30. She began to suffer menstrual bleeding, and became weak during her detention. (John Surratt, Jr. was in Elmira, New York, at the time of the assassination, and fled to Canada to avoid arrest).
The trial of the alleged conspirators — Powell, Herold, Atzerodt, Surratt, Dr. Mudd, and others — began on May 9. A military tribunal heard the case because government officials thought that its more lenient rules of evidence would enable the court to get to the bottom of what was then perceived by the public as a vast conspiracy. But because the writ of habeas corpus had been suspended by Congress during the war, there would be no appeal.
Surratt was given special consideration during the trial due to her illness and gender. In the courtroom, she sat apart from the others, she was never manacled, and she was permitted a bonnet, fan, and veil. As her illness worsened, she was moved to a larger and more comfortable prison cell.
Powell’s arrival at her boarding house three days after the president’s murder was critical evidence against her, but most of their case rested on the testimony of just two men — John Lloyd and Louis Weichmann. Lloyd testified regarding the hiding of the carbines, and the two "shooting irons" conversations he had with Mrs. Surratt. Weichmann testified that Mrs. Surratt knew the co-conspirators intimately, had met privately with them many times over several months, corroborated that she and Lloyd had met (although he could not corroborate the "shooting irons" statements), saw Booth give her the package of binoculars, and attested that she’d turned the package over to Lloyd.
Other prosecution witnesses corroborated Weichmann’s testimony.
The defense strategy tried impeach Lloyd (as a drunkard) and Weichmann (as a Confederate spy). The defense also called numerous character witnesses, who testified about Mary’s loyalty to the Union, the innocent nature of her trips to the tavern, her deep Christian faith, and her kindness.
The trial ended on June 28, 1865. Surratt was so ill the last four days that she was permitted to stay in her cell.
The military tribunal deliberated for two days. On June 30, the nine generals voted to find Mary Surratt guilty and they sentenced her to death. The sentence was announced publicly on July 5. Afterward, Powell insisted Mary Surratt was innocent, but Atzerodt bitterly implicated her even further in the conspiracy.
Anna Surratt pleaded repeatedly for her mother’s life with Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt and President Andrew Johnson, but they both refused to see her. Johnson said that Surratt had "kept the nest that hatched the egg".
Surratt was attended day and night by two Catholic priests (Jacob Walter and B.F. Wiget) and her daughter Anna for the last two days of her life. Her menstrual problems worsened, and she was in deep pain and suffered such severe cramps (for which she was given painkillers).
Shortly before noon on July 7, Mary Surratt was taken from her cell and allowed to sit in a chair near the entrance to the courtyard. She and the other condemned were escorted into the prison yard and atop the gallows at 1:15 P.M. Each prisoner’s ankles and wrists were bound by manacles. Either weak from her illness or swooning in fear (perhaps both), Surratt had to be supported by two soldiers and her priests while standing and listening to the order of execution. White cloth bound each prisoner’s arms to their sides, and their ankles and thighs together. Surratt and the others were allowed to sit. Fathers Jacob and Wiget prayed over her, and held a crucifix to her lips. The noose was put in place, and a white bag was placed over the head of each prisoner. The prisoners stood, and moved forward a foot or two to stand over the trap doors. Mary Surratt’s last words were "Please don’t let me fall."
Surratt and the others stood on the drop for about 10 seconds, and then soldiers knocked out the supports holding the drops in place. Surratt, who had moved forward enough to barely step onto the drop, lurched forward and slid partway down the drop — her body snapping tight at the end of the rope, swinging back and forth. Her death appeared to be the easiest, as no sign of struggle was seen from her. The others weren’t so lucky. Atzerodt’s stomach heaved once and his legs quivered, and then he was still. Herold and Powell struggled for nearly five minutes, strangling to death. More than 1,000 people watched her execution.
Upon examination, the military surgeons determined that no one’s neck had been broken by the fall. Her manacles and cloth bindings were removed, but not the white execution mask. She was buried in a plain pine coffin. Her name was written on a piece of paper and inserted in a glass vial which was hung around her neck. Her coffin and the others were buried against south prison wall in shallow graves, just a few feet from the gallows. A white picket fence marked the burial site. (The site is now a tennis court.)
In 1867, the War Department decided to tear down the portion of the Washington Arsenal where the bodies of Surratt and the other executed conspirators lay. On October 1, 1867, the coffins were disinterred and reburied in Warehouse No. 1 at the Arsenal, with a wooden marker placed at the head of each grave. John Wilkes Booth’s body lay alongside them.
Anna Surratt unsuccessfully asked for her mother’s body for four years. In February 1869, Edwin Booth asked President Johnson for the body of his brother. Johnson agreed to turn the body over to the Booth family, and on February 8 Surratt’s body was turned over to the Surratt family. Mary Surratt was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C., on February 9, 1869. (John M. Lloyd is buried 100 yards from her grave in the same cemetery.)
Anna Surratt was left mentally unbalanced by her mother’s execution, and she died in 1904. John Surratt, Jr. eventually returned to the United States, was tried for his crimes, and found not guilty. He married and lived in Baltimore near his sister, Anna, and bachelor brother Isaac. Isaac died in 1907. Isaac and Anna were buried on either side of their mother in unmarked graves at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. John Jr. died in 1916 and was buried in New Cathedral Cemetery in Baltimore.
Mary Surratt’s grave was marked initially with a rectangular reddish stone which read "Mrs. Surratt". This headstone was defaced and deteriorated by the 1960s. In 1968, Harrison Weymouth (a descendant of the famous Snowden family of Prince George’s County) obtained permission to erect a new headstone. A brass plaque was affixed to the front, which read: "Mary Eugenia Jenkins Surratt. Widow from Surrattsville, Prince George’s County, Maryland, swept by events and emotions surrounding the assassination of Lincoln from obscurity to the limelight of a military trial and inglorious death on a scaffold, and whose guilt in the conspiracy is still questioned." The pieces of the original marker were given to the Surratt House Museum.
This ostentatious plaque was removed at some point in the 1980s or 1990s by the Surratt Society. So was the nearby shrine, which had yet another plaque, with a poetic inscription.
Mary Surratt’s boarding house still stands, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Citizens interested in Mary Surratt formed the Surratt Society. The Surrattsville tavern and house are historical sites (the Surratt House Museum) run today by the Surratt Society.
Image from page 735 of “Baltimore and Ohio employees magazine” (1912)
Image by Internet Archive Book Images
Title: Baltimore and Ohio employees magazine
Year: 1912 (1910s)
Authors: Baltimore and Ohio employees magazine Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company
Subjects: Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company
Publisher: [Baltimore, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad]
Contributing Library: University of Maryland, College Park
Digitizing Sponsor: LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation
Click here to view book online to see this illustration in context in a browseable online version of this book.
Text Appearing Before Image:
t to those of the line who were there. We should profit wonderfully by the examples thereset, not the least of which were the lessons in promptness as demonstrated by our third vice-president and general manager in conducting the various sessions. They were always on time.We were impressed with the magnitude of the undertaking of the management of such a System asseen from the viewpoint of an executive officer and made to realize the important part those of theline fill, if successful results are to be obtained. We were more than pleased to hear it announcedthat the publication of the Employes Magazine would be resumed, knowing full well that this wouldbe welcomed by the employes at large. J. W. ROOT, Trainmaster, Wheeling, W. Va. 41 • ^g 4(^ 4 # i^B^ -Ns :;^^^ Pw^ 1 i^ Mfllr ^1 >; w ufl ^^^^Hy. l-^^^n^^^^V ^ pMI ^ Here is the Piece of Steel (actual size) that flew straight at the eye of Gabe Golart, Steel Car Repairman,on October 25, and Here are the Goggles that Saved his Sight
Text Appearing After Image:
Mr. Railroadman—ask Gabe Golart if it wasworth while to wear these Goggles—then go and do likewise 42 :i The Savings Feature of the ReliefDepartment By Dr. S. R. Barr, Superintendent HHIS Feature was established andmade a part of the Relief Depart-ment on August 1. 1882, and itspurpose and the objects soughtto be accomplished are perhaps mostclearly expressed in Regulation No. 3,which reads as follows: The Savings Feature will afford opportunityto em()loyos and their near relatives t ■ deposittlieir savings and earn interest thereon, and toenaMe employes only to borrow money atmoderate rates of interest and on easy terms ofrepayment, for the purpose of ac(]uiring or im-proving a homestead, or freeing it from debt. Any employe of the Company, whethera member of the Relief Department ornot. his wife, child, father or mother,or the benoficiary of any deceased memberof the Relief Department, may become adepositor, and make deposits with anydepositary designated by the Company,in any
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Mildura. The 1912 Methodist Church on Deakin Avenue built in Moorish style. It almost looks like a mosque. Now commerical offices and not a church . Octagonal in shape with alternating layers of red and white brick work. Designed by G.B. Leith architect.
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When we go out to Nichols Point to see the grave of William Chaffey you can see the kind of country that typified the Mildura area in the 19th century. Yet the Chaffey brothers of Canada were such amazing visionaries that they could see how this semi-desert country could be transformed into a fruit bowl with verdant growth. Their foresight was remarkable. Their story is almost amazing. In 1884 the Victorian Premier, Alfred Deakin (later PM of Australia) went to California to visit irrigated colonies as Victoria had suffered a long drought from 1877-84. There he met George and William Chaffey and invited them to come and work irrigation miracles in Victoria. The concept was for the Chaffey brothers to buy the land and water rights at a low price, start irrigation and develop the land and sell it on at a high price. The Victorian government in 1886 gave the Chaffey brothers 250,000 acres of land on the old Mildura sheep station on the Murray for an irrigated colony development. The Chaffeys had to build pumping stations to obtain the water from the river, dig water canals and trenches, clear the land, level it for irrigation and then sell it. Their agreement with the government meant they had to spend £300,000 on these improvements over 20 years. They advertised for investors in California and Canada where they were already known as well as Melbourne and Adelaide. They advertised the 10 acre fruit blocks as grape, fruit orchard and orange grove lands. The Chaffeys began work in 1887 led by William. Younger brother Charles went to oversee the development of Renmark in SA. William selected 200 acres for himself near the Psyche Bend Pumping Station and now the site of the Chateau Mildura Winery. William Chaffey established this in 1888 one year after settlement work began. They hoped to irrigate 33,000 acres in the first stage. By 1890 3,300 people were living in the Mildura district. But the land boom of the 1880s collapsed around 1890 as Australia headed into drought and a major economic depression. Consequently the Chaffeys went bankrupt in both Mildura and Renmark in 1895. A Victorian Royal Commission in 1896 found the Chaffeys responsible for the collapse of the irrigated colonies. The Chaffeys certainly advertised and painted a rosy picture of the prospects of Mildura and Renmark but such a grandiose scheme without government financial backing was doomed to failure in Australia, especially when a worldwide economic depression hit it.
All that William had left after their bankruptcy was his winery, 200 acres of irrigated fruit block and the mansion he had built earlier in 1889 called Rio Vista (river view). William worked like any other fruit blocker. He unsuccessfully tried to sell Rio Vista but could not find a buyer. He helped the area establish a dried fruit marketing board and he earned the respect of the citizens of Mildura. He became President of the shire council in 1903 and the first city Mayor in 1920. He was so admired by the town residents that they presented him with a Ford motor car in 1911. He eventually paid off his debts to the Victorian government. He died at Rio Vista in 1926. There is now a fine statue of him in the centre of Deakin Avenue- the main street- named after the Victorian Premier and later Australian Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin. It was erected in 1929. This street is also one of the longest avenues in the world at 12.1 kms in length!
Throughout this period most of William’s income came from the winery. It produced table wine until around 1900 when it switched to fortified wines (sherry and port) and the distilling of brandy. Transport of produce was difficult until the railway arrived in Mildura in 1903. In 1910 he formed the larger Mildura Winery Company with a second distillery at Merbein. After William’s death the brand name was changed to Mildara in 1937. As an adjunct to the winery he established the Australia Dried Fruits Association around 1895. This was a way of using local fruit because there was no transport available for perishable food before the arrival of the railway from Melbourne in 1903. Dried fruit could be stored for a long time and it did not matter if considerable time was taken to get it to the city markets. So Chaffey established the two main products of the Mildura region- wines and spirits and dried fruit. Both were exported to England. William married twice. His first wife and some infant children are buried near the original Mildura Station on the Murray. His second wife is buried near him in Nichols Point cemetery. He was survived by 3 sons and 3 daughters. One later bought Avoca Station from the Cudmores!
Meantime the SA Premier, Sir John Downer offered the Chaffey brothers 250,000 acres of Crown Land at Renmark and they accepted that too. With 500,000 acres to develop the brothers George and William worked hard and their younger brother Charles also came out from California to manage the Renmark operation. The Mildura and the Renmark scheme were losing money so George tried to sell land blocks in the irrigation schemes in London in 1894 but he failed to find a buyer. In December 1894 the Chaffey brothers went into liquidation with huge debts and owing extensive wages to their employees. George then returned to Canada; William stayed on in Mildura; and Charles stayed on in Renmark. Charles Chaffey’s residence in Renmark called Olivewood is owned by the National Trust. It is built in Canadian log cabin style but with Australian verandas. It is probably the oldest residence in Renmark as it was erected in 1889. Charles ran the operation in Renmark until 1904 when he returned to Canada with his family and the bank repossessed the home. It had several owners until acquired by the National Trust in 1979. Only William and his family stayed the course and really developed the Australian irrigation colonies. When the Chaffeys went bankrupt the state governments took over the management and operation of the irrigation colonies with SA setting up the Renmark Irrigation Trust and Victoria the Mildura Irrigation Trust. Another of the legacies of the Chaffeys is the layout of both Renmark and Mildura which are remarkably similar. William Chaffey followed a standard California/USA approach with a wide divided avenue to be the centre thoroughfare of each town, with consecutively numbered streets running across the grand avenue. Streets running parallel to the main avenue had individual names. Hence in Mildura you have Ontario Avenue (reflecting the Chaffey Canadian origins) and San Mateo Avenue (California linkages) etc.
Mildura – founded in 1887.
The town was named after the original Mildura station which in turn was named from a local aboriginal word meaning “red earth”. Pastoralism began in 1847 when squatter Francis Jenkins moved here from NSW. He thought he was in SA! But his occupation was not legal and the leasehold went to Hugh and Bushby Jamieson who called their property of 150,000 acres Mildura. Once the river boat trade began in 1854 they expanded their sheep flock to 10,000. Alexander McEdward bought the property in the 1870s and later the government resumed it for the Chaffeys irrigation colony in 1887. Mildura grew very slowly even after the Chaffeys started their great work of clearing, felling, levelling and pumping water to turn the semi-desert into fruit blocks. The 1890s were economically depressed. The government Irrigation Trust continued the Chaffey work after 1894 and by 1910 the town was well established with a railway station (1903), a large temperance hotel, a school, stores, churches, a Carnegie Library, a public institute and a Working Man’s’ Club. Opposite the railway station was a well patronised river wharf and port. William Chaffey became the first Mildura mayor in 1920 and when the population had reached 15,000 in 1934 the town was declared a city.
Soldier settlers after World War One and Two were offered fruit blocks in the district and in both eras they helped boost the growth and population of the area. Today Mildura has the second busiest airport in Victoria outside the Melbourne area, and it is still growing. It now relies on tourism and retirement living as well as fruit and grape production for its economic output. Its warm climate makes it a favoured retirement spot for southern Victorians!
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