His­tory opens up

Sites of house and gar­den tour in­cluded Booth hide­out

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

Charles County is an area rich with his­tor y.

From the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War pe­riod with Gen­eral Wil­liam Small­wood’s par­tic­i­pa­tion as a pa­triot and Thomas Stone’s sign­ing of the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence to be­ing one of the ar­eas in Mary­land known to hide Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers from Union of­fi­cials dur­ing the Civil War, the county has much to of­fer.

But some do not know how large of a role the county played in shap­ing the nar­ra­tive of the Civil War and United States his­tory.

John Wilkes Booth, the man who as­sas­si­nated Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln just five days af­ter the Con­fed­er­acy sur­ren­dered to the Union, hid in places through­out South­ern Mary­land and Charles County has “quite a few” of those marks ac­cord­ing to Lin­coln as­sas­si­na­tion his­to­rian Dave Tay­lor.

The Huck­le­berry House, owned by Thomas Jones, a farmer and a Con­fed­er­ate sym­pa­thizer, was Booth’s last stop be­fore mak­ing it to the Po­tomac River and cross­ing over into Vir­ginia ter­ri­tory. The house was opened to the pub­lic as part of the Mary­land House and Gar­den Pil­grim­age last week­end.

The Mary­land House and Gar­den Pil­grim­age is a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to the preser­va­tion and restora­tion of ar­chi­tec­turally sig­nif­i­cant prop­er­ties in Mary­land and hosts a month-long tour of var­i­ous his­tor­i­cal sites in the state each year.

Jones had a house on the river, which nor­mally sig­naled a per­son was a Con­fed­er­ate sym­pa­thizer, Tay­lor said.

“They’d of­ten send sig­nals across the river to other sym­pa­thiz­ers and grant Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers safe pas­sage into Vir­ginia,” Tay­lor said.

Jones ex­plic­itly knew what Booth had done by as­sas­si­nat­ing Lin­coln, Tay­lor said, but later stated he “did not nec­es­sar­ily agree” with the as­sas­si­na­tion.

But be­cause of his loy­alty to the Con­fed­er­acy, he said, he felt ob­li­gated to help him. Even af­ter Union in­ves­ti­ga­tors of­fered a $100,000 re­ward to any­one with in­for­ma­tion on where Booth was hid­ing.

Jones did not let Booth en­ter the Huck­le­berry home where he and his chil­dren were stay­ing, but he did have him hide in a pine thicket a few miles down the road where Union sol­diers did not search. He brought him food, wa­ter and other essen­tials as needed.

Over a four and a half day pe­riod, Tay­lor said, Jones hid Booth in the pine thicket be­fore help­ing him move across the river. Af­ter a suc­cess­ful pil­grim­age across the Po­tomac, Booth was later killed at the Gar­rett Farm across the Rap­pa­hanock River in Vir­ginia.

The Huck­le­berry House, lo­cated on the Loy­ola Re­treat House grounds, is just a one and a half story home where there is not a lot of space, Sheila Smith, who is a mem­ber of the so­ci­ety for the restora­tion of Port To­bacco, said. But there are small cracks and crevices that lead to plenty of un­ex­pected places.

“It’s set up kind of like a dor­mi­tory ... in­side, this be­comes a big house rel­a­tively speak­ing,” Smith said. “We were clean­ing up yes­ter­day, and there was a lit­tle door. I thought it was a pantry. Well, it was an­other small stair­case.”

As a child, Smith said, she would see the house and see the his­toric marker on it. But, nor­mally, his­toric mark­ers come with larger “man­sion” homes, she said. Huck­le­berry House is unique be­cause of that.

Huck­le­berry was prob­a­bly one of the most pop­u­lar land­marks on dis­play for the day, Tay­lor said. Its pre­sen­ta­tion of a rel­a­tively un­known story com­pared to that of Dr. Sa­muel Mudd’s is ap­peal­ing. The sto­ries are re­lated to one an­other, he said. Mudd set Booth’s bro­ken leg.

Jones has some de­scen­dants, Tay­lor said, and many of them are still alive to­day. There are some with dif­fer­ent last names, he said, be­cause he had a lot of daugh­ters. But some stopped by the house that week­end to see the his­tory, he said.

“When you have 10 kids, you’re go­ing to have de­scen­dants,” Tay­lor said.

The house was opened to the pub­lic for the first time in the 1960s, Smith said. Tay­lor said there has been some re­mod­el­ing done to the home, but it still looks sim­i­lar to il­lus­tra­tions from Jones’ time as the owner.

And it served its pur­pose for Jones, Tay­lor said, in res­cu­ing Booth from Union forces. Even­tu­ally, 20 years later af­ter hid­ing Booth, Jones set out to make a profit off of the story.

He moved to Bal­ti­more in that time pe­riod, Tay­lor said, and told his story to a re­porter who did some dig­ging on Booth’s es­cape.

Even­tu­ally, Jones had a book writ­ten on Booth’s es­cape and died a year later in 1895. There are some still left and pre­served but most of them were burned.

De­spite never re­ally turn­ing a profit on the books, Jones died with his story told and pre­served in his­tory. It’s rel­a­tively un­known, Tay­lor said, but Jones’ story is very im­por­tant to United States’ his­tory.

“This is where the his­tory hap­pened,” Tay­lor said. “And Thomas Jones is a big part of that.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.