Resurrecting Gravestones

April 14th is the 147th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.  Several generations have passed in that time.  Most recently, we mourned the passing of the last of Dr. Mudd’s grandchildren, succinctly showing the time that has elapsed since the great crime.  As has been done for ages, we mark our lost generations with gravestones.  They are a reminder of their time on earth and their influence on others.  Unfortunately the stones on which names are placed are not impervious to time’s unceasing march.  Water, wind, heat and cold, erase names and dates.  Markers stand as unreadable, phantom reminders of people and lives unknown.  Along with the elements, humans, both directly and inadvertently damage stones.  Markers are chipped, broken or fallen by human hands.  For many of these stones, this is the end.  Without families aware of their destruction, they remain broken, fallen, and forgotten.

For some related to the Lincoln assassination this is the case.  John M. Lloyd is one example.  Lloyd was Mrs. Surratt’s tenant occupying her Tavern in Surrattsville (then Robeysville), MD.  One the day of the assassination, Lloyd testified that Mary told him, “I want you to have those shooting irons ready: there will be parties here to-night who will call for them.”  The shooting irons referred to were Spencer Carbines that were hidden at the Surratt Tavern during the proposed kidnapping plot.  In addition Mary gave Lloyd a package wrapped in paper later found to be field glasses.  Later that night, Booth and Herold stopped by the Tavern, took one of the carbines and the field glasses.  Lloyd was a key witness against Mary Surratt at the Conspiracy trial.  Lloyd would later die an accidental death in 1892:

“He was in the construction business and died of an accident that occurred on one of his building projects. He wasn’t satisfied with some work that had been done and went up on a scaffold to inspect it. Near the other end of the scaffold flooring a load of bricks had just been deposited. As he reached the scaffold and stood on it, the boards gave way, and he fell to the ground. The bricks tumbling down upon him crushed his head, kidneys, and other parts of his body.”

John M. Lloyd's gravestone circa January 1969. Courtesy of the Surratt House Museum

Lloyd was laid to rest in Mount Olivet Cemetery in D.C.  This is same cemetery in which Mary Surratt is buried.  He was buried in December of 1892 and his marker was standing until it fell some time in 1969.  Today, his plot is unmarked – a shining example of the many who have fallen and have been forgotten. Correction: I have been informed by gravestone expert Richard Smyth that, as of 2008, Lloyd’s marker was still on his grave.  When Rich visited Mount Olivet, he had to dig the stone out and remove the dirt and grass that had grown over it.  The current condition of the stone is unknown.

There are also those to whom, markers were never created.  In these instances we are sometimes fortunate to have cemetery records to tell us who has been placed where.  This is the case of the Surratt Society’s current drive to place a marker on the grave of Frederick Aiken.  Aiken was one of the lawyers who defended Mary Surratt at the Conspiracy trial.  A tremendous amount of research into Mr. Aiken’s life was done by researcher Christine Christensen.  Her 28 page biography about this man’s extraordinary life is available through the Surratt House Museum and has been the catalyst for soliciting donations to mark his grave.  He is currently unmarked in Georgetown’s Oak Hill Cemetery:

A stone bearing his name, dates and a quote given by him at the trial will be put up once enough donations are received.

Finally, there are grave stones that have been resurrected so to speak.  These are stones that have been broken or worn, but have been fortunate enough to have been replaced.  Mary Surratt and Dr. Mudd are two examples of resurrected gravestones.

May Surratt was originally buried next to the gallows on which she died, in the yard of the Old Arsenal prison.  Eventually, her body was released to her family and she was interred at Mount Olivet.  For almost 100 years she was marked by this stone:

Then, around the 1970’s, this headstone was broken.  The original headstone is currently in pieces in storage at the Surratt House Museum.  They received the remnants from Boothie researcher John Brennan who asked and was permitted to have the broken gravestone.  Mary’s stone was replaced and this is the one that stands there today:

Dr. Mudd’s grave has a similar story.  Dr. Mudd died in 1883 at the age of 49.  He was buried at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Bryantown, MD.  From this point until 1940, Dr. Mudd had this gravestone:

As you can see, over time, part of the stone became moss covered.  In addition, this stone mistakenly puts the doctor’s age as 48 when he was truly 49.  Lastly, this stone originally had a cross at the top that was broken off.  In 1940, Mudd descendants placed a new gravestone on Dr. Mudd’s:

Dr. Mudd’s old stone is currently on display behind the Dr. Samuel Mudd House in one of the stables:

There are many individuals related to the Lincoln assassination who are without markers.  For the key conspirators, this was done to avoid either vandalism against them or reverence for them.  It was smart then, as retribution against their final resting place was a true worry.  But 147 years have passed since their actions.  The trot of time allows us to see them as people, and all people deserve to be recognized for their time on Earth.  Hopefully, with the help of organizations like the Surratt Society and private history-minded individuals, more Lincoln assassination figures will have their final resting places marked or resurrected.

“That Man Lloyd” by Laurie Verge, April 1988, Surratt Courier
Finding Frederick by Christine R. Christensen

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Resurrecting Gravestones

  1. rsmyth

    Great story Dave. I had never seen the early picture of Mudd’s marker. Did that come from the Surratt Society too?

    • Rich, that picture of Mudd’s stone is from the David Rankin Barbee papers at Georgetown. I’m a little confused as to where it was taken, though. It does not appear to be at St. Mary’s as there are no stones around or behind it. It could be from after they moved the stone to the Mudd house, but it is not housed in the shed that it is in now. I’m also not sure what that thing in front of it is. Slightly mysterious, but still a cool picture I thought.

      BTW, I expect you to correct me if I make any mistakes regarding graves. Don’t let me get away with anything, Rich. 🙂

  2. I am having a brain drain, but someone (whom I can’t remember) recently told me that the tombstone for John Lloyd was missing. I contacted Mt. Olivet Cemetery, and they assure me that it is still there. However, it deteriorated to such a degree that they laid it down on the grave and are keeping it clear of dirt and grass.

  3. Stephen

    I have a photo of John Lloyd’s tombstone/grave marker lying in the grass. I also have a view from his tombstone/grave marker toward the back of Mrs Surratt’s tombstone which is ironically quite close. Would love to email them to you for the site if you would like.

    • I’ll always take more photos of their graves, Stephen. My email is boothiebarn (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks!

      Dave Taylor

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