This morning I was put to work by Carolyn Mitchell, head of the Spirits of Tudor Hall Facebook page. She was wondering if I knew the location of the “Home for Travelers” mentioned by Booth in two of his letters to William O’Laughlen (Michael’s brother). Booth gave a lengthy description of it in one letter from 1855:
“I should say the home for travelers
Tudor Hall, Jan 25th: 1855
My Dear Friend.
I am at present seated in a very snug bar room by a comfortable log fire and the Poplar wood whish is spitting and crackling and scending forth a merry blaze up the chimney puts me in mind of home, and by the bye it is home, but not my home. What I mean is that on the sign is written the Home For Travelers. I don’t know wether you are acquainted with the house or no, but I think you have past it, it is situated in Churchville, a very pleasant place, and may I say a very bad place, but no wonder, it has been an old saying, (nearer the church nearer the devil)…
…Friend John W. Booth”
After searching for a bit, I concluded that the most likely candidate for this “Home for Travelers” was likely the hotel run by Col. William F. Hanna off of Calvary Rd. in Churchville. Hanna’s was described as a large hotel that proved a popular place for political debate, seemingly supporting Booth’s idea of it being both “pleasant” and “bad”.
Hanna’s hotel was also only three miles away from Tudor Hall, which would make it a convenient place for 16/17 year old John Wilkes to escape the farm and his responsibilities for awhile.
So, while I’m not 100% certain that William Hanna’s hotel is the “Home for Travelers” Booth writes from, it is a logical possibility.
While looking into this for Carolyn, I consulted the Bel Air newspaper, The Southern Aegis. It is from there that I got the above advertisement for the public meeting at Hanna’s. I also stumbled across two 1857 advertisements that I had read about, but completely forgotten about until now:
In September of 1856, Edwin Booth had returned home to Tudor Hall after four years away. He found his mother and siblings in desolate conditions, the winter of 1855/56 having almost wiped them out. With his new found wealth, he whisked the family out of the Bel Air country and set them up in Baltimore. On July 18, 1857, John Wilkes commissioned these advertisements in the Aegis, to sell the family’s horses and rent out the land around Tudor Hall. The newspaper was published weekly, with these two advertisements appearing on July 18th, July 25, August 1, and August 8th. It appears Wilkes was successful in selling the horses by then as the August 15th and August 22nd editions of the Aegis only contained advertisements for the renting of Tudor Hall. Patrick Henry King and his family succeeded in renting Tudor Hall and were still living there when the assassination occurred.
“Right or Wrong God Judge Me” : The Writings of John Wilkes Booth edited by John Rhodehamel and Louise Taper
My Thoughts Be Bloody by Nora Titone
Sketches of Tudor Hall and the Booth Family by Ella Mahoney
The Southern Aegis accessed via GenealogyBank.com
The Mad Booths of Maryland by Stanley Kimmel