“Our family is in grate distress”

As I have mentioned before, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln caused both trouble and immense grief for the family members of the conspirators.  Imagine the horror of waking up one morning and reading the name of your son or daughter in connection with such an atrocious crime.  Such was the case for elderly and infirmed William Spangler, the father of 39 year-old Ford’s Theatre stagehand, Edman Spangler.

Spangler Icon

In response to the accusations William read regarding Edman’s alleged role in John Wilkes Booth’s plot, he wrote the following letter to his son asking for the truth:

“York, [Pennsylvania] April [1865]

Dear Son This is to let you no that we are all in good Heath except my selfe.  I am Getting worce in my leg and Arm.  I can scarcily do aney Work but I thank my God That my Body Heath is Good.  I have no particular to wright.  Only this that our Family is in grate distress That your name is mentioned In So Maney papers About you In this murder of the Chief President.  now if you Will gratify us to hear of you the Truth of the matter and The reason of your name in almost every paper in the Country.  You can certainly let me no the truth about The Matter.  I expected A Letter from you as you might have reconciled our Family much by Sending us the truth of all you no About it.   there is so much About it in the News that We cannot no the truth.  And as the[re] is so much suspicen I don’t want to wright here than I want to no wat you no about it.  if you Wright and think that your Letter is or may bee Suspicious Take it to the post office and Let it Bee red by some of the Members of the post office.  My hand is so lame that I can scarcely hold the pen.  Dear Son Do answer this Imediatley.  From your affectinate father.  God bee with you. Wm Spangler”

To his dying day, Edman Spangler declared his innocence regarding Booth’s plot. Therefore, it is likely that his reply to his father would contain the same message.  Spangler easily and truthfully would recount to detectives his introduction to the Booth family during the construction of Tudor Hall and his friendship with John Wilkes during his employment at Ford’s Theatre, but denied any knowledge of what Booth had planned on the night of April 14th, 1865.

Maryland Historical Society
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6 thoughts on ““Our family is in grate distress”

  1. Rich smyth

    Poor Spangler! This Innocent man grew up near where my daughter went to college (York College). I walked around the square, downtown York, where his family lived. I found his family in the local cemetery.

  2. Rich smyth

    Of course. Let me see what I can dig up.

  3. Kevin Spangler

    I see above that Edmond Spangler’s father was William Spangler. I have also read in the past that Edmond Spangler’s family goes back to Maryland at some point in their history. Has anyone done research on Edmond Spangler and his family lineage/ancestry? I’ve often wondered if we are related, as my branch of the Spangler family goes back to Maryland.

    • Kevin,

      I’m sure it’s possible that you might be related, but I’ve never done any research on Spangler’s genealogy. He was from York, Pennsylvania but where his family was from before that, I couldn’t tell you.

      Good luck,


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