Thomas Austin Jones has gone down in history for the assistance he gave assassin John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice David Herold. Jones not only cared for the two fugitives as they hid out in a pine thicket in Charles County, but he also transported Booth and Herold from the thicket to the shores of the Potomac from which they got into a boat and attempted to row across to Virginia.
Thomas Jones, who was born in the Port Tobacco area in 1820, owned two houses in Charles County during the Civil War. It was from his larger home on the Potomac River called Ravenscliff that Jones began his career as a mail agent for the Confederacy, but by 1865, his financial situation and death of his wife had caused him to downsize his estate to the more modest Huckleberry farm. Jones was living at Huckleberry with his nine children when Samuel Cox, Jr. showed up on the morning of April 16th and beckoned Jones to return with him to his father’s farm of Rich Hill. At Rich Hill, Jones would learn about Cox’s nighttime visitors and be given the task of caring for the fugitives while looking for an opportunity to get them across the Potomac.
Today, as part of the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage in Charles County, Thomas Jones’ home of Huckleberry was open to the general public for the first time in 56 years when it was featured in the 1960 Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage. The house has been remodeled and updated since Thomas Jones’ days but still maintains much of its same 1865 character.
These images, along with the watchable yet somewhat motion sickness inducing video that follows, were all taken today after the garden tour was completed. About 450 people showed up and toured through Huckleberry while I stood in the room with chairs giving visitors a brief overview of Thomas Jones and his life before, during, and after John Wilkes Booth.
The visitors truly seemed to enjoy learning more about this unique man and his role in the Lincoln assassination story. Probably the most interesting little known fact about Thomas Jones is that, in 1893 when he traveled to the World’s Fair in Chicago in order to try to tell his book about helping Booth, Jones actually borrowed and brought with him two artifacts from Dr. Mudd’s house. The Mudd family allowed Jones to borrow the bed that Booth slept in at the Mudd house along with the parlor sofa on which John Wilkes Booth laid on while Dr. Mudd had inspected his leg. Having these artifacts did not help Jones much, however. His book sold very poorly in the Land of Lincoln and he came back to Charles County with many copies of the book and a great deal of debt from the venture.
Though it is impossible to say the next time that Huckleberry will be open to public tours again, the Loyola on the Potomac Retreat House has done a wonderful job as stewards of the house and property since they acquired it in the 1950’s. So even if Huckleberry waits another 56 years before being on the garden tour again, I think, in the meantime, it will stay in very good hands.