Each week we are highlighting the final resting place of someone related to the Lincoln assassination story. It may be the grave of someone whose name looms large in assassination literature, like a conspirator, or the grave of one of the many minor characters who crossed paths with history. Welcome to Grave Thursday.
Dr. William Queen
Burial Location: St. Mary’s Cemetery, Bryantown, Maryland
Connection to the Lincoln assassination:
Dr. William Queen was a physician in Charles County, Maryland who lived about six miles south of Bryantown. On November 11, 1864, John Wilkes Booth rode the stage down from Washington, D.C. to Bryantown where he spent the night. In his possession, Booth carried a letter of introduction to Dr. Queen. Booth had acquired this letter while he was in Montreal, Canada in the middle of October from a Confederate smuggler named Patrick Martin. Martin was from St. Mary’s County and still had contacts with the underground network of Confederate sympathizers and operatives back in Southern Maryland. Booth was anxious to connect with these individuals for his planned abduction plot against Abraham Lincoln. When Booth arrived in Bryantown the first time, he was able to send word to Dr. Queen that he wanted to meet with him. The next day Dr. Queen’s son, Joseph, picked Booth up at the Bryantown Tavern and brought him to his father’s home. John Wilkes Booth spent the night of November 12, at Dr. Queen’s home.
Dr. Queen’s son-in-law, John Thompson, would later testify at the trial of the conspirators that Booth’s letter of introduction to the doctor only mentioned that the actor was looking to purchase some land in the area and asked Dr. Queen to furnish him with assistance in this regard. This, however, is likely just a cover story that Booth and the Queen family committed to using. Booth’s true purpose was to scout the lands and roads of Charles County while simultaneously looking for individuals who would assist him in his abduction plot.
Dr. Queen was about 73 years old when Booth first arrived at his home. He was quite infirm and less than a year later he would become bedridden. So while Dr. Queen could not provide Booth with much in the way of physical assistance, his knowledge of the people and land was helpful. The next day, on November 13th, John Wilkes Booth joined Dr. Queen and his family in attending church at St. Mary’s Church in Bryantown. “Coincidentally” Dr. Samuel Mudd made the decision to attend St. Mary’s Church that Sunday rather than his home church of St. Peter’s. John Thompson introduced John Wilkes Booth to Dr. Mudd outside of the church before services commenced.
John Wilkes Booth would return to Dr. Queen’s home after church was over and subsequently return back to Washington.
Booth was not absent from Charles County for very long, however. On December 17th, he returned to Bryantown and spent another night with Dr. Queen and his family. The next morning, a Sunday, Booth once again attended church at St. Mary’s before he met up with Dr. Mudd. For the next few days, Dr. Mudd, not Dr. Queen, would be Booth’s host. In this way, Dr. Mudd came to replace Dr. Queen as a more able bodied facilitator of Booth’s plot. Mudd introduced the actor to Thomas Harbin, a Confederate agent who signed on to help with the abduction plot. It was also during this trip that Dr. Mudd helped Booth to purchase a horse from the doctor’s next door neighbor, George Gardiner. Booth returned to Washington on December 22nd, and, the very next day, Dr. Mudd took a visit to Washington where he happened to introduce Booth to John Surratt, who would become another willing and helpful participant in Booth’s plot.
After the assassination of Lincoln and the subsequent investigation, Dr. Queen avoided arrest due to his declining health that had left him bedridden. His son-in-law, John Thompson, was taken up to Washington in his stead. Thompson would testify at the trial about Booth’s arrival in the county and his introduction to Dr. Mudd.
Dr. Queen’s health continued to deteriorate and, on March 1, 1866, he died at his home near Bryantown. He was buried next to his first wife and his son Joseph (the son who had transported Booth to the Queen home in November of 1864) who had died in November of 1865. The family plot is near the back of St. Mary’s Church cemetery, the same cemetery where Dr. Mudd would later be buried.
One of the artifacts in the collection of the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum is a newspaper clipping that was owned by one of Dr. Queen’s daughters, Molly Queen. The clipping contains a poem called “Then and Now” which was a piece of political propaganda related to the election of 1864. The poem laments the poor condition of the country due to the last four years of Lincoln’s presidency and encourages the reader to vote for the Democratic candidate, George McClellan. The poem ends with the line: “Three cheers for Mac and the good times coming; And a groan for Abraham!”
While this piece completely fits with the political point of view of the Queen family and so many others in Southern Maryland, what makes this artifact unique and worth saving is an ambiguous signature which is affixed in pencil to the side of the clipping:
John Wilkes Booth did visit the Queen family for the first time just a few days after the election of 1864 and so it is likely that Molly Queen had this clipping out and around during the actor’s visit. Even if this is not actually John Wilkes Booth’s signature, it still is a fascinating artifact connecting John Wilkes Booth and the family of Dr. William Queen.
GPS coordinates for Dr. William Queen’s grave: 38.539667, -76.836000
I always thought it was obvious (to me, at least) that the explanation for Booth’s forays into Chls County were transparent for this reason — November and December are not good months to look over lands to buy. It’s cold; the grounds are hard, not fertile, and the trips by carriage or horseback must have been bone chilling. (There must have been plenty of stops to eat and get warmed up by peoples’ fireplaces. No McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts for hot chocolate (Hmm. The Surratt tavern would have been a convenient stop for Booth, but I guess we’ll never know if he made tit one of his stops.
Dave, did your research determine if any of the Queen family is still in the Charles County area?