Posts Tagged With: Cox

Following the Escape Route: Pine Thicket to Huckleberry

One of my favorite books about the Lincoln assassination is Michael Kauffman’s, American Brutus.  The research is utterly superb and Kauffman delves into every nook and cranny to provide the clearest picture possible about the assassination.  Though I’ve only met Mike once at a talk he gave, I am also very impressed by his devotion to recreating the history.  The man has spent countless nights at Tudor Hall, jumped from a ladder onto the stage at Ford’s to replicate Booth’s jump from the box, attempted to row across the Potomac river, and even burned down a period tobacco barn that was scheduled for demolition.  I find all these recreations of history absolutely fascinating and also just plain cool.  Taking Michael Kauffman’s lead, I decided to get my feet wet today and try to recreate some of the escape route on foot.  To that end, today I walked from the location of where John Wilkes Booth and David Herold were hidden by Thomas Jones in the Pine Thicket, to one of their stops before reaching the shores of the Potomac, Jone’s home of Huckleberry.

Pine Thicket to Huckleberry Map

Though not part of the trek before me, I started my day by driving from my house to Rich Hill, the former home of Samuel Cox.  It was on my way to the Pine Thicket and I wanted to check on the building which, sadly, will not be here for long is something is not done to keep it up:



From Rich Hill, I drove to the Pine Thicket and parked my car in the area in front of the Maryland Civil War Trials signage in the area.  Exiting my car, I put on my backpack which contained a water bottle and Thomas Jones’ book, J. Wilkes Booth.  I started to walk down Wills Rd. and soon came to what is believed to be the Collis House.  In Jones’ book published in 1893, he states that the spot he first beheld the fugitives in the pines was now occupied by an Englishman named John Collis who built his home there.  It is thought, with relative certainty, that the Collis house still exists as part of this house on Wills Rd.

Collis House Engraving


I knocked on the door, hoping to chat with the owner but either no one was home, or they did not want to talk with me, so I walked on.  Reaching the end of Wills Rd., I realized that this trip was a good opportunity to live up to my previous comment that I would attempt to record video of more of my Boothie adventures.  So, I switched from pictures to video on my iPhone, and I documented the rest of my journey with videos.  What follows are those 10 short videos.  I was speaking off the cuff with nothing prepared and so please forgive any factual errors I may have made.  During my last video, I turned the camera while recording, hoping the video would rotate as well.  It did not, so for part of the video you will have to tilt your head sideways.   Sorry.  It was an amateur production, what can I say?

I left Huckleberry and retraced my route exactly as I had came. I enjoyed it, but I was certainly in need of a shower by the time I got home. 90 degree heat with no breeze and very little shade makes for one sweaty walk no matter the distance.

In conclusion, today I did my best to walk a mile(+) in the shoes of John Wilkes Booth, David Herold, and Thomas A. Jones. They made a similar journey under the cover of darkness listening intently to every sound they heard. It took me 50 minutes to walk the same basic route that the trio walked between dusk and 9:30 pm on April 20th, 1865.

Huckleberry June 2013

My recreation of history may not be “burning down a tobacco barn” quality, but it’s a start.

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New Galleries – Rich Hill and the “Booth” Mummy

Today, I’ve added two new galleries to the Picture Galleries section of the site.

Rich HillThe first is Rich Hill, the home of Samuel Cox in Charles County, MD. Cox was a well-known Confederate sympathizer who held the honorary title of Captain (later Colonel) for commanding a volunteer militia at the start of the Civil War in case Maryland decided to secede from the Union. Booth and Herold made their way to Cox’s plantation after leaving Dr. Mudd’s. Cox gave them food and a chance to rest before having his overseer, Franklin Robey, hide them in a nearby pine thicket. He then sent his adopted son, Samuel Cox, Jr., to retrieve Confederate mail agent Thomas Jones. Jones and Cox were foster brothers and Cox knew he could trust Jones to care for and help the conspirators. Rich Hill still stands today but is in dire need of repair and restoration.

Mummy iconThe second gallery is devoted to the “Booth” mummy.  The mummy is that of Enid, Oklahoma drifter, David E. George who took his own life in 1903.  Before his death, George told residents of Enid that he was actually John Wilkes Booth.  When the news spread, Memphis attorney Finis L. Bates came to identify the body.  Years before in Texas, a man by the name of John St. Helen confided on his assumed deathbed to Bates that he was actually John Wilkes Booth.  St. Helen survived his illness, told his whole tale to Bates, and skipped town shortly thereafter.  Bates came to Enid and identified David E. George as John St. Helen.  The local undertaker embalmed the body and it was a local attraction in Enid for many years.  Bates bought the mummy and had it carted around carnival sideshows to expound his theory (and book) about Booth’s escape.  While not John Wilkes Booth, the George/St. Helen mummy is an interesting piece of pseudo-history all its own.

Click here, or the link at the top of the site, to visit the Picture Galleries see more images of Rich Hill and the “Booth” Mummy.

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Charles County Wanderings

While this post doesn’t contain much in the way of new material or research, I hope the following pictures of assassination related places and things are, nevertheless, enjoyable and informative.

After leaving Spangler’s grave, I continued my trek around Charles County, MD.  My next stop was Rich Hill, the home of Colonel Samuel Cox:

As you can see, Rich Hill is in delapidated condition. Neglect is taking a toll on this historic house.

From Rich Hill, I traveled down the road to the “Pine Thicket”:

Booth and Herold moved around in this pine thicket while Thomas Jones kept them hidden from federal troops. The first place Jones met the pair in the thicket was near an old hollowed out stump that was used as a point for the Confederate mail line. The Collis house was later built on this spot. I drove down the dead end street near these signs and visited the Collis house. Next door to the home I was previously shown to be the Collis house however, there is a house that also looks very similar to the engraving in Thomas Jones’ book:

So at this point I’m not sure where the real Collis house might be. Either way a small part of the pine thicket still exists, right across from the Bel Alton post office.

From here I decided to travel to Port Tobacco to see if I could sneak in a tour of the reconstructed Port Tobacco Courthouse. I passed this sign while heading there:

While the Courthouse building was open, there were many people setting up for a wedding reception so I quickly made my leave:

From Port Tobacco I took a non-Boothie stop to the Thomas Stone National Historic Site. Thomas Stone was a Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence and his home, Habre-De-Venture, is a National Park. The property is quite beautiful and it was a wonderful day to go walking around their nature trail.

The Stone family cemetery with Habre-De-Venture in the background

I chatted with the NPS ranger in the Thomas Stone visitor’s center for awhile and learned that she was friends of the Wearmouths, authors of Charles County history books. The pair, John and Roberta, wrote many books including ones about Port Tobacco, Thomas Jones and collected abstracts from the Port Tobacco Times newspaper. They had previously run a small antique store out of their home called, “Stone’s Throw”. She called the Wearmouths and I was invited over to see one antique related to a place I had already visited that day. I traveled to the Wearmouth’s house (literally a stone’s throw from the National Park) and chatted briefly with John and Roberta about their books. I was then showed the antique I had heard about, a piece that had once belonged to Samuel Cox, Jr. and was once housed at Rich Hill:

China cabinet owned by Samuel Cox, Jr.

This large, oak, china cabinet with curved glass is circa 1895 and is from Baltimore or D.C. The piece was shipped to Bel Alton on the Baltimore and Potomac Rail Road. The back of the piece is stenciled “S. Cox Bel Alton” to assure correct delivery off of the train. The Wearmouths bought it from an antique dealer who had acquired it from a lady who lived a few doors down from Rich Hill.

After all this I was pretty tired, so my impromptu trip around Charles County, Maryland came to an end.

P.S. Apparently while I was off driving around, you all were visiting my blog.  Today was a record day with over 310 visitors! Thanks!

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Edward John Collis

In a brushy outlying area of the St. Ignatius Cemetery in Port Tobacco, Maryland, there is a weather worn grave marker:

While extremely faded from time and neglect, the name on the marker and some information can still be gleaned from it.  From this picture we can make out something along the lines of:

To the Memory of
Edward John Collis
Once of Angelo
Stourbridge, England
Who Died at Bel Alton
April 21, 1895
Aged 52 Years
Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.
They rest from their labours and their works do follow them.”

The outlying location of this grave is a wonderful metaphor for this man’s outlying connection to the assassination story.

Edward John Collis was born at Wollaston Hall in Worcestershire, England on March 28, 1843.  His father was a deputy Lord Lieutenant in Worcestershire.  On July 9th, 1867, Edward married Elizabeth Louis Swann in England.  An educated man, Mr. Collis worked in mines as an engineer.  He and his wife came to America in 1887 for pleasure and health.  Working in the mines caused Mr. Collis to contract rheumatic fever.  Finding the American climate and way of life to his liking, Mr. Collis and his wife bought property and settled in Bel Alton, Maryland in 1890.  Though being a newcomer to the area, Mr. Collis engrained himself in local functions and positions in Charles county.  The Englishman who took well to the Southern Maryland way of life passed away in 1895, five short years after moving in.  His cause of death was reported in the papers to have been from epilepsy and nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys).

This gent’s connection to the Lincoln assassination is as follows.  During the short time Mr. Collis was in Maryland, he lived in a particular house.  That house was built on the land where Thomas A. Jones first met John Wilkes Booth and David Herold as they were hidden in the pine thicket.  In Thomas Jones’ book, J. Wilkes Booth, written in 1893, Jones cites, “An Englishman, named Collis, now occupies a house built upon the exact spot where I first beheld the fugitives.”

A drawing of the Collis house taken from Thomas Jone’s book.

In 1865, everyone referred to the land where the pair hid as Captain Michael Stone Robertson’s land, even though the good captain had been killed in 1862 at the Battle of Harrisonburg.  Regardless, after the pair arrived at Colonel Samuel Cox’s home, Rich Hill, Cox had his overseer hide the men in the pine thicket to avoid detection.  He then sent his son, Samuel Cox, Jr. to fetch Thomas Jones.  Jones agreed to help the pair and, over the next several days, he brought them food, water, and supplies.  When the soldiers cleared the area, Jones put them on a boat across the Potomac.  Before any of that occurred, however, Jones met Booth and Herold right where Edward Collis’ house stood.

Today, it is believed that original Collis house still stands as part of this modern house:

While Edward John Collis only has a passing connection with the history of the assassination, he is still worthy of a mention. When Collis died in 1895, one of his pallbearers was Samuel Cox, Jr.  This means that Samuel Cox, Jr. not only helped direct Thomas Jones to the spot where he found the conspirators, but he also laid to rest a man who made his home there.

Abstracts from the Port Tobacco Times and Charles County Advertiser – Vol 6 by Roberta J. Wearmouth
J. Wilkes Booth by Thomas A. Jones
The wonderful Mr. Joe Gleason who showed me this grave and house.

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