Posts Tagged With: Escape

A Visit to “The Trap”

On April 24, 1865, John Wilkes Booth, the fugitive assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, was dropped off at the Garrett farm just outside of Port Royal, Virginia. Over the prior ten days, Booth and his accomplice David Herold had successfully eluded the massive manhunt searching for them in Maryland and had made their way into Virginia. By portraying himself as a wounded Confederate soldier named James Boyd, John Wilkes Booth was welcomed in by the Garrett family and given the hospitality of their home and farm. David Herold, on the other hand, decided for the first time to depart from Booth’s company. Whether this was his own choice or whether Booth sent him away on purpose, perhaps to scout the route ahead, is unknown. Regardless, Herold did not stay at the Garrett farm on April 24th and, instead, continued on towards Bowling Green with the three Confederate soldiers that he and Booth had met in Port Conway. When the sun went down on April 24th,  Herold and one of the soldiers, Absalom Bainbridge, would spend the night outside of Bowling Green, Virginia at the home of a Mrs. Virginia Clarke. Before that would occur, however, David Herold and the three Confederate soldiers would all make a pit stop on the road between Port Royal and Bowling Green at a tavern known as “The Trap.”

The Trap was built around 1752 and initially operated as a private home. Its location of being about half way between Port Royal and Bowling Green earned it the nickname of the “Halfway House.” In 1777, a wealthy man by the name of Peyton Stern (whose land holdings in Caroline County at that time stretched over 2,000 acres and included what would become the Garrett family farm) started operating the building as a tavern. In the 1830’s the tavern was acquired by a man named George Washington Carter, whose family owned an adjacent land tract of 452 acres. George Washington Carter died in 1853 leaving his widow, Martha, to care for their large family of children. Similar to the Surratt Tavern in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Mrs. Carter would continue to operate the tavern as a means of income and offer lodging for visitors passing by on the road. The Trap also operated as the local post office in the same way the Surratt Tavern did.

In 1865, Mrs. Carter was running The Trap with the help of her four daughters. The daughters were twins Martha and Mary (27), Sarah (23), and Agnes (20). On April 5, The Trap briefly received a fairly distinguished guest by the name of Thomas Conolly.

Thomas Conolly

Thomas Conolly

Conolly was an Irish member of British parliament who had crossed the Atlantic to visit the Confederacy. He was well connected, wealthy, and was able to meet many of the Confederacy’s elite. Conolly was lavishly wined and dined during his trip, likely in the hopes that impressing him would motivate him to convince his countrymen to support the Confederacy. Conolly had departed Richmond just before the Union troops seized it and was making his way north. He mentions his stop at The Trap in his diary which has been published as An Irishman in Dixie: Thomas Conolly’s Diary of the Fall of the Confederacy.

“Stopped again from the exhausted state of our horse at the Trap 1/2 way to Port Royal where we find Mrs Carter & her 4 pretty daughters. The house was full of Virginia Cavalry going to join their Regts & the girls & mother serving them all round with all they had. Got some dinner bacon & greens & pickled peaches & corn bread & milk. Matty [Martha] & I had a pleasant chat & I gave her the other gold stud wh[ich] pleased her much.”

Conolly’s diary paints The Trap as a bustling and busy tavern with soldiers anxious to get food and drink. It was, therefore, not out of the ordinary when, on April 24th, David Herold, Willie Jett, Mortimer Ruggles and Absalom Bainbridge stopped by The Trap after dropping John Wilkes Booth off at the Garrett farm.

The men all took drinks while at The Trap and apparently discussed, within earshot of Mrs. Carter or her daughters, their plan to split up at Bowling Green and for Herold and Bainbridge to find lodging at Mrs. Clarke’s while Jett and Ruggles stayed at the Star Hotel. After their rest stop at The Trap, the man saddled back up and rode on to Bowling Green.

About 12 hours later, on April 25th, David Herold, Absalom Bainbridge and Mortimer Ruggles returned to The Trap this time headed in the opposite direction. They had followed through on their plan to spend the night in and outside of Bowling Green and now Herold was heading back towards Booth with Ruggles and Bainbridge as his guides. Once again, Herold, Bainbridge and Ruggles took drinks at The Trap. Sadly we do not really know any of the conversation or even the amount of time the men stayed at The Trap before they bade the Carter ladies goodbye.

Herold 1

David Herold was dropped off at the Garrett farm on April 25th and rejoined John Wilkes Booth who had been treated with much generosity and kindness by the unsuspecting Garretts. Bainbridge and Ruggles continued on the road until they reached Port Royal and witnessed a detachment of Union troops crossing the Rappahannock river. This was the 16th New York Cavalry and they had finally found John Wilkes Booth trail. The troops had learned from William Rollins in Port Conway that Booth had been seen in the company of Confederate soldiers, one of whom was Willie Jett. Mrs. Rollins knew that Willie Jett was dating a girl in Bowling Green and that they would likely be heading there. Bainbridge and Ruggles turned around and rode back to the Garretts to warn Booth and Herold before heading out of the area themselves.

The 16th NY Cavalry, with William Rollins in tow, successfully crossed the Rappahannock and then began riding down the same road Booth and Herold had been on the day before. They unknowingly passed John Wilkes Booth and David Herold as they rode by the Garrett farm on their way to Bowling Green. By 9:00 pm, the band of soldiers found themselves at that old half way house, The Trap.

When the Union soldiers entered The Trap and began searching the premises, Mrs. Carter and her daughters were understandably excited and distraught at the intrusion by Yankee soldiers. The soldiers found no men in the large, log house as the Carter ladies “raised and kept up such a clamor.” In order to try to get some needed information from the Carters, two of the detectives with the 16th NY, Everton Conger and Luther Baker, told them that they were in pursuit of “a party that had committed an outrage on a girl.”

Everton Conger and Luther Baker

Everton Conger and Luther Baker

This claim softened the Carter ladies’ dispositions and made them inclined to tell the soldiers all they could. They verified that a group of men had stopped by the day before on their way to Bowling Green and that three of them had come back a few hours before the troopers arrival. The Carters also mentioned having overheard the conversation about the men splitting up with some lodging at Mrs. Clarke’s home. The detectives contemplated splitting up the detachment in order to send some men to Mrs. Clarke’s and the rest on to Bowling Green, but decided to move, as a whole group, on to Bowling Green. The 16th NY was at The Trap for about a half hour to forty-five minutes before carrying on.

In Bowling Green, the troopers found Willie Jett asleep in the Star Hotel. He immediately surrendered and informed the men that Booth was at the Garrett farm and that they had unwittingly gone right past him. They placed Jett under arrest and then hightailed it back up the road, passing right by The Trap again without stopping.

The rest, as they say, is history. The 16th NY successfully corner John Wilkes Booth in the Garretts’ tobacco barn, light the barn on fire to smoke him out, and then Sergeant Boston Corbett paralyzes Booth with a gunshot wound to the neck. John Wilkes Booth dies around dawn on April 26, 1865. David Herold, two of the Garrett sons, William Rollins, and Booth’s body are all taken back up to Washington for trial, imprisonment and questioning, and burial, respectively.

Mrs. Carter and her daughters likely heard later that the men the troopers were looking for at their tavern were not wanted for an outrage on a girl but, rather, for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

After the Civil War, Mrs. Carter and her daughters continued to run The Trap as tavern. Out of the four daughters, only Agnes would marry but would be widowed soon after the birth of her own daughter. Unfortunately, times continued to be tough for the Carters and in 1870’s Mrs. Carter had defaulted on her loans. She sold off some of her land to try to stay afloat but in 1888 the land containing the tavern was auctioned off to pay for her debts. The tavern property was purchased by a man named George Lonesome who, in 1913, sold it to man named J. Harvey Whittaker. Sometime between 1900 and 1924, The Trap tavern was demolished. A subsequent owner named J. D. Smithers built and ran a store on the site from 1924 until 1941.

During World War II, the United States government, in need of suitable training and maneuvering ground, seized and purchased over 77,000 acres of Caroline County, Virginia. Residents in the area were given between two weeks and two days to move out of their homes, taking all of their belongings with them, never to return. For many, the land seized by the government had been their homesteads for generations. It was a difficult time for many families in the area who had to leave the farms that had been in their families for years. Yet, the land provided to create the training grounds of Fort A.P. Hill was essential for the war effort. Today, Fort A.P.Hill is split in half by a highway, Route 301. The southern half, which contains the area of The Trap, is the home of various live weapons ranges and is practically always off limits to the public, even to those whose ancestors lived, died, and were buried there.

That being said, today, June 11, 2016, was the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Fort A. P. Hill and as such they had various history exhibits and activities planned for the day that were open to the public. The activities included a one time tour of the Delos area where The Trap was located. What follows are some pictures of The Trap site that David Herold and the members of the 16th New York Cavalry visited.

Trap Tour Map

This map was provided in a booklet tour participants received and shows a modern aerial photo of the sites with former land tracts superimposed over the image. The Trap tavern where Herold et al stopped is actually labelled here as #2 Smithers’ Store, as a man named Smithers ran a store on the former site of The Trap from 1924 – 1941. As stated above, the farm owned by George Washington Carter and inherited by Martha Carter was 452 acres which is why #1 is labeled as the Trap farm but is actually the location of a later home built on the property around the 1890’s.

Trap Ice House 1

Trap Ice House 2

While the main residence that occupied #1 “Trap Farm” was built in the 1890’s, there are some remnants of a much earlier outbuilding in the area that was likely connected to the tavern. These pictures show what is left of an old, sizable ice house. In the days before refrigeration, families would essentially dig a large hole in the ground. The deeper you dig the cooler the earth is and at a certain point it can get close to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You would place your ice in these deep pits and then cover it  with saw dust or another insulator to slow down melting, allowing you to have ice even in the summer months. The whole thing would then be covered with a primitive roof of some sort. The size and depth of this ice house and its relative proximity to The Trap tavern has led the archaeologists to conclude that this ice house was used by the tavern to provide them with their ice.

Trap dirt explanation

This image is a preface for the ones that follow and explains why much of The Trap site and the old road that ran right in front of it look like a construction site today. The entire site around The Trap is covered in this layer of “foreign dirt” that had to be removed before excavations could be done.

Trap Rolling Road

In this image you can see very clearly the traces of the old “Rolling Road” that connected Bowling Green to Port Royal. This image is taken looking southwest in the direction of Bowling Green.

Trap Rolling Road 2

This image shows the remains of the Rolling Road in the opposite direction. You can just make out at the end how the road is beginning to turn towards the left. Following that turn takes you north towards Port Royal. David Herold, Bainbridge, Ruggles, and the 16th New York Cavalry all traveled this road twice on their way to and from Bowling Green.

The Trap Site 6-11-16

The Trap site 2 6-11-16

These pictures show the site of The Trap tavern itself. In the top picture you can see a dark square in the foreground. That is one of the brick piers that the tavern sat on. It was highlighted by spraying it with water to make the color more noticeable. In the bottom image you can no longer see the square as the water has evaporated but it is located between the green bags in the middle. The bottom image is taken from the Rolling Road to give you an idea of how close to the road the tavern stood. It was located on this perfect spot where the road curved north making its own intersection.

Dave in The Trap

This is an images of me standing “in” The Trap. You can see the Rolling Road behind me.

The tour of The Trap site was a wonderful experience and one that I felt lucky to take part in. The location of The Trap inside the boundaries of the live range area of Fort A. P. Hill insures that it will rarely be open to the public. At the same time, Fort A. P. Hill seem to be the perfect stewards of the site and their archaeology efforts demonstrate their commitment to preserving the cultural heritage of the land they occupy.

In closing, I would be remiss if I did not address the two “elephants in the room” when it comes to The Trap. One issue is the correct spelling of the tavern. I, like many others, have always spelled it as The Trappe. You can find this spelling in other texts and articles about the assassination. According to one of our guides for the day, John Mullins, the site was originally spelled Trap and not Trappe. John says that this spelling did not come about until the 1890’s or so and was likely started after the area became known as Delos. The spelling of The Trap with the extra “pe” was likely people’s inadvertent way of referring to the old name and making it seem ever older by giving it the old English spelling.

The second item that I failed to address was the reputation of The Trap and the Carter ladies. Some texts and authors state that The Trap was a thinly disguised brothel run by Mrs. Carter and her daughters. When I first began researching the Lincoln assassination I heard from several knowledgeable individuals that The Trap had a slightly scandalous reputation. However, in researching the topic I have yet to come across anything that truly supports this idea. The origin of this misconception appears to be an April 27, 1865 statement from Luther Baker. In recounting the hunt for Booth, Baker shares the detachment’s stop at the Trap thusly: “About halfway to Bowling Green, which is 15 miles from the ferry, we stopped at a log house called the halfway house. We found there four or five ladies, who keep a house of entertainment.” Baker then proceeds to recount how no men were found in the house and how the ladies eventually gave them the information they needed. This wording that the Carter ladies kept a “house of entertainment” seems to be the fairly innocuous wellspring from which all unseemly rumors have flowed. However, in its early days, The Trap was a house of entertainment. Horse races and card games took place there. According to one of our guides for the tour, the name of The Trap was an old reference to how the tavern was a money trap for those who went there to play cards. Whether Mrs. Carter and her daughters still allowed card playing when they owned the tavern is unclear, but even if they did, a little card playing doesn’t equate to a house of sin. Unless better evidence can be found to support the idea that they were improper in anyway, I think Mrs. Carter and her daughters deserve to have their reputations vindicated.

References:
Former Community of Delos (The Trap) Tour Itinerary booklet
“The Trappe” by James O. Hall published in the Surratt Courier June 1987
John Mullins, Kerri Holland, Rich Davis – Archaeologists
The Lincoln Assassination – The Reward Files edited by William Edwards
An Irishman in Dixie: Thomas Conolly’s Diary of the Fall of the Confederacy edited by Nelson D. Lankford

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Inside Thomas Jones’ Huckleberry

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 1

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.

Huckleberry-Animation

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.

Huckleberry exterior

Huckleberry door

Huckleberry Parlor

Huckleberry stairs

Huckleberry meeting room

Huckleberry kitchen

Jones Mantle

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.

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , | 18 Comments

BoothieBarn Live on NBC 4!

If any of you in the D.C. metropolitan area happened to be watching NBC’s News4 Midday today, you might have seen a familiar face and outfit. I was asked to appear on the live news show along with Melissa Willett of the Charles County Garden Club in order to promote this Saturday’s Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage in Charles County. Every three years the pilgrimage takes place in Charles County and this year it will be featuring two properties connected to the Lincoln assassination story. Participants in the tour will have the opportunity to visit and go inside Thomas Jones’ house of Huckleberry as well as walk the property of the Loyola on the Potomac Catholic Retreat which contains the exact site of where John Wilkes Booth and David Herold got into a boat and tried to cross the Potomac. Melissa and I were interviewed about the event by NBC anchor Barbara Harrison:

UPDATE: NBC 4 has put up a much better version of this interview on their website. Watch it here: http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Historic-Homes-Tour_Washington-DC-380991271.html

As stated in the interview I will be at Huckleberry from 10:00 – 5:00pm on Saturday, showing people the inside of the house and discussing Thomas Jones’ role in assisting John Wilkes Booth. Tickets for the tour, which contains a total of eight homes, are $35 and they can be purchased at any of the sites during the tour on Saturday, May 28, 2016. The proceeds from the event will be benefiting the Maryland Veterans Museum.

I enjoyed the interview with Ms. Harrison and was happy to see that, in the footage that rolled as we spoke, the highway marker for the Garrett site made an appearance. I wrote the text for that marker and it was on the day that we unveiled it that I made my first live television appearance. I always have fun sharing my interest in the Lincoln assassination story with others, even if it is for a brief time during a busy news show.

Categories: News | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

John Wilkes Booth Escape Route Tour Through Virginia

While there have been many wonderful books written about the Lincoln assassination, whenever someone asks for my opinion about the best book on the subject I always direct them to American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies. In terms of depth of research and wealth of knowledge I believe American Brutus to be unparalleled in Lincoln assassination scholarship. In turn, I also view its author, Michael Kauffman, to be the foremost expert on the Lincoln assassination. The man has spent over 50 years delving into every single side story relating to Booth and the assassination. Not only that but Mr. Kauffman has also “walked the walked” in personally recreating many of the events relating to the history. His stories of jumping from a ladder onto the stage at Ford’s Theatre and his own attempt to row across the Potomac were big motivations to me and inspired me to create my “John Wilkes Booth in the Woods” reenactment.  Mr. Kauffman is a walking encyclopedia and also happens to be one of the nicest people you could meet. Needless to say that whenever I get a chance to talk and learn from Mr. Kauffman, I am definitely in awe of his knowledge and experience.

The reason I am saying all of this is because there is a rare opportunity for those of you in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area to learn from this true expert on the Lincoln assassination. While Mr. Kauffman was once a fixture of the John Wilkes Booth escape route bus tours put on by the Surratt Society, he retired from doing that a few years ago and rarely does bus tours anymore. However, he will be conducting a very special John Wilkes Booth escape route bus tour on Saturday, April 30, 2016. This unique bus tour is being put on by Historic Port Royal, the historical society in Port Royal, Virginia, where John Wilkes Booth was cornered and killed. This tour is focused entirely on Booth’s escape through Virginia and will commence just over the Potomac River in King George County, Virginia. Here’s a scanned page about the event from the newest HPR newsletter:

HPR Page April 30 BERT Kauffman

Click to enlarge

As some of you may know, I am a board member for Historic Port Royal. We are a growing historical society and currently operate three different museums: The Port Royal Museum of American History, The Port Royal Museum of Medicine, and the Old Port Royal School. Each year HPR also organizes an Independence Day celebration. This is in addition to our quarterly newsletter and public events and speakers throughout the year. If you are not already a member of Historic Port Royal, please join us. We are a 100% volunteer organization and so your small annual dues help us preserve our growing collection of artifacts and keep the lights on at our museums so that more people may come and learn about this historic town.

Historic Port Royal is using this bus tour as a fundraiser and we would love to sell out every seat on the bus. As stated on the above flyer, the tour is from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday, April 30, 2016. The cost is $65 which includes a box lunch.

For those who have taken other Booth escape route tours before, this tour will include familiar spots such as Mrs. Quesenberry’s house, Dr. Stuart’s Cleydael, and the Peyton House in Port Royal. However it will also include stops at Belle Grove Plantation (the birthplace of President James Madison where members of the 16th NY Cavalry stopped while on the hunt for Booth), The Port Royal Museum Museum of American History (which contains several artifacts relating to the Garrett farm and the death of Booth), and a fuller tour of Port Royal itself complete with a skit on the porch of the Peyton House re-enacting Booth’s arrival in town (by yours truly).

The whole event promises to be one that participants will not soon forget especially with a guide as knowledgeable as Michael Kauffman.

To get more information or to reserve your spot please call HPR Treasurer Bill Henderson at (804) 450-3994 or email him at WehLsu82@aol.com. There are very few seats left for this special tour of John Wilkes Booth’s escape through Virginia led by Lincoln assassination expert Michael Kauffman. I hope to see some of you there.

Kauffman BERT tix HPR

Categories: News | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Assassination of Lincoln by Howard Hill

Yesterday, I posted about about Carl Bersch and his painting, Lincoln Borne by Loving Hands on the Fatal Night of April 14, 1865At the time of Lincoln’s assassination, Bersch was living across the street from Ford’s Theatre and made sketches of the chaotic scene after the assassination. He used those sketches to paint this eyewitness image of the event.

Borne by Loving Hands - Carl Bersch

While working on that post I came across another painting that shares the same subject matter. In 1872, artist Howard Hill painted his own version of the wounded President being carried across Tenth Street. His painting is called, Assassination of Lincoln, and it is currently owned by the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Howard Hill was not present in D.C. on the night of Lincoln’s assassination and therefore his painting is not based on eyewitness sketches like Carl Bersch’s painting. Still it is clear that Hill did his research and when composing this piece. Hill’s painting includes the detailed figure of not only the wounded Abraham Lincoln but also shows grief-stricken Mary Todd Lincoln.

Assassination of Lincoln by Howard Hill Mary Todd and Lincoln closeup

They are both followed by the figures of Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris, the Lincolns’ guests at Ford’s Theatre that night.

Assassination of Lincoln by Howard Hill Rathbone and Harris closeup

While both Bersch’s painting and Hill’s painting show Lincoln being carried across the street to the Petersen boardinghouse where he would later die, the biggest differences between them are the secondary scenes they contain. In the darker corner of Bersch’s painting (which will hopefully be more visible in the restored painting) there is a small scene of celebration marking the end of the Civil War. In his letter home, Bersch mentions that his first sketches on April 14th captured the parades and jubilation that were occurring below his balcony. Bersch still used these sketches when completing his final painting and combined two these contrasting images, one of celebration and one of sorrow, into the single painting. Lincoln Borne by Loving Hands is not centered  on Lincoln but on the American flag, which continues to fly over everything, good and bad.

Hill’s painting, on the other hand, does seem to center more on the figure of Lincoln and the men carrying him. But our eyes are also drawn to the top right corner of the painting where a different scene is playing out. Hill depicts the horseback figures of David Herold and John Wilkes Booth fleeing from the tragic scene. Booth is riding away when he seems to look back at his handiwork. As he does this a legion of demons reach out to him as he effectively rides into their grasp and into hell.

Assassination of Lincoln by Howard Hill Booth closeup

David Herold follows Booth’s course, but his attention is drawn to a premonition of the gallows that he will face for his crime.

Assassination of Lincoln by Howard Hill Herold closeup

Strangely this gallows shows the execution of five people rather than the four that actually occurred. Perhaps one of the bodies is meant to symbolize Booth’s death as well.

Howard Hill’s Assassination of Lincoln shares a similar theme with Carl Bersch’s Lincoln Borne by Loving Hands but the compositions differ in their focus and details. The inclusion of the celebratory revelers and the focus on the American flag in Bersch’s painting evokes the prospect of hope in our darkest times, while Hill’s visions of doom for the assassins emphasizes the importance of justice. Taken together, these two paintings demonstrate the complex feelings that emerged after Lincoln’s assassination.


Additional facts about the artist, Howard Hill

Howard Hill was born in England in 1830. In 1851, he married his wife, Ann Patmore, in London. Hill always considered himself an artist and normally recorded himself as such on census records. However, to make ends meet, he would also work as a house painter, his father’s trade. In 1858, Hill brought his family over to America. The Hills would live in Yonkers, NY and Hoboken, NJ. Hill originally got a job with Currier and Ives as one of many nameless English artists who created the iconic prints that so captured the spirit of America. He left this job after a short while, likely unhappy with the day to day life as a menial worker. In his own paintings, Hill was very fond of painting birds. His most common images feature ducks and quails in scenic landscapes, but he also enjoyed painting farmyard scenes as well. In 1865, four of Hill’s bird paintings were exhibited at the National Academy of Design, which was a prestigious opportunity. Sadly, true success never found Hill. He continued to paint and sell his paintings to make ends meet. Hill apparently painted Assassination of Lincoln in 1872, which was a subject quite different from most of his work. Whether it was commissioned or a piece Hill completed on his own is unknown. It was owned by an American Legion Post in Albany before it was donated to the Albany Institute of History and Art in 1961. It’s ownership prior to the American Legion Post is unknown. When a financial depression began in 1873, Hill  took to visiting the homes of well to do farmers, offering to paint scenes of their farm and livestock. He also used his six children to help him create an assembly line of painters. Howard and each of his children would each complete a select part of a painting allowing him to effectively mass produce paintings to sell. Though financial difficulties caused Howard to drink more, he was instrumental in teaching all of his children the art of painting. In 1886, Howard lost his wife and artist son within a span of four months. This increased his depression and for the next year he lived the life of a vagrant, moving from boardinghouse to boardinghouse and trying to get painting commissions for money. Howard Hill eventually died on March 6, 1888, likely from a stroke. He was buried in an unmarked grave next to his wife in Yonkers.

Though Howard Hill never achieved fame for his work as a painter, it seems that he did pass on a considerable talent. Howard’s daughter, Mary Ann “Nancy” Hill, learned how to paint from her father and she would pass that love of painting down to her son. That boy, Howard Hill’s grandson, was the great American painter, Norman Rockwell. Though Rockwell never knew his grandfather (Hill died 6 years before Rockwell was born), he still felt his grandfather’s work influenced him. Rockwell was quoted as saying, “I’m sure all the detail in my grandfather’s pictures had something to do with the way I’ve always painted. Right from the beginning I always strived to capture everything I saw as completely as possible.”

Other work by Howard Hill

References:
Albany Institute of History and Art
The biographical information on Howard Hill comes from American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell by Deborah Solomon

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Come See Me: Spring 2016

As much fun as it is to research and write here on BoothieBarn, there’s something special about being out in public and sharing aspects of the Lincoln assassination with others face to face. Today I had a wonderful time meeting and showing off a few of the Maryland sites of Booth’s escape route with D.C tour guide Rick Snider and his friend Dennis. Rick offers many tours in D.C., including a walking tour of Lincoln assassination sites.

Dave Taylor Rick Snider at Dent's Meadow

My afternoon with Rick and Dennis reminded me of some of the upcoming speaking events that I have in the next few weeks. Spring is the busy season when it comes to the assassination story and so the following are times and places when you can come out and heckle meet me in person. I always love chatting with folks and answering questions about this fascinating period of history.


Date: Saturday, March 19, 2016
Location: St. Charles High School, Waldorf, Maryland (5305 Piney Church Rd, Waldorf, MD 20602)
Time: 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Speech: Choose Your Own Path: The Lincoln Assassination
Sample CYOP Lincoln AssassinationSpeaker: Dave Taylor
Description: Over the last few weeks, I have been developing an interactive school program in the same style of the classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series. Like the book series, the text is written in second person point of view with the participants taking on the role of a member of Booth’s conspiracy. They are presented with the story of the Lincoln conspiracy and must make decisions to either help or hinder John Wilkes Booth’s plot. The presentation is filled with historical facts and will eventually include a Informational Packet for supplementary info about the people, places, and actions in the story. As part of the Charles County Public Schools’ HITS Expo (think combination History Day and Science Fair) I will be presenting a pilot version of this presentation from 12:00 until 1:00 pm in a classroom and will then be at an informational table for the remainder of the time. The event is open to the public and many other history and science presenters will be there includinh the Maryland Historical Society and rangers from Thomas Stone National Historic site.
Cost: Free

*Additional Event*
Want to make it a full day of events on March 19? After coming to see me in Waldorf, drive up to nearby Clinton and go to the Surratt House Museum at 4:00 pm. Author and blogger Paula Whitacre will be presenting her in depth research on Julia Wilbur, a member of the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society who lived in Alexandria and Washington D.C. during the Civil War. I was able to see Ms. Whitacre speak on the fascinating diaries of Julia Wilbur last year and used much of her research to write a couple of blog posts regarding Julia Wilbur’s Lincoln assassination experiences. For more information about Ms. Whitacre’s presentation, visit the Surratt House Museum website.


Date: Sunday, April 3, 2016
Location: Tudor Hall (17 Tudor Ln, Bel Air, MD 21015)
Time: 2:00 pm
Speech: Rosalie Booth: The Eldest Sister of John Wilkes Booth
Rosalie Booth speech promoSpeaker: Dave Taylor
Description: As part of Tudor Hall’s 2016 speaking series, I will be presenting about the often forgotten Booth sibling, Rosalie Booth, highlighting her life and contributions to the illustrious Booth family. More information can be found here.
Cost: $5.00 cash for the talk and a tour of Tudor Hall


Date: Saturday, April 23, 2016
Location: Surratt House Museum (9118 Brandywine Road, Clinton, MD 20735)
Time: 7:00 am – 7:00 pm
Speech: John Wilkes Booth Escape Route Bus Tour
Speaker: Dave Taylor
Description: I am the tour guide/narrator for this date’s John Wilkes Booth escape route bus tour. The approximately 12 hour bus trip documents the escape of the assassin through Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. It is pretty much a full day of me endlessly talking and telling you the story of Booth’s escape while you fall asleep on the bus after a delicious lunch at Captain Billy’s Crab House. It is hands down my favorite “speech” to give.
Cost: $85. Registration information can be found at: http://www.surrattmuseum.org/booth-escape-tour


Date: Sunday, April 24, 2016
Location: St Clement’s Island Museum (38370 Point Breeze Road, Coltons Point, MD 20626)
Time: 2:00 pm
Speech: The Forgotten Tragedy on the Potomac: The Collision of the USS Massachusetts and the Black Diamond
Speaker: Dave Taylor
Description: A memorial event is being planned to honor the 87 lives that were lost in the Potomac River when the USS Massachusetts struck the Black Diamond anchored off of St. Clement’s Island. I will speak on the event and how the tragedy was ultimately collateral damage from John Wilkes Booth’s crime. More information on the entire event will be published in the future.
Cost: Free


Date: Saturday, April 30, 2016
Location: Port Royal, Virginia
Time: 10:00 am
Speech: John Wilkes Booth’s Escape Through Virginia
Speaker: Dave Taylor
Description: A bus tour of the Virginia sites connected to the escape of John Wilkes Booth is being planned by Historic Port Royal with the hopes that assassination author Michael Kauffman will be the narrator. If he is unable to do it, I will be doing the tour. Either way, I will be on the tour bus and will likely be presenting a short skit at the Peyton House in Port Royal re-enacting Booth’s arrival. More information and an exact cost will be posted at: http://www.historicportroyal.net/events/
Cost: $65 (price is not definitive)


*Prime Heckling Opportunity*
Date: Sunday, May 1, 2016
Location: Tudor Hall (17 Tudor Ln, Bel Air, MD 21015)
Time: 2:00 pm
Speech: Junius Brutus Booth and Tudor Hall
Junius Tudor promoSpeaker: Jim Garrett
Description: Jim is a good friend of ours who is a tour guide for D.C.’s Old Town Trolley Tours. Jim’s co-written a couple books on the assassination and is a very lively speaker. He’s also a man in need of a good heckle. I hope to make it up to one of Jim’s talks at Tudor Hall and will have plenty of extra tomatoes if you would like to join me in throwing them at him. Jim will be a busy guy at Tudor Hall giving this Junius speech again on July 10th along with another speech on John Wilkes Booth on June 5th and August 7th. More information can be found here.
Cost: $5.00 cash for the talk and a tour of Tudor Hall


In addition to these scheduled talks and tours, I can also be found as a participant in other assassination related events. On April 14th, I will be attending a nighttime tour of Ford’s Theatre narrated by Manhunt author, James Swanson.

I am also available as a narrator for Booth escape route bus tour for private groups. You can contact the Surratt House Museum to make arrangements for your group and can request me as your tour guide.

You can also find a condensed version of my upcoming speaking engagements on the sidebar menu for desktop users and near the bottom of the page for mobile users. I hope to see you out in the real world sometime and thanks for all your support.

~Dave Taylor

Categories: News | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Alice Gray: An Actress is Born

As John Wilkes Booth was running from the authorities after assassinating President Abraham Lincoln, he carried with him a total of five carte-de-visite photographs. These photographs were placed safely in a wallet like pocket of Booth’s diary as he struggled through swamp and stream, darkness and dawn, for 12 long days. When Booth was finally cornered and killed on April 26, 1865, these photographs were removed from his dying body. A previous post highlighted how the process of identifying these ladies was a slow one that did not even commence until several years after the assassination. In the end, the women of Booth’s wallet were determined to be Lucy Hale, his fiancée, and four actress friends, Effie Germon, Helen Western, Fanny Brown, and Alice Gray.

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Though these actresses were each talented and respected during their careers, they have largely become footnotes to history. Their photographic presence on the body of the assassin has become the defining moment of their entire lives. For one of these actresses in particular, very little exists about her life outside of John Wilkes Booth. While Fanny Brown may have been dubbed “The Mysterious Beauty,” the truly mysterious and unknown beauty in Booth’s possession was Alice Gray.

While there is some biographical information readily available about Effie Germon, Helen Western, and Fanny Brown, the fourth actress in Booth’s pocket is a bit more elusive. The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, which contains copies of Booth’s CDVs, had this to say about Alice Gray when they highlighted the photographs in a post on their blog:

“Little is known about Alice Grey.  In 1858 she toured with Barry Sullivan and performed at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia in the early 1860s.  She appeared as Juliet opposite John Wilkes Booth as Romeo in Baltimore in 1863.  By 1865, she was a leading lady in the company at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where she again played opposite Booth in a production of The Apostate on March 18.  She was not at the theater the night of Lincoln’s assassination.”

With so little known about Alice Gray, an in depth search was enacted to discover more about the life and career of this forgotten lady.  The following biographical sketch was developed by consulting a variety of sources including digitized newspapers such as the Buffalo Courier, Baltimore Sun, New York Clipper and D.C.’s National Intelligencer. Further information was discovered using creative searches on Ancestry.com and in cemetery records. In all, it took several days’ worth of work to find and organize the material. This post is the first in a series about Alice Grey’s life, career, and connection to the Booth family. To read part two, Successful Partnerships click HERE.

Alice Gray

Part One: An Actress is Born

In order to find out about Alice Gray’s beginning, it was first necessary to look at her end. Initially, the only information found about her birth came from her later obituaries.  According to most of the obituaries, Alice Gray was born in Boston in 1833 to Irish parents. The more detailed obituaries also stated that she commenced her acting career when she was 16 years old by performing in the Federal Street Theatre in Boston. Numerous genealogical searches were conducted with this information to try and find out more about Alice Gray’s family. All were fruitless until one final obituary contained the partially blurred name of a brother in Cincinnati. The brother’s true name was discovered by searching an old Cincinnati directory, which led to his burial record, which gave the incorrect name of his father (which wasted a lot of time looking for and led me back dejectedly to the brother’s burial record) and correct name of his mother, which led me to Alice’s mother, which led me to the true identity of Alice Gray.

Alice Gray’s true name was Alice Dehan. According to census records, she was born in New York between June 16 – July 31, 1835. Her parents were Patrick and Ann Dehan who were both immigrants from Ireland.

1850 Census Alice Gray

I have been unable to find a record of the family living in Boston, but in the 1870 census Alice’s brother John gives his birthplace as Boston. This is a contradiction to the 1850 and 1860 censuses which give his birthplace as New York, however. If the family did live in Boston, it was for a short time. By 1850, the family was living in Livingston County, New York, near Buffalo. Alice’s father, Patrick, was a laborer and likely worked on the expansion of the Erie Canal. Patrick died sometime between 1850 and 1860, leaving his wife and two children without a means of support. It appears that it was after the death of her father that Alice, then around 16 years of age, began her career as an actress. She chose the stage name of Alice Gray and would be billed as such for the rest of life.

Metropolitan Theater advertisement 1855Since her family had settled near Buffalo, NY, it was appropriate for Alice to commence her career in that city. She was able to acquire a position at the recently opened Metropolitan Theatre.

A theater historian in Buffalo later recalled, “When she came to the Metropolitan Theatre in 1851 or ’52, she could neither read nor write, but she was naturally bright and advanced rapidly.” Alice must have started with minor roles as her name did not receive billing very often in the early years. If she was learning the craft it is likely that she merely acted in walk on roles and silent characters. It was not until 1854, that Alice’s name began to make appearances in the advertisements for the Metropolitan Theatre performances. Over the next few years she stayed at the Metropolitan, honing her craft and receiving larger and larger roles. In 1856 she met and acted alongside a visiting star named Mr. Edward Eddy. Though Eddy’s engagement at the Metropolitan was short, Gray made an impression on him. In the upcoming years, Eddy would keep in touch with Gray and provide her with further acting opportunities. By 1857, Alice Gray had graduated to the main stock actress for the Metropolitan Theatre, in which she was responsible for playing the leading female roles opposite the visiting stars.Edwin Booth circa 1860

In November of 1857, a young, 24 year-old star billed as, “The Wonder of the Age” made his first appearance at the Metropolitan Theatre. The noted star who was greeted with such fan fare was Edwin Booth. Though the weather was poor during Booth’s time in Buffalo, the theater was packed every night. This was not only good for Edwin, but also for Alice Gray who ably played alongside Booth as his female counterpart. The increased crowd at the Metropolitan allowed more of Buffalo’s theater patrons to see how much Alice Gray’s abilities had progressed over the last few years. These performances with a member off the Booth family would be the first of many for Alice Gray. In a few short years she would become extremely familiar with practically all acting members of the Booth family.

After Edwin departed Buffalo, the very next performance at the Metropolitan Theatre was a benefit in Alice Gray’s honor. Her performances with Edwin had clearly garnered her some more attention. The newspapers, in describing her benefit, gave kind, but realistic descriptions of Gray’s abilities:

“…the merit of of Miss Gray as an actress deserves to be substantially recognized. The steady improvement she has made since her first appearance in Buffalo, is acknowledged by all. She personates the leading female characters acceptably; is uniformly accurate in the text, and evinces care and study in the business of the stage. Her many friends should encourage and reward her efforts by their presence this evening.”

Gray was undoubtedly becoming a better actress, but had not yet achieved the talent of a star. She continued with the Metropolitan Theatre for the remainder of the 1857-1858 season with a small break in March of 1858 where she performed briefly at the Bowery Theatre in New York City. At that time, the Bowery Theatre was being leased by her friend Edward Eddy. The chance to act in New York City and possibly become a star performer on those elite stages was the dream of many actresses. While Alice Gray acted ably alongside Eddy and even received a benefit in her honor one night, once Eddy was finished leasing out the Bowery Theatre, Gray’s first foray in New York City was over.  While she had not been “discovered” by the New York City patrons, this experience would help her in the future. She returned home to Buffalo.

When the theatrical season of 1858-1859 was advertised, Alice Gray was given top billing as the leading lady of the Metropolitan Theatre once more. However, when the season debuted on September 20, 1858 and Gray took the stage for the first time as Lady Teazle in School for Scandal, she found herself faced with an agitated audience:

1858 Hissed from the stage Alice Gray

Gray must have been traumatized by this sudden betrayal of the audience. The same people who had supported her growth over the last few years were now hissing her from the stage. A newspaper from a few days later explained the reason:

1858 reason for hiss Alice Gray

As reported, Alice Gray had apparently made some enemies in the Buffalo theatrical world. The business then was just as cut-throat as it is today (if not more so). Perhaps the other actresses were jealous of Gray’s recent debut in New York City due to the generosity and assistance of Edward Eddy. Whatever the reason, the scheme against Alice Gray worked as planned. Whether by her own choice or the decision of the manager, Gray did not appear at the Metropolitan Theatre for the rest of the 1858 season. Coincidentally, she was replaced at first with “Mrs. J. B. Booth”. This was Clementina DeBar Booth, the first wife of Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. Though Mr. and Mrs. Booth were divorced due to Junius running off to California with another woman in 1851, Clementina kept the name and used it professionally. Not long after this, the gossip reported in the above article came to fruition when the manager of the Metropolitan Theatre had his own wife take over some of the main female roles.

After being shunned from the Metropolitan Theatre, Alice Gray made her way back to New York City, where she had briefly performed in March. At that point, her friend Edward Eddy had leased the Broadway Theatre for the season. Though the season had already begun and Eddy already had his stock company, he hired Alice Gray. She acted at the Broadway Theatre with the rest of the stock actors until the end of the season. She received very little press during her time at the Broadway Theatre and without good press and attention, it was practically impossible for a supernumerary to make it as a star. During the next season, Alice began to travel outside her home state of New York, perhaps hoping that good word of mouth from audiences in smaller cities would help her establish herself the next time she acted in New York City.

The beginning of the 1859 season found Alice in Charleston, South Carolina. She was the lead stock actress for the Charleston Theatre, an establishment which promised its public a diverse selection of entertainment. The theatrical portion of the season only lasted until November 12, 1859, which was a benefit performance for Henry B. Phillips, a Charleston native. Phillips was a well known actor who had toured the eastern states. He was also known for helping to coach novice actors and teach them the proper points and recitations.  In a few short years, H.B. Phillips would be hired by John T. Ford to be the acting manager of Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. In that capacity, Phillips sole job would be to train inexperienced actors on how not to make fools of themselves. For his benefit performance, Phillips choose two pieces, The Poor Gentleman, in which Alice Gray was billed as his leading lady, and the very popular comedy of the day, Our American Cousin. This would be Alice Gray’s first experience with the play, Our American Cousin, but, due to the events connected with it in the future, this performance would hardly be the most memorable. After the Phillips’ benefit in Charleston, the whole theatrical company traveled to Mobile, Alabama. In the mean time, the Charleston Theatre opened to an opera troupe while advertising its next, diverse entertainment offering to the public, stating that a “troupe of learned monkeys, goats, and dogs, will present themselves,” in the week to come.

Alice Gray found a welcoming audience in Mobile and her abilities were praised when she was given a benefit performance there:

1860 Nice review Alice Gray

The company stayed in Mobile until late March of 1860, when the Charleston Theatre reopened (hopefully after they cleaned up the mess from the “learned” monkeys, goats, and dogs) for theatrical events.  The headlining star for the reopening was none other than Edwin Booth. Though there were no advertisements billing him as the “The Wonder of the Age” as there were in Buffalo more than two years ago, he was nevertheless warmly welcomed by the Charleston public. Booth played at the Charleston Theatre until April 4th, likely teaming up once again with Alice Gray as his leading lady. Not long after his departure, however, Alice became sick. An article in the April 14th edition of the New York Clipper reported that Alice had “been quite ill” and “confined to her room for more than a week”. She recovered from her illness and finished up the rest of the season in Charleston but this would not be the first time that illness and other personal matters would preclude Alice from performing.

During the summer of 1860, Alice Gray made extra money by taking a little more than a week long summer engagement at Cleveland’s Academy of Music. For most performers, summers were the dry times. Most theaters closed down or engaged cheaper entertainments for the few patrons who would visit during the hot months. The few theaters that did engage actors at this time, however, generally did a wonderful job advertising them. Alice Gray received star billing in the Cleveland newspapers for her brief run with her name in the largest type size that she would ever see in her career:

1860 Star billing Alice Gray

As Alice Gray performed as a star in Cleveland, back home in Buffalo the census taker was knocking at her mother’s door for the 1860 census. Despite her almost year long absence in the South and Midwest, Alice’s mother included her daughter as a member of the household. Ann Dehan gave the census taker her daughter’s real name, Alice Dehan, and set in stone what she was going to be for the rest of her life: a “Theater Actress”.

1860 Census Alice Gray


This concludes part one of the series about Alice Gray’s life, career and connection to the Booth family. To read the second installment, “Successful Partnerships,” click HERE.

References:
Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination by Thomas Bogar
Additional research graciously provided by Thomas Bogar
American Tragedian: The Life of Edwin Booth by Dr. Daniel Watermeier
Edwin Booth: A Biography and Performance History by Arthur Bloom
John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day by Arthur Loux
Images of America: Ford’s Theatre by Brian Anderson for the Ford’s Theatre Society
Ford’s Theatre Society
Ancestry.com
Library of Congress
Newspaper extracts from: University of Illinois (free), FultonHistory.com (free), GenealogyBank.com (subscription)

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

What’s Missing? Episode 2

Once again it’s time to test your Boothie knowledge, resourcefulness, and observational skills with a game called, What’s Missing?

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Below you will find 20 images all related in some way to the Lincoln assassination story. Most of them have previously appeared on this website, either in the Picture Galleries or in one of the many posts. Your job is to look at the images carefully to see if you can determine “What’s Missing?” from the image. You can click on each image to enlarge it a bit and get a better look. When you’re stumped, or ready to check your answer, click on the “Answer” button below each image. Good luck!

What’s Missing A:

What's Missing A

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What’s Missing B:

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What’s Missing C:

What's Missing C

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What’s Missing D:

What's Missing D

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What’s Missing E:

What's Missing E

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What’s Missing F:

What's Missing F

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What’s Missing G:

What's Missing G

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What’s Missing H:

What's Missing H

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What’s Missing I:

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What’s Missing J:

What's Missing J

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What’s Missing K:

What's Missing K

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What’s Missing L:

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What’s Missing M:

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What’s Missing N:

What's Missing N

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What’s Missing O:

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What’s Missing P:

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What’s Missing Q:

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What’s Missing R:

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What’s Missing S:

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What’s Missing T:

What's Missing T

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So how did you do? Let us know in the comments section below.

Categories: Levity | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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