of my favorite towns in Texas is
Granbury, the county seat of
Hood County, forty miles south of Fort
each time we visit, Doris and I always have lunch at a small restaurant on the
Granbury town square.
inside on one wall in the restaurant is a drawing of John Wilkes Booth, the man
who shot Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in 1865.
often wondered why the drawing was there until I read a book, “Unsolved Mysteries
of the Old West” by W.C. Jameson. |
In chapter 16, Jameson asks, “Did John
Wilkes Booth Die in Oklahoma?”
The assassination of Lincoln remains, even
after the passage of 146 years, one of the most controversial events in American
the early 1870s, a man who called himself John St. Helen went to Granbury
attorney Finis L Bates to defend him against the charge of operating an illegal
saloon in the nearby town of Glen
Several weeks later, St Helen moved to Granbury
and began writing a book about the Lincoln assassination. St. Helen confessed
to Bates that he was, indeed, Booth and gave Bates a tintype of Booth, saying
“This is me.”
told Bates that Vice President Andrew Johnson was the principal instigator of
Lincoln’s assassination, but Bates did not believe St. Helen.
months following St. Helen’s confession, Bates moved to Memphis and established
a successful legal practice.
In his spare time, Bates read everything
he could about the Lincoln murder and grew more convinced that St. Helen was,
indeed, John Wilkes Booth.
St. Helen, meanwhile, moved to Enid, Oklahoma,
and assumed the name of David E. George. In 1903 George died.
of George’s death in a newspaper and wondered if George might be the man he knew
as St. Helen. He went to Enid, Oklahoma, and located the undertaker in charge
of George’s funeral.
He held the old tintype of John St. Helen next to
George’s face. It was the same man.
Other aspects of George’s body cinched
the theory of him being Booth, including a ring worn by Booth and George and evidence
of a broken leg on the body of each man.
The body of Booth/George eventually
fell into the hands of a carnival owner, who went broke and placed the mummy in
a chair on his front porch and charged his neighbors a dime to see “the assassin
of Abraham Lincoln.”
The mummy eventually disappeared and, to this date,
no one knows its whereabouts.
7, 2011 Column
Bowman's East Texas >
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East