Abraham Lincoln Assassination Conspirator. She was born Mary Elizabeth Jenkins to a farming family in Prince George County, Maryland near what today is the town of Waterloo. Her education was above average for women of that time. Mary attended St. Mary's Catholic School in Alexandria, Virginia which was staffed by the Sisters of Charity. She was married at seventeen to John H. Surratt and they set up housekeeping on his Prince George County farm. After the house was destroyed by fire, her husband rebuilt at another location which today is Clinton, Maryland. The structure was a combination residence/ tavern and served as a post office for the area then known as Surrattsville. He died leaving her with three children, the debt ridden tavern and post office and the valuable property in Washington D.C. which would later become the ill-fated boardinghouse involved in the Lincoln murder. Her son John assumed the appointment as postmaster after the death of his father but was removed because of his known deep southern sympathies. It was later determined he had become a Confederate agent during the war operating as a courier in southern Maryland and Washington D.C. Unable to meet financial obligations, she rented the Maryland tavern to John Minchin Lloyd and relocated to her sole debt-free property at 541 H Street, Washington D.C. and opened a boarding house. John Lloyd would later give testimony at her trial which would be instrumental in her conviction. John Harrison helped his mother operate the facility while also consorting with other southern sympathizers who gathered at the boarding house for meetings. Following the Lincoln assassination, the house was searched as well as her rented tavern in Maryland. Taken into Federal custody, Mary was charged with complicity in the killing of President Lincoln. The federal government considered the Lincoln murder nothing more then post-Confederate continuance of the Civil War. The mood of the country was angry and vengeful, demanding swift apprehension and maximum justice. Any person under even the slightest hint of suspicion by association or circumstantial evidence was deemed guilty. Thusly...Mary Surratt was convicted by a military court, condemned to death. Her appeals were quickly denied. Her daughter went personally to the White House on the morning of the execution to plead with President Johnson. She was physically removed from the property by a Whitehouse official before any meeting could take place. Mary was hanged along with the other convicted and condemned. Her son John Harrison had escaped by fleeing to Canada, then Europe and after extradition and a trial was acquitted. Her body was kept in a vault until released to her daughter Anna four years after her hanging. She was buried in Washington's Mt Olivet Cemetery. Upon her children's death, daughter Anna and son Isaac were buried on each side of their mother. A small white stone was erected on the site. Epilogue: The boarding house owned by Mary Surratt still stands in Washington but is privately owned and today houses a Chinese restaurant in the Chinatown section of the city. However, the tavern built by her husband located at 9118 Brandywine Rd, Clinton Maryland was a safehouse during the civil war and used by the extensive Confederate underground operating in southern Maryland in which her son John was an agent. A museum today, it houses many mementoes and relics from the period. It is one of the places John Booth and his companion David Herold stopped for help. The inn keeper gave them a carbine and field glasses as they fled after the assassination. The structure was completely restored in 1976 and owned by The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission while aided by the Surratt Society which presents many programs and events pertaining to the Lincoln assassination and the taverns history.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield