Where John Wilkes Booth Died; The Garrett Farm

John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin, would be aghast to see the spot where he met his end. After all, the vainglorious murderer scoffed at what he was told was the $140,000 price on his head. He thought it should be half a million.

The place where Booth died is as unsung as modernity can make it, a forgotten median, sandwiched between the north and southbound lanes of a divided, four-lane highway. Commuters and truckers speed by, wholly unaware that they’ve passed the location where the most famous manhunt in United States history came to a violent end.

Passersby can be excused for missing this landmark, though. All that’s there to tell what happened–and only on one side of the highway, no less–is a state historical marker some distance southwest of the spot. A hundred yards or so up the road there’s a shallow pull-off on the left shoulder. A trail leads into the densely wooded median. Nothing remains from the time of Booth’s death.

Garrett Farm John Wilkes Booth

 Garrett Farm John Wilkes Booth 2

As a matter of course, I’m aiming to chronicle with this project abandoned places of historic value where physical traces remain. The site of Booth’s death, however, raises a number of intriguing questions. Should we preserve, thereby honoring to some degree, history’s uglier episodes? What to do with sites that have fallen victim to progress, that are too far gone for any meaningful preservation? Foremost among my concerns: why did this happen to such a noteworthy spot?

Booth died on the front porch of Richard Garrett’s house, and the farmstead entered a downward spiral shortly afterward. The Garretts claimed that Booth’s death was foisted on them. They didn’t ask for that notoriety. It was simply a matter of wrong place, wrong time.

Booth, and later his accomplice Davey Herold, called on the Garretts seeking shelter. The Garretts’ farm just happened to be the first on the road between the tiny Virginia hamlets of Port Royal and Bowling Green. Booth had shot Lincoln ten days before. The same night Herold helped in the attempted murder of the Secretary of State. They were on the run. But the pair didn’t let on to that; they told the unsuspecting family they were former Confederate soldiers, cousins named Boyd, and the Garretts took them in.

“It has always been one principle of my religion to entertain strangers, especially any that seemed to be suffering,” Richard Henry Garrett later wrote in a letter to the editor of the New York Herald. Garrett was a deeply pious man, 55 when war broke out, too old for service, head of a household that included several children from two marriages and a 500-acre working farm called Locust Hill.

Nevertheless, when Booth sought shelter, the Garretts had a gut feeling that something was amiss, and the second night of Booth’s stay, they made Herold and him sleep in the tobacco barn. That’s where Federal soldiers caught up with the fugitives. Booth refused to give up (although Herold surrendered) so the soldiers lit the barn on fire. Still Booth refused to come out.

Against orders, and peering through the slats of the barn wall, a zealous sergeant named Boston Corbett shot Booth and severed his spine. Union soldiers carried the paralyzed Booth to the porch of the Garrett farmhouse where he expired several hours later.

Booth’s passing was just the beginning of the Garretts’ troubles, even though it may not have seemed like that at first. Garrett’s sister-in-law said the farm enjoyed notoriety for quite some time. “The blood spot where Booth’s head lay on the porch at Mr. Garrett’s has been visited by thousands of curiosity seekers and lovers,” Lucinda Holloway told and interviewer two decades after the capture. Holloway claimed that “a large some of money was offered for the plank where the blood spot was made,” although there’s evidence that Garrett didn’t sell off the wood.

Perhaps liquidating the blood-soaked lumber wouldn’t have done much to relieve the economic troubles imposed on Garrett with the whole affair anyway. Much of his livelihood went up in smoke that night with the tobacco barn. Shortly after the war Garrett petitioned the federal government to reimburse him for what he lost, a well-built barn “framed on heavy cedar posts…furnished with all the fixtures for curing tobacco,” and the long list of farm and personal items inside, which included a wheat-thrashing machine, two stoves and five hundred pounds each of fodder and hay. His total claim was $2,525. To put that in perspective, the pay of a private at the end of the Civil War was $192 a year.

Garrett was not a wealthy man. A couple of his neighbors swore under oath that Garrett had “a large and dependent family, and that he is in moderate circumstances.”

Lucinda Holloway claimed that the Booth’s capture “brought pecuniary ruin upon the entire family.”

Garrett pleaded with government officials. “I was opposed to secession and opposed to the war, thinking it unwise,” he said. He claimed to have once “administered to the wants of twelve wounded Federal soldiers, who had been captured and brought to my neighborhood in a suffering state.”

But a congressional committee on war claims had no mercy. A report on Garrett’s case doubted his claim that he didn’t know who Booth was until after the assassin was dead. Garrett “was undoubtedly disloyal,” the report claimed. His was a misfortune of war. He was “not entitled to any compensation.”

That night, something shook Garrett deep inside, too, and there seems to have been some emotional wounds he wasn’t ever able to repair. It might have been that the cavalry that showed up threatened to hang Garrett, whom they dragged out of the house half-naked at one in the morning, if he did not reveal where Booth and Herold were hiding. Garrett stammered incoherently, falsely claiming the men had gone off into the woods.

“From the effects of this exposure and brutal treatment,” recalled his sister-in-law, “Mr. Garrett never recovered, it bringing on disease which led to a premature grave.”

By 1878, Richard Garrett was dead, but a steady decline of his farmstead seems to have already been set in motion. Four years after Garrett’s death, one of his sons (also named Richard Garrett) wrote that a “lonely grave, a desolate and decaying homestead, a scattered family bear mute testimony to the wrong done us, not only by the government, but by our friends.”

What Richard Garrett the younger was referring to was that the family, despite that hordes of curiosity seekers descended on the old farm, seems to have been considered a pariah no matter which direction they turned. Northerners thought the Garretts somehow abetted in the death of Lincoln. Southerners, embittered by the loss of the war, perceived that they were Union sympathizers. The family, Richard Garrett’s statement suggests, went their separate ways.

Oddly enough, people still came in droves to stand where Booth died. “The place has been an object of interest every [sic] since the awful tragedy was enacted there,” the Caroline Sentinel reported in 1890. “The blood stains are still on the porch where Booth was laid when mortally wounded.”

Indeed, there was so much macabre fascination with Booth’s bloody demise that “Mr. Evans, representing an English syndicate,” buyer of the property in 1890, according to the Caroline Sentinel, planned to dismantle the house, ship it across the country and put it on display at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

That ambitious plan fell through for whatever reason, but it suggests (though doesn’t prove) that the house, 25 years after Booth died on the front porch, was no longer inhabited. Sometime around 1900, Alpheus and Fannie Rollins became owners of the former Garrett homestead. The farmhouse was still firmly in place. It’s unclear if anyone lived there after the turn of the 20th century, but scant photographs suggest the structure had been all but left to the elements.

A grainy, undated photograph taken no later than 1924 shows the house in a sad state of disrepair, window panes missing, paint faded and flaked unevenly off the clapboard siding.

A 1937 photograph from the Virginia Works Progress Administration Historical Inventory Project shows the Garrett house far beyond repair, all the windows and doors gone, the structure broken and sagging in the middle as if cleaved by an ax. The accompanying report further illustrates the decay, hastened no doubt by scavengers seeking souvenirs: “All the mantels have been taken away, and some of the doors and windows have been removed.”

In 1940, as the United States inched closer to war, the federal government acquired more than 75,000 acres in Caroline County for live-fire and maneuverability training, and the wasted farmhouse fell on the northeastern rim of the newly-created Fort A.P. Hill.

Two topographical maps–one from 1942 and another from 1952 suggest the last days of the Garrett house. A structure on what’s believed to be the site of the Garrett farm is marked on the former. On the latter, there’s no such symbol.

But if being forgotten is an insult to a place of historic significance, being paved over is perhaps one more degree of disrespect. Originally the Garrett house sat a short distance off the road. In the hours before the standoff, Davey Herold and Richard Garrett’s son John stood in the front yard and watched as a company of cavalrymen thundered by on the way to Bowling Green to follow a hot lead on the whereabouts of the assassins (not knowing they had just ridden right past them).

SAM_1191 - Copy      SAM_1189


This very same road was eventually paved and became U.S. Route 301. In 1964, what had been the two-lane road became the northbound lanes of 301. Construction workers graded and paved two more southbound lanes parallel to–north of–the existing road. The wide median, a stretch of land on which Richard Garrett’s farmhouse once stood, is now all woods and hemmed in by wide ribbons of asphalt. It’s probable that the site of the tobacco barn, 50 yards or so from the main house, the spot where federal soldiers finally caught up with their quarry, was graded into oblivion for the sake of two more lanes.

Follow the path that ducks inconspicuously into the median and you come to a clearing that seems like it’s visited occasionally. A sign warns of the stiff penalties for carting off relics (though there are none to be found). There’s standard roadside litter about: cracked concrete pipes, old plastic bottles. An iron pipe is driven deep in the ground. It’s somewhat underwhelming, and the sense that this seems just another spot along a busy, unremarkable road recalls John Wilkes Booth’s last words: “Useless, useless.”

Garrett Farm John Wilkes Booth 5      Garrett Farm John Wilkes Booth 6

About Ben Swenson

Ben lives in Williamsburg, Virginia. He is writing a book on places of historic value that have been forgotten and are being reclaimed by nature. Abandoned Country is a companion blog to that project. You can contact him at benswenson@cox.net
This entry was posted in Ghost towns, Military, Miscellaneous. Bookmark the permalink.

124 Responses to Where John Wilkes Booth Died; The Garrett Farm

  1. Doug Noble says:


    I enjoyed your articles very much. Especially this one on the Garrett Farm. It answered my curiosity directly, on how this place could be so forgotten and nothing much left of such a historic sight. Despite it’s notoriety. They certainly saved the School Book Depository.

    I wrote a historical novel, “The Year of the Ironclads” a few years ago. Not yet published. One chapter I thought would interest you involves the Confederate fortifications on nearby Jamestown Island. My parents live near you in Williamsburg.
    I am actually visiting in a couple weeks.

    But I thought one point of interest is the fortification where they have excavated the old colonial fort. You may remember this Civil War redoubt, in front of the ancient church tower. These forts were constructed under the supervision of Catesby Ap Rogers Jones as part of the river approach protection of Richmond.

    Jones with much desire to have command of a Confederate Vessel in the CSA Navy (Which of course hardly existed) got involved with the testing of the armor for the U.S.S. Virginia (The Merrimack). The testing occurred on Jamestown Island from either this fort, or one a bit further down the island. As you can imagine this was a top secret project. They fired on a mock casement, sloped and at the same thickness to test it’s strength. It met the Monitor on March 9th. Jones had been reassigned as the Virginia’s Second in Command, and when the Ships Commander became injured in the March 8th engagement with the USS Cumberland and USS Congress, Jones took command and was in charge during the Monitor engagement.

    The rest is history. I thought I would share this little story as it sounds like something you would be interested in.

    Doug Noble

    • Ben Swenson says:

      Thanks, Doug. Yes the saga of the Garrett Farm is what initially got me interested in disappearing history to begin with.

      I know of the fortifications at Jamestown but not of the site where the testing occurred. I will follow up on that.

      Please let me know about publication of your work. I’m interested in reading it.

      I’ve kept Civil War fortifications largely out of the posts here but have just completed an entire chapter about them in the book I’m writing. There are tons of them around here.

      Actually, I like the name Richard. It’s my father-in-law’s name and was a finalist for my son’s (it became his middle). You know what they say, anything but late for dinner…

      Thanks again for reading and for the comment.

      • J oe Vilga says:

        I know of 4 fortifications on Jamestown island as I lived on it one winter. If you follow the beach east of the church you will find a fortification facing the river that is only 1 sided. I wonder if it’s the one used for the testing. Just my 2 cents worth

    • Virginia (Davis) Bennett says:

      My Great Great Grandparents lived next door to the Garrett. William Jones and Sarah Wharton. Two of their sons were John Coleman Jones and Walter Scott Jones my Great Grandfather. The soldiers rode by and stopped to ask if they had seen anyone new in the area. I guess their land is laying in waste too. I haven’t seen the area yet. They moved to Texas years ago and ended up in Burleson Co TX. Thank you for sharing this story. I knew the general location and the Garrett lived next door, but didn’t have the exact location.

  2. Doug Noble says:

    My apologies “BEN”

  3. Marsha says:

    I loved reading this story, as a child I heard about this from my Paw Paw Garrett, he was one of the son’s of Richard Garrett, he would always tell us about the piece of wood in the trunk that had the blood of John Wilkes Booth on it. I can’t really remember seeing it but heard talk about it when ever we went to visit our Grandparents. I now have six Grandchildren of my own and love to tell this story, they like their parents before them tell this story when they study about Lincoln in School. It is sad to see just a little sign on the road when we go South along that path. Thanks … Marsha

    • Ben Swenson says:

      Thanks for the comment, Marsha. That’s terrific that you’re part of the Garrett family and even better yet that you are passing along your family history and lore to your grandchildren. I, too, find it sad that there isn’t more to acknowledge the vanished farmhouse where such an important episode took place.


      • Jill Garrett Tahmooressi says:

        Loved the article. Can you send me a link as I am a Garrett. My father, Gil Garrett related to Richard. He grew up in Bowling Green and I remember visiting my fathers Great- Aunt who took us to see the Garrett farm.

  4. Mike Burns says:

    Very interesting tale.
    Sad that such an important spot gets such little attention – no one is very anxious to want to seem to honor Booth in any manner it seems.
    If only Rolling Stone had been around to run his picture in 1865.
    I came upon this spot by accident taking the back, beautiful way to Williamsburg. I was shocked that the place of Booth’s capture received such little notice, but I guess neither north nor south has any desire to see Booth remembered.
    Still, the history should not simply be flushed done Orwell’s memory hole.
    Worth stopping just to remember what that night must have been like.

    • David Robert says:

      Mike, do you have ant tips on how to find the spot? I am looking for it this week. David

    • Laurie Verge says:

      I’m a little late joining this conversation, but I just had to add that I am director of the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, MD – a site with close ties to the Lincoln assassination (and the first place that Booth stopped after leaving D.C.). Since 1977, we have been educating the public to this history and to the Booth escape route. We sponsor at least eight bus tours a year (and as many as 25) over the route, with the anticlimactic ending standing in the median strip of a major U.S. highway as our historian/narrator describes the final days of John Wilkes Booth. To date, over 10,000 visitors have taken this tour and enjoyed the history – and regretted that the Garrett farmhouse was lost.

  5. Peggy Cochran says:

    Being from Southern Maryland I have always been interested in Civil War History. And, of course we wore the gray!
    My Great-Grandfather was a surgeon during that time, but was only in the war from March 1863 until 1865… Anyway, I have read everything I can on John Wilkes Booth escape and some accounts contradict that he was actually killed there…It is my opinion, that it’s up to whatever You believe…
    I also wish that there was more to see at that site as I’ve been past it going through VA…

    • Jim Battaglia says:

      Peggy – you might be interested in reading “Assassination of Lincoln: A History of the Great Conspiracy!” The writer, Thomas Mealey (Maley) Harris, was published in 1892, 27 yrs. after the assassination. Not an easy read, but riveting! T.M. Harris was a member of the Military Commission, charged with prosecuting the conspirators. His perspective, is quite convincing. I have read much of the transcripts of testimonies given, and have drawn my own conclusions, which Mealey’s book locked it in for me! Just a couple of bucks and it can be on your Kindle! Ha! If you haven’t read it, I’d be interested in your views afterwards!

      Mealey was also a surgeon during the civil war! I love this discussion!

      • Peggy Cochran says:

        “Thank you”, Jim… The book you mentioned sounds like a “good” read….I will have to check it out and let you know….

  6. David Orr says:

    What a fine article. I would be happy to read more by this writer.

  7. Richard Bowers says:

    Hi Ben, I enjoyed reading your story. When I was six years old my Grandmother, Sallie Smith Jones Collins told me that we were related to the Garrett family and I never knew her to tell a fib.

  8. Peggy Cochran says:

    Yes, wish there was more to see of Garrett Farm….In the rush to catch John Wilkes Booth have often wondered if they got the “right man?”… Then history again repeated itself with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and I believe along with others that this was a massive cover up….Quick again to get things wrapped up and put the blame on Lee Harvey Oswald….

  9. wm strickland says:

    why was booth shot and allowed to die? was someone worried that he would name names of who and why linclon was shot .

    note the man who shot Booth ended his days living in a hole he dug in Kanasa .alone and avoided . did a guilt complex haunt him

    • Peggy Cochran says:

      William, I honestly think Booth escaped and someone else was shot in his place. David Herold kept telling them that it was not Booth, but they shut him up and he still ended up hanging…..It was Rudy that was shot, Cox’s hired man…Read “David E. Herold” His True Confession by Cristina Bryan. or visit http://www.barclaybryan.com….The whole investigation was a “big coverup”…

  10. Jim Battaglia says:

    Almost anyone can tell you that it was John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Lincoln, but hardly anyone would be able to tell you that it was Thomas “Boston” Corbett who shot Booth! I live in Southern Maryland and have visited many of the sites that Booth and Herold visited on their journey through Southern Maryland, and into Virginia, near Port Royal. I served as a consultant on renovations of Dr. Mudd’s house, and on Rich Hill. I think that Mr. Strickland eludes to a bigger conspiracy, that I find interesting. I have been a reader of all things relating to the assassination of Lincoln. Little tidbits, here and there, do raise some questions that might lead you to think of the possibility of a larger conspiracy! I’m glad I stumble onto this page! Jim

    • Peggy Cochran says:

      Sounds like you had a neat job, Jim… I was over at the Farmer’s Market in Charlotte Hall about three weeks ago and someone was selling a sofa/daybed that looked like it was of the same vintage as the one in Dr. Mudd’s House that he’d fixed Booth’s leg on….

  11. Brant Neer says:

    Richard Garrett’s daughter Cecilia F. was raised in Lexington MO by her Uncle, William P. Boulware and his wife Deborah F. Boulware. She was sent to Missouri after the death of her mother Elizabeth Garrett, Dr. Boulware’s sister in 1850, at that time being 12 years old. Later she married John Neill and lived out her life in Lafayette County MO. She is buried at Higginsville MO.

  12. Jim Battaglia says:

    Oddly enough, just last week’s Maryland Independent newspaper had an article about financing the restoration of Rich Hill! The Vallario family donated the site, and the president of the College of Southern Maryland, Brad Gottfried, was the one to make the suggestion that this site be preserved! This is right up the alley of “Abandoned Country!” I’m glad to see this happen…the place is so run down and is of such historic significance! It’s a part of history…good or bad. I can’t wait to see the progress!

    • Peggy Cochran says:

      Yes, I agree with you Jim that it would be neat to have “Rich Hill” restored. I’m from Calvert County and I think it is the same Vallario family that lives across from my brother on Broomes Island Road and has horses….

  13. Goldie McCloud Johnson says:

    Greetings…I was researching the 1865 “Sultana” fire-loss of life; I was prompted “see your Garrett’s and John W. Booth”…
    My Great Grandmother is of the Garrett kin of Buckingham, Cumberland and French lands/Manikin, VA (Bowling Green and Port Royal was part of these lands 1600-1800), there are several Richard Garrett’s in this line…My daughter has worked on this quest “how do we connect this Garrett farm and family; Booth knew Richard and I found the source…Thanks for all of the above info; yes “a cover is a cover”…
    I am spending the last part of this journey “heart-breast cancer (3 surg. -ect) I enjoyed visiting and reading all….Thank You, Love In Christ

    • Peggy Cochran says:

      That’s “very interesting” Goldie! Doesn’t surprise me that Booth knew Garrett….Just like he’d met Dr. Mudd before….Take care of yourself….I just had lung surgery in May and am recovering from that….

    • Ben Swenson says:


      Thanks for reading and for the comment. Your best bet to research a connection between the Garretts of Caroline and Garretts near Manakin would be a book called Garrett History: History of the Garrett Family of Essex and Caroline Counties of Virginia, Beginning with William Garrett, born 1752.

      The book is available online. You can find it by going to Hathi Trust Digital Library at hathitrust.org and typing in most or all of that title above.

      Thanks again for reading.


  14. Skip Shaffer says:

    What is the status now of the median strip location at the Garrett farmhouse site? I understand the the Army has rendered it inaccessible. When I drove by last week, I believe that the signage on the median was removed. although the sign by the slow lane on the NE lane is still there.

    • Ben Swenson says:


      Thanks for reading and for the comment.

      I haven’t been by there lately although it’s likely I’ll get a chance to pass within a few weeks or so. If no one else chimes in by then, I’ll reply after that.


  15. Charles Rollins says:

    I enjoyed your article and wanted to provide a very small bit of information. My great grandparents were Alpheus( Not Alfred) and Fannie Rollins who you mentioned in your article. I understand from my father that after they purchased the property people would come buy wanting to see the spot where Booth has supposedly died. They found it to be a nuisance. They sold bloody boards to whoever came by that supposedly came from the front porch of the house.(The boards made the family some extra cash but did not come from the from porch). My father also mention that the barn area was cleaned up and materials not damaged by the fire were reused by his family after they purchased the property. My father would have been 100 year old last week and he would had enjoyed your article.

    • Ben Swenson says:


      Thanks very much for sharing your recollections. It’s remarkable to me that even though people have been making trips to see this significant spot in great numbers (as I’m sure your great-grandparents could have confirmed) there was never any effort to preserve it. I have made the correction to your great-grandfather’s name. I appreciate you pointing that out.

      Thanks again for your thoughts.


  16. Mark Shafer says:

    Thank you for sharing facts on where the Garrett farmhouse is located. Ever since I was a young boy, I had always wanted to visit the location; I’m sure to do this in the near future as I approach retirement. In my opinion, the barn is just as important as the farmhouse, has anyone tried to locate it? Mark Shafer

    • Ben Swenson says:


      Given the number of folks who are interested in the Lincoln assassination, I’m sure someone at some point has looked for the barn. Although I’m no expert on the manhunt for Booth, I’ve heard from others who know more about the subject that the site of the barn would have been compromised by the construction of the southbound lanes. I can’t substantiate that claim, however, and have never tried to figure out the location myself. Thanks for reading.


  17. Mike says:

    Drove by the area today. The EP-20 marker has been removed.. White plastic columns added to reduce the left shoulder. There is now a chain across the path and more signs for “US Property” and stiff penalties for trespassing on the median. Looking towards where the clearing might be (I’ve never been there), there looks to be orange plastic construction netting around something. Anyone know why the area is on lockdown? Vandalism maybe?

    • Mike says:

      Doing some google search turned up an AP Hill newsletter saying a cleanup was done for national public lands day in collaboration with a local museum. That must explain the orange netting if they cleared and cut down brush. Perhaps with the local museum, a better way to visit the sight will be imagined..

      • Ben Swenson says:

        Thanks for the comments, Mike. Yes, I recently noticed the new barriers, too. Like you say, hopefully they’re temporary until something better comes along. Even with the barriers I have a feeling that people will still visit. I don’t advocate that by any stretch; trespassing is trespassing. But in the past the die-hards who want to pay tribute to this singular spot have always found a way to do that.


      • Peggy says:

        It would be nice to have some kind of a marker or small visitor center or museum just to mark where Booth was killed….We all know that he will not go down in history as a martyr…But, just the same “it is still part of civil war history”…

  18. Carl says:

    Is THIS GARRETT related to the makers of GARRETT SNUFF ?

  19. Mike says:

    How do u get to were Booth died in the woods were the Historical Marker? I’ve tried but couldn’t find it.

  20. Andrea says:

    Thanks for the history! I’ve developed an interest in the Lincoln assassination since my brother married a descendent of Dr. Samuel Mudd. It’s a sad and tangled story no matter which way you look at it.

    I would suspect that the reason the place isn’t better preserved is because it’s been such a contentious thing for so long. I can’t imagine getting funding for any kind of memorial, not without there being protests and angry letters and roadblocks the whole way. You would have a whole wing of crazy people trying to whitewash Booth (and condemn the Garretts), and another wing of crazy people trying to make Booth out to be a soulless monster (and still condemn the Garretts). It’s that all-too-human knack for bearing grudges, and blowing things way out of proportion.

    Which is sad, but there you go. Here’s hoping someday clearer heads will prevail.

    • Brant says:

      I have a keen interest in Port Royal VA. The Boulware family lived there and their daughter was Garretts first wife. When she died in about 1850 Garrett sent his daughter Cecelia to Lexington Mo to live with her Uncle William Boulware. We live in their house. I have contacted Port Royal but they couldn’t provide anything on the Muscoe Boulware family. William Boulwares wife was Deborah Fleetwood Bryant. Cecelia Fleetwood Garrett/Neill is buried here in Lafayette County MO.

      • Peggy Cochran says:

        That is interesting….I live in Southern Maryland and my husband and I like to take day trips and usually end up across the Potomac River Bridge and into Virginia and I like Port Royal….It looks like some of the old homes there are being restored and I want to go back when the weather is warmer and do some more research….”Lots of civil war history there”…

        • Brant says:

          If on one of your trips you should have the time please look at Port Royal’s historical collection on early residents. The family name was Boulware. The patriarch known to me was Muscoe Boulware. His son my Lexington connection was born in 1812 and came to Missouri in about 1840, that was Dr. William P. Boulware. His sister I believe her name was Elizabeth(I don’t have it in front of me) was Richard Garrett’s first wife. At her time of death Richard sent the daughter Cecelia 12yrs. old to Missouri. Any help in Port Royal would be appreciated.

          • Peggy Cochran says:

            I probably won’t be back there until it warms up again in the Spring….But, will see what I can do!

          • Carol Donohue says:

            Brant, this is Carol Garrett Donohue, a great, great grand-daughter of Richard Henry’s. I’m wondering if you ever found any of the information you were searching for on the Boulwares? There are a few pages in the Garrett book about them, along with a couple of pictures (not Muscoe, unfortunately!) If you haven’t seen the book online, I can scan the pages and send them to you.

            • Brant says:

              Carol, please send me any Boulware family information you have available. Thanks so much for contacting me. I have been meaning to visit Cecelia Fleetwood Garrett/Boulwares grave for sometime. I’ll take a picture of that and send it to you if you would like.

              • Carol Donohue says:

                Will do, Brant! Is the “embarque” address a good one to send it to? And yes, I would love to have the picture of Cecelia’s gravesite!

              • Carol Donohue says:

                Hi, Brant. How can I reach you with the information I have on the Boulware family? Is your embarque mail address a good one to use?

                • Brant says:

                  Carol that address is fine. Thanks so much for the information,we enjoy every bit of history on that family we can get. Colors in the picture of their lives.

      • Nancy says:

        Hi, hope you remember me. I am Richard Henry Garrett’s ggg great daughter, it was him, William Henry, Bennie, my mother and father and me. You sent me photos of the house in Lexington, Mo. Still have them and trying to do genealogy work I believe I have a little info on Musco. Will try to find. You and your wife sold real estate.

  21. Leroy Brown says:

    JWB, did not die in the barn as stories say! He changed his name to John St.Helen, made his way to enid Oklahoma, where he worked at the Garfield furniture store, he rented a room on an upper level that was just a 1 room, apt. he took so poison, I found thsi out when I watched Ghost lab, the Kling brothers did, they trailed JWB to this building! Brad Kling went ballistic, when they reviewed EVP’S, 1 of them said, “I AM JOHN WILKES BOOTH”! So the stories, and the renactments saying he died here in Va. are totally wrong!

    • Peggy Cochran says:

      “Yes”, I have heard that story before and read everything I can get my hands on about J.W. Booth…However, Michael W. Kauffman that wrote “American Brutus” John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies is adamant that it was Booth that was killed at Garrett Farm…I attended his book signing at Calvert Library in Prince Frederick, MD a couple of years ago and he did not wish to be challenged on it and said he had done extensive research….”Who knows for sure?”

  22. Doug Easterly says:

    I visited the site in around April 2008 when I was in the area. The Port Royal Tavern had just reopened on St Patricks Day that year and I had a nice lunch on an overcast, misty, light rain day. There were no barriers or anything, just pull off the left side (back then plenty of room) and walk about a hundred yards to the site. I recall a marker there by Daughters of the Confederacy. I also noted the iron pipe driven into the ground but there was no marker indicating the significance of that pipe (assume it was the presumed spot of his body on the porch?). Always wondered why the farmhouse wasn’t preserved, but watching a cable history channel tape of that days events at Appomattox on evening of April 9, 2015 (150th!), one of the speakers did make reference to the fact Appomattox wasn’t declared a national historic site until 1950!! With the historic charm of Port Royal and the need for some tourism boost in that area, it would be beneficial for the Federal Govt or State of Virginia to erected a visitors museum in a recreated farmhouse in the median, accessible by northbound and southbound Rt. 301 traffic. Fort A.P> hill will never need or use the median and it has nothing to do with security. It can cede that to the state or federal government. After 150 years, it is time!!

  23. Doug Easterly says:

    I have pictures I took that day of the site on one of my photo card “chips” – what email address would I forward them to to be posted to this site? I also suggest anyone visiting the area drive around the streets on the northbound Rt. 301 side in Port Royal near the river to see some awesome historic architecture and remnants of the “old South”…Also I have a book I bought as a grade schooler (yes, I have been a Lincoln assassination buff since that time) called the “Lincoln Conspiracy” (don’t believe the theories at all) but it has two pictures of the farmhouse – one taken back around the hoopla and one taken years later as it was not in the state of deterioration that is shown in the WPA 1937 photo from my analysis. I could send those too to a given email address to be posted. I am trying to get down to Fords Theater, Peterson House and Port Royal Va this coming weekend, just after the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln assassination. Booth died the early morning hours of April 26, 1865 I believe.

    • Peggy Cochran says:


      I would love to see the pictures you have of the old Garrett Farmhouse…My husband and I have driven around Port Royal near the river and it is very interesting… I have been to Ford’s Theater back in the 80’s and went to Clinton to Surratt’s Tavern (Mary Surratt) and went on the tour there…Recently, went over to Port Tobacco in Charles County (but the old courthouse was closed that day)…That area is where George A. Atzerodt had a carriage shop along with his brother…Then we found “Rich Hill” where Booth had camped out before fleeing across the Potomac with David Herold… There is lots of history in Southern Maryland….

  24. Pingback: Interesting Perspective on the End of John Wilkes Booth | Kindred Logic Genealogy

  25. Sean corrigan says:

    I would suggest those interested turn off of 301 in port royal and onto King Street! King street ends at the water where there once was a large L shaped pier where the ferry came across the river! This is where Booth and Herold crossed into Port Royal!
    A few houses up from the wharf is the Peyton house which is still standing!!! Booth had tea there in the parlor until Mrs Peyton told them to go as the man of the house wasnt home! Alledgedly Peyton directed Booth to the Garrett home which was about two miles north of town!
    The Garrett house site is in the median of route 301! The barn site was paved over by the southbound lanes of 301! Be careful if you stop as there have been many accidents there and some have been struck by traffic!! Sadly the Historical marker has been stolen and replaced many times!!
    Thanks for the article and all the comments! Enjoyable reading

    • Peggy Cochran says:

      Thank you for the information about Port Royal….I will have to check it out when my husband and I are down there again! Didn’t they cross over the Rappahanock also from Port Conway into Port Royal? I thought I had read that somewhere…

    • Brant says:

      Still hoping someone will turn up the Muscoe Boulware family in Port Royal. His daughter was Garrett’s first wife. Boulware’s son came to Lexington MO in 1840 and ended up raising Garrett’s daughter Cecelia.

  26. Sean corrigan says:

    Port Conway is what they called the other side of the river from Port Royal. James Madison was born in Port Conway while it was part of the Virginia Colony!
    Thanks for all the posts! I learn a little each time!!

    • Sean corrigan says:

      I have confirmed that the Historical sign for Booth’s death site was indeed STOLEN! Va is having a new sign made but the wording we will be different!

  27. Janie says:

    Glad to have finally learned of this marked spot watching Maryland Public TV recently that featured details of Lincoln’s assassination around/about the anniversary date of same in April. I have apparently passed it dozens of times visiting my now (unfortunately) deceased but very dear brother Paul Byrnes in Mechanicsville, VA. I’m sure I would have stopped had I known about it sooner, but I do understand that neither the north or the south would deem Booth’s place of death something that should be noted favorably. But at least now I know and I will look for it if and when I ever drive north from Mechanicsville on Route 301 again. Not likely.

  28. Paul says:

    Very masterful piece of writing, indeed! Thank you for sharing, Ben. I can hardly wait to read more of your articles. You have a real talent for bringing the past back to life. I’ve stopped here several times over the years…and will do so again with renewed enthusiasm after reading this treasure!

  29. vernonchism says:

    why don’t the reconstruct the house and too show people what it used to look and the barn what a waste very important part of history.

  30. Rachel says:

    This was a great information read. Richard Garrett was my uncle, by 5 greats. The name has been passed down and ended with my father when he died. And if I have a son, Garrett will most likely be in the name as well. So interesting to read how nothing was left of the property, and hope to see it one day. Thank you for the history on my family!

  31. Kelly McPherson says:

    I just recently started looking into my ancestry and find it interesting that my grandmother Nancy Mayberry came from Appomattox and her mom Kate Garrett Coplin Mayberrys parents were Richard Garrett and Hallie Wilks Garrett. Makes one wonder 🙂

    • Peggy Cochran says:

      That is very interesting….You should do further research on the subject….I think Richard Garrett was one of the son’s of my memory is correct….Anyway, the mother was deceased at the time John Wilkes Booth spend the night there and it was just the father and the two sons…

      • Brant says:

        I guess that Richard Garrett outlived his second wife. His first was Elizabeth Boulware. Her family lived in Port Royal. She died in 1852 I believe. Their daughter Cecelia was sent to Lexington MO at that time to live with her uncle Dr. William P. Boulware.

        • Peggy Cochran says:

          “Yes” I think I read that somewhere on here before….Lucky for his daughter, that she was not involved or witnessed all that….As, it would have been “pretty traumatic”…but, she could have lived to tell about it….

  32. Bill Rowland says:

    Great article on the Garrett Farm…and great ‘replies’ by others. Stopped by this site many times enroute from Buckingham Co Va toPGCo Md……always a heart-pounding experience for me. My thoughts are that Ft. A.P.Hill could simply shut the whole thing down by posting ‘NO PARKING’ signs every 3feet and could remove the State Hx marker…….perhaps it’s a compromise on their part. Anyone seeking out this site should be cautioned that it’srisky crossing the highway from the right shoulder and perhaps even more so parking on the left.

  33. Bill Rowland says:

    Ben……..you may already know of this ‘site’…if not enjoy: BOOTHIEBARN.COM

  34. Jerry Dunford says:

    Yes, I echo the shame that the Garrett House and the barn do not exist today. As to the many who cannot find the time to read and study the historical facts, eye wittness statements and much more, and accept that Yes, Lee Harvey Oswald did shoot and kill JFK, and was shot and killed by Jack Ruby, were their others involved, don’t know.
    And yes, John Wilkes Booth did shoot and kill AL, and was shot and killed by Thomas Corbett, and that he JWB, is still in his family grave in Greenmount Cemetery
    in Baltimore. Stop with the conspiracy, make believe non-sense, Americans should be better than this.

  35. Elise says:

    Very interesting article and a shame how some historical buildings are just allowed to rot and then just torn down instead of preserving them. My mother was a Boulware, from Bowling Green, and her her great aunt married a Garrett.

  36. patrick O'Reilly says:

    A sigficant contribution of this article is the significant amount of COMMENT generated. As one might expect, those citizens who were inadvertantly immersed in the John Wilkes Booth saga endured a horrible fate. Mary Surratt housed Booth during his escape, quite likely under duress or threat of harm. She was quickly found guilty of treason and hanged. Dr. Sam Mudd was likely forced to set the broken leg of Booth. Mudd was convicted of the high crime of treason and sent to prison. The aftermath of the capture of Booth at the Garrett Farm resululted in all kinds of hatred and torment directed at members of the large Garrett family. Some sought to escapethis life-altering circumstance by changing their name and moving away. This brings us to the story about Ezra Warden VanAtta, now deceased, who claimed that his great-grandfather changed his name from Garrett to VanAtta and moved from Bowling Green, VA to Pennsylvania. Like many his age, young Ezra went off to WWII and ended up in Huntington, West Virginia upon release from service. He met a beautiful nursing student at St.Mary’s Hospital. Her name was Agnes Cronin from Richwood, Nicholas , West Virginia. You could tell she was Catholic because they went on to marry and produce 14 children in the town of St Albans, WV. Ezra worked as a pipe fitter at the huge Union Carbide complex in South Charleston.His earnings were enhanced by participating in the sport of golf………. He never played a round but made lots of money by his invention of a tool to retrieve golf balls from the ponds at Big Bend Golf Course. Over 50 years how many balls do you think he retrieved and sold? Ezra was a well-known civil war story teller and the capture of John Wilkes Booth at his ancestors’ farmhouse was a featured story.The history lesson is carried on by Van Atta child #6,Patrick.He is now doing research to verify the conection of his ancestors to the capture of John Wilkes Booth…….. I’m thinking of fabricating a board with red paint on it to simulate the one from the Garrett porch containing the blood of John Wilkes Booth. When he sells his house it could be an inducement for a prospective buyer who is a civil war history buff!

  37. Kimmy says:

    This was a very nice article I have enjoyed reading this and can’t stop thinking about it and I hope that someday I may be able to visit the Garrett farm and maybe even make my own good history there of stepping on that land God loves Lincoln very much and especially for all he has done for his country thank you so much for this article and I leave you with all sorts of good luck to look forward to in your life

  38. katy says:

    I really enjoyed this, great description of the history of the Garretts’s. I am distantly related to them & was searching the Internet for information. My mom is buried in Bowling Green Cemetery with the Garrett & the LaFoe’s who are all related.

  39. Alan Wise says:

    Is there a location that is within the limits of Fort AP Hill? Reason I ask, is that I know someone who works there and there is some “area” that has not been open to the public… just wondering what that location could be

    • Tim Lanahan says:

      No – the site of the Garrett Farm is in the median strip of route 301 just a little south of Fort A.P. Hill. There is nothing there really. The old farm house is long gone but you can pictures online. When 301 was built up to a divided highway the southbound lanes were built right over the area where the barn was and where Booth died.
      A few miles south in the town of Port Royal still stands a house where Booth stopped after crossing the river on the edge of town. It is one block north of route 301. That is the only visible building remnant I saw where Booth had been very close to his death site. There are a few places a little North before crossing into Maryland. Once in Maryland there are several old buildings associated with Booth and his escape route.

      • Tim Lanahan says:

        Sorry meant to say The Garrett Farm is a little north of Fort AP Hill. There is NO historical site to my knowledge on Fort AP Hill concerning Booth. The federal troops did go to the town of Bowling Green which is south of AP Hill and the old hotel they entered is also gone.

  40. Henry Belch says:

    Does the hunting and killing of Booth replicate the hunting and killing of Osama bin Laden?

  41. Peggy Cochran says:

    Yes, it is a great shame that it was not preserved as part of the Civil War History of the region…

  42. Jerryd says:

    I would like to reply to several comments, but before I do may I share some historical; facts.

    1. Abraham Lincoln was not a Good, Honorable man, he in fact was a war criminal of the worse kind, so please know this. In Feb. 1864, He permitted Brig. General Judson Kilpatrick and Col. Ulric Dahlgren to lead a raiding party of more than 4000 men, to achieve several tasks. Free Northern prisoners in Richmond, Burn Richmond, and Capture and or kill Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his entire cabinet, it failed, Kilpatrick escaped, Dahlgren was killed in King and Queen County. Lincoln was a murderer, a proponent of assassinations, and a war criminal who did not like blacks. Please read ” The Real Lincoln ” and many other facts about this rotten man.

    2. Henry Belch, Absolutely NO, John Wilkes Booth killed Lincoln, but did he kill thousands of innocent civilians in a dastardly muli plane terrorist attack, how could you think this is comparable.

    3. Lincoln never met with the Southern representatives to negotiate any type of treaty, or compromise, who would start a war against their own citizens without doing all the talking, meeting and such to prevent this first, and why is that, because the war was not because of slavery, it was to accomplish several things.
    A. To form a Central type of Federal government and to reduce the strength of the individual states.
    B. To end States rights.
    C. To continuing the unfair tariffs on the Southern ports.
    Slavery would have ended on it’s own economical flaws in 30-50 years or less had no war occurred, and to kill and maim more than 600,000 Americans, to rape, burn homes, loot and steal the private property and to kill Southern civilians was inhumane, Lincoln allowed this. John Wilkes Booth was an enraged man, and did to Lincoln what Lincoln did to others.

    • Peggy Cochran says:

      He was certainly not a favorite in Southern Maryland either…Farms and people’s livelihoods were ruined after The Civil War…

      • Will says:

        Have thoroughly enjoyed this reading, was all brought on by the advertisement for a bed (iron) that was from the Garrett Farm. It was mentioned in the estate sale ad. The sale is 4/22 & 23 , 419 Bushfield Rd. Montross, Va. 8-4. Wonder how it will be proven. Thanks.

    • ELAINE says:


    • ELAINE says:


  43. Mike says:

    Here is the Google Streetview of the marker (not sure if its still there)


    It’s only viewable on the North Bound lanes

    The location that is supposedly very close to where the actual building was is
    N 38° 08.441 W 077° 13.701

  44. kevin mccallon says:

    My great grandmother was Birtha Shelton maiden name was Garret she died in the 1960,s but my mother said that somebody in the family had a lock of hair of john wilkes booth.She was from some where near Richmond Virginia.my name is kevin mccallon.from fla.

  45. Pingback: Last Stand » Twelve Mile Circle » maps, geography, travel

  46. Marissa says:

    My sister and I have been doing our family tree and Richard Garrett is our 6th great grandpa. This was amazing to find out. Very interesting. I’d like to know lots more about the Garrett farm.

    • tim Lanahan says:

      There are some good photos of the Garrett farm online. The northbound lanes of Route 301 was the old dirt horsepath and wagon road that went past the fromt of the farmhouse. The southbound lanes of route 301 were paved over the barn location. The federal troops destroyed most of the farm equipment in the barn fire leaving the Garrett family in very bad situation.
      If you look one block south of the present day route 301 bridge in Port Royal this is where the ferry landing was and the main street during the 1800s. Some of the old homes and buildings are still standing. One of the homes near the ferry landing was visited by Booth and I was told it is currently being restored. There is nothing left of the Garrett farm. It is now just part of the median strip of Route 301 and nothing is there to view.

  47. Bill Young (see Gen. Sam Young, my first cousin twice removed, many years US Cavalry in the area says:

    I like the story about JWB dying in Texas and the guy in the barn fire being the hired man who slept in that barn. DNA would solve both ideas. Those old relatives bodies would have intact DNA and the question could be resolved the same as the claims of others such as Billy the Kid were resolved. See Gen. Sam Young, my family, many years US Cavalry in the area. He was in service with and a hunting partner of Theodore Roosevelt and Quanah Parker. (See pictures pgs 342 and 372 ROADSIDE HISTORY OF TEXAS by Leon Metz).

    A dying settler in Glen Rose Texas in the 1870’s called John St. Helen confessed to being JWB. He lived in a retirement area with active health treatment waters and had body wounds to match his claim. He recovered and later killed himself.

  48. Ralph Stallsworth says:

    I had no trouble locating the site during a recent trip on October 14, 2016. I was very disappointed as the site is chained with several federal no trespassing signs. Signs also warns that cars will be confiscated if parked. The pull off is blocked by plastic upright barriers.

  49. Nick J says:

    I’m from Olympia, WA and drove by the spot yesterday, since I’m in the area on vacation. The historical sign has been replaced in the same spot as the old sign was located, on the right shoulder turnoff of the Northbound lanes. All No Parking signs on both sides of the road are gone, and I observed no No Tresspassing signs. I walked back into the woods a ways and saw no signs to deter interested historians in the median.
    It’s amazing to me that such a historic event took place, most likely in the exact spot as the Southbound lanes, where the barn likely stood. Tens of thousands of people drive through the exact space daily where the fire and standoff took place, and don’t have a clue.

  50. Olivia Walker says:

    This is so cool

  51. George Hellerman says:

    There is now a sign prohibiting people from going into the woos at the site, unless you want to pay a $100,000 fine.

  52. k. joel nieves says:

    good work and article.

    the folks in new orleans feel the same way about the history of their town. they, too, do not want to remember their history. they are removing five statues in the crescent city in hopes it won’t offend anyone. they claim they’ll move the statues to another site or a museum. they said this just to appease the protestors of the removal.

    in vegas, after the flamingo hilton raised the original hotel, which was built by bugsey segal, they put a small plaque on a 4′ high stone to commemorate the original building. people in the flamingo walk by it all of the time and don’t know it’s there.
    it seems people these days, liberals it appears, are just not comfortable with the facts of actual historical events and commemoration.

    look at the neato prison “guard shack” in the new dc museaum for black americans. this is history and you can not change it, or better yet, should not try to hide it. we are to learn from our mistakes and have a measuring tool, monuments and memoriams, to remember those deeds, good or bad.

    unfortunately michelle obama made a public statement a few years ago how she felt it was unsettling to live in a house built by slaves, the “white house.” yes some of the workforce on it was slave labor. it’s an ugly chapter in human rights, but it is our heritage. should we tear it down and spend millions to rebuild to show solidarity with her?

    in all of these cases, are we preserving or covering up history???

    • Agree…. History is proof that something really did happen…..If we tear it down or try to erase it all together we are not being honest with ourselves…..True, not everyone believes that the Holocaust happened…But, when you meet survivors of that period, are they “liars?”…. We cannot go around “sugar-coating” and “cleaning up” just because we didn’t like the outcome….Just my opinion!

  53. T.S. says:

    History…. Is simply that. A past that is only important for a bit… in History. Is a little sad, but, true. I came to live in Caroline Co, heard heartbreaking stories from people who were kids when this ruined the Simple life they knew. The best part is, they moved on. GOD, went with them and they made their own history you are not interested in…. Lol. .. nor am I….

  54. Aurora Wright says:


  55. Jim Gray says:

    I’ve parked there and walked to the site. There should be an historical marker at the site, not just along 301.

    • Clay says:

      Is parking still prohibited there. I would like to head over there in January. Thanks

      • Jim Gray says:

        They do have signs saying no stopping. I went before they had those signs. I think I would still do it and just apologize to the officer if one showed up in the 5 minutes it took me to get to the site.

  56. Peggy Cochran says:

    Agree, that there should be a marker there as it is all part of American History….And try as some do, should not be erased…

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