Did John Wilkes Booth die in Enid?
Preacher.....I ran across this and thought about Angel from a previous post you made. It's an interesting what if anyway.............
This past week I followed a young woman up a flight of darkened stairs in one of Enid?s oldest downtown buildings. The stairs squeaked and occasionally popped under our feet. One hundred and three years ago, when it was the Grand Avenue Hotel, a house painter and local barfly committed suicide in one of the hotel?s upstairs rooms. His deathbed statement sparked a national controversy in 1903. The young woman was taking me to the room where he died a painful and violent death.
The building is now, and has for several decades been, home to Enid?s Garfield Furniture Co.
At the end of the stairway she opened a door. We crossed a hallway. She stopped and opened a second door, revealing a long narrow room with a high ceiling. It looked more like a jail cell than a hotel room. There was one window facing Grand Avenue.
There was no bathroom, no running water ? not even a wash basin.
On the left was a small wrought iron bed, its springs covered with a thin mattress-like pad covered in a faded-pink material. When I was a kid we called these daybeds.
At the foot of the bed there was a chair and a small round table. On the table sat a crusty looking kerosene lamp that looked as if it hadn?t been lighted in 100 years. I felt like I had walked into a tomb. The air was chilly and damp in this unheated portion of the old building.
There was no floor covering in the room, and what at some time in the building?s history may have been elegant red and gold wallpaper was severely faded now and peeling off the walls. Some of the plastering was missing from the ceiling revealing the wooden slats.
The room smelled old and it looked old. It was very depressing. It is the room where David E. George, a house painter from Texas who frequently quoted at length from Shakespeare?s plays in Enid bars, ingested strychnine, a powerful poison, on Jan.13, 1903, and died writhing in agony.
But before he breathed his last he told a physician who had been summoned to the hotel he really was John Wilkes Booth, the assassin who had killed President Abraham Lincoln 38 years earlier.
It wasn?t the first time George had ?confessed.? He made a similar revelation years before in Texas when he thought he was dying. He lived in Texas under another name. In fact some say there were two earlier confessions when he had thought death was imminent.
There also is more than one story about what happened after the assassination. One story is Confederate sympathizers spirited him away, and he traveled incognito across the South, and down through Texas to Mexico.
He also supposedly told the story that after the assassination friends had taken him down the Potomac River to a place where he boarded a steamer for Europe. He said he had lived in Europe for 15 years before returning to the United States.
Well, JohnWilkes Booth was a Shakespearean actor, and they say George could recite Shakespeare at will, reinforcing the story George was an actor. Booth broke a leg in his leap to the stage after shooting Lincoln. An examination revealed George also had broken a leg. He was Booth?s height and weight too, and resembled the actor.
And, of course, everyone remembered the doubt in the minds of the public following the chase and capture right after the assassination of the man presumed to be Booth, and the haste and secrecy of his burial.
Why would anyone on his deathbed confess to such a crime, not once, but several times, if it were not true? Why would he lie at a time like that? He had nothing to gain by lying.
George?s unclaimed remains were embalmed by the local Penniman?s Funeral Parlor, using arsenic, which did a marvelous job of preserving the remains. Penniman retained custody of the mummified remains for a number of years. He would tie the embalmed and fully dressed body to a rocking chair and display it in the store front window of the funeral parlor with a newspaper laying across its lap.
A Tennessee lawyer named Bates bought the body and kept it in his barn for 20 years while he tried to collect the reward offered by the government for Booth.
For a number of years George?s body was displayed at amusement parks and carnival sideshows in many states, before finally disappearing. There was a vague story going around several decades ago someone had seen the remains in a box in the basement of a building in some Midwestern city. But, when the man went back a few years later the building was gone. Only a parking lot remained.
If he really was John Wilkes Booth, his restless remains may still be seeking a peaceful repose.