EDUCATION

Pssht... the Lincoln conspirators were here

Comment
Decrease Increase Text size

On Good Friday of 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in D.C. A local school has many connections to the assassination.

Gonzaga, the boys Jesuit high school on North Capitol Street, is home to the purple eagles, and St. Aloysius Church – the church attended by Mary Surratt, one of the conspirators. Her close friend and confessor, Pastor Bernardin Wiget was Gonzaga's president.

Wiget was on the platform with her at her hanging, wearing the priest's white stole. Father Tom Clifford says we don't know whether Surratt ever confessed: “There's an absolute seal in the confessional -- you cannot reveal outside the confessional any matter that's brought up there.”

Surratt's son John, who went free after his jury deadlocked, attended organ recitals at St. Aloysius, as did John Wilkes Booth.

Former Gonzaga student David Herold led Booth down to Virginia. Surratt also ran a boarding home on H Street, where the conspirators met. Today this place is a Chinese restaurant.

Yet beyond a brief reference in a Gonzaga history book to Surratt as a "poor woman who suffered on the scaffold for the crimes of others," there is no mention in the school halls of these connections.

Author and Gonzaga grad Paul Warren said that’s on purpose. “There was a strong anti-catholic sentiment in this country in the Civil War, and I think the Catholics would be very concerned to be clear they were not involved,” he said.

There were other Gonzaga alumnae, too: The first police officer at the murder scene. A doctor who treated the dying Lincoln. Louis Weichmann, a key witness against Surratt.

Today many of her descendents still believe she was innocent.

“Everything I've read (says) she was a very devout Catholic. And I can't see her going to mass on a Thursday, and being part of an assassination plot on Good Friday,” said Surratt’s descendant Jerry Murray

Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.

Recommended For You
comments powered by Disqus