There are some secrets in history, so heinous that if true, are better left sewn up in the lips of the dead. In 1898, an old lady, Mrs. Maggie Crist, of 1349 North Clarke Street, Chicago whispered Nassau’s name. She named the capital city of the Bahamas, as being part of a conspiracy to hide John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
Though discounted as fantasy by authorities who are sure they shot the right man, the real question is, why?
Why would this woman, more than thirty years after the fact, claim to have knowledge of events, which boldly contradict established information, on one of the most infamous criminal acts in American history.
And why, if either truth or fiction, would a woman from some nowhere street in Chicago, drag Nassau, of all places, into her tale?
(The Baltimore Sun, April 21, 1898)
THE DATES. THE FACTS.
Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States on November 6, 1860. The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, on September 22, 1862. The executive order which changed the federal status of 3.5 million negroes from slave to free came into effect on January 2, 1863.
Despite the emancipation of the slaves, the American Civil War dragged on. It would not end until 13th May 1865.
One reason why the war the dragged on, was that the slave owning South still had a steady source of money flowing in to help them fund their fight. They had Bahamians helping them to run the blockade, set up by the North, to stop southern produced goods getting out and money, guns and supplies coming in.
On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot, in the back of the head, at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. He died nine hours later.
Lincoln’s assassin, an actor and staunch proponent of slavery, John Wilkes Booth died twelve days later. He was hunted down, and shot on 26 April, 1865 at Port Royal, Virginia. Booth was 26 years old.
Booth, and a group of eight other known co-conspirators had originally planned to kidnap President Lincoln. When this plan fell through, Booth and others, put the plan to murder Lincoln into effect.
Booth was tracked down some twelve days after the assassination. Booth was found in a barn by soldiers. The barn was set on fire. As Booth was moving about in barn to avoid the flames, Sergeant Boston Corbett shot him. The bullet pierced Booth’s spinal cord paralysing him. He was dragged from the burning barn to the farmhouse porch. John Wilkes Booth died three hours later.
His body was then taken by boat to the Washington Navy Yard. Booth’s body was reportedly identified by ten people who knew him.
Four other conspirators were hanged, including a woman. Three were given life sentences.
1898 An Old Lady Whispers Nassau’s Name
There are some secrets, in history, that if true, are better left sewn up in the lips of the dead. There are some stories, so bizarre, that they are better consigned to the coldest graves of time. The same with historical lies.
The story told by Maggie Crist, who says she came to Nassau and met John Wilkes Booth months after the assassination of Lincoln, months after he was supposed to be dead, is one of those stories.
If it is true, even a single word it, then it would have been better left as secrets of history.
Mrs. Maggie Crist, formerly Mrs. Haggett, told authorities in 1898, that her first husband, Captain Thomas Haggett, owner of the boat The Mary Porter, a confederate blockade ship, transported assassin John Wilkes Booth.
Captain Thomas Haggett took John Wilkes Booth to Havana, Cuba and then later brought him to Nassau, Bahamas in 1865-1866.
Booth was left in Nassau, while Maggie and her blockade running Captain husband, sailed off back to the American mainland. Booth gave Maggie a ring that he was wearing.
Mrs. Crist says she heard that Booth eventually made his way to England. But he could have just as easily stayed on, living in obscurity in the Bahamas. After all, no one was looking for a man supposedly already dead.
(The Baltimore Sun, April 21, 1898)
1861-1865 Those Infamous Blockade Running Years for the Slave Owning South
How the capital city Nassau, got mixed with the story of the escape of John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, is almost too mind boggling to contemplate. Mind boggling that is, if there is even one scintilla of truth to it. But given the history of the Bahamas and its involvement in the American Civil War, the speculation, even if it is all nonsense, is not surprising. Not surprising at all.
For even almost 40 years after slavery was abolished in the Bahamas, there were still those who sympathised with the slave owners of America.
Historians have written with such fluidity on the supposed seafaring glory of the Bahamas’s involvement in blockade running during the American Civil War, the war over the question of slavery. But the truth is, Bahamian involvement in helping the Southern States, the side fighting to keep slavery, was one of the nation’s darkest hours. It was one the country’s most foulest of endeavours in all of its history. The Bahamas prolonged that war which would have ended at least two years before 1865, if it had not been helping the South fund its effort to keep slaves.
(The Scranton Republican Saturday April 23, 1898)
(The Boston Globe Thursday April 21, 1898)
1902 – Interest In The Story Grows
Four years later, Maggie Crist’s story gains more interest. More detailed articles appear.
Booth, Mrs. Crist alleges, had managed to hide for three months before making his way to Havana, Cuba and then Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas.
If John Wilkes Booth was in Nassau, in 1865, and with no money, how did he and his companion live before finding passage on a ship bound for England?
Did he find help among Confederate sympathisers in Nassau?
If Mrs. Maggie Crist was simply spinning a yarn of lies, about the assassin of Abraham Lincoln she certainly had spun a good one.