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Mr. Smythe was the "man in the Garrett barn"
08-15-2014, 02:43 PM
Post: #1
Mr. Smythe was the "man in the Garrett barn"
Just FYI. Any comments?

From: "The Great American Myth" by George S. Bryan (1940) p. 361/362

A new Booth escape story appeared in a letter to the New York Sun (January 24th, 1940.) The letter, signed A. L. Q. and dated New York, January 23rd, told of a Mr. Smythe who . . . lived three or four doors from Mrs. Surratt in Washington. At Mr. Smythe's house, Mr. Booth, Dr. Mudd and many other wealthy and loyal Southerners met and discussed the plot. The Southern gentlemen all owned and rode horses. Mr. Booth's and Mr. Smythe's horses were identical. On the night that President Lincoln was shot a Negro held Mr. Booth's horse—not far from the stage door of the theater—and Mr. Smythe's horse stood saddled, bridled and untied at Mr. Smythe's door all the evening. When word came that the President was shot Mr. Smythe jumped on his horse and dashed off in the opposite direction from that planned for Mr. Booth.

Mr. Smythe's children —a boy of 6 or 7 years, and a girl of 9 years — were taken to New York to their uncle on Sixty-second street, near Third avenue, by different routes and his wife followed. They lived in seclusion there for many years, waiting for the father and husband, but he never came. He was the man who was shot in the barn, whose horse was traced, as had been planned, and who hoped to deter pursuit.

Mr. Smythe's children were my playmates on Sixty-second street. We were told by them all about their flight from Washington, and about Dr. Mudd. Mr. Booth and Mr. Smythe were both dark, handsome men with long black mustaches. One was scarcely distinguishable from the other. My parents lived in the nearest house to the uncle, Mr. Smythe, on Sixty-second street. His house is a four-story brick house, the only original house still standing on the north side, about the eighth house from Third avenue. It was owned by a Mr. McClusky.

A detailed and ingenious story —with not only "scarcely distinguishable" men but "identical" horses! Here is "a Negro" holding John Booth's horse "not far from the stage door" of Ford's, whereas "Peanuts" Burroughs is known to have held the animal at the back door. The only "Mr. Smythe" in the Washington directory for 1865 is Perrence Smythe, carpenter, residing not on H Street (where Mrs. Surratt lived) but at 398 Twentieth Street(west); and in the New York directory for 1864-1865 and 1865-1866 there appears to be no entry under Q on East 62nd Street. But even if there were a Smythe on H Street and a Q (Quackenbush,Quantrell, Quincy?) on East 62nd Street (then in a region of scattered houses without numbers), that still would not prove that Booth survived.
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08-15-2014, 03:03 PM (This post was last modified: 08-15-2014 03:05 PM by Gene C.)
Post: #2
RE: Mr. Smythe was the "man in the Garrett barn"
That is one of the better books on the assassination

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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08-15-2014, 03:03 PM
Post: #3
RE: Mr. Smythe was the "man in the Garrett barn"
Hi Kees and welcome to the forum. That letter drew an immediate reaction from another reader. Here is his reply to the above:

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

That Booth Legend

No Faith in the Strange Story About "Mr. Smythe."

To THE Editor of The Sun—

Sir.- The letter of "A. L. Q." as to the fate of John Wilkes Booth is interesting, but to students of Booth and the assassination plot it must be categoried as legend.

Proof of the killing of Booth in Garrett's tobacco shop in Virginia is conclusive and irrefutable. In the War Department are the assassin's possessions taken from his body, which include his diary in his handwriting. He was positively identified at the autopsy on the gunboat, and again at the exhumation when his body was removed to the family plot in Baltimore. Among those corroborating the identification were his doctor and personal friends, including Henry Ford of Ford's Theater, one of his intimates.

David Herold, the conspirator, who accompanied Booth in his flight, confessed and identified Booth as the man in the shop with him when he was captured. Testimony at the assassin's trial confirmed the killing of Booth, and was never refuted.

In 1900 Osborn Oldroyd, who wrote an exhaustive account of the murder plot, interviewed members of the Garrett family and heard from the lady who assuaged Booth's sufferings her account of the last message he left for his mother.

Charles Burnham of Wilton, Connecticut, a factual historian, had a letter from General Grant, relating the identification of Booth's body at the exhumation and listing the names of the Army officers present at the occasion. Mr. Burnham also told me of an envelope which Edwin Booth, the actor, whom he knew intimately, had, containing some of the effects of his brother marked "John Wilkes Booth."

As Booth was a bizarre figure, and the ramifications of his last year were many, it is understandable why, during the passage of time, much legend has sprung up about him.

Donald Carr.
Ridgefield, Conn., January 26.
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08-15-2014, 03:21 PM
Post: #4
RE: Mr. Smythe was the "man in the Garrett barn"
I will let Donald Carr speak for me because you really don't want my opinion on A.L.Q.! George Bryan included it in his book to show how ridiculous the various escape stories had become. After forty years of working at Surratt House, I can tell you first-hand some doozers that I have heard.

I am holding my breath to see what 2015 will bring with the 150th anniversary of the assassination. I am trying to train myself to remain peaceful and polite next year - however, I'm 70 years old and tired of being peaceful and polite when I have some really ridiculous garbage thrown at me. Just warning y'all...
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08-15-2014, 04:43 PM
Post: #5
RE: Mr. Smythe was the "man in the Garrett barn"
Way to go Laurie!
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08-15-2014, 05:24 PM
Post: #6
RE: Mr. Smythe was the "man in the Garrett barn"
Welcome to the forum Kees! We always enjoy adding more international members.

Kees had me doing quite a bit of research a few weeks ago when he asked about Willie Jett, Absalom Bainbridge, and Mortimer Ruggles. Even in the comment section he put me to work trying to find sources for his inquisitive and helpful comments.
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08-16-2014, 05:41 AM
Post: #7
RE: Mr. Smythe was the "man in the Garrett barn"
Thank you Roger and Dave for your kind words.

I do not believe that John Wilkes Booth escaped and lived decades thereafter. I do not believe in the fact that not Booth was killed in Garrett’s barn, but another. I do not believe in wild speculation and wild implausibilities. I do not believe in plain disingenuousness. If I would, than it would imply that I also tend to believe in many other equally improbable and often contradictory theories, like theories behind the deaths of JFK and Princess Diana, UFOs, Area 51 and 9/11. I do not. Let that be fully clear. It’s my general thought, that it's not productive to obsess on speculations. However, because conspiracies do happen, the conspiracy theory can’t ever be entirely dismissed. I understand that conspiracies are a perennial favorite for many because there is always a receptive audience. That’s why I don’t want to ignore them (at least the plausible ones). It’s part of history too, pseudo-history if you wish. It was not my intention to suggest that a certain Mr. Smythe and not John Wilkes Booth was killed, that that was a true fact, or a plausible possibility. Not at all! It was John Wilkes Booth who was killed in the barn. But, no matter how you look to this, Mr. Smythe is part of the Booth-Lincoln-legend too. Why fully ignore that? I think people are wise enough to understand what is true or false, what is plausible or implausible, what is ridiculous.

I'm curious how many "ridiculous" escape stories are there (printed in books, magazines, papers, shown in film, etc.) I suggest: let’s do a count. By 1930 John Wilkes Booth had turned up in no less than twenty different guises, according to a count said to have been carefully kept by Herbert W. Fay, custodian of the Lincoln tomb at Springfield. Maybe it’s not much more now, because the years 1920/1930 brought a boom in the sightings (all over the world). And in reference to the “man in the barn”, shot by Boston Corbett (or was it suicide as Stanley Kimmel suggests in “The Mad Booths of Maryland” - 1940), I count only four individuals: Booth, Mr. Ruddy (Rody, Roddy, Robey), Mr. Smythe and James W. Boyd. Curious if somebody out there has more names and another count. My count: 20 (or slightly more) sightings of Booth and 4 for the “man in the barn”.
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08-16-2014, 10:21 AM
Post: #8
RE: Mr. Smythe was the "man in the Garrett barn"
First, Kees, I apologize if my comments seemed to express anger at you for even posting another escape theory. I knew that you recognized that story as yet another piece of speculation. I have just reached a frustration level after so many years of trying to disseminate accurate information. I deal with the escape theories all the time - second only to people asking my opinion of spurious photographs related to our subject.

Your challenge to see how many escape theories have been passed around is an interesting one. Right now, I'm tending to think that you have named the biggest ones. However, my brain is addled at the moment because I'm dealing with a basement at home that was a casualty of a recent torrential rain. I do hope others will pass along any theories that they are aware of -- or, dare I say, believe...
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08-16-2014, 03:34 PM
Post: #9
RE: Mr. Smythe was the "man in the Garrett barn"
(08-16-2014 05:41 AM)loetar44 Wrote:  I'm curious how many "ridiculous" escape stories are there

Kees, this one is not what you are asking about, but it's my favorite account of how Booth escaped from Ford's Theatre. At 10 P.M. on Saturday, February 11th, 1928, Mrs. Nelson Todd, who said she witnessed the assassination, said: (on radio station WOR)

**********************************************

"Few people know how badly Booth was hurt by his fall. I had read accounts and seen pictures of him hobbling off the stage to make his escape. This is as false as the story that he shouted "Sic Semper Tyrannis”.

Here is what did happen, and I think I am the only person that knows how Booth made his escape. Knowing Booth, it was only natural that my interest was keen enough to attract my attention back to the stage even though I know Lincoln was assassinated. When Booth's spur caught and threw him to the stage he broke his leg in a terrible way, so that the bone actually protruded through his trousers and smeared the stage with blood. Naturally he couldn't move. Laura Keene leaned over and patted his head. Then to my amazement I saw a rope swing out, evidently thrown by some confederates, lasso him and whisk him into the wings. That was the last time I ever saw John Wilkes Booth."
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08-16-2014, 06:47 PM
Post: #10
RE: Mr. Smythe was the "man in the Garrett barn"
Roger, I had never heard that one before, but it certainly takes the cake! Confederate agents lassoing Booth - hahaha!

Kees, just sent you pictures! Hope you get them without any problems!

"Right or wrong, God judge me, not man."
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08-17-2014, 02:16 PM
Post: #11
RE: Mr. Smythe was the "man in the Garrett barn"
Thank you so much Jenny, all you sent came through okay! You are right: John Wilkes does not really look like JWB, maybe if you look at him (in his younger years) from a distance. There are so many individuals who look slightly like JWB. What to think of Edgar Allan Poe? And what about Frank Boyle and William Watson, both of whom had the misfortune of physically resembling John Wilkes Booth. Both were murdered and their bodies were turned over to the War Department by overzealous vigilantes for the reward that was being offered (Stanton’s department covered up the murders I read).
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