On the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth, the 16th president is getting a fair amount of attention. Here in Washington, people can visit Lincoln’s summer home or the theater where he was assassinated. There are also special events, exhibits and lectures about Lincoln at several Washington museums, and of course, at the Lincoln Memorial .
But another Washington spot with a lesser-known Lincoln connection is Jesuit-run Gonzaga College High School founded in 1821. A new book — set for release on the anniversary of Lincoln’s birth — details connections between the school and the president’s assassination. The 135-page book, “In the Web of History: Gonzaga College and the Lincoln Assassination” was written by Gonzaga graduate, Paul Warren. Proceeds from sales of the book will benefit the high school.
The book notes that Gonzaga parents and graduates had positive and not so positive roles in Lincoln’s assassination. The first policeman on the scene was the parent of a Gonzaga student. And Dr. John Frederick May, a Gonzaga alum, treated Lincoln in his final moments and also identified the corpse of his assassin, John Wilkes Booth.
On the not so positive side: A Gonzaga graduate, David Herold, was hanged for his involvement in the assassination plot, and a Gonzaga parent owned the stable where Booth boarded his horses.
Mary Surratt, who owned the boarding house where the conspirators met, was also connected, although not as directly, to the Jesuit high school. According to a column about the book in The Washington Post, Surratt’s sons had been taught in southern Maryland by the priest who was president of Gonzaga at the time of the assassination. That priest, Jesuit Father Bernardin Wiget, was said to have heard Surratt’s confession prior to escorting her to be hanged.
According to the book, the priest also had another role. When word got out that a wheelbarrow with the word “Gonzaga” on it was found behind the Surratt house, he was said to have quietly ordered that it be removed.