After the gruesome Civil War had ended and an unsuspecting President Lincoln was assassinated while he sat watching a play, an allegedly innocent woman was caught up in a deadly conspiracy of treason. July 7, 1865 Mary Surratt was tried, convicted, and executed for conspiracy to assassinate the President, becoming the first woman executed in the United States. Her family’s home was acquired, restored, and opened as a museum to the public in 1976 and continues to tell Mary Surratt’s tale while preserving the history of 19th century Maryland.
Built in 1852, the Surratt homestead was the centerpoint of a 300 acre plantation which also served as a tavern, public dining room, and hotel. During the Civil War, the tavern also doubled as a safe house for Confederate soldiers. After her husband’s death, Mary Surratt could no longer keep up with the plantation and opened a boarding house in Washington, D.C. where she became entangled in the conspiracy to kidnap President Lincoln which ended in his death at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. Booth stopped by Surratt’s tavern in his escape to collect several hidden weapons and as a result, Surratt was tried as a conspirator.
The Surratt family plantation and its operating facilities made the property known as “Surrattsville” to those who visited. Now you can be a part of Mary Surratt’s history by touring John Wilkes Booth’s escape route, attending the educational programs, and exploring the plantation. Walk through the herb garden where Mary Surratt would have grown herbs for cooking and medicines and learn enough to decide for yourself whether or not Mary Surratt was innocent.
The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday and offers group tours for insider information on the Surratt family’s life.