In 1864, Mary Surratt, a widow who owned a farm and tavern in present-day Clinton, MD, opened a boarding house on H Street NW in Washington, D.C.
The extent of her involvement in the Lincoln assassination remains in dispute. President Andrew Johnson said that, far from being the simple, pious widow portrayed by her defenders, Mrs. Surratt “kept the nest that hatched the rotten egg.” Her boarding house served as a meeting place for Booth and his fellow conspirators. The proprietress herself carried incriminating messages for Booth, including a request to have some weapons ready for him to pick up at the Surrattsville (now Clinton, MD) tavern the night of the assassination. Her son, John, was regarded by many as a major figure in the plot.
Nonetheless, at her conspiracy trial and beyond, strenuous efforts were made to prevent Mrs. Surratt from becoming the first woman in the United States to be executed by the federal government. A majority of the military tribunal that convicted her also requested that her life be spared—a recommendation rejected by President Johnson.