That the assassination of Abraham Lincoln had been planned for many months is evidenced by a little-known incident that occurred in Meadville, Pennsylvania, almost eight months prior to the shooting in Ford's Theatre, in Washington D.C.
John Wilkes Booth was an overnight guest at the famous McHenry House, adjoining the Erie railroad station in Meadville on August 13, 1864, after a theatrical engagement at the opera house.
|The McHenry House and grand railroad depot in Meadville, Pennsylvania was the most splendid building of its kind outside of New York City.|
Whatever possessed him to be so brazen as to divulge the plans he and his friends had made for Lincoln's death probably will never be known. However, on the next morning after Booth had left the city a chambermaid discovered that he had scratched upon the window of his room, evidently with the stone in his diamond ring, the following words:
The chambermaid immediately notified R.M.U. Taylor, the manager of the McHenry House. For some, unknown reason, Taylor gave the matter no immediate attention.
The circumstances of Booth's visit to Meadville, and his knowledge of a plot upon the Great Emancipator's life, were immediately recalled as the sad news passed over the telegraph wires the morning of April 16, 1865, that Lincoln had been mortally wounded by Booth in Ford's Theatre on the evening of the 14th, while the President was attending a performance of "Our American Cousin."
The glass was then removed from the window frame and afterward exhibited by Taylor, along with Booth's signature which he cut from the hotel register. He framed the two with a black velour facing to facilitate reading. Later Taylor sent the glass to Miss Mary McHenry of Philadelphia, daughter of the man for whom the hotel was named. It remained in her possession until 1879. That autumn while on a visit to Washington D.C., she saw some other Booth relics in the office of the judge advocate general and added the pane of glass to the collection. It remained there until December 1, 1939, when it was transferred to the Lincoln Museum in Washington D.C., where it is now stored.
Research indicates that John Wilkes Booth's scratching of the prediction quoted above was something more than an idle pastime. For several months before, during the summer of 1864, David E. Harold, the vainglorious, shallow-minded drug clerk who rode with Booth that night of April 1865, was employed in William S. Thompson's drug store at Fifteenth street and Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington D.C. There the President was accustomed to having his prescriptions filled, and it was known that Harold was an easy tool in Booth's hands. It is believed that on one occasion during the summer of 1864, the President actually had unknowingly taken poison in the drugs which had been prescribed by his physician, and prepared by Harold, to no ill effect.
There were numerous other plots to assassinate Lincoln dating back to his first trip to Washington D.C. after his election to the presidency. Booth knew of the plan to poison him, and it is even probable he was the instigator.
No evidence has ever been found which would unravel the real story of this plot, other than Booth's prediction scratched upon the window of his room in the McHenry House. Nor is there any evidence to show why the plot failed.
—The Kansas City Star, Saturday, February 12, 1949
By L.O. Honig
Edited by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.