MS Community Believes
Booth Buried There
Updated: Wednesday, 17 Jun 2009, 6:21 PM CDT
Published : Wednesday, 17 Jun 2009, 3:30 PM CDT
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Given its laid back atmosphere, doubters may find it hard to believe that the rural Mississippi community of Guntown, located about ten miles north of Tupelo, could very well hold the key to unlocking a one-hundred-forty-four year old mystery...pinpointing the final resting place of one of American history's most infamous assassins.
Guntown farmer, Billie Smith Davis, says "I think it's a good possibility that John Wilkes Booth is there. Right there in that cemetery."
But, before we delve further into why the man who in cold blood shot President Abraham Lincoln in 1985 might have serendipitously wound up buried six feet under on a grassy knoll in Mississippi, we wanted to give you a little perspective on Guntown's proud past.
A sporadic history which economically began and ended with its rise and fall in the cotton industry from the late 1870's into the early portion of the twentieth century. The town's rapid growth, aided by the rail system than ran through it then, led to a population increase that outnumbered even neighboring Tupelo. Success led to some brief appearances by some other noteworthy visitors. Before his inventive genius took him elsewhere, a young Thomas Edison once worked as telegrapher there.
On the other end of the spectrum, lore has it a local bank was robbed by outlaw Jesse James and his gang.
But, the name displayed most prominently among Guntown's permanent residents still graces a street sign. Dr. John Fletcher Booth organized is own company of confederate soldiers during the civil war...eventually joining forces with General Robert E.Lee in Virginia. Guntown farmer, Billy Smith Davis, who now owns the land that includes the J.F.Booth family plots, says it's believed Booth had met his "cousin" John Wilkes years before the war. Legend has it, weeks or months after Lincoln's assassination, Dr. Booth informed his children of the ground rules concerning a certain visitor who planned on an extended stay. A story, one of Dr.Booth's granddaughters personally related to Davis on more than one occasion.
Davis remembered the conversation by opening with, "So, she said this fella came to live with Dr.Booth. And of course, they lived in a big two-story house there in Guntown. He was cripple. He was cripple, yeah. But, they said he went upstairs. No one was ever allowed to go up except one person to carry him his meals. And he never came downstairs. Nobody could mention...couldn't mention being in there or anything, you know." Davis added, "It sounds like it could have happened. And they knew here, have ever since it happened, that the man that they got was not John Wilkes Booth!"
Not surprisingly, many historians tend to differ from that scenario. They emphatically assert John Wilkes Booth was chased down right after the Ford's Theatre shooting and was cowardly cornered with some accomplices inside a burning barn near Bowling Gree, Virginia.
He was shot, captured and sent to a federal prison where he died on April 25th, 1865. Historians go on to cite a Booth family dentist made a positive I-D and Lincoln's killer was finally buried in the family plot in Maryland in 1869. Cut and dry, right?"
But, former Memphian, Ken Hawks, disagrees.
Hawks alleges, "There's some real strong evidence to suggest that Booth is not in his grave."
Yes, Hawks, an autopsy specialist has been among those who have for years espoused a possible Booth "escaped theory." He and members of Booth's surviving relatives have continued to unsuccessfully press for an exhumation of the body at the Maryland gravesite.
Hawks insists, "If he's not in the grave, I think it proves what we've always been told. There was an escape theory."
And if you want to indulge in even grander Booth escapist theory, Hawks is in search of a missing mummified body of Booth that the late Memphis lawyer, Finis Bates, claimed for decades he possessed in his former Harbert Street home in Midtown.
Hawks asserts, "If I could find this mummy, that now we could prove really he was John Wilkes Booth or not!"
But, but in Guntown, farmer Davis doesn't take much stock in any verification system saying, "Who knows? Nobody can prove it's not. Nobody can prove it is now."
After all, the amiable Davis only has to look to the top of a rolling hill to feel a "decayed slice of history" isn't that far away...even though the grave remained blank until the headstone was placed on it by a Booth fan in the 1980's. There's even the added bonus at the cemetery for visitors who feel a special need to communicate with the deranged former actor.
Davis points up the hill saying, "The mailbox is up there so when people come by and visit and look at that, they'll usually leave their name on a scratch pad in the mailbox." He continued, "They leave notes to John Wilkes Booth. They'll ask, if he's here, to please send us some kind of sign that you're here? (ha, ha,)"
However, it's probably best, Booth receives only "incoming" mail. Considering where his
malignant spirit is...the postage cost on anything...."outgoing"...would be enough to kill anybody. http://www.myfoxmemphis.com/dpp/news/missi...th_Buried_There