Posts Tagged police

Last original member of MPD remembers hunting for John Wilkes Booth in Anacostia

Lingarn B. Anderson, of Anacostia, 95 years old, oldest member of Metropolitan Police, full-length, standing on porch. Courtesy LOC. []


With the formation of the Metropolitan Police Department in 1861, there was an immediate tension between the flood of military recruits in the city and the newly constituted municipal force. Lingarn B. Anderson, an Anacostia native, was one of the first policemen, attached to the Anacostia precinct his whole career.  (According to City Directories, Anderson, of the 300 block of Jefferson Street, was a neighbor to Frederick Douglass in old Anacostia.)

The old Anacostia substation, originally the first precinct, “was a converted coal office with a part of the room roped off, and we had to keep guard there all the time or prisoners would step over the rope and walk out of the front door.”

Anderson reminisced a half-century later to a newspaperman and the chief of police about the “devilment” that crawled in the city during the war. “Then there were Southern sympathizers,” he remembered. “They’d get busy in barrooms with a gang of abolitionists, and the first thing you knew there would be artillery play, and some of those boys could shoot.” He had a bullet wound in his left thigh to prove it.

“I hunted for him,” Anderson said, his memory shifting to John Wilkes Booth’s escape on horseback from Washington which took Booth over the Navy Yard bridge and into Uniontown where he waited for Davy Herold before galloping towards Southern Maryland. “We heard for a while that he was around Anacostia.”

Suspicions that John Wilkes Booth might be hiding out in Uniontown were not unfounded as testimony of the Lincoln Conspiracy Trial revealed. Dr. Samuel Mudd, Mary Surratt, and others associated with Booth were seen around the area in the immediate weeks and months leading to President Lincoln’s assassination.

Robert F. Martin’s Farmers and Drovers Hotel, at the junction of Monroe and Harrison Streets in Uniontown about a hundred yards from the Navy Yard bridge, was a frequent point of rest for Marylanders from Upper Marlboro in Prince George’s County, Bryantown in Charles County, and Leonardtown in St. Mary’s County bringing their products to the markets of Washington. In March of 1865 Martin was appointed postmaster for Uniontown, in Washington, D.C. The Baltimore Sun commented that the “post office there will be of great advantage to the large number of mechanics and other workmen, soldiers.”

During the trial Martin testified he had seen Dr. Mudd in the market on Christmas Eve 1864 and that in March and April of 1865 he had stayed at his hotel. Martin could not verify if Mudd was or was not up from his Southern Maryland farm for the purpose of meeting Booth in Washington.

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“…must be known that Washington City is the Mecca of the tramp,” says 1887 guidebook to Washington, D.C.

Library of Congress

“You cannot get along with out it, if you want Washington in a nut-shell,” so claims 1887’s The Sights of Washington and Its Vicinity, – And – How To See Them printed by the New York Cheap Publishing Company.

Sparing no expense, on pg. 49 the guide waxed eloquent about the Washington’s finest.

“[T]he police of this city deserve great praise for efficiency and vigilance,” when “considering the vast territory to be guarded and the smallness of the corps,” was how a popular guidebook to Washington described the Police Court and Police Headquarters. Each morning and often on holidays, the Police Court opened “to try parties arrested during the previous day and night.” Often times “the scenes here witnessed are frequently worthy of the pen of a Dickens and the pencil of a Hogarth.” The colorful guide continues, that it “must be known that Washington City is the Mecca of the tramp, as well as the professional “crook,” and “the curious medley of figures, colors, and sex cannot probably be seen in any other city as is displayed at the nation’s capitol.”

Thanks to Matthew Gilmore for the heads up.

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Lewis H. Douglass appointed a Notary Public by President Harrison [Cleveland Gazette, July 27, 1889]

Library of Congress

The ups and downs, comings and goings, rumors and speculations of Frederick Douglass and his family were widely reported not just in the pages of The Washington Bee, and other black newspapers in the city (as well as every “mainstream” city daily and weekly), but also black press outlets throughout the country from Indianapolis to Huntsville, Alabama to New York City. Invaluable information not widely known about Douglass and his family is captured in print, as well as a perspective that can be unflinchingly laudatory one week and harshly critical the next.

“Lewis H. Douglass, son of Frederick Douglass, has been appointed a Notary Public for the District of Columbia by President Harrison. There are two of three more of the Douglass family to be provided for and then other colored men will stand a chance. Perhaps Fred has some white relatives – on his wife’s side – who wish office.”

The news item directly below…

“There were fifty-six new police appointed in Washington, D.C., July 1, and not withstanding many colored men applied all were rejected. The colored people are about one-third the population of the District and pay taxes on $10,000,000 worth of real estate. The same thing was done recently in both Detroit and Cleveland.”

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