A. Boyer
Remembers
Boston Corbett


Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, Feb. 21, 1935

In January, 1882, I was residing on a farm now known as Yorktown, in the northwestern part of Lincoln County, Kan., and was teaching what then was known as the Allemede (Allamead) school, a mile and a half distant. Came into our settlement walking a plain looking man and left an appointment to preach in the school house. This he did and it resulted in a protracted meeting (Methodist) of two weeks or more duration with several additions to the church. The speaker was dressed as most ordinary farmers attire without cuffs or collar. He had quite a fluent command of language and was very emotional in manner, using many gestures with a rather loud tone. He was below the medium height, rather bronzed beard and hair, which latter he parted in the middle and let it hand well down to his shoulders, and was apparently in his 40s.

Washington, D.C., April 14, 1865. The war was over; Lee had surrendered. Everybody was rejoicing. A mighty load was lifted from President Lincolnís shoulders, and he too was happy; happier than at any time after his election to his high position. Accompanied by his wife and two or three friends he had gone to Fordís theatre to witness the play of the "American Cousin," a humorous one. Sitting beside his wife, bending slightly forward, laughing, John Wilkes Booth, a dissipated actor of Southern provilivities, entered the presidential box in the rear and advancing, placed his gun at the back of the presidentís head and fired. The presidentís head fell forward and he was unconscious, and ceased to breathe next morning. Booth advanced to the front of the box flourishing his weapon, and in theatrical tones shouted, "Sic semper tyrannus," (ever be it so to tyrants). From thence he sprang to the stage, but his spurred boot caught in the draped American flag, and he fell in alighting and broke a leg. Yet he managed to make his exit from the theatre, and mounted a horse, left there for that purpose, and made his escape. At the same time another murderer stabbed Secretary Seward, the secretary of state, in his sick bed at home, but failed to kill him. Squads of soldiers were sent out in all directions to apprehend the guilty. One of these squads a few days later found Booth in a barn down in Virginia, perhaps 50 or 75 miles from Washington. They had strict orders to take Booth alive if possible. It was night, Booth was ordered to come out and surrender. He refused and the barn was set on fire, and Booth could be seen moving about therein. This was a squad of New York soldiers, one of which was Boston Corbett, our Allemede preacher. History says that Corbett, being of a nervous excitable temperament, shot Booth unnecessarily and against orders. Booth, like his victim, lived some hours afterward. He, like Moses, no man knoweth his burial place to this day. The other principal conspirators of the Washington tragedy were found guilty in court and hanged. Ö

At my solicitation Boston Corbett gave his account of his part in the killing of Booth to the school children and parents one day during his meetings. Ordinarily he was rather reticent about talking about it. He told of the prayer he had made when he knew he was to be one of the hunting squads. It was to the effect that if God willed it so that he might be the one to avenge the presidentís death. He disclaimed nervousness and excitability on that occasion, and said that Booth had a gun in his hand and was preparing to fire on the soldiers and he anticipated Booth, and he only shot to save some soldierís life.

A couple years previous to the time I write about Corbett had taken up a rather inferior "eighty" in Cloud County, Kan., perhaps 50 miles east and was living on it when he descended on our settlement to preach. Some of our people regarded him as not having a well balanced mind, while others held him in high esteem. I recall his leaving our neighborhood. He came down from Dr. Pattersonís who conducted a store and post office on an elevated praire a mile distant, and stopped in fatherís residence to bid us goodby. He carried no luggage save a rather common shirt which he rather proudly showed us, and which the Doctor had given him. The Doctor Patterson was the "big man" of our neighborhood. He was a farmer, doctor, storekeeper and post master all in one, and a very estimable man.

A year of two after the events I have tried to record, a trio of men from Boston Corbettís immediate vicinity were engaged in boring a well for me and they told numerous tales of Corbettís eccentricities. He lived in a little sod shanty a bachelor all alone, without a cat or dog, or cow or calf or even a horse, tilling a patch of ground, hiring the plowing done. He was at swordís point with about all his neighbors. These tales were mostly humorous in character, and I have often wished I had jotted them down at the time. They would have made an excellent magazine article had I done so, I can recall none of them now, save that he was quite jealous of his "ranch." In those times people took the near way across the uncultivated prairies, in going to and fro. Corbett soon put a stop to that at the point of a gun, although almost not the least damage could result therefrom. Ö

[Reprinted from the Seneca County Press, Seneca Falls, N.Y. Mr. Boyer was a former Clerk of the District Court in Lincoln County and died the same month this was published. He is buried in Topeka, Kansas.]


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