Near the entrance to Glenwood Cemetery in Binghamton stands a headstone which some believe belongs to the secret daughter of the notorious John Wilkes Booth.

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During the evening hours of April 14, 1865 while watching a play with his wife at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States of America was shot. The following day he succumbed to his injuries.

In a show of drama, Lincoln’s assassin shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis! (Ever thus to tyrants!) The South is avenged,” after he shot the president. Then, he jumped onto the stage and fled on horseback. The man’s name was John Wilkes Booth.

John Wilkes Booth was a stage actor and noted Confederate sympathizer who was among those to denounce President Lincoln citing Lincoln’s recent abolition of slavery in the United States. After shooting Lincoln in the back of the head and fleeing by horse, Booth was finally tracked down at a farm in rural Virginia 12 days later. Booth, unwilling to surrender, engaged in a standoff and was shot in the neck which paralyzed him. He died just hours later at 26-years-old.

John Wilkes Booth was a playboy who was known to enjoy the company of women. Women including Kate Scott with whom it is rumored he had a daughter named Sarah and with Ella Turner with whom he is rumored to have had another daughter, this one named Mary Louise.

The problem with Booth’s philandering ways was that it appears that he was a married man. As the story goes, John Wilkes Booth met his wife, Izola, at a party in February of 1859 and instantly fell for her even though she was (unhappily) already married. The fact that Izola was already married didn’t stop the pair and they were married a day later which means that Izola was married to two men simultaneously. Rumor states that nobody knew of Booth's marriage to Izola because he wanted the freedom to continue being with other women and so Izola and the daughter she had with Booth were kept secret.

The secret daughter was said to have been named Ogarita. Ogarita was born in October of 1859 and become an actress who performed under a bevy of names including Ogarita "Rita" Booth, Ogarita "Rita" Mills (her mother’s maiden name), and Ogarita "Rita" D’Arcy.

David Hermanovitch

 

While there is no doubt that Izola was the mother of Ogarita, there is some uncertainty as to who her father was. Izola’s first husband, Charles Still Bellows, was listed on Ogarita’s birth certificate as the father but Ogarita grew up believing that her father was actually John Wilkes Booth and she dropped his name every opportunity she could because it certainly helped draw people in to see her performances.

While on the road in Binghamton performing with Floy Crowell's Dramatic Company, Ogarita fell ill and on April 12, 1892, she died at the age of 32 leaving behind a husband and two children including a daughter named Izola Forrester who would go on to author over 20 books and contribute to publications such as The Saturday Evening Post.

One of the books that Izola Forrester authored is called “This One Mad Act: The Unknown Story of John Wilkes Booth and His Family by His Granddaughter.” The book was written in 1937 and shares Izola’s childhood memories of her mother and grandmother’s connection to John Wilkes Booth as well as family documents and records which indicate that her mother, Ogarita, was in fact the daughter of John Wilkes Booth.

David Hermanovitch

If Ogarita’s mother was really married to John Wilkes Booth, why wasn’t it more publicly known? According to the book written by Izola, her grandmother kept the fact she’d been married to John Wilkes Booth quiet because there was such a deep hatred for him in the years following the assassination of Lincoln and she feared for the safety of her family.

Whether John Wilkes Booth was the biological father of Ogarita, the world may never know but she sure believed that he was and she took that belief to the grave as is evident by her headstone which stands in Glenwood Cemetery in Binghamton. It reads:

In loving Memory of Ogarita Booth Henderson
October 23, 1859 – April 12, 1892
Daughter of
Izola Mills &
John Wilkes Booth
Wife of
Alexander Henderson

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