The Dr. Mudd House Museum in Waldorf, Maryland, is a centuries-old plantation and home, otherwise known as St. Catharine. Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd (1833–1883) moved to the home with his wife in 1857. Mudd is known as the doctor who treated President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, on the day of the murder, and was himself imprisoned for four years for conspiring to kill the president.
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The two-story farmhouse consists of two parts. The main house is a two-story, three-bay home, while the connected smaller side house offers a two-story, two-bay wing. The side house was added in 1864, the same year that updates were made to the main house to transition from open-hearth cooking to a cookstove. A two-story porch was added to the façade in 1928. The museum houses a number of items belonging to the Mudd family. Much of the furniture in the home is original, including the sofa and bed Booth lay on while recuperating at the Mudd house.
Originally part of the Oak Hill plantation, which belonged to the Mudd family from the late 1600s, the 213-acre St. Catharine plantation was given to Dr. Samuel Mudd in 1857 as a wedding gift from his father. It is one of just a few Maryland plantations that have been in the same family for over 100 years.
The home is likely best known for its association with John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated President Lincoln in 1865. On the night of the assassination, April 14th, Booth broke his leg while fleeing Ford’s Theater. Seeking medical attention, he arrived at Mudd’s home on horseback with his accomplice David Harold at 4am on April 15th. Booth and Mudd knew each other, and the details of the relationship are quite controversial, as many believe that Mudd knew of the assassination plans ahead of time, and was party to the conspiracy to capture and kill Lincoln. Mudd’s plantation relied on slave labor, and Mudd was quite vocal about what he believed was his God-given right to own slaves. Lincoln’s election and the subsequent Civil War had a negative effect on the profits of Mudd’s farm.
The night of the assassination, the 31-year-old Samuel Mudd splinted Booth’s leg and invited Booth and Harold to spend the day resting in an upstairs bedroom. Later in the evening, they departed the Mudd home via dirt road and continued their journey towards Bowling Green. Mudd is assumed to have known about the murder, but did not report Booth’s visit to St. Catharine’s until 24 hours after his departure. Two weeks later, Union cavalry had tracked down the pair and set fire to the tobacco shed in which they were sleeping. Booth was shot upon exiting the shed to escape the fire. Mudd was imprisoned for life for his alleged role in the event, yet was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson four years later, due in large part to his role in caring for inmates during a yellow fever outbreak at the prison in 1867.
The home was added to the register of National Historic Places in 1974, and shortly thereafter, in 1976, the Society for the Restoration of the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Home was established. The property was officially deeded to the society in 1983. Now known as the Dr. Mudd Society, the mission of the organization is to encourage research into the role the home and site played in 1865 at the time of Lincoln’s death.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Tours of the home begin every 30 minutes and are led by docents wearing period costumes. Large groups should schedule ahead of time, so appropriate arrangements can be made with staff. A Victorian Christmas is an annual event that has been ongoing for over 15 years. The weekend event decorates the home for the holidays as it would have been in the late 1800s. Music and refreshments are on hand, as are special appearances by Civil War soldiers and Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Past and Future Exhibits
In the spring of 2015 several events were held at the house museum in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. Ghost tours of the home and farm included video presentations by paranormal investigators. On the Trail of the Assassination was a weekend of events incorporating Civil War re-enactors and living history presenters. The play, The Assassin’s Doctors, was presented by the Port Tobacco Players.
3725 Dr Samuel Mudd Road, Waldorf, MD 20601, Phone: 301-274-9358