Mary Surratt's Ancestors, Marriage, And Children

Mrs. Surratt was born Mary Elizabeth Jenkins. The Prince George’s County marriage records show that her father and mother were married on January 4, 1821. Her father was Archibald Jenkins, then in his 40s, a farmer and minor county official who had connections with the powerful Calvert family. Archibald Jenkins’s father was Zadoc(k) Jenkins, who died December 18, 1811. He was a tenant farmer on a portion of the 7,000-acre Calvert property known as “His Lordship’s Kindness,” then owned by Edward H. Calvert. When the Jenkins estate was being settled in 1812, Edward H. Calvert swore that Zadoc Jenkins still owed him rent for two years--6,000 pounds of tobacco. Archibald Jenkins continued to have dealings with Edward H. Calvert and, from bits and pieces, he probably stayed on the same Calvert land farmed by his father. Ultimately the Jenkins family purchased some of this land. Today, most of this Jenkins land would be within the boundaries of Andrews Air Force Base, on the Clinton side, just off Old Alexandria Ferry Road.

Mrs. Surratt’s mother was Elizabeth Ann Webster, 26 years of age at the time she married Archibald Jenkins. Her father was James Gibbs Webster, at one time an overseer for Edward H. Calvert.

The first child of the Jenkins-Webster marriage was John Zadoc Jenkins, named for his grandfather Jenkins. He was born February 2, 1822, as shown on his stone in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Washington. The second child was Mary Elizabeth Jenkins. A family record shows that she was born in 1823, but the month and day are not given and are not known. From a variety of sources, it has been concluded that she was born in May or June of 1823. The third child was James Archibald Jenkins, born in 1825.

Then tragedy struck. The father, Archibald Jenkins, died in the fall of 1825, according to the papers relating to the administration of his estate. Little Mary Elizabeth Jenkins, just over two years of age at the time, probably did not remember her father.

The widow was not one of those helpless women who could not cope. A picture of her indicates that she was highly competent. She conserved her husband's estate, which included eleven slaves and more in dispute, bought land and managed well. Mrs. Jenkins outlived her daughter by almost thirteen years, dying on June 8, 1878, aged 84. She is buried in a well-marked grave in the little cemetery at St. Ignatius Catholic Church on Brinkley Road in Oxon Hill.

Archibald Jenkins was undoubtedly a Protestant, although no church record for him has been found. Elizabeth Ann Webster Jenkins was Episcopalian, as shown by records in St. John's Parish. Her father,
James Gibbs Webster, was baptized at the Broad Creek Church on April 17, 1768. John Z. Jenkins, the first child of the Jenkins-Webster marriage, was married in the same St. John’s Parish to Mary D. Ridgeway on April 13, 1843, as shown by the church records. James Archibald Jenkins, the third child of the Jenkins-Webster marriage, remained Protestant all of is life (if he had a religious preference). He died around September 1, 1903, almost illiterate, a dissolute old man with a common-law wife. He is buried in an unmarked grave in back of Bell's Methodist Church in Camp Springs, Maryland. He was not a model citizen....

On August 6, 1840, John H. Surratt and “M. Elizabeth Jenkins” took out a license to be married in the District of Columbia. He was 27, she just 17.

We do not know where the marriage ceremony was performed. It appears that they were married at St. Peter’s Catholic Church near the Library of Congress in Washington. This assumption is based on several other assumptions, since the marriage records for that period at St. Peter’s are missing.... As a matter of geography, St. Peter’s would have been the most likely Washington church for the couple to go to for the ceremony. John Surratt lived with the Neales, just across the Eastern Branch of the Potomac (now known as the Anacostia River) in what was then known as Washington County. Young Mary lived with her widowed mother about five miles farther down, across the District line in Prince George’s County.

A survey of the baptismal records for the 1840s shows that all three of the resulting children of John and Mary Surratt were baptized at St. Peter’s Church: Isaac Douglas Surratt, born June 2, 1841, as baptized on July 7, 1841; Elizabeth Susanna Surratt, born January 1, 1843, was baptized on December 10, 1843, and John Harrison Surratt, listed as “...3 years on the last of April,” was baptized on September 20, 1847. (Actually, he was born on April 13, 1844.) The fact that Mrs. Surratt brought each of her three children to St. Peter’s Church for baptism is persuasive. One can speculate that the couple was married there, but there is no proof.... (return to Mrs. Surratt's Story)

It is generally thought that John Harrison Surratt was the father of only three children. But there was a fourth. In looking at the baptismal records at St. Peter’s Church, one finds the following entry:

July 7, 1840 Mass Baptism John William Harrison, son of Caroline Sarath, born 13th of June 1838. Sponsor: Catherine McNamee. Van Horslaigh

It is doubtful that John Surratt brought this child to be baptized. The mother, who gave the name Caroline Sarath, must have done it--accompanied by a neighbor, Catherine McNamee, as a sponsor. The explanation for this baptism can be found in the District of Columbia records. On November 18, 1840, some four months after he married Miss Jenkins, Caroline Sanderson had John Surratt put under bond on a bastardy charge. He was to pay the maintenance of an illegitimate male child. The Sandersons were neighbors out on Oxon Run. What the recently married Mrs. Surratt thought about this is not on record, but she must have known about it.

This information is derived from “The Story of Mrs. Mary Surratt: A Lecture Delivered Before the Docents of the Surratt House,” by Dr. James O. Hall in August 1977. Return to The Surratt Family Tree or to Mary Surratt's Story.