What has been left largely unexplored is what

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What has been left largely unexplored is what developed between the Bakers and Conger after the reward was distributed and how that 25. Congressional Globe , June 26, 1866, 4183–6. 26. Ibid, 4187. 27. Ibid, 4188; Delano must have worked with Hayes on the compromise, as his amendment provided Conger with the $15,000. Hayes’s role in this is spelled out in an unpublished typescript provided to the author by Conger’s grandson, Everton Ellsworth Conger. Robert G. Wick 11 JALA 32_2 text.indd 11 5/26/11 1:52 PM
affected the story of the capture. From the available evidence it ap- pears that a rift began to grow between the three men, although it wouldn’t reach its full fruition until sometime around 1868, after La- fayette Baker’s death. It also appears that Lafayette Baker was able to recoup some of the money he lost on the floor of the House. After Conger received his money, he put some of it into Baker’s hotel. Just how much he loaned Baker is unknown, but the best esti- mate would be nearly $12,000. This figure comes from a newspaper article published in 1874 after Conger was admitted to practice law by the Illinois Supreme Court. The Carmi Weekly Times , quoting the St. Louis Democrat , reported that “Among the foregoing names will be found that of E.J. Conger; a name with a story appended, he being the identical Conger that effected the capture of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln.” Although the paper erred when it reported Conger received $12,000 instead of $15,000, the remainder of its account was remarkably detailed, leading one to believe that the source of the unsigned article could have been Conger. 28 Conger loaned the money “to a friend, Col. Baker, who secured the loan by a mortgage on a piece of land in Michigan. Shortly after the execution of the mortgage, Baker died, and Conger, after the maturity of the debt, proceeded to foreclose. Unfortunately the land was not correctly located in the mortgage, and the Baker heirs contested the foreclosure. After a protracted series of efforts to recover, Conger was finally beaten and left penniless.” 29 Unfortunately the hotel venture in Lansing proved a bitter failure. In addition to Conger’s loss of life savings, many of the investors also lost money, thus contributing to the already poor reputation of Baker. What effect did that have on the relationship between Conger and the Bakers? No record exists of a suit filed in Lansing during 1868 or 1869 by Conger. The only evidence of a breach comes in how the stories told by Conger and Byron Baker differed as the years passed. To illustrate the rift, one need only look at the accounts written by the two men long after the rewards were distributed. The first offi- cial account was given aboard the monitor Montauk on April 27, 1865, just after the events transpired. While Baker later complained that his version had been mysteriously destroyed (to deprive him, he said, of a proper share of the reward), it was actually located in the Judge Advocate General’s files on the assassination, next to Conger’s report.

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