Imagine being a witness to a part of history. Of course, we all are. We witness our part of history, because history happens all around us. It’s just that some events are more. More what you might ask. More devastating, more tragic, more exciting, just more. One such event was the assassination of President Lincoln. I can’t begin to imagine what it would have been like to go out for a night at the theater only to have the evening shattered be gunfire…and then to look up and see that your President was slumped over, bleeding, and dying. Now imagine you were just a child at the time.
That was the situation Samuel Seymour found himself in on April 14, 1865. On April 14, 1865, Seymour was five years old, when his godmother, who was the wife of his father’s employer took him to see Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater in Washington DC. They were sitting in the balcony across the theater from the Presidential box. Everyone knew President Lincoln. I don’t know how star struck people got back then. Not nearly as much as today, but everyone knew him. A while later, says Seymour, “All of a sudden a shot rang out…and someone in the President’s box screamed. I saw Lincoln slumped forward in his seat.” Suddenly, John Wilkes Booth jumped from the box to the stage. What five year old boy wouldn’t remember those two events. Of course, Seymour didn’t understand what had happened to President Lincoln, but he was very concerned for Booth, who broke his leg in the jump. He was just a child.
As a child, Seymour was the youngest person in the theater. Most, if not all of the people there were adults. Two months before his death, Seymour appeared on the February 9, 1956, broadcast of the CBS TV panel show “I’ve Got a Secret.” Seymour was hurt in a fall prior to the show, and the show’s producers had urged Seymour to postpone his appearance on the show. Seymour’s doctor left the choice up to Seymour, Seymour chose to go on. During the panelists correctly guessed that Seymour witnessed the assassination of Lincoln. Seymour died on April 12, 1956, and with that, the last witness to Lincoln’s assassination was gone.