Kathryn M. Evans had the first line in Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater the night that President Lincoln was assassinated there. She went on to a long career, eventually retiring in Chicago, where she once had a reunion with another old cast member at a play about Lincoln at the Blackstone Theater (now the Merle Reskin).
One lingering mystery is what became of her theatrical memorability; stories about her in her old age say that her apartment was full of it. Perhaps her probate record is on file in Chicago and might give us a clue!
Her grave and story are regular features on my Rosehill Cemetery walking tours.
Some other graves mentioned in the episode:
Thomas Quilliam, Avon Center Cemetery, Avon, Ohio. Notice that the carver ran out of room for the first and third lines of the poem and had to had the words “assure” and “door” up above the lines. The poem, from a hymn by Isaac Watts that must be a real party anthem, goes “The rising morning can’t assure / that we shall end the day / for death stands ready at the door / to take our lives away.”
Caroline Quilliam, also in Avon Center Cemetery (notice the strip mall in the background). The verse on hers reads “My glass is run, my grave you see / prepare in time to follow me / Go home dear friends wipe off your tears / I must lie here til Christ appears / and when he comes I hope to rise / unto a life that never dies.” This poem, with lots of minor variations, appears on many early 19th century grave; an 1812 magazine talks about one in London on which some joker had pencilled in a response: “to follow you i’m not content / until I know which way you went.” Ha!
Albert H. Dainty, buried not far from Kathryn. His first wife directed a play to benefit Kathryn, but presumably did not pick the Bible verse that is now half-buried on his grave. The full verse, from the Song of Solomon, is “Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn to me, my beloved, and be like a wild elk on the rugged hills.” Go, Albert!
The namesake of the phrase “Wake Me Up When Kirby Dies” was actor J. Hudson Kirby, who was briefly popular in New York in the 1840s, appearing in shows such as Wilbert The Deformed, The Idiot Witness (Or, A Tale of Blood), Carpenter of Rouen, and The Robber’s Wife. His death scenes were particularly well known; one source from 1914 even says he’d die wrapped in an American flag onstage. A handful of 19th century theatrical memoirs say he died destitute in his 20s in London in 1848 after descending into playing “the lowest saloons;” one witness said he’d pretty much drank himself to death, another blames his lungs (which probably means tuberculosis). Legal records back up the destitution; he’s presumably buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave. One of these days we may have to do a series called “Cemetery Mixtape: Unmarked.”
His death was mentioned in a few papers, but none that I’ve seen took the chance to make a “wake me up when Kirby dies” crack.
Music and Voice Credits
The song for Kathryn, “Wake Me Up When Kirby Dies,” comes from southern gothic swing sensations Mayhayley’s Grave. They also provided the version of “St. James Infirmary” that appears in the intro, and are sort of the “house band” here at Cemetery Mixtape! We’ll cover their namesake in a future episode!
Dave Taylor, our interview guest (and the guy who told me about Kathryn’s grave) runs the incredible Boothie Barn, your source for all things related to the Lincoln assassination and the Booth family.
Rachel Lazarus provides the voice of Kathryn.
Additional music by the Advent Chamber Orchestra