The Norman Transcript

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January 27, 2013

Odd chapter in Enid history linked to Lincoln

(Continued)

ENID —

Meanwhile, a man who bore a resemblance to Booth was making his way to central Texas. The man, who went by the name John St. Helen, settled in Granbury, Texas, in the early 1870s and befriended local attorney Finis L. Bates.

According to Finis Bates, the man he knew as John St. Helen became ill in 1878 and revealed to Bates his identity as Booth and asked him to notify Booth’s brother, Edwin Booth.

Bates detailed the account, and the ensuing legend of David George, in his 1907 book “The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth.”

St. Helen recovered from his illness and soon after disappeared from Granbury.

Twenty-five years later, David E. George appeared in Enid and rented a room at Grand Avenue Hotel.

Enid contractor and historian Henry Bass was 6 when George showed up in Enid. Bass later interviewed many of the people who had met George, and been party to the events surrounding his death.

Bass later transcribed their accounts in his monthly newsletter “Dear Everybody,” an account of history, politics, economics and social affairs in Enid between 1947 and 1975.

In a February 1959 edition of “Dear Everybody,” Bass related from his interviews of eyewitnesses the events leading up to George’s death in Enid. According to the account, George went on Jan. 13, 1903, to a local pharmacy and purchased two doses of strychnine, under the pretext of using the poison to kill a dog and a cat.

“A few minutes later,” Bass wrote, “agonized screams from Booth’s (George’s) room caused doctors and druggists to rush to his assistance. But all to no avail. Between convulsions he gasped out ‘I am John Wilkes Booth’ and then expired.”

A suicide note reportedly requested Finis Bates be summoned after George’s death. According to legend, and Bates’ own account in his book, Bates recognized George as the man he had known as John St. Helen.

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