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Monday, February 11, 2019


Riverside Farm in Acushnet, Massachusetts, is linked in history with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. 

In 1826, Thomas and Jane Moss of Winchester, England welcomed their fourth and last child, Mary Francis Moss. Raised and educated as a gentleman’s daughter, Mary Francis married Henry Wellington Taylor in 1844 and together they ran a London pub, until he disappeared, reportedly for the charms of Australia. Whether he went willingly or on a prison ship, he left Mary Francis the single mother of two young daughters. She was counseled by her aunt, a former British actress, to go into the theater. Since it was unseemly at the time for a woman of good birth to work in the theater, Mary Francis changed her name to Laura Keene when she went took to the London stage. Enjoying success, she took her show “on the road” in 1852 and moved to New York, leaving her daughters in the care of their maternal grandmother.

Laura did well in the states, well enough to send for her mother and daughters, and to start her own theater company in Baltimore. After only two years, she took that show on the road, heading for California to take advantage of the ready cash of the gold rush.
When things didn’t work out as well, Laura headed to Australia to hunt up her husband. There she met and began working with Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth.

Upon her return to the United States, Laura and her company returned east, where they performed for audiences on both sides of the War Between the States. While performing in Boston, she and business manager John Lutz took a break and headed into the Massachusetts countryside, where John informed her that she owned the land on which they picnicked. Laura fell in love with Riverside Farm in Acushnet, renamed it Riverside Lawn, and ultimately retired there with her children.

Following the war, Laura Keene, actress, entrepreneur, playwright, director and theater manager, was invited to perform at Ford’s Theater on April 15, 1865. The show was Our American Cousin, to which Keene owned the rights. The proceeds were promised as a “benefit” to her, and Laura was onstage when John Wilkes Booth fired the shot that killed President Abraham Lincoln.

And that’s how a Massachusetts farm is connected to the assassination of our nation’s sixteenth president.

Tracy Garrett

Bookbub  @TracyGarrett
Twitter  TGarrett_Author


  1. A very interesting, little-known detail. That's what is so fascinating about history. Thanks for this post.

  2. I agree completely, Ann. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. My goodness, what are the odds of all that coming together at Ford's theater? Quite an amazing turn of events. Did she ever find her husband in Australia?

    Quite an interesting post, Tracy.

  4. It's fascinating to delve into tidbits of history only to find out how interconnected events and people are. Great story.

    1. Thanks, Kaye. I love the connections between two people/events that we wouldn't expect to be connected. Tracy

  5. Some of these early actresses were even better businesswomen than they were performers. Thanks for the connection information. Doris