At the end of the journey, Mr. Lincoln gave Stephen a ticket to see a show “if you ever come to Washington some day.” Well, apparently my great-great-grandfather was well enough to get out of the hospital and go to Ford’s Theatre to see “Our American Cousin” on Good Friday, 1865.
“Yes, he was in Ford’s Theatre when the president was shot,” she told me somberly. “The next day it was in all the papers, of course, and one of them actually mentioned Aldrich being in the theater. We had that paper in our family for over a century and I actually remember holding it and reading it when I was a youngster. It was amazing.”
Stephen returned to upstate New York after the war. The story of his fateful encounter with history followed him. His war injuries left him too fragile to return to the canal (“frequent fainting spells,” his discharge papers said) so he got a job with the Boston and Albany railroad as a lampman. He died in 1914.
“It’s quite a story, isn’t it,” she said with a chuckle. “Of course, all we know is that this is just a story has been handed down over the generations. But we believe it is true. All of the many documents show Aldrich in the right places at all the right times in history. Apparently, he told his immediate kin about the event, but later, down through the generations, the story kind of faded from sight.”
I tried to picture the 5-foot-7-inch Aldrich putting some meat into a frying pan and serving dinner to the towering president.
“Oh, if that frying pan could talk,” I commented.
“Sure, and we think we still have it in our family,” she said.
I put a call in to Beverly’s daughter, Karen, who has the pan.