Eli DeVoe was born in 1809, same years as Abraham Lincoln, in a Log Cabin in Homer NY, to John and Helena Godwin DeVoe. DeVoe was working as a detective for the New York City Police department when he learned of an assassination plot against President Abraham Lincoln that was to be carried out on February 23, 1861, at a scheduled stop in Baltimore. Devoe was able to get word to President Lincoln and prevent the 1861 assassination, which allowed the President to live long enough to abolish slavery. President Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, by John Wilkes Booth, and Eli Devoe, employed as a Secret Service Agent, would apprehend two of Booth's co-conspirators.
Backstory and Context
Detective Eli DeVoe and Tom Sampson were sent by New York Police Superintendent John Kennedy, to investigate a possible assassination plot against President Lincoln in Baltimore. Under the aliases of Davis and Thompson, they were able to shadow an anti-Lincoln cell that was attempting to set up the assassination. This group was affiliated with the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secret society that had been founded to support the Southern United States' interest. Interest that involved expanding slave states to include Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. They were desperately trying to prevent President Lincoln from taking office and enforcing legislation that would aid in the abolition cause. Through channels of people with access to President Lincoln, such as Senator Seward and General Winfield Scott, DeVoe and an independent detective Allen Pinkerton, got word to Lincoln. Lincoln was able to divert his trip to Harrisburg, and using a decoy and a private train car, made it safely to Washington for his inauguration. These actions allowed President Lincoln to live long enough to abolish slavery.
Eli DeVoe and Tom Sampson began receiving death threats from the secret society after their successful intervention in the Lincoln assassination plot. With the assistance of other detectives, they too were able to quickly and safely leave Baltimore. Their operation had been a success, but sadly, the celebration would not last long because President Lincoln would be assassinated in 1865, by John Wilkes Booth. Eli DeVoe, a Secret Service Agent, would arrest two of the co-conspirators involved in Lincoln's assassination plot, Mrs. Surrat, and Thomas Payne. Thomas Payne was also charged with the attempted assassination of the Secretary of State, William Seward, of Auburn, New York.
Eli DeVoe was an honorable man who risked his well-being to protect others. It was not likely done for public praise, because his work was so secretive that it was not until after his death in 1874 that an article was published giving him credit for his involvement in preventing the 1861 assassination and its contribution to the emancipation. Bertha Eveleth Blodgett, the author of Stories of Cortland County, stated that if Cortland County had a Hall of Fame Eli Devoe would deserve to be in it for the outstanding contributions he made to his country, state, and county. A historical marker for Eli DeVoe's birthplace is in Homer New York, southwest of the Atwater Cemetery, facing Homer Gulf. A historical marker can also be found for Thomas Gould Alvord, Sr. a Revolutionary Soldier who had also had a cabin on the property. It is a historically rich location. You can find this information and much more at the Cortland County Historical Society.
Sweeney, Martin A. Lincoln's gift from Homer, New York, A Painter, an Editor, and a Detective. Jefferson, North Carolina. McFarland & Company, Inc., 2011.
Eli DeVoe, Homeville Museum. Accessed November 13th 2019. https://homevillemuseum.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/1_devoe-biography.pdf.
Town of Homer New York. Accessed November 13th 2019. http://www.townofhomer.org/history/civil_war.htm.
Blodgett, Bertha Eveleth. Stories of Cortland County. Edition 3rd. Cortland , New York. Cortland County Historical Society, 2008.