1833 – January 28, 1868
Kate Warne’s early years are a mystery beyond the facts that she was born in Erin, New York, and was widowed by the time she was 23. It was unclear to me if Warne was her married or maiden name, but she used variations on this name throughout her career as aliases as well which may be why Allan Pinkerton misspelled it on her headstone.
In 1856, the recently-widowed Kate applied to be a detective at the Pinkerton agency in Chicago. She talked Allan Pinkerton into hiring her and went on to become one of his best agents. She was instrumental in foiling the Baltimore Plot to assassinate then president-elect Lincoln and escorted him safely to Washington DC via a series of secret schedule tweaks and disguises. She was also involved in important espionage work during the Civil War.
She continued to work for Pinkerton after the war, going undercover and cracking cases. She also headed up Pinkerton’s Female Detective Bureau under the title Supervisor of Women Agents.
Tragically, Kate fell ill in December 1867 and died of pneumonia on 28 January 1868 with Allan Pinkerton at her bedside. She is buried on the Pinkerton family plot which is quite large and also includes a marker in honor of Pinkerton employees. Kate’s marker stands between this marker and a cenotaph commemorating her fellow Baltimore Plot agent Timothy Webster who was hanged as a spy by the Confederacy in 1862. Many more smaller markers surround these larger ones, much worn but likely commemorating other agents.
To learn more about Kate, there are many books, articles, a Wikipedia entry, a bio on her findagrave.com record, and a biopic set to star Emily Blunt is reportedly in the works!