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1869 Horace Booth letter discovered

Mitchell Hough passes on his most recent discovery of the Booth family:

Those of us interested in the history of the Cobblestone Farm will forever owe a debt of gratitude to Dean Ohlman of Grand Rapids, Michigan for having the presence of mind to rescue a family Bible and collected documents once in the possession of Adaline Booth from a church booksale. I obtained the documents from Mr. Ohlman recently after he contacted me when he saw that I had posted on a genealogical website, asking for information on Walter Booth, born in Cobblestone but who eventually settled and lived out his days in Grand Rapids.

The letter from Horace Booth to his son, Nelson, is written with four page breaks on a single sheet folded in half with fine blue lines. In the upper left corner is an embossed emblem of a right hand holding a nibbed pen. Booth writes in a clear, practiced script.

As a retired farmer traveling back to Orange County, NY, accompanied by his wife, Adaline, in order to visit his family and place of birth, it is not surprising that the first part of the letter concerns matters agricultural, both locally and what was happening back on the farm he once ran but which was then in Nelson’s care.

The camp referred to is likely some sort of a religious revival meeting. Horace Booth was once an elder in a Presbyterian church located on Lodi Plains but, due to strife within that church, he switched to the Methodist/Episcopal church.

It is interesting to note that he mentions the marriage of Sarah Wells and William Bull. The descendants of this union still gather annually and have published a book of their lineage in which the Washtenaw Booths are included. Awkwardly for Sarah Wells Bull, Mr. Booth refers to her as the progenitor and not progenitrix.

The mention of settling both Michigan and Missouri reopens an unsettled issue. Horace Booth himself would have been regarded as a Michigan pioneer, being given much credit during and after his death in Washtenaw county for a range of firsts. Missouri, however, might refer to William Jesse’s move to Centralia after the Civil War or it might hint at yet another Booth family member who settled there early on, which would explain the reason for William Jesse Booth’s decision to relocate there. It might simply mean that Horace Booth himself had spent some time in Missouri with his son, and the family back in New York were eager to hear stories from somebody who had traveled so far west. Either way, the issue is still unsettled because, even though William Jesse Booth helped to develop the town of Centralia, Missouri, before he even arrived there, he purchased a farm and continued to keep the original on the premises for a time. It would therefore be a stretch to refer to William Jesse or Horace Booth as a Missouri settler.

Horace Booth then lists some of the people whom he has and will be making contact with. They all would have been known to his son without detailed descriptions. Lastly, he adds his wife’s wishes that Sophiah, Nelson’s wife, kiss the baby twice. This implies that Horace and Adaline had left Michigan before the birth––maybe even before Sophiah had become pregnant. The birth announcement would likely have been in the letters from Nelson on the 25th or 30th of August. Oddly the child isn’t mentioned by name. Was it superstition or the fact that a name hadn’t yet been chosen? The baby, of course, is Walter Horace Booth, given the name from his grandfather, who many years later would bring the Bible and accompanying documents with him to Grand Rapids where they would be rediscovered long after his death.

Finally “the horse is at the door” closing comment is undoubtedly the 21st century equivalent to “I gotta run; the taxi’s waiting.”

Booth’s letter transcribed

Hamptonburgh Sept 3d 1869


Yours of August 25th and also of Sept August 30th have come duly tohand. We were very glad to hear from you and that you were done your harvest and haying which we feared would hang heavily on your hand espessially as you had so much to do and help sometimes scarce but you say you have had no difficulty in getting what help you wanted and at reasonable rates and the weather has been comfortable to work which has been the case here indeed we have had here a cool and dry summer, the grass on the meadows has grown since being mown and the pastures are all dried up and cows require to be fed to keep them to milk. Corn is drying up and will be a short crop very few apples or fruit of any kind.

The Camp meeting closed last week and was decidedly a success, it held ten days and the weather was fine with the exception of one small shower which laid the dust which was beginning to be unpleasant a great many people attended and the utmost good order prevailed, saw there many of my old acquaintance, your Uncle Thomas Durland had a tent and we put up with him part of the time evry body seemed pleased, they did not admit any outsiders on the Sabbath. The day before Yesterday we attended a meeting of the descendants of Sarah Wells who was the first white woman who settled in the town of Goshen and who married William Bull and lived to the age of 102 years, she assisted to build the old stone house in Hamptonburg and was the progenitor of the Bull family which is so numerous in this County.

We had a picnic which was attended by several hundred of the decendents

Your mother and I have been well for the most part and have enjoyed our visit very much our friends seem to esteem it a great favor to hear of our toils and hardships in settling a new country and wherever we go we have to talk Michigan and Missouri find every body ready to wait in us – Your draft of $100 came all right and will no doubt be sufficient to pay our expences home we propose to go to New York in a few days and from there we will set our faces towards home but will probably call at Saritoga and perhaps at several places in the western part of the state––Your aunt Ann Eliza Moore is spending the season with Mary Ackerly who is in feeble health––they have written for Mr. Moore who is expected in a few days Frank Moore is there––Wm Roe is also in poor health and is failing––Your aunt Frances comfortable though her health is poor If you write within 8 or ten days direct to Newburgh Orange Co N. York to the care of Mrs Mary Wisner.

We may not be home in two or three weeks though we want to see you all very much tell Sophiah Mother says she must kiss the baby twice for her she wants to see him bad we are very glad he is doing so well we are going to see your aunt Ann Eliza and as the horse is at the door must close.

-Yours affectionately, Horace Booth


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