Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


WALDO CORNWELL BOOTH. It would be to most of us a source of genuine gratification to be able to trace our ancestry back through the centuries, and to know how they lived, what they looked like, what they followed for a livelihood, what they did in the world and what their ambitions were; but, unfortunately, here in America, few of us are able to do this; in fact, the majority of us know practically nothing of our progenitors beyond our grandparents. The Booth family, formerly, spelled Bothe, Bouthe and Boothe, seems to have had a greater pride in their family tree and made a careful record of each generation, so that the history of the family is today accurately traceable back through some six centuries. We find that it is an ancient English family, and prominent and influential both in that country and in America, whither some of the family immigrated among the first in the earliest Colonial period, their descendants now numbering thousands and are to be found all over the Union.

The family name first occurs in the county palatine of Lancaster, England, where a son of Adam de Boothe was living in 1275. All the other families of this name in various parts of England and America are believed to be descended from this parent stock, through its younger branches. From his son William the family comes down through Thomas, Robert and Sir Thomas, who was knighted during the reign of Edward III in the thirteenth century; his son John lived during the reign of Richard II. We come on down to Sir Robert Booth, the first of the family to settle at Dunham Massey, in Cheshire, who died there in 1450. Several members of the family about this period became bishops and great lawyers and statesmen, and many of them married into families of the nobility, Sir George Booth, who died in 1483, marrying a relative of the King of Scotland. The Booths were also people of wealth, owning vast estates. We find that, coming on down the line, Sir George Bouthe was knighted by Queen Elizabeth during the latter part of the fifteenth century, and died in 1652. Sir George Bouthe, who died in 1684, was a member of parliament and commander-in-chief of the English army in Wales and western England, and was for eminent services created a baron by Charles II, and from him descended a line of barons to Earl George H. Grey of Stamford, who was living in 1825.

Richard Boothe of Stamford, ancestor of the name in Connecticut, and for whom the city of Stamford was named, was born in 1607, but it is not known from what part of England nor in what year he emigrated to America. He held various offices of trust in his new home and seems to have been an influential man in Colonial affairs. His large landed property was divided among his children. During that early period of our history we also know that Robert Boothe lived at Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1645, removing to Saco, where he died in 1672; and John Boothe, who lived at Scituate, Massachusetts, in 1656; Humphrey Boothe was a merchant at Charlestown, Massachusetts. Richard Boothe mentioned above, married Elizabeth Hawley, and to them eight children were born, namely: Elizabeth, Anne, Ephraim, Ebenezer, John, Joseph, Bethiah and Johanna. From these children descended the numerous Booths of the present generation throughout America.

Waldo Cornwell Booth, subject of this memoir, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, May 21, 1836, and was a son of George and Abby (Cornwell) Booth. Both his grandparents were soldiers in the Revolutionary war. George Booth was engaged in the foundry business in New Brittan, Connecticut, for a number of years, finally removing to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived with his son our subject.

Waldo C. Booth received an exceptionally good education for the period in which he lived. He grew to manhood in his native state, and remained in New England until 1853, when he came to Cincinnati with an uncle and there engaged in the hardware business, first securing employment in a store and finally working his way up until he became a member of the firm of R. W. Booth & Company, which for years was rated as the largest wholesale hardware company in that city, and there our subject became a prominent man in both business and social circles, and he made a great success as a merchant through his close application, honest dealings and the exercise of sound judgment. He came to Springfield, Missouri, in 1870, on account of failing health, which, being restored by the change, he again engaged in the hardware business, operating here one of the largest and best patronized stores of its kind in the city, and enjoying an excellent trade, and later he also engaged in the tobacco manufacturing business here, one of his most famous brands being "Old Coon," well remembered by the older smokers of the country.

Mr. Booth was married on September 6, 1865, to Martha Thomas, who was born in Buffalo, New York, December 11, 1839. She is a daughter of Calvin F. S. and Eliza (Shields) Thomas, the former a native of New York City, where his birth occurred in 1808, the family later removing to Norfolk, Virginia. After the death of his father he, with his mother and sister, went to Boston, where he established a printing office. Later he settled in Buffalo, New York, where he engaged for some time in the publication of a newspaper and in the wholesale paper business, owning a large paper warehouse there. Meanwhile he had married and reared a family. After the death of his wife he gave up his business and made his home with his daughter, who had married Waldo C. Booth, our subject, in Cincinnati, the family coming to Springfield in 1869. Mr. Thomas did not engage in business here of any kind, his failing health compelling him to lead a quiet, retired life. The Springfield people who yet remember him recall him as a silent but cultured, kindly gentleman. He died in 1876 while in Buffalo, New York, where he had gone on a visit. Mr. Thomas knew America's greatest author, Edgar Allen Poe, whom he befriended when he was engaged in the printing business in Boston, in 1827. Mr. Thomas then being about eighteen years old. He was a poor boy, and with the assistance of a widowed mother and what he could earn by his printing business, was trying to get an education. In that year he met Poe, who was about the same age, and who was then in the United States army, where he was known as Edgar A. Perry. He prevailed on Thomas to publish a volume of his poems, and when the thin, forty page volume was issued the title page was as follows: "Tamerlane and Other Poems. By a Bostonian. Boston: Calvin F. S. Thomas, Printer. 1827." It was of cheap paper, poorly executed mechanically, and rudely bound. It contained ten poems, some of them without any title. But four of them, "Tamerlane," "The Lake," "To ______," and "Visit of the Dead," always appeared in later editions, and these four were subjected to so much revision that they bear but small resemblance to their original form.

To Waldo C. Booth and wife four children were born, namely: Stanley C., who is head bookkeeper for the McGregor-Noe Hardware Company of Springfield, married Lydia Wood; Fred is deceased; Ralph W. is also deceased; George H., who is now connected with the Springfield Wagon Company, married Grace Hyner of St. Louis.

Waldo C. Booth was a soldier in the Union army during the Civil war, having enlisted at Cincinnati in 1861 in the Fifth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He was soon commissioned first lieutenant, later became a captain. He was subsequently given command of a company in the One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He proved to be an efficient officer, and took part in numerous important engagements. Politically, he was a. Democrat. He was a member of the school board for a number of terms, and he was often solicited to make the race for mayor of Springfield, but always declined. Fraternally he was a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, and religiously he was a Unitarian. He belonged to the Shakespeare Club of Cincinnati. In his earlier life he was an enthusiastic sportsman. Personally he was admired by all who knew him for his integrity, business ability and exemplary character.

[1669-1672]


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