DAN BOOTH VETERAN HAMILTON BANKER 1881-1924
Narrator: Bertha Ellis Booth of Hamilton, Missouri
My father Dan Booth was born May 25, 1840 on a farm near Radcliff, Vinton County Ohio. He was of pioneer stock. His parents John Booth (1804-1892) and Elizabeth Radcliff (1805-1862) came as pioneers to Ohio from Harrison County (West) Virginia and their parents before them had moved "west."
John Booth was a leader in his community. He besides being a farmer was what frontiersmen called a mechanic; he was an expert with the broad-ax, which work consisted in squaring the logs for a log house and required special genius. In house-raising, his job was to notch the logs and fit them at the corners. The old Booth log house which he made is still standing, made without nails - when nails were necessary he made them. He made his own ox-shoes. He also rived shingles. Once he took a contract from the county court to build a bridge over Raccoon Creek and he searched all over the county to find two suitable oak logs. There the forty foot sleepers of that bridge stand today-made of these two feet square logs squared with his own broad ax-a monument to his work. There is a later covered bridge on it which he did not build, but the sleepers are his. His house was always open to travelers. The word seemed to be "Go to Johnny Booth's he'll put you and your horse up." The charge was nothing. The pack peddlers always stopped there and Grandmother Booth bought from them her wonderful store of linens. He had six boys and as each came to man's estate he told them to ride to town and have a broadcloth suit made by a tailer, as a mark of respectability, I presume. The neighborhood afforded little schooling, yet the six sons somehow succeeded in picking up a fair amount of knowledge. I have heard Father say that he never went to school more than six months; but he had a practical knowledge of arithmetic that guided me through my common mathematics. He was careful of his grammar and noted other people's talk. His attitude toward education was almost worshipful and he gave his children all the education they wanted.
One of my father's earliest jobs back in Vinton County was to contract charcoal for iron furnaces. For the work he used oxen. His first ox came to him by good luck. A cattle driver in passing the Booth place had abandoned one ox that got mired. Father somehow got it out of the mud hole and it was his. This work as a contractor made him known over the county and helped elect him as Democratic Sheriff. He was already making money as a cattle drover. I have heard him tell of buying and driving cattle from Vinton County to Baltimore.
Then he married my Mother Helen L. Pugh and decided to come west. It was in 1873 that he selected his farm three miles west of Hamilton in Lovely Ridge district. He bought it of Altman who had bought it from the railroad. Mr. Altman had planted acres in wine rhubarb and other unprofitable crops and was ready to quit.
Father, there indulged his old love of raising cattle often going as far as Hastings Nebraska to buy cattle. In these days his cattle like others were on the open prairie or "outdoors" as they called the unfenced land. He was a good horse swapper, being able to see possibilities in run down horses which he would buy low and feed up for a good sale. I have heard Mother say that he would never ride these wretched looking speimen home but would send his cow-men Fred Jones or Will Wells after them. While on the farm, the Democrats of the county ran him for Sheriff and he barely lost the election by sticking loyally to an Ohio friend now living neighbor to him - who was his political supporter but whose habits were under sensure.
For further details of his life on the farm, see the paper which my Mother gave of her life in Lovely Ridge.
By this time, Father's ability as a financier was beginning to be noted. When a vacancy occurred in the youthful Savings Bank he was offered the place of cashier. He sold the farm at a good profit to Mr. Pierce and moved to town. About the only vacant house in town then was a small cottage in the west end, now enlarged into the Charley Johnson house-south of the tracks. There were few houses over there at that time. Then we moved to the first house west of the old A.G. Davis house; and then Father bought two lots of Wm. McCoy on Broadway and built our present home 1882. Broadway was as well settled up then as it is now. At that time we always owned a cow, and every evening the whole family would march out over our back lot with Dad and go off to his cow pasture back of Webb Conrad's house and drive the cow home for the night. These days too, we always entertained the Episcopal Ministers who came to preach in the little church over by Mr. Reddie's home. Mother and Father belonged to a clique of friends - the Cowgill, Tom George and Booth families. No Christmas Thanksgiving or New Years went by without a big dinner for the three families.
All this time the Savings Bank was paying good dividends. In the early days, it was located somewhere near the site of the McPherson Produce Store but it was later moved to about the site of the Parrish building near the Penny Store. There it was burned down and rebuilt about 1884. His salary most of that time was $1800 but he had to pay $600 of it to his assistant Finis A. Martin. Harry Lamson was another clerk. The ordinary bank these days was handled by two men, for the checks and drafts were less. The other bank in town was the older Spratt, Houston and Menefee.
Father was also a "silent partner" in two Dry Goods Stores-Cash Cowgill and Company (Penny Store Building" and McDonald, George and Company (Cash Building). The company also had a store at Vibbard.
In 1898, he resigned from the Savings Bank and became President of the First National Bank which was then in a weak condition. The shares soon rose in value and dividends were paid. It was to this bank that he devoted the rest of his life. He kept going down to the bank till within four weeks of his death. He was 84 years of age when he died June 14, 1924.
He loved Hamilton and gave his money freely to its projects-the Tom Creek Mine, the Fair Association, Church Buildings, the Library Building. Although not a church member, I am told that at one time he paid on the salaries of every preacher in town. It seems to me, however, that his best work for Hamilton lay in his advice and help given to young men who came to him for advice.
Interviewed August 22, 1934.
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