John Rudolphus Booth

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John Rudolphus Booth
John Rudolphus Booth.jpg
Born (1827-04-05)April 5, 1827
Waterloo, Lower Canada
Died December 8, 1925(1925-12-08) (aged 98)
Ottawa, Ontario
Resting place
Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa
Occupation Lumber king and railway baron
Religion Presbyterian
Spouse(s) Rosalinda Cooke

John Rudolphus Booth (April 5, 1827 – December 8, 1925) was a Canadian lumber king and railway baron. He controlled logging rights for large tracts of forest land in central Ontario, and built a railway (the Canada Atlantic Railway from Ottawa through to Georgian Bay) to extract his logs; and from Ottawa through to Vermont to export lumber and grain to the United States and Europe.

Early life[edit]

J. R. Booth was born on a farm at Lowes near Waterloo (Shefford County) in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. His parents, John and Eleanor Rowley Booth, Irish immigrants, had a number of children (variously reported as 5, 6 and 8). J. R. Booth left the family farm at the age of 21 and got a job as a carpenter with the Central Vermont Railroad.[1]

In 1852 he married Rosalinda Cooke and moved to the Ottawa valley. His first business venture was a machine shop in Hull, Quebec which later burned down. He then opened a successful shingle factory. Later he accumulated enough money to lease (then buy) a small sawmill near the Chaudière Falls. He established his own lumber company and won the contract to supply wood for the Parliament buildings at the new Canadian capital in Ottawa, Ontario, selected by Queen Victoria in 1858.[2]

Building a lumber and railway empire[edit]

Lumber[edit]

Panoramic view of Booth mills in Ottawa (1912)

Harvesting timber from the upper Ottawa River and its tributaries, Booth expanded his timber limits into the Lake Nipissing region in 1881. In order to reach his Ottawa mills, Booth constructed the Nosbonsing & Nipissing Railway (length 5.5 miles (8.9 km)) in 1884[3] to carry sawlogs over the portage from Lake Nipissing to the headwaters of the Mattawa. It was subsequently incorporated as a separate company by Act of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 1886.[4]

Booth's vision and boldness were qualities that made him a success. In 1867, he purchased, at a very reasonable price, the timber rights of John Egan's 250 square miles (650 km2) of pine on the Madawaska River in what is now Algonquin Park. During the latter half of the 19th Century, he amassed timber rights approaching 7,000 square miles (18,000 km2) in Central and Northern Ontario which he would harvest for his mills.[2] He often went to his Algonquin timber limits in his own private railway car, working beside his men during the day and on business affairs most of the night, seldom sleeping for more than a few hours.[2]

In 1892, Booth's Ottawa mill produced 140 million board feet (about 25,000 cubic feet (710 m3)) of lumber, more than any other mill in the world. Half of the mills' output was shipped to England; the rest to the United States and throughout Canada.[5] White pine from Booth's lumber yards was used to build the decks on the ocean liners of the Cunard Line. In 1905, he constructed a new plant and entered the pulp and paper business, thus being able to use softwood that he had been previously forced to sell.

He expanded into the United States through the establishment of docks and a distribution centre at Rouses Point, New York, a planing mill and box factory at Burlington, Vermont, and a sales office in Boston.

Fire was a constant threat to his mills, and they burnt down in 1893, 1886, 1900 and 1903, with much of Booth's personal and business records being lost at these times.

Railways[edit]

Booth's sawmill operations could never run at full capacity because the output could not be carried out of the lumber yards fast enough.[6] Because of these transportation problems in the Ottawa area, Booth became an important participant in the development of Canada's railway system when he purchased the Montreal and City of Ottawa Junction Railway (M&OJ) and the Coteau and Province Line Railway and Bridge Company (C&PL) in 1879, amalgamating them to form the Canada Atlantic Railway.[7] The M&OJ had received a charter to build southeast from Ottawa to Coteau Landing on the north bank of the St. Lawrence River. The C&PL had received a charter to build a bridge across the St. Lawrence River to Valleyfield, Quebec and then operate a railway across southwestern Quebec to the United States border. Due to financial difficulties, neither line had been completed, and Booth worked to complete the entire route by 1882. The Coteau bridge was completed in 1890, thus eliminating the necessity of transshipping cargo by barge.[8] The CAR formed a subsidiary, the Vermont and Province Line Railroad, which would build a line to Swanton, Vermont on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain in 1897, thus connecting Ottawa to the United States via the Delaware and Hudson Railway, the Rutland Railroad, and the Central Vermont Railway.

From 1885 to 1896, Booth formed the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway (OA&PS), running from Depot Harbour on Georgian Bay through southern Algonquin Park to Ottawa. All three lines met "end to end". The M&OJ met the OA&PS on Booth's sawmill property in Ottawa while the C&PL met the M&OJ in Coteau, using several hundred feet of trackage rights of the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR). In 1899, the OA&PS amalgamated with the CAR.[9][10] As a result, Booth ruled the largest railway empire built in North America by any one man.

Booth himself was concerned with building the railways as well as marketing the service to build and maintain tonnage on the new lines.[11] He was open to cooperation with other railways in eastern and western Canada, as well as to sale or amalgamation with a larger railway system, and was contemplating such a sale by 1901.[12] Whether it was because Booth at age 74 was tired, or because he realized that competition from other transcontinental lines would soon cause serious problems for the CAR, he did everything possible in the early years of the 20th century to make every aspect of the railway profitable, and therefore attractive to potential buyers.[13]

Depot Harbour elevators in 1910
OA&PS engine #701 2-8-0 built by Baldwin Locomotive Works. The engine is shown in Depot Harbour, the western end of the line.

Booth also operated grain elevators at Depot Harbour, Coteau, Duluth and Milwaukee,and steamships on the Great Lakes, and formed the Canada Atlantic Transit Company, which operated five large lake freighters on the Upper Great Lakes. He also helped to create the Canada Cement Company (now part of Lafarge).[14]

Prompted by the federal government, the Grand Trunk Railway began negotiating with Booth to acquire the Canada Atlantic as part of the Grand Trunk's efforts to expand into northern Ontario and eventually into Western Canada. In August 1904 the GTR agreed to purchase the Canada Atlantic system, including the Great Lakes steamship fleet and the line in Vermont which connected with its Central Vermont Railway subsidiary. The agreed-upon price for the entire system as well as the Depot Harbour and Ottawa terminals was $16,000,000.[15] The Grand Trunk took over all operations of the CAR on 1 October 1905, but the actual purchase was ratified by Parliament only in 1914.[16] Booth was subsequently one of the GTR's directors until its nationalization as part of the Canadian National Railways in 1923.[17]

Later years[edit]

J. R. Booth continued to run his business empire well into his nineties. Only in 1921 did he convert it from a sole proprietorship into a corporation (known as J.R. Booth Limited).[18] He died in 1925 at the age of 98 after being ill for several months and was survived by his sons Jackson, John Frederick, daughter Helen Gertrude Fleck and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.

In 1943, J.R. Booth Limited, with the exception of its lumber division, was sold to George Weston Limited to become part of the E. B. Eddy Company.[19] The lumber mill was later sold to E. B. Eddy in 1946.

Other influences[edit]

Booth's impact was significant on Ottawa:

In Algonquin Provincial Park, Booth Lake[22] is named after him.

In 1892, Booth rented a cottage at Saranac Lake, New York, where his daughter would cure for several years. Booth brought a pair of skis with him, thus introducing the sport of skiing to the area.[23]

Death, descendants and legacy[edit]

Booth died in December 1925. On his passing, Michael Grattan O'Leary of the Ottawa Journal noted that what people should remember about him was that he was:

Also at that time, William Lyon Mackenzie King observed:

Booth's fortune was a subject of much speculative commentary during the latter years of his life, with estimates ranging up to $100 million. At his death his estate was officially valued at almost $7.7 million; the property was later re-evaluated upwards to $23 million.[25] Although succession duties of $4.28 million were paid in 1927,[26] in 1937 Ontario Premier Mitchell Hepburn subsequently claimed more and had the Legislative Assembly of Ontario pass the necessary legislation to overcome the legal obstacles.[27] J.R's heirs eventually paid another $3 million in 1939.[28]

His son John Frederick Booth, who lived in Canada, married and had a daughter Lois Frances Booth (born Ottawa, Ontario, 2 August 1897; died Copenhagen, 26 February 1941), who was married in Ottawa, Ontario, on 11 February 1924 to Count Erik of Rosenborg, whom she divorced in 1937; they had two children. At the time of the marriage, it was rumoured that Booth contributed half of her $4-million dowry. J.R. issued a formal denial. [29] She later remarried Thorkild Juelsberg, without issue.

Siblings and descendants[edit]

  • John Booth (1802–1877), m. (1st) Eleanor Rowley (1804–1834) (2nd) Lydia Bickford (1808–1861) (3rd) Suzannah Bickford (1814–1888)
    • James Rowley Booth (1825–1906)
    • John Rudolphus Booth (1827–1925), m. Rosalinda Cooke (1829–1886)
      • Frances Gertrude Booth (1854–1856)
      • Helen Gertrude Booth (~1855–1940), m. Andrew Walker Fleck (1848–1924)
      • Lila Booth (1858–1918), m. J. Arthur Seybold (1859–1928)
      • Augusta Adella Booth (1860–1866)
      • Charles Jackson Booth (1863–1947),[30] m. Jessie Louise Gibson (1876–1939)
        • John Frederick Booth (d. in infancy)
        • Charles Rowley Booth (1915–1960),[31] m. Marjorie Annette McKinnon(1920–2003)[32]
          • John Rowley Booth (1944–)
          • William Jackson Booth
      • John Frederick Booth (1865–1930), m. Frances Alberta Hunsiker (1866–1964)
        • John Rudolphus Booth (1895–1941),[33] m. (1st) Ida Evelyn Woods (1900–) (2nd) Elizabeth Jane Smith (1909–)
        • Frederick Hunsiker Booth (1895–1941),[36] m. (1st) Louise Taylor (1898–)[37] (2nd) Cornelia Ann Vanderhoef (1911–1995)
          • Elizabeth Ann Booth[38] (1934-)
        • Lois Frances Booth (1897–1941), m. (1st) Count Erik of Rosenborg (1890–1950) (2nd) Gunnar Thorkil Juelsberg (1904–)
          • Alexandra Dagmar Frances Marie Margrethe, Countess of Rosenborg (1927–1992)
          • Christian Edward Valdemar Jean Frederik Peter, Count of Rosenborg (1932–1997)
      • Frank Booth (1867–1869)
      • May Belle Booth (1876–1899)
    • William Booth (1829–1913)
    • Eliza Booth (1831)
    • Robert Rowley Booth (1832–1899)
    • Louis Elijah Booth (1835–1915)
    • Eleanor Booth (1839–1842)
    • Charlotte Booth (1841–1912)
    • Lucinda Booth (1842–1933)
    • Samuel Armstrong Booth (1844–1920)
    • Isaiah (Isaac) Booth (1845–1928)
    • Edward J. Booth (1846–1849)
    • Edward Judson Booth (1852–1943)


See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bell 1991, p. 3
  2. ^ a b c Bell 1991, p. 5
  3. ^ Westhouse, Brian. "History of Logging and Lumber Railways in Ontario". Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  4. ^ An Act to incorporate the Nosbonsing and Nipissing Railway Company, S.O. 1886, c. 74
  5. ^ Bell 1991, p. 8
  6. ^ Bell 1991, p. 8
  7. ^ S.C., 42 Vic., c. 57 (15 May 1879).
  8. ^ Bell 1991, pp. 38–40
  9. ^ S.C., 62-63 Vic., c.81 (11 August 1899)
  10. ^ Bell 1991, p. 158
  11. ^ Bell 1991, p. 137
  12. ^ Bell 1991, p. 139
  13. ^ Bell 1991, p. 142
  14. ^ "About Lafarge North America - History". Lafarge North America. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  15. ^ Bell 1991, pp. 143–144
  16. ^ S.C., 4-5 George V, chap. 89 (27 May 1914).
  17. ^ Bell 1991, p. 160
  18. ^ "J.R. Booth, Limited, incorporated" XIX (4). Pulp and Paper Magazine of Canada. 27 January 1921. p. 98. 
  19. ^ "Garfield Weston buys Ottawa firm". Montreal Gazette. August 12, 1943. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  20. ^ Ottawa Journal "Britannia United Church" 2 October 1976
  21. ^ "John Rudulphous Booth summer home". waymarking.com. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  22. ^ 45°39′27″N 78°11′15″W / 45.6574999°N 78.1874999°W / 45.6574999; -78.1874999
  23. ^ "John R. Booth". Historic Saranac Lake. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Booth's Funeral". Trinity Western University. Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  25. ^ Doug Mackey (October 27, 2000). "A closer look at lumber baron J.R. Booth". Community Voices. 
  26. ^ "Claims Booth Duties Paid". Regina Leader-Post. September 18, 1937. Retrieved September 24, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Ontario Assembly Prorogues Today". Montreal Gazette. December 3, 1937. Retrieved September 24, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Ottawa Estates Pay Additional Duties to Govt.". Ottawa Citizen. September 23, 1939. Retrieved September 24, 2013. 
  29. ^ C. Arnold McNaughton (1973). The Book of Kings: A Royal Genealogy 1. London: Garnstone Press. p. 186. ISBN 0-90039119-7. OL 5235688M. 
  30. ^ "C.J. Booth Leaves $7,594,000: Son Is Only Heir to Large Estate". Ottawa Citizen. 31 July 1947. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  31. ^ The Ashburian XLIV. Ottawa: Ashbury College. 1960. p. 16. 
  32. ^ "Marjorie Annette MCKINNON". Ottawa Citizen. 30 September 2003. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  33. ^ "Canada Won't Permit Heir To Wed His Wife Over Again". New York Post. 21 January 1938. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  34. ^ "Miss Pamela Evelyn Booth Becomes Bride of Douglas L. Breithaupt". Ottawa Citizen. 7 October 1946. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  35. ^ "Pamela Evelyn Booth Breithaupt, "Michigan, Detroit Manifests of Arrivals at the Port of Detroit, 1906-1954"". familysearch.org. 
  36. ^ "F.H.Booth Dies in California Aged 46 Years". Ottawa Citizen. August 13, 1941. p. 3. 
  37. ^ "Louise Taylor, 'Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920'". familysearch.org. 
  38. ^ "Elizabeth Ann Booth, "California, Birth Index, 1905-1995"". familysearch.org. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]