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God's Finger Touched Him and He Slept
The Senior Editor of the Eureka
Ends a Long and Honorable Career
|"He never sold the light to serve the hour,
Nor falterd with eternal God for power."
"O good grey head, which all well know!
O iron nerve, for each occasion true!
Oh, fallen at length,
That tower of strength
Which stood unmoved by all the winds that blow."
A life of nearly ninety-five years is ended. Though the physical powers, according to the order of nature, gradually declined as the years went on and weakness and partial helplessness were more and more manifest as the end drew near, yet Mr. Booth's mental faculties practically maintained their normal condition until within a few weeks. His memory of the past was remarkably clear and his interest in the war between Japan and Russia and other prominent events did not cease, although failing sight of his one eye at the last made reading a difficult task.
This latter phase of his experience to limitations upon his reading was much in contrast to his habit of a lifetime. Though he came to this place in 1830 and more than once saw deer passing over what is now the site of this city, as has the writer also, he never would give up his books and papers, and the older settlers will recall his fixed habit of reading far into the night?often until one or two o'clock in the morning. While living at the village of Fairview, four miles south of Anamosa, his habit was to foot it to Walnut Fork?now Olin?about 20 miles for the round trip, once a week for his mail, that being the nearest post-office for a considerable period. He brought with him from Hartford, Conn., a choice library of standard works, prominent among them being Shakespeare, Walter Scott and many authors of prose and poetry with whose productions he was perfectly familiar. This writer remembers very distinctly sitting on his lap before the big fireplace in the log house, when a child, and listening with supreme delight to the stream of poetry which his wonderful memory could pour out at a moment's notice.
Someone once said that to sit on one end of a log with Mark Hopkins on the other end was the equivalent to a liberal college education. We trust that we may not be accused of undue pride if we suggest that there was something of a verification of this fact in the life of him who is no more with us. For several years after his return from California in the spring of 1854, we spent many days of the fall and winter months in his timber three miles south of Anamosa, getting out rails, posts and stakes for the Cass farm and ties for the Dubuque Southwestern Railroad. The noon hour, always found us sitting on some log or pile of posts eating our dinner, during which father invariably discoursed, in a most interesting and instructive way, on some public theme, historical fact of personal reminiscence that never failed to delight the boy heart and lighten the burden of rough toil. And so it was in coming or going to the woods or the farm?behind the slow-moving white oxen?and when taking dinner in the harvest or hay field. Small gossip father detested, and never did he indulge in discussing the petty affairs that so often constituted the principal conversation of some. This was the habit of his life, and among the most vivid pictures of our earliest remembrance are those little groups where he was always listened to with seemingly eager attention by friends, neighbors and even strangers when he was called out on some topic of mutual interest. In later years when the evening's work in the printing office was ended the "boys" liked nothing better than to get father "started"?it mattered not whether history, or philosophical meditations, or kindly suggestions as to good habits and the better ideals of life came uppermost to his thoughts?he was always original, earnest, wholesome, and never did we know him to make a vulgar allusion or allow an unclean word to pass his lips.
In all his business relations likewise father's record is absolutely without spot or blemish. Grasping for the almighty dollar and stunting the soul and burning out the nobler impulses for the sake of piling up more wealth were utterly abhorrent to his nature. In truth he was often too generous for his own good; in his dealings with his fellows the advantage always went the other way, and we do not believe he ever defrauded a man out of a penny or ever was guilty of a small or mean act in his life. His generous spirit, nobility of nature and broad humanitarianism made such things impossible to him.
While he as in the Hartford school for the deaf, concerning which further particulars are given later in this sketch, the legislatures of South Carolina and Georgia, in 1834, took up the question of making some provisions of the education of the deaf children of their respective states. Only the most primitive methods prevailed as to the methods and possibilities, and it was decided that Mr. Wold, the principal of the Hartford Institution, should be invited to appear before them and bring one of his teachers and two of his pupils in order that the members might see for themselves something of the benefits of instruction. Mr. Weld selected Mr. Booth as the teacher to accompany him. One of the tests was this: Mr. Wold, who was a hearing and speaking man, called on the members to give him quotations or sentences. These were conveyed to Mr. Booth by signs alone?not a word being spelled out on the fingers?and then he went to the blackboard and wrote them out. The object was to show the members that the sign language among deaf mutes was not only a vehicle of nearly as rapid communication as spoken language, but its correctness was verified by the sentences written on the board by this deaf young man. Only once was he put to his wits end and for a moment by a very severe and really unwarranted test. A member suggested a verse of nor very familiar poetry for interpretation. Mr. Wold was aghast. Does the reader wonder at this! Take a verse of poetry and change every noun and prominent word to other words of synonymous meaning, then give it to a person or company and ask for the original. One word may have several synonyms and so one sign may be interpreted by many words. Mr. Wold "signed" the verse as carefully as he could. Mr. booth stood in puzzled meditation for an instant, then the quotation flashed on his mind, on the board it went and Mr. Booth's triumph was complete.
The result of this visitation was an entire success. The South Carolina and Georgia legislatures promptly adopted enactments under which the deaf mute children of those states were sent to Hartford for an education.
The writer has often heard father speak in most pleasure able terms of shaking hands with President Jackson, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and others who seemed to take great pleasure in visiting the institution at Hartford and witnessing the various methods of instruction then in vogue. That father occupied a position of some pre-eminence at that time as a teacher, writer and poet?several productions of the latter class being still in our possession?it is not difficult to believe. We trust we may be pardoned for narrating a little incident that, in a sense, gives ground for this inference.
Father went to the world's fair in Chicago in 1893. There was a world's congress of the deaf, including teachers and others held in the Art Institute Building, and he came into their midst with his two sons. Several of these teachers recognized him and hurried toward him with hands and fingers flying. Instantly, there was a rush, and greetings and introductions and demonstrations of affection followed that were to the writer pathetic beyond the language of the pen or tongue to describe. There stood father in the midst, six feet, two and a half inches tall and of massive frame, and like King Saul of old, "higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward"?a veritable patriarch among the representatives of his class from the four quarters of the globe. He was then the oldest living ex-teacher of the deaf in the United States, and probably at the time of his death there was not another in the world who exceeded him in age.
In August 1842, father was elected county recorder, Dr. Clark Joslin, the father of Dr. J. M. Joslin of Anamosa, being his predecessor and the first recorder of the county. The vote as set forth in his journal was as follows: Farm Creek precinct, John E. Lovejoy, 23 majority;
Walnut Fork precinct, E. Booth, 37 majority;
Buffalo Forks precinct, E. Booth, 32 majority;
Bowen's Prairie precinct, E. Booth, 17 majority.
Majority for Mr. Booth, 80. He adds that the total vote was 124 and that there were 180 tax-payers in the county.
The above were the names of the voting precincts at that time and the contrast with the present population of about 22,000 is quite striking. to make it more so we may cite the fact that the total vote then recorded was considerably less than that in any one of the four wards in Anamosa last fall.
We have heard father tell that the fees of the recorder's office during his incumbency of about two and a half years amounted to thirty dollars, with which sum, with ten dollars that he had saved and ten dollars that he borrowed of his brother-in-law, Gideon H. Ford, he proceeded on foot to Dubuque, fifty miles away, where the land office was located, and entered the forty acres he was farming a short distance southwest of the Dr. Matson place south of Fairview, the latter being now the Timothy Soper estate, we believe. Remember that this was in the pioneer days of 1844 and such experiences were common among the early settlers. In those days, also, the annual prairie fires swept across the wide stretches of unoccupied land and among the scattered farms and often destroyed fences and endangered dwellings, stables and stacks of grain and hay. Many a time have we known father and the few scattered neighbors go and fight fire day and night, the long lines of flames at night being brilliant and awe-inspiring.
During his third term as recorder the legislature consolidated that office with that of treasurer, and as father had no safe and was deaf, he did not dare to take the responsibility of being custodian of the county funds and therefore resigned.
In 1844 he was chosen enrolling and engrossing clerk in the Territorial House of Representatives, the seat of government being at Iowa City. In 1848 he procured the passage of a law by which deaf mutes in Iowa were enabled to enter the institution at Jacksonville, Ill., this state paying half of their expenses and parents or friends paying the remainder.
After his return from California in 1854 he naturally renewed his interest in the deaf and dumb children of the state and had an important share in the founding of the school at Iowa City, later removed to Council Bluffs, which he occasionally visited in after years and was held in much affection by teachers and pupils.
In 1880 he was proposed for the office of president of the national deaf-mute convention held in Cincinatti but declined, being honored, however, as chairman pro tem and aiding in the election of a younger man.
The details of his purchase of the Eureka appear in The historical sketch following, but we think it not out of place to make some further reference to this pre-eminent work of his life. His intense abhorrence of the institution of slavery is remembered by many and he idolized William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips and other men of like temper and fearlessness among the then despised Abolitionists. During all that struggle that finally culminated in the rebellion, Mr. Booth, as a private citizen and as an editor, never ceased to fight the curse with all the power at the command of his conscience and love for the poor and down-trodden. We have stated that he was not only a lover of poetry but also an occasional writer as well, contributions from his pen having appeared in Hartford publications and in California papers during his residence there. In connection with the reference to his strong Abolition sentiments we think the following brief quotations from a "Carriers Address" written by him and printed in the Eureka January 1st, 1858, during the Kansas troubles, will be suggestive:
"There is need
That some should suffer the extreme of wrong,
To waken human hearts and rouse the strong;
Live without freedom is not worth its cost
And freedom gone our very life is lost.
And what is left, aye, what is left? Behold
The vanished nations. 'Tis a story old.
Oh, thou fair land of Kansas, it is thine
To show that man is God-like still, Devine,
That he must struggle and advance, not fail,
That Right must ever, in the end, prevail,
That Error, Wrong and Tyranny shall fall,,
That Beneficence shall rule over all,
That such is man's destiny and his right,
Else were the world one sad, eternal blight;
Press onward, therefore, men of heart and mind,
Press onward, all ye lovers of mankind,
Ye in whose bosom burns the soul that toils
Of Truth that pierces through a thousand halls,
And scatters fiends and firebrands from its path,
All heedless of their presence or their wrath,
As heedless now advance and aid the free,
And make of Kansas a Thermopylae.
'Tis she may save this nation from its grave,
And therefore tyrants shout she shall be slave,
Send back the bold defiance; shout it back,
And arm, if need be, for the warrior's track.
Let serviles base to oligarchies palter,
And bow and bend the knee, they have their pay;
For us 'tis death or freedom. come what may—
Come bloodshed and destruction, horrors dire,
Come all, and drive us through the cleansing fire;
That fire shall melt our chain where'er it sways,
And Freedom's glad sun shine on all the coming days."
This reads like prophesy in view of the breaking out of the war three years later and, as one writer observes, "not only was Kansas declared a free state, but Liberty throughout all the land, to all the inhabitants thereof, was insured by Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation."
During the rebellion there were defeats as well as victories for the boys in blue, and many were the patriots slain or wounded and many the hearts that bled because of the sacrifices laid upon our country's altar. But never did Mr. Booth lose courage or hope. To him every defeat conveyed a lesson and every victory was the prophesy of ultimate triumph. His trust in an overruling Providence never wavered fro a single instant, even when strong men and women of Christian faith became depressed and were sometimes doubtful of the outcome of the terrible struggle. In such times his pen voiced no uncertain spirit, and his exalted confidence and unshaken poise steadied the hearts of the readers of the Eureka in many of the supreme trials of the war period.
Such was the fiber of soul of this man. His love of Humanity was as broad as humanity's utmost needs, and his profoundest conviction was that Eternal Right and the Author of Eternal Right would be triumphant over every oppression and every wrong. This temper of heart made him a true philosopher in all the experiences of life, and the little things which bring fret and worry to so many were calmly ignored by him for his mind found its chief solace in the broader and deeper philosophies of human life and destiny.
It was indeed fitting that one of his intellectual tastes and attainments, his strong and impressive moral endowments and his powerful physical endurance should be a pioneer and a trusted leader of pioneers. Isolated in a large degree by his infirmity from the business and the professional callings of the world, where he might have made commanding history, he still wrought well, aye heroically, for this new land, for this great state, and for humanity's uplifting and ennoblement. He sought no reward at the hands of his fellow men save that which comes to every lover of his kind, every believer in high destiny?the consolation of doing what he could for his loved ones and for the world's good.
The death of his beloved wife seven years ago he said was the hardest blow he ever received, and his grief because bereft of her companionship and his longing to be with her again gradually drew his mind heavenward, making it natural and easy for him to let slip the material things of this world and lay hold on the realities of the heavenly life. In his dreams he saw the loved companion of almost sixty years and with her the sweet infant daughter grown to maturity, and in this revelation the later smiled lovingly upon him and made the affectionate signs: "My Father." And who shall say that this vision has not been joyfully verified in that Kingdom of Blessed Reunion? We believe that it has, and that not only is he joined forever to his kindred beloved in the mansions prepared for them, but that his ears have been unstopped and the tongue of praise unloosed and he is with the unnumbered hosts which John saw at Patmos who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.
The funeral services were held in the Congregational Church on Friday at 2:30 P.M., preceded by a prayer by Rev. A. O. Stevens at the home of T. E. Booth, where the body rested from the time of his decease.
The order of exercises was as follows:
Organ voluntary by Mrs W. D. Skinner.
Quartette—"Lead Kindly Light," Miss Mary Calkins, of Wyoming, and Mrs. H. A. Ereanbrack, Mr. James Abel and Mr. I. H. Brasted.
Reading to the 11th chapter of Matthew, by Rev. Felix H. Pickworth, of St. Mark's Episcopal church. This was one of the last selections of scripture that father read.
Prayer by Rev. DeWitt White, of the Presbyterian church.
Solo—"The Land of Elysian," Miss Mary Calkins, of Wyoming.
Reading of Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar," by Rev. J. M. Deschamps, of the Baptist church.
Sermon—By Rev. A. O. Stevens, of the Congregational church.
Reading of the obituary, by Rev. L. L. Lockard, of the M. E. church.
Quartette—"Nearer, My God, to Thee," by the choir.
Benediction by Rev. Father Powers, of the Catholic Church.
The selections, "Lead, Kindly Light." "Crossing the Bar," and "Nearer, My God, to Thee" were among father's favorites.
Edmund Booth was born in Chicopee, a suburb of Springfield, Mass., August 24, 1810, and died in Anamosa, Iowa, March 29th. He was taken very ill with spotted fever at the age of four years, resulting in the loss of one eye and a partial loss of hearing, which gradually grew more manifest until the age of eight, when the loss was total. During these early years, however, he gained sufficient knowledge of language and pronunciation to enable him to talk with a clearness which was easily comprehended with only occasional exceptions.
Although his school privileges necessarily were very limited by reason of his deafness and work on the home farm, he longed for an education and at 17 entered the Hartford, Conn., institution for the deaf, then one of only three schools of the kind in America. After the four years' course, which was the limit then, but now is ten to twelve, and may include even a college course of five years additional at Washington, he graduated with honor and was making preparations to return home when Mr. Weld, the Principal, offered him a position as a regular teacher, which place he filled with satisfaction of seven years.
Considerations of health and a spirit of investigation into the regions beyond, which characterized his dependencies of mind in things material as well as intellectual, led him westward, while Chicago was a mere village and Iowa a region of boundless prairies and timber belts. This was in 1830, seven years before the territory was admitted as a state. He located in this vicinity, assisting in work at the new flour and saw mills in process of erection by George H and Clark Walworth at what is now known as Fisherville, one mile west of Anamosa.
July 24, 1840, he was married to Mary Ann Walworth, a pupil in his first class in 1832, who passed away January 25, 1898. Four children blessed this union, T. E. Booth, a daughter who died in infancy, Mrs. Harriet Emma Leclere, of Dalbart, Texas, and Frank W. Booth, of Philadelphia.
In 1849, after having been engaged in farming for some years, the spirit of unrest again animated his thought and he entered upon what was then the perilous overland journey to California, the gold discoveries drawing hundreds of thousands of brave, hardy men to endure the dangers of the six months' journey by ox-teams to the land whose shores are washed by the waters of the Pacific.
Five years later he returned to his family, having been measurably successful as a miner and resumed farming near Anamosa. We think it not out of place to say that the five-acre block now bounded by Main and First and Booth and Ford streets, was bought by Mrs. Booth with money he dug out of the ground in California, and the northeast corner was donated by him to the Congregational church in 1861, the proceeds of the sale of that ground going into this new church structure, whose erection he witnessed with so much pleasure, but within whose walls, because of infirmity, he was never permitted to come until his body was brought here to-day for an hour's sacred rest and service in his passage to the tomb.
In 1856 the Eureka was established with Mr. John E. Lovejoy in charge. He soon transferred it to Mr. C. L. D. Crockwell. The latter requested Mr. Booth to contribute something to the paper. It proved to be the beginning of his work of thirty-five years or more in this new field. Further contributions were requested and soon he was given practical charge of the editorial columns, and two years later bought a half interest in the paper. The Hon. Matt Parrott, afterwards state senator and lieutenant governor, was his partner, having purchased a half interest a few months previous. In December, 1862, Mr. Booth bought the remaining half interest, his eldest son returning from school in the east to take charge of the mechanical department of the paper.
His life work as an editor speaks for itself; and his record as a law abiding citizen, a lover of humanity, a lover of worthy ideals in young men and young women, and especially as a lover of children—a man deep in whose soul was a trust in God as immovable as the hills—this man, our father, will be reverenced in the hearts of his children so long as memory shall endure.
There was a good audience present at the service, many old friends being in attendance who for the last time looked on the placid, peaceful face, without spot or furrow, of this aged citizen, who did not appear more than seventy or seventy-five years of age. The business houses of the city were closed during the funeral hour and Judge B. H. Miller adjourned court, marks of respect greatly appreciated by the family.
The floral decorations, which were beautiful and appropriate, were arranged by friends and ladies of the church.
Interment followed in Riverside by the side of his companion, "Beneath the low green tent whose curtain never outward swings." The pall-bearers were A. Heitchen, Judge D. McCare, E. M. Harvey, E. C. Holt, G. L. Yount and S. C. Hall, with E. J. Wood in charge.
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Source: Anamosa Eureka, Anamosa, Iowa, April 6, 1905.
Note: You can read more about Edmund and Mary Ann Booth on our Biography page and at the Library of Congress American Memories site, including his diary and letters chronicling his overland crossing; prospecting at Feather River, Hangtown, and Sonora; visits to Sacramento, Columa, Columbia, and Stockton; and return voyage via Nicaragua, 1854.
|Funeral Sermon for Edmund Booth
Rev. A. O. Stevens
The world passeth away and the just thereof (and the pleasure
thereof): but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. I John, 2:17
I have been asked to preach to you a sermon this afternoon and my mind turned to these words which were written by an old man. John is supposed to have been about one hundred years old when he wrote the Epistle which contains this verse. There are some impressions which possess much force to an aged man. As he looks backward he sees that many things have changed since he was a boy. If he attains a great age he has seen his friends one by one slip away; and is ready to exclaim with Tennyson's Sir Bedevere:
"Now I see the true old times are dead.
The whole round table is dissolved,
Which was an image of the mighty world
And I the last to go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds."
It was Father Booth's lot to outlive the companions of his youth, and doubtless in his later years he was profoundly impressed with the transiency of life. "The old order changeth, giving place to new."
You who have for a quarter of a century been living in the middle states must go back and visit the old home home hidden among the eastern hills. As the train carries you along your mind pictures the scenes of childhood. You recall the farm-house, the orchard, the flat rock where you used to play. But no sooner have you alighted from the train than you feel a sense of disappointment. Everything is changed. The little cottage in which you were born has been effaced by a modern building. The old farm has passed into alien hands. on the street you meet only strange faces. Thus the truth is borne home to us that the world passeth away and the pleasures thereof.
How true this is of our physical body. We are in the prime of life. We come home from our work in the evening and and feel an unwonted weariness. We think we need a rest and take a vacation. But we are not entirely refreshed. We wonder for a little while what is the cause, until the truth dawns upon us that we are feeling the effect of years. Our physical strength, like the sun, has mounted to mid-heaven, hung there for a little time, and is now slowly declining.
Father Booth possessed an uncommonly strong body, else he would not have attained to this great old age. Diseases which commonly prove fatal, he survived. But the end was nevertheless inevitable. The body is of the earth earthy; to the earth it must return.
The same thing is true of the mental faculties. The human mind, that wonderful handiwork of God, with its power to think, to reason and to will, reached the point of greatest vigor, and the inevitable decline sets in. Those who like our friend obtain to great age must find themselves at last slipping into their childhood.
The world passeth away and the possessions thereof. How uncertain is the smile of fortune! The riches which we hoard, hoe often they disappoint us. It is probably true that the majority of business and professional men find themselves in old age dependent upon their friends for support. It is as if God would remind us that we must not place too much dependence upon the material things of life. And even if we are more fortunate than many, and have all our wants amply supplied down to the close of life, "whose then shall these things be?" Our riches—for which many of us have sinned, for which some of us have sold our souls—we must leave behind with the perishing body.
Is this then the end of life? When we close the dear eyes, fold the tired hands and place the flowers upon the casket, is the farewell final? That brother of mine, dying out there in the flood-bound train in Kansas, leaving behind the young wife and little boy, is he gone forever? Shall I never see his face again? If so, then I sing with Browning's Paracoisus, life is "a poor cheat, a stupid bungle, a wretched failure."
But 'tis not so. There is that in us which lives. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the spirit is spirit." The soul of man which the Divine Spirit has touched and quickened into new life shall not perish.
I would this afternoon preach to you the Gospel. This is the Gospel: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life." True there must be belief. There must be the willing response to the touch of God. God thrusts heaven upon none of us. I say it reverently: God can thrust heaven upon none of us. He may bring heaven to us. We must enter in.
What takes place in the inmost soul of man, none but he and his God know. We cannot draw aside the thick curtain and see into the Holy of Holies. It is doubtless as well so. Yet we who believe in these eternal things are made glad when those whom we love give intimations that they have entered into the presence of the Most High.
Knowing intimately as I do the children of our departed brother, I am glad that I can say that there were in the latter days of Father Booth's life some marked intimations that his mind was turning more towards things spiritual—circumstances small in themselves and yet giving hope that before the departure peace was made between him and his Maker. He has lived his life. For many years he occupied a prominent place in this community. He has been called home. He is in the hand of a God just and merciful. May we all so live, that when the time for our departure comes we shall be fully ready and fit to enter into the larger heritage.
At the close of the discourse Mr. Stevens read the following letter from Rev. S. F. Millikan, now of Kingsley, Iowa, and for seven years pastor of the Congregational church of Anamosa, having preached the funeral sermon for Mrs. Booth:
Kingsley, Iowa, March 30, 1905
Dear Bro. Booth: The long battle is over, and your strong-souled father has found rest at last in the Everlasting Arms.
I can never forget how, soon after your mother's translation, he thrilled me with two words. I had written with his pencil some heartfelt appreciation of her worth and of his great loss. He read the lines slowly—then, lifting his right hand, said in full tones, though there were some tears in his eyes, "STORMS STRENGTHEN."
His faith, his hope, his love and his resignation shone like the sun in these words. He has finished his course. It was time for him to rest.
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Source: Anamosa Eureka, Anamosa, Iowa, April 6, 1905
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