The Last Will and Testament of Julia D. Booth

by Debbie on April 26, 2014

Julia Heston (Dailey) Booth

Julia Heston (Dailey) Booth

Several weeks ago, I attended a webinar on researching estate records, and learned quite a few useful tips for how to access wills and probate records online. FamilySearch.org, a free website for genealogical researchers, hosts digital images of many New York City probate records, and that’s where I found the last will and testament of my 3rd great grandmother, Julia Heston Dailey. Her will is quite detailed, more so than others I have found, and I think it says a lot about her children’s interests and lifestyles.

Julia Heston Dailey was born March 26, 1824 in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of a sea captain. She married Ralph Wilcox Booth on January 26, 1846. Ralph W. Booth was a businessman, most notably as the owner of a successful hardware store in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ralph and Julia lived quite comfortably on West 12th Street in Manhattan, along with their children: Lucy, Ralph, Julia (my 2nd great grandmother), Lizzie, Arthur, Charlton, Olive, and Louise. Their son Waldo died at just two years of age in 1861.

Ralph died in 1884, leaving his entire estate to his beloved wife Julia (as he referred to her throughout his will). Sisters Lucy and Olive never married, and lived together until Lucy’s death in 1936. Olive had the longevity gene; she survived to the age of 103, dying in 1966.

In December 1891, just four months before her own death on April 6, 1892, Julia drafted the following will. I’m quite curious about where all of these family heirlooms are today.

I, Julia D. Booth, of the City of New York, widow of Ralph W. Booth deceased, do hereby make, publish and declare this to be my last will and testament in manner and form following, that is to say:

First, I give and bequeath to my daughter Lucy D. Booth my diamond pin, my gold and hair chain with cross attached, my small camels hair shawl, the Marine View by Wurst, the bronze figure of Mercury, a pair of Bohemian vases, my parlor organ, the portrait of little Waldo and the oil portraits of her father and my self.

I’m determined to learn what happened to these oil portraits. It’s interesting that Julia left the portrait of young Waldo to her eldest daughter Lucy, perhaps knowing that, of all her children, Lucy would remember him best.

Second, I give and bequeath to my son Ralph W. Booth the statues in bronze of Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, the animal painting by Beard, the engraving of Washington Irving and his friends and the literary works of Washington Irving.

Ralph, Jr., it appears, was a Washington Irving fan, and perhaps also an American history buff. I’d love to see these bronze statues of Webster and Clay.

Third, I give and bequeath to my daughter Julia Booth Hay the landscape painting “View in California” my camels hair double shawl, my black lace shawl, my small cluster diamond ring and onyx and diamond pin.

These, then, were the items passed down to my great great grandmother, Julia Augusta Booth, who married Robert Hay. Julia and Robert had 6 children, 5 girls and 1 boy, so it’s difficult to guess who might have inherited these items.

Fourth, I give and bequeath to my son J. Arthur Booth, M.D. his father’s gold watch and chain, and the painting a landscape view of the Cousatonic and my parlor organ.

Julia originally intended the parlor organ for Lucy, but changed her mind and left it to her son James Arthur Booth. I imagine Dr. Booth carried his father’s gold watch and chain as he made his rounds, visiting patients in the Manhattan hospitals where he worked.

Fifth, I give and bequeath to my son Thomas Charlton Booth his father’s willow chair, the first painting now in the dining room, the painting of “Birds in a storm,” small painting of cows and sheep, the two engravings of horses by Landsier, and the Boroza clock and vases to match.

Was Charlton an animal lover?

Sixth, I give and bequeath to my daughter Olive Linda Booth my three stone diamond ring, the painting of a Brigand, the engraving of the Prodigal Son, the pair of Sevre vases and the figure of Ariadne.

Ralph and Julia Booth's monument at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.

Ralph and Julia Booth’s monument at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.

The Booth lineage is detailed in John S. Wurts’ Magna Charta Part IV, in Chapter 103, “Miss Olive Lynda Booth.” Olive, according to Wurts’ account, was “an artist and musician of note.” The short biography also notes that Olive was a “soprano and vocal instructor” who made her vocal debut in Paris. It’s somewhat surprising to me, then, that the parlor organ didn’t go to Olive, but perhaps she already had one.

Seventh, I give and bequeath to my daughter Louise Booth Fairchild my diamond earrings and cameo pin, the paintings of “A Waterfall” and “Moonlight” by Wurst, “A Basket of Cherries” by Jennie Booth and the bronze figure for “Bacchus.”

Is Jennie Booth a relation?

Eighth, all my household linen, china, and glassware and all my silver plate and plated ware I give and bequeath to my daughters Lucy D. Booth and Olive Linda Booth to be equally divided between them.

Ninth, I give and bequeath all my library and printed books (with the exception of the works of Washington Irving being given to my son Ralph) to my children Lucy D. Booth, Olive Linda Booth, and Thomas Charlton Booth to be divided between them.

At some point in my family history research, I came across an item that led me to believe that Thomas Charlton Booth was a poet or writer of sorts. Unfortunately, I neglected to note the source of this information, but it came to mind immediately when I saw that Julia had included him in her bequest of books.

Tenth, all the rest of my household furniture both useful and ornamental wearing apparel jewelry personal ornaments and pictures not hereinbefore specifically disposed of, I give and bequeath to my daughters Lucy D. Booth, Julia Booth Hay, Olive Linda Booth and Louise Booth Fairchild to be divided between them.

Eleventh, I give, devise and bequeath all my dwelling house and lot of land not occupied by me and situate in Section 2, Block number 608 on the Land Map of the City of New York being on the Northerly side of West Twelfth Street in said City distant about two hundred and fifty nine feet nine inches Westerly from the Northwesterly corner of Sixth Avenue and said street and now known as number one hundred and twenty seven West Twelfth Street in the said City of New York, containing in width front and rear about twenty three feet and in depth one hundred and three feet and three inches to my four daughters Lucy D. Booth, Julia Booth Hay, Olive Linda Booth and Louise Booth Fairchild, equally share and share alike.

If any of my said daughters should die before me leaving issue surviving me such issue are to take the share of the daughter so dying per stirpes and not per capita.

And if either of my said daughters should die before me without leaving issue then I give devise and bequeath the share of the one so dying to her surviving sisters.

127 West 12th St., the home of Ralph W. and Julia D. Booth.

127 West 12th St., the home of Ralph W. and Julia D. Booth.

Twelfth, I give, devise and bequeath all my property, and estate derived from or under the will of my late husband Ralph W. Booth and all the rest, residue and remainder of my property and estate real and personal of every nature and kind not hereinbefore effectually disposed of to my children Lucy D. Booth, Ralph W. Booth, Julia Booth Hay, J. Arthur Booth M.D., Thomas Charlton Booth, Olive Linda Booth and Louise Booth Fairchild to be divided between them equally share and share alike.

If any of my said children should die before me leaving issue surviving me such issue are to take the share of the one so dying per stirpes and not per capita.

And if any of my said children shall die before me without leaving issue then I give devise and bequeath the share of the one so dying to his or her surviving brothers and sisters and to the issue of any of them who shall have previously died leaving issue surviving one such issue to take per stirpes and not per capita.

Thirteenth, I make no provision for my daughter Lizzie A. Booth for the reason that I believe my said daughter will have but few wants and to meet such as she may have she is amply provided for by my late husband’s will and further more I feel satisfied that my other children will in any event and at all times care for my daughter Lizzie and that they will never permit her to be in need of anything that she may require for her comfort and well being.

I had wondered about Lizzie. All of other the Booth siblings left a mark on the world that I could trace, but Lizzie seemed different, somehow. It seems Lizzie must have had some kind of developmental disability. She appears in the 1880 census as a 24-year-old living at home, but without an occupation, which isn’t unusual. But what became of Lizzie after her parents died? Was she institutionalized? I’m quite curious about what Lizzie’s condition was, specifically, but I’m not sure how to research this.

Fourteenth, I authorize and empower my executor hereinafter named and such of them as may qualify or undertake the execution of this my will and the survivor of them to sell and dispose of all my real estate or any part thereof either at public auction or at private sale and upon such terms and conditions as they may deem proper and to give good and sufficient deeds to the purchased or purchasers thereof and until the sale thereof to let and rent the same and receive the rents issues and profits thereof.

Fifteenth, I hereby nominate and appoint my daughter Lucy D. Booth and my son Ralph W. Booth to be the executrix and executor of this my last will and testament and I request, and direct that no bond or security shall be required by any Surrogate, Probate Court, or Judge of and from my said executrix and executor or either of them for the faithful performance of their duties under this my will or on account of the nonresidence of both or either of them.

Lastly, I hereby revoke and annul all other and former Wills by me heretofore made.

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this third day of December in the year one thousand eight hundred and ninety one.

Julia D. Booth

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My family tree seems to make a pretty good case for the need for OSHA standards. In searching old newspapers for details of their lives, I’ve already stumbled on several family members who met rather horrific ends in the workplace.

My third great-grandfather, Andrew Marriner, fell into a circular saw at a lumber mill, and literally cut himself in half. No less dramatic was the death of another third great-grandfather, Joseph Augustus Seeds. Joseph was an engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad whose engine caught fire as it pulled ten passenger coaches out of Jersey City. An account in the New York Herald-Tribune the next day (Saving a Train from Wreck, Monday, October 23, 1882) lauded him as a hero who sacrificed his own life to save the 600 passengers on board. Joseph had initially escaped the burning engine, which was, by all witness accounts, an inferno, but he ran back into the fire to stop the train as it sped across the Hackensack River. He died of his burns a few days later. Joseph’s older brother George also worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and census records showed he had lost an arm in a workplace accident at some point. These gruesome tales were long detached from the chain of our family’s oral history, and only through historic newspapers have we rediscovered how these ancestors lived and died.

The stories that did get passed down, however, haven’t been as easy to confirm. Two of my grandfathers were also injured seriously in what can only be described as freak accidents, one in the workplace, and one as a child. And another railroad accident ended the career of a second great-grandfather. But so far, I’ve been unable to find a single piece of proof in print.

Joseph Jones, better known as Pappap in my immediate family, lost a leg in an industrial accident. The story, as originally told to me, was that he got in the way of a wrecking ball. But family members have more recently clarified a few details. It seems he was actually struck by a large bucket of scrap metal (nickel, specifically), which was suspended by a hook that failed. I know the accident happened for certain, because I sat on Pappap’s wooden foot as a child and knocked on his wooden leg. The leg was definitely gone before I entered the picture. But no one can tell me where the accident occurred (where he was born, in Pennsylvania, or where he lived most of his life, in NJ?), or precisely when. It’s very hard to find any account of an accident if you don’t know where it happened or when, as it turns out! I have to believe there’s a newspaper clipping somewhere about this poor chap who had a bucket of nickel dropped on him and had to have his leg amputated as a result. I mean, I found three separate incidents of people’s fingers being crushed in just one 1918 issue of the Red Bank Register. A leg should warrant at least 2 inches of column space! And it doesn’t make it any easier that my grandfather’s name was Joseph Jones. Try searching for that name anywhere, and narrowing down the results effectively.

William Clampffer, my mother’s father, suffered his injuries as a young boy. As I understand it, he was observing an auto race when a crash on the track sent debris flying into the crowd, and a piece of a race car impaled his leg through the thigh. He didn’t lose his leg, fortunately, but he did suffer pain from the injury for the remainder of his life, and I’ve heard he walked with a limp. Again, I have no information regarding where the accident occurred, or when. I did find a summary of Pennsylvania case law related to his lawsuit, so it must have happened at a race track in Pennsylvania (despite some family members thinking it may have occurred in Wall Township, NJ). One would think a boy (I believe he was about 12 at the time) being hit by a flying race car would get some coverage in a newspaper or two. But so far, I’ve been unable to find any news related to his accident. I know my uncle Bill spent a good amount of time researching his father’s accident, but to the best of my knowledge, the details eluded him, too.

And then there’s what may be the most tragic family tale of them all, a story told by my now-deceased grandmother. My second great-grandfather, John Edward MacIntyre, was at the controls of a Pennsylvania Railroad train when he spotted a woman pushing a baby carriage across the tracks. He tried everything he could to stop the train, but was unable to do so, and the engine struck and killed the mother and child. As Grandma Hadley told it, he climbed down off the engine and never got back on it. He was devastated by the accident. And again, I have no knowledge of where this accident occurred, or precisely when. He lived in Elizabeth, NJ for the last years of his career and life, so I’ve searched newspapers in NJ, PA, and NY. Just this week, I spent a few hours in the local history room of the Elizabeth Public Library, and used city directories to piece together a timeline of sorts. He was listed as a Pennsylvania Railroad engineer each year through 1927, and then in 1928, he is only listed with a home address, no occupation. Just one year later, his wife is listed as a widow. If the story is true, and the accident occurred sometime around 1927-8, it doesn’t surprise me at all that he died a short time afterward. Witnessing such a horrific accident, and thinking you might have been able to prevent it but failed, would drain the life out of a person, I think.

Solving these mysteries is going to take more than the internet, obviously. I think I’ve got some hours sitting at the microfilm viewer ahead of me. And I’m hopeful that the Urban Archives at Temple University – where a considerable collection of Pennsylvania Railroad employee and pension documents are housed – will yield some answers in the case of John Edward MacIntyre. Stay tuned for more gory family tales.

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