Hon. Newton Booth


Hon. Newton Booth.---Among those who came to Sacramento in 1850 was Newton Booth, who afterward filled so important a place in the business, political and social history of Sacramento and of California. The firm of Booth & Co. (composed, at this writing, of Senator Booth and C. T.  Wheeler), has been in existence since the pioneer days of California; and though its membership has on several occasions been changed, it has at all times ranked among the leading houses of the city and State. In July, 1849, T. M. Lindley and L. A. Booth organized a grocery firm of Lindley & Booth, doing business at the old number, 38 K street. In May of the following year they were succeeded by Forshee , Booth & Co., composed of John Forshee, L. A. Booth and Job Dye. The two latter gentlemen retired from the firm in the spring of 1851. Booth commenced business on J street, in the grocery trade, under the name of Smith & Booth.  Sacramento, though then a small place, was yet a very busy one and was looked to as almost the sole source of supplies for the many mining camps already at work, as well as those  which were being continually opened up.  Her merchants generally did a jobbing business. Smith & Booth were essentially a wholesale house, though through the necessities of the trade at that day they did not refuse retail customers. The fire of 1852 left Sacramento almost where she had started, and the firm suffered with the rest. Shortly, afterward L. A. Booth, one of the organizers of Lindley & Booth, became a partner, and the firm assumed the name of Booth & Co.  Thus the house continued until 1856.  In that year Newton Booth retired and returned to Indiana, while the firm consolidated with Kleinhans & Co. (who had commenced business in 1852), but the name was not changed.  C. T. Wheeler and T. L. Barker also became partners in 1856. In 1860 Newton Booth again became a citizen of Sacramento, and rejoined his old firm. There were no more changes until 1863, when L. A. Booth and Mr.  Barker retired and J. T. Glover became a member, continuing until his death, which occurred in 1885. This left the firm as at present constituted ¯ Newton Booth and C. T. Wheeler. Senator Booth is a native of Washington County, Indiana, born December 30, 1825. His father, Beebe Booth, a native of Connecticut, was a son of the heroes of the American Revolution. At an early age he went to what was then the far West, locating at Salem, Washington County, Indiana, in 1816. There he engaged in merchandising, and afterward published there the first newspaper issued in Indiana. He was married there to Hannah Pitts, a native of Chatham County, North Carolina. Her father Andrew Pitts, emigrated from North Carolina to Washington County, Indiana, in 1809, being one of the pioneers of the State. Newton Booth was reared to the age of sixteen at his native place, and in 1841 his father removed the family to Terre Haute, the new scene of his business enterprise. Newton Booth was sent to Ashbury (now De Pauw) University, at Greencastle, to complete his education. This institution now ranks among the leading educational seats of this country. At that time with Bishop Simpson as president, its standing was at least as high as at present. It was the leading university of the West, and its faculty had been happily chosen from the most learned men of the day. Mr. Booth completed the course before he had reached his majority, and was graduated in the class of 1846. A mercantile career had been marked out for him, but after an engagement of two years in one of his father’s stores at Terre Haute, he commenced reading law in the office of W. D. Griswold, with whom he became associated as partner after his admission to the bar in 1849. The story of the golden wealth of California, however, had for him the usual charm, and he determined to try his fortune there. In company with young Terre Haute business man, Walter W. Reynolds, he started on the long journey. They were among the passengers of the steamer “Cherokee,” which early in 1850 made the trip from New York to Chagres. From Panama to San Francisco they were passengers on the “Oregon,” which steamed through the Golden Gate on the 18th of October, bearing the glad tidings of the admission of California as a State of the Union. They came at once to Sacramento, and both became business men here. Mr. Reynolds afterward went to Placerville, where his death subsequently occurred. When Mr. Booth arrived in Sacramento, the first great cholera epidemic was raging here, and he went to Amador County, where he was sick for some time. In February, 1851, he returned to Sacramento, and was soon engrossed in business. In 1862 he entered public life for the first time, being in that year chosen to the State Senate.  On the 6th of September, 1871, he was elected Governor of California, assuming the duties of the office December 8 of that year. While in the gubernatorial chair he was elected, December 20, 1873, by the independent legislature of that year, to the Senate of the United States. On the 27th of February; 1875, he resigned the office of Governor to assume the duties of his new position, and on the 4th of March following took his seat in the Senate. He served as an honored member of that body, and with credit to the State until the expiration of his term, in 1881. He was one of the working members of the Senate, and was particularly active in accomplishing the adoption of the silver certificate, and redemption of subsidiary coins---measures which were especially grateful to the Pacific Coast, though of national importance as shaping the financial policy of the country. He also pushed to passage a bill for the settlement of land titles in California. He was placed on the committee on public lands, committee on patents, committees on manufactures and on appropriations, and during a portion of his term was chairman of the two latter. Since retiring from the Senate he has given his personal attention to his extensive wholesale business. Senator Booth has always been inclined to literature, and in times past his lectures on scientific and other topics have been the source of much pleasure and profit to citizens of Sacramento, as well as an incentive to study in many directions.  A noteworthy feature of the political preferment of Senator Booth is, that it has come to him on his merits, as an independent, and not as a reward for party service or through party machinations.


Transcribed by: Marla Fitzsimmons

An Illustrated History of Sacramento County, California. By Hon. Win. J. Davis. Lewis Publishing Company 1890. Page 287-289.

© 2004 Marla Fitzsimmons.

Sacramento County Biographies