Stephen Eden Booth Colfax County, New Mexico

Stephen Eden Booth, who for nearly a quarter of a century has been one of the striking figures in the history of New Mexico, has been so actively identified with the development of the resources of the Territory and so intimately associated with its political and social life that the simple record of his career, in epitome, in itself forms one of the dramatic chapters in the annals of the Territory.

Born in Monroe, Connecticut, March 6, 1830. Mr. Booth was taken to New Haven by his parents when two years old and was there reared to a sea-faring life. At the age of fourteen he ran away from home to follow the sea. His first voyage was to the Spanish Main. In 1847 he visited Ireland with the first ship load of grain sent from America to the famine-stricken people of that land. In 1849 he went to California before the mast. Upon arriving at Benicia he fell a victim to the gold fever, deserted his ship, was captured and placed in irons for thirty-one days. Going to Sacramento after his release, he secured a job at "ten dollars a day and grub," his work being driving oxen for freighters. In the mines on Yuba River he was generally known by the sobriquet of "Connecticut."

After mining on the Yuba River for four years he returned to Connecticut to purchase belting for mining purposes. On his return journey to California he met General Santa Ana at Acapulco and through the assistance of another Mexican purchased for thirty dollars a handsome serape which the general was wearing and which is now in Judge Booth's possession. In 1855, Judge Booth left California, entered into the mercantile business until the opening of the Civil war. In 1861 he entered the United States navy under Commodore Porter and was made second in command of the Griffith, one of the twenty-one vessels in Admiral Farragut's squadron. His first service was as master's mate on the Griffith. He was at one time offered command of a brig with a commission to pursue and capture blockade runners, but declined on account of impaired health, which compelled him to retire from service after the fall of New Orleans. Among the sixty-two officers of this flotilla Judge Booth took first rank of his grade and still treasures a letter from Commodore Porter attesting that fact.

After the war Judge Booth continued his travels and in fact remains a great traveler to this day. He has visited many portions of the globe, attended the funeral of Daniel O'Connell in Dublin, and dined with Don Pedro, the last emperor of Brazil. He was wrecked in the Sea Bell and was taken off with two others who died soon after rescue. He has spent five days on the ocean without food or drink. He was first mate of the ship Two Brothers when the crew mutinied, and he saved the life of Captain Meeks, whom the crew were about to throw overboard. During the years of his residence in California he helped found the city of Redlands and in many other ways became intimately identified with the upbuilding of that great state.

Coming to Colfax County. New Mexico, in 1883 with Wilson Waddingham, who had founded important stock enterprises in the northern part of the Territory, Judge Booth was made superintendent of the enterprise known as the Fort Bascom Cattle Raising Company. This company handled large herds of cattle on the Montoya grant for about ten years, when it went into liquidation.

During his residence in Las Vegas, Judge Booth was elected county commissioner of San Miguel County and made chairman of this body. While filling this office the historic "white cap" events that stirred San Miguel County occurred and he was drawn into the vortex of the trouble in the fulfillment of his official duties.

In 1893, Judge Booth went to Elizabethtown as the resident representative of the Maxwell Land Grant Company. He still fills that position, though spending much of his time in Las Vegas and in California. He has served as a member of the territorial cattle sanitary board. He is a stanch Republican and prior to the Civil war was a vigorous opponent of slavery. So strong were his principles in this direction that at one time, while in Rio Janeiro, he refused an offer of his weight in silver if he would go to Africa and obtain a ship load of slaves for the Brazilian trade. He has been a Mason since 1853 and was the organizer of Anawan Lodge No. 43, A. F. & A. M., at West Haven, Connecticut. Since 1853 Judge Booth has not tasted intoxicating liquor of any kind. Judge Booth's wife, Mary Eliza Thompson, died in California. He has two sons: Fred E., of Elmhurst, California, and Elmer L., of Fillmore, California.

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Source: History of New Mexico, Its Resources and People, Volume II, Pacific States Publishing Co., 1907.

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Created 1996 by Charles Barnum & 2016 by Judy White

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