Booth's Work Ethic

Timber raft on the Ottawa River, ca. 1899 William James Topley / National Archives of Canada / PA-144140

Although J.R. Booth demanded hard work and competence from his employees, he demanded twice as much of himself.

Booth did not believe in retirement, and although he gave his employees easier jobs to perform as they got older, he continued to take on physically challenging tasks well into his 80s. In May, 1913, at the age of 86, Booth was supervising 25 men blasting out a wheel pitway beneath the bed of the Ottawa River at the Chaudiere when the dam began to collapse. Booth did not hear the warning because he was hard of hearing, but he was pushed to safety by one of the workers just as the raging torrent swept the ladder away. Later in the same year, while supervising the demolition of a storehouse, a large beam fell on him and he suffered a compound fracture of his left leg, a badly bruised shoulder, and a severe cut on the left side of his face.

In his later years, Booth played a less prominent part in what was no longer his individual private company. Nevertheless, his role as "grand old man of Canadian lumbering," his interest in careful forest management and reclamation, together with his sizeable charitable activities, kept him from retired isolation almost until his death at age 98 on December 8, 1925.

The day after his death, the Ottawa Citizen's headline read, "Though a ruler of a forest dominion of over 4000 square miles, the late John Rudolphus Booth was always a plain man and a worker, an absolute democrat, who asked his workmen to do nothing he would not do himself."