Personality and Character

J.R. Booth of the Canadian Atlantic Railway, 1900-1925 National Archives of Canada / C-046480

J.R. Booth was a man of habit, determination, and resourcefulness. An innovative and entrepreneurial businessman, Booth was also a creature of habit. Although he was a multi-millionaire he habitually wore the garb of a working man, and usually until the clothes became green with age. For over 50 years Booth was picked up at home and delivered to the mills by the same mill hand, Dave Beauchamp, who was almost as old as Booth. In the summer they used a horse and buggy and in the winter they traveled in a red horse-drawn cutter. It was only in the last year or two of his life that Booth used an automobile.

Booth's resolve to succeed flowed from his personal determination. John Ross Trinnell, author of The Life and Times of an Ottawa Lumberking, writes,

"He was a fighter from the word go and no one ever intruded unjustly upon his preserves without feeling the aftermath. He knew his realm, realized where he stood, and upheld his rights to the bitter end. He did not often engage in combat with the press or civic authorities but when he did, he generally finished a winner."

Booth surrounded himself with excellent employees but he didn't encourage initiative in them. Dogmatic and domineering, his orders were always final, "When I want a thing done, I want it done the way I say it should be done."

Right Honourable Arthur Meighen, ca. 1920-1930 National Archives of Canada / C-005799

Booth's resourcefulness was legendary, extending throughout his working life and into his personal demeanor. He was a firm believer in hard work as the secret of good health, and his own example proved the point. Some friends once persuaded him to go fishing but he discarded his pole to retrieve some sawlogs that had drifted into shore. On another occasion his daughters coaxed him into a pleasure trip to Atlantic City for two weeks but on the first day Booth reported that he had been up at 5 a.m., had seen everything and was going home. He continued to be actively engaged in all his enterprises until December 8, 1925, when in his 99th year, after returning from an inspection of his old Egan estate timber limits, he passed away in his home on Metcalfe Street.

Booth always remembered his roots, even when he was a millionaire ten times over. One day, after driving to one of his lumber camps, Booth gave the man who tended his horse a ten-cent tip. The hostler grumbled to J.R., "Your son Jackson always gives me a quarter."

"That's different," grunted Booth, "That boy has a rich father. I'm an orphan."