[b.circa 1759 - d.1813]
History is a form of autobiography.
Joshua Booth was born in Orange County, New York around 1759. During the American Revolution Booth served with other Loyalists as a private in Delancey's Brigade. James De Lancey was the sheriff of Westchester County, N.Y. and during the Revolution he commanded a Loyalists corps. Because they stole so many rebel cows, they were known as 'Cow-Boys.' This light horse brigade was so effective Washington attempted to work out an elaborate plan to capture or destroy it but he failed to do so.
Joshua appears on a United Empire Loyalist list as a sergeant. He married Margaret Fraser who was also a Loyalist and the couple had six daughters and five sons. Following the end of the revolution, Booth immigrated to Upper Canada and as a result of successful petitions on his own and his wife's behalf was granted 1500 acres of land in Ernestown and Thurlow Townships in eastern Ontario. His further entreaties for land were not always so successful. In 1796 he "prayed for Lot No. 14 in the 5th Concession of Ernestown." The Executive Council refused his petition. The reason: it was a Crown Reserve.
Booth represented the Riding of Addington and Ontario in Upper Canada's Legislative Assembly and served as a member until the end of the first Legislature in 1796. Because historical information regarding the roles of most members is fragmentary, it is not known how significant a part he played in the province's parliament. Unfortunately, little about the legislators or their activities appeared in the province's first newspaper, the double-titled Upper Canada Gazette or American Oracle. Founded in 1793 the paper was not intended as a forum for free discussion of political issues or commentaries on people and their politics even though its printer promised a publication that was "useful, entertaining, and instructive." Because it was a 'government' newspaper, its editors were always apprehensive of receiving either a reprimand or even dismissal should they err on the side of saying too much about local politics. Consequently, they dutifully practised restraint and printed mainly official releases and news about nations that were far away.
Because of Booth's stature in the community, his Presbyterian sense of duty, and his eagerness to promote the 'good of society,' he was appointed justice of the peace for the Midland District in 1796. Although the Court of Quarter Sessions normally met only four times a year, Booth's commitment to the community appears to have cooled once he was appointed. He was usually absent from office and between 1800 and 1804, he attended only 3 of the 15 sessions and 5 of 25 between 1807 and 1813. His dedication to duty was better as a member of the Heir and Devisee Commission which was responsible for settling Loyalist land claims. He attended three of its four sessions.
Booth was a miller by trade and readily recognized properties with potential for productive mills. In 1793 he petitioned for a grant of two hundred acres in the area between Ernestown and Kingston, where, he explained, there was a "proper situation for a mill" which he was anxious to exploit for the good of the settlement." In exchange for this site, he offered to relinquish two hundred acres already granted him on which there was "no such conveniency."
In most cases the Land Board refused grants of 'mill seats,' as a matter of policy. The rationale for the refusals was that creeks which sustained mills were also usually valuable for fishing and were not to become "private property whereby this natural advantage might be destroyed." In this instance, however, Booth's petition was approved and his request ratified. Booth eagerly exploited all the serviceable sites available for grist and saw-mills on his Ernestown land grants. In addition he was granted a lease on yet another sawmill in 1802 so that at the time of his death he was the most successful mill operator in the area.
During the War of 1812, Booth served as captain commanding a company of the 1st Addington Militia. On October 13, 1813 he led a detachment of soldiers in search of militiamen who were absent without leave. The detachment was also responsible for retrieving missing boats that had washed ashore along the waterfront of Ernestown. During the course of one search, Booth was stricken and suddenly died. For his death while on duty, Joshua's widow received an annual pension of 20 pounds.
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