Booth Farm started 139 years ago

Submitted Photo The John Francis “Frank” Booth family is shown in this 1905 photo. The farm started in 1882. From the left are Charlie, Ed, Verne, Mary Ann, Vance, Frank, Pearl and Lawrence.

SAWYER — The Booth farm got its start in July of 1882 with the arrival of John Francis “Frank” Booth from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He and his brother Ed had helped the Bill Wilson family make the trip north with their teams of oxen, horses and 25 head of cattle.

John Francis Booth married Mary Ann Wilson in 1887. In 1905 he wrote a testimonial letter to a real estate agent about the Sawyer area telling that 1882 was the start of any white men making their home in the Mouse River Valley. The nearest railroad was Northern Pacific in Bismarck as well as the nearest post office. With only the willingness to work John owned three quarters of land by 1903. John F. Booth also had a first-class set of buildings, a good house, a barn, a granary, two machine sheds and other buildings. The family raised raspberries, strawberries, currants, apples and plums. There were 95 head of cattle along with many horses. There was no better place in the country than in North Dakota! When the Soo Line railroad wanted to pass the farm John without hesitation gave his land freely without expecting payment.

John Francis Booth wasn’t old enough to file on a quarter section of land for a homestead. He squatted on a 160-acre plot. After living on it for 14 months he was allowed to purchase it from the government for about $1.25 an acre. Later he owned a tree claim of 160 acres. A tree claim is where you had to plant trees and keep them alive for five years.

John Francis Booth built the barn from logs off the farm and cut them into boards in a moveable sawmill. He built all the buildings and put brick in all the outside walls of the house for insulation. In 1908 he had a hot water furnace installed.

Vance Dewey Booth took over the farm when John Francis died in 1926. Vance married Alma Schoenwald in 1921. They had five children.

Submitted Photo Dolores Booth, second from left, is shown in this October 2012 photo with her son, John Booth, and daughters, Susan Hill and Debra Sanderson.

Vance added electricity and water to the buildings in the early 1930s. Vance was one of the first ones in the area to do this.

In the early 1930s a man was looking for work as a plasterer. He stopped and asked for food. They hired him to put a 10-inch molding along the ceiling and a diamond shape in the middle of the ceiling. These are still there today. At that time when the kids came to visit the farm they told Lila she lived in a palace.

Robert Willard Booth married Dolores Ann Hanson in 1929 and took over the farm in 1950. They raised Charolais cross cattle, wheat and other small grains. In 1960, 1970 and 1980 the farm was awarded the Soil Conservation Award with pictures of the farm each time. In 1954 Robert bought the Larson farm consisting of 200 acres to the north across the Mouse River. There were 40 tillable acres and the rest timber and pasture land.

All three generations of Booths did their part in community affairs by serving on the school board, township boards and elevator boards in their respective years.

Robert and Dolores have three children. Susan was born in 1950, Debra in 1952 and John in 1954. Robert died on April 7, 2010.

Alma Booth, second from right, is shown with her children. Front row, from the left, are Don Booth, Ed Booth, Alma and Lila Schlecht. Back row, from the left, are Cecil Booth and Robert Booth. Lila, of Longview, Wash., is the only one still living.

All the buildings ever built are still in use today including the house. In 1982 the farm celebrated its 100th year reunion. About 150 family members gathered at the farm over the Fourth of July eating and talking about the past.

Today, Dolores lives in the original farm house. Susan and Jeff Hill, and Debra and Bruce Sanderson also live on the farm. John and Jan Booth live in Grand Junction, Colorado.


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