Sunday, August 7, 2016

Lucius Anson "L.A." Booth (1820-1906): Railroad pioneer; Grocery mogul

Booth Family plot at Mountain View Cemetery
New York native Lucius Anson Booth, was a Forty-Niner  who arrived in California via Mexico.

He was one of the original incorporaters of the Central Pacific Railroad with the Big 4 - Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker and Collis B. Huntington. In 1860, the five men, along with Theodore Judah, James Bailey, Charles Marsh and John Marshall, learned about an unused wagon trail across Donner Pass. They decided to organize the Central Pacific Railroad and funded the survey that convinced Congress to approve the Western portion of the transcontinental railroad. The Pacific Railway Act was passed by Congress in July 1862 and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln.

The nine men bickered about numerous business issues and the board often split 4-4 on key votes (with Marsh often absent). The company faced numerous financial and technical challenges, including the inability to find workers after the Civil War. Over the next six years, the Central Pacific brought in 13,000 workers who were mostly Chinese. The immigrant workers laid 690 miles of track over the Sierra Nevada's and over 1,500 died from avalanches, freezing weather and dynamite explosions while making tunnels. They were paid $26 a month and had to buy their own rations.

Booth & Co. on J Street in Old Sacramento
Booth made a fortune in mining, which he invested in founding a wholesale grocery business on J Street in Sacramento, which at various times was known as Booth & Company, Booth, Adams & Company and Forshee, Booth & Company. One of the investors in the business was his cousin Newton Booth, who was the 11th Governor of California.

In April 1877,  he became an investor in James Gamble's 350-acre tract of land that he purchased from Walter Blair, which became the Piedmont Land Company. The property was subdivided and sold to individual land owners.

He died at his residence, known as Hazelwood, on Hazel Lane in Piedmont.

[Sources: "Historic Donner Stock Trail" by Milan E. Wight; Oakland Tribune; San Francisco Call; "History of Sacramento County" by G. Walter Reed; "Classy  City: Residential  Realms  of  the  Bay  Region" by Richard Walker; Wikipedia; Bancroft Library;]

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