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Whether the elements of success in life are innate attributes of the individual or whether they are quickened by a process of circumstantial development, it is impossible clearly to determine. Yet the study of a successful life is none the less interesting or profitable by reason of the existence of this same uncertainty. That an individual possessing the true elements of manhood, whose character is founded upon the fundamental principles of honor and integrity, may, unaided by any external agency, overcome unfavorable environment and gradually rise to positions of prominence in the business world, and become, in the liberal acceptation of the expression, the "architect of his own fortunes, " is amply demonstrated in the lives of many men who have been factors in the early growth and development of the great state of Indiana. Not the least in this class of sterling characters is the gentleman whose name forms the caption of this article, a man whose life had been very closely interwoven with the rise and progress of Hancock county’s industrial and financial interests, and who today after many years devoted to the claims of business, is living in honorable and contented retirement in a city to the prosperity of which he has contributed so much in years gone by
Joseph Boots is the son of Samuel and Ruhana (Lutz) Boots, the father a native of Maryland, and the mother born in West Virginia, they being married in Franklin county, Indiana. He was born in the latter county and state on the 15th day of March, 1822, and when a lad five years old was taken to Cincinnati, in which city his father worked at cabinetmaking. Several years later the family removed to Clermont county, Ohio, where young Joseph received his early training, one of his schoolmates being Nelson Bradley, afterwards his business partner and now a prominent citizen of Greenfield. After several years in that part of the state, his father removed to Missouri, where he remained some time, eventually returning to Ohio and dying at the home of his son in Brown county. When a young man Joseph Boots learned the carpenter’s trade and worked at the same with varying success for a number of years in the county of Clermont. August 14, 1845, he was united in marriage to Miss Sophia Sells, of Brown county, Ohio, daughter of Samuel Sells, formerly of Clermont, but later a resident of Brown, where he became a wealthy farmer and large land owner. Mr. Sells was a cousin of Nelson Bradley, Mrs. Boots’ old schoolmate, and the latter’s wife was also a stepsister of the former. At the time of her marriage Mrs. Boots was a young lady of eighteen.
The young couple began housekeeping in a little log cabin on her father’s land and two years later removed to twenty-two acres of land, part of which only was paid for. In this modest and humble way the faced the world, full of hope, and though lowly their lot, they now look back to the days spent within the four walls of the primitive dwelling as among their happiest and most pleasing experiences. Mrs. Boots still exhibits with pride a number of utensils which she used in her first domestic establishment, including among other articles an old-fashioned long-handled skillet in which she baked bread, and the little oil lamp which, stuck in a crack in the wall, shed a feeble light throughout the room. After living in their first home about five years, during which time the place was increased by an additional fifty acres, Mr. Boots disposed of the farm and purchased one hundred and thirty acres of land in Brown county, upon which he erected a good dwelling, a barn and other outbuildings, set out orchards and made many other improvements. By his industry and successful management the farm in the course of a few years became one of the best improved and most valuable in the county and when he sold it in 1865, it brought him the neat sum of six thousand dollars, receiving two thousand dollars for a second of seventy acres. With a part of the money he purchased a farm property in Shelby county, Indiana, where he lived until the spring of 1870, when he moved to Greenfield, Hancock county, where his son, Dr. Samuel Sells Boots, was then practicing medicine and where his friend, Nelson Bradley, was an influential business man.
For a period of eighteen months Mr. Boots was associated with Mr. Bradley in the grocery trade and later, in partnership with two other parties, he built a flouring mill of which he and Mr. Bradley ultimately became joint proprietors. He continued the manufacture of flour a number of years, doing a very profitable business, but, finding a favorable opportunity of disposing of the mill at a good figure, he did so and then erected a much larger and more elaborate mill at a cost of about seven thousand dollars. This proved a fortunate enterprise and yielded him large financial returns upon the capital invested. At the expiration of about three years he sold out to good advantage and again embarked in the mercantile trade, but did not long continue, disposing of his stock at the end of one year and retiring from active participation in business affairs.
All of Mr. Boots’ enterprises have been successful and as a consequence he has a competency and is quoted as one of the strong financial men of Greenfield and Hancock county. Until his retirement he led a remarkably industrious life, full of energy, and the success with which his efforts have been crowned is the result of well defined purpose, wise forethought and sound judgment, directed and controlled by correct principles. Since coming to Greenfield he has contributed much to the city’s material prosperity in the way of buildings, having purchased a number of desirable lots and erected thereon dwellings, the rental from which adds considerable to his income. He also owns valuable business property, besides a fine farm of one hundred and sixty acres near the county seat and a somewhat smaller place in the township of Blue River, both of which are cultivated by renters. He has a beautiful and comfortable home, supplied with many of the conveniences and luxuries of life, and the genuine old fashioned hospitality which he dispenses with a lavish hand mark him as a true type of the old-time courteous gentleman, a class unfortunately too rare in this rapid utilitarian age.
Mr. and Mrs. Boots have had three children, the youngest of whom, Austin P., died at the age of fifteen. Samuel Sells Boots, the first born, practiced medicine in Greenfield for a period of twenty-seven consecutive years, but some time ago retired from the active duties of the profession. Franklin is a successful farmer living two miles north of the city. Mr. Boots gave his sons the best educational advantages obtainable and materially assisted them in getting a start in the world. In addition to their own children, Mr. and Mrs. Boots took to their hearts and home an orphan girl by the name of Amanda Stewart, whom they adopted when eleven years old, and carefully reared until her marriage some time ago to Wesley Holbrook, a farmer of Shelby county.
In speaking of Mr. Boots’ political opinions it is only necessary to say that he is and always has been a stalwart Democrat. Like most prominent and successful men in business life, he has never had time nor inclination for political honors, preferring the sphere of private citizenship to the glamors and emoluments of official station. In 1858 he united with the Methodist Episcopal church and his life since that time has been that of a humble, devout Christian, whose whole aim is to discharge his duty towards God and his fellow men, as he sees and understand it. Mrs. Boots is also active in religious work, having since her early childhood been a member of the same church to which her husband belongs. There are in Hancock county few better types of the enterprising, self-made business man than the subject of this review. From small beginnings, by prudence, industry and native ability conquering all obstacles, he gradually forged to the front in all he undertook, and succeeded in carving out a name that shall endure and achieving a success in life that furnishes a stirring example to the young men of the rising generation. And now in the eventide, surrounded by everything calculated to make the remainder of his earthly sojourn agreeable and pleasant, he enjoys the consciousness that all that he has and is he has earned by his personal exertions; and although he has passed the hilltop of life and henceforward his course will be toward the valley, he still bears upon his face many indications of his former physical vigor and his mental faculties retain much of the strength and keenness of his more active days.
source: Biographical Memoirs of Hancock County B. F. Bowen, Publisher, Logansport, Indiana, 1902 Pages 300-303.