This was a newspaper column in late December, 2013, hence the choice of poem below. I have been dilatory in updating this blog, but busy writing and researching new things.
Back in the fall, the Melrose Methodist Church celebrated its 160th Anniversary. Thanks to a correspondent, I have more to add to the history of the Church. Christopher Phillipo directed me to the Reverend Joseph C. Booth. He was a Methodist minister, and as was typical of the sect, spent just a couple of years at each church to which he was assigned. Booth was minister at Melrose from just 1912-1913, but must have found something here which attracted him, as when he retired in 1927, it was to Avenue A.
Joseph Booth was born in Gursley, England, about 1864. He attended school there, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1893. Perhaps he had already met his future wife in England, as he married Elizabeth Ambrose, born in Cambridge, England, in 1895, shortly after she emigrated. As I said, Methodist policy was to move its ministers frequently, and move Joseph and Elizabeth did. He was a minister in Redford, near Saranac, NY in 1894, Elizabethtown from 1895-1898; Schuyler Falls from 1899-1900, Chazy from 1900-1905, Warrensburg from 1906-1908, Williamstown, Massachusetts from 1909-1911, Melrose from 1912-1913, Mayfield from 1914-1918, Waterford from 1919-1921, Troy from 1922-1924, and Brandon, Vermont from 1925-1927.
Early in their marriage, Joseph and Elizabeth had a child who died. About 1912, her father, William Ambrose, aged 69, and sister, Sarah, 42, moved in with the couple. Though Joseph and Elizabeth became U.S. citizens in 1911, William and Sarah did not. The 1930 census showed them in retirement in Melrose, owning a home worth $1800, living next door to George Strait, the Methodist minister. The Straits would have lived in what is now the Halloran Home on Avenue A. William was now 84. Elizabeth died in 1936, her obituary reporting that “she had been in ill health for about 42 years.” Shortly after, Joseph married his sister-in-law Sarah. He died in 1942 and she in 1949. All are buried in Elmwood Cemetery, their names on the same stone.
In addition to being a minister, Joseph was a poet. About 1915, The Troy “Times” began to publish his poems. Mr. Phillipo links to about 20 of them on his blog: http://doesnotevenrhyme.blogspot.com. I felt the following poem was particularly appropriate for this time of the year.
“Father Christmas!” by Rev. Joseph C. Booth (1927)
Old Father Christmas, bending ‘neath the weight
Of centuries, comes down his frozen track,
With variegated gifts piled in his pack,
The birthday of the Christ to celebrate.
In honor of this great, eventful date,
Let us, in preparation, show no lack;
Let not our heart be cold, our hands be slack,
But joyfully responsive and elate.
In harmony with God’s stupendous gift,
With self-denying efforts crown the day;
The hungry feed, financial burdens lift
And drive the pangs of poverty away;
Hail, Father Christmas, may thy coming prove
A glad memorial of redeeming love!
Melrose, N. Y.
Troy Times. December 24, 1927: 20 col 2.