Reminisce: William K. Boone Jr. leaves Lima for job in Mexico

On a Saturday in mid-February 1925, five years into Prohibition, two Lima policemen on the lookout for anyone in possession of illegal liquor instead happened upon a man in possession of a dead skunk and a dead possum in a burlap bag slung over his shoulder.

The man, who was planning to sell the animal hides, was charged with killing game out of season; and the Lima Republican-Gazette on Sunday, February 15, 1925, had an interesting little story to add to a front page that included reports of a Kentucky mine rescue, a body found in a trunk in Chicago, the hiring of a new city manager for Lima, and the revelation that a downtown Lima business property that sold for 63 1/2 cents at sheriff’s sale in 1850 had recently fetched $85,000 in cash.

In the center of the crowded page, however, was perhaps the most interesting tale of all. Under the headline “$25,000 IS PRICE ON LIMA MAN’S HEAD,” William K. Boone Jr. told the newspaper about his life in a lawless Mexico, where “organized gangs of Mexican bandits” waited “on a chance to carry you into the cactus.”

“Boone operates an eighteen-mile steam road with the main station in Jalapa (today known as Xalapa) just across the rise from his home, and an electric power and light company with the powerhouse 12 miles out of the city in the mountains,” the Republican-Gazette wrote. “For the last three months prior to his visit here, Boone was not able to get near his railroad station and his life was a series of escapes between his home and the powerhouse 12 miles distant.”

Boone laughingly told the newspaper, “Don’t enter the movies to get the movie thrills, go to Mexico.” Boone had gone to Mexico 27 years earlier, leaving behind the chance for a comfortable life as the son of a prominent Lima family.

His father, William K. Boone Sr., was born in 1834 at Hughesville, Pennsylvania, into a family which, according to a January 1913 story in the Lima News, “traced relationship which connected his family with that of Daniel Boone …” As a young man he settled in Wooster and “became engaged in the hardware business in that city with J.H. Kauke, of that place, before the opening of the Civil War,” the News wrote.

In Wooster he also became engaged to and, on January 27, 1861, married Mary Elizabeth Heffelfinger, who as an infant had been brought to Ohio from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in a covered wagon.

“When the (Civil) war began he enlisted in the service of his country and was a captain in the One Hundred and Sixty-Ninth regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry, during the days of strife over the abolition of slavery,” the News wrote in 1913. “After the close of the war, Col. Boone (as he was referred to following the war) returned to Wooster and in January 1867 he came to this city and, in partnership with Mr. Kauke he bought out the Ashton Hardware Company which was then operating a hardware store in the Ashton block at the corner of the Public Square and Market Street …” In later years the hardware store was moved to the west side of the Square, north of Market Street.

The Boones’ first home in Lima was at the corner of North and Union Streets. Around 1869, they built a home on the north side of the 100 block of West Market Street, just west of the original hardware store in the Ashton Block. Adjoining the home, they built the Boone Block. The site now is occupied by the city parking garage. The Boone family eventually moved into a spacious house at 879 W. Market St.

Colonel Boone retired from the hardware business in 1903 but remained active in Masonic and civic affairs until his death in January 1913. “Colonel William K. Boone, 78 years old, one of Lima’s most prominent citizens and a pioneer businessman, died at his home, No. 879 W. Market St., at 3 o’clock yesterday morning following a two-days illness from ptomaine poisoning,” the Republican-Gazette reported January 29, 1913. “Colonel Boone was stricken after eating oysters for supper Saturday. None of the others of the family was affected,” the newspaper added. The colonel died 52 years and one day after his marriage.

“His death marks the passing of one whose name has been linked with the history and progress of the city for many, many years; a citizen who helped to bring the municipality up from the village of her primitive years to the splendid and flourishing city of today…,” the News wrote January 28, 1913.

He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth, who died at 92 in January 1927, fourteen years after her husband, and six children, including William K. Boone Jr., of Jalapa, Mexico. The son, who had recently been in Lima to visit his parents, was unable to attend his father’s funeral.

“The family last night received a telegram from Will Boone, now in Mexico, that he will be unable to come to Lima for the funeral services,” the Republican-Gazette wrote January 29, 1913. “Washouts along the railway lines and the activities of rebel troops make traveling a hazardous undertaking, he explained.”

The younger Boone was a 22-year-old college dropout when he quit his job at the Lima Locomotive Works and headed for Jalapa (the namesake of jalapeno peppers and birthplace of General Santa Anna of Alamo fame) in the mountainous, semi-tropical region between Mexico City and Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, to train workers for a new hydroelectric plant. Boone, who hardly spoke any Spanish, traveled from Lima to Jalapa by train.

“Boone arrived in Jalapa in 1898,” News columnist Mike Lackey wrote in December 1994. “Within 10 years, he was general manager of the Jalapa Railroad and Power Co., and American vice-consul in Jalapa. He later headed the local chamber of commerce and the civic betterment committee.”

In January 1904, while he was working in California for a mining company, the younger Boone married another former Lima resident, Blanche Marmon, at a ceremony in Los Angeles, where her father, James Marmon, an early Lima druggist, had moved for health reasons in 1891.

With few interruptions – such as fleeing bandits or revolutions — the younger Boone lived in Mexico for the rest of his life. He settled in Jalapa (a city with a population estimated at 75,000 in 1950 but more than 800,000 today) permanently in the late 1920s. “Jalapa and the country is the most beautiful in all the world,” he told the Republican-Gazette in the 1925 interview.

The younger Boone devoted his later years “to good works and the growing of avocados,” Lackey wrote in 1994. “He died in 1944, leaving behind a long list of accomplishments. He was instrumental in building a new hospital. He was responsible for giving Jalapa the first modern sports stadium in Mexico. When automobiles began arriving in Mexico, he improved Jalapa’s streets and created the first driveable highway to Veracruz.”

He is remembered today in Jalapa in the names of a street, the plaza at a park entrance in the city and numerous descendants.


This feature is a cooperative effort between the newspaper and the Allen County Museum and Historical Society.


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Reach Greg Hoersten at [email protected].