John William Boone
A Ragtime Music “Pioneer”
by Barbara Gill
Mother claimed John was Boone descendant
His skill at “tickling the ivories” entertained many during his lifetime of 63 years. As a child growing up, young Willie’s natural talent was recognized by the townsfolk of Warrensburg, MO who arranged for the start of a musical education even though he was blind since infancy. Funds were collected and John William Boone was on his way to St. Louis. The young boy proved himself with his fantastic memory and skill.
A teacher at Iowa State University introduced the remarkable man to classical music. With his phenomenal ear, he could replay hundreds of songs after just hearing them once. A concert career of 47 years took John William Boone on the road from coast to coast and included Canadian performances.
A Blind Boone Quote:
“I regard my blindness as a blessing, for had I not been blind I would not have given the inspiration to the world that I have.”
John W. “Blind” Boone
By Mike Shaw,
Excerpted from July 2005 “Compass”
(Editor’s notes: John W. “Blind” Boone, born to a runaway slave during the Civil War, lost his sight at the young age of six months. Even so, in later years, he could play anything on the piano having heard it only once, and was one of the early pioneers in the field of ragtime music. In October 2004 Compass, Madge Harrah published a query about the renowned “Blind Boone.” Following is an answer to that query. To learn more about Blind Boone, visit www.blindboonepark.org or read the story on mindyj16.sg-host.com under the section “articles.” If anyone can help with this research, please contact Mr. Shaw. The Blind Boone Park is a member of the Boone Society.)
Mike Shaw explains, “I am a charter member of the Blind Boone Park Renovation Group in Warrensburg, Mo., and, like Madge Harrah, am interested in learning more about John W. Boone’s genealogy. I began this research about 1 1/2 ago, and can expand on Madge’s story a little. I also searched the 1860 Slave Schedule for Missouri, not for a Rachel necessarily, but for a female the right age, owned by a Boone/Boon. I found just one entry that not only matched that criteria, but went a step further. Wm. P. Boone, of Lincoln Co., Mo., listed a sixteen year old female as a fugitive. William Penn Boon, of Lincoln Co., was born in Maysville, Mason Co., Kentucky, in 1826. His father, William Boon, 1797-1863, moved his family from Maysville to Lincoln Co., Mo., about 1842.
The town of Maysville, Ky., was laid out by the pioneer Daniel Boone and three of his cousins. One of these cousins was William Boon’s father. Rachel Boone told Mellissa Fuell-Cuther, that she had been born in Kentucky, in 1843, and her good manners were result of her Southern upbringing, so I believe she came to Missouri sometime in the 1850s, possibly to work in the household of Wm. P. Boon. Maysville is on the Ohio River, so if this is our Rachel, and she escaped in Kentucky, she probably would have crossed the river into Ohio, a free state. Missouri was a slave state, with contraband laws, so I don’t think the Underground Railroad would have taken her there.
John W. Boone’s father is a little easier. Rachel told Fuell-Cuther that the bugler for Co I, of the 7th Missouri State Militia was the father of her son. The entire roster, 1,965 men, is online, and I visited the State Archives in Jefferson City, Mo., to verify that Pvt. William S. Belcher was the only bugler for Co I, 7th MSM. His enlistment card gives Princeton, Mercer Co., MO, as his home, and I did find a Wm. Belcher, age seven years, on the 1850 census for Mercer Co. The official records of the Union Army verify that Co I, was, indeed, stationed near Miami, Mo., in the fall of 1863. They also contain an interesting story concerning Pvt. Belcher. In May of 1864 he is furloughed from his post at Camp Grover, Warrensburg, Mo., to return home to Princeton. Instead, according to Capt. Squire Ballew, of Co I, he returned to Miami. On the 18th of May, 1864, Wm. S. Belcher, who says his home is in Miami, enlisted in the 23rd Missouri Infantry in St. Louis. John W. Boone was born on the 17th of May, 1864. Coincidence? His record is public (I found it at the Mid-Continent Public Library in Independence, Mo.), look it over and decide for yourself. It even contains a letter from Col. T. T. Crittenden, who was to become a governor of Missouri, and be the namesake of an historical district in St. Louis. I don’t know what became of Wm. S. Belcher. He was convicted of desertion and sentenced to two months of hard labor at Camp Grover. The only evidence I have found of him, after the War, so far, is his enumeration on the 1890 Special Veterans Census of Cass Co., Mo.
“I would appreciate any info about John Boone’s parents, and will try to answer any questions about my research,” concludes Shaw.