None other than Boonville’s own
Walter D. Edmonds, the man famous for writing books such as “Drums Along the
Mohawk,” wrote the foreword to “Boonville and Its Neighbors.”
The Boonville book was written by Tharratt Gilbert Best in 1960 and, as it
states on the page opposite the foreword, was “Printed in the United States
of America By The Boonville Herald-Willard Press, Boonville, N.Y.”
I’ve been re-reading “Boonville and Its Neighbors” and agree with the
Edmonds foreword, especially this last paragraph: “Tharratt Best’s
account of the town has left no event, no matter how small, unrecorded.
There is time to tell of an early marriage, or a local fire, to follow the
creation of a business, a pastorate, a congregation, the purchase of a fire
engine, the sinking of new wells for the town water supply, the building of
a small dam on the Black River to furnish electricity as cheap as any you
can find across the country. It is a very local book, and for that reason
may appeal mainly to local readers; yet the history it recounts is in
essence that of any town in the north central United States.”
In fact, elsewhere in the foreword Edmonds writes this: “Boonville is and
always has been an average town, yet so typical of the essence of rural
America that for a term of years Hollywood chose it as a community in which
to try out new pictures in sneak previews - if, after all, that really
proves us typical.
Yet in Boonville nearly all the forces that developed America were
experienced in what might be called original forms, though generally on a
Now, why was I re-reading Best’s book? Because Tharratt Gilbert Best will be
inducted into the Oneida County Historical Society’s Hall of Fame on
Wednesday, Sept. 26 and yours truly was asked to “say a few words” and so
Best is on my mind.
The person who asked me to say a few words did so, I believe, because she
knows I will keep it to “a few words” and also because Best’s life went back
and forth between Utica and Boonville, as mine does.
Best attended grammar school in Boonville but attended high school at Utica
Free Academy, my school.
He loved history. In fact, the Oneida County Historical Society’s reference
library is named in his honor. Best was on the Society’s board of trustees.
Ditto for me.
Best loved to write. I hate writing, but as someone famous once said, I love
But that’s where the similarities end. He graduated UFA with honors.
Fortunately I had teachers who took pity. Best went on to Princeton and then
MIT. He was an educated man, a military man, too. During World War I he
joined the American Field Ambulance service and saw action in France and
when that enlistment was up he joined the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of
Best had a variety of skills. After the war, he worked as a civil and
petroleum engineer in the Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas oil fields. He came
back to Utica in 1921 and worked as a civil engineer for the City of Utica
and then went into business for himself. Then in 1924, the board of
directors of the First National Bank of Boonville elected him president, a
position held by his grandfather, Brinckerhoff Tharratt, and his
great-grandfather, Joseph R. Tharratt, founder of the bank.
Best led a great life, great enough to be in a Hall of Fame with some of
Oneida County’s other greats.
By the way, Best lived at 201 Main Street, now the Victorian Country Bed and
Joe Kelly is the editor and publisher of The Boonville Herald & Adirondack Tourist and