Home of John W "Blind" Boone
John W Boone, a nationally known musician and composer and one of Missouri's “Big Three,” is considered by many historians to have inspired the development of ragtime music through his adoption of the syncopated rhythms he saw in everyday life within African American communities. Boone's home, his only remaining asset at the time of his death, later served as the location of a funeral home. The property was in disrepair and in danger of being demolished in the late 1990s. Local residents and preservationists mobilized to save it with the help of city officials. The home was renovated and is currently owned by the City of Columbia. The home has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.
Backstory and Context
John W “Blind” Boone overcame poverty, disability and racism to become a nationally known musician and composer (Historic Missourians). Born in 1864 to Rachel Boone, an escaped mixed race slave from Kentucky descended from Daniel Boone (Perfessor Bill). Boone never knew his father, a white bugler for the Union Army. Boone’s blindness resulted from cerebral meningitis at the age of approximately six months, when his eyes were removed and his eyelids were sewn together.
Boone was encouraged and supported in his musical talents by the citizens of Warrensburg, MO. In 1872, the community united to send him to the Missouri School for the Blind in St. Louis, where he learned to play classical piano under the tutelage of an older white student, Enoch Donnelly. After a couple of school years, a new principal denied black students the same privileges as white students, including no access to pianos. Boone began sneaking out to the Tenderloin District to listen to and play with African American musicians in saloons. The principal noted Boone’s absences and dismissed him. Boone was living on the street when a white railroad conductor provided him passage back to his mother’s home in Warrensburg.
In December, 1879, at the age of 15½, Boone met John Lange, Jr, a successful businessman, who owned an entertainment establishment. Lange booked Boone to play a Christmas program and recognized Boone’s talent as well as his vulnerability. They struck up a lifelong friendship and working relationship, Lange becoming Boone’s manager until Lange’s death. Boone married Lange’s youngest sister, Eugenia, in 1889 and they purchased the home at 10 North Fourth Street.
Boone was known for his generosity as well as his musical ability. He supported churches and other organizations through donations and loans. Among these were Christian College, which became Columbia College, and First Christian Church of Columbia, a white congregation that accepted Boone as their first black member. Boone gave away most of his earnings, which were substantial for the time, dying with less than $150 in cash and his home the only remaining assets.
Credited, along with Louis Moreau Gottschalk, with giving legitimacy to black music, Boone is counted among Missouri’s Big Three - Scott Joplin, James Scott and Boone (Blind Boone Home).
John Wlliam “Blind” Boone, Shs.umsystem.edu/historicmissourians/name/b/blindboone, n.d., Web, 11/27/2014
Blind Boone, www.blindboonehome.com, n.d., Web, 11/27/2014
John William “Blind” Boone, www.perfessorbill.com/comps/jboone.shtml, n.d., Web, 11/27/2014
Blind Boone, A Musical Prodigy, www.aaregistery.org/historic_events/view/blind-boone-musical-prodigy, n.d., Web, 11/27/2014
Image of the Boone Home. Columbia Historic Homes. . Accessed May 16, 2019. https://columbiahistorichomes.com/homes/j-w-blind-boone-home-10-n-fourth-street/.