Right: Alex and Altie Boorem
John Alexander Boorem (b.1882) was the second child of John Boorem and his wife Emma Bond. He was born on his father's farm in Mountainhome and lived with his mother and father until John Boorem's death in 1916. According to family members, Alex was quite ill as a child and was forced to stay at home for extended periods. Because of this his father gave him a .22 caliber rifle telling him that he had "better learn to shoot." As such the young Alex Boorem became a skilled marksman, and it was said that he could "shoot out the eye of a squirrel at a hundred yards!
Alex married Altie Hanchett, and the census of 1910 shows Alex and Altie living with John and Emma Boorem on the family farm in Mountainhome. Alex and Altie had no children and their marriage would not last long. By 1920 Alex had left Altie, and was living with his new wife Laura and their children in Chicago, next to Alex's brother Ord Boorem. By this time Alex had changed his name to John Anderson, and his children (eventually seven in all) took their father's new name. John and Laura Anderson's children were, John, Emma, Thelma, William, Richard, Alex, and James.
Later in the 1920s Alex's brother's Ord and Sedgwick purchased 250 acres of farmland on Long Lake in Fremont, Michigan. Since he was "down on his luck", they moved Alex and his family onto the farm. They also built three houses on the lake. Alex was to run the farm and rent the cottages to summer vacationers for extra income. Alex and his family remained there for about two years, then suddenly abandoned the farm, forcing Ord and Sedgwick to sell the property at a loss. In 1930 we find Alex (John Anderson) living in Tompkins County in the Finger Lakes district of upstate New York. All of John and Laura's seven children are present and John is listed as a farmer.
Ord and Sedgwick Boorem always told the family that the FBI put Alex's marksmanship skills to good use to help end the career of one of Prohibition's most notorious criminals. They claimed that their brother was used as the FBI's primary marksman when police and FBI agents ambushed and killed John Dillinger outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago on 22 July 1934. The story goes that afterwards the FBI changed Alex's name from Boorem to Anderson and moved him to the Finger Lakes for protection. The problem with this story is that Alex had already changed his name to Anderson by 1920, and had already moved to the Finger Lakes by 1930.
Meanwhile, following their separation, Alex's first wife Altie moved to New York and lived with her mother Myrtia and brother Charlie Hanchett. This is confirmed by both the 1920 and 1930 census, which also shows that Altie kept the name Boorem. According to niece Dorothy Boorem Thomas-Kott, Alex and Altie eventually got back together, remarried (although there is some doubt that they were ever divorced), and settled back in Mountainhome. There is a stained glass window in the Mountainhome Methodist church that was dedicated by Altie, and her name is found at the bottom of the window. I have no idea what happened to Laura, the mother of Alex's children.
In time most of the family lost touch with Alex and little is known about his later years. He remains the most elusive and enigmatic of John and Emma Boorem's children.
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Text and photographs copyright © 2003 by Jeffrey L. Thomas, with all rights reserved