Newton Booth Tarkington was born in Indianapolis on 29 July 1869—the same generation as Fort himself, then (b. 1874), and the oldest of the Founders of the Fortean Society. Tarkington came from patrician stock. His father. John S. Tarkington, was a lawyer with political leanings, serving in the Indiana General Assembly, organizing the 132nd Indiana Volunteers during the Civil War, and acting as a judge on the Fifth Circuit Court for a time. His mother was Elizabeth Booth, and her brother was a senator from and governor of California. Booth—as he would come to be called—had an older sister, Mary, born in 1861, who went by the nickname Haute.
Tarkington came to reflect many of the Gilded Age values then being forged—even as he struggled against Victorian-era morals. He attended high school, first, at a local public school, and when he was 14 his family became fascinated by Spiritualism. He would remain tolerant of psychic phenomena and communion with the dead, although the family’s religion seemed to settle more on a kind of Unitarianism—different from his paternal grandfather, who had been a Methodist preacher.