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James Hervey Boyd

By Linda Thompson Robertson © December 2013          

James Hervey Boyd
James Hervey Boyd

On November 14, 1809, James Hervey Boyd was born in Mason County, Kentucky. It has been said that he was reared on a plantation with limited opportunities for formal education. His parents were John and Elizabeth ("Betsy") Davis Boyd, who had married in 1801 and thereafter had nine children. They lived near Maysville, the county seat of Mason County, on the Ohio River.

When he was eighteen years old, James came to Mississippi to join his oldest brother, Gordon D. Boyd, in or near Woodville, the county seat of Wilkinson County, located near the Louisiana border. Gordon was seven years older than James. For a time, James assisted his brother who at the time was the publisher of The Woodville Republican, a newspaper founded in 1823.  Later, the two brothers moved to nearby Bayou Sara (St. Francisville), Louisiana, and ran a drug store.

The 1830 Federal Census shows Gordon D. Boyd as a resident of Wilkinson County. Gordon Boyd read the law and passed the bar. He went to Columbus, Mississippi, as a land receiver appointed by President Andrew Jackson, and then he moved to Kosciusko, Mississippi, where he established a law practice. In 1837, he was elected State Senator for the counties of Attala, Leake, and Neshoba.

Gordon Boyd married Rebecca Frances Williams in 1841 in Leake County. A native of Tennessee, she was the daughter of Judge J. P. Williams of Kosciusko. In 1842, Gordon and Rebecca had a son, Rasselas Boyd, who later became an attorney and judge. They subsequently had two daughters, Frances (Fannie) (who married William Dudley Sneed), and Jane (Jennie) (who married Charles A. Crane), and a son Stephen C. Boyd.

On April 8, 1850, Gordon D. Boyd died of cholera while on a business trip to Louisiana. He was buried with the Masonic brotherhood attending his remains. His widow, Rebecca Frances Boyd, later married a lawyer named Theodore L. Thompson, and they had three children. In 1880, however, she was living with her son Rasselas Boyd and family.

In late 1834, at the age of twenty-five, James Hervey Boyd came to Jackson, Mississippi. He gave his attention to various occupations, mainly merchandising. Beginning March 5, 1835, and into early 1836, he operated a drug store, James H. Boyd & Co. His advertisements in The Mississippian related:

"The subscribers having permanently established themselves in Jackson, in the above business, have now on hand and will constantly keep a stock of Drugs, Medicines, Paints, Oils, Dyestuff, Perfumery, Glassware, & Physicians and planters supplied on as good terms as they can be procured in the country."

In the mid 1840s, James H. Boyd advertised as an auctioneer, and in 1851, he advertised a cheap cash store. He served the community in various position, including Deputy U. S. Marshal, School Trustee, Alderman, Jackson Mayor for four terms (1842, 1843, 1850, and 1858, when terms were one year in duration), and Justice of the Peace. Mr. Boyd was Alderman during the siege of Jackson in 1863, when Charles H. Manship was Mayor, as well as in 1862, 1865, 1866, and 1867. Alderman Boyd resigned from the position in October 1867.

On October 11, 1843, James H. Boyd married Eliza Ellis. The Reverend Leroy J. Halsey, Presbyterian minister in Jackson from 1843 until 1848, performed the ceremony.

James and Eliza first lived on a lot on the corner of Capitol and Congress Streets, on what is now the location of the Emporium Building at 400 East Capitol Street, across Congress Street from the Governor’s Mansion. Mr. Boyd first purchased this lot in 1841 with his business partners Stephen P. Baley and Joseph M. Fite, from the Masonic Pearl Lodge, No. 23, which decided to move its Lodge elsewhere. As the result of a failed investment in a Sinking Fund, the Sheriff of Hinds County levied on the lot and other property of James H. Boyd and sold them at public auction in January of 1846. No one knows whether the Boyds continued to live on the property on Capitol Street or moved elsewhere. The Census of 1850 indicates that the Boyds did not own any real estate.

There are missing deeds (or deeds not indexed) in the chain of title of this property on Capitol and Congress Streets. Later, George Fearn resided on a tract of land that included Mr. Boyd’s lot, and he operated a business from there as well. George Fearn is the person from whom Mrs. Boyd purchased the North Jefferson Street land on which is located The Oaks.

Militia companies took an important part in the parades, public ceremonies, and other social affairs in early Jackson. In 1836, the Capital Guards, the first militia company of Jackson, was organized. James H. Boyd was elected the first lieutenant.

We have no concrete evidence that the Boyds owned slaves, although "James A. Boyd" is listed on the 1850 slave census as owning one slave, likely a scrivener's error, the entry probably referring to James H. Boyd.  James H. Boyd sold slaves, however, in his capacity as trustee under a deed of trust and as an auctioneer. In an October 1845 edition of The Southron, James H. Boyd, Trustee, advertised that he would sell “Turner and Little Alfred, slaves belonging to H. G. O. Parker . . . to satisfy a deed of trust given to secure the payment of a note drawn by H. G. O. Parker, payable to Ira M. Lamb, dated January 1st 1843.”

On October 1, 1845, James H. Boyd advertised in TheSouthron that he had “procured one of Col. Gooch’s new and commodious store rooms, situated in the most business part of the city, nearly opposite the Mansion House on State Street,” and that he had been commissioned as “AUCTIONEER for this city” to sell personal property either at his store or elsewhere.

Mr. Boyd was also active in Masonic activities in Jackson. He was a founding member of the second Masonic lodge in Jackson, the Silas Brown Lodge No. 65, which was organized in 1844 and chartered by the Grand Lodge in 1845. Mr. Boyd was surely instrumental in the building of the third floor onto City Hall by the Masonic Lodges in Jackson in 1846.

According to the census of 1850, James H. Boyd listed his occupation as Mayor. In 1860, J. H. Boyd was said to be a brick merchant. In 1870, his occupation was noted to be auctioneer.

In 1844, after his marriage to Eliza, Mr. Boyd joined the Presbyterian Church. He was an elder from April 2, 1848, until his death on July 4, 1877, nearly thirty years.

According to his obituary, he was prepossessing in personal appearance, being five feet ten inches tall, with dark hair and expressive brown eyes.

After the War Between the States, Mr. Boyd had a furniture business, at which he did fairly well. After the depression of 1873, however, he was declared a bankrupt.

On July 4, 1877, Mr. Boyd died of consumption at home on North Jefferson Street. He was 67 years old. He is buried in the Boyd family plot in Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson.

823 North Jefferson Street  -  Mail PO Box 4240   -  Jackson, Mississippi  39296-4240  PH. 601.353.9339 Click for map