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Mary Elizabeth Boyd McGill

By Linda Thompson Robertson December 2013

Mary Elizabeth Boyd McGill
Mary Elizabeth Boyd McGill

Mary Elizabeth Boyd was the third child born to James Hervey and Eliza Boyd. She was born in Jackson on November 27, 1850, the younger sister to Halsey Boyd (born 1845) and Sallie Boyd (born 1847). After Mary, there were two more sons and another daughter born to the Boyd family. Mary Boyd stated in her later years that she was born in the Boyd house on North Jefferson Street, but the deed references found thus far do not confirm this.

On December 2, 1879, Mary married Richard F. McGill who was fifteen years older than she. Richard McGill was born January 25, 1834, in either Vermont or Alabama. He was of Irish descent – both his parents, Daniel and Margaret Tearnan McGill, were born in Ireland. Richard was five feet eight inches tall. He had dark hair, blue eyes, and fair complexion.

Richard came to Jackson with his parents in 1846, when he was twelve years old. He learned the carriage maker’s trade, at which he worked about eight years.

Lyman & Sallie Boyd Gunn
Engagement portrait of Richard  McGill and Mary Boyd

Richard was for many years employed as the Steward (chief financial officer) at the State Lunatic Asylum which was located at the current site of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, on North State Street north of Woodrow Wilson Boulevard. At the time of the founding of the Asylum and the purchase of land in 1848, the location was about two miles north of the City of Jackson. The original land commissioners appointed by the governor to establish the Asylum included J. H. Boyd and C. H. Manship. The Asylum opened its doors on January 8, 1855.

At the Asylum, Richard McGill was known as “Captain R. F. McGill,” a reference to his Confederate military service. He served in the Eighteenth Mississippi Infantry, was ordered to Virginia and was involved in the first battle of Manassas and the battle of Leesburg. He subsequently detached from active service and became steward of the hospital at Leesburg and then later of Winder Hospital in Richmond.

Richard had a brother in Jackson, named John McGill, who was a printer by trade and Republican mayor of Jackson from 1874 until 1888. In 1864, John McGill married Mary Eliza Kerr, the sister of Jackson attorney and mayor, Richard C. Kerr, who was in and out of Jackson politics at the same time as J. H. Boyd. Mary Eliza Kerr McGill died two years after her marriage to John McGill, and he never remarried.

Richard F. McGill
Richard McGill on the road with a horse.

The McGill brothers had four sisters, Medora McGill Nalty, Margaret (or Marguerite) McGill Fletcher, Anna McGill Burke, and Sarah McGill Carroll. There was another brother, Daniel O. McGill, age sixteen,  who was killed in the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864.

Richard McGill and Mary Boyd married at the Boyd House, and a studio photograph of the McGills at the time of their marriage is displayed in the home today. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Dr. John Hunter, pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Jackson for thirty-seven years.

Before 1881, the McGills lived on Boyd property, adjoining what is now The Oaks, but on the East side of North Street. Mrs. Eliza Boyd’s sister, Susan Ellis Ledbetter, a widow by 1878, also lived on the same block of North Street, near her Boyd relatives.

In 1881, after James H. Boyd had died and after the youngest son Johnny had moved off to college, the McGills moved into The Oaks with Mrs. Boyd. Mr. McGill made substantial improvements to the house and lot in 1881.

Richard McGill was an active Freemason and a Knight Templar, an Odd Fellow, a Pythian Knight of Honor, and a member of the R. A. Smith Camp of the Confederate Veterans. The Knights Templar regalia in The Oaks – the cap decorated with the Red Cross of the Crusades, the leather and buttoned cuffs, and the belt with eight-pointed (Maltese) cross-adorned buckle embossed with the Latin words “In Hoc Signo Vinces” (“In this sign [the cross] you will conquer”) belonged to Richard McGill. They were made in the 1860s by Horstmann & Brothers Company, a maker of military and other ceremonial clothing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The hatbox at The Oaks also dates to that time.

Richard McGill’s “Holy Bible” is also displayed at The Oaks, beside two Bibles owned by his wife. The elder Boyds and Mrs. Mary McGill were staunch Presbyterians, although Mrs. Boyd’s Ellis relatives were active Methodists. Richard McGill was a Methodist, and he served many years on the Board of Stewards of the First Methodist Church in Jackson, where his funeral was later conducted.

Richard and Mary McGill had two children, Richard Francis McGill (on June 17, 1882) and Mary Elizabeth McGill (born in the Boyd House on October 23, 1883), neither of whom married.

In January of 1885, Mrs. Eliza Boyd deeded her residence and property to Mary Boyd McGill for her lifetime, to go to the McGill children at Mary’s death. Mr. and Mrs. McGill made many improvements to the Boyd home, including the restoration of the brick milk house at the back of The Oaks house in 1885.

Richard F. McGill (Senior) lived to be 72 years old; he died on November 18, 1906. He is buried in the Boyd family plot in Greenwood Cemetery.

Richard Francis McGill (Junior) was living in Memphis by the time of draft registration for World War I. In 1917, he was working as a warehouse clerk for the Illinois Central Railroad Company. He had the same occupation in 1930, when he was a boarder at the home of Walter Augustus "Gus" Wyly, his best friend and foreman at a railroad shop.  Eventually he put in 50 years of active service with the Illinois Central Railroad.

Mary Boyd McGill lived in the Boyd McGill House in Jackson for the rest of her life, and her daughter, Mary Elizabeth, lived with her. In the census of 1930, Mary E. McGill was listed as a resident of 823 N. Jefferson Street, along with her mother and aunt, Sallie Boyd Gunn, and a boarder, 35-year-old Alva Marshall, bookkeeper Tucker Printing Company. Mary E. McGill’s occupation was proofreader at Tucker Printing Company. Miss Alva Marshall lived at the Boyd-McGill home for at least 40 years.

Mrs. Mary Boyd McGill lived to the quite old age of 89 years; she died on May 14, 1939. Mrs. McGill’s funeral was at the First Presbyterian Church. The elders of the Church were honorary pallbearers, including close friends Mr. Carson, Stokes Robinson, Frank Lemly, James Alexander, Major Calvin Wells, and J. W. Tucker (founder of Tucker Printing Company and a close neighbor).

In 1960, the two children of Richard F. and Mary Boyd McGill deeded The Oaks property to the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Mississippi. Miss Mary McGill, who had occupied The Oaks as her residence for many years, was living in a nursing home at the time, and the purchase money went to her support. Her brother lived in Memphis.

The McGill children also lived long lives. Richard F. McGill died in Memphis on April 3, 1967, at the age of 84, and Mary McGill died in July 1966 at the age of 82. All the McGills are buried in the Boyd plot in Greenwood Cemetery.

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