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James Boyd

Updated on November 6, 2013
Ulster residents settle in the Colonies.
Ulster residents settle in the Colonies.

The eighteenth century began as a time of conquest for the British empire, as well as a time of bitter defeat for the people of both Scotland and Ireland. After many years of warring against the English, the people of Ireland experienced much antagonism towards their occupiers who had systematically pillaged their economy and attempted to demoralize and assimilate their culture. In the seventeen forty's a famine occurred that caused the deaths of some 400,000 people. This was despite the fact of a large export of food. Scottish and English land lords were given land in the Northern region of Ireland known as the Ulster plantation that had been confiscated in the 1600's by James VI of Scotland and I of England. As a part of the unsuccessful integration of Ulster Scots many resolved to migrate to the British colonies.

One factor that lead to a mass migration of Ulster Scots to America was a forced integration of two groups of people who did not speak the same language, but more importantly they had conflicting religious beliefs. While the Irish Catholics were a dominating class, the intent of the English was to pour Protestantism into their culture in order to assimilate Ireland into one United Kingdom under English rule. As a result this lead to much conflict, and between the years 1717 and 1775 over 200,000 Scotch-Irish had decided to leave for the English colonies, most of whom settled in the Appalachian area. By the end of the eighteenth century more than 2.2 million settlers had flooded into the States. Among these Ulster-Scots were the Brothers James, John and David Boyd who landed in the Charleston harbor and made their way over to North Carolina.

The path from Charleston to Lincoln County

James Boyd was born in the year 1772 in Ulster, Ireland, and at some point in his early adulthood he decided to travel to the United States. It has been noted that James and his brother John went North from Charleston, and made their way to the Appalachian Mountains, while their brother David may have gone to Texas.

On 6, January 1779, Fort Sunbury, Georgia followed Savannah's surrender. Twenty three days later Augusta Georgia fell under General Augustine Prevost's campaign. Charles Town (Charleston), South Carolina became the next major Southern target captured by Britain.
Thus lodged between the British in the harbor cities and their western coalition of Indians, resentful about surrender of land on the frontiers, Georgia and South Carolina citizens lived in mortal fear. Perhaps this explains why James soon sought refuge in North Carolina.

Among some of the possible routes they could have taken it is likely that they went from Charleston on the Northern path to Camden, then continue North on the Occaneechi path to Charlotte, which crosses Westward one county over to the Catawba and Northern, which would land them directly in the middle of Lincoln county.

Boyd / McGill marriage record

Rachel McGill

In December of 1784, in Lincoln county North Carolina James decided to Wed Rachel McGill, also of Scotch-Irish descent. In those days people would have to rely on the honesty of their piers. At times some men wanted to avoid obligations to their families and would run away to marry another woman. Since matrimony meant a great deal to people in those days it became customary to ensure that no man was attempting to shirk his family responsibilities. So the church would post a bulletin, (sometimes up to a few weeks prior to the wedding date) in order to weed out any potential bigamists.

"Know all men by these presents that we John Oat, and Ephraim McLean both of the state of North Carolina and county of Lincoln are held firmly bound by his Excellency Richard Dobbs Spright Esq. Governor NC. or his successors in the penal sum of one thousand pounds [Specie?] for which payment well truly to be made we do bind ourselves our heirs executors and adm, jointly Securally by these presents firmly sealed by our seals dated eighteenth day of December 1794
The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas James Boyd and Rachael McGill is to be married the day of the date of these presents none if it shall hereafter appear and at all times hereafter that there is a legal objection to let or hinder the marriage of the aforesaid James Boyd and Rachael McGill then the above obligation is to be made of no affect otherwise to remain in full force and virtue"
Signed, sealed, and delivered in the presence of
Thomas Miller

The Boyd plantation murder

In the year 1806 James Boyd and his family picked up their belongings and moved Westward to Buncombe County where he purchased 50 acres of land on Bee Tree Creek. He did very well for himself as he and his small family became the proud owners of a small plantation and several slaves, and for many years the Boyd family prospered in the field of agriculture. At the time it was socially acceptable to own another living person in this area of the United States. The slave trade was particularly booming in a day of turmoil when passions ran deep dividing asunder the country to it's very core. Such was the rift among the people in the Northern and Southern states that even further generations in the Boyd family would prove to set themselves against other family members in a literal war of brother against brother.

How deep this rift was one could never tell, however the life and limb of a young man by the name of George Anderson, (A young slave) came into question as his own path entangled himself in the murder of a neighboring slave. Immediately following the undertaking of this capitol crime a grandson of James Boyd, along with several other family members decided to briefly conceal the whereabouts of the young man until it was convenient to relocate him to South Carolina. There he was sold by a close family friend by the name of John Garrett.

George Anderson who was fearful of his own life knew that he had to vacate the area as soon as possible to avoid harsh vengeance to be meted out by the other man's owner, an unforgiving slave master by the name of Col. Lowrey.

As he knew that death would soon materialize in the form of a rope or the ball of a musket, Anderson escaped only to be caught and jailed in South Carolina. All to the behest of his new purchasers who then would loose out on a rather large sum of money.

In the year 1853 a law suit was filed by Robert McGill Boyd against his nephews James Francis Boyd and other children of Robert's deceased brother James B. Boyd Jr.(a land owner and volunteer militiaman), who were willed half of James Boyd Senior's estate. The brothers who participated in the hiding and the sale of Mr. Anderson were brought into the Buncombe Courthouse and questioned about the incident under oath along with their mother Annis Worley Boyd (the widow of James B. Boyd Jr.), and close family friend John Garrett. Although it may have been credulous to think that the Sons of James Jr. and Annis hid this desperate man from certain peril out of kindness, the almighty dollar was hard pressed as whispers of war were on the rise and the question to redefine the commonly held definition of individual liberty was on the dinner plate of the lawmakers of the day. Perhaps it was one last chance for the Boyd family to make a calculated move in order to save every penny they could before this long held institution of slavery had come to an end. One may never know.

Near the end of James Boyd's life he began to slip into a mental state of infirmity and was labeled by friends and family as insane and imbecile, a term which at the time implied that one who is venerable of age had become weak minded and incapable of caring for himself or making complex decisions. Before this mental state sank into James' consciousness he was legally capable but only of the disposition to free a single female slave by the name of Darcus. to whom he bequeathed a part of the inheritance of his younger son Robert to "enjoy the benefits of her own labor as a free woman"

On the 12th day of November 1852, James Boyd left this mortality to a family, like so many others, who would dispute over his last mortal remains for several years after. A dead slave and a dead son, the loss of his own wit at the eve of a war that would forever change the lives of his progeny, and a widow who would soon join his side at the judgment bar of the God of both heaven and Earth.


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    • Onusonus profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from washington

      Thanks for the props Beth. James Boyd was my 5x great grandfather.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Im writing a book around this era... One of the characters is a modern day Irishman. This is helpful pointing me in the right direction. Interesting hub. Thanks.


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