JAMES BOYD


The American Cannel Coal Company intended to work the coal mines through long-term leases of 15 years or longer. There were only three such leases -- two with James Boyd and one with Dwight Newcomb -- and only that with Newcomb (of 15 years) was carried to completion. The two with James Boyd (outlined in Chapter III, p. 30 and 33) were filled with provisions based upon speculation and were for impractically long periods: 1843, 30 years; 1847, 16 years. Boyd's age, above 50 years, added to the impracticality. The provisions in the lease with Newcomb in 1855 were based upon nearly 20 years of experience and were successfully carried out during the 15-year life of the lease. This is not to say that Boyd was a failure; rather, he was successful in spite of having to overcome numerous unforeseeable obstacles inherent in any pioneering venture.

James Boyd was born near Belfast, Ireland, in September 1793 and came to Boston in 1817 at the age of 24. Relying upon the custom of handing down the maiden name of the mother in naming children, it may be stated guardedly that his wife was Margaret Curry who was born in Ireland also in 1793; whether they married in Ireland or in the United States is not here known.

According to provisions in Boyd's will, written on 29 September 1855, they were parents of at least 8 children; there may have been a 9th. When James Boyd left Cannelburg for Boston during October 1843 he left Thomas Boyd in charge; no further information on this Boyd has been found.

Little is known of the 8 recorded Boyd children. William and Margaret Curry (Mrs. Edward) Wyman were both deceased when the will was written. John Curry and Francis Boyd may never have come to Cannelton. The Cannelton Reporter of 17 June 1854: "Col. Boyd who prevented bloodshed in the Boston riots is a son of James Boyd of this place." Whether this colonel was John Curry, Francis or Thomas Boyd is here not known.

The next son, Frederick (b. 1825), was in business with his father at Cannelton from the beginning and for nearly 2 years after the latter's death until 1857. Alexander (b. 1830) may have been a bit young to have attained the rank of colonel by the age of 24; he was in Cannelton in business with his father and brother in 1850. His wife's given name was Harriet W. Of the second daughter, Jane Louisa (b. 1833) nothing more is known. The youngest son, Charles Barnard (b. 1835) is listed as an artist in the 1850 census at Cannelton.

Under an agreement separate from the leases, James Boyd also served as Coal Company agent from 4 July 1843 to August 1850. He continued operating the mine although during the 2 years before his death at Mt. Pleasant, Mass., on 10 October 1855, he spent much time away from Cannelton, leaving Frederick in charge. Frederick continued the Boyd enterprises until he sold out on 29 June 1857 and moved to Quincy, Illinois. The remainder of the family resided in the east from 1855. Margaret Boyd died at Hyde Park, Mass., on 26 July 1874 at the age of 80.

While the amount of information concerning the Boyd family is small, what there is indicates that James and his son, Frederick, were capable community leaders during their 14 years in Cannelton. In Boston, before coming to Cannelton, James Boyd, although a Protestant from Northern Ireland, was elected chairman of an Irish society, the membership of which was almost completely Catholic Irish. During his 7 years as Company Agent in Cannelton he was the one-man equivalent of town council, real estate dealer and chamber of commerce working under the oversight of owners in Louisville. A school house on 4th Street (1844), the company store at 1st and Taylor (1844), a steam mill across Taylor street (1845), Willow cottage next door to the mill (1844/45) and St. Luke's Church (1845) are evidence that he had solid priorities for expenditure of company and personal funds.

In his capacity as lessee he continued and extended the size and number of mines begun by Mason, McLean and Hobart. The McLean mine near St. Michael's School was nearly exhausted by the time Boyd came upon the scene in 1843. He made another adit (opening) a few hundred yards to the southeast at the head of Taylor Street. This remained the "Boyd Mine" for 50 years. It is very prominent in the 1851 lithograph now hanging in the Cannelton Public Library. It was largely worked out by 1857. However, small clean-up mining by individuals continued sporadically as in 1859 when Ernst Heck made a new opening in the old mine and was injured by a roof fall. Again Ernst Heck in 1873 opened the same coal bed from the opposite side of Cliff Cemetery hill. In July 1883 the Boyd Mine caved in under the road above it running parallel with Richardson Street.

Boyd continued to use the railroad through town ("Boyd's old railroad") first laid out in 1837 or before. Deeds for lots along the route provided time limits for discontinuing the railroad. Any railroads necessary after that time would be built in the streets; none were necessary through downtown Cannelton.

Possibly a new lease agreement was necessary between the Company and Frederick Boyd. During the summer of 1855 the Company advertised for lease the McLean mine east of Cannelton in Section 15. This had been operated by James Boyd in his role as lessee. Apparently between 1855 and 1857 Frederick Boyd operated only the mine beyond Taylor Street.

(Cannelton Reporter, 16 May 1857): "Frederick Boyd is visiting from Quincy, Illinois.

"J. & F. Boyd -- Sale -- Wharf boat, tow boats, chains and lines, Road cars, Bank cars, Road and Bank mules, Railroad iron, Blacksmith tools, Mining tools, Coal screens, 2 Fireproof safes. Sale on Monday, 29 June."

The Boyd mine was worked nearly to the date of the sale as is indicated by this sale bill which included the "Road and Bank Mules." This sale marked the end of the active participation of the Boyd family in Cannelton affairs. Several lots which had been purchased by James Boyd were gradually sold by his widow and children into the mid-1860s.