The Boyd House
Welcome to “The Oaks,” one of Jackson’s oldest dwellings. This Greek Revival-style cottage was built about 1853 on four acres of land located near the center of Mississippi’s capital city. The house is one of few extant structures that survived the burning of Jackson in the Civil War. The Oaks is a Mississippi Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Also known as the Boyd House, it was the home of James Hervey Boyd, Eliza Ellis Boyd, their six children, and numerous grandchildren. Mr. Boyd served his community four times as mayor. For more than six terms, he was an alderman of Jackson, his time in office including the year 1863 when Jackson was burned by Union forces.
From 1853 until 1960, various members of the Boyd family – spanning three generations – lived in The Oaks. In 1960, the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Mississippi acquired the property.
The Oaks is administered by The Oaks House Museum Corporation, whose mission is to preserve and interpret the circa 1853 Oaks House, its collection, and grounds, to depict the life of a middle-class family on a mid-19th-century urban farmstead through the story of four-term Jackson mayor James Hervey Boyd, his wife Eliza, and their family, focusing on the years 1853 to 1863.
If only the heart pine floors of The Oaks could talk! What stories would they tell us about the many Boyd family members that lived or visited in the Boyd House through the more than 100 years that the family occupied the home from 1853 until 1960?
In the first decade of its history, the snug five-room cottage was home to James Hervey Boyd and Eliza Ellis Boyd and their three sons and three daughters. Some of the children were born in the house; some were married there. The sounds of conversation and song and laughter and tears must constantly have filled the interior spaces and spilled to the front portico and out into the yard.
Mayor and Mrs. Boyd received guests at their home, especially in the entrance hall and parlor. Imagine business and social engagements with gentlemen escorting ladies wearing the hoop skirts that were popular in the 1850s and early 1860s.
There had to be an area for the serving of three meals a day to at least eight persons, young and old. Children played games and did schoolwork. Sewing, reading, practicing the piano, studying the Bible, prayers, ministering to the sick, courting – all the activities of daily life went on within the walls of the Boyd House.
And, of course, there was the Civil War. In 1863, battles raged all around the house. There are family tales of Union soldiers and their horses on the property, and bullets grazing the house and puncturing a molasses barrel in the smokehouse. Boyd men and friends served the Confederacy, and Mr. Boyd was a city alderman when Jackson fell to Union occupation. That the house still stood after the burning of Jackson is a source of wonder a century and more later – and the font from which more legends have sprung.
Young Boyds left the nest and took wives or husbands, but they often came back home with families of their own. Census records indicate a family of eight to ten people at each succeeding decade. Sometimes a boarder was included among the usual household members.
James Hervey Boyd died in 1877. After the last of the sons and daughters left for adult pursuits in 1881, daughter Mary and her husband Richard F. McGill moved into the Boyd home to live with the widow Eliza Boyd.
The McGills made numerous repairs and additions to the house and grounds, incorporating some of the popular trappings of the later Victorian taste in decoration. And they had two children, a son and a daughter.
In 1885, Eliza Boyd deeded The Oaks property to daughter Mary McGill for her lifetime, then after that to Mary’s children. Eliza Boyd lived in the house until 1902. Son-in-law Richard McGill departed this life four years later.
Mary Boyd McGill was the family matriarch until her death in 1939. The McGills’ son Richard moved to Memphis, but daughter Mary McGill, a single lady, lived in the house until 1960, when failing health caused her to retire to a nursing facility. In that year, title to the house passed from the Boyd descendants to The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Mississippi, the current owner
Pictures and information were provided by Jackson Visitors & Convention Bureau
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