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Monday, July 4, 2022

Judge George Napier Perkins : "The Old African Lion" (1841-1914)

George Napier Perkins served in the US Colored Troops during the Civil War, was a lawyer, justice of the peace, a two-term alderman on the Little Rock (Arkansas) City Council, political and civil rights activist, a newspaper publisher in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and devoted uncle.
But his story starts with his birth into slavery right here in Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee around 1841. He was the son of Moses and Millie Perkins - both of whom were born in Virginia and then brought to Tennessee in bondage.  They all appear to have been enslaved on the expansive Perkins family plantations on Del Rio Pike in the Forest Home area of Franklin. Some of the Perkins holdings include Two Rivers, Meeting of the Waters, and Montpier.  I have researched and written about several other people who were held in slavery by the Perkins family such as USCT veteran Abraham Perkins McGavock. Additionally, Nancy Perkins Gardner was enslaved by the Perkins family and was George Napier's Perkins' niece. I suspect that George N. Perkins was enslaved in Williamson County by Nicholas Bigbee Perkins. When Nicholas Bigbee Perkins died in 1848, he left his children large groups of enslaved people as property, including George Perkins' own extended family. 

I believe that George N. Perkins was inherited by Nicholas Bigbee Perkins' son Constantine Perkins. By 1860, Constantine Perkins was operating a plantation on the bank of the Arkansas River in Campbell Township, just south of Little Rock, Arkansas. He doesn't appear to have lived there, but he enslaved 79 people - including perhaps 18 year old George Napier Perkins - and employed an overseer named A. J. Jones.  Perkins was described as a planter with real estate assets worth $100,000 and personal property - which would have included enslaved people like George Napier Perkins - valued at $90,000. 

1860 Federal Census
Campbell, Pulaski County, Arkansas, page 1
Showing C. Perkins and his overseer's family


1860 Census Slave Schedule
Campbell, Pulaski County, Arkansas, pages 2-3
Census of people enslaved by C. Perkins, managed by overseer A. J. Jones

My blog post about the Bostick family explores how the enslaved family of Charlotte and Washington Bostick from the Triune area of Williamson County were likewise divided by slavery; some of their oldest children were also sent to Arkansas from Williamson County before the Civil War. 

Saturday, January 4, 1873

Constantine Perkins also owned a large farm in Columbia, Maury County, Tennessee. In the 1860 Federal Census, his real estate holdings there were valued at $205,000 and his personal property - including enslaved people - were valued at more than $170,000.

1st Sergeant of the 57th US Colored Infantry

I have not been able to uncover details about George N. Perkins' early time in Arkansas, but in September 1863, Federal troops took control of the Confederate state's capital at Little Rock. Perkins was likely living nearby and well aware of the victory. Just a few months later, on December 4, 1863, he enlisted in Company C of the 57th Regiment of the US Colored Troops in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was described as being 23 years old and 6 feet tall - which was quite tall at the time. 

Also enlisting in the same company on the same day were four other men with the last name of Perkins who were also born in Williamson County, Tennessee: William Perkins, Matthew Perkins, James Perkins and Grundy Perkins. A few weeks earlier, on November 10, 1863, Charles Perkins from Williamson County had also enlisted in Company C of the 57th US Colored Infantry Regiment.  It seems likely that they had all six men had been enslaved by Constantine Perkins and his family in Williamson County, Tennessee and were brought to Arkansas to work his land. Following the occupation of the area by federal troops, it appears as though many of these men took the opportunity to join the US Army as privates in the 57th US Colored Infantry.

George N. Perkins Descriptive Card

The regiment was initially designated as the 4th Regiment Arkansas Volunteer Infantry (African Descent) and assigned garrison duty at Helena and Little Rock until August 1864. A detachment of the regiment participated in Steele's Camden Expedition, March 23-May 3, 1864, as bridge train guard - but it is not clear if George N. Perkins participated in this effort. 

On April 26, 1864 - just a few weeks after the massacre of USCT troops at Fort Pillow - Perkins' regiment was involved in a skirmish near Little Rock. Then in May the 57th conducted operations against Confederate General Joe Shelby north of the Arkansas River. The regiment was next involved in skirmishes near Little Rock on May 24 and 28, 1864. During this time, on May 27, 1864, Perkins was promoted from private to corporal, which indicates that he could read and write. 

The regiment marched to Brownsville, Arkansas on August 23, 1864, and then moved to Duvall's Bluff - about 50 miles to the west of Little Rock on the Smith River - on August 29, 1864. That October Perkins was on duty as the color Sergeant for the regiment. Perhaps he is one of the men in this photograph.

The regiment was on duty there and at Little Rock until June 1865. During that time, on May 23, 1865, George N. Perkins was promoted 1st Sergeant of the regiment.  In January 1865, the regiment was sent back to Little Rock.
Special Orders No. 28, Department of Arkansas, dated January 31, 1865,
from Little Rock, instructed the 57th United States Colored Infantry to report
to the commanding officer at Little Rock, Arkansas, for duty.

When the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi surrendered on May 26, 1865, the 57th USCT was divided between Little Rock and Duvall's Bluff. The regiment was then transferred to Ft. Smith, Arkansas

Federal soldiers encamped at Fort Smith during the Civil War. 
Courtesy of the Fort Smith Museum of History

While at Fort Smith, the 57th guarded property and maintained law and order. During this time, 46 enlisted men married women at the Fort Smith Freedmen’s Bureau office (more records here). That March/April 1866 Perkins was marked as being sick in the hospital on his muster cards but he must have recovered quickly because that is the only reference to illness in his records.  

In September 1866, it appears as though the 57th was sent to New Mexico, although it is interesting that most of the official descriptions of the regiment omit this part of their service. Several newspapers reported that on September 13, 1866, the regiment reached Fort Union, New Mexico after marching for 67 days over almost 700 miles across Oklahoma from Fort Smith.

The Evening Telegraph Mon Sep_24, 1866
The 57th remained on duty at Fort Union in New Mexico until November when they seem to have marched northeast another 660 miles to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where they arrived in early December 1866. 

The Atchison Daily Free Press
Mon Dec 3, 1866

Just a few weeks later, on December 13, 1866, Perkins mustered out in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a full 18 months after the end of the Civil War. He was paid a $100 bounty, but charged $6 for retaining his "musket and accouterments." 

Little Rock, Arkansas 1867-1891.

One month later, on January 30, 1867, Perkins married Margaret A. Dillard in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Maggie appears to have been the divorced mother of a 6-year-old son, John Spring. 

Perkins quickly became very involved in politics during an incredibly tense and significant time in Arkansas history. In 1868 Arkansas adopted a new state Constitution and the Republican-controlled government - which was advocating changes that favored former slaves - took power. As was the case in former slave-states across the country, tensions arose regarding new laws empowering former slaves while disfranchising former Confederates. The Ku Klux Klan used violence to intimidate African Americans and Republican voters. 

Perkins moved his new family to an area called "Perkins" near the state capital - Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas. In the 1870 Census, George N. Perkins was listed as 25 years old and working as a Justice of the Peace. He served as justice of the peace for six years in Campbell Township near where he had been enslaved. He was also a two-term alderman on the Little Rock City CouncilPerkins was admitted to practice law in 1871 after having attended a night law school. 

A further hint that it was Constantine Perkins who enslaved George Napier Perkins in Arkansas comes in this newspaper clipping from 1871. It stated that "of six of Constantine Perkins' negroes, in Arkansas, one is a constable, two are magistrates and three are lawyers." It seems quite likely that one of these "negroes" referred to was George Napier Perkins - who was at that time serving as a Justice of the Peace as well as being an attorney.

Nashville Union and American
Tuesday Mach 2, 1871, page 3

During this time, on January 2, 1873, Perkins helped his step-son John Spring open a Freedmen's Bank account in Little Rock. 
 It showed that the family was living in Campbell Township and John was working for his step-father.

Freedmen's Bank Account statement
11-year old John Spring listed his step-father 
George N. Perkins as the depositor and guardian of the account

Due at least in part to the tactics of the KKK, including violence and intimidation, Conservatives began to gain political power in Arkansas, and the 1872 election became a political nightmare for the Republicans - with whom Perkins aligned. The state Republicans split into two factions. Elisha Baxter led one faction, known as the Minstrels. The other group, called the Brindletails, supported Joseph Brooks. Perkins joined the Brindletails. 

Article quoting George N. Perkins

Despite widespread accusations of voter fraud and intimidation, and after two months of counting votes, the state election commission declared Baxter the winner for the Governor's race. Brooks challenged the decision and won a court decision. On April 15, 1874, he and a group of armed men physically removed Baxter from the State House. Fighting erupted on the streets of Little Rock. The incident and resulting skirmishing became known as the Brooks-Baxter War. 

by Walter Nunn, The Arkansas Historical Quarterly
Vol. 27, No. 3 (Autumn, 1968), pp. 177-204

The Legislature called for a new constitution. The Constitutional Convention assembled at the State House on July 14, 1874Perkins was chosen to be one of four Black delegates to the Convention. Before the convention, Perkins was suspicious that the Democrats intended to limit the rights of Black citizens. His suspicions were well-founded and the enactment of the 1874 Constitution marked the end of Reconstruction in Arkansas. This was the fifth and current Constitution of the State of Arkansas. 

Daily Arkansas Gazette
Tuesday, July 7, 1874 page 4
The newspaper printed George Perkins and the other Perkins delegate to the convention in the newspaper. In an apparent attempt to discredit them, the paper included any spelling errors in their statements.

At that time, Perkins was still living in Campbell, Arkansas - a suburb of Little Rock. Perkins was a substantial landowner. He was a founder of the town of Woodson, Arkansas (Saline County), which was created from parts of two 40-acre tracts that he owned. Perkins remained active in the efforts of Black men to collaborate on a widespread basis. In 1879, Perkins attended a National Conference of Colored Men of the United States in Nashville, Tennessee, as a representative of Arkansas. Representatives came from all over the country.  Williamson County's ANC Williams represented Tennessee. I have to wonder if George N. Perkins paid a visit to his birthplace during the visit.

The (Nashville) Daily American
Wednesday, May 7, 1879

At the Convention, Perkins was appointed to serve on the Committee on Migration to discuss the interest in large-scale migration by African Americans out of the south to northern and western states. 

Proceedings of the National conference of colored men of the United States,
held in the State capitol at Nashville Tennessee,
May 6, 7, 8 and 9, 1879
by National conference of colored men of the United States, Nashville, Tenn., 1879.

Perkins proposed a resolution "favoring wholesale emigration on account of oppression and intimidation." His resolution also stated that "the Negro is not naturally inferior to the white man, and is capable of self-governance."

A resolution offered by George N. Perkins
Advocating for "wholesale emigration on account of oppression and intimidation."

At the Conference, the members formed the American Protective Society to Prevent Injustice to the Colored People, in recognition of the discrimination, segregation, and racial violence that was continuing throughout the country. (See this blog post for more information.) George N. Perkins was appointed a Vice President of the organization to represent the state of Arkansas. 

During this time, Perkins was practicing law in Little Rock. He was listed in Little Rock City Directories as an attorney from 1885 to 1890. In 1889, he was listed as among the "colored" members of the Little Rock bar.

He continued to pressure white Republicans for more African American participation in politics and was an opponent of the Separate Coach Act of 1890. However, when this Jim Crow law passed, Perkins appears to have given up on bringing about change in his adopted home state and migrated to Oklahoma.  

Guthrie, Oklahoma

Perkins moved to the Oklahoma Territory in April 1891. In preparation for the move, he appears to have been getting his affairs in order. He filed a document in the Circuit Court in Little Rock declaring his stepson John Spring and someone named Albertie Anderson to be his lawful heirs and apparently adopting them. Nothing more is known about the two.



In Guthrie, the territorial capital, he served as an alternate delegate to the Republican Convention in 1891. Green I. Currin (another Williamson Countian) was the only Black man elected to serve in that first Territorial legislature of Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Guide - Newspaper

Perkins purchased a Guthrie newspaper, the Oklahoma Guide. Started in 1892, the paper became the longest continuously published Black urban weekly in Oklahoma Territory. Perkins used the Guide, as editor and publisher, to advocate for civil rights. He also encouraged the migration of other African Americans to Oklahoma.

Public Service

Perkins served on the Guthrie City Council from 1894 to 1902 and ran for police judge of Guthrie in 1896. That same year the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Plessy v. Ferguson which must have felt like another blow to Perkins. However, Perkins continued his public service and was a justice of the peace in Guthrie. He was active in the Missionary Baptist church. Perkins was a Mason and also served on the Commercial Business Men’s League (a national Black organization), as well as the Guthrie Library Board. During this time he mentored a young Black attorney named Stuart C. Pryce.

Republican Politics

Perkins worked behind the scenes and at the grassroots level for civil rights and equal protection under the law. He supported the Negro Protective League and opposed Jim Crow laws. When the state Democrats used the Grandfather Clause to deny the vote to Black men - such as Green Currin - he appealed to the governor and encouraged Currin to bring his lawsuit all the way to the US Supreme Court, which he did.

The African Lion

By 1910, Perkins was 68 years old.  His niece Louisa Ridley. and her 33-year-old daughter Elmira were living with him in Guthrie.  Louisa and her husband Sam had emigrated from Williamson County to Shawnee, Kansas with their family around 1880, and then to Guthrie in 1900. Sam Ridley died in 1909. Judge Perkins was very close to his niece and his extended family.  I have written previously about Nancy Perkins Gardner. She had also been enslaved by the Perkins family in Williamson County, Tennessee and was a niece of George Perkins. After being sold to Alabama as a child, in 1912 she reunited with her family in Oklahoma including her uncle and cousins.

In early October 1914, George Perkins appeared to know that his life was coming to an end. The Oklahoma Guide published a statement of ownership showing that Perkins was sharing the enterprise with his niece, Elmira Ridley.

The Oklahoma Guide
Oct. 1, 1914

Within a week, Judge Perkins died. His grief-stricken niece published this notice on the front page of their newspaper. George Napier Perkins died on October 6, 1914, shortly before the Supreme Court declared the Grandfather clause unconstitutional on June 21, 1915. His long and vigorous protest for civil rights earned him the title of "the African Lion." His legacy as a soldier, lawyer, publisher, and devoted uncle will live on forever.

Oklahoma Guide, October 8, 1914

A Card of Thanks published in the paper by Judge Perkins' survivors

  • Judith Kilpatrick, “(EXTRA)Ordinary Men: African-American Lawyers and Civil Rights in Arkansas Before 1950,” 53 Ark. Law Rev. 299, 302 n7, 307, 311 n71, 320, 327-30, 334, 336, 340-41, 343, 345, 347 n352, 374 (2000)
  • 1 Who’s Who of the Colored Race 214 (1915)
  • 1886, 1890 Little Rock City Directories 
  • “Proceedings of the National Conference of Colored Men of the United States,” 5/6-9/1879, Nashville, TN, pp. 16, 29, 67
  • R.O. Joe Cassity, Jr., “African-American Attorneys on the Oklahoma Frontier, 27 Okla. City U. L. Rev. 245 (2002)
  • African American Biographical Database, Profile available at 
  • Oklahoma Historical Society listing

Friday, February 11, 2022

Sgt. Abram "Abe" Boyd, 68th US Colored Infantry 1838-1918

Abram “Abe” Boyd was born around 1838 in Williamson County, Tennessee. He lived an extraordinary life that began as a boy in bondage. He was a US Army soldier, then a successful teamster, husband, and father. Boyd was part of a mass migration of African Americans to Kansas as part of the Exoduster movement and worked with Native Americans during a difficult chapter in America’s history. He has left a family that has continued his legacy of service - a son followed in his footsteps and served in the US Army during the Spanish American War, two grandsons served in World War II, a great-grandson served in the US Army, and a 2x-great-grandson served as chief of police in his town.

One remarkable aspect of his story was that, despite being taken to Missouri by his enslavers when he was 4 years old, Abe Boyd's ties to Williamson County remained strong. He and both his sons married women in Kansas who were from or had roots in Williamson County.

Born in Williamson County, Tennessee

This incredible legacy had its roots in Williamson County, Tennessee where it is believed that Abram Boyd was enslaved by the family of Marcus Boyd Sr and his wife Eliza Hamilton. The couple had married in Williamson County in 1825 and lived there until the early 1840s. During his time in Williamson County, Marcus Boyd was active as a trustee for the Nolensville Turnpike Company and the Arrington Male Academy. The family was enslaving seven people. Around 1842 the couple moved their family of four boys (ages 6 to 12) to Springfield, Missouri. It is likely that they brought along enslaved people, including 4-year-old Abram Boyd. Marcus Boyd was the receiver for the US Land Office, Postmaster, prominent Mason, and state legislator in Springfield. By 1860, he was enslaving 13 people - including a 22-year-old man who may have been Abram. When the Civil War began, Marcus Boyd and his oldest son Sempronius “Pony” Boyd were Unconditional Unionists who sided with the US. In 1862, Pony Boyd was elected to the US House of Representatives and served throughout the Civil War. His younger three brothers served in Confederate regiments.

Service in the US Colored Troops. 

On February 7, 1864, Marcus Boyd presented Abram for service in the US Colored Troops in Springfield, MO. According to his enlistment papers, Abram was delivered “by Moses Boyd, his master” whose “ownership [of Abram] and loyalty [to the US] having been satisfactorily established.” Abram Boyd joined the 4th Regiment of Missouri Infantry, African Descent - later renamed the 68th US Colored Infantry. He was described as being 25 years old, mulatto (biracial), 5’9” tall, and born in Williamson County, Tennessee.
Colored Volunteer Descriptive List for “Abraham Boyd
Initially, the regiment trained and organized in Missouri but was ordered to Memphis, Tennessee until the following February. For a year from September 1864 to September 1865, Abram Boyd served as a regimental teamster. In the spring of 1865, the 68th USCI was ordered to New Orleans, Louisiana, then to Barrancas, Florida. In March 1865 they marched from Pensacola, Florida, to Blakely, Alabama. In early April 1865, the 68th USCI participated in the Siege of Fort Blakely (AL), the final major battle of the Civil War. The Confederate surrender of the Fort occurred just hours after Gen. U. S. Grant had defeated Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox on the morning of April 9, 1865. Following the capture of the Fort, the 68th occupied Mobile, AL before marching to Montgomery, AL where they stayed until June 1865. Although the War had officially come to an end, the three-year terms of service that most USCT had enlisted under were not expired. The men of the 68th stayed on duty in Alabama through June when they moved to New Orleans and then to Texas to guard the US border. Like many USCT regiments, they performed service on the Rio Grande until February 1866. During this time, (from Oct to Dec 1865), Boyd was on duty in the Regimental Quartermaster department. He mustered out with his regiment on February 5, 1866, at Camp Parapet, Louisiana.

Life As A Freedman - Marriage and Family

1866 - Marriage to Mariah Hendricks. Abram appears to have returned to Springfield, Missouri, because soon after he mustered out, on September 30, 1866, he married a woman named Mariah Hendricks in Greene County, Missouri. Mariah was born around 1849 in Missouri. Three children - James, Lizzie, and Lula - were born to Abram and Mariah over the next four years.

Marriage Record, Greene County, Missouri. Marriage of Abram Boyd to Maria L. Hendricks

1870 - Teamster in Springfield, Missouri. The couple appeared in the 1870 Federal Census living in the Campbell area of Springfield, Missouri. Abram was 32 years old and working as a teamster. His wife Maria was 21. Their children ranged in age from 5 months to 3 years old. Living with them were several other adults and children. All of them were Black and two were from Tennessee like Abram. One man also had the last name of Boyd and may have been related to Abram through blood or common bondage.

1870 Federal Census - Campbell, Springfield, Missouri.

Death of Mariah and Children. It is not clear what happened to Mariah and the three children born to the couple. They may have died because they appear to have disappeared from written records.

Street Scene, Baxter Springs, KS - Kansas Historical Society

Moved to Baxter Springs, Kansas.   By 1872, Abram Boyd had made his way to Baxter Springs, in Cherokee County in the far southeastern corner of Kansas just one mile from the border of Indian Territory (today Oklahoma). Baxter Springs was a frontier town made popular by cowboys driving their cattle north out of Texas. It had a population of about 4,000. During this time, Boyd was involved in “draying” (hauling goods with a cart) and drove a wagon between Baxter Springs and Seneca, Missouri - a trip that took about four or five hours. He made the trip twice each day. 

In June 1872, Boyd was paid $6 by the Baxter Springs town council to 

move the calaboose - a single room jail cell - to a new location. 

Baxter Springs Sentinel, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 08 Jun 1872, Sat  •  Page 3


Boyd wasn’t the only African American with Middle Tennessee roots who settled in Baxter Springs. The first Exodusters left Nashville in 1873 for the same area. Led by Benjamin “Pap” Singleton a group of 300 people moved from the Nashville area to Baxter Springs to form the "Singleton Colony." (Read more about this movement here).

1874 Birth of Son Joseph Otto Boyd.  On March 31, 1874, a son Joseph Otto was born to Abe and a woman named Ellen Plasters in Baxter Springs. Little is known about Ellen other than that she was born in Missouri. Her name appears only on Joseph O. Boyd’s marriage license application in 1911.

Portion of Marriage License application for Joseph O. Boyd, 1911, Spokane, Washington

1878 Marriage to Mariah McLemore. On October 4, 1878, 40-year-old Abe married again to a 19-year-old woman named Mariah McLemore. This Mariah was born around 1859 in Williamson County, Tennessee and was likely enslaved by the McLemore family that lived in the Spring Hill area of Williamson County. Maria, along with her parents Eaton and Jane McLemore, moved to Baxter Springs the same year as the wedding. Eaton McLemore was a mail carrier between Baxter Springs and Peoria, Illinois.

Driving Stagecoach in Baxter Springs.  Around the time of the wedding, several Galena, Kansas newspaper clippings mentioned that Abe was driving the stagecoach for Spencer & Botkins’ stage company running routes to Short Creek, Kansas, and Joplin, Missouri. Short Creek is about 10 miles northeast of Baxter Springs. Joplin is about 18 miles northeast of Baxter Springs.

The Galena Banner Galena, Kansas 12 Oct 1878, Sat  •  Page 5
The Times Baxter Springs, Kansas 17 Oct 1878, Thu  •  Page 3
The Times Baxter Springs, Kansas 22 May 1879, Thu  •  Page 3

1879 Baxter Springs newspaper ad for Abe Boyd’s employer

The Times Baxter Springs, Kansas 22 May 1879, Thu  •  Page 3

1880s Driving The Omnibus in Baxter Springs.

On June 2, 1880, the Federal Census counted Abram and Mariah Boyd living in Baxter Springs, Kansas. Abraham Boyd (42) was driving the omnibus - a large wagon designed to transport groups of people. According to the National Cowboy Museum, they tended to be plush and sophisticated. Omnibuses usually had curtains or glass windows to protect passengers from inclement weather and could seat up to 14 passengers plus standees. Some omnibuses had a second level of seating on the roof.

Stillwater city bus [omnibus]. Cabinet card photograph. Photographer unknown, 

Stillwater, Oklahoma Territory, ca. National Cowboy Museum 1900 2000.005.17.0024

During this time, Maria (21) was keeping house and raising their son James William (1) and her step-son Joseph (6). Living with them was Maria’s nephew Frank McLemore (3), who had been born in Kansas.

Life in Indian Territory 1884-1887.

Around 1885, the couple moved to the Indian Territory, where they worked for and lived with Col. Daniel Dyer and his wife Ida. Dyer was appointed Agent for the Cheyenne-Arapaho at the Darlington Agency in March 1884. The Boyds may have first met Dyer in 1880 when he was appointed Indian Agent to the Quapaw Agency (i.e., reservation) just south of Baxter Springs. 

Image above - Chief Joseph when young, 
National Archives.

Interactions with Native Americans. In an interview late in his life, Boyd described how around this time, he was hired to transport a group of 14 Native American men from Kansas to lands nearby in Indian Territory. The men had been arrested “out west.” Boyd described the men as, “Blanket Indians. They wore blue blankets and blue leggings with white stripes .. the Indian Chief Joseph came.” These were almost certainly Nez PercĂ© Indians. When the United States government attempted in 1877 to force the dissenting Nez PercĂ© to move to a reservation in Idaho, Chief Joseph reluctantly agreed. While preparing for the removal he learned that three young men had killed some white settlers. Afraid of retaliation by the U.S. Army, Chief Joseph led his community on a long trek toward Canada. In late 1877, they were captured and assigned to the Quapaw Agency where Abram Boyd was living at the time. This is likely when and where he came into contact with them.

During this time, Abe Boyd also interacted with Stone Calf, an important Cheyenne chief. He was the only Cheyenne chief to attend a meeting of tribes at what was to become the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency in Indian Territory in April 1870. This was where Abe and Mariah Boyd would be living in the 1880s. Stone Calf was a vocal opponent to the US government policy of leasing reservation land to white cattlemen. In a newspaper interview, Boyd recalled that in 1885, Stone Calf “ordered the government agents out of the reservation. … The white people had leased the lands for grazing purposes, but the government gave them 40 days to move out their cattle elsewhere.”

Photograph of Cheyenne War Chief Stone Calf and his wife (Lame Woman), 

1873. Studio photograph taken in Washington D.C., Oklahoma Historical Society

In April 1885, Abe Boyd was an “Industrial Teacher” and butcher working at the reservation. He reminisced, “It took 450 beef a month to feed two tribes. There were about 600 Indians in the tribes. A man had the contract to furnish the beef. Every Saturday evening he brought in the cattle and they were killed on Monday. The animals were handed to each chief and the Indians did the killing. If a chief had from 40 to 50 followers he received two beeves. If there were more people under one chief that means more animals and if there were less the number of cattle was decreased.”  The article continued to describe, “Every Monday morning Mr. Boyd took a different officer and went to brand cattle. Soon after the animals were branded the interpreter called every chief and gave him his dues. When he became in possession of the cattle he either first cut a mark with his knife anywhere on the animal, shot at it, or cut the tail and hung it from its horn. This was going on in [Darlington] Okla. one mile this side of Fort Reno.”

Official Register of the United States, Containing a List of Officers and Employees 

in the Civil, Military, and Naval Service, Volume 1. 

Agency, Indian Territory, July 1, 1885

Teamster in Wichita, Kansas 1887 - 1892

The couple lived in the Indian Territory until around 1887, and then they moved to Wichita, Kansas, where Abe continued his work as a teamster. 

Baxter Springs News Baxter Springs, Kansas  22 Aug 1885, Sat  •  Page 3

Baxter Springs News Baxter Springs, Kansas 27 Feb 1892, Sat  •  Page 5

1890s Life as a Veteran.

Fire destroyed both the Federal Census for 1890 and the special Census of Union Veterans and Widows for Kansas.  However, we know that in August 1890, Abe Boyd applied for a pension for his service in the US Colored Troops while he was living in Wichita, Kansas. That pension file is not accessible due to restrictions at the National Archives from the COVID pandemic. However, once it can be obtained, it will likely hold many clues to further telling Abe Boyd’s story. 

Around 1892, Abe and Maria moved back to Baxter Springs.

Baxter Springs News Baxter Springs, Kansas 27 Feb 1892, Sat  •  Page 5

In 1897, 59-year-old Abe Boyd joined the Baxter Springs Post No. 123 of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization for federal veterans of the Civil War. Post No. 123 appears to have been a racially-integrated organization, although Boyd was one of just a few Black members.

 That same year, in April, Abe was appointed to be a delegate to the Republican County Convention, representing the 2nd Ward of Baxter Springs.

Baxter Springs News Baxter Springs, Kansas 18 Sep 1897, Sat  •  Page 4

Cherokee County Republican Baxter Springs, Kansas 20 Apr 1899, Thu  •  Page 5

The following year, Abe’s 25-year-old son Joseph enlisted in the 23rd Kansas Infantry, an all-Black regiment that served in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Unlike Abe’s experience in the US Colored Troops, Joseph O. Boyd served under a Black officer.

1900s A Growing Family

In June 1900, Abe (aged 56) and his wife Mariah (42) were counted in the Federal Census as still living in Baxter Springs. Abe was described as a farmer. Living with them was Abe’s son and war veteran Joseph O. Boyd (26), and their son James William (21) and his new bride Pearl Pointer. Pearl’s parents, Solomon and Louisa Pointer, and her older siblings had emigrated to Kansas from Williamson County, Tennessee in the early 1870s. Solomon Pointer was active in politics in Baxter Springs, and had also served several times as a Republican delegate to the Cherokee County convention.

In late November 1900, Joseph O. Boyd married Lula Bond in Baxter Springs. According to a newspaper account, “A large number of guests were present from Baxter and the surrounding towns. … The groom is an amiable young man and was a member of the 23rd Kansas in Co. C.” Lula was the youngest daughter of Thomas and Lydia Dodson Bond Sr.. Thomas and Lydia had also moved from the Williamson County, TN area to Baxter Springs, Kansas in the 1870s.  They brought a large family - many of whom became leading citizens in Baxter Springs and across Kansas.

Thomas Bond family - children of Thomas Bond, Sr. and Lydia Dodson Bond of Williamson County, TN and Baxter Springs, KS

On March 1, 1905 Abe and Mariah were counted in the Kansas Census still living in Baxter Springs. In this Census, Abram reinforced that he was born in Tennessee and then went to Missouri before moving to Kansas. He gave his occupation as a teamster. Mariah said that she was born in Tennessee and had come to Kansas directly from that state.

A few months later, on July 23, 1905, Abe’s wife Mariah McLemore Boyd died at their home in Baxter Springs. In her obituary, it described that she was survived by two grown sons - probably referring to James and her step-son Joseph whom she had raised. She was buried in the Baxter Springs City Cemetery.

Cherokee County Republican Baxter Springs, Kansas 27 Jul 1905, Thu  •  Page 6
Baxter Springs News Baxter Springs, Kansas 27 Jul 1905, Thu  •  Page 4

In 1907, Abe’s son Joseph O. Boyd enlisted again - this time in the US Army’s 25th Infantry, Company M, one of the all-Black regiments that were first organized as Buffalo Soldier regiments following the Civil War. At the time, Boyd was a married father of two young children - a two-year-old disabled daughter named Ellen, and a 1 year old son Chester. Joseph O. Boyd was sent with his regiment to Spokane, Washington and lived on an Army base while his wife and two children lived nearby.

Abe continued working in Baxter Springs hauling materials for pay. Several notations in the newspaper remarked on him being paid by the City of Baxter Springs to haul brick and other materials and perform street work.

1910s Looking for Love 

Following Mariah’s death, Abe married again - to a woman named Rebecca Mariah “Mira” who was born in Missouri around 1840.  In 1910, the couple were counted in the Federal Census living in on Lincoln Avenue - a location where Abe’s descendants would live for decades - in Baxter Springs with Mira’s daughter Mamie. 

This census record leads to more confusion than answers about Mira. It states that this was a second marriage for both - when likely it was Abe’s fourth. It also claims that the couple had been married for 35 years which was not possible. 

Abe’s attempt to find happiness was brought up short in March 1911 when his son Cpl. Joseph O. Boyd was shot during a confrontation between members of his Company in Spokane. According to a newspaper account of the incident, “The pelvic bone was injured, and a portion of the bullet remained in the wound.” In June, newspapers were reporting that “a delicate operation” would be needed to “relieve an aneurysm” before he could recover

Spokane Chronicle

Spokane, Washington

10 Mar 1911, Fri  •  Page

The Spokesman Review (Spokane, Washington) Sunday April 2, 1911, page 6

Cpl. Boyd appears to have suffered for six months before dying in an Army hospital in Spokane, Washington on November 14, 1911. His remains were transferred back to Baxter Springs, where they were buried in the Baxter Springs City Cemetery - Soldiers lot, a separate part of the cemetery that is operated by the US Department of Veterans Affairs as a national cemetery.

The Cherokee County Republican newspaper in Baxter Springs erroneously reported that Joseph Boyd had died in Kansas City.

Tragically, during Joseph O. Boyd’s illness, and about a month before he died, his father Abe Boyd had to suffer the loss of another wife On October 9, 1911, Mira died after their brief marriage. She was buried in the Baxter Springs cemetery.

Baxter Springs News

Baxter Springs, Kansas

12 Oct 1911, Thu  •  Page 8

And then, Abe Boyd’s string of terrible fortune continued. In August of 1912, his team of horses died - robbing him of his primary source of income.  The newspaper account said that, “This is a great loss to Abe, who made a living by teaming, and now he is down and out, afoot and quite lonely. Abe has the sympathy of his many friends.”

Cherokee County Republican Baxter Springs, Kansas

01 Aug 1912, Thu  •  Page 1

However, Abe Boyd appears to have been an eternal optimist - at least when it came to love. Two years later, 76-year-old Abe Boyd married again - for the fifth and final time.  On March 19, 1914, the local newspapers reported on his marriage to Susan Crutcher Hurt, a 74-year-old widow who had emigrated to the area from Maury County, Tennessee - just south of Williamson County. 

Baxter Springs, Kansas19 Mar 1914, Thu • Page 4

The Topeka Plaindealer
Topeka, Kansas20 Mar 1914, Fri • Page 1

Baxter Springs, Kansas10 May 1917, Thu • Page 2

Abe Boyd appears to have been a much beloved member of the Baxter Springs community. On May 10, 1917, the 79-year-old early settler of the frontier town was interviewed by the local newspaper - reminiscing about what Baxter Springs had been like 50 years earlier. 

Death at 80 Years Old.

One year later, on August 26, 1918, 80-year-old Abe Boyd died at his home in Baxter Springs, Kansas. He had lived an extraordinary and rich life. The local newspaper described him as "one of the eldest and earliest residents of Baxter Springs."

Baxter Springs, Kansas 30 Aug 1918, Fri • Page 8
Baxter Springs, Kansas 26 Aug 1918, Mon • Page 1

Burial in the Baxter Springs City Cemetery. Sgt. Boyd was buried in the Baxter Springs Cemetery - Soldiers' Lot. The same National Cemetery where his son Joseph O. Boyd had been buried a few years earlier. Nearby in the main Baxter Springs City Cemetery, at the time of his death, were the graves of two of his wives, Maria McLemore Boyd and Rebecca Mariah "Mira" Boyd. In 1921, his granddaughter Ellen Boyd was buried in the Baxter Springs Cemetery. In 1969, his grandson Otto Augusta Boyd, a World War II veteran, was buried in the Soldier's Lot in the Baxter Springs Cemetery - joining Abe and his uncle Joseph O. Boyd. In 1990, Abe's stepgrandson Marion Norman Davis, a World War II veteran, died and was also buried in the Baxter Springs' Soldiers Lot. In 1993, Otto Boyd's brother Carl Philander Boyd Sr. was buried in the Baxter Springs City Cemetery.

Sgt. Abe Boyd's headstone in the Baxter Springs City Cemetery's Soldiers' Lot

Abe Boyd’s Legacy 

Abe Boyd was survived by his wife Susan Crutcher Boyd, son James William Boyd and James’ three sons, 18-year-old Charles Sumner Boyd, 16-year-old Otto Augusta Boyd, and 11-year-old Carl Philander Boyd. He was also survived by Joseph O. Boyd’s two children, 13-year-old Ellen and 12-year-old Chester. 

James William Boyd Family.

Abe’s son James had divorced his wife Pearl Pointer around 1915 and married Cora McClaren (McLemore?). He followed in his father’s footsteps and worked as a teamster in Baxter Springs. In 1920, James and Cora were living at 326 Lincoln Avenue there. I suspect they were living in Abe’s former home. James and Cora raised Cora’s son Marion together at their home at 331 Lincoln Avenue in Baxter Springs.  In 1940, James Wiliam Boyd died at the age of 61 and is buried in the Baxter Springs Cemetery. Soon after, his step-son Marion served in the US Army during World War II. When he died, he was buried in the Soldiers Lot of the Baxter Springs Cemetery, along with Abe Boyd, his step-grandfather and his step-uncle Joseph Boyd.

Meanwhile, soon after their divorce, James’ ex-wife Pearl had remarried and moved to Omaha, Nebraska with their three sons

  • Charles Sumner Boyd (Abe’s grandson) worked as a packer at a meat plant in Omaha, Nebraska. During World War II he worked in a munitions plant there. Around 1948 he moved to Los Angeles, California and died there in 1959. He is buried there

  • Otto Augusta Boyd (Abe’s grandson) worked as a meat packer in Omaha, Nebraska in his teens and then moved to Sioux City, Iowa where he continued that work. In the 1930s, he took a strong role in working to unionize the Cudahy Packing Company in Sioux City. When he was fired for his involvement, the National Labor Relations Board took up the case and Boyd and several other men were given their jobs back with backpay. Around 1942, he moved back to Baxter Springs where he lived some of the time with his aging mother. Otto was married to a woman from Joplin, Missouri and he appears to have traveled back and forth between Baxter Springs and Joplin, where he worked for a car dealership. Otto died in 1969 and is buried in the Soldier’s Lot of the Baxter Springs Cemetery, near his grandfather.

  • Carl Philander Boyd Sr. (Abe’s grandson) moved as a teenager to Omaha, Nebraska with his older brothers and mother. He appears to have moved back to Baxter Springs, by the mid-1920s where he fathered a son, Carl P. Boyd Jr. with a local woman named Marguerite Norman. Marguerite’s parents were William Norman and Jennie Hurt (the daughter of Abe Boyd’s last wife Susan Hurt from Maury County, TN). Carl P. Boyd Sr. appears to have raised his son with the help of his mother. The three lived together while he worked as a repairman for a furniture store. In the 1930s he married a woman named Ester. The couple lived on Lincoln Avenue. They lived next to Carl’s stepmother Cora and her son Marion Davis. Carl Sr. worked for Jayhawk Ordnance Works in Baxter Springs and was an active member of the Masons. He died in 1993 at the age of 87 and is buried in the Baxter Springs Cemetery.

    • Carl P. Boyd Jr. (great grandson) lived as a young child with his father and grandmother in Baxter Springs, Kansas. When he was 18 years old, he enlisted in the Air Force at the Tuskegee Air Fields in Tuskegee, Alabama in January 1946. He was attending the Tuskegee Institute and a soldier in the US Army two years later when he married Mary Lee Stubbs there. In 1957, he and Mary Lee divorced and Carl Boyd Jr returned to Baxter Springs and he lived with his uncle Otto Boyd, also a World War II veteran. Soon after he married his wife Emma and the couple had several children including twin girls Karen and Sharon, and a son Carl P. Boyd III.

      • Carl P. Boyd III. (great-great grandson) graduated from Baxter Springs High School and Fort Scott Community College. He pursued a career in law enforcement and served the City of Weir, KS as Chief of Police. He died in 2015 following a brief illness. He was buried in the Baxter Springs Cemetery.

Family of Joseph O. Boyd.

Following the death of Abe’s son Joseph O. Boyd in Tacoma, Washington, his widow Lula moved back to Baxter Springs with their two young children Ellen and Chester. 

  • Ellen Boyd (granddaughter) appears to have been born with a disability. In the 1920 Census, when she was 15 years old and living with her recently widowed mother, the Census taker noted that she had been “an invalid all her life.” Sadly, she died in 1921. She was buried in the Baxter Springs Cemetery

  • Chester Lorenzo Boyd, Sr. (grandson) was just five years old when his father died. Following his return to Baxter Springs with his widowed mother and sister, he became an exceptional student at the segregated public Douglass School that he attended. Frequently, the newspaper reported on his academic accomplishments. When he was about 21 years old he married Helen Marie Petersen and the couple had two sons, Chester L. Boyd Jr, and Robert Johnson Boyd. Chester Boyd supported his family by working in a furniture store. They lived with Chester’s mother Lula Boyd at the family home at 327 Lincoln Avenue in Baxter Springs. In the early 1930s, Chester moved his family and his mother to Kansas City, Missouri. Chester worked as a custodian at the US Post Office. He served in the US Army during World War II. Later in life he lived in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. He died in 1997 at the age of and was buried in the Leavenworth, Kansas National Cemetery.

    • Chester L. Boyd Jr. (great-grandson) took after his father and was also a strong student. He attended the University of Kansas and received his master’s degree at American University. 

    • Robert Johnson Boyd (great-grandson) was likewise a strong student. When he graduated from Lincoln High School in Kansas City he was voted “Smartest Boy.” He served in the US Army during the Korean War and was a Chaplain for the City of Detroit.

All of these descendants can trace their roots directly to Williamson County, Tennessee. Their lives are a testament to the strength and resourcefulness of Abram Boyd and credit to him. It was a true privilege to share their stories.