Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Willam Boyles Story

It is believed that William Boyles died from a gunshot wound and exposure as he hid from the same group responsible for the hangings. Diamond stated that Boyles was "later killed at Collinsville." We have added him to the list of the victims of the Gainesville Hanging, since his death was a result of his participation in the Peace Party and the resulting arrests, trials & hangings that took place. Below is William's story by one of his descendants.


William Boyles
by S. H. Harrison 1997 Fort Worth, TX

William Boyles was the son of Joseph Boyles, his mother is still unknown. Joseph Boyles came to Texas from Illinois, I found him in Green County in 1830 and 1840 census records. According to these records he had other sons and a daughter (or perhaps extended family living with them), however, we only know the names of William and Sarah. According to the 1850 census records, Joseph was born in Virginia, William was born in Kentucky and Sarah in Illinois. Joseph Boyles arrived in Texas a widower and obtained land from Peters Colony in Collin and Cooke Counties. William served in ranger companies during 1846 and 1848. He obtained a Headright in Grayson County as a single man and married Elizabeth West in Grayson County, 19 May 1849. When his father, Joseph, died 19 May 1853, William was appointed the executor of the estate. It is unclear on what date he and Elizabeth went to Arkansas, however there are probate records indicating that the court had not heard from William Boyles. The court cost by the October 1857 term, amounted to over $500.00 and the decision was made to sell the property in Cooke County to cover court costs. It was at this time that William, from Crawford County, Arkansas, sold all of his interest in his father’s estate to his sister Sarah Gibson. He apparently thought he had taken care of his obligations of Joseph’s estate, or thought they would take care of themselves. They could have been in Arkansas the entire four years, census records show the birth of a daughter in Arkansas. At any rate, they were back in Texas in time for the 1860 census. (His family is listed in both Cooke & Grayson Counties in the 1860 Census.)
Sister, Sarah Boiles, age 19 was living with William Fitzhugh in Collin County in the 1850 census. I have wondered if there is a relationship with them since Fitzhugh’s wife, Mary, was also born in Illinois, however, nothing has been proven one way or the other. Sarah married Nelson Gibson from Pettis County, Missouri (Nelson’s name is recorded in deed records as her husband). In the 1860 census Sarah and Nelson Gibson are listed on the same census page as O.T. Mallow with other Mallows on the other census pages. For those who don’t recognize the name, Mother’s youngest sister, Dovie, married J.T. Mallow. I checked with their daughter, Jeanie, their Mallows were in Collin County at that time.

Back to William Boyles. Family tradition stated that "he did not want to fight in the Civil War, hid out in the hills, contracted pneumonia and died." Let’s take a look at the time period. Both the Boyles and West families moved to Texas from Illinois in the middle 1840's. They had both been subjected to "Texas Justice." William had served with the home rangers protecting the frontier families from Indian attacks, so he was not afraid of fighting. By the time they arrived, slave owners from the south manned most of the political offices. In 1862, Texas became embroiled in the question of secession and called for a vote. The vote in Cooke and Grayson Counties was overwhelmingly against secession. However, as a state, the vote was for secession. A large number of men in the Red River border counties joined a secret society that was loyal to the government of their fathers (Old Constitution and the Union).
This sets the stage for what later became known as "The Great Hangings of Gainesville." The West (Elizabeth West Boyles) sister, Susan and her husband David M. Leffel arrived in Texas in time to become embroiled in it too. September 1862 Union forces had advanced into the Oklahoma Territory and there was a good deal of unrest in the Red River area. The Confederate army in the area learned of the secret society and suspected treason. What ensued was mass hysteria and mass arrests. David Leffel was among them and William Boyles’ name came up during the so-called trial. David was one of the 42 men who were hanged in Gainesville the middle of October and William was one of the wanted. One report says that William was killed near Collinsville. The family tradition said pneumonia. Could they both have been right? It was October and he was hiding out in the Timbers. He could have suffered a gunshot wound and contracted pneumonia, too.

Elizabeth Boyles moved her family to Coryell County and Susan Leffel continued to live in the area until problems erupted after the return of the confederate veterans at the end of the Civil War. A neighbor, Joel F. DeLemeron, tried to help Elizabeth and her children by giving her a horse and was charged with treason for aiding the families of suspected Unionists.

To read an updated version of this biography (Nov 2012) by Sammy Hynds Harrison, click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say what a hoot it was in researching William Boyles, my mother's great grandfather. I call him my dancing skeleton. I only wish I could have found him while my mother was living. She would have enjoyed locating him as much as I did.
Sammy Hynds Harrison Richland Hills, TX