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Boynton House and the rich history of the Nathan Boynton Family

By Derek Smith

We are blessed to live in a city with such a rich historical past. Ours is a history full of wonderful facts and amazing stories of many interesting people and places.

This is a short historical article about the Boynton house and its family. This writing will focus more on the Boynton’s themselves since their story is such an intriguing one.

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Boynton House, late 1800s                 

Nathan S. Boynton was born in Port Huron on June 23rd 1837  the son of Granville F Boynton and Frances Rendt Graves.

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Granville Boynton 1811-1846
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Frances Boynton 1815 -1891

Nathan Boynton’s ancestry in the United States begins in 1638 when John Boynton sails from Yorkshire England and settles in Rowley, Massachusetts. This sounds much like the path many of my ancestors used in their travels to the Massachusetts colony back in that century.

Another ancestor, Sir Mathew Boynton shipped the first sheep and goats to America and was knighted by the British Crown in the 17th century for doing so.

Granville Boynton, Nathan’s father, played an important role in the pioneering of Michigan in the late 1820s. His mother, Frances was the daughter of Captain Ludwig Rendt, a Hessian soldier who fought for the British in the War of 1812. Granville died in 1845 and Frances remarried Jonathan Graves. They had two sons together, half-brothers to Nathan Boynton.

Major Nathan S. Boynton (center, seated) and his family.
    The Boynton Family – Nathaniel First Row Center

Nathan Boynton was educated in Waukegan, Illinois.

After high school graduation, Nathan worked as a grocery store clerk and was also employed with a buggy whip manufacturer.

He eventually opened his own grocery storefront and invested his savings in the Michigan pine lumber industry which allowed him financial peace of mind during the “Panic of 1857”.

The Panic of 1857 was initiated by bank embezzlement in the home office of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company and the wreck of the Central American, a merchant ship loaded with gold bullion. The over-zealous expansion of industry and railroads, the failure of many financial institutions and businesses, and the drop in the demand for American farm products also contributed to this economic downturn.

Over the following five years Boynton worked as a farmhand, a carpenter, and salesman of a dubious electrical apparatus that was used for curative purposes.

Boynton attended medical school for a brief time in Cincinnati, Ohio where he met and married his wife Anna Fidelei. He and Anna would have five children.

His first child, Charles, was born in 1860 and was given the middle name Lincoln in honor of the newly elected president whose anti-slavery rhetoric paralleled his own beliefs on the topic.

It is because of these beliefs that Nathan enlisted as a private in the Eighth Michigan Calvary of the Union Army.

Boynton’s ability as a soldier was quickly realized and he rose quickly through the ranks becoming a First Lieutenant serving under Burnside in East Tennessee and marching with General Sherman into Atlanta, Georgia. He returned to the Port Huron area as a Major.

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   Major Nathaniel Boynton

Nathaniel Boynton served as Postmaster of Port Huron and became Port Huron’s mayor in 1870. He was owner and publisher of the local newspaper, the Port Huron Press.

He used this print to voice his opinions which were Republican in nature against a local party’s controlling faction.

The leaders of that faction included William Hartsuff the then postmaster and John P. Sanborn the collector of customs.

They fired back at Boynton by publishing the Port Huron Weekly Times on June 25th 1869.

Eventually Boynton sold the Press to the Times and the Press was closed down shortly thereafter.

Boynton helped found the United States edition of the Knights of the Maccabees. The fraternal organization was originally formed in 1878 in London, Ontario providing low-cost insurance to its members.

Nathaniel Boynton served three terms as mayor of Port Huron and served in the State Legislature. He patented several inventions including a hook and ladder firetruck and a fire escape.

It was in 1894 that Boynton and his close friend US Rep. William Linton of Saginaw sailed down the newly dredged Florida East Coast Canal, now part of the Inland Waterway, in Fred C. Vos’s launch “Victor”. Pausing at what today is Ocean Avenue in Boynton Beach, Boynton spotted a beautiful piece of oceanfront property and promptly purchased its 500 acres of for twenty-five dollars per acre.

Two years later in 1896 Boynton built the legendary Boynton Beach Hotel.

His friend Linton bought another area further south which would become Delray Beach.

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The Boynton Beach Hotel

Boynton and his family would winter at the hotel and spend their summers in Port Huron. The Boynton Hotel was open until 1925 and torn down shortly after.

Back in the late 1800s, the community of Boynton was only 500 acres. Boynton’s hotel featured a wrap-around porch, dining room, and five guest cottages that attracted visitors to this growing area, many of them from Michigan.              

These first guests soon realized that many fruits and vegetables thrived in this fertile climate.

The newly built Florida East Coast Railway would eventually crate and ship pineapples, mangoes, tomatoes, and citrus fruits from this area to hungry Americans across the country.

The East Coast Railroad was built by Henry Flagler, railroad and oil magnate and founder of the tourist empire that now exists in Florida.

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  Boynton Beach East Coast Railroad Depot

Boynton Beach was incorporated in 1898 by the Fred S. Dewy family and the town incorporated in 1920 as the Town of Boynton.

The name Boynton Beach was first used in 1931 by a community that broke off from the town. In 1939 that community changed its name to Ocean Ridge while the Town of Boynton took on the name Boynton Beach in 1941.

The Boynton Beach census of 2010 lists the population of 68,217 with 37,289 households.

The Boynton Beach Hotel would outlive its creator by fourteen years. Boynton died in Port Huron at 11:30 PM on Saturday, May 27, 1911, at his home at 1005 Huron Avenue.

 His last words, “I am tired, I am ready to go.”

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Boynton Grave Markers at Lakeside Cemetery, Port Huron, MI
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The home at 1005 Huron Avenue is an Empire style structure with a beautiful curved window on the first floor’s left side. Nathaniel Boynton built the house in the late 1800s. It was purchased by the Meno family in the 1940s where they lived until the 1980s.

Boynton House present day

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