NATHAN S. BOYNTON
(1837-1911)
By David J. Castello


Pop quiz...

Q. Soon after you moved to our beautiful city what was one of the first things you learned to do?
A. Spell.

That's right, you learned the correct spelling of Boynton Beach. How many times have you given out your address to an out-of-state relative and said, "No, no, no, it's B-O-Y-N-T-O-N. There's an N after the Y.
No, not Boington. It's Boynton."

Boynton... Kind of just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

Now that you've been forced to forever imprint the name in your memory, I'd like to introduce you to the man you can thank.

Major Nathan Smith Boynton.

Nathan Boynton was a major and a good deal other things besides the man who gave Boynton Beach his name. He was born June 23, 1837 in Port Huron, Michigan. His direct ancestor John Boynton emigrated to the New World in 1638 (a scant eighteen years after the Mayflower) from Yorkshire, England and settled in Rowley, Massachusetts. Another ancestor, Sir Matthew Boynton, was knighted by the Crown of England in the Seventeenth Century for being the first to ship sheep and goats to America (think about THAT the next time you smear some domestic chevre on a cracker).

His father, Granville P. Boynton, helped pioneer Michigan in 1827 and his mother's father, Captain Lewis Rendt, fought in the War of 1812 - on the British side.

After graduating high-school, Nathan S. Boynton worked as grocery-store clerk and a buggy-whip manufacturer before making a tidy sum of money with his own grocery business. He invested his savings in Michigan pine lands and was promptly wiped out by the Panic of 1857.

Over the next five years he lived in Cincinnati, New Orleans and St. Louis working alternatively as a farmer's workhand, carpenter and a salesman of electrical apparatus for "curative" purposes (obviously this was before the FDA came into existence). Along the way he married and had his first of six children, Charles Boynton, in 1860. He gave his firstborn the middle name of Lincoln in honor of the newly elected president who's strong anti-slavery position mirrored his own. It was also for that reason that Nathan Boynton left his wife and child to enlist as a private in the Eight Michigan Calvary of the Union Army.

And it was here that Boynton's star began to shine. He was soon promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant and with a detachment of 100 men cut off the retreat and accepted the surrender of Confederate John Morgan after his devastating raid through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. He served under Burnside In the campaign of East Tennessee and was in one of the first units that marched Into Atlanta alongside General Sherman.

Returning to Port Huron as a Major he became the editor and publisher of the Port Huron Press. Boynton was elected mayor three times and served in the State Legislature. He also invented the Boynton fire escape, the Boynton hook and ladder firetruck and the Boynton system of rope trussing for fire ladders. Nathan S. Boynton was also a founder of the Order of the Maccabees. Under his leadership the order's membership grew from a handful to almost half a million.

In 1883 his health began to deteriorate. Eleven years later he and his friend, Congressman William S. Linton, traveled to Florida in search of a winter retreat from the harsh Michigan winters. They sailed down the newly dredged Florida East Coast Canal (the Intracoastal) in Fred C. Voss's launch "Victor".

Pausing at an area close to the present-day Ocean Avenue, Nathan S. Boynton pointed around him and said, "I'll take this."
It was as simple as that.
Linton bought the area further south that temporarily bore his name until it was changed to Delray Beach.

Two years later Boynton began construction of the legendary Boynton Beach Hotel that cemented his name to the area and outlived its creator by fourteen years. He died in Port Huron at 11:30pm on Saturday, May 27, 1911. His last words were, "I am tired. I am ready to go."

David J Castello

PAGES FROM BOYNTON BEACH HISTORY
THE BAREFOOT MAILMAN (1885-1893)
THE BOYNTON BEACH HOTEL (1896-1925)
THE WRECK OF THE COQUIMBO (1909)

NATHAN S. BOYNTON (1837-1911)
BOYNTON'S INDIAN MOUNDS (1000BC-1700AD)

 


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