NATHAN S. BOYNTON
By David J. Castello
Q. Soon after you moved to our beautiful city what was one of
the first things you learned to do?
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."
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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