The Life and Times of The Boyd Tavern
The history of the Boyd Tavern and the County of Mecklenburg go hand-in-hand. It was actually during
the foundation of the county that the tavern was established. Due to population growth and by decree from
The government of
The courthouse was built between 1768 and 1770. Edmond Taylor, Robert Munford, and John Potter were to let a contract for the courthouse construction to the lowest bidder and have the courthouse built to the specifics of "forty feet long, and twenty feet wide, fourteen feet pitch between the floors, twelve feet to be taken off at the end of the house for jury rooms, the courthouse room to be wainscoted chair board high, (that is five feet), the jury room to be planks from the floor to the ceiling and the ceiling to be well plastered�" John Chiles and Mathew Mills were the builders.
There is strong speculation that the Boyd
Tavern served as Swepson's home, tavern and the
Mecklenburg County Courthouse. This
speculation is based on the fact that:
1) the ballroom/courtroom of the tavern is very similar to the
description of the courthouse built by John Chiles and Mathew Mills during the
late 1760's, 2) speculation that an area basement is built similar to a jail,
3) a quote from Susan L. Bracey's book, Life
by the Roaring Roanoke, in which she writes about a potential duel. It reads "�in the summer of 1832�Dr.
James F. Maclin challenged Alexander G. Knox to a
duel. Knox, though annoyed and angered
by it all, seemingly did not accept the challenge. Indeed, on July 17, the second and final day
of July Court, at Alexander Boyd's tavern in Boydton,
Knox struck Dr. Maclin with a stick (probably his
walking cane)." However, current
and prior research does not prove or disprove this speculation, and the authors
of this history feel the evidence is too great to be ignored. Assuming this is true, then the Tavern did
serve as the courthouse of
Alexander Boyd, the Elder, a Scotsman, immigrated to the Colony of Virginia in 1764. He married the daughter of Richard Swepson, Senior, Anne Swepson. They had eleven children.
Boyd opened a mercantile business across the street from the tavern after he was granted a merchant's license in March of 1787.
The land on which the courthouse, prison,
and stocks were built belonged to Richard Swepson,
Senior. He deeded this parcel to his
son, Richard Swepson, Junior, who in turn conveyed it
to his brother-in-law Alexander Boyd, the Elder, in April of 1794, for 1,000
pounds. This land consisted of 480 acres
and included the courthouse and tavern.
Alexander Boyd, the Elder was appointed by Virginia Governor Henry Lee
to serve as the "Commissioner of the Peace." Four months later, in July, he was again
appointed by Governor Henry Lee to be "Commissioner and Justice of the
When Alexander Boyd, the Elder, died in 1801, he owned 5,000 acres of land which was left to his widow and children. By 1805, they were operating a fourteen room tavern.
In the division of his father's property in 1803, Alexander Boyd, the Younger, received the courthouse tract of 480 acres containing the tavern in which he and Richard continued to operate. The townspeople believed Alexander Boyd, the Younger, had a monopoly over the town and "all competition in entertaining" because of his ownership of the courthouse tract.
Boyd's main opponent was William Baskerville, the county clerk. Baskerville kept the courthouse records at his residence in five large presses because there was no room at the courthouse to keep them.
In 1809, Baskerville, along with other residents, petitioned the General Assembly so "the said courtroom may be removed and the town may be established" on the Boyd's land. This was done to break the Boyd's monopoly on business.
In 1811, Alexander Boyd, the Younger, deeded the courthouse tract to the county. He petitioned the legislature saying the removal of the courthouse was "wanton confiscation" of his property and consequently incurred a great loss of the money already spent on public accommodations.
Alexander Boyd, the Younger, said, "As our opponents have not condescended to my mention what particular comforts and convenience they have found it impracticable to obtain at the courthouse, it only remains for your petitioners in this respect to show they might have had and can still have upon as reasonable as any Court House in Virginia a table amply supplied with all the meats raised in this part of the Country and a cellar furnished with the liquors of Europe, Africa, and America, and a tavern of nearly 150 feet in length with fourteen rooms and twelve fire places for their accommodations, with stables as good as any in the state, and your petitioners firmly believe that the most of those who complain of the fare at the Court House find as good there in all respects as they leave at home."
Alexander Boyd, the Younger, also pointed out that the location was "a place admitted to be convenient and central, where the chief of the public expenses are already incurred and paid for, where the necessary bridges are in use, and where the public occassions are amply provided for as at any Court House in the Commonwealth" At this time, Boyd offered to divide his property and lay out the town, an idea suggested by Baskerville two years before.
"Boyd Town" was established in
1812, after the General Assembly passed an act making it the county seat. Fifty acres "lying immediately around the Courthouse" was to be the town
site. Boyd laid out forty acres in lots,
which included the streets, and ten acres for
himself. At this time, the county was at