The Boyds and Swepsons of Boydton



     On the 11th day of March in the year 1765, it being the second Monday and the day appointed, the magistrates of the new county of Mecklenburg, Virginia, held their first meeting at the dwelling house of Richard Swepson, a planter who resided near the center of the county, north of the Roanoke River.


     Among the onlookers was Alexander Boyd, a young Scotsman who had come into the country the summer before to open a store.  He did business as "Alexander Boyd & Co.", and as one John Alston lived with him and was taxed with him in 1766, before departing the county and returning to Scotland, Sandy was no doubt backed by John Alston, Sr., one of the principle tobacco merchants of Glasgow, who had large interests and a chain of stores both in Virginia and North Carolina.


     The following October, Sandy purchased three hundred acres of land adjoining Mr. Swepson and to the North of him, "on the west side of the road leading from Mecklenburg Courthouse --- beginning where the road crosses Coleman's Creek hence up the said creek as it meanders…"  With two small tracts adjoining, which he purchased three years later, this land adjoining the courthouse tract was to become his home plantation where, presumably, he then built his home and his store, for sometime later that winter he married Mr. Swepson's second daughter, Ann.  His first son, whom he named William, was born in 1767, and he was to have six others before the first of four daughters was born.


     In the spring of 1771, he returned to Scotland, advertising in the Virginia Gazette that his business would be carried on during his absence by Joseph Speed.  It was no doubt the end of a seven years partnership, and he returned to give an account and make new arrangements.  In 1773, he took in an active partner, Robert McCullock & Co." until 1777, when McCullock disappears from the county records.  Natives of Great Britain who were partners with, or agents, store-keepers, assistant store-keepers, or clerks or any merchants in Great Britain were ordered to leave the colony by May 1st, 1777.  This did not apply to "such as heretofore uniformly manifested a friendly disposition to the American cause, or are attached to this country by having wives or children here." 


     Sandy was thus able to stay in the country and hold onto his property by reason of his marriage, and his wife's connections were doubtless a source of

 protection in those times.  Her brother John served at one time as clerk to the Committee of Safety, and Richard became a captain in the militia.  There is a certificate by Col. Robert Munford in 1780 which shows that Sandy was taxed in proportion to his property in raising a recruit in one draft of the militia.


His father had been Robert Boyd, a shipmaster of Irvine Scotland, who owned a country home "Little Auchenmead" at Oldhall in Dunlop Parish, Ayrshire.  This we know, for in 1785 Sandy recorded in Mecklenburg a power of attorney for the purpose of selling his half interest in his deceased father's property.  He described himself as of the "Free and Independent State of Virginia in North America" and named his "respected and loving mother Elizabeth Boyd, otherwise called Elizabeth Anderson, and his sister Mary Wood, otherwise called Mary Boyd, both of the town of Irvine in the Kingdom of Scotland".  A second instrument shows that he learned of the death of his mother not long after this. 


     Prospering as a merchant and a planter, he became a justice of the county court in July, 1792, an office which he was filling at the time of his sudden death.  On Christmas day, 1800, he sat down to write his will.  It was his eldest daughter's sixteenth birthday, probably he left the house to the young people and the eggnog bowl, and walked down to the privacy of his counting room.  "In the name of God the Creator all merciful ---", he began, "seriously reflecting that the time will come when I must go hence and be no more seen --- wishing and desiring that everything here contained may be taken and construed according to the plain and common sense understanding of the words may use of and not biased or twisted to the application or misapplication of technical law terms ---


     "Firstly, if I should owe any debts at the time of my death, let them be forthwith paid off without any suit or delay longer than my executers shall be satisfied of the justness of them --- always wishing according to my circumstances to do justice to all my children as far as I think right I desire that if any word of this should be or seem to be doubtful they may be explained agreeable to that declared intention that my will is made as equitable to all as far as I think right and having made advances to my sons, William Boyd, Robert Boyd, Richard Boyd, Alexander Boyd, James Boyd and David Boyd, as I thought at that time I could afford and hope they are satisfied with but it is to be observed all the money I have advanced for either of them since is to be considered as part of my estate due by them.


     "Secondly I lend to my beloved wife Ann Boyd during her natural life the plantation whereon I now live containing about one thousand acres with

 twelve of the choice of my negroes and all the stock of every kind upon said plantation with all the household and kitchen furniture and likewise one hundred and twenty pounds Virginia Money yearly for the punctual payment of from my six sons, William, Robert, Richard, Alexander, James, and David each to pay twenty pounds yearly …"


     To his eldest daughter Mr. Boyd left three thousand pounds money, and each of the younger were left the same "when she arrives at the age of sixteen or marries but to be supported until that time out of my estate both in education and clothing."  His afflicted youngest son, John, was left fifteen hundred pounds to be applied for his benefit by the executors, and all the rest of his property of every description was to be equally divided among the six oldest sons. 


     He had made his will in good time, his death occurred at August court that next summer.  It was of wide interest, of course, and the Raleigh Register carried a notice on August 25th:


"Died ---in Mecklenburg County, Virginia on the 11th inst., Alexander Boyd, Sen.  He was suddenly taken with an apoplexy whilst sitting as a member of the court of that county, and in a few hours closed his well-spent life."


     His tombstone reads:



to the memory of

Alexander Boyd

a native of Scotland

who suddenly departed this life

in the Courthouse of this County

while on the seat of justice

in discharge of his duty as a magistrate

August the 11th 1801

in the 54th year of his age


'twas on the bench pon a court day

No doubt you'll read with sorrow

For I was dead before the night

Prepare my friends to follow.

Farewell my children and my wife

Contented may you be

May you obtain eternal life

And safe be lodged with me


God send his soul to rest

They loved him most who knew him best