Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sempronius Hamilton Boyd (1828-1894)

Portrait courtesy of the Library of Congress.

   Possessing a truly unique first name, Missouri's Sempronius Hamilton Boyd occupied a number of public posts during his life, serving at various times as a mayor, U.S. Representative, circuit court judge, and diplomat. Boyd was born near Nashville, Tennessee on May 28, 1828, one of nine children born to Marcus (1803-1866) and Eliza Hamilton Boyd (died in 1845). The Boyd family called Tennessee home until mid-1840 when they relocated to Springfield, Missouri, where young Sempronius received his education. A prominent figure in his own right, Marcus Boyd would on several occasions be elected to represent Greene County Missouri in the state legislature, as well as being receiver of the Missouri Land Office at Springfield.
   During his early twenties Sempronius Boyd was bitten by the gold rush bug, and, like many other young men of the time, made the arduous journey to California in 1849. While trying to make a go of prospecting he took on a position as a schoolteacher, remaining in California until 1855 before returning to Missouri. After earning his law degree the following year he was elected as the Mayor of Springfield and served two terms in that office from 1856-1857. In June 1855 Boyd married Margaret Muse McElhaney (1838-1904), and this union eventually produced three children: Rufus Marcus, Cordelia Margaret (1862-1928) and Robert Marcus.
   At the outbreak of the Civil War, Boyd aligned himself with the Union and along with his father helped organize Union regiments in Springfield and the surrounding vicinity. Boyd became a colonel in the 24th Missouri regiment and was engaged in numerous skirmishes in the Missouri and Arkansas areas. In 1862, Boyd was elected to the United States House of Representatives as an Unconditional Unionist, defeating Democrat John S. Phelps by a vote of 3,072 to 1,840. Serving during the 1863-65 session, Boyd helped draw up plans for the eventual development of the Freedmen's Bureau, which came into fruition in 1865. Boyd would narrowly lose his reelection bid in November 1864 to John Kelso, being defeated by a 113 vote margin
   Little time elapsed before Boyd was called to serve his country again, this time in the capacity of a circuit court judge for Missouri's 14th judicial circuit. During his judgeship (which extended from 1865-66), Boyd took a stand for civil rights, advocating the use of black troops to help man garrisons in reconstruction era Missouri. Boyd would resign that post in 1866 and for the next two years was connected with the construction of the Southwestern Pacific Railroad.
  In November 1868, he was elected as a Republican to a second term in Congress, this time defeating both John S. Kelso and Democrat Charles McAffee. During his second stint in congress, Boyd was one of a few representatives that wanted to restore the rights of many former Confederate sympathizers who had fought against the Union and also chaired the house committee on claims.

                                                     Boyd during his 2nd term in Congress.

    At the conclusion of his second term in 1871, Boyd returned to his native Missouri, where in 1874 he founded the Springfield wagon factory. He ran this business until 1876, and then resumed his law practice. In 1890 President Benjamin Harrison appointed the then sixty-two-year-old Boyd as U.S. Minister and consul general to the Kingdom of Siam (now known as Thailand.) Boyd accepted the diplomatic post and served overseas until July 1892 when he returned to the United States due to health concerns. The Lexington, Missouri Weekly Intelligencer notes that in June 1894 Boyd undertook a trip to a fishing resort located in Stone County, Missouri to restore his health, but died suddenly on June 22nd whilst still at the resort, having "been seized with the illness that ended his life." The sixty-four year old ex-congressman was later buried in the Hazlewood Cemetery in Springfield, which is also the resting place of fellow strangely named congressman Mordecai Oliver (1819-1898.)

                                                    From the Lexington Weekly Intelligencer, June 30, 1894.

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