The Oaks was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Boyd House (also known as The Oaks, a Mississippi landmark) is located at 823 North Jefferson Street, Jackson, Mississippi. The Oaks is a simple, one-story, frame and clapboard Greek Revival dwelling with a recessed gallery across the east facade, set almost flush with the ground. Two interior chimneys project symmetrically from the gable roof just behind the ridge, with stucco-covered shafts and bare, corbeled and stepped tops. The roof presents an otherwise unbroken expanse of wood shingles, sloping gently in a straight line to terminate at the front in a deep, flat architrave. The architrave extends the full forty-six-foot width of the facade and returns the nine-foot depth of the plaster-ceiled gallery recess. The architrave is supported by six, square, wood posts with molded bases and capitals. The posts mark the division of the facade into five bays. In the wider central bay is a single leaf door with two vertical panels. The door and its flanking side-lights, each composed of three rectangular panes over a tall wood panel, are set beneath a six-pane rectangular transom, the whole enframed by a battered and eared Greek Revival doorway architrave. The other bays of the facade contain six-over-six sash windows with shutters.
Two similar shuttered windows light each end wall. The thirty-four-foot end walls, set flush with the roof eaves, match each other except where a one-story rear wing with a gable roof and clapboard walls extends the north wall back an additional seventeen feet. Like the rear wall of the house, the wing is elevated four feet on brick piers to accommodate the sloping site. From the wing, an enclosed attached shed extends across the rear wall, stopping several feet short of the southwest corner.
In the jog formed at this corner is a small, cylindrical structure used as a dairy. Its five-foot-high brick wall is pierced irregularly by tall, narrow openings screened by cast-iron grillwork. Sockets on the inside of the wall once held supports for shelves. A cylindrical water tank with a roof originally topped the structure, its purpose being to cool the dairy by allowing water to drip down the brick walls and stand in a pool in the depressed brick floor. The dairy is presently topped only by a high, conical, metal roof.
Behind the rear wing, the domed top of a cistern projects above the ground, sheltered by a recently constructed, open pavilion with a low, pyramidal, wood shingle roof.
The interior of the house is composed of a ten-foot-wide central hall flanked on each side by two rooms with a common chimney. Closets, which may be original, occupy the recess between the chimney and the exterior wall in both north rooms.
Mantels and interior doorway enframements are in a plain Greek Revival style, decorated simply with side-projecting ears and a wide fillet. Plaster walls, wide floorboards, and a plain baseboard complete the interior furnish. The house has been furnished with Greek Revival articles, including a rocking chair, a churn, and a lamp base original to the house. Only slight alterations have been made to the structure. The rear wing and the attached shed were added probably in the twentieth century. The cistern pavilion was constructed within the last twenty years, and the dairy roof has been put in place within the last year.
The Boyd House (The Oaks), a quaint Greek Revival cottage at 823 North Jefferson Street in Jackson, was built prior to the Civil War for James H. Boyd, a prominent early citizen of Mississippi's capital city. The actual construction date for the house is unknown. Though it was thought to have been built in 1846, chancery court records indicate that Boyd did not actually purchase the property until 1853. Prior to that date, George Fearn, who purchased the land from the State of Mississippi in April, 1847, was the sole owner of the tract; and he apparently constructed no dwelling on the lot; at least the value of the property did not increase appreciably during the six-year interim. Whatever the case, the house remained in the family of the original owner until 1960, when it was purchased by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in November of that year.
Born and reared in Mason County, Kentucky, James H. Boyd migrated to Mississippi sometime before 1828 at the age of eighteen. He joined his brother in Woodville, in Wilkinson County, and there the pair operated a small newspaper, The Woodville Republican. After a short tenure in Woodville, the brothers then travelled to Bayou Sara, Louisiana, where for several years they operated a drug establishment. Though financially successful in Bayou Sara, Boyd returned to Mississippi ca. 1832. While James Boyd obtained no formal education, it has been reported that "his remarkable powers of observation and his naturally fine mind remedied this in a great degree and he became one of the most intelligent and well-posted men of his section."
After his return to the state, Boyd settled in Jackson and lived there the remainder of his life. It was in Mississippi's capital city that he distinguished himself as a businessman, civic leader and local politico. Records indicate that the first drugstore in Jackson was owned by Boyd; the first advertisement for the store appeared in March, 1835. Throughout the 1840s, Boyd was actively engaged as an auctioneer and merchandiser. With four-thousand dollars in taxable sales, 1847 was auctioneer Boyd's peak year. In 1850, the Mississippi legislature chartered the Pearl River Steam Navigation Company for twenty-five years. Boyd, one of the thirty-eight incorporators of the company, built and operated two boats on the Pearl River for some time.
James H. Boyd held many positions in local government — both elective and appointive. In January, 1842, the people of Jackson elected Boyd mayor. His first administration was notable for the construction of a much-needed city prison, the purchasing of a new and modern fire engine for Jackson, and a crackdown on unlicensed retail liquor dealers in the city. At the end of Mayor Boyd's first term, Jackson was quite uncommonly operating in the black, with $747.00 in the treasury, and the citizens expressed their appreciation at the polls by reelecting Boyd in January, 1843. The mayor's second administration was also significant. During 1843, a fast-growing Jackson was having problems in law enforcement. An ordinance was adopted, therefore, whereby a "city watch" was appointed to help the constable keep order in the city. Further, a hook and ladder fire wagon was constructed, the city graveyard was fenced, and the price of retail liquor licenses was raised. Again the city was operating in the black at the end of Mayor Boyd's second term, with $841.00 in the city treasury. Thus Boyd offered for a third successive term in January, 1844, but, despite his accomplishments, he was defeated by John P. Oldham. Ex-mayor Boyd also served twice on the board of aldermen for the city of Jackson during the 1840s — in 1844 and 1847. As an alderman in 1844, he served on the committee which established a free school for orphans and children whose parents were financially unable to educate them.
James H. Boyd continued in local politics in the decade preceding the Civil War. Though available records are sketchy, he again served as mayor of Jackson in 1850 and 1858. At the close of both administrations, Boyd was defeated for reelection. In 1850, the Mississippi legislature passed an act for the completion of the State Lunatic Asylum, and Boyd was appointed by John A. Quitman to the board of commissioners which supervised the construction of the institution. He was also appointed by Quitman as "a Commissioner to administer oaths, and take depositions and affidavits to be used in this state."
The records further indicate that James Boyd served on the board of aldermen during the years of civil war — 1862, 1863, and 1865 — as well as during 1866 when the people of Jackson were allowed to choose their own public officials for the last time until 1872. A letter dated December 21, 1866, also noted that Boyd was serving as a justice of the peace in the years immediately following the Civil War.
Boyd was also active in the civic and religious life of Jackson. When the first militia company, the Capitol Guards, was organized in August, 1836, James H. Boyd was elected by his colleagues as first lieutenant. Boyd is also listed as a charter member of the Silas Brown (Masonic) Lodge, chartered by the Grand Lodge in 1845 and incorporated by the Mississippi legislature in 1846. Further, Boyd was an active Presbyterian, serving on the building committee for Jackson's first Presbyterian church and as an elder for thirty years.
In 1843, Boyd married Eliza Ellis, the daughter of James E. and Sarah Morehead Ellis. The family of Mrs. Boyd's mother (Morehead) is significant in that it produced three governors — two of Kentucky and one of North Carolina. The Boyds became the parents of three sons and three daughters. After James Boyd's death in 1877, his widow remained in the Jefferson Street home the remainder of her life. In 1879, one of Boyd's daughters, Mary, married another prominent Jacksonian, Richard F. McGill. The couple made their home with the widowed Mrs. Boyd. Elected as steward to the board of trustees of the State Lunatic Asylum in 1859, McGill served continuously in that capacity until his death. The McGill family continued as owners and occupants of the Boyd House until 1960.
In November, 1960, the antebellum structure was purchased and restored by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Mississippi. It presently serves both as the Society's state headquarters and as a museum house [The Oaks House Museum], open to the public for a small admission fee.
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi. Chicago: The Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1891, Vol. I, pp.412-413; Vol. II, pp.173-174.
George Fearn to Eliza Boyd, June 1, 1853, Hinds County Chancery Court Records, Deedbook 22, p.395.
McCain, William D. The Story of Jackson, A History of the Capital of Mississippi, 1821-1951. Jackson, Mississippi: J.F. Hyer Publishing Company, 1953, Vol. I, pp.49, 58, 78, 88, 142, 145, 154, 176-179, 188-190, 194, 234.
Mary F. McGill to Mississippi Society of Colonial Dames of America, November 7, 1960, Hinds County Chancery Court Records, Deedbook 1252, p.245.
State of Mississippi to George Fearn, April 12, 1847, Hinds County Chancery Court Records, Deedbook 18, p.579.
Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Governors' Series E. Administration of Governors Quitman, Guion, and Foote: Applications for the Office of Commissioner of Deeds for Mississippi in Other States, 1850-1853, Vol.41.
Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Governors' Series E. Administration of Governor B.G. Humphreys: Correspondence, September-December, 1866, Vol.80.
Personal Inspection by Robert J. Bailey, Historian, and Ronald W. Miller, Architectural Historian, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, February 5, 1973.
† Robert J. Bailey, Historian, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, The Oaks (Boyd House), Hinds County, Jackson, MS, nomination document, 1973, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.