William B. Boyd, 1871 

Based on a paper by Kyle Eick

         William B. Boyd was born in Ohio in 1830 and came to Illinois from Urbana, Ohio, in the spring of 1867. He was a Civil War veteran who had served as surgeon of the 3rd Ohio Cavalry during the Atlanta Campaign of 1864. At that time he contracted an illness which plagued him every winter for the rest of his life.

According to his 1888 obituary, his wife, Lydia Hollingsworth (born 1831-2), was the daughter of Levi Hollingsworth, a long-time local businessman. William was a family man whose two girls—Dora (1861) and Linnie (or Minnie or Louise, 1863) were both graduates of Monmouth College. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church.[1] Linnie married Charles H. Scott on February 28, 1882; Charles was the manager of a furnishing store in Monmouth, but later moved to New York.[2] Dora was an actress who was variously reported to have died in 1884, 1900 and 1909.[3] There was a son, Linneus (1867), about which nothing is known after the census of 1880 indicated that he, like his sisters, was a student.[4] There were other Boyd families living in the city, but other than sharing a Northern Irish ancestry, they do not seem to be related.[5]

He came to town to manage the Weir Plow Company, which had just suffered a disastrous fire. Though the county history came Weir the credit, it was Boyd who quickly rebuilt the factory and expanded it:


Rebuilding the plant immediately, Weir employed 50 men, and 1,500 implements were made ready in time for the spring plowing. In the fall of that year (1867) the business was incorporated as the Weir Plow Company., with a capital stock of $25,000 and Weir as president. Three thousand cultivators were put on the market in 1868; 4,000 in 1869; and 6,500 in 1870. large shops were erected in 1871 just south of the C.B & Q. tracks, on the site of the old Brown Lynch Scott building, and the capital stock was increased to $500,000. Business was booming, and products were being sent all over the United States and Mexico.[6]


In 1870 Monmouth was a growing town, with a population of 6,237, and several notable industries along the railroad tracks. At the time it was relatively easy to become a physician—there being few medical schools, most doctors learned the trade from an established physician. Incomes being low, they were often supplemented by an additional trade. Thus, it is not surprising that a medical doctor became involved in the one of the local largest plow companies—the Weir Plow Company was started by William S. Weir in 1863. Weir was a simple farmer, who had an idea for a plow suitable for western Illinois soil and built a company that lasted for many years. Boyd was a very good friend, who taught Weir much about business. Boyd became secretary of the company in the late 1860’s. Soon after that Boyd bought stocks in the company and became part owner. [7] They were next door neighbors, living in impressive mansions on Broadway. Not surprisingly, Boyd was able to afford to hire a young Swedish maid, Hanna Johnson.[8]

Boyd was the Republican candidate on the ballot for the year 1871. The election was an easy victory, a landslide with some candidates receiving only minimal votes; his term began on May 8, 1871, and lasted until May 1, 1872. During that year most of the items covered in the city council meetings dealt with repaying debts.

During Boyd’s term Monmouth was growing and the main part of the city expanding during a time where the industry around the country was growing quickly. Boyd attended most meetings of the city council, most of which involved work on the streets. From the East Ward the two representatives were David Graham and W. L. Hoffer. From the West Ward the two were J. L. Springs and I.P. Pillsbury. From the South Ward were R. G. Harding and Geo Chafin. When the mayor was not present—perhaps due to his lingering illness from the war—an alderman would sign the minutes, usually I. P. Pillsbury. There was only one city ordinance passed that year, a revision of a prior ordinance that was passed in 1862:


An ordinance in relation to the supervisors of street, their powers and duties; be in ordained by the city council of the city of Monmouth. Sec. 1 That at their regular meeting of the city council there shall by elected by said council one supervisor for each road district in said council, whose term of office shall be one year unless sooner removed and until his successor shall be elected and qualified, and who shall give bond to be approved by the mayor in such sum as the city council shall from time to time determine.  Sec. 2 It shall be the duty of the supervisor to require all of the inhabitants of their respective districts liable to road labor to perform the same, giving the notice required by the ordinance; to superintend and direct all labor to be done on the streets by all persons liable to perform road labor; to collect and receive from all persons liable to labor, such sum for the commutation thereof, as the ordinances of said city may provide to expand the money so received upon the streets in his district; to keep a true and accurate account of all moneys received and expended by him; to superintend all grading necessary to be done in grading the streets and sidewalks, and to make report of his actions and doings to the city council when required. Sec. 3 That the supervisor shall also have the power with the consent of the mayor or the city council, to contract for any work upon the streets in his district, the cost of which shall not exceed fifty dollars for any one job; to employ laborers at the expense of the city; to perform any work that may be necessary to keep the streets in repair, and to contract for materials therefore. Sec 4 In the performance of their duties, the said supervisors shall be subject to the direction and control of the mayor or city council. Passed October 29, 1862.

An ordinance repealing sections 2 and 3 of “An ordinance in relation to supervisors of streets, their powers and duties (amendating of Chaper XXIV of the ordinances of the city of Monmouth.)” Be it ordained by the city council of the city of Monmouth: section 1 neat Sections 2 and 3 of chapter XXV (No. 31) Revised ordinances be and the same are hereby repealed. Passed April 1, 1872 Signed W.B. Boyd, Mayor.[9]


 Boyd lived in Monmouth until September of 1881, when he moved to Bloomington to become president of the Walton Plow Company and senior member of the wholesale house of Boyd and Chester. His estimated worth was over $100,000.[10]

Boyd died of suicide November 30, 1888. The obituary speculated that he was depressed and in poor health—the Civil War illness; his wife had been out of the house at the time. He was survived by Lydia, who joined her daughter in New York City, with whom she died on March 19, 1915; her body was brought back to Bloomington to be buried next to her husband.



Kyle Eich was in the historiography class at Monmouth College in the fall of 2005.

[1]  Moffitt Book, V, 40, in Warren County Genealogical Library; Alumni Directory of 1942 lists only Dora May, ’82, actress, d. June 1909; perhaps the second daughter is Emma N. Boyd ’85, but more likely there is an error in one of the reports.

[2]  Marriage records in Warren County Genealogical library, Warren County Library.

[3] Alumni Directory of 1942; obituary of Lydia Boyd.

[4] Census of 1880 for Monmouth, Illinois

[5] There may also be a distant connection to his business partner. The state marriage index shows that William Weir, Sr, married Fidelia J. Boyd on 10/13, 1859, in Warren County; Portrait and Biographical Album of Warren County (Chicago: Chapman, 1886), 606, notes that she was the daughter of Thomas and Ann Boyd, who had been born in Ireland and New York. Another Boyd family from Ohio moved to Monmouth in the early 1850s: http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~clanboyd/ohio24.htm           

[6]  Jeff Rankin, ed., Born on the Prairie (Monmouth: Kellogg, 1981), 38-39; History of Warren County (Chicago, 1903), 781.

[7] "In December 1862 William S. Weir of Little York secured a patent on an improved two-horse cultivator. In order to market his invention, he decided to move to the county seat at Monmouth where he set up a temporary headquarters in the old Christian Church building on the present site of Dee Harrison Ford.

                By 1862 his cultivator has been thoroughly tested and was gaining in demand. With a capital of $200, he erected, on the east side of the 100 block of North C Street, a shop with dimensions of 22 x 36 feet, joined by a blacksmith shop 24 x 20 feet. With the assistance of 9 men, he managed in 1963-64 to turn out 400 plows. The following winter, 500 plows were manufactured.

                Soon, much larger quarters were needed, and a plant, 100 x 36 feet, was erected on South Third Street near the C.B. & Q. depot. A capital stock of $35,000 was established and, in 1866, a force of 25 men produced 800 cultivators.  On the morning of January 20, 1867, a mysterious fire wiped out the entire plant, including 1,200 cultivators, with a loss incurred of $35,000, only $10,000 of which was covered by insurance….

                In 1886 Weir sold his interest in the business to his partner, William Hanna, who was president until 1892, when a majority of the stock was sold to Martin Kingman and associates, of Peoria. In 1895 stockholders decided to move the plant to East Moline, but before this could happen the buildings were destroyed by fire, December 12, 1895. The losses were so heavy that in 1898 an assignment was made, and what was left of the once once-thriving business was moved to Averyville, near Peoria."   Rankin,  Born on the Prairie, 38-39; History of Warren County (1903), 781.

[8] Census of 1880.

[9] Minutes from 1871-72 kept in the City Hall. 

[10] Past and Present of Warren County (Chicago: Kett, 1877), 205; Database:1870 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com; obituary in Moffitt Book XIV, 19.

Boyds in Past and Present of Warren County:

Boyd R.H. Monmouth City farmer rep Presb Penn.
Boyd R.H. Monmouth Twp retired; Sec 28; P.O. Monmouth rep U.P. _
Boyd J.N. Monmouth City student rep Presb Penn.
Boyd W.B. Monmouth City Weir Plow Works rep Presb New York