Mystery Monday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks us to share mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything in our family history research which is currently unsolved. With any luck fellow genealogy bloggers will lend their eyes to what has been found so far and possibly help solve the mystery.
In 1876 William Henry Jollett ceased to exist at the same time that William Preston Boyd appeared on the scene with no signs of a past. At least a past that could be verified.
William Preston Boyd’s past began in August of 1876 when he married Harriet Lavina Echols, daughter of Harrison Perry and Clarissa Atkins Echols. Their marriage record in Giles County, Virginia states William was a widower and his parents were George A. and E. A. Boyd of Virginia. If such a couple existed, there was no record of it that could connect to a son William Preston.
William and Hattie led an unassuming life on a farm raising thirteen children, first in Giles County and then in Monroe County, West Virginia. In between babies and harvest, William was careful to avoid any legal entanglements that might raise suspicion. Land was either quit-claimed or purchased in Hattie’s name. William Boyd’s past ended in 1924 when he committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
|William and Hattie Boyd|
Photo courtesy of Tim Rugenstein
Son Kyle Emanuel Boyd came across a series of letters written between the 1890s and 1914 that aroused suspicion about their father’s past, letters that also hinted at a reason for their father’s suicide. Apparently William Boyd’s past was too much to live with or his past deeds were about to be revealed.
But whatever dark secrets William harbored were burned by Kyle’s son Dexter who swore the truth would never come from him. He preserved only parts of the letters that would confirm that William Boyd was indeed William Jollett.
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The earliest letters had been sent to agencies, sheriff’s office, and ordinary citizens of Warren County, Rockingham County, and Page County under the ruse of trying to find William H. Jollett who was ostensibly an heir to some land and money. They were signed supposedly by Kyle Boyd. Kyle knew he had written no such letters. Besides, the earliest letters were written when he was just a young boy making it even more unlikely that he would have written them.
Surely Kyle was taken aback when he saw reference to William Jollett’s father Emanuel, which was his own middle name. One letter from John W. Breeden of McGaheysville, Virginia confirmed that the Jollett family believed William Jollett to be dead.
Today’s Boyd family believes that William and Hattie wrote the letters themselves out of curiosity about his family and to determine if he was still a wanted man. But wanted for what? He had already served time for horse theft. Certainly there had to have been something else more horrible than that, something that was not subject to any statute of limitations for prosecution. Otherwise the need to invent a new identity made no sense. Otherwise suicide made no sense. The only explanation that seems reasonable is murder.
According to one letter, William Jollett had gotten Vinie Martin “in a family way.” Then when that fact became known, he rode out of town and into obscurity. Was THAT the shameful act? Or could his involvement with Vinie have led to murder? Could William have killed an irate father or perhaps a protective brother? Or was the horrible act something else entirely? Only Kyle and Dexter knew, and they took it to the grave. As one letter concluded, “and the rest is known to all.”
Next time - What became of Vinie Martin? And who were the Lichliters who apparently could “give all information anyone wants”?
Part 4 (Oct. 22) – Annie Found