DescriptionCornelius Boyle Family Archive. An extensive archive beginning in the late 1860s and including material compiled by family members up through the 1910s. The core of the archive relates to Dr. Boyle's excursion to Mexico after the Civil War, where he hoped to establish a colony for expatriate Confederates. His letters home to his wife and sister capture a rich narrative of his exploits as well anecdotal information of fellow Confederates he encountered along the way. There are also contracts, prepared reports, and promotional materials related to the Colony in Mexico.
Cornelius Boyle had abandoned his thriving medical practice as well as his land and houses in Washington to join the Confederate Army. At the end of the war, his land was confiscated, and he had no medical practice to return to. Boyle had conducted espionage to such effect against the North, he was dubbed 'the notorious Major B___' by his enemies. The Federalists forbade him to re-enter the District, and his efforts to pay the taxes on his confiscated property in the District were also thwarted.
Facing such ruined prospects in his downtrodden surroundings, he looked to Mexico in hopes of a better life. Emperor Maximilian, who was temporarily in power, had given vague assurances that slave labor would be tolerated.
With a letter of introduction from Robert E. Lee (offered in this auction as lot 47017), Boyle set off for Mexico on the steamship Vera Cruz from New York on April 10, 1866. Unfortunately, the Vera Cruz ran aground off the coast of North Carolina, and Boyle was commended for his leadership in maintaining calm among the passengers. In an eight-page letter to his sister he describes the accident: "Lynnhaven. April 20th 66... We had about 80 passengers, 60 of them in the first cabin, the balance of them in steerage... The 11 April rain during the night wind from the east... cleared up and the sun came out, wind continued from the east but not violent. I retired about 9 o'clk & was sleeping when Capt. Cayce late of the Army of N. Va who was in the same state room with me called to me to get up, the ship had broken her machinery or run on a reef... I dressed and went on deck, I found that we had run on a sand bar about 30 miles north of Cape Hatteras and about 10 miles in side of that cape... It was very dark when I got on deck... Shortly after she struck, her smoke stack was carried away, and the flames leaped rapidly... We had a large quantity of kerosene oil on the deck, and the officers, men, & passengers were engaged in throwing it overboard which was soon accomplished..." Boyle goes on to give a detailed account of how he took command and soon had evacuated the passengers to the life boats and on to shore. Boyle tells his sister that he plans to return to New York, and set sail on the steamship Manhattan. It is at this point that he mentions that he is in the company of Mr. Barron, a wealthy Mexican landowner, and that the "wreck of the ship will make us all friendly." Letter has light toning, and tiny separations at margins at mail folds; with stray ink stains.
Boyle writes letters to his wife Fanny regularly throughout his journey to Mexico. There are a total of 11 letters, averaging four pages in length, written from aboard the Manhattan, Havana, and Mexico. Highlights from his letters are as follows:
"Steamship Manhattan, April 30, 1866, Monday... Most of the passengers are from the South. I am in state room No. 34 and have in my room the celebrated Quintrall [sic]. He is traveling under the name of Wilson, is not known on board, he was arrested and taken to Washington, but they could not be positive of his identity - he was released, went to N.Y. remained quiet for a few weeks and then Harry [scratched out] took his passage as Mr. Wilson, his papers were handed to me by Harry in N. York, and until now I have little doubt..." Marked No. 1 at top left.
"Havana, May 1, 1866... I went to the Cathedrial [sic] at 8 o'ck mass and to another church at 11. Numbers of very fine ladies were at church, all I saw were plainly dressed but with elegance. Not a ladie [sic] that I saw had on a bonnet, all had on black veils thrown over the head. I was rather pleased with the people and the place, also the country. I called and had a very pleasant interview with Genl. Early, he was delighted to see me, gave me some advice about Mexico, and told me to take up with Mr. Barron as he was the best man in Mexico, and if he took a liking to me I was save, his friendship was better than that of Maemilean [sic], and by all means to accept his offer. Early gave me the pistol I loaned him when he fell back from the valley." Marked No. 2 at top left.
"Steamship Manhattan, May 4, 1866... He [Mr. Barron] has taken a liking to me, and proposed to me to go to the Rio Grand de Santiago River near the town of Tepic, (you will find it on the map) to report on 98 leagues of land he owns in that section, he will pay all my expenses and...will send with me, a farmer, an engineer, and any other persons that I may celect [sic]. I have concluded to take with me Mr. Leary as the farmer, and Quantrall as the frontier man, the engineer has not yet been celected [sic], but if Capt. Norvall was with me he would go..." Marked No. 3 at top left.
"Tepic, June 27, 1866... Your letter of the 20th of May bringing the sad and distressing intelligence of the death of our dear baby, was received yesterday, and the sad news unmaned me. I was very much distressed and could not conceal my feelings. Although so young, and I having seen so little of her she was as dear to me as any one of the others and I shed heartfelt tears in reading your letter. I love all my children and of course the longer we have them the greater the attachment, still never like to lose one even if it was but one day old. But we have the great satisfaction to know if we have to part with them it is much better that they should leave as when in infancy, as the great pain and dread of death is in the uncertainty of the hearafter, and in the case of our darling Larinia, she having been baptized all the dread of the future I hope is avoided." Marked No. 11 at top left.
An exceptionally long letter, sixteen pages. "Tepic, June 30, 1866... We left at 5am and had breakfast at San Juan, this is a very small place without a good house that I could see, all the houses build of sun dried mud brick one story high. It is noted for the fine church which was built by some rich person at a cost of $200,000 on condition that every year a fair should be held in December in honor of St. John, and I am informed by an American priest that during the month of December, large numbers of persons from all parts of Mexico, South America, some from the U.S., New Mexico, and France come to this place for religious purposes and to attend the fair. He informed me that often 100,000 persons come and rented the houses at $100 per month and lived in tents... Has President Johnson made any action on my papers or is he likely to do anything. Will I have any difficulty in returning in the fall... " Marked No. 12 at top left.
"San Blas, Mexico, July 11, 1866... I have been treated most kindly by all. The Indians are as kind as they can be, and do all in their power to make us comfortable, and express a desire that Americans would come and settle in this section. I have a Mr. Clark with me as Interpreter, I could not get along without one. I would be much better if I could speak the language but I have made no attempt. I can understand a little, when I pay attention. I looked on the Pacific Ocean to-day for the first time, and I took a bath in the surf." Marked No. 12 at top left.
Boyle also kept a small diary while onboard the Manhattan, which in addition to recipes for medical remedies, includes description of his travel, particularly the landscape in Cuba/
Other items related to Boyle's colonization venture in Mexico:
Eustace Barron Carte De Visite. 2.5" x 4". With Geo. Rockwood of New York backstamp and period identification on verso in pencil. Light soiling, with stray foxing and dinged corners.
Colonization Certificate Issued to Cornelius Boyle. One partly printed page, 8.25" x 10.75"; Veracruz; May 5, 1866. Issued to Boyle stating that he is an immigrant in good faith, is 49 years of age, and declares possession of two pistols. Heavy wear along folds, resulting in partial separations and bits of paper loss.
Memorandum of Agreement Between Cornelius Boyle and Eustace Barron. One page, 8.5" x 10.5"; city of Mexico; June 2, 1866. Barron engages Boyle to go to the Hacienda San Lorenzo to examine "the capacity of its being colonized." Signed by Boyle and Barron. Gently toned, near fine.
Memorandum of Agreement Between Cornelius Boyle and Eustace Barron. One page, 8.25" x 10.5"; city of Mexico; September 1, 1866. Agreement engaging Boyle to act as agent for the colonization of the Hacienda f San Lorenzo, including travel to the "United States for the purpose of getting emigrants..." Signed by Boyle and Barron. Bits of paper loss along right margin, stray stains and areas of discoloration.
Promotional Printing, "Proposed Plan of the Settlement of the Hacienda of San Lorenzo". (3 copies) 11 pages with blank paper wraps, 6" x 8.5". Mexico: Mexican Times Printing Office, 1866. Including testimonies, description of the country, and agricultural and engineer's reports. Near fine, with stray foxing. Manuscript drafts of the contents of the imprint are also present.
Manuscript Records of the Rainfall in the Years 1861-1866. Location is not indicated, but presumably Mexico City. Written in Spanish on five pages of two bifolia stitched with string.
Manuscript Thermometrical Register - City of Mexico For the period July 28 through August 28, 1866.
Manuscript Map: Topographical Sketch of the Hacienda of San Lorenzo by G. H. Smith, Topographer. 25" x 17", on oil cloth.
Manuscript Plat Map of the Colony. 16.75" x 17", on oil cloth. Showing the layout of town, with lots laid out around the Plaza de Barronville.
Boyle returned to Virginia and attempted to refurbish the Fauquier White Sulphur Springs in Warrenton, Virginia. The archive includes two of his diaries for the years 1867 through 1869 in which he records weather, social calls made, expenses, and travels. There are also two maps related to this project: A hand-drawn map of the Springs property titled "Map of Fauquier White Sulphur Springs Property with Proposed Building Lots." (17" x 16") and manuscript "Plot of Springs Property" (18" x 23") showing a lay-out of proposed real estate.
Boyle eventually re-established his medical practice and there are a few items related to that. The majority of the remaining archive is ephemera and correspondence from his children. The group includes many family photographs as well as jewelry, including several gold rings and a cameo featuring Cornelius Boyle.
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