I seldom see a town that bears my unusual family name. So I had more than passing interest in visiting the town of Boyce, Virginia, located only a two-hour drive from my hometown of Washington D.C. Unfortunately, the trip to the former railroad town left me with more questions than answers.
A commemorative plaque in downtown Boyce, located along a rural highway spotted with horse farms and vineyards, makes clear the origin of the town’s name. It was named after Col. Upton L. Boyce, an attorney for the Norfolk and Western Railroad, who was instrumental in getting a major railroad to come through these parts. It was a big event for the town, which was already on a major trading route. The citizenry wanted the railroad station so badly that they raised $13,000 in private funds to build much grander one than you would typically find in a town this size.
Like many of the small railroad towns in Virginia, Boyce served as a commerce center for the surrounding agricultural area. Less than half an acre in size, the town got its start in 1881 with the arrival of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad (now part of the Norfolk Southern), which intersected with the Winchester-Berry’s Ferry Turnpike. The Turnpike is currently East and West Main Streets in downtown Boyce.
Many buildings in modern-day Boyce date to the early 20th century. Several major commercial buildings along Main street, including the town center, have been restored. An antique store is open. The town’s major architectural highlight, though, is the old railroad station, which, sadly, has fallen in serious disrepair. There are reported plans to restore it.
The bigger question, though, is who was Col. Upton L. Boyce, and was he related to my great, great grandfather, Col. James R. Boyce? A cursory search of ancestry.com indicates that a direct relation between the two is unlikely, though they both lived in Missouri for a spell. Col. James R. Boyce was a confederate officer, originally from Kentucky, who moved to the gold rush town of Virginia City, Montana after the war, seeking his fortune, or maybe just a decent living. One of his daughters, Anne Boyce, married William Thompson. They were the parents of William Boyce and Joseph Edward Thompson.
Col. Upton L. Boyce apparently did quite well for himself–he was the second owner of Tuleyries, a late Federal style mansion built around 1833 by Colonel Joseph Tuley, Jr. Graham F. Blandy later bought the property, which remains in the Blandy family.