Militia Captain William Boylan

Third wife Bridget Boylan (Wall)

Robert Boylan and Margaret Flood are our earliest documented ancestors 1766 Kilcullen, Kildare. To explain how the Boylans came there, we are checking estate records to see if a related estate (perhaps south of Monaghan) sent workers or a steward south. The couple 5 children including a son named John Boylan.

John Boylan (spelled Boilen on Williams Baptismal record) and Mary unknown (perhaps McGeer) of Kilcullen, Co. Kildare had two sons, William and James. Father John was either a master taylor or boot maker and his sons William and James must have helped him with the family business. They both became gifted and sought-after tradesmen, probably because they were exposed to trade work at an early age.

The younger brother James Boylan was born on December 30th, 1806 and later became a successful tailor in Kilcullen.  His customers included officers stationed in the Curragh Camp and the members of the Kildare Hunt. He was later assisted by his son, named James Jr, and they had many satisfied customers: When a new master of The Killing Kildares planned to select another tailor for the uniforms, he was told in no uncertain terms by his members that it wasn't on:  "They told him nobody could do the work 'like Mr. Boylan'," A gravestone in New Abby Cemetery, Kilcullen is inscribed: Erected by JAMES BOYLAN in memory of his beloved father JAMES BOYLAN who departed this life January 1897 aged 91 years.

Captain William Boylan was born in Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland on the 3rd of January 1804. At this time large parts of Ireland were employed in supplying the British Army with provisions. Government contracts were out for boots and uniforms. The victory at Waterloo put an abrupt end to the Napoleonic Wars. The government contracts dried up rapidly and money became tight all around. So it is not surprising that enterprising young men with a little start up money from their Dad might seek their fortune in the USA.

An 18 year old William Boylin (born in 1804) left Liverpool (not so far from Kilcullen and Dublin) in May 1822 on the ship Illinois arriving in New York on June 3rd. Microfilm M237, Roll 3, List 249, Registers of Vessels arriving at the Port of New York from foreign Ports 1789-1919 National Archives Washington DC.

William Boylan settled in New Brunswick, New Jersey where he soon opened his own store on Albany Street. Here he made, repaired and sold high-end boots and shoes. The customer-oriented shift from army boots to stylish footwear was just an early example to his business acumen.

Williams obituary states that he was noted for his skill at boot making and commanded the custom of the (Rutgers) college faculty and other prominent residents. This success is not particularly surprising because boot making has been a Boylan trade for millennia. Our forebears made and wore boots as they migrated north 20.000 years ago. This is nicely illustrated in the motion picture Alpha. The Boylan Shoe Shop in Dublin is another example of the Boylan Clans affinity for shoes.

William Boylan was married four times in New Brunswick- always to Irish lasses. His wives maiden names were:

1.Elizabeth Moore  b? - d April 11, 1856. Elizabeth married Captain William Boylan around 1827 (there is no record of this marriage at St. Peters). According to a news paper clipping, she was the sister of Peter Moore, then living on Church Street. So far no US info about her father... Their daughter Mary Boylan, who was born in 1828, later married Joseph Ryan Sr and had a son Joseph Jr. After the death of his grandfather (Captain William Boylan), Joseph Ryan Jr. married the widowed Mrs Annie Boylan (the last and very young wife of the same Captain William Boylan). So technically Joseph married his own grandmother - although they were not blood relatives. Elizabeth died in 1856 at 56 years of age.

2. According to an 1889 newspaper clipping, Captain William Boylan took a second wife by marrying a Ms. McShea. Assuming that this marriage took place in the summer of 1856, this unlucky young lady McShea may have died in childbirth in early 1857. Anyhow so far no records whatsoever about Ms McShea have been found in St. Peters or the archives of New Jersey, so she remains a mystery. 1857 must have been a busy year for William because his third wife Bridget delivered him a son - also in 1857!

3. Bridget Wall b 1830 - d July 13th 1874. She married aged 27 on Sept. 6, 1857 -  as witnessed by Ellen Wall (her mother or sister?) and Mary Tinsley. The ceremony was performed by Rev. John Rogers. Exactly nine months later, their first child, James J. was born. Their second son was William Henry Boylan I.

William Boylan lead the original Emerald Guards (click on it - they still exist!) of New Brunswick and so acquired the title of Militia Captain. He retired from boot making in about 1850 because he had observed how land prices in New Brunswick were going up. Knowing how land was traditionally fought over in his home in Kilcullen, and seeing the influx of Irish escaping the potato famine of 1845, he sensed a much easier way to make money by speculating on real estate. In this he was even more successful and thus he became a very wealthy man in New Brunswick.

Around 1860 William bought or built a house for his growing family in New Brunswick on 104 Bayard Str. - close to the current Office of Vital Statistics, because you could easily walk from there to the train station. The hard-working mother Bridget Boylan (Wall) died in July 13th 1874.

4.Annie OMailey b1848 (implied by newspaper) or b 1854 - d 1903 according to the source (a 1889 newspaper  clipping lists Annies maiden name as Boyle, but both St. Peters Church record and the New Jersey State archives agree that Annie was an OMailey). Annie, a sweet young woman of either 19 or 26, married the wealthy 70-year-old real estate mogul William Boylan on November 23rd 1874 (4 months after Bridget died). The ceremony was performed by Rev. P. L. Downes and witnessed by Andrew Ledwidge and (Ellen Gussy Augusta) Helen A. Boylan.  Anne was said to have had 5 children in total. 3 who survived were found in the records of St Peters:

  • Thomas Francis Boylan, born Sept. 14, Bap. Sept. 16, 1875 died? Godparents: George Boylan & Lizzie OMalley       Rev. D.M.Carter (d 1903
  • Anne Boylan, born Aug. 11, Bap. Aug. 11, 1878 died? Godparents: Joseph Ryan Jr & (Ellen) Gussie Boylan Rev. John Rogers
  • Joseph Boylan born Sept. 26, Bap. Sept. 26, 1879 died? Godparents: George Boylan & Elizabeth Mealle (OMalley). Rev. John Rogers. Perhaps Joseph Boylan was named after a special friend called Joseph Ryan Jr.?

The prosperous Irish immigrant from Kilcullen, Captain William Boylan died on Saturday September 10th, 1881 aged 77. The widowed Annie Boylan soon remarried Joseph Ryan Jr. (the son-in-law of Elizabeth, Captain William Boylans first wife). The Boylan/Ryans continued to live in the house on 104 Bayard St. At this time Annie was just 26 or 33 and Captain William Boylans youngest son Joseph was only 2 years old.

Captain William Boylans obituary states that at the time he was one of the oldest residents of New Brunswick. It claimed he was born in 1798, but his birth record in Kilcullen Church is dated Jan 3rd, 1804. He was favorably known for his charitable deeds and a member of the Humane Society in which he took great interest until the infirmities of old age introduced him to withdraw from active participation. He left over 12.000 $ (about 276.000 $ today) in cash and 80.000 $ (1.8 mio $ today) worth of  real estate which was divided between his 7 surviving children - not quite amicably because there was litigation with Annie about his estate in 1889 and for different reasons again in 1897 (the cash had just about been consumed by this time). 

When Captain William Boylans Kilcullen brother James Boylan died in Ireland (January 29th, 1897 at 91 according to Irish sources), The Daily Times of New Brunswick New Jersey ran a short obituary for him (published March 5th) mentioning that he was brother of the late Captain William Boylan. Kilcullen Boylans also knew that James J. Boylan had become a lawyer, so clearly there was some transatlantic correspondence between the two brothers & families - which has regretfully not been passed down to posterity.

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