Friday, January 31, 2014
Most of you know that the Gullah/Geechee term for people who were born here is benyeh. It’s spelled many different ways (beenya, benyeah), but means the same – a native with strong roots to the area. A comyeh (comeya, cumyeah), is someone who came here, someone who was not born here.
Many times, Southerners refer to Northerners as comyehs, which I think is a more polite term than Yankee.
I’ve known several members of the Boyd family for years, but never knew they were benyehs until I interviewed Lep Boyd last week.
Lep’s parents were Geraldine “Gerry” Price Boyd and Captain Gillespie Godfrey Boyd. Gerry was born at Eddy Lake in Horry County in 1909, the same year her father came to Georgetown to run the Atlantic Coast Lumber planing mill. Gerry became an accomplished pianist and finished Winyah High School in 1926.
She went on to become a popular piano teacher and for 14 years was the organist at Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church. She passed away in 2008, just shy of her 100th birthday.
Captain Gillespie Godfrey Boyd was born in Cheraw in 1909. He also graduated from Winyah High School. He was in the Georgetown Naval Reserve 4th Fleet Division and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Capt. Boyd later worked for International Paper, a job that took the family away from Georgetown several times.
Capt. Boyd’s father, Reverend Charles William Boyd, was born in Union in 1863. He studied at Sewanee, the University of the South, and was last assigned to All Saints Waccamaw at Pawleys Island.
Lep’s Great-Grandfather, Charles Wesley Boyd, was born in 1835 and served in Company F, 15th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. He was just 28 yrs. old when he was killed in the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. His uniform still exists.
After learning this information about the Boyd family, it was pretty apparent that they are benyehs.
Lep, Jr. was born in Camden, Arkansas because Capt. Boyd had been sent there by International Paper. When he was just six weeks old, the family moved back to Georgetown to their home at 404 St. James St.
It was there that five of his siblings were born, attended to by Dr. John Assey. A sister, Isabelle, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, once again because Capt. Boyd was sent there by International.
When Lep was growing up on St. James, there was a gas station across the street. It was run by Nesbit and Minerva Carter and they let Lep charge soft drinks and “Nabs” there.
Because Church Street was not yet paved, the main entrance from the north into Georgetown was St. James Street to Highmarket. During the war years, Lep often saw convoys of tanks pass his house on their way south. Lep also remembers the horse-drawn ice wagon, probably the same wagon I saw around town when I was a child.
You Georgetonians probably know some of Lep’s siblings. Claire Boyd Jagger used to have a coffee house on Front St. where I became addicted to the “chewies” sold there. They were made using her Mother’s recipe and were the best I’ve ever eaten. (Sorry, Mama.)
Isabelle Boyd Tennant and Herbert Boyd live in Georgetown. Sister Geraldine Duff lives in Florida and Charles Boyd lives in Atlanta. Sadly, their brother, Samuel Harper Boyd, passed away last summer at his home in New Orleans.
The house Lep lives in, at 315 Front St., was purchased by his parents over 40 years ago and evidence points to it being built around 1894. This is the same house where native Georgetonian and historian Pat Davis Doyle grew up.
To Lep Boyd and all the other benyehs . . . thanks for the memories.
Debby Summey may be reached at (843) 446-4777 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.