Haunted History of Mobile – The Boyington Oak
By: Chris Andrews
Mobile is the most haunted city in Alabama. From the very moment the Europeans set foot on our soil in 1699, they were frightened by this place but one story that occurred in 1834 is perhaps the most bizarre story in Mobile’s history. A story that includes friendship, a love story, murder, execution, and a tree. What do all of these things have in common? One man, Charles Boyington.
Charles Boyington was a young printer, vagabond, and gambler in his late teens who arrived in Mobile from Connecticut seeking prosperity during the cotton boom of the 1830’s. Charles lived in a boarding house with a man and fellow co-worker named Nathaniel Frost. The two of them went to dances and balls trying to fit in with the high society of 1830’s Mobile. One evening, Charles met a woman named Rose de Fleur and the two quickly fell in love. Rose was wealthy and her father did not approve of her daughter courting a poor man who worked for the Mobile Chronicle. Charles would write her poetry and would think about Rose all day, so much that it cost him his job. The two became inseparable.
In the meantime, Boyington would care for his friend Nathaniel while he was suffering through a bout of tuberculosis. Frost would help Boyington with his rent in return.
On the afternoon of May 10, 1834, Boyington and Frost went for a walk, Mobilians reportedly saw them together near the Church Street Graveyard. Boyington was alone when he returned to his home around 3:30. Several other asked where Frost was.
“Somewhere, I am in a hurry I can not wait for him.” Boyington was on his way to the river wharves. He made a stop at a general store to buy a pair of pistols, a dagger and other items. At 8pm he boarded the James Monroe bound for Montgomery.
As the sun came up the next morning. Locals were awakened to see the body of Nathaniel Frost hanging from a tree. Covered in gashes and blood. Mobilians were stunned. The papers declared a murder and the mayor a $250 reward for the supposed killer!
Boyington was the obvious suspect. Officers raced on horseback to catch the steamship on the Alabama River. Officers found Boyington in the ladies room studying the hand of a man playing cards when the officers arrested him for murder. Boyington was brought back to Mobile and taken to the city jail. “Kill him!” “Drown him in the river!” “Hang him to a lamppost to the next tree!”
A quick trial with Charles having very incompetent lawyers found the Boyington was guilty of the murder of Nathaniel Frost. His sentence, death. His execution, the same as Frost – hanging in brutal fashion. Boyington was sure of his innocence and believed a pardon was in his future, but that pardon never came. The gallows awaited him and his death.
Boyington declared from the gallows, “I am innocent! I am innocent! But what can I do? When I am buried an oak tree with a hundred roots will grow out of my grave to prove my innocence!” Boyington eventually breathed his last breathe and was buried off Bayou Ave in Downtown Mobile where today, as he promised, the Boyington Oak still stands.
Join our Bites and Frights tour this October to see the Boyington Oak and see the tree for yourself that declares the innocence of Charles Boyington!