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Solon Richard Boynton was the first son of William Otis and Emma Frances Merritt Boynton. Dr. Ellis G. Cornish, the only registered physician in the town of Carver, Massachusetts, delivered baby Solon November 9, 1879. Four years later, George Ellwood Boynton joined the family. The boys' father, Otis, built cranberry bogs for a living.
When Solon was seven,the family moved to Sparta, Illinois, where Otis superintended cranberry bog construction. Two years later, Otis became ill, finally dying of a ruptured appendix. He instructed his oldest son to take care of George and their pregnant mother. When Mrs. Boynton informed her two brothers-in-law (who lived in the Chicago/Sparta area) of her husband's death, they rallied around. After the funeral, they provided her with funds to travel back to Carver. She arrived with $17. While she was blessed with a very supportive family of four sisters and one brother (Waldo), she remained fiercely independent.
As the baby, William Otis, grew older, Solon's mother began accepting house-cleaning jobs from the few affluent people in the community, leaving Solon at home to take care of George and the baby. Because of his many responsibilities, Solon was never truly a little boy. He found work in the cranberry industry early on, glad to bring home $1.50 a day, and had to miss a good deal of school.
In the fall of 1899, a series of miracles occurred making it possible for Solon to attend Boston University, graduating from medical school in 1903. During his university years he worked as a janitor, but took time to "court" hometown girl, Susie Crocker. Uncle Waldo Merritt, who lived in Bellingham, Washington, wrote Solon, promising room and board with him until Solon's practice grew. Solon moved to Bellingham and in the early spring of 1904 set up an office in the Roth Block on Holly Street. In 1906 he went back to Massachusetts and on September 24, married his long-time sweetheart. A week later they headed West, stopping in Chicago for a long visit with Solon's uncle, Dr. John Richard Boynton. The couple arrived in Bellingham October 20. Their new life began.
Susie Crocker was born April 18, 1883 in South Carver, forty miles from Boston. Her parents were Lemuel Nye and Betsy Ann Shaw Crocker. She never knew her great-grandmother, Judith Tinnel, who was born in Scotland and later came to America with her family to live in the South. Susie, her parents, and elder brother, Percy, lived with grandmother Susan Davis Shaw, pictured on the right with her daughter, Betsy. Susan was born November 2, 1822, and died 81 years later. Susie's Grandfather, Elkanah, was an iron molder, and some 20 years his wife's senior. He died shortly before the Civil War.
Betsy Shaw, born in 1856, was Susan's fourth child. She was born in the same room where Susie was born: the house Elkanah Shaw built for Susan Davis when he, a widower twenty years her senior, brought her as his bride from Ohio. Mrs. Shaw, an extremely strong woman, had a great influence on her granddaughter, Susie. Doesn't she look awesome? Fascinating woman. The following is an excerpt from The Sue Boynton Story by Dorothy Koertę1982:
Grandmother depended upon Nature's Drug Store for many of her supplies, for the plant kingdom of the world had been man's only resource for many centuries . . . her pharmacopoeia embraced a God-given knowledge of roots and barks, of leaves and flowers. She brewed teas from herbs, made poultices from leaves and resineous buds, and linaments and ointments out of oils extracted from the great plant kingdom. . . . She never petted me, but I always knew she loved me. I think her positive spirit was good for me. There was none of this, "Now, Darling, take this to please Grandma." But she provided the best medicine she could and said, "Open your mouth. Take this!" . . . and I took it. The training she gave me then has stood me in good stead through many years when I had to face up to "taking my medicine" and "take it without quibbling."
At age seven Susie began to pick cranberries. Generally 150 people harvested an acre. She worked on her knees all day, and filling many buckets of the bright red berries. After school she gathered eggs, fed the chickens, brought in kindling, and filled the woodbox for the following day. She also helped her beloved Papa gather apples, pumpkins, tomatoes, and potatoes. The Crockers' stone cellar brimmed with large barrels of turnips, apples, potatoes, carrots, and a firkin or two of salt pork (for baked beans).
After her marriage to Solon, they honeymooned, and reached Bellingham, Washington in the middle of a fierce storm. Solon kept saying, "Sue, isn't it wonderful! Isn't it beautiful!" She glanced around at the false fronts on the one-story buildings, and as they trudged along on the board sidewalks and streets made of logs, took a deep breath, and agreed that indeed it was "wonderful."
Copyright Judy Vorfeld.
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