The science and the story of The Boyington Oak

Haunted History

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The Boyington Oak is said to have grown in Downtown Mobile in the 1830s for a very spooky reason. Some people say there is a ghost living inside… others say it grew from a man’s heart.

“Charles Boyington was a 19-year-old printer who came to Mobile in 1833 in November,” said Mary S. Palmer. “He had kind of a record. And then he took care of Nathaniel Frost who had consumption which is T.B.”

In 1834 Nathaniel Frost was found dead in what is now the Church Street Graveyard off Bayou street.

“Charles was a gambler,” said Palmer. “So he was planning to leave Mobile. But then he left the same day the murder was committed.”

Charles was charged with the murder of Frost in May of 1834. He was found guilty by a jury in November of that year. Boyington was held at the Conde Charlotte Jail until February 20, 1835, when he was hanged outside of the Oakleigh house.

“They walked Boyington in a procession from the jail, Conde Charlotte, all the way down Government,” said Palmer. “People on the street had a picnic and it was an event they called it a procession, and they brought children.”

But it is what happened after his death that has created a story to span generations.

“He said that an oak tree would grow on his gravesite out of his heart to prove his innocence. This tree grew from cemetery records it says it is his coffin. And it is quite likely that it is his heart in there,” said Palmer.

Peter Toler, a certified ISA arborist and the City of Mobile Urban Forester, says that could be true.

“This tree right here if I had to take a wild guess would be between 150-200 years old that’s a very rough estimate,” said Toler. 

The science of the Boyington Oak:

  • Classic Live Oak
  • 60 feet tall
  • Branches 110 feet long
  • Roots stretch 18 inches below the surface
  • At 4 1/2 feet, the tree is 46 and a half inches in diameter
  • Located on Bayou street outside the graveyard walls

“I’ll put it to you this way, it’s been going on for so long and knowing that tree roots aren’t that deep under the ground, I would say there is a spooky possibility that he might be right underneath the collar of this tree,” said Toler.

Mary S. Palmer has a new book on the subject of Charles Boyington and his execution. She writes that two people confessed to the crime on their deathbeds.

“He protested constantly that he was innocent. He kept saying sooner or later sooner or later I’ll be vindicated. Well, it’s later. So maybe now we can vindicate him with a posthumous pardon, said Palmer.

When asked about seeing Boyington’s ghost, Mary seems to be a believer.

“I actually felt that I saw his ghost in my house once so I guess I would say maybe I lean toward believing that it is a possibility and people hear what they want to hear, don’t they,” said Palmer.

‘The Boyington Oak: A Grave Injustice’

In 1834, unqualified jurors and circumstantial evidence determined the fate of journeyman, printer, poet, and musician Charles Boyington a 19-year-old hanged for the murder of his critically ill best friend. As he predicted would happen to prove his innocence an oak tree grew from his gravesite in Mobile Alabama. It still stands 175 years later.

Mary S. Palmer, Author
  • Book to be released on November 15, 2019
  • Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Haunted Book Shop, Book Sellers,
  • The book launch party on November 24, 2019

All day on Halloween in every newscast, we’re sharing ghost stories on News 5, and a little history too!

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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