THE DIARIES OF RICHARD KINSEY BONEY

of Duckport Plantation, Madison Parish, Louisiana

1874-1880

 

EPILOGUE

©2000 Richard P. Sevier (dicksevier@gmail.com). This material is intended for informational use only and may not be reproduced by ANY means whatsoever without written permission from the author.

 

Richard K. Boney was devoted to his fraternity, Sigma Chi (ΣΧ), which he joined at Mississippi College (Beta Beta chapter) in 1873 or 1874 at age fifteen. This chapter, about half of which were destined to become ministers of the gospel, lasted only one year due to the prohibition of fraternities by the college faculty. One of his fraternity brothers there, Andrew H. Longino, later became governor of Mississippi. The History of Sigma Chi Fraternity – 1855-1930[1] contains his picture in his V.M.I. uniform and is quoted as follows:

“Seven college fraternities had established chapters at the Institute when, in the fall of 1876 there entered the school Richard K. Boney[2], formerly of the Beta Beta chapter at Mississippi College, Jackson, Mississippi, and Matthew Clay, Jr., formerly of the Pi, at Howard College, East Lake, Alabama. There was but a short distance between the buildings of the Military Institute and those of Washington and Lee University, and the two groups of students had much in common. Both Boney and Clay were soon invited into the fellowship of Zeta chapter at the University. It was in this relation that Boney conceived the idea of a dual chapter, with an integral section of the Zeta maintained in tire Institute. Both the novelty and worth of the plan appealed strongly to the leaders of Zeta, and it was enthusiastically adopted.

The practice of initiations in the Military Institute at first began informally. During the year 1876-77, however, the Zeta urged the granting of a formal petition which would give to the Institute contingent practically a chapter status in the Fraternity, These efforts were made both through the parent-chapter and by direct correspondence, and continued into the next college year. The proposal evidently did not meet with the entire favor of the Gamma nor of some other chapters, and the correspondence at times was sharp. Letters of the zealous Boney, Francis A. Scratchley, '77, and William Stedman, Jr., '78, furnish interesting revelations of the earnestness of these loyal southern boys for their plan. The conclusion of the matter was the agreement that the one chapter, the Zeta, should count within its own membership the men whom it might initiate at the Institute.

The success of the new plan ere long became somewhat of an embarrassment. After a few years, the increased size of the chapter, with its groups in two institutions governed by different regulations made it difficult to hold meetings which all could attend. Many special adjustments were necessary for the installation of officers, voting, and literary and social exercises. So happy was the fellowship, however, that the arrangement might have continued indefinitely except for new complications. Early in the session of 1883-84 the class and study schedules and other requirements of the institutions made difficulties for chapter work which were almost insurmountable. After thorough and friendly discussion of the situation it was decided at a meeting held on December 8, 1883, to apply for a separate charter for the Institute group. The plan was completed, and the formal petition drawn as of December 31, 1883.”

The Centennial History of Sigma Chi Fraternity 1855-1955[3] also contains his picture in his V.M.I. uniform and states:

“Among the initiates (at Mississippi College) was the loyal Richard K. Boney ’77, who became a maker of Sigma Chi history in the Virginia Chapters, Zeta (Washington & Lee University) and Psi (University of Virginia), to which he afterward successively belonged.”

 

After graduating from law school Richard K. Boney practiced a few years in Madison parish, and then moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he practiced for four years until 1890, when he moved to the new town of South Bend, Washington, where he practiced law and represented the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1896 he married Miss Rena Belle Cox (1866-1941) of Clinton, MS – daughter of Owen B. Cox (1811-1886) and Belle Hamilton Cox (1823-1900) and sister of Owen W. Cox (1858-1924) with whom he exchanged several letters while at V.M.I. Owen B. Cox was a business partner of Jefferson Davis and his brother during the Civil war, and kept the Davis papers in the attic of his home in Clinton until they were stolen or burned by the Yankees in 1863.

 

In 1880, when she was 14 years old, and he was 22 and had just graduated from Law School, Richard K. Boney wrote this in Rena Belle Cox’s autograph book. They were married 16 years later. While he signed it “your cousin”, they were not really cousins, although they did share first cousins.

 

About 1900, Greene L. Boney's health began to fail and he prevailed upon his son to return to Louisiana and take over his considerable acreage. This he did and became one of Madison Parish’s most progressive planters. He was well known as having the first dipping vat, the first silo and the first tractor (which never seemed to work) for plowing in this part of the country and at one time ran for the office of Louisiana State Commissioner of Agriculture, coming in second. At one time or other he was president of the Southern Cattleman’s Association; served on both the Madison Parish & Louisiana State Boards of Education; was a member of the Levee Board & a 32nd degree Mason. “Dick” Boney was devoted naturalist, and his observations as an ornithologist have been published in several bird books.

 

Richard K. Boney and his tractor -- the first in Madison Parish

 

In 1922, because of his advanced ideas, the erosive activity of the Mississippi River and the influx of the boll weevil, he sold all of his property and moved to Tallulah, the Parish Seat, where he practiced law until his death in February 1937. Today practically all of the former Duckport Plantation, including the home site, is either across (on the east side) of the River, under the River or on the River side of the levee system.

 

Dusting Cotton by Hand on Duckport, Plantation, early 1920's

Richard K. Boney at his law office in Tallulah -- 1925

 

Richard K. and Rena Cox Boney had seven children, three of whom were stillborn. The eldest, Renabel Martha Boney (1897-1970) married the Reverend David E. Holt (1897-1970), an Episcopal minister whose grandfather’s diary[4] was published by the LSU Press in 1995. Their only son, Owen Hamilton Boney (1900-1940), -- an executive with Standard Oil (NJ) (now Exxon) – married Florence Fortner (1905-1993) of Vicksburg and died at Ancon, Panama Canal Zone. A daughter, Dorothy Lewis Boney (1902-1913) died of spinal meningitis at the age of 11. Their youngest child, Martha Fontaine Boney (1904-1983), married William P. Sevier, Jr. (1899-1985) in 1927. Mr. Sevier, longtime Mayor of Tallulah, at one time had held public office in Louisiana longer than any other person.

 

The only three remaining Boney children and their spouses. Shown at the Tallulah home about 1939

 

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[1] Nate, Joseph Cookman. History of Sigma Chi Fraternity 1855-1930, Evanston, Illinois: Sigma Chi Fraternity. 1930. pp. 347-349

[2] Of course he actually entered in 1874.

[3] Collett, Edward M. The Centennial History of Sigma Chi Fraternity 1855-1955. Evanston, Illinois: Sigma Chi Fraternity. 1955. pp. 112-113.

[4] Cockrell, Thomas D. & Ballard, Michael B. A Mississippi Rebel in the Army of Northern Virginia – The Civil War Memoirs of Private David Holt. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: LSU Press. 1995.