Charles Boyington was a printer who moved from Connecticut to Mobile, Alabama in 1833. He obtained residence in a local boarding house and soon became friends with a man named Nathaniel Frost. Frost was also a printer who suffered from tuberculosis and bouts of melancholy. The two men would walk to the nearby Church Street cemetery to sit, talk and read poems.
Boyington received an invitation to a ball to be held at the Alabama Hotel. He spent most of his savings on clothes to be worn that night. After arriving, he became infatuated with a young woman named Rose. She was well liked by the gentlemen but Boyington managed to obtain a dance with her. They fell in love. He attended mass each morning at the Catholic Church she attended. A staff member who worked for her father named Lydia would pass notes between them during the service.
While Rose was very much in love with Boyington, her father did not see him as husband material for his daughter. He believed Boyington did not have the money to provide for Rose properly and made it difficult for the two to see one another.
Boyington stopped attending social events to spend hours composing poetry for his beloved. He daydreamed of her so much it cost him his printing job in 1834. He searched for another job but no one was looking to hire a printer, especially one who was known for poor work. No work meant no money. No money meant Rose’s father would never give permission for the couple to be married.
His friend Nathaniel had sympathy for Boyington and offered to pay for his room, board and other expenses until he could obtain employment again. Instead of being grateful, he was humiliated by the offer but learned Frost had money stashed in a chest in his room. Frost relayed to his friend about his wood carving skills. Boyington wanted a heart carved from wood for his sweetheart Rose. Frost offered to teach him how to carve at their usually spot in the cemetery.
Later that day, Boyington returned and handed a package to the owner of the boarding house to be delivered to Rose. He assured her Frost wanted to spend extra time in the cemetery to explain why he hadn’t returned with Boyington. That night, he boarded the James Monroe, which sailed out of Mobile on its way to Montgomery.
The boarding house owner became concerned when she discovered Frost was not in his room the next morning. She notified the Sheriff who found his body in the cemetery. He had been stabbed multiple times. His carving knife was nowhere to be found. There were no other leads. Folks knew Frost spent time with Boyington often in that cemetery. All the circumstantial evidence pointed to Boyington. On May 12, 1834, the town paper printed an article by the mayor, John Stocking, Jr., noting that Charles Boyington was suspected of murdering Nathaniel Frost. A reward of $250 was offered for his capture.
The article was printed on Monday and Boyington’s whereabouts were discovered on the James Monroe by Thursday. He was handcuffed and brought back to the Mobile jail. He proclaimed his innocence until the very end. His trial was in November of 1834. It was short and the jury found him guilty. His sentence was to hang in February of 1835. On the day he was to be put to death, he proclaimed that a great oak would grow from his grave to as a sign of his innocence.
An oak did indeed grow over his grave in Potter’s field, months after he was laid to rest and still stands today outside of the walls of the Church Street Graveyard on the edge of a parking lot. His headstone has since been removed. The tree is believed to be haunted. They say when the wind blows through the tree’s branches you can hear Charles Boyington voice still proclaiming his innocence. Other strange noises have been heard from around the tree. People have found anomalies in photos they took of the tree. Some have even felt cold chills near the tree on hot summer days.
For more information: Mobile's Boyington Oak