Rebecca Boyd

The 1853 Cincinnati City Directory, at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives, lists a “Mrs. Rebekah Boyd, b. h. [boarding house], 27 e. 4th,” who could be the woman for whom Henrietta Wood worked and who then entrapped her. (There is also a “John Gilbert,” mentioned in some news stories as her collaborator, listed in the directory as a laborer at 508 w. 4th., or perhaps as a carpenter boarding at 302 w. 5th., or a John and Abram Gilbert, blacksmiths, at 240 w. 7th.)

Williams’ 1848-49 directory lists her in its section on boarding houses. The 1851-1852 City Directory, also at Cincinnati History Library and Archives, lists a “Mrs. Rebecca Boyd, 146 w. 5th.”

See Wood’s 1876 narrative for detailed memories of how Boyd tricked Wood, as well as their relationship during the three months Wood worked for her:

I next went to work for Mrs. Boyd, who was the first to treat me real mean since I got free. Mrs. Boyd was the wife of a dentist, but she kept a boarding house for steamboatmen on Fourth street, between Main and Sycamore, and not far from where the St. James is now I worked for her three months, and she never paid me a cent, although she promised to do so all the time.

An article in the Pittsburgh Legal Journal, published on June 18, 1853, reported that Boyd was examined in Cincinnati “on Tuesday, on the charge of abducting a yellow girl, named Henrietta Woods, and leaving her in Kentucky with a view of selling her.” Boyd’s cook, a white girl named Ellen Hamilton, testified that Boyd “took Henrietta in a carriage, saying they were going to Kentucky, (Covington) to get a good bill of one hundred dollars for a bad one she had taken there. Gilbert, a colored man, drove the carriage. The curtains of the carriage were ordered to be buttoned down all around.” They left around 3 p.m., and returned at 7:30 without Wood. The remainder of the article is somewhat confused, but confirms key elements of Wood’s account, including the covered windows and the existence of free papers.1

Mrs. Boyd said to Gilbert, “Henrietta did not resist, did she?” Mrs. B. said to me, “Well, Henrietta is gone at last; two men took her from us as soon as we got over.” Mrs. B. called Gilbert to witness that Henrietta did not resist. Mrs. Sarah Spears testified that Mrs. Boyd told her about her going to Kentucky and losing Henrietta. She said two men rode up, and when the carriage would not stop at their command, the reins were seized. One of the men took Henrietta and she did not resist. I found Scott there, who had forced his way into the room occupied by Henrietta for the purpose of finding the free papers. We all searched for the papers. I found them in a box. In the presence of Hughes I handed them to Scott. Mrs. B. said one of the men was a dusky one, and she could harly [sic] tell whether he was a white or black man. (These free papers spoken of show Henrietta Wood to have been manumitted by Jane M. Cirode, of Ky., on the 15th of April, 1848.) The magistrate held the parties to bail, Mrs. Boyd in $1000 and Gilbert, the colored man, in $500. Mrs. B. produced the bail, and the driver was sent to jail—both to await trial.2

This article apparently reproduces a report in the Cincinnati Enquirer which also listed the names of the attorneys in the case: John Jolliffe, Piatt, and Stewart for the State, and Ketchum and Pugh for the defense.3

See also Cincinnati Gazette for reports of the criminal case involving Boyd and Gilbert.4

  1. Hamilton may have been a black woman who lived in Ward 9 in 1850, very close to Sarah Speers, though white Ellen Hamiltons of the right age also appear in 1860 and 1870 censuses.

  2. “Kidnapping Case,” Pittsburgh Legal Journal, June 18, 1853. Sarah Spears might be the Sarah Speers, a Virginia-born mulatto woman, who appears in the 1850 census married to a porter.

  3. “The Kidnapping Case,” Cincinnati Enquirer, June 8, 1853. See also “Criminal Court–Before Judge Flinn,” Cincinnati Enquirer, December 14, 1853, p. 3, available on, which reports that the court cited Prigg vs. Pennsylvania to dismiss the charge that the defendants had attempted to carry a slave out of a state without establishing their ownership.

  4. Their arrest was also reported in “Correction,” Louisville Daily Courier, June 8, 1853, p. 3, available on