Fiddling Ghost of Boynton Island - Washington County, Florida
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Fiddling Ghost of Boynton Island, Florida
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Fiddling Ghost of Boynton Island, Florida
Even during the daylight, Boynton Island is a dark and mysterious place. Cypress trees and
other hardwoods cast long shadows over the swamplands. This is one of the supposed
haunts of the legendary Northwest Florida and South Alabama monster Two-Toed Tom. It
also is near the spot where researchers from Auburn University recently announced the
probable discovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, long thought to be extinct.

The island itself, in fact, was formed by an anomaly of nature. Holmes Creek, flowing down
from the northeast, enters the Choctawhatchee River at the foot of the island. Because the
Choctawhatchee flows with a higher volume than Holmes Creek, it deposits much more
sediment as it makes its way down from the red clay hills of Alabama to the Gulf of Mexico. As
a result, the water of the Choctawhatchee runs at a higher elevation than that of the creek.
Since water has a way of flowing downhill, a natural cut formed between the two streams as
the Choctawhatchee River forced its way through solid earth to unite with Holmes Creek. The
resulting piece of land, formed by the natural cut on the north and the confluence of the two
streams on the south, is Boynton Island.

This unique anomaly of nature is the setting for a unique Northwest Florida ghost story.
Boynton Island is said to be haunted by the "fiddling ghost" of an early settler named Mose
Boynton and an assembly of spectral dancers.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, most such stories have a foundation in true history. A
study of the available documentation indicates that the name Boynton has been associated
with the area around the confluence of Holmes Creek and the Choctawhatchee River since
before the Civil War. Confederate enlistment papers show that many Florida men joined the
Southern army at Boynton Bluff.

Records indicate, in fact, that the name "Boynton" may actually be a corruption of the names
"Boyington" or "Bowington." Two settlers with these names showed up on the 1850 and 1860
census reports for Washington County.

According to the1850 census, Haywood Boyington was a 23-year old man from Alabama who
headed a family consisting of his wife,  two young daughters and a 17-year old woman who
may have been his sister. He was no longer still living with the family in 1860, when another
member of his family was shown as heading the household.

The 1860 records also show the presence in Washington County of the man who appears to
be the focus of the Boynton Island ghost legend. Moses Bowington, who also listed his birth-
place as Alabama, appeared on the 1860 census as the head of a household in the Boynton
Island area.

Three years later, this same individual (now called Moses Boynton) entered the Confederate
service at the Cowford, an early crossing point on the Choctawhatchee River south of Boynton
Island. He served only a few months in Company C, 11th Florida Infantry, however, before he
was dropped from the rolls. The records of the regiment are silent as to the reason for his
departure from the army.

What is known, however, is that not long after he left the service, a large band of Confederate
deserters and Southern Unionists began hiding on Boynton Island. Headed by an outlaw
named Jim Ward, these "raiders" used the island as a base for attacks on civilian farms and
communities throughout the area. On September 3, 1863, Ward and his men attacked the
town of Elba, Alabama where they burned the courthouse and destroyed a bridge before
being driven off by the local militia. Four citizens were killed in the raid.

What relationship Boynton maintained with these men is not known, but their near proximity to
his home indicates that at the least he had some kind of truce with them. Years after the war,
local residents claimed that the island was the hiding place to which Ward would sometimes
disappear to retrieve gold coins from his buried loot. Such stories, of course, along with the
raids and activities of Ward's men, added to the mystery surrounding Boynton Island.

After the war, a sawmill industry developed at Choctawhatchee Bay and Moses and his son,
Raymond, engaged in felling cypress timber to float downstream to the mills. They branded
their name, “Boyington,” on one end of each log before floating them downstream to the mills.

Moses was known by others along the river as a man who enjoyed a good time. He played
the fiddle and was said to be one of the best dance callers in the region. At night, the large
Boyington home was often brightly illuminated. Friends, family and neighbors gathered there
for food and dancing, often joined by the men from the logging camps up and down the river.
These activities were well known along the Choctawhatchee and the sounds of the parties
and music could often be heard for miles through the swamps surrounding Boynton Island.

After Moses passed away, his old log and frame house was abandoned, or was it? Loggers
camping at nearby Boynton Landing soon began to spread word that strange noises could be
heard from the Boyington house late in the night. Lights were seen in the swamp and
someone could be heard calling dances over the sound of a fiddle. News quickly spread that
the ghost of old Moses Boyington had come back from the dead, along with a whole troop of
dancing spirits.

For as long as the old house stood, locals avoided the area after dark. Tales of Moses
Boyington and his dancing guests became legendary in the area. The dark and foreboding
setting of the island added mysterious appeal to the story, especially as the old house slowly
collapsed beneath shrouds of Spanish moss and the shadows or cypress trees. There is
some disagreement as to whether the house finally collapsed on its own or burned in a fire,
but either way it is gone now. The heavy timbering along the river came to an end as well. The
story slowly faded, but no one can really say whether this is because the “fiddling ghost” of
Moses Boyington stopped playing or simply because there was no longer anyone there to
hear the music.
(This story is excerpted from the book Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories,
Legends and Unusual Facts by Dale Cox).
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