William Boylan, a journalist and planter, was born in 1777 in Somerset County, New Jersey, the son of John and Elizabeth Boylan. In 1796 he moved to Fayetteville to enter the newspaper printing business with his uncle, Abraham Hodge, the publisher of the North Carolina Minerva and the Fayetteville Advertiser. Three years later he moved to Raleigh, where he began printing tracts for the Federalist Party. In 1803 he began publishing the newspaper Minerva which continued in press until 1820, although Boylan sold his interests in the paper in 1810.
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Political change brought the Republicans to power in Raleigh, as well as a rival newspaper, the Raleigh Register, published by Joseph Gales. Heated political debates spilled out into the streets, as Boylan fought Gales in a street brawl for which he was fined $100. Despite their battles, the men eventually served amicably on a number of statewide committees.
Boylan served one term as state councilor in 1806 and four terms as a Federalist representative to the General Assembly from Wake County, 1813-1816. He was a close friend of both William Polk and John Steele and a strong supporter of Hamiltonian policy. Boylan strongly disagreed with the War of 1812, and unsuccessfully attempted to develop a Peace party in North Carolina.
In 1815, Boylan was appointed to a house committee for studying inland navigation, an idea initiated by Archibald D. Murphey. He aided in a survey of the Cape Fear River, and in developing a proposal for a canal linking the Cape Fear and Yadkin Rivers. From 1820 to 1828, Boylan served as the second president of the State Bank of North Carolina. Boylan also served as president of the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, chartered in 1835 and completed in 1840.
Boylan married Elizabeth Stokes McCulloch in the early 1800s, and made his home in the former residence of Joel Lane. In addition to his town home, Boylan also owned three plantations in Wake County. Following the death of his first wife, Boylan married Jane Elliott. He had a total of eleven children and died in 1861.
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
S. M. Lemmon, Frustrated Patriots: North Carolina and the War of 1812 (1973)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 205—sketch by Sarah M. Lemmon
Hope S. Chamberlain, History of Wake County (1922)