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   The Legacy of Nathaniel Brittan Boileau

Nathaniel B. Boileau, the son of Isaac and Rachel Brittan Boileau, was born in 1763 on a farm of eighty acres about two miles northeast of Hatboro. He first attended a small stone one-story school house on the north side of Byberry Road in 1768. He graduated from Princeton in 1789 at the age of twenty-five. He married Hester Leech on June 3, 1795 and they had one son, Thomas Leech Boileau who was baptized at Abington Presbyterian Church on June 26, 1796. Thomas also attended Princeton in the class of 1815, but never graduated.

In 1796, at age thirty-three, he purchased a farm and twenty acres in Bucks County from his father. He later sold the farm and purchased 200 acres of land on the south side of Hatboro belonging to Judge W. H. Yerkes and the Bates Family.

Little is known about Nathaniel Boileau from his college graduation until his entry into politics in 1797. He was a friend of John Fitch and took an interest in his efforts to power a boat by steam. When completed the machinery was made of brass, the paddle wheels made of wood by Boileau, then a student at Princeton.

Boileau was considered an ingenious man accustomed to the use of tools. It is presumed he divided his time between farming and studies in preparation for an active public life. Public documents and political papers written by him attest to his being conversant with the writings of the political fathers of the country.

He divided his farm on York Road in 1801 and built a large stone home, now occupied by the Hatboro YMCA. Boileau quarried the stone for the house himself and dug the cellar by hand.

He was elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1797 and was an active Republican. He served in the State Legislature from 1798 to 1801; from 1803 to 1804, during which term he served as Paymaster of the County Volunteer Militia; and again from 1806 to 1808. He was appointed Speaker of the Commonwealth in 1808.

In 1806, he moved a committee to urge Thomas Jefferson to run for a third term as President. During this same year, a Democrat-Republican Association was formed with Nathaniel Boileau as its President.

In 1807, he framed the law for the establishment of the Montgomery County Poor-House. He also had a bill passed to raise funds to build an English School in Sumneytown. He was, at the time, Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means.

Previous to the War of 1812 with England, he was appointed Chairman of a committee to confer with other meetings and bodies to bring public sentiment up to a point of resistance against the arbitrary actions of England. On February 13, 1807, he offered a resolution to appoint a committee to inquire into the repeal of an Act of assembly passed in 1777 making common law of England the law of Pennsylvania.

In 1808, he moved that Senators and Representatives be instructed to support a bill for opening water navigation by canal between the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers.

On December 20, 1808, Governor Simon Snyder appointed Boileau Secretary of the Commonwealth to which office he was reappointed in 1811 and again in 1814.

In the October of 1809, Colonel or Judge Robert Loller, an eminent and wealthy neighbor of Boileau, died, leaving the bulk of his estate to build and endow Loller Academy.  He had made a will, dated June 4th of that year, in which after leaving small legacies to his brothers, sister and several nieces and nephews, twenty pounds were directed to be paid for the use of a room for the Hatboro' Library, fifty pounds to the Norristown Academy; the remainder of his estate he bequeathed "unto N. B. Boileau, his heirs, assigns, etc., forever in trust for the only use, intent and purpose o erect a suitable building for an academy or seminary of learning, which shall be called by my name, either on my own land or elsewhere, provided the same be within one mile of the centre of Hatboro', and on such place as he may think most suitable, and after defraying the expenses of erecting the said building, direct the residue of the incomes and profits of my estate, real and personal, for the purpose of keeping up said building in repair and paying the salaries of such teacher or teachers as the trustees of said institution may from time to time employ, and for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever, and in order that the said bequest herein before made for the purpose of establishing the said academy or seminary of learning, may be secured and perpetuated, and for that purpose forever, I will order it to be incorporated as soon as convenient, and hereby nominate, constitute and appoint N. B. Boileau executor of this, my last will and testament, hereby giving and granting unto him full power and authority to execute the same." Nathaniel Boileau was the sole Executor and oversaw the construction of the Academy during the years 1811 and 1812.

Due chiefly to the efforts of Boileau, the Hatboro Post Office was established in 1809.

When the War of 1812 broke out, he assumed, in addition to his duties as Secretary of the Commonwealth, the position of Aide to the Governor and was given the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. There being no appropriations to fully equip the militia troops, he made advances from his private resources. In fact, he mortgaged his property to procure blankets for the soldiers, which was never repaid. Most officials during the war, moved their families to Lancaster or Harrisburg for safety. The Boileau family remained in Hatboro. The last military appointment he filled was that of Acting Adjutant-General from 1816 to 1817.

In 1817 he ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Pennsylvania. This was his last appearance in politics.

Governor Joseph Ritner appointed him Register of Wills in January of 1836, a position he held for three years. This was his last public office.

The following is excerpted from Bean’s History of Montgomery County:

“In sterling integrity, patriotic aims, ingrain Republican principles and unselfish benevolence, Mr. Boileau has had few, if any superiors in our County.”

As one of his closest friends attested: “He was very benevolent. The indigent never went away from his door empty-handed; he gave to the poor as long as he had anything to give. He worked on the farm in haying and harvesting till past middle life. He was very industrious and never idle; was very handy with tools for working in wood; made nearly all his farm implements, even wagons, carts, plows, harrows, etc. He was the most capable and trusty business man of the time to settle estates, act on arbitration’s and the like.”

Although he was born rich, married two wealthy wives, was industrious, honest, frugal and patriotic, Nathaniel Boileau died in poverty on March 16, 1850.


Chronology of Ownership


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