Idaho History: Judson Boyakin, a gifted pioneer editor in Boise

IDAHO HISTORY

SPECIAL TO THE STATESMANJune 29, 2014 

Thomas Donaldson, in a section of his memoirs titled "Notable Characters of Southern Idaho" wrote, "(James) Reynolds' assistant on the Statesman, an assistant who was foreman, manager, assistant editor and all, was Judson Boyakin, or, as we knew him, 'Jud.' No more manly, no quainter fellow ever breathed than he.

"Boyakin was as fierce a Democrat as Reynolds was a Republican, and the arguments the two had over editorials for the Statesman surpassed anything ever heard in Boise. People who chanced to pass the thinly boarded walls of the office must have thought that a debating society, or a real battle was in action. The discussions were always mixed with humorous sallies and bright wit. It was Boyakin who placed in the Statesman the advertisement which read: 'STOLEN - from this office. A revolver. The person returning it will be given its contents and no questions asked.'"

In 1869, when a change of ownership made the Statesman into a Democratic paper, the Idaho World commented, "Of Jud Boyakin we can say, he is a printer we have known for about ten years, and as a typographer, sound Democrat, good man, and true friend, stands high in the estimation of all of his very many friends."

When Boyakin was nominated for the position of Justice of the Peace in May, 1870, the World played with printer's jargon to describe how Jud might handle the position: "Jud will make a good officer - and although we have no GALLEYS to send criminals to, he can follow the RULE and LOCK them up in legal FORM."

In May 1872, the Statesman noted that it had received the first number of a paper called "The Idaho Standard," one of a number of Democratic papers that Boyakin would own and edit over the years.

In June 1875, Boyakin's first wife, Henrietta, died of typhoid fever, leaving him with two small children; second wife Ida bore him five boys and a girl. Two of the boys would become printers, like their father.

On Feb. 20, 1885, an arsonist set fire to Boyakin's Idaho Democrat printing office. That same night burglars broke into the office of the Republican paper and carried off the complete issue of the paper that had just been printed and awaited distribution. An "indignation meeting," held later that day, with John Hailey as chairman, passed this resolution: "In the persons of A.J. Boyakin and Daniel Bacon, editors of the Idaho Democrat and Boise City Republican, respectively, we recognize law-abiding and honorable men and honest and fearless journalists." Jud Boyakin would continue to publish the Democrat into the 1890s.

When he died on March 28, 1899, the Statesman printed this tribute from his old friend Frank R. Coffin, suggesting for the first time in print that Boyakin may have been an alcoholic: "Under that rough exterior was a heart as tender and true as ever beat in human breast. And a mind so brilliant, but for his terrible weakness that he heroically struggled to overcome, it would have placed him among the great and useful men of his time."

His monument in Pioneer cemetery is inscribed "Erected by His Friends." Jud Boyakin had a gift for making them.

Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email histnart@mindspring.com.

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