Thursday, October 1, 2015

Who Was Samuel Boush?

By Joseph Miechle
Hampton Roads Naval Museum Educator

As you make your way to the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Downtown Norfolk, you are likely to cross Boush Street at some point.  As you take in some of the city's other attractions and sights along the way, you might ask yourself, “Why is this street named Boush Street and who was that guy anyway?"

McCullough's Docks, 1902.  At the end of City Hall Avenue, present-day Boush Street is located approximately where the bridge in the center of the photograph crosses the water. (Image from the Chrysler Museum of Art exhibit Crossroads: Transportation in Norfolk)
Much of what we now know as Norfolk was deliberately planned out from the very beginning. Originally “Old Norfolk” consisted of eight distinct parts, one of which was purchased by Mr. Samuel Boush, a prominent citizen of Norfolk who contributed significantly to the city's early development.

Norfolk's historic 1739 Borough Church as it appeared after it was renovated, equipped with a wooden cupola and renamed St. Paul's Episcopal Church in 1832.  To the left are the Cumberland Street Methodist and Baptist churches. The spire over the latter is that of the Old Christ Church on Freemason Street. (Print by John Childs after a drawing by J.L. Meyer.  St. Paul’s Church of Norfolk by The Altar Guild of St. Paul’s Church. Norfolk, Virginia, 1934)
Boush donated land in the southeast portion of his tract for the use of St. Paul’s Church. He was appointed Norfolk’s first mayor by King George II in 1736. He also contributed the bricks for St. Paul’s construction.  He would not make an impact as mayor or see the church construction finished, however, as he died only months after becoming mayor in November 1736. The westernmost street, as laid out in his parcel of land, still bears his family name.

Originally, Boush Street ran roughly north to south ending at Bute Street to the north and Town Back Creek to the south. Town Back Creek (or just Back Creek) originally ran west to east along roughly what is now City Hall Avenue. The photograph from the early 1900s shows the Boush Street bridge crossing what would later become City Hall Avenue.  Boush Street currently extends south to Town Point Park and the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.  From there it turns east and its name changes to Waterside Drive.  It also extends north to Virginia Beach Boulevard, where the road continues north but changes names to Llewellyn Avenue.

Prior to expanding to its current boundaries, the City of Norfolk  was surrounded by other smaller boroughs. Samuel Boush also owned land north and east of the 1700’s Norfolk city boundaries. This area also bore a street with the Boush name, however it was renamed after the annex, so as to not be confused with the current Boush Street.

The unpublished Nimmo Map, appx. 1800 copy of 1762 map. (Courtesy of Slover Library SMC Collection, Norfolk Public Library)
The map shown above is an early copy of an original drawn by Gershom Nimmo in 1762. When Samuel Boush died in 1736, his will gave the land to his grandson, also named Samuel Boush.  The grandson had the map commissioned with detailed measurements and lot numbers.  St. Paul’s churchyard is seen in the southeast corner.  It may be difficult to place the map into modern context but currently MacArthur Mall occupies the majority of the land on the Nimmo map between Brewer Street to Cumberland Street and Freemason Street to Sycamore Street.
Photo of assumed Samuel Boush burial site at St. Paul’s Church, Norfolk, VA. (Photo by HRNM Educator Elijah Palmer)
While it is known that the first Samuel Boush is buried in the church yard at St. Paul's church, the exact location is currently not known. What is known is was summed up by Bishop Meade in his 1857 book, Old Churches of Virginia, which refers to the “[Samuel Boush] tombstone at the door of the church."  Could the photograph above be the final resting place of Samuel Boush? The church hopes to find definitive proof through archaeological research in the future.
Special thanks to City Historian Peggy Haile McPhillips and archivist Troy Valos of the Norfolk Public Library. 

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