The Town of Boyce is situated on Red River sixteen miles West of Alexandria, Louisiana.
Historically, it was one of the oldest settlements in the western part of Rapides Parish. The first explorers who entered Rapides Parish and stopped on their way up Red River were be-friended by various Indian tribes who made their homes in the fertile valleys along the rivers and bayous or in the Pine Hills. The names of the earliest tribes who lived in this section of Louisiana cannot be given with any degree of certainty. Among the small tribes or units who came to this section were the Appalachi, Pascagoulas, Tensas, Biloxi, Alabami, and Choctaws. The Biloxi Indians were established in the vicinity of what is now Boyce.
Traders and trappers started making small settlements along the river and bayous shortly after the French explorations. They stopped along the Red River, and then branched out along the bayous and smaller stream. Life in Central Louisiana was that of the frontier when Spain was given the territory in 1766. Hunting, trapping and trading were the chief occupations in this area throughout the eighteenth century. The traders exchanged furs, hides, pelts, dressed deer skin, and bear oil for goods imported through New Orleans. These things were exported to France or Spain.
The original French and Spanish settlers soon were in a minority and their identity was lost. As a result of the liberal policy of Governor Corondelet towards immigration of English speaking people from the American Colonies, a number of people moved into this section of Louisiana and settled in small groups. The Marylanders settled on the lower end or at the Rapides or Jean de Jean, near the present Town of Boyce. Then known as Cotile Landing, this settlement became a major stop for steamboats on the river. In the Eighteenth Century keel boats and canoes traveled the Red River, Bayou Rapides and Bayou Jean de Jean. The first steamboat to navigate the Red River was captained by Henry Shreve. He had gone as far as Natchitoches by 1815, but river traffic did not become substantial until 1831 when Congress appropriated money for the removal of a raft of logs and debris called “The Great Raft” from the river. The first steamboat built especially for Red River trade was the “Brian Bonhomme.” It began operation with Captain Edwards as its master in 1837. It was the first of many steamboats that operated on the river for almost three-quarters of a century, but the steamboat traffic began to diminish shortly after the Twentieth Century began.
During the Civil War when General Banks had made a second raid up Red River, the Second Louisiana Cavalry under the command of Colonel Vincent camped at Henderson Hill, near the present Town of Boyce. They were careless and did not post pickets at night. General Mower, learning of the location, sent out a detachment at night and completely surrounded their camp. The entire command was captured without a shot being fired. The Colonel escaped but left in the hands of the enemy some two hundred and fifty men with their horses and the better part of General Taylor’s light artillery.
At the same time that Alexandria was destroyed by fire during the Civil War by the Union Forces in 1869, the plantation home of Judge Boyce, near the present Town of Boyce, was destroyed by fire as well as many others. In each of these instances the homes was robbed and then burned. Practically every gin, sugar house and factory of any kind in the parish on the line of march of the Union Army were burned.
The name of Cotile Landing was changed to Boyce in 1880 when the Texas and Pacific Railroad pushed its tracks through and made Boyce its terminal point. The first post office was established in the home of F.M. Amsden four miles up Cotile Bayou, but in 1883 it was moved to Cotile Landing. When the railroad was built through the town, the name was changed to Boyce subsequently the postal authorities gave the office the same name, though against the wishes of a majority of the old residents of the town. The name was justified by the fact that Henry Boyce owned the land on which the town was located. In 1882 Henry Boyce being of Irish descent gave all of the streets Irish names as can be seen from the official map of the Town of Boyce. Boyce was incorporated in 1887 and the first meeting of Council under the Charter occurred on May 7, 1887.
Boyce was a small active town until 1926 when the Texas and Pacific Railroad moved its terminal from Boyce to Alexandria. The town suffered a setback both from the standpoint of income and population. The set back is clearly indicated by the U.S. census Bureau Statistics showing the town as having a population of 1060 in 1920 and 732 in 1940. Indications seemed to be that Boyce was once again back on her feet with an estimated population by the State Treasury Report in 1989. However, with the moving of the Red River Bridge from in town to the south side, outside town limits, and the construction of I-49 around the town, Boyce may again suffer an economic set back.
From a very early date education has been uppermost in the minds of people in and around Boyce. In the early days there were a number of private schools conducted which were made possible through the kindness and civic pride of citizens. In 1894-1895 a public school was organized in Boyce and operated for its first full term. This school opened on September 4, 1894, for a term of four months. An election was held September 4, 1909, for the purpose of voting especially tax for the erection of a high school in the Town of Boyce. Since the election was successful the Mayor was authorized to enter into a contract with the Board of School Directors for the erection of a High School. Based on information from the State Department the Boyce High School was established in 1910-1911. Prior to 1955 black students from the Town of Boyce attended high school in Grant Parish across the Red river. In 1955, an educational center constructed on land donated by the A. Wettermark Family was opened for K-12. Boyce High School and A. Wettermark High school were combined in 1974 to become Boyce Elementary School (k-8) and A. Wettermark High School (9-12). An election was held in Ward 7 for the purpose of voting a special bond issue for the erection of a combination elementary and high school to be located three miles North of Boyce on Highway One. Northwood High school opened for its first full term in September, 1988, and is one of the best school plants in Rapides Parish at this time.
The Town of Boyce owned, operated and maintained its own electric utility system until 1960. Due to the increase in population and installation of numerous electrical appliances the plant was insufficient to supply the needs of the people: therefore a special election was called for the purpose of purchasing electrical energy from the Central Louisiana Electric Company. The people approved this measure and town is operating on the same basis at the present time. All the distribution system in the corporate limits is owned and maintained by the Town of Boyce.
The Town owns its own water system which supplies customers within the corporate limits; however, the gas system owned by the Town services a portion of the surrounding area. The most recent major improvements were the installation of the new Sewer System, the black-topping and /or paving of all streets, the incorporation of Wettermark Place and Boyce Gardens, two public housing projects on the south side of Boyce operated by the Rapides Parish Housing Authority, and the successful completion of two HUD Grants to improve or demolish dilapidated houses in Boyce.
Hot Wells Resort, one of the nature’s most generous gifts to mankind, was located approximately five miles from Boyce. Its magic water was discovered by accident in the early 1900’s when an oil well was being drilled in that area. Visitors from every state in the union and even from foreign countries have taken advantage of its curative value. The spa flourished in the twenties, but closed down because of mechanical trouble a few years later. The well was brought in again in 1945 and the State Legislature appropriated sums of money of the expansion of facilities at Hot Wells. The facility is once again closed.