BOYER – Young Clergyman Falls From Grace

Rev Francis Buckner Boyer_Caricature

The Rev. Francis Buckner Boyer, from the book “Just For Fun”.


He looked so jaunty in his fashionable car.

In 1909, the Rev. Francis Buckner Boyer was on top of the world — young, well-spoken, appeared in The New York Times. Plus, he came to New Bedford’s St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. Life was good.

In May 1907, Francis became engaged to Catherine Elizabeth Gardner. At the time, he was an assistant at Boston’s exclusive Church of the Advent. She was the favorite niece of Isabella Stewart Gardner. Catherine had come out at Boston’s Somerset Club, and Aunt Isabella had given two dances for her at Fenway Court.

Catherine and Francis had met at the Church of the Advent, and the Boston Herald announced it had been “love at first sight.”

The Herald also noted, “Miss Gardner drives her own car. She is a great student and fond of intellectual pursuits, having passed the preliminary examinations for the Institute of Technology.”

On June 29, a year later, Catherine and Francis were married. The Boston Herald noted, “The bride wore “a Worth gown of white gauze linen over satin embroidered over silver.” A 30-person choir from the Church of the Advent sang.

In New Bedford, they were a perfect family with a baby daughter, Esther, and the Rev. Boyer was a public figure. On May 18, 1913, he made The New York Times after he attended a boxing match. He loved boxing and insisted he kept it out of the church.

He told the paper, “There is never any fight talk, never any mention of politics at the services in St. Martin’s Church.”

Meanwhile, other ministers in New Bedford were on a rampage against boxing, “white slavery and gambling.”

When World War I began, Boyer joined the American Ambulance Corp and left the church for the Red Cross work.

After the war, Francis Boyer ruined his life with an affair with Bernice Boucher, a young, married Bostonian.

On Jan. 20, 1922, Bernice took 25 “poison pills.” The New York Times reported the story Jan. 30.

Boyer told the police, “I went to Mrs. Boucher’s apartment on Friday. I was troubled by my conscience. I said, ‘Bernice this can’t continue. It has gone far enough. I am a married man.’ There was a brief but very stormy scene; I left in the middle of it. I’m afraid that is why she took the poison.”

Initially Catherine supported him saying, “The whole affair is unfortunate. This young woman’s death and my husband’s part in it are both very tragic.”

She went on to say that “I knew of their relationship several weeks ago. It was because of my knowledge that Mr. Boyer determined to break off this affair. Nevertheless I shall stand by my husband and forgive him in spite of the girl’s unfortunate death.”

Catherine quickly changed her mind. In June 1922, she divorced Boyer. She took back her Gardner name, which she also gave to their daughter, Esther, thus erasing Boyer from her life.

On Aug. 10, 1922, the Episcopal Church disposed of Boyer who had long since left St. Martin’s. The Boston Inquirer reported, “The unfrocking followed divorce and the divorce followed death in the series of mishaps, which struck the handsome churchman … It was pointed out that Boyer because of his relation with Mrs. Boucher, violated one of the sacred canons of the church.”

The tragedy turned into farce. On Jan. 25, 1923, Boyer married a woman named Lucille Macomber. By Nov. 24, the Boston Herald reported “Wife No. 2 Now Seeks Annulment.” Earlier both had appeared in Roxbury Court with Lucille accusing Boyer of polygamy and he, in turn, accusing her of misconduct. The charges were dismissed.

Francis Boyer fell back on what he knew. He became an automobile dealer in Roslindale, Massachusetts. He died at 49 on July 4, 1929.

There are no obituaries. His death turned up in a Boyer Family Genealogy.

At some point along the way, Isabella Stewart Gardner had given St. Martin’s a set of altar clothes. According to the church they were lost years ago — just as lost as sad Francis B. Boyer.

Reprint From:  SouthCoast Today  Feb 14, 2016
By Peggi Medeiros: The sad life of Francis B. Boyer
The Rev. Francis Buckner Boyer, from the book “Just For Fun.”
© Copyright 2016 Local Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Original content available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license, except where noted.