After almost a decade of watching over and taking care of the county’s history, Calvert County Historical Society Director Leila Boyer is leaving the past behind and looking toward the future.
“It’s time; I want to quit while the party’s still going,” said Boyer, who said she will remain on the job until a replacement has been found and trained. “It’s a wonderful historical society, and [Calvert County] is such a small county, but it has huge history. It’s really been a wonderful experience.”
“I found her to be a very creative, very energetic director and she keeps a lot of things going on in regards to history, and she helps the board in terms of directing and in terms of finances and our ultimate mission and purpose,” Calvert County Historical Society President Chris Banks said. “She’s organized everything you see here and she keeps us motivated in terms of focusing on local history and keeping people involved with a lot of outreach. She’s very easy to work with and she’s funny, intelligent, capable, an excellent researcher, and you know people are in good hands when they’re working with her.”
The position has been posted since early December and Banks said “there’s been some interest.”
When pressed, Boyer said there are three things she’s most proud of during her time at the historical society. The society has been able to expand its Calvert County African-American archives by almost doubling it. “That’s been very rewarding for everyone involved in it,” she said.
A few years back, she was also able to help raise $20,000 — which an endowment matched — enabling the society to purchase a state-of-the-art BookEye4 Scanner, which can scan newspapers and then enable the user to perform a keyword search of the documents.
And thirdly, she pointed out the annual Calvert County Historical Society Kid’s History Camp, which runs the first full week in August and has children completing projects on family and local history, as well as field trips.
“Of course, this is not me doing everything,” she insisted. “We have an incredible group of volunteers, but I think it’s important that the director knows how to do every job, and I think it’s important for the director to be able to help people do research. That’s what we’re here for, is to do history on local or regional history. We have an archive for research, and we want that to be used.”
She said a man who was adopted at birth stopped by in August and wept when he came across the only photo he’d ever found of his birth mother in a high school yearbook.
“People are passionate to learn about not only their families,” she said, “but the world their families lived in. A lot of people who come in here are doing family history and it’s not only helping them I find fun, but helping put their history into context is rewarding as well.”
Boyer said the oldest document at the society is parchment land patents from the early 1600s before Calvert County was established in 1654.
“They’re like hen’s teeth,” she said of the rarity of the papers.
The historical society also has a Mylar map, which, when placed over a regular map, is able to tell the original grant by which a property was once owned.
Boyer was born in Tappahannock, Va., and attended St. Margaret’s, an all-girls school. She worked at American Automobile Association headquarters in Virginia for 12 years before going back to school. She earned a bachelor’s in history, a bachelor’s in anthropology and a master’s in history, and gained a husband when she married longtime James Madison University anthropology professor Bill Boyer.
“He’s retired and he’s waiting for me to retire as well,” Boyer said of her husband, with whom she recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. “Oh, it’s been wonderful. It’s a lot of work but it’s been a great job [but] I have to show ID when I go into the house.”
Boyer was a research historian and also helped curate exhibits for the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley until she stepped down in 2007.
She was an administrative assistant at the Calvert County Historical Society from 2010 until 2012 when she became its director.
“I was well versed in Virginia history, but I didn’t know much about Maryland history so it was a learning experience. But when you’re learning something, it’s always interesting,” Boyer said. “It was taking the skills I’d gotten from research out there, and taking them back here. Coming here, there was a lot of available history, but you have to learn how to detour around obstacles,” such as the 1882 fire at the Calvert County courthouse, which destroyed many documents.
But Boyer won’t be bored any time soon. She lives in a ninth-generation farmhouse near Dunkirk — which she’d like to try and find more research on as well as put on the national register of historic places — and helps manage three farms. She and Bill also have five children, five grandchildren and five dogs, in addition to planned trips to England and Scotland.
“I’ve got plenty of stuff to do,” she said.