Member China Relief Expedition – Pvt. Erwin Jay Boydston, U.S. Marine Corps (1875-1957)

article top

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. Erwin Jay Boydston was born April 22, 1875 in Bailey, Colorado.  His father Ulysses Ambler Boydston and his mother Margaret Elizabeth Graves Boydston were to see their son receive this nation’s highest military award for valor.

It was at the beginning of the last century that China found itself involved in a revolution that was begun by an organization that called itself the Society of “Righteous and Harmonious Fists”. It was later to be known as  the “Boxers”.  Several nations, diplomatic outposts were threatened by the “Boxers”.


The United States sent a contingent of Marines to protect our Legion.  On June 19,1900, the 1st Regiment (Marines) under Major Littleton Waller arrived in China.  It wasn’t until June 23 that the Major and his troops were able to enter Tientsin.  Until July 12, when U.S. Army troops arrived to reinforce the Marines, it was touch and go as to whether the Marines would be able to protect the American Legion.

Private Erwin Boydston and ten other Marine privates plus a Marine drummer were awarded the Medal of Honor for the continuing actions from July 19 until the scaling of the walls at Peking, rout of the Boxers, and rescue of the civilians and their Marine Guard on August 17. Under a heavy fire from the enemy during this period, Private Boydston braved heavy enemy fire and assisted in the erection of barricades, earning the Medal of Honor.

Boydston lived with his wife Estella Griffin Boydston (1877 – 1959) in Hawaii.  He died September 26, 1957 in Honolulu, Hawaii and is buried there in National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. His grave can be found in section G-703.


Medal of Honor citation

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 22 April 1875, Deer Creek, Colo. Accredited to: California. G.O. No.: 55, 19 July 1901. Citation:

In the presence of the enemy at Peking, China, 21 July to 17 August 1900. Under a heavy fire from the enemy during this period, Boydston assisted in the erection of barricades.

When Pvt. Boydston was in Peking