Boland was born on October 23, 1850, in or near La Grange, Georgia, the son of an enslaved woman named Ellen. His father, whose name was John Boland, was the son of his mother’s owner. Early in 1865 Boland escaped from slavery and went to Atlanta, where he worked as a janitor at the Storrs School for Colored Children. He moved to Detroit in 1868 and supported himself as a waiter while completing elementary school and three years of high school. In 1879 Boland began a two-year apprenticeship in the office of Dr. Charles Pratt, training that helped prepare him for admission to the Michigan College of Medicine in 1881. The first African American to attend the Detroit-based medical school, Boland graduated in 1883, at which time he was also a member of Detroit’s Young Men’s Christian Association and superintendent of the Sunday school of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Boland practiced medicine in Detroit for three years. There he married Perdita E. Golden, a seamstress, on November 17, 1886. Earlier that year he had moved to Virginia, where he received a license to practice from the Board of Medical Examiners on April 9, 1886. He may have been the first African American to take and pass the examination that the new Virginia Board of Medical Examiners administered to new physicians. Boland opened his office in Hampton and had at least one son before 1891, when he moved to Roanoke. He paid $400 for a corner lot at Rutherford Avenue and Second Street in the Black neighborhood of Gainsboro. Boland practiced medicine, built a large two-story house, and amassed a substantial amount of property. In 1912 he opened a new two-story office on Commonwealth Avenue two blocks from his previous address. By the time of his death Boland owned eight rental properties in Roanoke and a farm nearby. His personal property included the belongings of a man of education and prosperous social status: a piano, a valuable library, his medical equipment, and an automobile. Indeed, Boland was said to be the first African American in Roanoke to own a car.
After his wife’s death in Detroit on January 9, 1895, he married Kate V. Whisaker in Wythe County on October 17, 1896. They had two sons, including Jesse L. Boland, a well-known aviator and later, as Master X, a soothsayer and local celebrity in Richmond. She died on November 12, 1903, and Boland married Kate W. Telfair in Wilmington, North Carolina, on September 26, 1905. They did not have any children.
Boland was a leading figure in Roanoke’s African American community during a time when the population grew rapidly as the shops and headquarters of the Norfolk and Western Railway attracted people to Roanoke in search of work. He was editor of the Roanoke Weekly Press in 1891, but the length of his association with the newspaper is uncertain. Boland was a member of Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, where his third wife played the organ. She also taught piano in their large house. Boland died of chronic nephritis, or Bright’s disease, in Roanoke on November 16, 1918, and was buried in that city in Midway Cemetery, later known as Williams Memorial Park Cemetery.