Photo above, "courtesy of Clayton Francis Boyce."

This profile is an adaptation from the book, Four Generations-A Family History
By Clayton Francis Boyce

John Henry Boyce and Almira Georgina Walter

John Henry Boyce, was born on January 1, 1859 in Victoria, British Columbia In 1860, the family moved to San Juan Island, where John spent his childhood and grew to manhood. On his 21st birthday, John left San Juan Island and set out to see the world (maybe he inherited this urge from his father Stephen!). He headed eastward and came to the state of Idaho. There, he went to work on a construction crew for one of the transcontinental railroads then building tracks across the continent. His work eventually took him to the state of Utah where he left the railroad. While in Utah, he worked at various jobs until some years later, when he returned to the Pacific northwest.

Upon John's return to the northwest, he located at Edison, in Skagit County, where he entered the mercantile business with N. E. Churchill (who later operated a general store in Friday Harbor). After working in the mercantile business for several years, John entered the United States Customs Service. It was while John was in the Customs Service that he met his future wife, Almira Walter. Her family was in the process of moving from Ontario, Canada to Seattle by way of Vancouver, British Columbia. John Boyce was the Customs officer on the ship that brought them to Seattle. He saw this beautiful young woman on the vessel and became attracted to her. After the Walter family got settled in where they were to live in Seattle, John somehow or other found his way there with the intention of calling on Almira. The first time John came to the house, Almira was in her bare feet, walking a fence! This was the start of a courtship which culminated in their marriage on March 1, 1894 in Seattle. That same year they established their home on San Juan Island.

Photo at right, "courtesy of Clayton Francis Boyce."

Two-year-old Stephen Wayne Boyce, gazing intently at the tow boat
beached at Roche Harbor that his great-grandfather, John Henry Boyce
once captained (Photo taken in spring of 1956).

In 1892, John resigned from the Customs Service to go steamboating. He was master of many of the early steamboats sailing on Puget Sound waters and up and down the coast. At some time during this period of his life, John captained a tug for the Roche Harbor Lime Company, towing barges of lime to Bellingham. This tug was named the Roche Harbor, but previous to her service for the lime company, she was known as the Harry Lynn. The Harry Lynn was constructed at Tacoma by Harry and Lynn Maloney, railroad men. She was Built in Tacoma in 1888, 87 gross tons, fifty feet four inches long, fifteen feet six inches beam, and six feet one inch hold. J. A, Williams was first in charge.
After the Harry Lynn was taken out of service, she was pulled up on land at Roche Harbor near the Hotel de Haro and remained there for many years. John Boyce quit steamboating in 1904 and the family moved to Orcas Island where John became superintendent of the Orcas Lime Company, a position he held for eight years. While living on Orcas Island, he served one term as county commissioner. The family returned to San Juan Island in 1912 and settled in a farm home on Little Road, which lies between what is now Douglas Road and the Cattle Point Road. Stephen Boyce had given each of his sons a parcel of land from his holdings. John's parcel consisted of a farm of about 40 acres. On it, they raised some grain, but mostly sheep.

Photo below, "courtesy of Linda Boyce-Morgan."
Their house, pictured at the left, which fronted Little Road, was pretty good-sized in order to accommodate the children they were to eventually have. It was located not too far from the old Boyce home near False Bay. Near the house stood a large oak tree that had been planted by Lucinda Boyce many years before. The old house is long since gone, and someone else owns the property, but this tree is still standing today. John Boyce continued to participate in public service after returning to San Juan Island. There, he served two terms as county commissioner, one term as county assessor, one term as county treasurer, and an unexpired term again as county commissioner. John Boyce was a handsome man. Almira Walter was a beautiful woman. Their early pictures, both together and separate, show what a handsome couple they were. This characteristic was passed on to their children, for they too were all handsome people.

On September 12, 1926, when he was 67 years old, John Boyce was baptized into Christ, into the faith that was a part of the life of Almira and her family. John Henry Boyce died on August 12, 1930. He had suffered a head injury in a fall some years earlier and this gradually affected his mind at certain times. At the time of his death, he had been taken to a medical facility on the mainland for treatment, and had been there for about a week when he passed away. His funeral services were held at the Valley Presbyterian cemetery where he was buried, alongside of his parents and many other of his relatives.

Almira Georgina Walter was born December 16, 1873, at Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, in the province of Ontario, Canada. She was the daughter of George Hunt Walter and Mary Catherine (McRae) Walter. Earlier we related how her family moved to Seattle by way of Vancouver, British Columbia in 1889, when Almira was 16 years old. Almira met John on the steamer that brought the family from Vancouver to Seattle, and they were married two years later, on March 2, 1894. There is some discrepancy in certain dates at this point, because two years prior to 1894 would make the family coming to Seattle in 1892 rather than 1889. Perhaps they lived in Vancouver for a time before moving on to Seattle. Also one account states that John and Almira moved to San Juan Island the same year that they were married. Another account, the report of Almira's death in the Friday Harbor Journal, states that John and Almira lived in Seattle two years before moving to San Juan Island. From conversations with Edna Beryl, It is believed the first account is factual. Because Cecil Vernon Boyce was born in Seattle in 1898, John and Almira must have returned to Seattle to live for a short time. This had to have been during the years he was steamboating.

Photo at right, "courtesy of Linda Boyce-Morgan."

When John and Almira moved to San Juan Island, they landed at Argyle, on the north end of Griffin Bay, on the west side of the island. Argyle was a primitive little village, and when they landed there and proceeded by horse and buggy up the muddy, dirt road to Stephen and Lucinda Boyce's farm, Almira thought she had reached the "jumping off place" of the world! She later told how she would have died from homesickness, if it hadn't been for Lucinda's love and care. Some time in 1922, Almira Boyce, her sons Cecil and Rex Hamilton "Ham", and their sister Edna "Beryl" made an automobile trip to Prosser, Washington, where Mary Harris lived. None of the children had ever met their Mary (This visit to Prosser was to have great implications for the future of both Cecil and Ham Boyce). One must be given a little perspective in order to appreciate the magnitude of this trip. They drove an open-air Model T Ford two-seat touring car. Their route would have taken them from their farm home to Roche Harbor to get on a ferry to Anacortes. They would then have to drive over mostly unpaved roads to get to Snoqualmie Pass. The highway over the pass was itself a winding, narrow, dusty (and at times, very muddy!) gravel road. We imagine their average speed for the entire trip couldn't have been more than 25 MPH. If they were able to get across the pass without getting a flat tire, they were fortunate. Needless to say, it took them a little longer than we are able to drive it today! According to Beryl, they stayed overnight in a cabin camp somewhere on Snoqualmie Pass, and then went on the next day, so it took them at least two days to get to Prosser.


Photo at right, "courtesy of Linda Boyce-Morgan," features 6 of the seven children of John Henry and Almira Boyce:

From Left to Right - George Ernest Boyce, Adrian Allen Boyce, John Leroy Boyce (sitting), Neil Atwell Boyce (baby), James Hamilton Boyce, Cecil Verner Boyce.

We do not know what time of the year they made this trip. We know that they were there when it came time for school to start in the fall. At that time, Almira went home, probably by train, and Cecil, Ham and Beryl stayed in Prosser. Beryl went to Prosser High School for one semester of her junior year, and then she, too, went home by train. Cecil and Ham stayed in Prosser. Clayton Francis Boyce, family historian, recalls, "I have many fond memories of my grandmother Almira Boyce. In my younger years, my father often was gone from home in the summer time, working somewhere on a highway construction job. Frequently, my mother would travel with him. On a number of these occasions, I would get to stay with Grandma Boyce on San Juan Island. By this time, the old family house had burned down, and Grandma was living in another house that had been built for her on Little Road, still on the Boyce property, but farther to the east toward Cattle Point Road. In addition to those times, I remember looking forward to her visits to our home in Prosser, and later, after Doris and I were married, to my parents' home in Seattle. Grandma Boyce had a way about her that just made me enjoy being around her." Automobile ferry service between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands was started in the 1920's. Roche Harbor was the San Juan terminus until 1930, when the landing point was moved to Friday Harbor. Almira Boyce was baptized into Christ at an early age. Her faith in God was an important part of her entire life, and the way she lived and treated others exemplified this.

Almira Georgina Boyce passed away peacefully on July 9, 1960 at age 86. At the time of her death, she had four living children, 13 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren. She is buried in the cemetery adjoining the Valley church beside John Henry. In the report of her death in the Friday Harbor Journal, it was said of her that "she was known as a woman of culture, refinement, a kind neighbor, devoted mother and a true friend. What more could one want said of them by those who knew them?

John and Almira Boyce had seven children. John Leroy, George Ernest, Cecil Verner, Adrian Allen, Rex Hamilton "Ham", Neil Atwell, and Edna Beryl. All but Cecil Verner and Edna Beryl were born on San Juan Island. Although Cecil Verner told many stories about his parents, himself, and his brothers and sister during their early years, none of it was recorded thus, most of it is lost.


Photo at left, "courtesy of Clayton Francis Boyce," was taken in August of 1930 following John Henry's Funeral.

Top Row from Left to Right - James Hamilton Boyce, Mildred Boyce ("Hams" wife), John Leroy Boyce, Bessie Boyce (Cecil's wife), Edna Beryl Boyce, Leith Wade (Beryl's husband.)

Bottom Row - Cecil Verner Boyce, Neil Atwell Boyce, Adrian Allen Boyce.

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