Photos above, "courtesy of Katherine Mildred Beryl WADE."
This profile is an adaptation from the book, Four Generations-A Family History
By Clayton Francis Boyce
Stephen Van Buren Boyce and Lucinda Elizabeth Stewart
Stephen Van Buren Boyce was born in Greene County, New York on January 28, 1825/9?, the son of John and Catherine (Jacoby) Boice. He was one of eight, possibly nine children. There are only two photos of Stephen's siblings, a brother named Jacob William Boice, and a sister named Catherine Elizabeth Boice-Richards. In June of 2001, a positive matching photo of Stephen's brother Jacob William, was located and Stephen's NY family was finally confirmed. Interestingly enough, the family stories that placed us of Dutch descent were true, as Stephen's New York Boice family from Columbia and Greene Counties were of Dutch ancestry through the Buijs-to-Buys-to-Boice lineage migration.
It would be very enlightening to be able to trace Stephen Boyce's family line back to European soil. Where did Stephen's family come from? The name Boyce is mentioned in English history several times back to the 12th century. However, Stephen's parents spelled their name BOICE and are confirmed of Dutch descent. If the family name was changed by Stephen, why and when did this happen? Perhaps there will be an opportunity for further research that will provide answers to our questions.
Stephen Boyce's early boyhood days were spent on his father's farm in Round Top New York, he also recieved his education from the schools of that area. When he was about twelve years old, he left home. Family legend has it that he ran away from home. He first went to visit an uncle in another part of the state and explained to him his desire to make his own way in the world. The uncle told him to go home and stay there until he was older, when he might have a greater possibility of success in achieving his ambition. However, young Stephen had a great desire to get to the mysterious west, of which he had heard many exciting tales, so he did not go home, but rather, moved on to further adventure. One account has Stephen in Syracuse, New York soon after he left home, where he spent a year as an apprentice in the car-building trade. Apparently, he then hired himself out to a canal boat captain on the Erie Canal and worked on a tow boat for a time. This allowed him to get westward, where he eventually shipped on board a schooner and made his way to Chicago, lllinois. From there he proceeded on to the interior of Illinois. In 1845, he was in Kendall County, Illinois, working as a carpenter. He worked at that trade for two years, and then found employment in one of the great cornfields for which that state was noted. He worked for a widow lady, who operated a large farm. That year, after the corn crop was gathered in the fall, the rains set in and the prairie roads leading to Chicago became bottomless quagmires. Because of this, the lady who owned the farm was unable to sell her corn, and thus, was unable to pay her help. With the season's work finished, and having some money saved up, young Stephen decided to push on southward. Knowing the lady was honest, he told her he would advise her of his whereabouts and she could send him his money after she was able to sell her crop. Stephen spent the winter (another account gives the time as two years) as a grocery clerk and helper in a Tennessee village in Shelby County, near Memphis. While he was there, the Illinois lady sent his wages, with an urgent request for him to return and continue to work on her farm. However, he chose to go on to New Orleans where he worked as a carpenter for about a year and a half.
In 1851, Stephen found his way across the Isthmus of Panama and landed in San Francisco. This was about the middle of the Great California Gold Rush. Stephen, who was now twenty-two years old, joined in with the throngs of other gold seekers, locating somewhere in the vicinity of Placerville and Georgetown. We have no idea how successful he was as a gold miner. By this time, the area was overrun with miners, and gold was difficult to come by, but apparently he was able to make a living for he remained in California for the next seven years. At some time during this interval, Stephen met Lucinda Elizabeth Stewart, who had come to California with her parents in 1850. By the time Stephen and Lucinda met, she had already been twice widowed and had two sons who were half-brothers. In 1856, Stephen and Lucinda were married, and her two sons, Orrin and Frank, were eventually adopted by Stephen. We do not know if Stephen continued seeking gold, or whether he turned to something else for a living following their marriage.
In 1858, two years after their marriage, upon hearing news of the Fraser River gold strike in Canada, Stephen, Lucinda and the two boys took a steamer to Victoria, British Columbia. In those days, the only habitation at Victoria was the Hudson's Bay Company stockade, which was enclosed and guarded. Upon their arrival, they were forced to sleep in tents, because of the lack of hotel accommodations. Soon after, Stephen again followed the lure of gold, this time to the Fraser River Caribou country, leaving Lucinda to care for her family by herself for two years. It was during this period of time, John Henry Boyce was born on January 1, 1859. As Anita Garrett put it in an article written for the Friday Harbor Journal, November, 1979, it was "under these primitive living conditions, that Lucinda showed the fortitude and strength of character that had already brought her through grief, hardship and heavy responsibility.
In 1860, Stephen Boyce rejoined his family in Victoria. On June 1 of that year, Stephen moved his family to old San Juan Town on San Juan Island. This was an unsettled but interesting time in American history. In 1846, The British Empire and the United States had settled on a new international boundary which roughly followed the 49th Parallel, but was somewhat vague. The new boundary did not clearly define ownership of the San Juan Islands and this brought about a territorial dispute between the two countries over this matter. In 1845, the British had claimed San Juan Island as their territory, and the powerful Hudson's Bay Company began establishing themselves on the island and the surrounding waters. By 1859, many American settlers had moved to San Juan Island and the disagreement between Britain and the United States had steadily escalated to the point where it threatened to erupt into open warfare between the two countries. On June 15, 1859, the incident took place which evolved into the infamous "Pig War." A settler named Lyman Cutlar shot and killed a pig which had continually been invading and uprooting his potato patch. This pig belonged to the Hudson's Bay Company, and because of their outrage over this incident, the matter soon took on gigantic proportions. On July 27, 1859, American troops landed on San Juan Island and established a military camp on the southern end of the island. To meet this challenge to their sovereignty, in March, 1860, the British established an encampment at Garrison Bay on the northwest side of the island. San Juan Island was occupied by both military forces until a treaty was signed on October 21, 1872, establishing the San Juan Islands as a part of Washington Territory, United States of America. It is an interesting historical note that the American Civil War, which started on April 12, 1861 and ended on April 9, 1865 took place between the beginning and the end of the San Juan Island Pig War. Several of the American military personnel involved in the Pig War were also participants in the Civil War, notably, Captain (later General) George E. Pickett.
This was the prevailing situation when Stephen and Lucinda Boyce and their family arrived on San Juan Island. Old San Juan Town was a small settlement that had sprung up near American Camp. Stephen opened a small store there with the intention of trading with the Indians, but the U. S. Army did not want competition with their sutler's store and he was forced to close. He then took up a claim on the south end of the island near what later became known as Jensen's Beach.
At some point in time, apparently several years later, their growing family prompted Stephen and Lucinda to move temporarily to Victoria so the children could be educated. An account goes on to say that "he soon returned to San Juan, leaving some of his children to attend school in Victoria. Several of the girls became teachers." Another account states that the family spent two years in Victoria before returning to San Juan Island. Upon their return to San Juan Island, Stephen traded property which he had purchased in Victoria, for a farm in the San Juan Valley near what is now called The oaks. The first house in which they lived was a log cabin on Oak Ridge. They lived there about a year, and then moved to a house that Stephen built near a spring at the foot of Portland Fair Hill. In about 1880, they moved to a new, larger house built by Stephen, where they lived the rest of their lives. This house stood at the end of a lane within sight of False Bay. It is interesting that the site of the "Boyce farmhouse" (which house we do not know) is one of the historical locations on a map of San Juan Island featured in the book San Juan The Powder-Keg Island. We have heard that Stephen would often stand in front of the fireplace to deal with legal matters. His youngest daughter Grace, when she was a small girl, would sometimes hide in an adjoining closet to listen to her father conduct his business. After the deaths of Stephen and Lucinda, for many years this was Grace's adult home, who by then was married to Don Erickson.
Photo at left, "courtesy of Katherine Mildred Beryl WADE.
In addition to being a gold miner, mason, storekeeper, farmer, and carpenter, Stephen Boyce held many important public positions on San Juan Island. He was the first surveyor after the Pig War settlement in 1872, and was also the first county assessor. He was precinct liquor inspector, founder and member of the board of the first school on San Juan Island and a substantial contributor to its building. He also became justice of the peace in September, 1860, and served intermittently in that capacity for a total of twelve years. However, he is best remembered as the first sheriff on San Juan Island. It is uncertain when he was appointed sheriff, but he was serving in this capacity in 1864. This was during the Pig War dispute when the San Juan Islands were considered by the American side as being part of Whatcom County. As sheriff, Stephen was respected by both whites and Indians for his fairness and honesty. The Indians called him "Hyas Tyee," or "great and powerful man." He served continuously as sheriff until San Juan County was organized in 1873. At that time he continued on as sheriff of the new county. David Richardson, in his book Pig War Islands, in telling about the formation of San Juan county and Stephen's election as sheriff of the new county, refers to him as "a popular, no-nonsense farmer" (page 173).
This was a memorable period in island history. A man named William Fullar (Fuller) turned up missing one day about the time the British troops were being evacuated in 1872. A friend who came to visit found the doors to his house standing open, and his dog extremely excited. A search was begun, Sheriff Boyce was called, and after several days, the dog led the searchers to a spot under a large madrona tree. There they found Fullar's body under a pile of large, heavy rocks. He had been shot through the back of the head, fallen there, and the murderer had covered his body by heaping great stones upon it.
Fullar's murder was still unsolved when on May 13, 1873, neighbors found a farmer named Harry Dwyer shot to death in a field he had been plowing. After sending for Sheriff Stephen Boyce, they hurried up to the house and there they found the dead body of Mrs. Dwyer. She had been shot and then beaten to death. In the course of Sheriff Boyce's investigation, all signs pointed to a half-Indian, half-Kanaka youth named Joe Nuanna, known as "Kanaka Joe." In the memoirs of Lila Hannah Firth, who was a young girl at this time, she states, speaking of Stephen Boyce's investigation of the murder: "Right here I want to stop and tell you that our sheriff was a good one. He surely understood his business in every way. By this time, Kanaka Joe and his accomplice had left the island and gone to Victoria. His investigation of the circumstances having satisfied him that Joe was the killer, Sheriff Boyce went to Victoria, and with the help of the Victoria police, Joe was apprehended. When confronted with evidence gathered by Sheriff Boyce, Joe confessed to not only the murder of the Dwyers, but to that of William Fullar as wellin both cases, because he was after money. In his confession, he said he had also planned to kill several other persons on the island. Joe was taken to Port Townsend to stand trial during the November term of District Court. The trial lasted three weeks, although there was no doubt what the outcome would be. Joe Nuanna was convicted and sentenced to hang the following March, in 1874.
Photo at right, "courtesy of Katherine Mildred Beryl WADE."
Port Townsend had never had an execution before, and at least two hundred people were on hand as Sheriff Boyce and his Jefferson County colleague, Sheriff J. J. Van Bokkelen brought Joe from the jailhouse to the gallows. By the time Joe was taken up the steps of the platform, virtually the whole town was on hand to witness the hanging. At five minutes past ten in the morning, Sheriff Boyce knocked away the bolt holding the trap, and the noose tightened around Joe's neck. Because the rope was new, and the boy was small and light, the knot failed to slip tight as it was supposed to do, and the noose simply cut off his wind and began slowly choking him to death. As the men on the scaffold looked on in helpless horror, Sheriff Boyce took hold of the rope, swung himself over the trap and with his feet, applied pressure to the knot. However, it was still twenty minutes before the doctor could pronounce Kanaka Joe dead. David Richardson says in his book: Hundreds carried the vision of Joe's last anguish to their own deathbeds. Port Townsend never had another hanging, and when after twenty years the next San Juan County murderer was condemned to Joe's fate, Stephen Boycewho could still hear Kanaka Joe's confident wish to "die quick" in his earswas on hand to see the deed done in far different circumstances.
An interesting aftermath to this episode in history is that Harry Dwyer had kept his valuables in a little wooden chest. Stephen Boyce had taken it from Kanaka Joe as evidence. Following the trial and execution, there was no one to claim the little chest, and it has remained in the Boyce family's care ever since. Known in the family as the "Dwyer Box," it is now in the possession of family historian, Kitty Roberts of Friday Harbor.
In a feature story on Stephen and Lucinda Boyce in the Seattle Times, October 23, 1960, Edna Beryl Boyce-Wade is quoted as saying, "My grandfather was a kind man, but he was strict, prim, and proper. He was further described as being kind and considerate, but this did not stop him from administering justice. Pictures of him show him to be a distinguished looking gentleman with a white mustache and flowing beard contrasting with the dark, rather formal clothing he quite often wore. It was said of him that he owned one of the largest grain farms in San Juan County, and was one of the prosperous and wealthy farmers of that county. In 1909, the citizens of Friday Harbor voted to build a new, brick courthouse on what is now Court Street, between First and Second Streets. "Its cornerstone (of Roche Harbor limestone) was laid June 29 by Stephen Boyce, the pioneer sheriff. A little more than four months later, on November 11, 1909, Stephen Van Buren Boyce died at the age of eighty one years, eleven months, seventeen days. In the report of his death in the Friday Harbor Journal, the writer said this of him:
"Out of that great unknown came this sturdy citizen to make up his integral part of the great body of humanity that should people the earth in a notable period, then, like most of those contemporaneous with him, he took his flight again into the unknown, as we all come and go in filling the niche assigned to us briefly in the order of creation, and as the meteors flash and fade in the sky."
Lucinda Elizabeth Stewart
Lucinda Elizabeth Stewart was born in Overton County, Tennessee, near Nashville, on November 2, 1836. She was born into a Mormon family, the daughter of Riley Stewart and Jane Gentry. Her father had a polygamous marriage relationship, including another wife whose name was Martha Jane Boyce (isn't her last name quite a coincidence?). Lucinda's mother had been previously married to a Tandy Mills, and from that union, Lucinda had an older half-brother named George Mills. She also had two younger brothers, William R. Stewart and Squire Stewart. Genealogical records of the Mormon Church trace her father's lineage back to an ancestor born in 1685 in Glasgow, Scotland, and on her mother's side, to an ancestor born in 1655 in Essex County, England. Of further interest is the fact that Lucinda had ancestors living in Virginia and North Carolina during the time of the Revolutionary War. Apparently, the Stewarts were a prominent family, and enjoyed a degree of historical fame.
Not long after her birth, Lucinda's family moved to Springfield, Illinois. When Lucinda was age 12, her mother died and she then had to take on the responsibility of caring for her brothers. In 1850, the family set out from St. Louis, Missouri for California in a covered wagon drawn by oxen. Their route took them to Independence, Missouri, where they would then follow. The trail would take them across arid country to the north side of the Humboldt River in what is now northern Nevada. They would follow the Humboldt River west and then southwest to where it ended in a location called Humboldt Sink. As they traveled southwestward, drinking water was available, but it was quite bitter from alkali. After reaching Humboldt Sink, they would have to cross desert country without water to the sink of the Carson River, a distance of about forty miles. Wagons and property were abandoned many times along this stretch of the trail. Following the Carson and Truckee Rivers, the travelers would cross the Sierra Nevadas over 7,168 foot Donner Pass. The trail continued to take them south and west to the American River, following it to the gold fields near Sacramento. After reaching California, they apparently located somewhere near Placerville in order for Lucinda to have met Stephen Boyce. It is not known if Riley Stewart's original intention was to go to the California gold fields, but that is where the family ended up.
Although we have reconstructed the route of Riley Stewart and his family along the wagon trail to California, we actually know little about Lucinda during the years after the death of her mother until she met and married Stephen on October 15, 1856. Although Lucinda was not yet twenty years old, she had been widowed twice and had two sons, Orrin and Frank, who were half-brothers. Now, going back to where Stephen and Lucinda Boyce and their family moved to San Juan Island in June, 1860, it is probable that there were white women who had visited San Juan Island prior to that time, but Lucinda was the first white woman to settle permanently on the island. She was truly a pioneer woman. Those who knew her said that she exemplified the finest qualities of the pioneer wife and mother.
Lucinda deeply respected her husband, and always referred to him as "Mr. Boyce." However, she held a position of importance in the community in her own right. There was no doctor on the island in the early days, and Lucinda took the place of doctor, midwife and nurse, not only on San Juan, but on other islands as well. It was not unusual for her to pick up her medicine kit, mount her horse or get in her buggy and ride off into the night to care for someone in need. She even went by rowboat or canoe to other islands, sometimes through winter cold and storm. It made no difference whether it was a settler or an Indian she ministered to all alike. She gave special attention to the Indians encamped at False Bay, who, in turn, brought her fish, clams and hand crafted articles to show their gratitude. She was a friend to them and talked to them in their Chinook language. She also had no fear of the Haida Indians, who were fierce raiders who would sometimes come down from the North to prey on the peaceful Indians of San Juan Island. On those occasions when she would encounter them, she would stand her ground and converse with them without harm.
Lucinda's home remedies, many of which she learned from her Indian friends, were effective, but some of them tasted pretty bad! Edna Beryl Boyce told about a time when she was a small girl and the family were all sick with measles. "Lucinda made up a batch of her version of sassafras tea to administer as a remedy for their illness. When it was my time to drink it down, I took one taste of "the awful stuff," and then, when no one was looking, got rid of it by pouring it into a drawer of the nearby sewing machine cabinet! One typical ointment was made up of a combination of goose grease and turpentine, which was rubbed on one's chest for congestion. For coughs, there was a potion consisting of a few drops of kerosene on sugar. If there was danger of pneumonia, mustard plasters were applied to the chest and back "I recall as a child, having kerosene and sugar administered to me for the croup, as well as mustard plaster applications."
No one in need of help was ever turned away by Lucinda Boyce. She cared for a man named W. H. La Forge until her death (at which time her son Steve and his wife Annie looked after him until he died at age 92. She also raised a part Kanaka hunchback named Charlie McCarty, who had been abandoned as a child, caring for him on into his adult life. In her role as a midwife, it has been estimated that Lucinda brought more than 500 babies into the world. Lucinda would sit and knit with her grandchildren gathered around, waiting for some little trinket to pop out of her ball of yarn. She wore a large apron with deep pockets, which Edna Beryl remembered as being "big as a tent." Every once in a while she would reach in and bring out a piece of candy or some other little goodie for the children. During these times she would often tell stories to the grandchildren, and sing ditties to them.
Photo at right, "courtesy of Katherine Mildred Beryl WADE"
Pictured are: Lucinda Boyce "holding Great Grandaughter," Daughter Alice Sweeny; Grandaughter Josie Turner; Great Grandaughter.
Lucinda Boyce was noted for her kindness and caring compassion for all living creatures. There is a story that illustrates these traits in a poignant way. The Boyce farm and house were not far from False Bay. The children would often go down to the beach to play. The farm animals would also go down to that area to forage for food. One such time, a mother pig and her brood were down on the beach looking around for things to eat when the tide started coming back in. The mother pig rounded up her brood to head for home. One little pig had gotten caught behind a log and so the mother finally left this one behind. About that time, the children were on the beach and discovered this little half-drowned pig, rescued it and took it up to the house. The little pig was in bad shape, and the children were very concerned that it would die. They asked Lucinda if there wasn't possibly something she could do. Lucinda, seeing the expressions of concern and anguish on the faces of the children, said yes, she thought she could do something for the little pig. At the time, she had a small child who was still nursing. Lucinda took the piglet and nourished it with her own milk until it was well enough to take other nourishment. In Edna Beryl's words: "this describes Lucinda more than anything else. She was not going to let that little animal die. Needless to say, the children were delighted. Journal, November 14, 1979, she called her the "First Lady of the San Juans," and spoke of her own recollections of Lucinda: I recall her from my childhood, when she was in her late seventies. One of the big island picnics was being held at the beach of her oldest son Orin, below the present Gubelman home at Argyle. The word went around, "The old Grandma Boyce is here!" In the same tones that might have been used to say, "The Queen Mother has arrived!"
Grandma Boyce held court in a chair brought from the house, a stately old lady in black, a shawl (probably her own handwork) draped over shoulders. I remember her twinkling brown eyes, her hair in a knot on top of her head with wisps falling softly about her face, her face bearing with pleasure. She laughed and talked with animation, radiating the warmth and happiness which characterized her. In this same article, Anita Garrett writes: Her photographs show the fortitude, determination and indomitable spirit which characterized the pioneer womanbut no picture could ever catch the warmth, the joy of living, the love of all creatures, that emanated from her. When she died of the infirmities of old age at 80 years and six months on Friday, May 12, 1916, her funeral was one of the largest ever held in the islands. According to the Friday Harbor Journal of that time, "Many were present to express their sorrow and pay tribute to a great and beloved lady who was deeply esteemed by the entire community."
At the time of the above writing, Stephen and Lucinda Boyce had over 500 descendants, many still living on San Juan Island. When Lucinda died in 1916, she left behind 10 children, 45 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. In addition to Lucinda's sons by her previous marriages, Orrin and Frank, Stephen and Lucinda Boyce had nine children of their own. All these children but John, the first child, were born on San Juan Island, and most of them lived there all their lives.
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