Photo above, "courtesy of Clayton Francis Boyce." Cecil Verner Boyce and Elizabeth Catherine Harris

(This profile is an adaptation from the book Four Generations, written by Clayton Francis Boyce and Doris Maxine Forbes)

Cecil Verner Boyce was born in Seattle, Washington on June 20, 1898. We do not really know why he was born in Seattle rather than in the San Juan Islands where the rest of his siblings were born. This is something we always just took for granted and never really had any reason to ask about. Now, we wish there was some way of finding out the answer!

Although my father told many stories about his childhood and youth, none of them were ever written down or recorded and as the years have passed, most of them have been forgotten. I can recall him telling about his days growing up on Orcas and San Juan Islands which included escapades that he and his brothers and/or cousins would occasionally get into. He also told about attending school in a one-room school house and some the things that happened during that time. Again, I cannot remember the stories themselves.

When he was a young man, among the jobs he had was working on various pile driver operations in the San Juan Islands. He also worked for some time tending fish traps for Mr. Henry Cayou, a prominent Orcas business man and prominent citizen of that time, who made and lost several fortunes in the fishing business. When Cecil was about nineteen years old, he spent a season working on a pile driver in Alaska (we cannot recall the location in Alaska, if we ever knew.) We also know that Cecil spent a short time in Seattle attending business college. We believe that this was just after he returned from his Alaska adventure.

On June 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I, when Congress, at the request of President Woodrow Wilson, declared war on Germany. Cecil was almost nineteen years old at that time. As I recall, Cecil related that he had been called for military service, but before he had to report for duty, the war ended on November 11, 1918.

Some time in 1922, Cecil, along with his mother Almira Boyce and a brother, Ham, and sister, Beryl, made an automobile trip to Prosser, Washington where they would meet their Aunt Mary and her children George, Walter, Jennie, Bessie, and Mildred for the first time (the details of this trip are related in the profile of John and Almira Boyce). Cecil never returned to San Juan Island to live. He chose to stay and work in Prosser. Cecil worked at many things to eke out a living. These were difficult times. Work was not all that plentiful and what work there was, did not provide much income. Cecil picked fruit of all kinds, worked in the wheat harvest at various times, and worked for a short time on a new irrigation canal whose source of water was the Prosser dam. He also worked occasionally in the Prosser Flour Mill and at various other odd jobs whatever he could find to have an income, meager as it was.

Photo above, "courtesy of Clayton Francis Boyce." Pictured is Elizabeth Catherine Harris-Boyce, Clayton Francis Boyce (child), and Cecil Verner Boyce

In the meantime, Cecil and his cousin Bessie became involved in a romantic relationship. Eventually they were married in Vancouver, B. C. on February 13, 1925. They first lived for a short time in Bellingham, Washington, but soon returned to Prosser, which became their permanent home until the winter of 1943, when they moved to Seattle.

By 1924, Cecil had begun to work upon occasion in the road building trade. After a few years, he become known as an "expert blade man" This meant that he became quite proficient at operating road graders first, the kind that were pulled by a caterpillar tractor, and then, the self-powered type. He eventually became permanently employed by the Benton County Highway Department. However, because of Cecil's reputation as a blade man, various highway contractors would ask Benton County to loan him out during the summer to work on special highway projects, which they did. This type of summer work took Cecil to jobs all over the State of Washington and occasionally in Oregon and Idaho. However, because wages overall were still quite low, Bessie also had to work out from time to time. She became an expert apple packer and worked at that and other fruit warehouse work in season, as well as other miscellaneous seasonal jobs. For a time, when I was about two years old, before Cecil got steady work in the highway business, our family lived on a farm in Prosser, where both Cecil and Bessie did farm work for a place to live and some minimum compensation.

On July 25, 1925, a son, Clayton Francis Boyce, was born to Cecil and Bessie. On July 28, 1928, Bessie and Cecil gave birth to a daughter, but unfortunately, she died at birth because of a mistake by the attending doctor. She is buried in the Prosser Cemetery. On April 8, 1930, Bessie gave birth to a daughter, Shirley Margaret Boyce. Both Clayton and Shirley have children and grandchildren of their own.

Pictured at left, from left to right: Adrian Allen Boyce, Cecil Verner Boyce, and James Hamilton (Ham) Boyce
Photo at left, "courtesy of Katherine (Kitty) Mildred Beryl Wade-Roberts."

Cecil continued to work for Benton County through the years. As his family grew, he began to cut back on his summer work away from home. Sometime in the early 1940's, the Benton County comissioner asked Cecil to take the job of county road foreman, which meant that he supervised all operations out of the Prosser location. However, a new County Commissioner was elected in the fall of 1942, and because the road foreman's job was a political appointment, it was given to the brother of the new commissioner. Cecil had an opportunity to go back to his old job, but was tired of the political climate, and declined. In the meantime, a friend who managed the local Union Oil Company of California plant in Prosser, had been trying to get Cecil to go to work for that company for quite some time. After a time at working at odd jobs once again, Cecil inquired as to whether the offer at Union Oil Company was still good. It was however, the job was in Seattle. After agonizing over it for some time, Cecil and Bessie sold the old family home and rather reluctantly made the move to Seattle in the winter of 1943. By this time, World War II had taken Clayton into military service and Shirley was about to go into high school.

Cecil worked for Union Oil Company as a steam engineer for twenty years, retiring at age sixty-five. He then worked as a maintenance man for Holy Names Academy in Seattle until he was age seventy-five, whereupon he retired once again! Bessie worked for a while at the Frederick and Nelson department store in Seattle, but in late January of 1949, following a routine test, it was discovered that Bessie had contracted tuberculosis. She was in and out of Firlands Sanitarium in Seattle for several years and following successful surgery in the summer of 1953, she was pronounced cured and was able to return home. She never worked away from home after that.


Cecil Verner Boyce passed away in Seattle on October 13, 1986 at age eighty-eight years after a short illness. Elizabeth Catherine "Bessie" Boyce passed away in Seattle on December 23, 1989 at age eighty-seven years after an extended illness and the ravages of old age. They are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Seattle.

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