The Stump Ranch

Family & Community History
of the Upper Skagit Valley
Eva Jane Boyd

(Royal Stump Ranch 1927)

      I just really enjoy this photo of Eva Jane (Boyd) Hoyt taken by Darius Kinsey. So few individual and family portraits exist from Kinsey -who is known more for his naturalist photographs in the woods and forests of Washington state.
      There is more to share on Jane and I will bring that to you in the near future, but for a start I hope you enjoy Alcina Harwoods remembrances of her grandmother. Thank you Alcina for sharing the wonderful photographs with your Boyd cousins. The photo on the right is Jane (called Ma) shortly before her death in 1943 due to complications from diabetes.


Remembered by her Granddaughter Alcina Harwood

Hoyt Family circa 1900
Ina, Sam, Jane, Guy & Roy Hoyt.
photo courtesy of Alcina Allen Harwood

      I remember my grandmother's "crullers." Her crullers were a pastry braided and deep-fried in lard, then sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar. This rich, pie-crusty confection was heavensent and uniquely Eva Janes. At any rate, I've never encountered such "crullers" outside of my grandmother's kitchen!
      My grandmother, Eva Jane Boyd, known to her children and grandchildren as "ma", was the fourth eldest of the Boyd clan. Born in Neligh, Nebraska in 1874. she was seven years old when the family made the trip out west. At the time the Boyd family was comprised of Lewis Alexander, Olive Clarrisa, my grandmother Eva Jane, and her three older siblings, and four younger children.
      Prior to their departure, Olive's sister, Etta Savage, already living in Birdsview, Washington had been writing home letters with glowing descriptions of the beauty and bounty of the western lands. I recall my grandmother describing her own mother's contrasting and less enthusiastic response to her new surroundings. Clarrisa was accustomed to the wide and open plains of the Midwest with its vast empty spaces and far-reaching horizons. Here at times she felt overwhelmed, imprisoned, and oppressed by the imposing forests, hills and mountains that met the eye in all directions. It was late October or early November when the family arrived in the valley. Autumn rains were pummeling their new environment, and Clarrisa was none too encouraged by the relentless downpours and the ever-present mud.
      As the second oldest daughter, Eva Jane had her fair share of responsibility helping Clarrisa manage her brood and accomplish the numerous tasks that underpinned their daily life. Mother and children saw through many challenges and hardships on their own. For according to Eva Jane, her father was just not as domestically inclined or as available to the family as they sometimes would have liked.
      Yet while the enterprising Lewis was off adventuring, exploring, or plying his medley of trades, the family did adapt and endure. When home alone, Clarrisa was very apprehensive about the approach of unfamiliar Indians. "Ma" would tell us the story of the strategy her mother improvised to deal with these intrusions. Clarrisa would stick her head out the door and shout "smallpox!" The pretense of this dread sickness proved a highly effective deterrent to most unsolicited visits!!
      Eva Jane, like her mother before her, courted and married quite young. She left the family fold when just fifteen years of age. Eva Jane and her sister Annie Laurie wed brothers, Sam and Joe Hoyt. The Hoyt brothers hailed from New Brunswick and were of English descent. Samuel Odber Hoyt, my grandfather, worked the lumber mills. He and "ma" lived for a time at McMurray and then on the hill above what is now Mt. Vernon before settling in at Montborne where Sam was head sawyer at the mill there. Sam was a well-respected and highly competent lumberman. His popularity on the job was extolled in a thirteen-stanza poem written by a co-worker. Each verse presents an on the job problem or dilemma the solution of which is repeated in the refrain, "Find Sam!" The home that Sam built for Eva Jane in this little mill town still stands at 18328 Highway 9 on the east upper bank of Big Lake.
      Sam and Eva Jane had three children. There was one daughter, my mother, Ina Lora and her brothers Guy and Roy. In time the boys worked with Sam at the mill. Ina grew up and married a strapping Swede by the name of Carl Allen. Not surprisingly this Swedish father of mine also worked for the lumber mill. We lived in a house just across the road from Sam and Eva Jane. My grandfather died when I was just three years old. We lost "Pa" to the flu epidemic that followed World War I.
      Now widowed, Eva Jane's exceptional cooking, which had been such a boon to her family, was to become her livelihood. Her brother in-law, Joe Hoyt, owned his own lumber mill in Prairie. He invited Eva Jane to come cook for his mill hands there. She did so and while living in Prairie eventually became the postmistress and ran the little general store there. The post office was located at the back of this store. This establishment sold a wide assortment of goods. Among the sundry items were yard goods, clothing such as overalls, canned goods, barrels of pickles, and a delightful array of sweets. One time during a visit to my grandmother, I could not resist the temptation to stealthily pocket a special chocolate cherry candy. I then hid under the porch to partake of this guilty pleasure. I must have been about five years old at the time of this bold heist!
      Eva Jane lived in the house provided for the person holding the position of postmaster or postmistress. The house was actually attached to the store. Eva Jane had found her niche and all was going well until the night we got the call that "ma's" house was on fire. By the next morning the Prairie post office, general store, and Eva Jane's home had all burned to the ground. Only ash and the toughest of metal remained. I remember the clumps of melted coins found in the wake of this blaze. Fire was a common enemy during these times. It was the inevitable curtain call for most lumber mills and the swift catalyst for many an individual career change or relocation. Still, its frequency of occurrence made the losses no less devastating.
      Eva Jane returned to the Montborne community to begin her life anew. And once again I had the good fortune to have a grandmother living nearby. In my mind's eye, I recall "ma's" physical presence. She was barely five feet tall. Diminutive in height, but not so in girth, she carried the weight bestowed by the Boyd genes and her own superb cooking. I remember "ma's" eccentric and adversarial relationship to automobile travel. Everyone's driving but her own basically distressed her. Consequently, it was not uncommon to witness her bailing out from a ride and continuing her journey afoot. In this manner, she could leave all the real and imagined perils of rapid transit behind!
      Falling back on her culinary skills, Eva Jane resumed cooking for a living. Now she prepared meals for the mill hands at Montborne. She also took in boarders. I recall that she was quite active in The Women's Christian Temperance Union during that time. An Irishman named Henry O'Neil became her second husband.
      One afternoon when I was eleven years old, I was swimming with friends on the west side of Big Lake. Suddenly we spied smoke rising across the lake from my home shore. Alarmed even before knowing the source, we sped home only to discover the unthinkable. Tragedy was repeating itself. The conflagration was my own grandmother's house! A three-burner oil stove being used for canning had exploded and there was no stopping this second all consuming fire. The great irony of this catastrophe was that the offending stove was one of the few surviving possessions from the Prairie fire!       Of course, Eva Jane picked herself up and went on. Through the years, she was always there for me. When I graduated from WWU, then called Bellingham Normal School in 1935, I began my teaching career in a little school in Bayview. "Ma" accompanied me on this adventure. While I taught grades one through four, she kept house for me and did all the cooking!
      Eva Jane was diagnosed with diabetes just a year before her death from a massive stroke in 1943. My connection to this beloved grandmother endures. Through the years, my hands have carried forward her mentoring. It was she who taught me to do the creative needlework that I still enjoy. She sang to me often. One of her favorite tunes was "After the Ball is Over." This melody always evokes for me the memory and essence of the unique individual who was "Ma."

      Mrs. Eva Jane O'Neil, 68, mother of Mrs. Carl Allen and Roy Hoyt of this city, died on March 21 after a short illness. She was born in Neligh, Nebraska, Sept. 17, 1874, and had lived in Montborne since 1903, coming to this city about a year ago. Besides Mrs. Allen and Roy Hoyt, she is survived by another son, Guy Hoyt, of Seattle; three grandchildren; one great-grandchild and a number of sister and brothers.
      Funeral sources were on March 23 at the Lemley chapel with the Rev. Arthur Brown, pastor of the Presbyterian church officiating. Burial was in the Union cemetery. Music was by Mrs. Emil Jech and Mrs. Elmer Isvick. The pall bearers were Henry Fellows, Fred Jarvis, Ira Hinkle, George Brees, L.V. Sanders and Gust Gilbertson. Obituary Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, March 25, 1943

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