The Stump Ranch

Family & Community History
of the Upper Skagit Valley
Norman Lewis Boyd

(Royal Stump Ranch 1927)

  • "The Boyd Story" written by Norm Boyd;
    following the short profile of his life.

  • Archie Boyd explains life from Nebraska to Birdsview in 1882 for the Boyd Family here at the "Skagit River Journal" website. This is not the first time this article has been published, it first saw print in "Skagit Memories" page 38 in 1979 from the Skagit Co. Historical Society Series #6.
  • Profile: Norman Lewis Boyd

    © Dan Royal "The Stump Ranch"

    Howard Boyd Royal, commercial fishing
    in Alaska 1956

          In the spring of 1956 while visiting his sister Mabel and family in Birdsview, Norm was  desperate and in tears to go on an "Alaskan Adventure" with his nephew and grand-nephew, Howard and Phil Royal respectively. Howard tells us in his autobiography, "Where I Was Born, Where I Went From There", that he, Phil and Don Coulter; (who would marry Howard's daughter Beverly in 1957) decided to try their hand at fishing that year in Alaska. Norman, at the age of 72 years with his wife Ada in failing health, decided it was probably not a good idea and let it go at that.
    Norman & Ada Boyd

          A favorite Uncle, Howard remembers his uncle Norm Boyd, had a bushel full of hair his whole life. He loved to hear him tell stories. While Norms sister, Lillie was approximately nine months old, when the Boyd family came to Birdsview from Nebraska in October 1882, Norman Lewis Boyd would be child #10, and the first Boyd child born in Birdsview, Washington Territory, (1 April 1884). His Aunt Etta Savage was probably the mid-wife to her sister Doll [Olive Clara, who Norm calls Mary in his "Boyd Story" directly below].
          The following day after Norms birth, his father Alex would make final proof with the U.S. Land Office at Olympia W.T., for their pre-emptive claim, on the property in Birdsview (which was notarized by C. von Pressentin). The family would not stay in the Birdsview area too much longer so Norman started school in the Baker Heights School Dist. # 25 in 1889. Their new home near Barney Lake [sometimes known as Blarney] was close to the Nookachamps Creek, a few miles from Clear Lake which was to the north of them and at the time of brother Tom's birth, a few miles from Mount Vernon. Thomas Jarvis Boyd was born here December 1886 and was probably Norms closest sibling and ally for years.
          Older sisters; Annie and Jane, married the Hoyt brothers Joe and Sam in 1890, father Alex decided to make a go of it at the Minkler [Savage] Mill in Birdsview in 1891 (after coming to an agreement with B.D. Minkler). For whatever reason, Norman does not show up on the school census with the other Boyd children, dated 29 June 1891 Dist. #22. Oldest brother Archie is here on the census at age 20 and was probably helping Alex with the mill. Jim is not on the census report either and must have struck out on his own by this time. Jim ended up in Tacoma.
          Younger sister, Mabel Florence Boyd, would come into the world 14 November 1891, in what was looking to be an extremely cold winter. Alex packed the family up and went back to the home on the Nookachamp, where the children are found again at the Baker Heights School Dist. #25 (census 27 June 1892). Norm is listed as Lewis age 8; Thomas 6; Lillie 10; Gertrude 12; Mary 13; Grace 15; and Maggie at age 17.
          By the time their father Alex Boyd was elected as Skagit County Clerk and the family was living in Burlington. Two more siblings were born, John in 1893 and Nellie 1896. The children were going to school in Burlington Dist. #47 were Mary, Gertrude, Lillian, Norman and Thomas. When their mother, Olive Clara, passed away 7 Sept. 1897, Alex moved himself and the children to Mount Vernon to be closer to the court house and be closer to work until his two year term ended in 1898. The three youngest; Mabel, John and Nellie probably were looked after by Gertrude and Lillian until Alex decided to put the youngest five out to family and friends to be cared for or raised, (after Gertrude married Jim Jackman).
    L-R: Joe Hoyt, Earl Hoyt, Norman Boyd 1899. Notice the more moderate crew cut on Norm.
    click photo to larger picture

          Sometime before leaving Mount Vernon, Norm and Tom seemed to have had a run in with the local sheriff who tore up their shirts; for whatever reason. This infuriated the boys father, Alex who let the sheriff in question know in no uncertain terms, that he would replace the shirts for the boys. At this date and time, Norm and Tom then stayed for a time with older sister Annie and Joe Hoyt in Prairie, going by the picture here with the boys at the Hoyt Shingle Co. in 1899. I don't find them on the school census until 1903 where Tom Boyd shows up at age 18 on the school census for Prairie.
    Norm Boyd, father Alex Boyd and step-mother Lew Boyd
    click photo to larger picture

          Pictures show Norm at the Hoyts residence through the time of the death of their father; Lewis Alexander Boyd, 13 February 1918. I don't know if, or how long he may have worked for Joe Hoyt at the mill, or what Norm did for a living the bulk of his life. I haven't found a marriage certificate yet to his wife Ada. Norm and Ada appear in pictures together with Tom, who was living in Seward, Alaska; making the rounds to see siblings here in Washington in 1927.
          Most of the family were together for a reunion when youngest brother John Boyd came for a visit from Battle Creek, MI. in 1933 in Sumner, WA., at sister Maud's home. Norm was living in North Bend, WA. when he attended Maud and John Johnsons 50th wedding anniversary in 1947. It's assumed Ada had passed away by 1960. They had no children.
    Norm Boyd attending 50th Anniversary of sister Maud & John Johnson 1947. Oldest sister Annie Boyd Hoyts grandson Ed Hoyt directly behind Norm. Ed has been a great help with the family research.

          In the early 60's, according to George and Shirley (Royal) McLain of Olympia, WA., on the way from his move from North Bend to La Conner, WA. Norm and his sister Mabel, who hadn't seen one another for some time got together for a visit, and when they saw each other they held on to each other the whole time crying and reminiscing. Norm was obviously fond and adoring of his dwindling family. He ended the last years of his life, close to youngest sister in Nellie in La Conner, WA. as the letter below (dated 1964) attests to and felt a need to write the 'Boyd Family Story' as he remembered it. Norman Lewis Boyd passed away quietly in La Conner October 1969, sister Mabel followed a few months later 1 January 1970 in Olympia, WA. Nellie the last of 14 Boyd children passed in June 1976.


    Dear Sister Nelly:
    Nellie Boyd

          I finally got this history of the Boyd family written. It may be rather gloomy history, but however it is the way the old pioneers lived. Not only the Boyd family, but many others in those early days. They had no news papers, only when they would go to town for supplies cou1d they hear the news and pass it around to their neighbors. Offtimes it was 10 to 15 miles to the nearest post office. When Seattle burnt up in June 1889, we at Birdsview did not hear about it until the middle of July, so you can see what a difference it is today with the radio, television and the daily mail and newspaper come to your door every day. It is certainly a contrast from what it was those days. You wi1l note when I mention our father and mother, I called them Alick and Mary. I did that so if the boys decide to copy it for posterity they could write it down as grandpaw and grandmaw or what they want to.
          I am glad you had a good trip to Oregon. I see in the papers they are having floods all along Oregon coast. We have some hard rain storms up here to and the rivers were running full banks, but I guess it done no damage. We have very little snow here this winter so far, but there plenty at the summit. They had to close down the ski grounds for there is too much snow, 140 inches. Well Nelly I will close for now and mail this out to you. I am feeling fine. I will be 80 years young in April but don't feel it so hope this finds you we1l. Bye for now, write to me and let me know if you got it.

    Norm Boyd
    January 27, 1964

    The Boyd Story

    by Norman Lewis Boyd

    The following “Boyd Story” and those that follow in future issues by various family members will not be changed, either in content, spelling or dates, even when they might conflict with prime source material, such as census reports or deeds to properties, ete. (I might show [ ] with corrected item) Enjoy! Dan

    click photo to larger picture & Boyd Family Scrapbook

          Alick Lewis Boyd was born at Staten Island, New York in 1835. His father was a wheel wright, or wagon maker. When Alick was a child he would set on the porch of his home and watch the ships leave New York harbor and sail to all parts of the world. And he had a longing to sail with them to see what the other side of the world was like. When he was 10 years old he could stand it no longer. He ran away from home. A captain on a four mast sailing ship gave him work as a cabin boy. The nature of such work was to keep the captains quarters in shape and serve the captain his meals. This ship was bound for Shanghai China.
          After arriving at Shanghai and discharging their cargo, they sailed to Sidney Australia. Australia at that time was a British penal colony, that is, all work was by convicts, or chain gangs. The first sight he saw in Sidney was four convicts being led to the scaffold on lower George Street to be hanged at public execution. The captain he was sailing with was a wealthy man. He owned the ship they were sailing on and two others and was about to retire from the sea. He took a liking to young Alick, and when they sailed to France he took him home with him and put him in school and kept him there until he had a good education and could speak the French language well, and some Spanish. After he finished his education he went back to sea as a full fledged sailor and sailed to nearly all ports of the world, including many trips around Cape Horn that all ship owners feared. Many of the ships that sailed around Cape Horn were never heard from again.
          While sailing from Tarapico Mexico bound for Calcutta India they were shipwrecked off the Coast of Brazil. There were nine of them in an open boat for 14 days with neither food nor drinking water. Two of them died and the rest of them were nearly dead when a French ship sighted them and took them on board and in to France with them. After he recovered he went over to England and sailed from Liverpool to New York City to visit his father and mother. The captains on the ships in those days were real strict and most of them were cruel. This English captain he was sailing with was no exception. He ordered Alick and another sailor on deck and had them hung by the thumbs until the pain was so severe they could stand it no longer for breaking some slight rule. When they arrived in New York, they resolved to get even with the captain for his cruelty. They waylayed for him on the dock at night and when the captain came from the saloon quite drunk they shot him in the head with a sling shot and left him for dead.
          Alick went to his old home to see his father and mother. But when he arrived he found they had been dead for several years. After he got over the shock of such news he sailed from New York around Cape Horn to San Francisco California. San Francisco at that time was a shack town made up of saloons, gambling halls, and other ill fame houses. This was after gold was discovered in California and all the pimps, stage robbers, gamblers, and other riff—raff was there plying their trade. He did not stay in California. He went back to sea and sailed the high seas all during the Civil War in the United States.
          After the war was over, he decided he would quit the sea and work his way over to the prairie country and take up a homestead. He quit the ship at Baltimore Maryland and bought a saddle horse and started out for the prairie country, doing carpenter work in the summer, and teaching school in the winter. While traveling through Minnesota he met George Savage with an ox team hauling a load of logs to the Torry sawmill. It was close to noon and Savage asked him to come to the mill for dinner. After dinner Tory hired Alick as a bookkeeper for the mill. The work was easy and the pay was better than he was making and he stayed there for some time. Torry had three daughters; Jennie [Jane] the oldest, Etta was next and Mary Olive, and a son Ira and an adopted daughter, Nelly. In 1868 George Savage married Etta Tory. She was age 17 years. In 1870 [1869] Alick Boyd married Mary Olive Tory. She was age 15 years.
          In 1870 Savage decided he would go out West. He bought a team of horses and covered wagon and joined an immigrant train to make the long journey over the old Oregon trail. In 1874 [1870] Alick and Mary decided they would go to the Prairie Country and take up a homestead. They bought a team of horses and spring wagon and drove across country to the town of Missouri Valley, Iowa. He worked there as a carpenter a short while, they they took up a homestead at Elkhorn Nebraska. This land was 10 miles from town but there were neighbors close.
          After he built a good house, barn and other buildings that were necessary for such a farm they started breaking up the ground and getting it in shape for farming. The Indians were not friendly with white settlers and would give them much trouble. They would steal their farming tools and drive their stock away, but the worst menace of all ~was the prairie fires. When a prairie fire got started in the tall buffalo grass it would destroy everything before it. One hot day he was out plowing the field and saw black smoke far out on the prairie. He knew what that meant. He took the team and plow to the house and plowed several furrows around the house before the fire got there. The house caught fire several times but they beat it out with wet grain sacks and saved the house. But their barn and all other buildings laid in ruins. After the Savage family came to the end of their long journey to the West and they settled on the upper Skagit River at Birdsview in Washington territory. Etta Savage was writing to her sister Olive telling her what a wonderful country the west was; and about that time the Union Pacific R.R. was running immigrant trains from Omaha Nebraska to San Francisco California at cheap rates. The railroad was the only railroad to the west at that time.
          So Alick and Mary decided they would sell what they had left from the ruins and try their luck out West. In 1881 [1882] they boarded the immigrant train for San Francisco. This immigrant train was made up of regular box cars with windows in them and bunks and a stove to cook on. They would load as many families in a car as they could and each took their turn cooking on the stove. Each family had their wash day. After their long trip which took 7 days, they arrived at San Francisco and stayed over two days to rest up and transfer their baggage to the dock. They took passage on the side wheel steamer George Elwer for Seattle. It was a rough trip all the way up the coast and the family was all seasick except Alick, he enjoyed it. It made him think of his old sailing days on the high seas and after 7 days of rough sailing they arrived in Seattle. Seattle was just an overgrown Village at that time.
          The main business part of town was from Columbia St. to Main St. on First Ave. After staying in Seattle a few days they took passage on the steamer Minnie M. for Mt. Vernon, which took two days. As they got stuck on a sand bar while entering the Skagit River and had to stay there overnight. After arriving at Mt. Vernon, everything seemed so different from the Prairie Country. Here was the great green forest all around them, the snow capped mountains in the background, the cool clear water of the Skagit River winding its way to the sea. What a contrast it was from the prairie country.
    The Boyd family arriving in Mt. Vernon October 1882
    Photo enhanced by Photoshop from a photo in the book "Chechacos All" & Skagit River Journal

          Mt. Vernon at that time was just a steam boat landing, with a few buildings on the waterfront and many Indiana camps along the river bank. After the family was settled at Mt. Vernon, he decided he would go to Birdsview to see Savage. He and the two boys namely Arch and Jim had walked up the Indian trail that followed the river up through Sterling, Sedro, Hamilton, Lyman and camped in an old shed that had no roof on it at Grandy Creek that night. It rained hard all that night and they got soaked through. The next day they got to Birdsview and crossed the river to the Savage place. Then he filed on a mineral claim and built a cedar shake cabin on a creek and named it Boyd Creek, which still has its name to this day. Then the Indians moved the family up river in their canoes to the cabin at Birdsview.
          After they got settled in their new home he worked with Savage in the little lumber mill that Savage had leased from Minkler. This mill was run by water power and did not have power to operate at full capacity. So he worked at other work and would teach school in the winter. In 1885 they traded their mineral claim to a logger for 60 acres of land and some money on the Nookachamp River and Barney Lake. This land was 3 miles from Clear Lake and 9 miles from Mt. Vernon on the old Mt. Vernon road. There was no building on this land but some cleared with an orchard. Elkins the blacksmith in Mt. Vernon owned the property next to his and his house was vacant, so the Boyd family moved in it. Then he went to work on his own place and built a good house, barn and other building that was necessary for such a farm. Then the family moved in with much enthusiasm. Then he went to work across the lake in a logging camp for Ed English. After working there for sometime everything began to slow down. The camps were closing down. Men were out of work, money was getting scarce. The country was heading for a panic. What few were working got very little pay and some got none at all. Then he made his big mistake. He went to Mt. Vernon and borrowed $100 from Harry Clothier a grocery man to buy cattle with and give him a mortgage on the ranch. Thinking times would get better, but instead of getting better it got worse.
    The Minkler/Savage Mill during the time period of this story, remembered and painted by John Savage

          In 1889 Savage gave up the little sawmill at Birdsview and took over a steam mill near Mt. Vernon. Alick made some kind of a deal with Minkler to run the mill at Birdsview. In the spring of 1889 [1891] he hired a man at Clear Lake with a team and wagon to move the family back to Birdsview. They left home early in the morning and got to Sedro at noon and to Lyman at night. The road was so muddy the mud was up to the wagon wheels hubs in places. They got to Birdsview at the next day at night. This was a slow way of traveling but the only way those old pioneers had, as there were no railroads in the country yet. But the Seattle Lake shore and Eastern R.R. were building up from Seattle to Sumas on the Canadian Border in 1889. At the same time in 1889 the Fairhaven and Southern R.R. was building from Fairhaven to Cokedole. Then in 1893 the Seattle and Northern built up from Anacortes to Hamilton, so that opened the country up. After the Boyd family arrived at Birdsview and got the mill in operation he would cut a raft of lumber and float in down the Skagit River to Mt. Vernon. There was not much sale for it. He had to take what he could get for it and each raft the price was lower yet, and then no sale at all. The panic was in full bloom. Business was bankrupt, banks were going broke. Business was on a standstill and could not pay off their help. He had to get away from Birdsview but where to go? The winter of 1892 he sawed out plank in the mill and built a scow and calked it with pitch and sacking and got a man to help him steer the scow down the Skagit River to the home on Barney Lake. It was a cold morning in February with snow on the ground and the river was fringed with ice along its shores, and at that time of the year the river was low, that made it much more dangerous for sunken snags and ruffled bards. But they were drifting down, everything was going smooth until they got to Youngs Cutoff just below Lyman. There the river divided around an island. They could not take the main channel of the river as there were log jams, sunken snags, and bad mealstorms. They had to take the outside passage which was all rapids. There were a big snag with one end held fast on the bottom of the river and the other end would raise high out of the river. Then the current would pull it under and it would raise again and the scow was drifting right for it with all the effort to keep it away. When the scow got to it raised up and barely missed the scow by a few feet. If the scow would have been over it there would have been no chance to survive in that cold swift water. From then on it was smoother sailing the rest of the voyage. They passed Sedro late in the afternoon and got to the mouth of the Nookachamps river at dusk. After they entered the Nookachamps they went up river a short ways and tied the scow up at Hoppys Shingle mill. Then they wa1ked through the dark woods on an Indian trail to the home on Barney Lake.
          In the fall of 1892 the Day brothers were building a large Shingle Mill at Clear Lake and Alick went to work for them as a mill carpenter. But the mill Company had no money to pay with so he left there and was out of work again. Then to make it worse he lost the home as the mortgage was foreclosed and he had to move out. Then the family moved near Clear Lake on the porter hill and he went to work for Meal and Nelson as a filer in their Shingle Mill. But after working there a short while he found such work was out of his line and he had to give it up. And there was no other work to be had. So the only thing he could do was to join up with other family men that was in the same fix he was and talk politics.
          The panic was still raging and all those railroad workers was out of work. Being the railroad was finished and thousands were tramping the R.R. track and county road looking for work even for their board. The only people that did not feel the panic was the Indians. They were having high muck a muck, (big eats) every day. In 1894 Alick got work cutting Shingle boats near Mt. Vernon for Freeman and Pipen who owned a small shingle mill north of Mt. Vernon. His pay was 90 cents a cord and he had to take his pay out in trade at Parkers Store at Burlington. In 1895 Freeman and Pipen opened up a small logging camp and he went to work for them in the woods. Tthe mother and older girls cooked for the loggers. This camp was half way between Mt. Vernon and the old BNL Davis ranch, the old landmark.
    The Rev. B.N.L. Davis was not only a neighbor of the Boyd family, but a Baptist minister who married Jane & Annie Boyd to the Hoyt brothers, Sam & Joe Hoyt in 1890

    In the fall of 1895 was election time and he ran for the office of county clerk of Skagit Co. and was elected for a two year term. The office paid one hundred dollars a month which was big salary in those days. In 1896 he bought an acre of land with a good house and orchard on it at Burlington and the family moved in.
          It looked as if the family was going to have it a little better until September 7, 1897, the mother Mary Olive died and was buried in the Burlington cemetery. There he was with all those small children and no mother to look after them. He gave up the place after that and moved to Mt. Vernon in 1898. He ran for a second term in office but he could put no heart in his campaign and was defeated.
          In 1897 and 1898 there was a great gold rush to the Yukon Country in Alaska. Everyone was going there that could get there. It was the greatest stampede that was ever known and Alick got the gold fever and decided he would cast his lot in the frozen North with the rest of them. When he got out of office he broke up the home and put the children out to anyone who would take them and went to Seattle to take the boat to Alaska. But instead he went to work in a factory and met a spinster there and married her and stayed in Seattle the rest of his days and died in 1917 at the age of 82.
    (so it is. Sic Transet Glori Mendit) (so passes away the glory of life)
    I suppose I have misspelled many of my words so over look it. My pen plays tricks on me often.

    Norm Boyd



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