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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition, where 450 of 700 stories originate
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Joe and Annie (Boyd) Hoyt,

the in-laws, the Boyds; their mills, and history
towns of Birdsview, Nookachamps and Prairie

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal ©2004
(Mill number 2)
      The first Hoyt Shingle Mill at this site near Prairie burned down about 1900 but it was immediately rebuilt and up and running in 1901. The mill pond and office and horse barn were then added to the mill site as shown in this photo, which Ed Hoyt dates at about 1907. The view is looking west towards present Highway 9, and Ed places the location of that mill at the present corner of the Hathaway and Cruse roads. Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Langridge.

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore 2004
      The Boyd and Hoyt families crossed paths near Clear Lake in the late-1880s and produced one of the most intriguing pioneer family trees in Skagit county. Joe Hoyt built a shingle mill near Prairie and employed many settlers in the foothills north of Woolley. His wife, Annie Boyd Hoyt, made her home a social center for the foothills, fed the loggers and mill workers of the area and raised three boys.
      Among the members of these two families are three teachers. They include Lewis A. Boyd, the patriarch of his family, who arrived in Skagit county to join his brother-in-law George Savage in Birdsview in 1882 after traveling around the world several times as a sailor several times and fighting the locusts and wildfires on the prairies of Nebraska. Two of his great-granddaughters, Alcina Allen Harwood and Berniece Hoyt Leaf, were long-time teachers in the school districts of Sedro-Woolley and other county towns, and instilled the love of history in students from the 1930s until the 1970s. They have also helped us piece together this story. the love of history in students from the 1930s until the 1970s. They have also helped us piece together this story. Other teachers in the family also made their own mark on their communities: the late Mary Ann Hoyt Allcid, who passed away in 2002; Jeanne Hoyt, who now lives in Stanwood; Ray Hoyt, who was a trainer and educator in physical education; and Earl Hoyt married another longtime Sedro-Woolley teacher, Marjorie McIntyre. This narrative starts back on the East Coast for both families. It is an exciting tale that stretches from colonial and Revolutionary War politics to mid-19th-century Paris and the perils of the sea.

Joseph Manzer Hoyt and his colonial ancestors
(Millville, New Brunswick)
Joe Hoyt's hometown, Millville, New Brunswick. Click photo for larger panoramic version.

      Simon and Jane (Stoodleigh) Hoyte shipped over from Dorset, England, to the East Coast of North America in 1628 along with other families as a member of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Back in 1614, Captain John Smith had sailed up a river there and named it Charles after King Charles I of England. The new settlers chose a peninsula the Indians called Mishawum and built cabins there for a village they would call Charlestown. To the immediate south would rise a metropolis called Boston and nearby, about 150 years later, a battle would be fought that we all remember as Bunker Hill. Two years after they arrived, the settlers welcomed another ship of settlers led by John Winthrop and together they established the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
      Simon's descendants lived in that area for the next 150 years as Charlestown became the principal port in the colony and companies there manufactured rum, sugar loaves, candles, leather exports, fur, lumber, pipe staves, pottery, and building frames. On the night of April 18, 1775, a small group of patriots rowed a boat to Charlestown with a man named Paul Revere, who borrowed a horse from Deacon Larkin and began his famous ride. In early June, American Colonists, colonists set up the defense of their town under the lead of Colonel William Prescott, who warned them, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes." On June 17, British troops in retreat from other battles defeated the colonists in the Battle of Bunker Hill and then burned most of the 400 buildings of the town, which was home to 2,000 people.
      But by that time, Simon's descendants had moved 175 miles away to the town of Norwalk in southwest Connecticut. And they were not patriots; instead, they chose to be Loyalists, or Tories. Young Joseph Hoyt III, age 25, joined the British troops and served in the "Prince of Wales American Regiment," which was quartered in Long Island. He served as a "fifer" in an Army company led by his cousin, Captain Stephen Hoyt. After the colonists gained the upper hand in the war, England granted members of the regiment a block of land on the St. John river, Kings county, New Brunswick, Canada, and Joseph moved to the town of Kingston, where he married
      One of his cousins, Munson [or Monson] Hoyt, helped lay out and settle Fredericton, the provincial capital, was elected the justice of the peace for York county and then became a partner in a business with America's most infamous traitor, Benedict Arnold. In 1786 they opened a store that was destroyed by fire two years later. Munson had borrowed money from Arnold and had signed promissory notes but was unable to repay them. Arnold took Hoyt to court and won the first action but then started a subsequent action out of pettiness. In the meantime, Hoyt learned that Arnold had benefited greatly from insurance policies after the fire and Munson went public with claims of arson by Arnold. Arnold sued him and won, but Munson and his friends burned Arnold in infamy.
      Albert Jarvis Hoyt was born to Joseph Hoyt IV's family in 1836 and by the beginning of the American civil war, Albert and his family lived in Millville in York county, northwest of Fredericton. He and his wife, Melviney Morgan, had five sons and four daughters. Our Joe Hoyt of Prairie was their third child, born Aug. 3, 1863, in Millville. His father was a farmer and the family was raised as Baptists. Joe never talked much about his childhood years except to say that he received little education — no more than three years of school. As a very young man, he started working for the Hayes Lumber Mill in Millville, a town that became known for the world's largest maple leaf, Canada's national symbol. A town named Hoyt sprung up south of Fredericton Joe's granddaughter Berniece Leaf visited it a few years ago; its latest population is less than 100. In 1884-85, Joseph and his brothers, younger brothers, Charles and Sam, decided to become river rafters and moved down a chain of rivers through nearby Maine and all the way to Michigan, where they again started working in the woods.


Lewis Alexander Boyd and his family
(L.A. Boyd)
Capt. L.A. Boyd, courtesy of www.stumpranchonline.com

      You will find links below to all the stories about L.A. Boyd, Joe Hoyt's future father-in-law. L.A. Boyd was born to more humble parents but everything else about his childhood is a mystery. That is due both to a paucity of records and to L.A. telling different record-keepers, and even different family members, different details. His daughter Annie Laurie told her descendants that her father was born in Scotland in the mid-1830s and his parents moved the family to New York state in about 1836-38. Others insist that Boyd was born in the mid-1840s.That is due both to a paucity of records and to L.A. telling different record-keepers, and even different family members, different details. His daughter Annie Laurie told her descendants that her father was born in Scotland in the mid-1830s and his parents moved the family to New York state in about 1836-38. Others insist that Boyd was born in the mid-1840s.
      Some of his children recall that his family lived on Staten Island in New York, but Dan Royal, Boyd's great-great-grandson, found records that place them in Buffalo. Dan's great-grandmother, Mabel Boyd Royal Steen (Howard's mother), compiled an impressive family history with the aid of her brothers Norman and Archie and her cousin, Katy Savage Pulsipher. We provide here a brief summary to show how he wound up in Skagit county. We will refer to him as L.A. Boyd, the name he used on documents. His exact birth year is unknown, but 1835 seems to be in the short range. The story that L.A. wove for his descendants places him near a harbor sometime around 1850, probably in his early teens and completely fascinated with sailing ships. His head filled with adventures, he stowed away on one of the sailing ships. By the time young L.A. was discovered on a windjammer far out at sea the captain decided to make him his cabin boy as the ship sailed to Shanghai. The captain was wealthy and when the ship circumnavigated the globe, he enrolled Boyd in a prestigious Paris school — possibly the Sorbonne, where the young man studied the violin, learned French and the classic subjects and also took up carpentry. After he graduated, Boyd again joined the captain, but this time as a full-fledged sailor and later a captain, himself, according to his tale. He later said that he circled the globe at least twice. According to Norman Boyd, his father told him that, while sailing from Tarapico, Mexico, and bound for Calcutta, India, the crew was 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 to France with them.
      When Boyd recovered, he sailed to England and then sailed from Liverpool to New York City. At this point, we have another conflict of family memories. Some recall stories that he intended to visit his father and mother, but he discovered that they had died in some sort of widespread epidemic and his siblings had scattered. They cite a story that L.A. told of a striking premonition of his mother's death — down to the date, which he had on board ship. Others remember that he visited his father, who would not forgive him for stowing away on a ship and not letting them know where he went. Memories generally agree that, whatever the case, he sailed for the West Coast and spent the Civil War years on merchant ships and may have sailed around the world again.
      By the end of the war, he decided in 1865 to end his years on the sea and he left the last ship at Baltimore, where he bought a saddle horse and decided to ride across the country to homestead in the prairies of the Midwest. He settled first in Iowa, where he worked as the bookkeeper at a mill owned by a man named James Torrey and met another mill worker who would become one of the key people in his life, George Savage. By the time that Boyd decided to move on to Nebraska, Torrey's daughter Clarissa, age 14 or 15, had fallen in love with him. Different members of the family called her different names and nicknames but we use Clarissa to be consistent. Although she was very young, family members surmise that Clarissa's mother, Clara Torrey, wanted her to marry someone who was educated and had a promising future. The couple married in March 1869, climbed on a wagon and followed their team of horses west on a frontier honeymoon. They wound up homesteading near the Elkhorn river in what is now Antelope county in Nebraska, near the little town of Neligh. Archie was their first child in 1870 and another baby came along nearly every year until they had nine children by 1881, including Joe Hoyt's future bride, Annie Laurie, who was born on May 16, 1873. Boyd's education and experience in leading men aboard ship led to his election as a county commissioner from 1871, when Neligh was incorporated, and he also taught French and other subjects at the University of Nebraska.


The Boyds join the Savages in Birdsview
      After more than eleven years of fighting locusts and prairie fires, the embers from the last fire were cooling when L.A. decided they had experienced enough of the Prairie. Back in Iowa, Georgetta, Clarissa's older sister by eight years, married George Savage in 1865. They moved out to Skagit river area in 1873 and Georgetta wrote long letters to her sister, extolling the land along the river and the game and fish that were so plentiful. Norman Boyd wrote about the family's journey to join his cousins in the fall of 1882:
      The Union Pacific Railroad was running immigrant trains from Omaha to San Francisco at cheap rates. The Boyd family traveled via covered wagon to Omaha, and from Omaha, Nebraska they took the train to San Francisco. This train was made up of regular boxcars 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.
(Annie Laurie Boyd Hoyt)
Annie Laurie Boyd Hoyt, courtesy of www.stumpranchonline.com


      Annie Laurie — who at nine years old was the third eldest and the oldest girl, was responsible for helping her mother with the six younger siblings, including baby Lillian, born that January. The 12-day trip must have been maddening for the 11 family members, as they watched the growing Western part of the nation flash by from the train windows. They finally reached San Francisco on September 30 and spent the next two days moving all their household goods from the train depot to the docks, where they boarded an old side-wheel steamer, the Dakota, on Oct. 2 for a rough seven-day trip up the coast. The family was seasick all the way except for L.A., who was on the seas again for the first time in 17 years.
      He was thrilled with the new land around Seattle and after a three-day layover, the family boarded the sternwheeler Josephine for their trip up north to the Skagit river. The family arrived in Mount Vernon on Oct. 15 and Boyd put them up at the Ruby Hotel while he and his son Archie and his brother-in-law George Savage ferried their belongings upriver. Judy Hoyt Allen, Annie's granddaughter, recalls that when she was a young girl on her grandmother's knee, Annie told her that her mother placed her and the eight other children in canoes in Mount Vernon with Indians in charge of the travel.
      "Her mother bent over and whispered in her ear, 'If you move, they will kill you!'", Judy recalls, and that shut them up for awhile. "Obviously this was her way of controlling her children." Alcina Harwood remembers stories that her grandmother, Eva Jane Boyd, told about the chaos that ensued when the nine children broke free and explored the wild outdoors around Birdsview.
      "Grandmother was a year younger than Annie and the adults warned them of all the perils of the wilderness, about getting lost and the river and so on," Alcina recalls. "Of course they ignored most of the warnings and one time they climbed out onto a log boom and one or the other slipped off the log and immediately fell in over her head. The other one saved her only by grabbing for her sister's braid and screaming bloody murder. Finally some of the men from the saloon came running out and saved her from drowning." Annie and Archie and Eva Jane and the children were like kids in a candy store as they roamed the woods with the pioneers, fished in the streams and helped their family form a home in the foothills of the Cascades, so different than the prairies where they were born.
      L.A.'s skills at carpentry came in handy at the mill that Birdsey Minkler built on the south side of the river across from Birdsview, but his other skill was especially welcome. Minkler wanted to build a real school for the children of the his own family, the Boyds, Savages and other pioneer upriver families such as the von Pressentins and Kemmeriches. Boyd helped build the school and then became the first schoolmaster upriver.


The Hoyts and Boyds converge near the Nookachamps
    Any time, any amount, please help build our travel and research fund for what promises to be a very busy 2011, traveling to mine resources from California to Washington and maybe beyond. Depth of research determined by the level of aid from readers. Because of our recent illness, our research fund is completely bare. See many examples of how you can aid our project and help us continue for another ten years. And subscriptions to our optional Subscribers Online Magazine (launched 2000) by donation too. Thank you.


(Plumeria)
We recently visited our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, which is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down comforters, pillows, featherbeds & duvet covers and bed linens. Order directly from their website and learn more about this intriguing local business.

      Dan Royal has found a chain of paperwork that outlines Boyd's land claim on the south side of the Skagit river. In December 1882, he preempted 142 acres for which he paid $178.12 after proving up in 1884. Mabel Boyd Royal noted in her family narrative that since L.A. had already exercised his homestead right in Nebraska for farmland, he filed at Birdsview for a mineral claim. He slashed four acres of timber and brush, cleared two acres and planted crops of potatoes and various types of produce. The next few years were ones when L.A. Boyd looked for greener pastures. One was in a mine that resulted from one of George Savage's surveying trips. Called the Blue Jay, the mine petered out, as did many mines in the areas upriver that were nearly inaccessible and cost as much to transport the ore as the assayers paid. The claim proved more valuable for timber than for minerals.
      The second pasture was a very promising one, a piece of land on the south side of Skagit river between Nookachamps creek and Blarney Lake in Section 10, Township 34 north, Range 4 east. In one family record, he traded his mine rights for it. But Dan Royal discovered a warranty deed showing that he paid the Skagit Railway and Lumber Co. for it, $800 in gold coin on Nov. 12, 1887. By the way, the place name truly was Blarney Lake on the early maps and we still have not determined why someone changed such a lovely name to Barney; maybe it was for a later settler. Mabel Boyd Royal has supplied the only explanation so far for the original name: "This lake was full of water in winter, but completely dry in summer, so that was the reason for its name Blarney. " If you drive or bicycle through the Nookachamps watershed today, you can see why settlers would love it there. Starting in the late 1870s, it began filling up with homesteaders. The views of the hills to the east around Clear Lake and Day creek are beautiful, dense forests awaited the axe and misery-whip saw, potable water was everywhere around them, crops grew abundantly and the summers are heavenly. The valley there seems idyllic, until ole man river starts bucking and snorting, that is. When that occurs, the image resembles the biblical flood, but the Boyds would not witness that until the three monster floods started in 1894.
      They did not move to Nookachamps immediately, however; they spent at least a year north of the Skagit. Annie Boyd Hoyt told her descendants that when the family moved downriver, they first lived in Sterling, which was two miles west of Mortimer Cook's new store in Sedro. She recalled that they moved in 1885, but there is a conflict with that date, as you will see. Sterling was the first town that rose upriver after the log jams opened near Mount Vernon in 1878. L.A. worked at the mill there as a millwright and the children attended the Sterling school, taught by R.O. Welts, who was later Skagit county school superintendent. We think that the year may have been off by one, however, since we have records of the changes that the town of Sterling was going through in 1885. The conflict is that records show that the Sterling school outgrew Ball's original bunkhouse and in 1885 the school was moved to the Van Fleet homestead for one year, returning to a new building in Sterling in 1886. From then on, there were two different school districts for Sterling and Sedro. In 1886, Skagit Railway and Timber Co. [SR&T] bought the Sterling store and lumber camp from the Barlow and Ball Co. Jesse Ball moved with his Indian wife down to Fir to where she still held land from her first husband, Joseph Lisk [see our exclusive Ball-Sterling story at website]. We are not sure about when the Boyd family moved across the river to the Nookachamps area, but we know from the records that Boyd bought the Nookachamps land in 1887 from SR&T.
      Whenever they moved, L.A. set about building a comfortable log home. "There was no house on the place until Pa built one, so the family lived in a deserted house on an adjoining homestead," Mabel and Norman wrote. "This was known as the old Elkins Place." As soon as the house was ready, L.A. moved the family in and then he and the boys built sheds, barns, fences and other outbuildings. The family ranged in age from Norman, age one, to Archie, age 15. The three oldest girls, Annie, 12, Eva Jane, 11, and Grace, 10, had their hands full, taking care of the five younger siblings. Clarissa planted cherry trees that were her pride and joy and Mabel noted that they were still flourishing in the 1950s when she wrote her fine family stories. The eleventh child of 14 was born there in 1887 — Thomas, and we can imagine the girls' groans when even more chores were distributed amongst them. He was followed by Mabel, John and Nellie, all born in different locales as the family moved up and down the river.
      Mabel shared another story that illustrated the hardships and humor of frontier life. L.A. raised and broke a couple of steers to the yoke and plowed and hauled with them. The children named them Dick and Dave and L.A. built a rickety wooden cart that also had wooden wheels. One day he hooked up the oxen to the cart and drove it to Mount Vernon, starting early in the morning so he could arrive by noon and get home before dark. While the team was hitched in front of the Clothier & English store, something spooked them and off they stormed through the thick timber on the hill above town, "their tails sticking straight out behind and the cart bouncing from one side of the road to the other." Boyd had walk home the whole eight miles and rain soon started falling. No one dared to speak to him that night.
      Another story illustrates both Clarissa's inventive mind and how the sisters got each other's goat. The Boyd and Savage kids loved to get together and raise hell in the woods and on the river and one day, George and Georgetta Savage rowed downriver with their whole brood. While the kids frolicked, Clarissa and Georgetta set about washing the dozens of pieces of clothes for the Boyd family. Clarissa decided to save time, so instead of carrying water back and forth from the [Nookachamps] river to the house, she lit a fire by the river and she and her sister set about scrubbing the clothes with lye soap on their wooden washboards. Clarissa got the bright idea of putting the soapy clothes in a canoe and rowing out into the river to rinse the clothes where the water was clear and deep. But during the process the temperamental canoe flipped over, dumping both women into the water as their paddles and clothes floated down towards the juncture with the Skagit. Neither woman could swim, so they had to hang onto the canoe and dog paddle their way to the shore. The sight of their mothers amused the children greatly but they soon ran pell-mell up to the house to seek help from their fathers. L.A. and George, however, were deep into a political conversation, so they ignored the children, who then went out to play. By the time that the women climbed out of the water and walked up to the house, there was surely hell to pay but Georgetta, known for her good humor, broke out into laughter and exclaimed: "Oh Doll [the family's pet name for Clarissa], you look so funny, just like a drowned rate, with your hair all wet over your face and your eyes bugged out." That was a favorite family story until the sisters died.
      By 1888 the Boyd children attended school at Orilla schoolhouse, which was built new that year on the old O.N. Babcock homestead near his namesake road southwest of what would soon become the town of Clear Lake. That was less than a half-mile walk away from the Boyd home along the western shore of Nookachamps creek, which was then called a river. Back in those days on the frontier, children were educated when and where their parents could afford the time and the subscription fee. For Annie Laurie and Eva Jane, the oldest sisters, most of their education was probably what we would now call home-schooling, whenever L.A. had the time and was not seeking greener pastures. In an old family oral story, Annie Laurie — then in her teens, was walking along the Nookachamps one day when she spotted a handsome young logger out on the water, probably riding a small boom of logs. Back in those days the first-growth timber was still being felled close to the water and then the logs were rolled to the creek or drug there by oxen. Each camp burned a brand onto the butt of the log, dumped it in the nearest stream, where it floated to the Skagit and then downstream to a log dump at what was called Riverside or North Mount Vernon. Her mother had warned her about those loggers and their conniving ways with teenage girls and, that first time, she ran away. At a subsequent time, apparently she did not.


Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
(Hop Pickers)
(Hop Pickers)
(Hop Pickers)
These photos are all of hop pickers at Warner's Prairie and Prairie. The left and right photos are courtesy of Mary Ellen Langridge, a descendant of the Warner and Landon families. The center photo from Ed Hoyt was taken by famed photographer Edward M. Curtis on Sept. 13, 1892, in the hop yard on land later owned by the McMackin family across the road from Warner's Prairie. Please let us know if you can identify any of the people in these photos.

Joe and Annie marry and set up a home at Prairie
      The logger was, of course, Joseph Hoyt from New Brunswick. Joe told his children and descendants a story about how he and his brothers Sam and Charles hop-scotched across the country, starting in 1884-85, working as river-rafters and in logging camps along the way, mainly in Michigan. The brothers arrived in Skagit County in about 1886-87, where they quickly found work as river-rafters on the upper Skagit and streams like the Nookachamps. Later they worked in sawmills and shingle mills in the area south of the river where Montborne would become a town in 1888 and Mountain View/Clear Lake would be born in 1890. Annie probably first met Joe when he was rafting logs down the Nookachamps and she must have made quite an impression. We can only imagine how much Clarissa worried about her three pretty teenage daughters. Apparently, Annie went on to play matchmaker with her younger sister Eva Jane and Joe's younger brother, Sam. After a year or so, Charles decided to return to New Brunswick, but Linda Jo Cruse, a Hoyt descendant, discovered that Joe and Sam became naturalized U.S. citizens in 1888. They decided to stay and marry the Boyd sisters. On March 15, 1890, Riverside Baptist minister B.N.L. Davis married Sam, age 25, to Jane, who was not yet 16. Five months later, on Aug. 6, 1890, Davis married Joe — who turned 27 just three days before, to Annie, who was 17.
      Joe and Annie apparently soon set up housekeeping in Clear Lake and Joe worked in mills nearby. He was determined, however, to build his own mill someday soon, so the couple began looking for property. They apparently began buying land near the town of Prairie in the early 1890s. Prairie was in the foothills north of the new town of Woolley, where the LaPlant brothers established a sawmill back in the mid-1880s. The nationwide Depression set in during 1893 and money became scarce. Hard times created an opportunity for the Hoyts, however, when they invested in at least three pieces of land in the Behrens and Moody addition to West Mount Vernon. By the time their first child, Earl Joseph, was born on Aug. 5, 1893, they were living in Clear Lake. Dan Royal and Deanna Ammons discovered in old school records from the northwest Washington regional archives that both Annie and Eva Jane attended school at the Orilla school from 1891-93, after their marriage, with their husbands listed as their guardians.
      Joe improved the property near Prairie over the next two years in preparation for building his saw mill. That district was then very difficult to reach other than by Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern's [SLS&E] West Coast Line. That railroad originated 65 miles south on Seattle's waterfront and continued north on an inland route through Snohomish, past Lake McMurray and Montborne (now part of Big Lake) and Sedro on its way to Sumas and a junction with the Canadian Pacific Railway. Joe Hoyt's property lay to the east of the tracks in section 24, Township 36 north, Range 4 east, and Thunder creek bisected it east to west. Ed Hoyt notes that Hoyt's first two mills were actually on a two-acre sliver on the east side of the tracks that he rented for $25 per year from the railroad. "Grandpa Hoyt's property was next to the mill site and east up the hill," Hoyt recalls. The only road, if you could call it that, was a wagon road that followed an old Indian trail from Edison through Jarman's Prairie (south of Friday creek) and then along the east fork of the Samish river up to Prairie. John Warner originally carved that road out of the mud back in the 1870s and '80s. Ed Hoyt says that there really was not a town of Prairie, per se, when the Hoyts first move there. There was only a post office in the Canavan house; it was established on March 6, 1884. The town came later, with a store, a tavern, lodging for loggers and mill workers and storage buildings. The only access in the early days besides the railroad was a crude wagon road leading south from the main road to the Hoyt property.


(Maybe LaPlant sawmill)
      This sawmill photo from Mary Ellen Langridge's collection was a mystery to us all until Ed Hoyt blew it up and recognized his grandfather, Joe Hoyt, in the center of the photo. After we put our heads together, he surmised that this photo could be of the LaPlant sawmill that predated Hoyt's shingle mill in Prairie. Ed thinks his grandfather could have worked for the LaPlant brothers [see the story for details] and possibly bought the mill, too.
      We asked Ed Hoyt, the Hoyts' grandson, if Joe could have bought the earlier LaPlant Brothers mill to begin his operation. Ed thinks that was possible or that he may have worked for the LaPlants before building his own shingle mill, but there are no records. Brothers J.L. "Lawrence" and J.C. "Baldy" LaPlant moved here from Marietta, Iowa, in 1888 and in the 1890s they started cutting timber north of Woolley. None of the LaPlant descendants know any details of the Prairie mill. Ed discovered from his family records that the other mill at Prairie in the 1890s was called Mann & Strandberg's. There was an odd occasion at Prairie the year after Joe and Annie arrived, however, that thickens the plot. As the 1906 Book, Illustrated History of Skagit & Snohomish Counties, reported, "An attempt at murder, of a dastardly and fiendish nature, was committed at Prairie" on Dec. 5, 1896. The brothers and another man were asleep in their Prairie home when someone exploded a charge of dynamite under the house and blew it into splinters. The men all jumped out of a gaping hole and survived; the assassin was never caught. The brothers soon left for the Klondike gold rush and after they returned in 1900, they opened a dairy on Duke's Hill.
      In addition to logging the dense forests all around them, families in the area harvested cash crops and hops were the biggest of them all. From the 1880s through the early years of the 20th century, the Prairie and Warner's Prairie area to the south were major centers for that crop along with Lyman, upriver on the Skagit, and Riverside near Mount Vernon. Ed Hoyt lives on the old John Warner property and he notes that hops still grow wild all over there and that he still finds old hop poles in the weeds. Other cash crops included ginseng and cranberries, both grown further south towards Duke's Hill. The Hoyts moved to their property at a very tough time on the frontier. The nation was still reeling from the Depression that began in 1893 and to make things worse for timbermen, there was a glut of cedar on the market in the mid-1890s as a result of all those cedar trees that were felled along the rivers and streams of Washington and shipped to markets across the country and to countries on what we now call the Pacific Rim.
      The Canavan family lived nearest: Edward J. and Nell Canavan never married and they lived together on a patch of land west of the Hoyts. They had come out with their parents from Lawrence, Kansas, to Samish island in 1886 and in 1890 they moved to Prairie where they ran the store and post office until 1913, according to the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times. Ed Hoyt recalls a story that the post office was in the Canavan house through 1925 when the post office was disbanded. The brother and sister worked hard to produce one of the show gardens of the county. To the north were the James T. Swan and Art Landon families. Landon, whose family moved to Washington before the Seattle fire of June 6, 1889, married Mary Warner, daughter of Capt. John Warner, namesake of Warner's Prairie. Swan's son, Pete, turned 100 in Lyman a couple of years ago.


Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
(Joe Hoyt's first mill)
(Crew of Mill number 1)
(Shingle crew)
Far left: This photo from Ed Hoyt's family collection is slowly fading away. It is the earliest known photo of Joe Hoyt's first sawmill, about 1896-97. Center: This photo from Mary Ellen Langridge shows the first Hoyt mill in 1899. From l. to r.: (not sorted by rows) Erik Larson, Tom Boyd (in back), John Foster, Joe Hoyt, Earl Hoyt, Norm Boyd, Art Landon (sitting, hands folded), Charles Hickson (standing in right back), Jeff Spear (far right front). A Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times 1953 article notes that: "At this mill, [Joe Hoyt] did his own saw filing, sawing and more often than not was the mill's night watchman." Ed notes that Joe was also the millwright. Shingle bolts surround the crew. . Right: Ed Hoyt photo of Mill number 2 in 1901. Front row, l. to r.: Frank Winters, cutoff man; Jeff Spear, knee-bolter; Joe Hoyt, owner-filer; Henry Bruhn, log loader; Eric Larson, sawyer; Art Landon, knot sawyer. Back row: Lou Palmer, engineer; Henry Bruhn's boy, John; Jim Conlin, knot sawyer with hat askew; Norm Boyd, packer; Harry Franklin, packer. Look closely at the bottom of the photo and you will see that the log of Kinsey and Gillett. That denotes Sedro-Woolley's famous photographer, Darius Kinsey, but who was Gillett? None of our sources have been able to identify him. Do you know?.

The Hoyt Mill begins in 1895 and the family grows
      When Joe fired up the mill for the first time in about 1895, it was a most welcome addition to the Prairie community. It caused the railroad to stop and pick up lumber and shingles and leave goods and the crew spent money while they were there. A community, especially one this small, was not considered important unless the train stopped there. Eventually there would be spur lines going out into the timber and side-tracks for parking railroad cars for loading and unloading. Annie, who was 24 by now, was maturing rapidly as she took on the responsibility of feeding the crews two or three times a day, planting and harvesting the garden that set the table and taking care of children. On the day after Christmas in 1898, their second child, Robert, came along. But there were also two other family mouths to feed.
      Annie's mother, Clarissa, died on Sept. 7, 1897, after the family moved to Burlington. The Boyds had ridden quite a roller coaster during the 1890s depression. Not seeing the financial panic on the horizon, L.A. Boyd mortgaged the Nookachamps property for a loan of a mere $100 sometime in 1891 when he was logging for the Clothier and English Logging Co. around Blarney Lake. Clothier made his living by then from loans and real estate and he did not forgive Boyd's debt. The story that Mabel and Norman Boyd wrote illustrates why we welcome such first-hand stories, diaries and letters. Their narrative informed us that hard times set in out here on the frontier even early than in 1893 for the rest of the nation, when banks began failing every week. When Clothier foreclosed on the farm, the only chance they had was to go back up to Birdsview and try to make a go of the little water-powered mill that Minkler started in 1878 and then George Savage bought it, but then left it behind when he decided to take over a large steam-powered mill near Anacortes. That lasted only a few months until Mabel was born there on Nov. 13, 1891, and each raft of timber brought less cash in return. Back down the river went the whole family with a dozen kids on a raft in the winter and Boyd luckily got a job at a mill in the new town of Clear Lake.
      As the nationwide Depression set in, L.A. became even more politically inclined. Brother-in-law Savage decided to run a mill for the planned Equality Cooperative near Bow but Boyd finally hit on a longshot. After talking with the jobless hobos who traveled through on trains from more metropolitan areas, he learned that the People's Party had a chance at upsetting the dominant Republican party in Washington with a purely Populist platform. Boyd filed for county clerk and was swept into office by the People's tide from governor John Rogers on down. The office brought $100 per month, a comparative fortune after 25 years of farming and mill work, so Boyd moved the family to Burlington so that he could take the train to the courthouse in Mount Vernon.
      Just as the family found some stability and steady income, however, Clarissa died on Sept. 7, 1897, apparently age 43 at her death. Dan Royal notes on Stumpranch Online that, "at the time of her death, according to her daughters, she was tired, worn out, [haggard,] and even though she was enjoying a more leisurely life with a new home in the city of Burlington . . . with a garden she enjoyed working in, she was apparently ready for the long sleep." At that point, the wheels fell off the family wagon for the Boyds. Two more babies had been born in 1893 and 1896 — in Clear Lake and Burlington, and L.A. literally did not know what to do with 14 children. Some were still at home and some, like Annie, were starting their own families. L.A. was about 62 at that point and one wonders how any single man on the frontier could have held the family together. Several relatives and friends stepped in, taking a child or two with them under their wings. Joe and Annie reached out and took in Norman Boyd, age 13, and Thomas Boyd, age 11, who promptly went to work at the mill in various jobs. They turned out to be a handful and they bounced around, not showing up in the next federal census at Prairie, although Norman did eventually come back to work at the Hoyt mill later on. Dan Royal has worked hard to piece together records for the family after Clarissa's death, quite a feat considering all the relatives involved. He learned that after L.A. finished his term as county clerk, he moved to Tacoma to be near his son James who had married there in 1895. L.A. remarried in about 1899 to a spinster and he promised her that she would not have to raise his children. L.A. was hired as a supervisor for a pulley company that later relocated to Ballard and he worked there until just before his death in 1918.


(Joe Hoyt's second mill)
      Joe Hoyt's rebuilt mill in 1901 after the fire of 1900. Capacity was 75,000 shingles per day for the "Eastern trade" as the article with it explains. In front you see a spur to the Northern Pacific Railroad, which ran north and south to the west of the mill. Photo by Darius Kinsey, courtesy of Ed Hoyt. From a 1901 Northern Pacific railroad book about mills along the line.

Fire levels Hoyt's first mill
      Joe Hoyt must have been ecstatic at the turn of the 20th century. His shingle mill was churning out product at full capacity, he had teams of loggers out in the field on his timber claims and others, felling raw material for the mill, and his family was growing, happy and well provided for. But just as the sweet bluebird of happiness landed on his windowsill, the elements pulled the rug out from underneath him. We have not yet found from the limited resources available for that year what the exact date was, but sometime in the year 1900, a fire leveled the mill. The mill was not insured and there surely was no fire department to quell the flames, only a bucket brigade from Thunder creek. We hope a reader can supply more information.
      Joe soon showed both his will and determination, however, hardly skipping a beat before rebuilding an even better mill with more efficient equipment, better loading facilities and even better infrastructure. The Northern Pacific [NP] had bought out the old SLS&E line and its next incarnation, the Seattle & International, and an NP book published in 1901 reviewed the new mill, which will call Mill Two in the future.

      One year ago his plant burned to the ground, but he wasted no time crying over the ruins. The ashes were hardly cold until his new mill was well under way and today he is the sole owner of one of the best plants for the size in the country. It has a capacity of 75,000 [daily capacity of shingles] and is kept running to the limit to supply his large Eastern trade. Directly tributary to the mill, Mr. Hoyt owns a large body of unexcelled live fir and cedar. There is enough of it to keep his plant busy for the next twelve years. From this live timber he manufactures a special brand of clear shingles that are A-1 goods. He does his own logging, and in fact, runs his entire business upon his own capital.

(Baseball game 1902)
      These folks from Prairie attended the baseball game between Sedro-Woolley and Bellingham, played up north, in 1902. From l. to r., Joe Bonner, Ray McMackin, Ed Canavan, Bert Rodgers, Stan Rodgers, Joe M. Hoyt (holding son Bob), and Earl Hoyt is sitting in front of Stan Rodgers. Back row, Jim Swan, Carl McCorkhill, Tom McMackin, Miss Nell Canavan, Alice Rodgers, Mrs. Joe (Annie Laurie) Hoyt, Norman Boyd.

      For the next 25 years, Joe Hoyt would be a dominant force in Skagit county mill men and a leader in the industry, in addition to being the most important employer in the foothills. He had more than 30 years of life in front of him and it would take another nationwide depression to challenge his business acumen and his dedication along with his mill's productivity. In the next chapter, we will feature many more photos of the next three mills that he owned, his growing family, Annie's role as a mother and social leader with Joe and after his death, and how their family carried on. We hope that any readers who can contribute to the story of these families, this time period, and the communities of Nookachamps, Prairie and Birdsview will email us and loan copies of documents and photos that will make this Hoyt series and other stories even better.

Links, background reading and sources

Story posted on March 15, 2004, last updated April 22, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 19 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine



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