E.O. BOYD'S YEARS AT ELK POINT
by Dorothy (Boyd) Portsmith
Edward Owen Boyd, my father, was known as Ed or E.O. He was born in Illinois, U.S.A. His father was Joshua, and his mother Rebecca (nee Gould) of Virginia, U.S.A. They farmed in Nebraska.
Dad did not find farming to his liking so he took up telegraphy after he graduated from high school. He worked in Milwaukee and Duluth as dispatcher, until his health began to fail at the age of twenty-five. The doctors advised him to get outdoor work, preferably in the north "above the pine tree line". He had lost two sisters to tuberculosis, and the only help known in those days was fresh air and rest. It was thought the resin in spruce and pine trees had a healing effect.
My father and a friend came to Vermilion by train in July of 1907. They went on north to Caskeyville to see the country. While there, they attended a "Sunday-go-to-meeting" church gathering, intending to go on the next day. That evening, Ed told his friend he could go on if he liked but he, himself, was going to stay. He had just seen his future wife that day!
Dad went to Vermilion to work that winter as a telegrapher. He lived with Matt Brimacombe. He was a very outgoing person. He loved music and was a very talented violinist. He also played guitar, mandolin, cello, cornet and trombone. He was always willing to give his musical support to any and all entertainment, be it dancing, singing or concert work. He played for dances far and near. Most dances were held in the homes, with furniture being moved outdoors, if need be, to make room. Dancing went on till daybreak.
In 1908, Dad came back to Caskeyville and took up a homestead - N.E. l0-57-7-W4-- about seven miles north-west of the present town site of Elk Point, and built a shack. The mail came to Caskeyville Post Office. Dad lived with another bachelor, George Shortridge. They went to Vermilion for their supplies, crossing the river at Hopkins ferry.
In 1910 my father built himself a frame house. He and George Shortridge dug wells on each of their homesteads, getting good water at the twelve-foot level. This digging was done in January and February of 1910.
There was no communication lines into the north until a telegraph station was installed in Dad's house in May of 1910, with him as operator. He was also lineman, being responsible for the up-keep of the twenty or so miles of line between St. Paul de Metis and his station. The line was strung over hill and dale, across the shortest route. More often than not, it was nowhere near the roadway. Dad would drive as close as possible to the line, tie up his team, and then set off, carrying his gear needed to climb poles and repair breaks. Fallen trees from a wind storm were the cause of most trouble.
It was a good job for getting fresh air and exercise. It must have agreed with Dad, for he lived to the age of eighty years.
Church services were held in J. Hunter's home. The Moose Ranch News of 1910 mentions Mr. Boyd playing violin for these services. Their Sundays were spent playing ball, with a good game of tennis enjoyed evenings after work. The young bachelors played many harmless tricks on one another and had many a good laugh. There were good times and bad times, but everyone worked together and played together, always helping if a neighbor was in need. It seems life was never dull.
As Ed Boyd had predicted in 1907 on his first day in Elk Point, he stayed near and in due time met Miss Mary Alice Smith. They were married on January 31, 1911 - the first white couple to be married north of the river. The wedding was held at the home of the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. C.D. Smith, of Hopkins. Miss Florence Noble was the bride's attendant, and Mr. Fred Smith was best man. Miss Mary Smith was the first young lady to settle in the Elk Point district, coming from Greenfield, Iowa, with her parents and four brothers in 1907.
Ed had finished his new house - a storey and a half frame building -. on his homestead and this is where he took his bride. She had not seen the house before the wedding, as it was not proper for a young lady to visit a bachelor home. As Dad had to be out on the line quite often, he taught his bride to read the "KEY". She took messages as they came over the wire, and could send, if necessary.
E.O. (Dad) was still in demand for playing for dances as far south as Queenie Creek, nearly thirty miles from his home. He would strap his violin case to his back, don his skis and ski across country, often playing three or four nights before returning home again. It was a common custom for him to ski to Caskeyville Post Office, and later to the Hopkins Post Office, for their mail. The Moose Ranch News of the day notes that musical evenings and dances were held in the Boyd home.
My father gave a corner of his land for a school. It was known as Paramount School, as that was the name of the homestead. Some men named their homesteads. One bachelor called his place "Bannock Burn". Quite appropriate!
By the end of the first year, Mr. and Mrs. Boyd had a baby boy born to them. He was premature and, with no facilities to care for those babies in 1911, he lived only a short time, passing away on December 26. A neighbor had a new copper wash boiler and it was used for a casket. They buried little Kenton Elysworth on the homestead, as was the custom in those days. Later when the Elk Point cemetery was established, the small casket was moved to it. In two years' time a baby girl was born to them.
I don't know when the telephone line was put into Elk Point but, by 1914, the government telegraph line was installed further north at the edge of the land survey, at Rife, and Dad was transferred there as the operator.
Dad and Mom went on to raise a family of ten children. In later years they moved to Yahk, B.C. Both are buried at Cranbrook, B.C.