Albert E. Boyd
THERE is in America a spirit of unrest. It may be the product of social conditions
that permit men to rise from humble walks to exalted stations. It may be the result
of the wonderful opportunities afforded by the development of a new country for
men to acquire money and the power which wealth gives. Its primary manifestations are
dissatisfaction with poverty and an ambition to get away from the lowly surroundings into
which many great souls are born. A higher and stronger manifestation is unusual energy
and extraordinary activity. The man who abhors idleness and finds pleasure in his work
has emerged from the environments of mediocrity. But the highest manifestation of this
distinctive American trait is the initative. The ambitious man may accomplish something; the ambitious and industrious man will succeed, but the man who is ambitious,
industrious and has confidence in himself and the courage to undertake important new
enterprises will be among the leaders in the commercial world. To see and grasp opportunities that do not lie in the beaten path of commercialism, to explore new realms of
thought, to open up new avenues through which may come more light and power, more
convenience and comfort to the human family -- this is the initiative.
This foreword is suggested by the narrative that follows. Somebody has written:
"In the lexicon of youth which fate reserves for a bright manhood there is no such word
as fail." The life of A. E. Boyd is a story in which the possibility of failure never
occurs. When he was a boy and had a task to perform, he set about to do it well and
with all possible despatch. He was a farmer's boy, and as Lowell said of Ezekiel in
"The Courtin'," "None could draw a furrer straighter." When a boy he studied the
character of horses, and learned to know them, and they knew him. In after years he
was known as one of the best horse trainers in the Northwest Territory. Most of his life
has been spent on the frontier. He knows the language of the wilderness, the stories of
the mountains and the plains, and the lore of the Indians.
This knowledge and the experiences by which it was obtained, taught him to be
self-reliant and gave him confidence in his ability to accomplish whatever he undertook
to do. He came to Nome in 1 900, and in I 904 he had constructed and was the owner
of a telephone system connecting the principal camps of the peninsula, a very valuable
property -- valuable as a money maker for its owners and as a money saver for the miners
and business men who use it. During the year 1904 Mr. Boyd went to New York, and
incorporated a company capitalized at $ 1 00,000 of which he is vice-president and general
manager, with funds to extend the line to all parts of the peninsula where the development
of the country creates a demand for the service that will warrant the extension.
Mr. Boyd is a native of County Grey, Province of Ontario, Canada, and was born
in 1862 within a mile and a quarter of Georgian Bay. His father was born in Manchester, England, and his mother was Scotch, a sister of the Rev. Geo. McDougall, the
pioneer missionary of the Northwest Territory who founded missions from Lake Superior
to the Rocky Mountains. Mr. Boyd's father was a pioneer who cut a trail from the
shores of Georgian Bay through the woods to a home in the "forest primeval." Albert
was the youngest in a family of six boys and two girls. His early education was acquired
in a log school house, but he never attended school after he was fourteen years old. When
he was sixteen years old he determined to go to the Northwest Territory. One of his sisters
had married the Rev. John McDougall and then was located at Morley Mission. To
decide was to act. His parents decided to go with him. It was a long journey, by
boat to Duluth, by train to Bismarck, Dakota, by boat to Fort Benton, and thence 600
miles across country and into Canadian territory â€” into a new, wild country where white
men's habitations were hundreds of miles apart.
Mr. Boyd lived in the Northwest Territory nine years, and these nine years were full
of moving incident and thrilling experiences. From his early boyhood a proficient horseman he became known throughout this region as an expert rider and a great horse trainer.
He teamed and freighted, sometimes using the old Red River Cart, a product of the new
country. The wheels of this cart were made entirely of wood. The burden of bread
winner of the family fell upon his shoulders, and he worked among the Indians and rode
the range, and did everything that was necessary to do or required of him, always striving to do well any duty he had to perform. He lived a life of adventure and frontier experience, the narrative of which would make an interesting volume.
The story of one incident is told here because it
illustrates the character of the man. When twenty-one years old he made a trip
of 262 miles in two days and thirteen hours and a half, total time, and during
this trip he drove three teams that had never been in harness before. A woman in
Morley was ill, and the nearest doctor was the army surgeon at McCloud, 131 miles away. Mr. Boyd went after the doctor. He started on
horseback Saturday evening and rode across country, and as night came on he saw at a
distance what appeared to be a black cloud just above the horizon. It was only a few
moments until his keen; eyes discovered that he was riding into the most dreaded of all
things in that country, a prairie fire. To change his course and ride for miles around
the fire, and thus occasion hours' delay, or to brave everything and ride through it were
his only alternatives. He chose the latter. After riding through the thickest of the
fire and smoke successfully, he found nothing but blackness before him. The night
became densely dark, and with the burned grass, smoky atmosphere and blackened ground,
it was made still more dense. But undaunted he kept on his course as near as his judgment dictated. After traveling long after midnight he decided he should be near the old
trail which he had started out to intercept, and getting off his horse and taking a few
steps forward he struck a raise in the ground and feeling with his hand discovered a plowed
He knew at once what that meant. Some one had plowed around a haystack
to protect it from fire. In a few more steps he found the haystack where he concluded to
let his horse feed and wait for daybreak. As the first light broke the darkness he discovered that within two hundred feet of him lay the trail. He had traveled sixty miles
on his journey through the darkness of night. To saddle and away took but a moment.
After a few miles ride he encountered a Government surveying party, and pressed into
service a fresh horse. Arriving at a stock ranch he secured another relay, and rode on
to "The Leavings of Willow Creek," where he expected to obtain another fresh horse.
But the owner of the ranch and the range riders were away, and the only horse in the
corral was an "outlaw." Many had tried but no man ever had been able to ride him.
But Mr. Boyd had to have a fresh horse, and in this case it was "Hobson's choice."
He drove the wild beast into the small corral, roped him, saddled and bridled him, blind-folded him and mounted. To brief the story, the horse traveled a bucking gait the
first few miles but finally broke into a run, arriving at Fort McCloud at 7 o'clock Sunday
evening having traveled the last thirty-five miles in three hours and ten minutes.
He found the doctor, who was a man of excellent parts and a good physician,
on one of his periodical sprees and in a bad state of intoxication, but a friend agreed
to get the doctor into a buckboard when he was ready to start on the return trip. Mr.
Boyd was also delegated to bring the minister as the sick woman was not expected to
live. He found the preacher in the midst of a sermon, and stopped the discourse to tell
him of his mission. Arrangements were made to start at the earliest hour of light in the
morning, and Mr. Boyd sought a few hours of much needed sleep.
Long before it was light preparations were made for the return trip. The horse
ridden into McCloud was not broken to harness; neither was the only available horse in
the stable of a friend. But they were harnessed and hitched to a buckboard, and driven
to the barracks. The doctor, still under the influence of liquor, was brought out and
loaded into the vehicle. His dress in part consisted of carpet slippers and a little red
coat and cap to match. The team was off with a bound and on a keen run, the
minister following on horseback. It usually keeps a man pretty busy when he attempts
to drive an unbroken team, but in this instance besides the driving there was work to
do to prevent the doctor from falling out of the rig. It soon became apparent that the
good man on horseback could not keep pace with the team, and he was induced to
abandon his horse and get in the buckboard. He rode behind and wore out a pair
of new gloves holding on. This trip was made without any stops, except to change
horses, and of the four teams used three had never been in harness before. Morley was
reached at 6 P. M., and the doctor and minister were at the bedside of the dying
woman sixty-one hours and a half from the hour of the beginning of this strenuous trip.
Driving time was thirty-six hours, delays twenty-five hours and a half. It is needless
to add that the doctor was sober.
This is only one of many record trips he has made. He has driven from Council
City to Nome, eighty-nine miles, in seven hours and fifty-six minutes, changing horses
once, and has driven over the same route in eight hours and a half with one team.
"The driving is like the driving of Jehu, the son of Nimshi: for he driveth furiously."
But he always keeps his horses in the finest condition, and never takes them beyond their
Mr. Boyd took the first surveying party of the Canadian Pacific Railroad into the
Rocky Mountains. But while he had learned the lessons that nature teaches those who
live close to her and felt the liberty of the frontier, which civilization restricts, the opportunities to accomplish something in the ordinary line of human ambition were lacking.
He left Canada and went to the United States, arriving in Seattle in 1 888. Here
he bought and sold stock, broke many wild horses; also conducted several other kinds of
business, and always with fair success. May 8, 1900, he sailed for Nome on the eighty-ton schooner Laurel. The vessel carried a cargo of lumber and other supplies He
was the managing agent of the schooner. He arrived in Nome June 18, and after a
satisfactory consummation of the business connected with the schooner he found
many of the smaller opportunities during that memorable year to do something that
would yield a profit, but the opportunity that he was looking for did not come until
the following year. It was in the latter part of the season of 1901 that he began the
work of constructing a long-distance telephone line, and since then he has applied himself with diligence and a singleness of purpose to the successful accomplishment or the
undertaking. And he has succeeded. With more than 250 miles of wire connecting the
principal camps of the peninsula and with the system in the city of Nome, he organized
a company in New York in 1904, the Alaska Telephone and Telegraph Company, and
is prepared to extend the line to any part of the country. While a company has been
organized for the more extensive work to be done. Mr. Boyd, without assistance, took
the initiative and constructed a line which is one of the best paying properties in the
A. E. Boyd and Miss Avaloo M. Steel were married in Victoria, B. C, August
31, 1899. Mrs. Boyd is an intelligent woman, a helpful wife, and a valuable
assistant to her husband. Mr. Boyd is a man of broad ideas and liberal impulses, more
of a believer in ethics than religion, in charity than creeds; decidedly a believer in doing
his life work according to the dictates of his own head and heart.
Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S. Harrison. Seattle:
The Metropolitan Press, 1905.