May Boyce celebrates her 102nd birthday on Monday at Islands Convalescent Center in Friday Harbor. A check of assisted living facilities, care centers and senior services offices on the islands indicates she may be the oldest resident of the San Juans.
She was born on San Juan Island on Sept. 29, 1906 to Julius Oscar Bergman and the former Mary Ellen Madden. Her Irish-born grandfather, Daniel Madden, emigrated to the U.S. in 1855 and settled on San Juan Island in 1862.
When she was born, Friday Harbor residents were three years from incorporating the village as a town and electing their first mayor and Town Council. The first-ever edition of the Friday Harbor Journal (“A Square Deal for Everybody”) had been printed 16 days earlier. Merchant P.A. Jensen was accepting farm produce for his stock of “everything family necessity or comfort demands.” J.O. Bergman, her father, operated the Corner Store, the building of which still stands on the corner of Cattle Point Road across from Madden Lane.
William Shultz, assistant general manager of Roche Harbor Lime & Cement Co., represented the San Juans in the state House of Representatives. On the Board of County Commissioners were Isaac Sandwith of Friday Harbor, M.S. Donahue of East Sound and William Graham of Richardson.
Other county officials: William J. Court of East Sound (it was spelled as two words then), assessor; Fred E. Kirby, auditor (he would serve as Friday Harbor’s fifth mayor); Lars C. Larson of Friday Harbor, clerk; William H. McCrary of Friday Harbor, sheriff; John Paine of Lopez Island, treasurer; Nellie Sweeney of Friday Harbor, county superintendent of schools; E.L. Von Gohnren of East Sound, surveyor; George S. Wright of Friday Harbor, coroner; and William H. Wynn Jr. of Friday Harbor, attorney.
There wasn’t an American Legion or a VFW then. But Civil War veterans met at the Silas Casey Post G.A.R. — that’s Grand Army of the Republic — on the first Thursday of the month, 2 p.m. George Dightman was post commander, J.L. Blair was adjutant.
The inaugural issue of The Journal described May Bergman’s place of birth this way:
“The town is beautifully located and has the making of a handsome little city. There are numerous good stores, as our advertising columns attest, fine public schools, two churches with established pastors — the Presbyterians and Methodists, with services held by other denominations from time to time. Two regular lines of steamers make the port of Friday Harbor each day.
“The town has two newspapers, six general stores, two saw mills, a salmon and clam cannery, a creamery, a yard for the building of launches and larger craft, two barber shops, two blacksmith shops, meat market, millinery store, bakery, one physician, a dentist, drug store, a bank, three attorneys, two hotels, hardware store, two liquid refreshment places, two warehouses, a government coaling station, telephone system connecting all the islands, a wireless telegraph station, a cable phone system, etc. etc.
In her career, Mrs. Boyce worked at the fish cannery and the pea cannery in Friday Harbor, and in the strawberry fields in San Juan Valley. She was also a devoted wife and mother. Her late husband, Ben Boyce, was a farmer who retired as county road boss. They had two children: Gloria Louden of Friday Harbor and the late Bob Boyce.
Mrs. Boyce has four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Boyce’s sister, Mickey Cahail, celebrates her 99th birthday on Oct. 21. Another sister, Edith Martel, celebrates her 91st birthday Dec. 29.