Honoring Lucinda Elizabeth Stewart Boyce

Honoring Lucinda Elizabeth Stewart Boyce

Submitted by San Juan County.

Lucinda Elizabeth Stewart Boyce lived on San Juan Island in the late 1800s and, through radical acts of public service, cultivated a legacy of care. She was known to travel by horseback, buggy, and canoe to serve soldiers, settlers, and indigenous men and women throughout the islands. This month, during Women’s History Month, San Juan County is unveiling its new Community Wellness Van – named after this influential island caretaker.

“Lucinda was known for bringing her services to those in need,” said San Juan County’s Health and Community ServicesLucinda-Stewart-Boyce-1870s Director Mark Tompkins. “We plan to use our new community health van to do just that – meet people where they are and provide comprehensive public health services. We quickly realized that naming the van “Luci B” after Lucinda Boyce was a wonderful way to honor her legacy and passion for public health and community service.”

Lucinda Elizabeth Stewart Boyce was the first Euro-American woman to reside permanently on San Juan Island, beginning in 1860 at the tail end of the Pig War. The island was already home to soldier encampments, a village of settler and indigenous people, and indigenous non-permanent residents. Despite the island’s growing population of permanent residents, there was no doctor or medical professional. Boyce saw the great need in her new community and took it upon herself to provide medical services whenever she could.

Stories of Boyce recount her tireless acts of public service. She was known to wake up in the middle of the night and travel by canoe to other islands to help deliver babies. She learned the Chinook trade language to better care for her neighbors. It was widely understood that no one was turned away if they needed her help.

More than her actions, Boyce carried with her a spirit of kindness and compassion. Although she had eleven of her own children, Boyce often made room for homeless island children in her home. Her care was comprehensive and indiscriminate. There is even an anecdote of Boyce caring for a half-drown piglet that was brought to her by the children who found the poor creature; she nursed the piglet back to health with her own milk supply.

At age 79 on May 12, 1916, Lucinda Boyce passed away. Her funeral was one of the largest to date. Many of the attendees had been cared for by Boyce and had come to pay their final respect. When she passed, she left behind 10 children, 45 grandchildren, and 28 great-grandchildren. Many of her descendants are still island residents today.

This is only a small fraction of the incredible life of Lucinda Elizabeth Stewart Boyce. She was instrumental in fostering a community of care in the islands of San Juan County. San Juan County Health and Community Services (HCS) has named their new Community Wellness Van “Luci B” in tribute to Lucinda Boyce and her legacy of care.

Luci B Launch Event FlierThere will be a Launch Party for the Luci B Community Wellness Van on March 15 at the San Juan County Fairgrounds – Main Building (849 Argyle Ave., Friday Harbor, WA) from 12:30 to 1:30 pm. This is an opportunity to see the van in person, learn about the services offered, and ask questions. Light refreshments will be served. If you are unable to attend the event in person, the remarks portion of the event will be livestreamed from the HCS Facebook page at 12:45 pm. HCS hopes you are able to join in any way you are able.

There is also a Lucinda Boyce coloring page available online if you would like to share her story with the children in your life during March, which is recognized as Women’s History Month.

Contributed photo
San Juan County Health and Community Services staff pose with the County's new Community Wellness Van "Lucy B." Staff include (l-r): Back: Kyle Dodd, Dr. Frank James, Stephane Stookey, Lori LeCount, Jessica Nye, Kristen Rezabek, Melinda Hallen, Zoe Froyland, Jessica Moseley, and Mark Tompkins. Front: Emily Mason, Nicole Givan, Ethan Schmidt, Melody Smith, and Kirk Sato.