Celebrating 150 years!
Joseph “Klondike” Whiteside Boyle was born on November 16th 1867 in Toronto, Ontario. In 1871, his family moved to Woodstock, ON, where they later acquired a 50 acre estate and large home, the Firs, on the eastern outskirts of the town (now the present day site of the McDonalds on Dundas St). Upon graduating from Woodstock College, he travelled to New York City to work with his father Charles Boyle, a prominent trainer and owner in racing circles. Seeking adventure, young Joe went off to sea for three years, returning temporarily to New York where he started a family. Upon the break-up of his marriage in 1896, he returned to Canada with his eldest daughter Flora and son Joe Jr.
In June of 1897, he reached Dawson City, Yukon before the main stream of the Klondike gold rush and quickly became one of the most famous of the entrepreneurs developing the gold field. He erected a sawmill, to provide precious and expensive timber to the miners, to use in building their cabins, furniture, sluice boxes and other mining apparatus. Quite successful, he continued to expand by building a storehouse, wharf and lumber dock. He also acquired seventeen placer mining claims and constructed a large headquarters along Bear Creek to serve as the operation's supervisory building. By 1900, upon Government approval of his proposals, he was able to use enormous dredges, usually electric-powered, to extract millions of ounces of gold from the creeks. His Klondike Valley concession holdings would eventually span over 45 square miles and he would become one of the leading figures of the Yukon.
In 1905, Boyle organized a hockey team, often known as the Dawson City Nuggets, who challenged the Ottawa Silver Seven (Ottawa Senators) for the title to the Stanley Cup in 1905. Although, they lost the record-breaking match, they did earn the right to have Dawson City’s name engraved on the trophy.
During WWI, Boyle, raised, equipped and presented to the Canadian army a 50 man Yukon Machine Gun Company. Although he was made an Honorary Lt. Col. of the Militia, he was deemed too old, at the age of 47, to command it in the field and his company was incorporated into larger units of the army. In 1917 Col. Joe Boyle undertook a mission to Russia on behalf of the American Committee of Engineers in London to help reorganize the country’s railway system. A year later he helped to carry out clandestine operations against German and Bolshevik forces in Bessarabia and south-western Russia. In March-April of that year he rescued some 50 high-ranking Rumanians held in Odessa by revolutionaries, making him a national hero in Romania and giving him influence within its royal court. Following the end of the war, he was awarded the special title of “Saviour of Romania” and was further decorated for his exploits by the governments of Russia, France, Britain and Romania.
After the war, Joseph Boyle suffered a stroke from which he recovered in part, but died in Hampton Hill, Middlesex England on April 14th 1923. He was buried in the churchyard of St. James’ Anglican Church. Queen Marie of Romania personally saw to the installation of the ledger stone and stone cross on his grave. Some historians speculated that Joe Boyle and the Queen were lovers and point to a mysterious woman in black who brought flowers to his grave every year on the anniversary of his death until her death in 1938.
In June 1980, Flora Boyle Frisch, of Long Island, and Joe Boyle’s last surviving heir, wrote to former Woodstock journalist Len Taylor inquiring about the possibility of transferring her father’s remains from England to Woodstock. That same year, the Oxford Historical Society voted to undertake the project and the group established the Joe Boyle Repatriation Committee with Len Taylor and Ed Bennett as Co-Chairmen. George Calder, was the legal representative on the Committee, and successfully argued the case for repatriation in a Consistory Court in England. In 1983 following several years of arduous but successful efforts, the Committee was able to repatriate the body of Joseph W. Boyle to Woodstock where he is now interned at the Presbyterian Cemetery.
In early 2017, George Calder decided to compile a bibliography of all the artifacts, collections, plaques and the burial site pertaining to the life and memory of Joseph Whiteside Boyle, located in Woodstock, Ontario. The bibliography, located at each institution, includes not only a detailed list of items available, but provides George’s memory and insight into the repatriation of Joe Boyle’s body back to Woodstock in 1983.