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by Clyde E. Bolyan


George was born in 1886 in Yugoslavia. At the urging of a cousin in St. Louis, he immigrated to the United States and obtained work on the Union Pacific Railroad. He was not happy with this work and he heard that there was a gold rush in the Klondike, and proceeded to that area. He celebrated his 21st birthday on board the ship headed for Alaska. He traveled on to Dawson and the Mayo/Yukon Territory. He formed a partnership with a man named Toby, but they were too late to get in on the Klondike gold rush. George and Toby covered much territory in the Chisana, Snag, Cordova, Valdez, Whittier, Sunrise and Hope areas during this time. World War I was starting in Europe and the partners decided to return to the Seattle area. During the war period, George worked in the shipyards in Tacoma, Washington.

In 1920, he returned to Southeast Alaska with his partner Toby and found some promising property on the west coast of Chichagof Island. They met Frank and Ed Cox and formed a loosely knit partnership. A company was formed and five miles of narrow gauge railroad was built along with housing and a sawmill. The money they raised was spent, the company went broke, and the property reverted to the original owners. Toby and Ed Cox returned to the States, and the property was taken over by George Bolyan and Frank Cox. A five-ton Gibson elliptical mill was purchased and put into operation which lasted for two years with good results.

When the cost of mining proved to be higher than the profits, the operation was closed and all the machinery was moved to another property previously discovered by Bolyan and Cox, located on Slocum Arm about 20 miles further south. A great deal of work was accomplished there, but there wasn’t enough gold or other metals to be profitable. Cobol, as it was named, had a post office and a radio station for several years. At different times over the years, George did contract work for other mining companies.

He attended the Alaska School of Mines in Fairbanks in 1927, to take courses that assisted him in his work. He married Helen M. DeVol in Fairbanks in 1928, and adopted her son Clyde. In addition to his home in Cobol, he also lived in Thane where his wife Helen taught at the Thane School. He also purchased a home on Dixon Avenue in Juneau, where he was very active in the Masonic Lodge. In 1937, he adopted his nephew, Lawrence, and his niece, Dace, who were brought over from Yugoslavia. George Bolyan was a very hardworking person noted for his integrity. He died in 1958, in Seattle, Washington, and is buried in the Sitka National Cemetery.


Helen M. Bolyan was born in 1896, in DeMotte, Indiana. She received her primary education in a one-room schoolhouse. When it was time for high school, Helen traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, where she worked while attending school. She left school and worked for Harvey, a chain of restaurants located in train stations, in Pueblo, Colorado. It was at Harvey where she met and fell in love with Clyde L. DeVol and they were married soon after. They had one son, also named Clyde.

When World War I started, Helen and Clyde both enlisted in the war effort. After the war, Clyde and Helen could not agree on anything, and, therefore, divorced. While working in Seattle, she met George A. Bolyan, a miner from Alaska. A romance progressed and they planned to be married in the near future. Meanwhile, George returned to Alaska. Helen obtained a contract to run the restaurant at the Parsons Hotel in Anchorage where she moved with her son and worked about three months. The lure of the wilderness called her and she homesteaded on Lake Wasilla.

Helen and George Bolyan were married in Fairbanks in 1928. At this time, George adopted her son Clyde. After their marriage, they went to Southeast Alaska. In the summer they went to the Chichagof Mine. Helen obtained a position teaching school (all eight grades) in Thane for four years. During this time, she was active in the Juneau Women’s Club and Eastern Star. Helen and her family went on a stampede up the Taku River and worked at the mining properties and also on properties on Chichagof Island. Helen authored several books under the pen name of Martha Martin. One of her books “O Rugged Land of Gold” was recently made into a movie called “Rugged Gold.” Helen was an avid reader, and belonged to several book clubs.

Her love of travel led George and Helen on an around-the-world trip stopping in Yugoslavia to visit George’s relatives. She fell in love with George’s niece and nephew. She returned to Alaska with Lawrence and Dace where they legally adopted the children. The children did not know how to speak English when they came and they were home-schooled by Helen. Both graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska. Lawrence became a teacher and Dace a physician. Helen Bolyan died in Seattle in 1959, at the Veteran’s Hospital. She is also buried in the National Cemetery in Sitka, Alaska.


Clyde was born in 1915, in Sabula, Missouri. He came to Alaska with his mother, Helen DeVol, on the Alaska Steamship Aleutian on its maiden voyage. The Aleutian later hit a rock and sank in the Kodiak area. Helen’s new husband, George Bolyan, adopted Clyde in Fairbanks in 1928. Clyde attended grade school in Wasilla, Fairbanks and Thane. He graduated from Juneau High School in 1933. He attended Alaska Agriculture and School of Mines for the 1933-34 school year and then transferred to the New York Merchant Marine Academy at the Brooklyn Naval Yard and worked on ships going to Europe and Central America. He returned to Alaska and worked for his father in their gold mine on Chichagof Island.

In 1938, Clyde married Hilja Reinikka, a Douglas girl. After their marriage, Clyde and Hilja lived in Cobol and Douglas. Clyde worked at the Alaska-Juneau Mill for two years leaving in the spring of 1941, to move to California and work with North American Aviation in Englewood. After World War II was over, he and his
family returned to Alaska and lived in Anchorage. He worked at the Alaska Air Depot at Fort Richardson, in the grocery business, and CAA (now known as FAA) and after 25 years with the government retired. During his tenure with FAA, he traveled to almost every installation they had throughout Alaska. After his retirement in 1976, Clyde and Hilja traveled extensively, sometimes on cruise ships, planes and by auto. At last count, he had made 27 trips over the Alcan Highway. Clyde continues to make his home in Anchorage and travels every chance he gets. Clyde and Hilja had four children: Clyde Henry, Arthur George, Christine Helen, and Johanna Kay. He is now blessed with numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren and residing in Anchorage and Matanuska Valley.


Lawrence was born in 1924 in Yugoslavia, the son of George Bolyan’s sister. He immigrated along with his sister Dace in 1937, and was adopted by George and Helen Bolyan. He received most of his schooling using a Calvert correspondence course from the University of Nebraska. He did attend school in Juneau several times and graduated in the Class of 1943. After graduation, he entered the Army and was soon sent overseas. After
his discharge he finished his education at the U. of Nebraska graduating with a degree in Biology and Science. He returned to Alaska and taught school at the Independence Mine and also at Chignik. He liked teaching and returned to college for more education where he received his Master’s degree in Education at the U. of Nebraska. He returned to Alaska and taught in the Anchorage school system for 10 years. He eventually moved to California. He married Martha Horacek who was from Wilbur, Nebraska, but they married in Palmer, Alaska. They had two daughters, Jean Marie and Lara, who were each born in Alaska before it became a state. Their son Benjamin was born in California. After retiring, he moved to Lakeport, California, where he died in 1997.


Dace was born in 1928 in Yugoslavia and came to America in 1937 along with her brother, Lawrence. She also was adopted by George and Helen Bolyan and spent her formative years in Cobol and the Juneau-Douglas area. Dace received her education by Calvert correspondence courses from the U. of Nebraska. She graduated on stage in 1945 from Juneau High. The war ended and Dace went to the U. of Nebraska receiving her BS degree and on to medical school in Omaha. In 1951, she married Robert Mitchell, who was a medical student also. They interned and did their residency in Omaha. They each accepted positions at the U. of California in San Francisco in 1955, each receiving the rank of Professor at the U. of California Medical Center. Dace spent two summers of her internship at the Sitka Native Hospital. The Mitchells have four children and are both retired and live in the San Francisco area.


Henry was born in Puokiovaara, Finland, in 1883. Henry arrived in the United States in 1911, and joined his brother in Michigan. He secured a job in one of the mines in that area. In 1912, his brother decided to return to Finland and Henry decided to move on to Alaska. He had heard that there was work at the Treadwell Mine on Douglas Island. After he arrived, he was hired as a carpenter. He worked at the Treadwell Mine until the cave-in in 1917, after which he obtained work at the Alaska-Juneau Mine as a carpenter. He worked there until his death in 1939. After arriving in Douglas, he secured lodging at a Finnish boarding house. There he met a cute Finnish girl, Ida Pietilainen, and they were married in 1913, and made Douglas their home. There were two children from this union: Hilja Ilona and Eino Arthur. Henry died at St. Ann’s Hospital in 1939, and is buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Juneau.

Ida was born in 1886, in Hankasalmi, Finland. She came to the United States in 1912, to Quincy, Massachusetts, where she obtained work as a cook and maid in a home for the “ritzy Americans” as she called them. A girl friend and Ida came to Douglas to work in a miners’ boarding house where she met Henry. After his death, she moved to Anchorage to be closer to her children and grandchildren. She died in 1967, in Anchorage and is buried in Angelus Memorial Park.


Hilja was born in 1914, in Douglas, Alaska. She received her grade and high school education in Douglas schools graduating in 1932. Hilja moved on to the Alaska Agriculture and School of Mines at College and graduated with a degree in Business Administration. This was the first year that the school became known as the University of Alaska. She graduated with the highest grades of any student up to that time. After graduation,
she went to work for the Rockefeller Foundation writing and cataloging the early history of Alaska. This work was conducted in Washington, D.C., at the Library of Congress. Hilja returned to Alaska and married Clyde Bolyan in 1938. They lived in Cobol and Douglas until 1941 when they moved to California. She died in 1994, and is buried in Angelus Memorial Park in Anchorage.


Eino (better known as Art) was born in 1919 in Douglas, Alaska. He obtained all of his primary education in the Douglas school system, graduating from Douglas High School in 1937. He attended the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, with the Class of 1941, with a BS degree in Civil Engineering. He accepted a position with the U.S. Army at Fort Richardson. He was employed by the Department of Defense for 42 years and during this time he was instrumental in the planning and maintenance of Elmendorf Air Force Base and many of the Air Force installations around Alaska. He married Rita Gathier in 1946 and they had two children, Eric and Linda. He died in Anchorage and is buried at Angeles Memorial Park.

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