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Bolyan, Helen M. (Devol)

by Clyde E. Bolyan

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.

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