He was an industrialist, and inventor, a promoter, a sports enthusiast, and a millionaire. He was truly the King of the Klondike.
Joe Boyle was born in Toronto on November 6th, 1867. When he came to the Klondike in 1897, the gold rush hadn't yet begun in earnest. But the search for gold was in full flight. He surveyed the many small claims and diggings on the creeks and decided that only large hydraulic mining methods would liberate the millions to be made from gold.
He gathered land rights in the Klondike valley and invented a means to dig for gold - not with pick, pan and shovel, but by building gold dredges. The dredges devised by Joe Boyle floated on small lakes created by backing up water from the Klondike creeks. The huge buckets would dig deep down into the ground and deposit sand, rock, gravel and gold on shakers contained inside the dredge.
By this means, Boyle turned the many small placer gold operations into a massive industry scooping out millions of dollars worth of gold which the small-time miner and his pan could not get at. By 1898, Joe Boyle controlled much of the gold and timber rights extending for 10 miles up the Klondike river valley and from Bonanza to Hunker creek.
But what kind of man was Joe Boyle. The Dawson daily news said: "There is no finer specimen of physical manhood in the world today - his magnificient physique, great strength and happy sympathic nature coupled with the total abstinence from the use of liquor or tobacco make him an ideal character for this rigorous climate".
Joe Boyle was at the head of the Dawson City social circuit at the turn of the century. He entertained in lavish style, wore only the fanciest of clothes. A picture of that time shows Boyle, resplendent in a flowing fur coat sitting at the wheel of a brand new car delivered by boat, train and boat again to Dawson City when cars and roads were few and far between.
Ever the adventurer, Boyle became a patriot when war broke out in 1914. He personally established and paid for a contingent of Yukon volunteers. He equipped 50 men from the Klondike and took them to England. Colonel Joe Boyle was miffed when Britain took over his Yukon militia. No longer in charge of his men, he travelled to eastern Europe where war was raging on every front.
He became friends with Queen Marie of Romania and was instrumental in getting behind Russian lines to help recover national treasures stolen from Romanian cities. For this incredible feat, Joe Boyle was dubbed the Saviour of Romania by the Romanian government.
After the war, Boyle returned to England where he spent his last days. He died in London in 1923.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin