Source: American Lumberman, “The Personal History and Public and Business Achievements of One Hundred Eminent Lumbermen of the United States”, Third Series, American Lumberman, Chicago, 1906.
Men who have won success in the lumber industry have not been speculators in the ordinary sense of that term. They have been speculators only in the sense that they have dared to back their judgment by investment; and it is only those who have been strong, brave and enterprising who have been able to draw riches from the natural resources of this vast country. While such ability is an element of success not to be ignored, and while an important standard for the measurement of business men is that of wealth, nevertheless the character of a man is even more to be considered than what he accomplishes. Measured in either way David Joyce, of Lyons, Iowa, who died December 4, 1904, was a remarkable man.
He was one of the captains of industry, able to command men, things and events to the accomplishment of his purpose. His mental vision was keen and far-reaching. He saw the possibilities in the lumber business and grasped them with a strong hand. He believed in the fulfillment of his own predictions regarding the industry and in the success of its enter-prises; and where indifferent fate moved but slowly to the accomplishment of his ends he forced a compliance with his will.
David Joyce came of old New England Puritan stock–strong, bold and resourceful. He was born in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, February 26, 1826. He received a common school education, but added to it, in the intervals of his employment as a youth, the training of a civil engineer. At the age of twelve years he entered the office of his father, who conducted a blast furnace and foundry and machine shop, and when only fifteen years old assumed entire charge of the books. His connection with his father was continued until he was thirty years old. During this time he pursued his studies in mathematics and engineering until he was master of all the more important branches of those sciences.
In 1848 Mr. Joyce opened a mercantile business in connection with other enterprises and assumed active charge of two general stores. It was in 1857 that he really began the career which placed him well to the front among the practical business men of the country. In that year he purchased his father’s entire business, uniting all the departments under one head and continued in charge of them until 186o. During this time, however, he had made investments in the West, and in the fall of 186o he departed for Lyons, Iowa, with the intention of closing up some investments which he had made there. His plans in this particular were never carried out. Instead of closing his investments at Lyons he increased them and made that city his residence for the remainder of his life.
His initial venture in the lumber business was in the summer of 1861, when he secured the property known as the “Stumbaugh mill.” Here he served his self-appointed apprenticeship in the business which thereafter constituted the chief pursuit of his life, and in which he was so eminently successful. In 1864 he became associated with S. I. Smith under the title of Joyce & Smith, but this firm was dissolved about twelve years later.
As opportunities were offered for investment in outside properties Mr. Joyce became interested in many important business enterprises. He was, at the close of his career, a stockholder in twelve different sawmill plants located in all sections of the country, one within eighteen miles of Lake Superior at the North and another within eighty miles of the Gulf of Mexico in the South, while still another was on Puget Sound. His mills at and opposite Lyons cut 30,000,000 feet of lumber a year and gave employment to about three hundred men. He had large investments, also, in pine land in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Texas. He was one of the organizers and at his death president of the First National Bank of Lyons, which was one of the first chartered under the national banking law. He projected and was one of the principal owners of the street railway running through the cities of Lyons and Clinton.
He had the gift of industry and economy, but it was not by the exercise of these traits exclusively that Mr. Joyce attained his position in the commercial world. Few men showed more shrewdness than he or a clearer comprehension of the possibilities of the industry. Reinvestment of profits gave him the ownership of several plants, until he had twelve sawmills in all and became an enormous producer of boards, sash, doors, blinds and other forms of lumber, which he marketed in various local lumber yards scattered through Iowa. Among his many enterprises was the Trinity County Lumber Company, of Groveton, Texas, one of the largest institutions in eastern Texas in the longleaf pine belt, of which he was president; he was secretary and treasurer of the Barronett Lumber Company, of Barronett, Wisconsin; secretary and manager of the Shell Lake Lumber Company, of Shell Lake, Wisconsin; a heavy stockholder in the White River Lumber Company, of Mason, Wisconsin; a director of the Mississippi River Logging Company, of Clinton, Iowa; president of the Langford & Hall Lumber Company, of Fulton, Illinois, and president of the Benjamin Machine Company, of South Evanston, Illinois. He was president also of the Crescent Springs Railroad Company and was connected with the Park Hotel, at Hot Springs, Arkansas. This diversity of interests demanded careful oversight and skillful management, but the wonderful energy of Mr. Joyce was fully equal to all requirements. In addition to his manufacturing and wholesaling business he was a retailer as well, having a line of prosperous yards in Iowa. His timber holdings were very extensive and formed a substantial basis for his manufacturing operations. It is said that he had business interests in twenty-two different localities, and his careful personal supervision of them was well known to all acquainted with him.
He was prominent in public enterprises and contributed large amounts to various religious institutions and was a subscriber to society and educational work.
Mr. Joyce was a stanch Republican, though not a politician in the ordinary acceptance of that term. He sought no public office, but when the mayoralty of Lyons was pressed upon him, in 1872, he filled that position with marked ability and success. The confidence of the people in his integrity and in his ability to manage the municipal affairs was well shown in that election. The city finances were in a low condition, city bonds selling for forty-five cents on the dollar. He was the nominee of the business men of Lyons for the office and was elected by a very substantial majority; a second time was he nominated and was elected by the entire vote of the city, the only vote not cast for him being his own. The confidence which the people placed in him was well justified, for when, after four years, he retired, at the end of his second term, the city’s credit was reestablished and there was sufficient money in the treasury to pay all its obligations in full.
In 1858 Mr. Joyce married Miss Elizabeth F. Thomas, of Leroy, New York. The couple is survived by one son, William T. Joyce, who has inherited much of his father’s ability and energy and who promises to carry forward with success and distinction the vast enterprises committed to his care.
It was while Mr. Joyce was in the North looking after his interests, which were affected by the forest fires of the summer of 1904, that he was stricken with paralysis in Minneapolis. He never rallied from the blow, though for a time it was hoped that his strong constitution and vigorous will would bring him up from the shadow, but a second stroke came, and, three weeks from the time of the first, he was claimed by death.