Disastrous flood leads to storied career as Yukon leader

Although George Black has a long list of accomplishments to his name, his memory is often overshadowed by that of his first wife, Martha, in Yukon's history books. Martha is often portrayed as a fearless woman, who was, in some ways, ahead of her time.

Although George Black has a long list of accomplishments to his name, his memory is often overshadowed by that of his first wife, Martha, in Yukon’s history books.

Martha is often portrayed as a fearless woman, who was, in some ways, ahead of her time. She was a fascinating character, but so was George.

George Black had much success during his 50-year career as a miner, lawyer and politician, and he also had his fair share of misfortune.

And, if it wasn’t for one of Black’s seemingly largest misfortunes, he may not have become a legendary figure in the territory’s history.

Black was born in Woodstock, New Brunswick, in 1873. He studied law on the East Coast of Canada, and was called to the bar in Fredericton in 1896.

Two years later, at age 25, Black was stricken with gold fever and he made his way to the Klondike for the rush in 1898, where he mined on Livingstone Creek for two years.

He found enough gold to make him rich only to see his fortune swept away in a flood, according to Black’s Parliament of Canada biography.

After the rough luck, George moved into Dawson and returned to practising law.

In Dawson, George met Martha Munger, and they married in 1904.

One year later Black was elected to the Yukon Council, and then he was appointed Commissioner of the Yukon Territory.

“He is best remembered for his efforts to obtain legislation to protect miners, loggers and others who worked for companies that went bankrupt in the boom and bust northern economy,” according to Black’s biography.

“His knowledge of the area, his proven ability and his cordial informality also made him a very popular Commissioner.”

When the First World War began, Black was eager to help his country. He was told that if he could enlist enough men for a regimen, he would be made a colonel.

Black was able to muster a group of 226 men, which he called the Yukon Infantry Company.

After training in France the company went to France as part of the Second Canadian Machine Gun Brigade.

Black was injured near Amiens and, soon after, decided to return to Vancouver.

In 1920 Black vied for a seat in the British Columbia election but lost, so he ran and won the Yukon seat in the House of Commons the following year.

Black was re-elected three times but, by 1935, he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

When the election of that year was called, Black was convalescing in a psychiatric hospital, and so Martha stepped up to run in his place.

She won the seat, which made her only the second woman to sit in Canada’s House of Commons.

Five years later, George had recovered and so Martha stepped aside and George remained in the House until 1949, after which the couple returned to Dawson City.

After Martha’s death in 1957, George remarried. He died in Vancouver, BC, in August 1965.

Today the ferry that connects Dawson City to West Dawson bears his name. There is also a street in downtown Whitehorse, Black Street, which is named for both George and Martha.

This column is provided by the MacBride Museum of Yukon History. Each week it

will explore a different morsel of Yukon’s modern history. For more information,

or to comment on anything in this column

e-mail lchalykoff@macbridemuseum.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

Local poet Joanna Lilley is photographed at the Beringia Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 20, where she will be hosting a poetry workshop on Jan. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Poetry for the ages

Workshop set for the Yukon Beringia Centre

President Joe Biden signs executive orders after speaking about the coronavirus, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris in the State Dinning Room of the White House on Jan. 21, in Washington, D.C. The administration announced plans Jan. 20 for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the refuge considered sacred by the Gwich’in. (Alex Brandon/AP)
U.S. President Joe Biden halts oil and gas lease sales in ANWR

“Its great to have an ally in the White House”

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Jan. 22, 2021

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Most Read