I looked in the Whitehorse Star for the month of October to see what was happening in Whitehorse 110 years ago.
The gold rush had been over for four years. The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad had been operating for two years; a vibrant little town had grown up along the waterfront where the goods were transferred from the trains to the fleet of steamers that carried them on to Dawson City. An advertisement in the newspaper announced the schedule of its twice-daily trains to and from Skagway
October concluded the river navigation season for the British Yukon Navigation Company, but the White Pass still advertised that it had easy access via one of its fleet of 15 steamers, to the goldfields of Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon.
The White Pass was consolidating its hold on the transportation network in the Yukon. With winter – and freeze-up – approaching, they were looking to control the overland winter stage business to the Klondike capital as well.
Due to the unsatisfactory service provided by other transport companies, the newspaper hinted that White Pass would get the lion’s share of traffic that winter. Quicker travel time and good quality accommodations would make up for the higher transportation rates they charged.
A number of prominent citizens were passing through Whitehorse, either coming from, or going to, Dawson City. Arriving in the Yukon for the first time and headed for Dawson City was The Right Reverend Bishop Gabriel Breynat, the new bishop for the Catholic Church in the Yukon.
Breynat was greeted in Caribou Crossing by Inspector Horigan and Dr. Pare of the Mounted Police, who accompanied him on the train the remainder of the trip to Whitehorse. Bishop Breynat celebrated mass with the Whitehorse congregation the following morning before departing for Dawson City.
Among those headed outside was Alex MacDonald, mining millionaire and “King of the Klondike.”“Nigger” Jim Dougherty, a well-known pioneer prospector from the early days was also leaving the territory, and would have passed H. J. Woodside, former editor of the Yukon Sun newspaper, who was returning to Dawson after the conclusion of the Boer War.
One interesting arrival in Whitehorse from Dawson was Joseph Clarke, the Conservative candidate in the forthcoming federal election, which was to be held Dec. 2. While Clarke received some coverage in the Star, it was obvious which candidate the Star supported – Liberal candidate James Hamilton Ross. Ross would go on to win the election, but shady dealings in the election later marred the reputation of the Liberal machine in the territory.
The Liberals were making generous promises to the electorate: reduction in licensing fees for miners, abolition of mining assessment work and changes to regulations to encourage the working of low-grade deposits. In Santa-like fashion, they promised to endorse the government to install a copper smelter in the southern Yukon. They also supported a wholly elected council, although that did not happen for nearly a decade.
The newspaper identified the enumerators for the coming election, including John Hoskins for the Dalton district, and Captain Patrick Martin for Tagish and Caribou Crossing. Arthur Bindley and Charles Munro covered the Whitehorse district.
When not enumerating, both Martin and Munro operated dry-goods stores in Whitehorse, which, with a third business, Whitney and Pedlar, were advertising Dolge brand quality felt shoes as defence against the coming winter weather.
Other businesses advertising in the Star in October included merchants Taylor and Drury, Fred McLennan (hardware) E.A. Dixon (wood, cut to length), Fred Holland (lumber), J. West (wine, liquor and cigars), and Robert Lowe (livery, feed, stable and auctioneer). Pat Burns and Company advertised their various stores in Atlin, Pine City, Bennett and Dawson (fresh and cured meat).
The Yukon Electrical Company, which had only been established the year before, provided both electrical and telephone service in Whitehorse. The primary use for electricity at that time was for lighting. Customers were already complaining about the high rates, and the company responded by pointing out the advantages of metered power. Small market and reliance upon steam, rather than hydro also kept the rates higher. The company was planning to install a larger generating plant.
Norman Macaulay, proprietor of the White Horse Hotel, received the shocking news that both his father, age 80, and his cousin J.S. Macaulay, a mere 38 years, had died, the latter from tuberculosis. That wasn’t the only health problem in the news in October. There was a scarlet fever epidemic afflicting the children in town, and the Star reported on those most recently stricken with the disease, presumably to warn parents to keep their children away.
But things were a lot worse for Mate Martin on the steamer Yukoner. The vessel became stuck on a bar near Minto Crossing. A capstan broke while pulling the vessel off the bar, and the cable, which was under tension, recoiled, striking Martin and shattering his ankle. He was transferred to the steamer Bonanza King which later became stranded on a bar at Hellgate, so he was taken aboard the Victorian and delivered to the hospital in Whitehorse, where his leg was amputated below the knee.
The hospital was apparently performing satisfactorily. I say that cautiously. At the annual general meeting for the board of directors of Whitehorse General Hospital, the outgoing board was able to proudly boast of a balanced budget. Of the $6,023.13 in revenue for the hospital, there was a surplus of $164.47. I checked the expenditures column and the numbers did not add up. A reporting error, or just plain bad bookkeeping? Perhaps that explains why none of the incumbent directors put his name forward for a second term.
Q.A. Cornelius, a passenger on the steamer Thistle, laid a charge against the ship’s steward when he arrived in Whitehorse. Despite having paid for a first class berth, he was forcibly removed from his cabin and made to sleep on the dining room floor. The steward was convicted of assault and fined $20.
In another incident, William Pink staggered into the bar at the Commercial Hotel, broke. Finding the room empty, he was helping himself to the liquor on the bar when he was caught by the returning bartender and ended up in police custody for the evening.
It was just an ordinary month of October in the little town of Whitehorse, 1902.
Michael Gates is a Yukon historian and sometimes adventurer based in Whitehorse. His new book, Dalton’s Gold Rush Trail, is now available in stores. You can contact him a email@example.com