Thank you to Anita Haskin of Skagway/Carcross, Anne Morgan of Carcross/Watson Lake and Dan Kemble of Carcross for writing the following information about Johnny Johns. He certainly was an interesting and colourful personality.
The letters follow:
I found these interesting stories about Johnny Johns when I was researching the Caribou Hotel and I wish I could have met him in person.
I was wondering if it might be possible to obtain a copy of the photo that was published in the paper.
It is a great shot of Johns with the Caribou Hotel behind him.
Have a great day!
The Caribou Hotel has had a long association with big game hunt outfitting with its location in the heart of the big game district.
Johnny Johns, a member of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, rated as one of the top 10 outfitters in the world, was based in the area.
He began his own outfitting business in 1917, at the age of 19.
He was the first Yukon First Nations person to obtain his chief guide’s license in 1926 and went on to become one of the most famous guides in North America.
He also guided surveyors during the building of the Alaska Highway and worked with the Council for Yukon Indians for many years in the early land claims process. Johns was also involved in drawing up the Yukon’s hunting concession boundaries for big game outfitters in 1958.
On one of his hunts, clients John H. Batten and his cousins, the Piries, were staying at the Caribou Hotel.
“Johnny Johns, now at 85 and perhaps the world’s oldest and most famous hunter, outfitted my cousins and me for a ten-day moose hunt, southeast of Carcross….The Piries, my cousins, were to leave for home, but not before the three of us had “done the town”.
During the night, to assuage nature, I had sought to climb out of one of Carcross’ five two-storey windows. As the curtains were draped like a tent door, I momentarily thought I was in my tent, but fortunately, my cousins heard and quickly restrained me.”
Caribou Hotel proprietors Dorothy Hopcott and Don McLellan knew Johnny Johns well and enjoyed his company when he frequented the hotel.
Johnny Johns drew many visitors to Carcross and on one of Prime Minister Trudeau’s visits to the Yukon in 1968 and 1977, he was invited by special request of the prime minister to a gathering at the Caribou Hotel.
From John H. Batten’s The Forest And The Plain. The Amwell Press, Clinton, New Jersey. 1984.
Polly the Parrot moved into the hotel in 1918, when Captain James Alexander, owner of Engineer Mine (and the BC minister of mines in 1913), asked the Gideons to take care of him, (Polly was a male), while he and his wife went Outside.
They were both killed in the famous wreck of the Princess Sophia and Polly became a permanent resident of the hotel. Polly enjoyed singing opera and entertained guests with his renditions of I Love You Truly and Springtime in the Rockies.
He was internationally famous for his fondness for crackers and is buried beneath a lavish bronze marker in the Carcross cemetery.
Polly sang opera, spewed profanity, and lived 126 years until his demise in 1972.
When Polly passed away, big game guide Johnny Johns, sang Polly’s favourite I Love You Truly, during the community farewell.
Yukon Archives Whitehorse — search file “Carcross.”
Johnny Johns passed away in 1988.
Dear Jim Robb:
About the Johnny Johns photo … he’s my grandfather.
What a surprise to see his picture in the paper.
I’d be interested to read all the replies you get.
On a side note, did you ever do any drawings or paintings of the Watson cabin in Carcross?
My fiancé and I now have the cabin.
Do you think we could meet you for a cup of coffee or lunch next time we’re in Whitehorse?
I’m looking at your latest Colourful Five Per Cent (Oct. 15, Yukon News).
The smiling man in the hoot would be, of course, our very own Johnny Johns Sr.
Hunter, businessman, lover, leader, poet — Johns was a true renaissance man who made the most of a changing time.
Johns was elderly and retired when I moved here in ’73, but it did not take long to become aware of his stature in the community.
A wealth of knowledge and an independent, tough, fun, intelligent guy.
He’s missed here.
Jim, I have to add — as one of the Colourful Ninety Five Per Cent — how much I enjoy and respect your work.
You’re helping to keep history alive for everyday folks and I thank you for that.
I hold you in the same regard as I do Johns … one of the special few.