Dawson City, Yukon Friday, July 26, 1996

Feature Stories


John Gould Surveys the sign for the new Ridge Road Hiking Trail. Photo by Dan Davidson

Gould's Dream Took 20 Years to Come to Life

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

The dream of the Ridge Road Heritage Trail began for John Gould in 1976, after a trip the United States, promoting Yukon tourism.

"The idea of a hiking trail came to me one time when I was in San Francisco for a tourism show," he told the crowd at the official opening of the trail. "

"Everybody that came up to the booth wanted to know about hiking trails, so when I came back I tried to interest the Department of Tourism, the Yukon Visitors Association and anybody that would listen that this would make an excellent hiking trail."

In those days, Gould was the curator for Klondike national Historic Sites, but he couldn't find anyone prepared to take a risk on a hiking trail.

John had first encountered the the trial himself in 1952, when he was moving a D4 cat from one mining site to another, an activity more akin to the road's original purpose. It was built as an access route that would link all the creeks being mined in 1898-99, running as it does along the high ground above their head waters.

John recalled hiking the trail in 1978, with two "girls" - Linda Bierlmeier and Sylvie Gammie - who were working for parks at that time. A picture from that hike is on the poster commemorating the trail's inauguration.

"It took us a long day to get...down to the Bonanza Road. The trail at that time was just visible in come places. Above Grand Forks the brush was so thick it was hard to find the trail. The road on the Bonanza Creek side was so thick with the brush that it was a real hard chore to get through."

John kept his plan in mind, feeling that the trail could serve a double purpose if only it were properly prepared.

"You can tell the history of the Gold Rush from up on the ridge here," he said. "Bob Henderson was mining not far from the beginning of the trail and probably trekked over part of this trail just before the fateful day when he met George Carmacks, Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie with his news of "ten cents a pan".

"Anyhow, Carmacks and his two friends, I believe, followed much the same road that the trail follows today. It was much easier to walk along the ridges than it was to walk in the valleys. They dropped down into Bonanza further up the valley and that's where they made the discovery that started the Gold Rush."

When centennial celebrations and projects began to be organized, John immediately attached himself to the effort and began to pitch some of his pet projects. The Ridge Road Heritage Trail was one of them.

"Now it's a fact and I'm glad to see it happen," he told the crowd, proving that if you have a good idea and work at it long enough, something will come of it.

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Joe and Annie Henry. Photo by Palma Berger

JOE AND ANNIE HENRY'S 75TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY

by Palma Berger
Sun Staff

The warm greetings that arriving guests had for each other before they even entered the Tr'ondeck Hwech'in hall gave promise of a loving atmosphere for the celebration of this wonderful event. And so it was.

Annie and Joe were escorted into the hall by their son Percy Henry, and were seated at the head table. Annie has the use a walker ever since she broke her hip, but Joe looked spry. They were joined by their children. People mingled and chatted. It was a wonderful occasion to catch up on visiting.

The hall had been decorated with balloons and streamers of deep pink, turquoise and white. The head-table repeated these colours with the additional trim of silver ribbons joining up diamonds of silver paper. The long white covered tables were graced with crystal vases of wildflowers. Wildflowers were so fitting as Joe and Henry had spent so much of their lives so close to the land.

Their son Percy in an interview on C.B.C. told how both were born and raised around the headwaters of the Blackstone River. When Annie was about 14 years, Joe's Uncle Julius told her that she and Joe were to get married. So it was that on July 15, 1921, they were married at Moosehide by Rev. Julius Kendi.

Both Joe and Annie had lost their parents by this time. Percy admitted they had a pretty tough life, as Joe trapped the Balckstone area and Annie had nine of her children in the bush.

But on this particular evening everyone was so pleased and so proud of them. This showed not only in the care given to arranging the evening but the way everyone responded to speeches and entertainment.

The evening opened with a blessing on Annie and Joe from Rev. Don Sax of the Anglican church. This was followed by the saying of grace by Rev. Ken Snider.

The sumptious meal consisted of caribou, turkey and chicken and salmon, followed by baked desserts.

The most able M.C. for the evening was Mabel Henry. Mabel told us that Annie and Joe had had 12 children. They gave Annie and Joe 37 grandchildren, 48 great-grandchildren and 15 great, great grandchildren, making a total of 100 descendents.

They had had six boys, and six girls, who were Mary (Marcelin)(the eldest), Margaret, Fannie(Dupont), William, Isaac, Percy, Victor, Henry and Eileen(Olsen)(the youngest). All still live in Dawson except for Mary, who lives in St. Paul, Alberta.

Their three children who passed on were Peter, Edna and Ida.

Isaac showed me his Band membership card which states he was born on Twelve Mile Creek, on February3rd. A February birth in the bush! Our temperatures for last February hit -47oC to -52oC.

Percy was born between Hart River and Wind River on May 24th.

I asked Percy how old his Dad was. With a twinkle Percy said, "Oh, we tell him he is only 96 years, so he doesn't think he is getting old. But really he is a bit older."

Mabel read out telegrams of congratulations to Joe and Annie from the City of Dawson, M.P. Audrey McLaughlin, Piers McDonald on behalf of the N.D.P. Caucus, Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Chief Steve Taylor on behalf of Tr'ondek Hwech'in and from all the family of the late Mary Vittrekwa of Fort McPherson.

This was followed by a toast, and the opening of gifts.

There were two cakes. One the traditional cake with the Happy 75th Wedding Anniversary on it, done in pink and white, and the second in yellow and white with"Juh' drin 75 yrs tutu' l ade"k" on one line, and under that "Today 75yrs you been married! Annie & Joe."

George McConkey had travelled up from Whitehorse with his band especially for this occasion. He played a song he had composed called "The Dempster Highway", but he changed the last line to "Up the Joe Henry Highway there's no one around". This was to show he agreed with the pamphlett that was being passed around that suggested the name of the Dempster be changed to Joe Henry highway.

Long time friend of the family, Dawne Mitchell followed with the singing of "The Anniversary Song".

Percy, in proposing a toast to his parents, spoke of being so proud to see Mum and Dad celebrate their 75th Anniversary. At one stage in his own life he did not think he would even see 75 years, and remarked to his Dad that he, his Dad, would probably have to look after him. But now he marvels to see his Mum and Dad celebrating their 75th. Wedding Anniversary. He thanked people who had come by boat, by land and by air for this occasion.

The evening was recorded with video, with sound, and with numerous camera shots. Annie looked so proud as all the many, many members of her family gathered at the head table with them for the photo shoot of all time.

The floor was cleared and the dancing began. Joe circled the floor with his neice. People sat back to enjoy watching the rest of the young folk dancing. One thought that some of the elders were not taking too much in, until yours truly sat back on a cleared table to take some photos, and then had to jump up and quickly scramble off it. The table had just been wiped and was left very wet, as was now my pants. They roared with laughter. They weren't missing anything.

Annie and Joe did not miss anything either. They stayed on until 11:30 p.m. A long evening, but as someone said, "They are tough people."

It was an evening of such friendship, fellowship and warmth that it was as if the spirit that kept these two people together for so many years spread out into the gathering to ensure good feelings for the evening.

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The Lady That's Known as Lou

by Maureen Kafer
Sun Staff

On July 19th the Yukon River welcomed the 'Lou' back into her arms. After extensive renovations, the former RCMP barge has been refurbished in the style of a 1920's Sternwheeler and graces the mighty Yukon once again.

The Yukon Lou, an integral part of the Salmon BBQ dinner cruise to Pleasure Island, was built around 1928, when Dawson City was the seat of the Territorial Government. The RCMP commissioned four boats to be built in the RCMP shipyards in Whitehorse for use as barges for the Porcupine Route and the Lou is the last one in existance.

In the 50's, she was decommissioned by the RCMP and then used as a push-barge powered by a boat "Brainstorm" which still operates in Alaska today. The Lou then sat on dry-dock for approximately eight years when it was purchased by the infamous Captain Dick, the inventor of the 'Sour Toe Cocktail'. He turned her into a local tour boat and ran day excursions up and down the Yukon River.

In '84, it was incorporated by Scott and Sonja Billings. Scott drove a tour bus in the area for Atlas Tours for several years and it was their idea to add a restaurant to the tour. It was then that the famous BBQ Salmon recipe was created that is still used today.

The 2 hour tour incorporates a leisurely cruise, narrated by owner Scott MacManus, to the place where the Klondike and the Yukon rivers meet, a trip past the Sternwheeler Graveyard and a spectacular view of the Ancient Indian Village of Moosehide. The cruise then takes passengers to the 5 acre island known as 'Pleasure Island' where they tuck into all-you-can-eat King Salmon BBQ caught by Cor, a local fisherman during the Salmon run. Other delectable delights include home baked biscuits and the Yukon's best chocolate cake made from scratch by Robbie MacManus.

Scott and Robbie (a local Dawson girl) MacManus purchased Pleasure Island Restaurant and Yukon River Cruises in '89. They renovated the 'Little Birch Cabin" on front street in 1993, added a gift shop and re-vamped the island; adding a beautiful sun deck overlooking the mighty Yukon and even brought in a team of Sled Dogs. (Scott is a musher out of Alaska).

This summer, the project was to rework the Yukon Lou. Her hull was totally reconditioned and her body has been modeled in the tradition of a pre-goldrush Sternwheeler. The downstairs deck is completely enclosed and heated to keep out the evening chill. Fully restored, the Lou is the only way to enjoy the full flavor of the Yukon in the true Klondike Gold Rush spirit.

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Dreaming at the Palace Grand

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

It's slim pickings at the Palace as the Gaslight Follies begin this year. The framing sequence for the show has Arizona Charlie Meadows (Gregory Tees) and wife Mae (Patricia Dahlquist) looking back at the glory days and wondering how to make a living in a nearly empty house. The height of the Gold Rush has passed and the new rush to Nome has drained Dawson.

The improbable solution is to float the Palace down the Yukon and follow the miners, but before they can do that they need to work up a new show. The recipe for success is one part vaudeville and one part melodrama. They have lots of ideas for the first half of the show and their janitor has a script he'd like them to look at.

All this having been established, we move quickly into the vaudeville portion of the evening.

A show like the Follies is necessarily variations on familiar themes. Audience participation (or entrapment, more likely) is one of the staples of any such show, and the Follies has been trapping front row tourists for years. This year's variation begins with a fairly complicated routine involving a female tourist, who, it emerges, has had previous liaisons with three cast members. Just when you think nothing else can happen "On the Trail of Love" out pops another secret from her chequered past.

Later in the show a man is treated to a similar case of stage fright.

Other skits include some barber shop material, some "sharp-shooting" and a demonstration of the power women have over men.

The second half of the show is "The Klondike Quest", a melodrama set during the Rush. When Joe McGregor's ship comes in, it contains the word that he has inherited a mine from his dead father Joe (Shayne Ireland) determines to escape the life of crime he's been leading under the tutelage of his uncle, Victor Vandervowel (Timm Hughes). First, he must do one more dirty deed, stealing a ticket to the Klondike from Gussie Smith (Lee Erdman), an ingenue looking for work in the north.

Destitute, Gussie is picked up by Arizona Charlie and Mae Meadows, who are on their way to Dawson to find some way of getting rich. Along the way they are joined by a young fellow named Jack (Harmony Hunter), who is really Jacqueline. Jack is defying conventions and making her way in a man's world by the Shakespearean expedient of cross-dressing.

Along the way Joe takes up with Sgt. Urgent (also Timm Hughes) of the N.W.M.P., Mae gets the notion of starting a theatre in Dawson, Gussie and Jo fall in love and everyone has to foil the nefarious plottings of Vandervowel. It's a melodrama with an explosive climax.

If the show itself is variations of old themes, the cast is mostly new. The oldest continuous member is now the youngest, Harmony Hunter,, a home girl who will enter grade 11 this fall and has been on the boards here since her grade 8 year. Greg Tees returns from last year, while Lee Erdman and Patricia Dahlquist have migrated down the street after engagements at Diamond Tooth Gerties. Glen Stevenson is back again after 6 years elsewhere, while newcomers Shayne Ireland and Timm Hughes round out the cast.

The basic scripts were prepared by Pat Henman, whose LPV Productions handles both the Palace and Gerties, and David Hudgins, who spent parts of the last two years in the cast. There are a number of musical borrowings from a musical called "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" by Jim Betts, as well as items written for the Follies in other years by Grant Hartwick (now with the "Frantic Follies" in Whitehorse) & Adam McConnell.

The show has lots of energy and was certainly a crowd pleaser for its primary audience, which is the package tour crowd.

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Berton House Needs Furniture

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

The Yukon Arts Council is looking for furniture for Berton House, which will be opening here during Discovery Week in August.

Under a partnership between the Klondike Visitors Association and the YAC, the house will be ready to accept the first appointment to its writer -in-residence program at that time.

The KVA has been responsible for getting the house into shape, but YAC has to furnish it. Max Fraser and Glenn Wadsworth were in Dawson on July 7 and 8, checking out the renovations and planning for the big day. They are appealing to the citizens of Dawson as well as the Yukon at large to help find a few things to get the program started.

Said Wadsworth, "We need all the basic furnishings for 2 bedrooms and a kitchen, all the things that would make a writer comfortable who's in there for 3 months."

Russell Smith, a Toronto based writer, will be the first writer-in-residence at Berton House. His three month term will begin the day after the house officially opens on August 15. It is planned that Pierre Berton himself will be the first resident, spending one night there. Future writers will spend between 3 and 6 months at the house.

Berton House is to be a working residence, not a reconstruction.

"We're not intending to reproduce the house from the 1920s or 30s," Wadsworth said, "but if we have a flavour of it or something from that period in it, that would be all the better. If anyone in town actually had furniture that came from it that would be spectacular. or if people had odd, mismatched sets chairs from the twenties and thirties, wooden chairs for the kitchen and dining room, that would be great."

The house will also need basic housekeeping appliances, and some lawn furniture for the two verandahs.

Eventually, the YAC would like to have furniture custom designed for the house by Yukon artists and made out of local materials. The organization is hoping crafts people will be willing to donate items.

In addition, since Laura Berton was an avid gardener, flowers and landscaping will be added to the grounds.

The Dawson contact for donations is John Steins at 993-5580. People outside of Dawson could contact Glenn Wadsworth at 668-5955, fax 668-6466, home 668-2806.

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T'rondek Hwich'in Theatre Group. Photo by Kathryn Bruce

Discovery Days will be like never before

by Ken Spotswood
KVA/KCS Media Relations

Most of us in the Yukon look forward to the annual Discovery Day holiday weekend as the last chance to get out and enjoy summer before schools open in September.

Not this year.

There has never been a Discovery Day Festival such as the one planned for next month--a 13-day extravaganza with at least one major event happening every day!

Members of the Klondyke Centennial Society (KCS) and other organizations have been working hard to make sure this centennial of the 'Year of Discovery' is an unforgettable event.

Traditionally, Discovery Day weekend is celebrated each year on August 17th--the date 100 years ago when gold was discovered on Rabbit Creek, later renamed Bonanza. It led to the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1898.

There will be the usual parade through the streets of Dawson City on the morning of August 17th. But--for the first time--the main event is being held out at the Discovery Claim on Bonanza Creek, which is where it all began.

The theme of the event is 'Honor the Miner', a tribute to gold miners past, present and future.

Until recently, the Discovery Claim was owned by the late Art Fry, a placer miner for more than 30 years. Prior to his death last year, Fry had the foresight to express his wishes for the site.

Since then, KCS has been working with members of his family to see that they are carried out.

Fry loved his life on the creeks, and he was equally devoted to helping and supporting young people. A former professional boxer, he started a boxing club in Dawson and coached brothers George and Joe Mason who went on to box professionally.

Years ago he established the Tagish Charlie Fund which has been used to support young athletes. (The fund is named after Skookum Jim's nephew, Kaa Goox, who was also known as Tagish Charlie and later Dawson Charlie).

Fry wanted to have a place on the creeks where young people could learn about gold mining, and learn respect for the land. As a result, KCS is working with the city's recreation board to develop a youth camp at Discovery Claim.

It's a long-term project that is still in the planning stages and, when it becomes a reality, Fry's legacy will be an important addition to the community.

On Aug. 17 a plaque will be unveiled at the Discovery Claim in Fry's honor and dedicated accordingly.

An afternoon and evening of entertainment begins at the site at 1:00 p.m. with Parks Canada special presentations--'Staking a Claim with a Difference' and 'If I Was a Prospector'.

Other entertainment includes the Tr'ondek Hwech'in Summer Theatre Troupe which combines music, dance and storytelling with elaborate traditional costumes.

There will be live music and dancing to the sounds of 'Larry Lee and Straight, Clean & Simple', a Calgary-based band and Juno Award nominee for Best Country Band in 1993.

The Yukon Order of Pioneers will host an Open House tent at the Discovery Claim at 4 p.m.

There will also be a half-hour slide show about the gold rush by Sally and Ian Wilson. There will be a small admission charge for this event to help offset costs.

A barbecue supper will include salmon and moose stew, beans, bannock and refreshments--$10 for adults and $5 for children. Shuttle buses will be available from town for a nominal charge to help minimize parking and traffic congestion.

The Gold Fields Relay Race will finish at the Discovery Claim about 4:30 p.m.

The evening ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m.

Pierre Berton will act as master of ceremonies.

In addition to the unveiling of plaques there will be special guest speakers--including Prime Minister Jean Chretien--plus descendants of some prominent gold rush pioneers who are coming to honor the memories of their ancestors.

The event will wrap up around 7:30 p.m. to give people a chance to return to town for the Klondike Country Jamboree concert and dance at Bonanza Centre Arena.

Headlining this event are the Canadian country bands 'Short Notice', 'Larry Lee and Straight, Clean & Simple', and 'Farmer's Daughter'.

This year's Discovery Day Festival promises to be an historic event in itself, and the Klondyke Centennial Society invites everyone to join in the celebration.

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Sharing the Story of Northern Missions

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Those who may think that religion has played little or no part in the formation of the Yukon, would do well to remember that the Roman Catholic School run in Dawson City by the Sisters of Saint Ann is one of the main reasons why the territory did not end up as part of British Columbia.

By a quirk of historical fate, the territory had been granted the right to have denominational schools when it was formed. The BC government was adamantly opposed to separate schools and would have ended this system had it taken us over. It is recorded that Martha Black mobilized the parliamentary effort that killed the final attempt at annexation by lining up all the Roman Catholic politicians she could find in Ottawa to vote against the measure.

This event is mentioned briefly in the recently reissued history, North to Share: a history of the Sisters of Saint Ann in Alaska and the Yukon Territory (published by the Sisters of Saint Ann). The book's author, Sister Margaret Cantwell, S.S.A., was in Dawson City for the recent rededication of the Church of St Mary of the Immaculate Conception.In her position as archivist for the sisters, she had been of considerable assistance in helping the parish to assemble a collection of photographs to line the restored walls of the building. She brought along a number of copies of her book and presented the history of her order during a lecture at the Dawson City Museum.

"Back in early 1980s our congregations was looking for some of an historical resume of our work in Alaska," she explained, "because in 1986 it celebrated its centennial of continuous work. So they asked me, because I liked history and I liked to write, to put together this centennial history. It didn't make the publication deadline, so it just sat for awhile, and then it was decided to make the book into something that would truly be a history of our work in the north. Not the work of the Jesuits and the Oblates and the bishops and that, but the work of the Sisters of Saint Ann. It's like a women's view of things and what the women did."

While the bulk of the book concerns itself with missions in Alaska, and spends only a brief time in Whitehorse, the Sisters were in Dawson from 1898 until just after the closing of the Yukon Consolidated Gold Company's operation. So there is a substantial 28 page section dealing mostly with the Klondike.

Each chapter begins with an anecdote concerned with the area intended to hook in people who don't normally read histories. For Dawson, there is the story of a lady of easy virtue who gives up her boots for a suffering Sister. The Sisters worked with Father Judge in staffing the hospital he had begun, and by 1899 they had branched out to begin their school. Educational and nursing duties lasted through two world wars, the loss of their hospital to fire, and the slow but relentless decline in the local population until 1963.

Sister Margaret took on the writing of the book for a couple of personal reasons. One was that in her long career with the Sisters, she had spent 35 years in the north. The American born landed immigrant has been with the order since 1941.

"That's my whole adult life," she explained. "I came west in 1944. I came north to Holy Cross in 1946. Part of the reason that I wrote the book was that I had been in all the places I wrote about - except Dawson. Here I had to go by documents and pictures and what other people had said."

That is the source of the one error in the Dawson section, a picture of Lake Bennett which will be replaced in future printings. Sister Margaret said that she had just learned of this error during her first visit to Dawson, though the book has been in print since 1992.

The book was a lot of work, but it was also a pleasure.

"I loved every minute of writing the book, although getting up at 4 in the morning to try and squeeze in some editing before the day's work began was kind of hard."

While much of the work was based on journals and documents, but she also managed to find the space for a bit of creativity. Each community in her history is represented by a colour, through which she attempted to reflect the ambience of the place. Dawson's colour was yellow.

"For me," she said, "that was the best writing of all."

Working on the book also influenced the direction of her vocation with the Sisters after she left Holy Cross in Alaska where she did most of the writing. Now stationed in Victoria, she is the archivist for the Sisters of Saint Ann.

"I am the archivist because, in doing this historical work I became very convinced how important archives were - the whole preservation of history. So when there was a need for an archivist I volunteered to do that."

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