As with many place names in the Yukon, Lake Kusawa had more than one name over time. Located just 40 air miles west of Whitehorse, this beautiful high mountain lake is a delight to travel, unless big winds blow in from the north.
This lake in the southwestern Yukon is 45 miles long by about 3-4 miles wide. As a high mountain lake, it can quickly become very windy, sometimes with little warning. This happened to a friend and me as we fished the lake for trout back in the 70s. Caught totally off guard on an otherwise sunny Sunday afternoon, our boat came close to capsizing as we rocked and rolled on the water while the sun shone bright above.
The Lake was known to the Chilcat Indians as Kusawa ... windy water ... and was described as such to an International Surveyor, Dr. George Armstrong by the Chilkat chief Kho-Klux in 1869.
Unaware of the original name, E. Hazard Wells, chief of the Frank Leslie Illustrated News expedition of 1890, named it Lake Arkel after A.J. Arkel, owner of the New York Paper and sponsor of this expedition. Jack Dalton was a member of the expedition and used the knowledge he gained on the trip to describe and run the Dalton Trail. Arkell had sponsored the expedition to the Yukon interior to cash in on news of the rich gold finds in the 40 mile district of the Yukon River prior to the Klondike rush.
In 1897, when the big Klondike strike became world wide news, Arkel instituted a lawsuit claiming all of the Klondike. It was based on the travels of the four men in his expedition of 1890. One of the members of that expedition, A.B. Shantz turned down an offer in New York of 50 thousand dollars for any claim he may have had in the Klondike.
The lawsuit came to nothing and Shantz, who could have had 50 thousand dollars, instead came away empty handed. In 1898, the Canadian geographical names board restored the original Indian name Lake Kusawa. And yes it is, as my friend and I discovered years ago, a big windy lake.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
There’s a neat well-maintained pathway with, of all things, stairs. It leads from Alexander Street to the airport. But when I was a kid in the fifties, the trail to the airport via Puckett’s Gulch hadn’t changed much since William Puckett built it around 1900.
Fact is, the trail was in better condition back then because it was regularly used by pack trains heading for the exciting Whitehorse Copper deposits. Lots of famous Yukon characters lived in the tiny town of Whitehorse then, and owned copper properties in the Copper belt:
Sam McGee, William Grainger, John McIntrye and the subject of today’s story, William Puckett. He was born in Missouri in 1869, came to the Yukon via the Chilkoot Pass in 1898 and staked a claim in the Whitehorse copper belt. By 1907, there were six major copper claims working, including Puckett’s Anaconda claim.
All this action was not ignored by the newly formed Territorial Government that provided cash to build a new trail from Whitehorse to the copper mines via what is now the Two Mile Hill. All told, the government funded 36 miles of road to all the major mines and they were shipping tons of copper ore.
Like always, the boom didn’t last and virtually came to a stop in 1908 when copper prices plummeted. But William Puckett was a diversified businessman. By now he owned the Upper Lebarge and Takhini roadhouses on the overland trail to Dawson. He and his wife Anna Harper, who came to Whitehorse from Kentucky in 1900, had three children and made their first home at the Takhini Roadhouse at Takhini Crossing.
However, in 1907, the family moved into Whitehorse, so that the children could attend school. Here, William operated a hardware store on Front Street. He called it - 'The Store that sells all kinds of miners' supplies'.
Later, William also started the Ford car and truck dealership, and in 1935, he opened a sheet metal shop. Sadly, in March 1934, Anna Puckett died in Long Beach, California, where she was visiting her two sons.
In 1937, William left the Yukon and returned to the United States. In Seattle for a cataract operation, he fell in love with his nurse, Margaret Jones. They married and settled in Long Beach, California . William Puckett, a diversified Yukon businessman - best remembered for Puckett’s Gulch, died in 1940.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin