The Whitehorse Copper Belt is - in some ways - cursed. The mineral belt, running for about 30 kilometers, is hidden just under the hills to the west of town. Copper deposits were noted here as early as 1897, by prospectors on their way to Dawson City.
A Klondike-bound prospector, John McIntyre, staked the first claim in the Whitehorse Copper Belt on July 6th, 1898. A month later he sold half an interest to Kentuckian miner, William Grainger.
The pair brought the first hard-rock mine in the Yukon into production. They called it the Copper King. In 1900, the North West Mounted Police reported that "copper has been the all-absorbing question". But funds to operate the Copper King were low so, in 1902, McIntyre hired on as a mail carrier on the Atlin to Log Cabin run. On November 29th, he left Atlin with a load of mail. Jack McIntyre never arrived at Log Cabin. In May, 1903 his body was found in a shallow bay. He had fallen through the ice of Taku Inlet.
Grainger remained as manager of the Copper King, working hard on the mine and at one time had thirty miners working for him.
In the spring of 1907, Grainger optioned the Copper King property to a Pennsylvanian syndicate for $200,000 and a royalty. Grainger would continue as mine manager. But a few days after the take over, both Grainger and his young assistant Gilbert Joyce were found dead at the bottom of the Copper King shaft, the victims of carbon monoxide poisoning.
William Grainger was a popular miner and the entire town of Whitehorse attended the funeral, including the famous Sam McGee, who also held claims in the Copper Belt and was one of six pallbearers. Now, death had claimed two of the most prominent proponents of the Copper Belt. However, activity in the region increased and soon numerous claims, including War Eagle, Hoodoo, and Pueblo were staked.
Pueblo was the most productive of all the claims and it also proved to be the deadliest. On March 21, 1917, nine miners were trapped by a cave-in.
A mine rescue team punched a tunnel into the mine and rescued three of the men, but the remaining six were never found. The rescue effort had to be called off and the six miners were never found.
An investigation into the tragedy found that the cave-in was caused by numerous underground water streams which washed away the sand and silt, weakening a chamber to the point where it collapsed.
Following the accident, the Pueblo Mine was closed. The deadly chamber was never disturbed and the bodies of the six men were never recovered.
A plaque marking the tragic event stands just off the Fish Lake Road in the Whitehorse Copper Belt, which had experienced more than its share of mining disasters.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
|January 12, 1917||White Pass & Yukon Route announces December 20, 1916 the construction of two new steamers to take care of its increasing tourist traffic between Caribou and Taku and on Atlin lake.|
|January 26, 1917||The Boyle Yukon Motor Machine Gun Battery, recruited in Dawson, is awarded a military cross and military medals.|
|February 9, 1917
→ December 7, 1917
|Joseph Whiteside Boyle of Dawson receives September 13, 1916 the honor of lieutenant-colonel in the Canadian militia. In December 1917, Joe Boyle is decorated in Petrograd with the Order of St. Staislaus for distinguished service in the transportation department of the Russian army in Galicia and Rumania.|
|February 23, 1917||On February 21, 1917, a fire that broke out in the Yukonia hotel destroys an entire block of business houses. Among the burned building are the Yukonia, Pioneer, Bonanza and Cronin hotels, Sales' jewelry store and Pinska's clothing store.|
|June 15, 1917||The B.Y.N. steamer Tutshi is launched at Carcross, June 12, 1917. The steamer is christened "Tutshi" by Mazie Cochran.|
|July 6, 1917||Katherine Ryan, representing Whitehorse, takes the part of "Miss Canada" at a celebration in Skagway.|
|August 24, 1917||The Weekly Star talks about a new stampede, this time to a creek in the Hutshi Lake Region.|
|November 16, 1917||Jake Fred and Frank Smith make a new gold strike at Dalton Post.|