Hougen Group


Lake Bennett.


Panorama of Lake Bennett community looking south. Exteriors of Yukon Hotel, Dawson Hotel, Hotel Victoria, B.L. & K.N. Co. Buildings. Date: 1899. Yukon Archives. Anton Vogee fonds, #39.


View of the tents comprising the R.L.T. Co.'s camp near the small pond at Bennett. In the foreground are a gathering of R.L.T. Co. horses and freight wagons. Date: July 6, 1899. Yukon Archives. H.C. Barley fonds, #4896.

Lake Bennett

The most widely known lake in the Yukon is named after an American newspaperman. Of all Yukon lakes, it commands the most respect for its role in shaping the history of the territory.

As with many other Yukon geographical features, Lake Bennett had more than one name. To the Tagish Indians, it was Kusooa - or Windy - Lake. To the early day Klondikers, it was simply known as Boat Lake, the spot were countless thousands of make-shift craft were built by would-be prospectors who had laboured up the Chilkoot Pass.

It was that tireless American Army Lt., Frederick Schwatka, who gave Lake Bennett its name. On his expedition of 1883, from Dyea, over the Chilkoot Pass and down the entire length of the Yukon River, he ignored all previous names and named it after James Gordon Bennett, editor of the New York Herald, which was a supporter of the American expedition.

In 1897-98, the shores of Lake Bennett contained the largest tent city in the world, as tens of thousands of Klondikers set up shop here on their journey to Dawson City. The Bennett Sun newspaper operated here for a little over a year before moving to Whitehorse to become the Whitehorse Star.

The White Pass Railway skirts the shores of the lake from its headwaters to Carcross with one stop on the way, Pennington station, about half way up the lake. Here, the beautiful Pennington Island is the site of two wooden grave markers, with two names engraved below hand-carved crosses. The names, unfortunately, cannot be clearly distinguished.

Lake Bennett, surrounded as it is by snow-capped coastal mountains, is at once beautiful and dangerous. It is hard to imagine that the coastal winds, whipping up waves a meter high or more, did not result in more deaths of gold seekers in their hand-hewn boats. It's also hard to imagine a more picturesque site in the world, when the winds are calm and the lake is flat.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin

Politics and Population

The Yukon's political evolution has always been closely tied to the territory's population growth or decline, which, until recent times, has been tied to the state of the mining industry.

When the Yukon became a territory in 1898, the best guess at the population would be somewhere around 40,000. Three years later, in 1901, the official census revealed that 27,000 people called the Yukon their home. By 1908, there were but 10,000 people in the territory. Yet that year, federal legislation for the first time allowed for a fully elected council of 10 members.

However, the council wouldn't last long. By 1919, the population had dwindled to a mere 4,000residents, and the elected council was reduced to three members. Also that year, the office of commissioner which had been established in 1898, was abolished. The legendary George Black was the last commissioner until the office was re-established in 1948. The duties were transferred to the gold commissioner, the first being G.P Mackenzie. This remained the all powerful political position in the Yukon and controlled all money bills and legislation.

In the 1930s, there was a further decline in the Yukon's population, and the gold commissioner's position was abolished. In 1932, control of the territorial government came under the office of the Yukon's comptroller George Jeckell, who held the position until 1947. Though the title had changed, the powers, if anything, were greater. Jeckell almost single-handedly ran the Yukon's affair for 15 years.

With the coming of the Alaska highway, however, and the post-war growth of the mining industry, the population was once again on the increase, especialy in the southern Yukon. The office of Commissioner was re-established in 1948. In 1951, the territorial council was increased to five elected members. In 1953, the growing town of Whitehorse became the Yukon capital.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin


Rolf Hougen and Santa, 1953.

Santa Claus in Whitehorse

In 1952, Hougen's introduced Santa Claus to Whitehorse.  Rolf Hougen greets Santa in this 1953 photo.  Santa appears annually in Hougen's Toyland.


Whitehorse Choral Society, 1953.

Whitehorse Choral Society

Whitehorse Choral Society under the direction of Morris Dean (left).  In the second row from the front on the far right is Margaret Van Dyke, the future Mrs. Rolf Hougen.  


Radio-Electric Business, 1953.


Hougen's purchased the Radio-Electric business of George Meikle. Rolf Hougen looking at the record selection. On the wall are classical 78rpm records.


Myles Canyon, 1953.

Miles Canyon

Miles Canyon - the turbulent and dangerous waters were tamed with the rising water behind the NCPC Dam built in 1957-58. Lake Schwatka, was named after a US Army officer who traversed the Yukon in 1884.


Whitehorse steam laundry, 1953.

Whitehorse Steam Laundry

The Whitehorse steam laundry operated by Kai Gertsen. It is located on the Yukon River, foot of Jarvis Street.


City Council, 1953.

City Council 1953

City Council 1953 - L to R: Jim Norrington, Mayor Gordon Armstrong, Bill Hamilton, second row: City Clerk, Percy Hewitt, Bill Drury, Tom Bain.

The Whitehorse Star Reports in 1953

January 16, 1953 The Whitehorse Legion elects officers for 1953: President, Earl Gay; First Vice President, R. Chapman; Second Vice-President, H. Cunningham; Sergeant-at-Arms, Bill Smoller.
January 16, 1953 Another new type of business starts in Whitehorse when Mr. and Mrs. Pete Petiot open their self-serve laundry.
January 16, 1953 Whitehorse City Council prepares a brief acquainting the Government of the needs of a water and sewer system in Whitehorse.
January 23, 1953 An earthquake that shook the town of Mayo on January 18th lasted approximately four minutes. Residents were reported to have received quite a scare from the quake.
January 23, 1953 George Murray claims in Parliament that the construction of the Alaska Highway by the Army was full of corruption. Between 1942 and 1945 about 14,000 pieces of equipment worth $10 Million were allegedly stolen.
January 30, 1953 19 year old Lena Emma Tzya is chosen to represent the Girl Guides of the Yukon at the Coronation ceremonies in England in spring 1954.
February 13, 1953 The Junior Chamber of Commerce elect on February 9, 1953 Frank Algar as president after the resignation of Charlie Blishen.
February 20, 1953 The Yukon Fish and Game Association elect officers for the coming year: President, Frank Mikusch (replacing Ted Pinchin); Vice-President, Lloyd Dunbar; Secretary, Rolf Hougen; Treasurer, Charlie Rosenberg.
February 27, 1953 The new Whitehorse Civic Centre officially opens February 18, 1953. In later years, it will be called the Jim Light Arena. The first ticket is purchased by Mayor Gordon Armstrong.
February 27, 1953 Simpsons-Sears Ltd. opens a mail order store in Whitehorse on Main Street near Second Avenue. The store is under the management of Mr. and Mrs. V.A. Chapman.
February 27, 1953 National Housing loans are now available for the Yukon.
March 13, 1953 The Whitehorse Inn opens an ultramodern restaurant that is declared the finest in Canada's North, one that Yukoners can be proud of.
March 13, 1953 Thayer Lindsey, President of Ventures Ltd., told company shareholders in Toronto about his biggest venture: a hydroelectric power development in the Yukon. It would cost two billion dollars and develop as much as five million horsepower to run a great new metallurgical development in the Canadian Northwest. Known as the Frobisher Project, it would flood vast tracts of the Yukon including Whitehorse.
March 13, 1953 At the annual meeting of the Yukon Historical Society, the following directorate was named: Patrons, Captain and Mrs. George Black; Honorary President, Honourable J. Aubrey Simmons, M.P.; President, W. D. MacBride; Vice-President, Mrs. Jas Porter; Secretary-Treasurer, C.A. Morrison; Executive, Mrs. E. Steeves and J. J. Elliott.
March 27, 1953 On March 19, 1953, a fire damaged the plant and stock of the Dawson News. Publisher W. Samuelson advised the Star he would be back in business in two weeks.
March 27, 1953 The administration of the Yukon Territorial Government completes its move from Dawson to Whitehorse. Temporary offices were set up in one of the old school buildings at the north end of Third Avenue.
April 3, 1953 CFWH returns to air next week. When the American Armed Forces radio programs were stopped, action was initiated to obtain CBC programs to supplement locally produced programs. On April 5 or 6th, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation programs will be available for the first time to Whitehorse listeners. CFWH remains a volunteer station.
April 10, 1953 Whitehorse officially becomes the Capital of the Yukon. The first meeting of the Territorial Council is held in Whitehorse on April 8 in the courtrooms over the post office. Members from Dawson, Mayo, and Carmacks are in Whitehorse to attend the meeting.
April 24, 1953 A week prior, Mr. and Mrs. Richard White proprietors of the Capital Hotel open ten new rooms on the second floor of their hotel.
May 8, 1953 The Whitehorse Board of Trade elects the following officers: President, James Smith; Vice-Ppresident, Rolf Hougen; Secretary, R. J. Rowan; Treasurer, Arthur Jones.
May 15, 1953 Monsieur Francois de Laboulaye, French Embassy Consular, was entertained at a luncheon Monday by the Territorial Government, City of Whitehorse, and the Board of Trade. Monsieur Laboulaye is making a tour of Western Canada to get acquainted with the people of the West and to tell the people what France is doing in the international field.
May 15, 1953 Fire destroys Cole Brothers garage at Keno. In a matter of minutes the whole group of buildings was ablaze, and so hot that nothing was saved. Approximately $75,000 of damage was done. The diesel electric light plant also caught fire. As a result Keno will be without light or power until they can repair the plant.
May 15, 1953 White Pass & Yukon Route announce that lots on Seventh and Eighth Avenue will go on sale.
May 15, 1953 Alex van Bibber announces his Annual Champagne Rodeo for June 2, 1953.
May 22, 1953 A Masonic Lodge is opened in Mayo on May 18, 1853.
May 29, 1953 At a meeting of sponsors of the Whitehorse Junior Fastball League on May 27, Rolf Hougen is elected President, Bud Harrison is elected Vice-President, and Dick Carswell is elected the Secretary-Treasurer.
May 29, 1953 Schools are closed as a precautionary measure to combat the spread of polio in Whitehorse.
June 12, 1953 Dawson is without ferry service a smaller substitute ferry arrives with considerable delay.
June 12, 1953 The Paddle Wheeler Tutshi makes its first trip of the season from Carcross to Ben My Chree.
June 26, 1953 The first cocktail lounge opens in Mayo June 22, 1953 when the Chateau Mayo opened the doors and revealed a new modern lounge. The Chateau Mayo was purchased from Barker-Ray interests by Joseph Alexander Work and Dale Robertson early this year.
June 26, 1953 The Strawberry Festival in Haines is cancelled due to the high number of polio cases.
June 26, 1953
 → July 24, 1953
A rich source of uranium is discovered in Atlin. A road leading to the place of the uranium discovery is started by Conwest Exploration Co. on July 24, 1953.
July 3, 1953
 → July 10, 1953
J. Aubrey Simmons is the candidate for the Liberal for the upcoming federal elections. George Black is nominated by the Progressive-Conservative Party. The Social Credit Party of the Yukon nominates on July 10, 1953 Gordon Lee.
July 31, 1953 July 26, 1953, at 5 a.m. thousands of tons of sand crash down from the cliff at the west end of Main Street. No injuries are reported, but the area is declared "danger zone".
August 14, 1953 Aubrey Simmons (Liberal Party) wins the Yukon election, defeating Lee (Social Credit) and Black (Progressive Conservative).
August 28, 1953 The Yukon Mining Company Ltd. elects their directors for the ensuing year: W.A. Green, Harold Koffman, A.R. Blake, J.E. Grasser, Kenneth Gamey, Ronald L. Price, Erik H. Nielsen.
September 21, 1953 W.M.S. Drury Sr., pioneer merchant, dies at age eighty-three.
September 26, 1953 A fire of undetermined origin destroyed the R.C.A.F. Ski Chalet on September 19, 1953.
October 2, 1953 George Black receives from the Secretary of State a medal issued in honour of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth on June 2, 1953.
October 9, 1953 The Whitehorse Board of Trade holds its third "Radio Week" Campaign in aid of CFWH, November 16 to November 21, 1953.
October 9, 1953 The Whitehorse Star is moving into the new office building situated on Main Street immediately east of the old office.
October 30, 1953 Mayo residents petition the Yukon Territorial Council for a new hospital building because of the miserable state of the current building.
November 6, 1953 As of November 9, 1953, CFWH resumes continuous broadcasting throughout the day.
November 27, 1953 Hougen's Ltd. announces the purchase of the building and contents of George L. Meikle, a Whitehorse electrical appliance store. The department will be incorporated into the Hougen's main store and the Meikle Building sold.
December 11, 1953 "Grandma" Maggie Boeren passes away at the age of 109.
December 11, 1953 Mabel A. Simmons, mother of Aubrey Simmons, passes away at the age 79.
December 18, 1953 Jack Connelly is installed as exalted ruler of Elks Lodge.
December 31, 1953 For the first time in the Yukon's history three dimensional movies are shown - in Carcross.

Other News From 1953

  • Ian Murray dies during the polio epidemic.
  • Odin Hougen takes over Marsh Lake Lodge from Mike Nolan.
  • Vancouver Trucking Company sends the first truck over Hart and Alaska Highway. The trip takes ten days.
  • Wing Commander Chuck Olson is commander of the R.C.A.F.
  • Princess Elizabeth is crowned Queen and Yukon celebrates.
  • White Pass and Yukon Route evict some squatters from Moccasin Flats.
  • Harold Hine joins the law firm of Van Roggen and Nielsen.
  • The contract for a pipeline from Haines to Fairbanks, Alaska is awarded.
  • Watson Lake Motors opens as a four-bay garage to service private vehicles on the Alaska Highway. The “Motors” offered towing, mechanical, welding and body repair services. The gas pumps were added in 1955.
  • The newly formed Klondike Tourist Bureau took over maintenance of Robert Service's cabin from the International Order of Daughters of the Empire (IODE), whose members served tea at the site and entertained tourists.