Johnnie Johns was born at Tagish on July 10, 1898. He was the eldest son of Maria and Tagish Johns and was a member of the Crow clan of the Deishheetaan tribe. His Tlingit name was Yeil Shaan, which means Old Crow.
During his lifetime, his contributions towards the development of the Yukon have been numerous. At the age of 19, he started his own guiding outfit. During his time as an outfitter he was known as one of the top ten guides in the world. As a life-long trapper and fisherman, these talents were second to none. He helped blaze the way for the construction of the Alaska Highway.
He was one of Yukon's best gems and most widely respected elders, who generated warmth and kindness. His domain was the outdoors and all it had to offer. He sang, drummed and danced the stars to bed.
The Klondike Gold Rush was in full swing. The tiny village of Caribou Crossing was witnessing first-hand the largest mass movement of humanity in North American history. Johnnie Johns was born that year. One time, in the '50s, the Duke of Edinburgh asked him where he was born. In typical Johnnie humour he answered, “Under a spruce tree.” Not quite, but the village, later known as Carcross, was his life-long home.
Young Johnnie grew up with the greats of the gold rush all around him. Skookum Jim, Patsy Henderson, Tagish Charlie: they were all there in Johnnie’s formative years.
By the time he turned 17, Johnnie Johns had become a full-fledged big-game guide. In 1918, years ahead of his time, he placed an ad in Outdoor Life magazine. Soon, the young man had more rich American hunters knocking at his door than he could handle. He quickly became known throughout North America as the guide who could guarantee a trophy.
By the 1930s, he was guiding as many as a dozen hunters at a time - each paying 100 dollars a day. Huge money back then. He loved to say that as a guide he provided everything needed for a hunt, except “liquor and women - bring your own, ” Johnnie told his guests.
Hunts with Johnnie often yielded Boone and Crockett records of Dall Sheep, woodland caribou and southern lakes moose. One photo shows Johnnie dwarfed by a massive moose rack. He recalled that photo was taken in the Wheaton River valley on the last day of a hunt in 1942. He remembered that he let loose his patented call over a moose pasture and 12 moose stood up to have a look.
When Alaska Highway construction brought another wave of newcomers to the Yukon in the form of the American Army, Johnnie was hired as a guide to help survey the route between Carcross and Teslin. The US government paid him 26 dollars a day plus two dollars for each of his eight horses. Forty-two dollars a day was big money then. With his guiding and other work, Johnnie Johns was rarely short of that necessary commodity, but he was also generous to a fault.
He had three children, including Art Johns, who learned the big-game trade working with his dad, and many grandchildren who in his later years gave Johnnie great pleasure when they would show up en masse and unannounced at his home.
In the early 80s, he finally gave up his life-long career of big-game outfitting, though he still took visitors to his favourite fishing holes in the southern lakes that he loved.
The last time I saw Johnnie Johns in 1986, he was singing and telling stories at the kitchen table of our mutual friend Willard in Carcross. Willard asked Johnnie to recite a poem he had written while on a hunt with a long-time American friend, William Buchan. Johnnie said that he and Buchan decided to sit around the camp instead of hunting, and they composed the poem that sums up his attitude to life.
I remember a tear in Johnnie’s eye as he recited the poem; the last verse of which goes:
I’ll tell the piper what to play
Until the fates my threads have spun
Death never takes a holiday
It’s time to get some living done.
Johnnie Johns did some living.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
He was in the Yukon long before almost anyone knew where the territory was, long before it was a territory, for that matter. Leroy "Jack" McQuesten rightly earned the nickname, Father of the Yukon.
He was born in New Hampshire in 1836. He worked on a Puget Sound-based schooner owned by his older brother. That’s where he got the nickname, "Jack", which was later prefixed with the title "Captain." And why not - when he entered the Yukon district, McQuesten skippered one of the first steamboats that plied the Yukon River.
In 1874, McQuesten established Fort Reliance, six miles down the Yukon river from what would later become Dawson City. He used Reliance as his trading post for about a decade. While there, he made the first recording of Yukon weather in 1880-81. In 1879, McQuesten was hired by the Hudson's Bay Company to manage their trading posts. In 1893, he founded Circle City, Alaska.
McQuesten was one of the first white men to marry a native Athabascan woman in the Yukon Alaska district – Katherine McQuesten. He proudly told his relatives in the southern United States how much he loved his dark-skinned children. McQuesten came into the country with his partners, Arthur Harper and Al Mayo. They established trading posts at Stewart City, Fort Reliance, Forty Mile, Eagle, Circle City, and Fort Yukon, and McQuesten’s patience with native trappers became legendary. The trading posts also served as meeting places.
Before the Mounties arrived in the Yukon, McQuesten, Harper or Mayo presided over miners’ meetings. This is where the law was established and enforced in the mining camps. At the post in Forty Mile in 1894, the Alaskan and Yukon Order of Pioneers were formed, with Captain Jack McQuesten as the first President.
As a businessman, McQuesten did well. His philosophy was that if everyone is digging for gold, someone has to sell them the shovels. After twenty-five years in the North, he could afford to move his family into a palatial Victorian home at Berkeley, California, and educate his children in the best schools. Leroy Jack McQueston died in 1909 and his wife Katherine in 1921.
A tributary of the Yukon River is named the McQuesten River. The area also features the McQuesten Mineral Belt. Yukon Jack, the 100-proof Canadian whiskey is said to be named after McQuesten. Leroy “Jack” McQuesten was also inducted into the Yukon Prospectors’ Association’s Hall of Fame in1988. His name is engraved on the goldseeker statue in Whitehorse.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
On behalf of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, the Honourable Tom McMillan, Minister of the Environment, invites you to attend a ceremony commemorating the national historic significance of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway. Friday, August 5, 1988. 2:00 pm. Railway Station, First Avenue, Whitehorse, Yukon. Reception following.
Early in 1898 two other men came north intent upon solving the transportation dilemma: Sir Thomas Tancrede, a representative of a group of British financiers, and Michael J. Heney, a Canadian railway contractor. After detailed surveys , Tancrede and his party concluded that it was impossible to build a railroad through the rugged St. Elias Mountains. But Heney was convinced that a line could be built. By chance, Heney and Tancrede met one night in a Skagway hotel bar. They talked through the night; and by morning the railroad project was no longer a dream, but an accepted challenge. On May 28, 1898, construction began on the White Pass and Yukon Route. Two months later the railroad's first engine pulled an excursion train over the first four miles of completed track, making the WP & YR the northernmost railroad in the Western Hemisphere.
From there the going got tough. The railroad climbed from sea level in Skagway to 2865 feet at the summit, with grades as steep as 3.9%. Heney's workers hung suspended by ropes from vertical granite cliffs, chipping away with picks and planting black powder to blast through the mountains. Heavy snow and temperatures as low as 60 below hampered the work. And the mere whisper of a new gold strike sent workers scurrying off in droves. With all odds against it, the track reached the summit of White Pass on February 18, 1899; by July 6, construction reached the headwaters of the Yukon River at Lake Bennett. While southern gangs blasted their way through the Pass, a northern crew worked toward Whitehorse. On July 29, 1900, the rails met at Carcross, where a ceremonial spike was driven by Samuel H. Graves, the company's first president.
Through the years, the WP&YR enjoyed a rich and colourful history. It hauled passengers and freight to the Yukon; was a chief supplier for the Army's Alaska Highway construction project; and it gained international fame with its excursion trains. The company began modernizing to diesel locomotives, retiring all steam in 1964. It paid homage to its heritage by saving old No.73, the last White Pass steamer, and later restoring her for service. And it matured into a fully integrated transportation system, complete with modern containerships, pipelines, and highway tractor-trailer units.
|January 5, 1988
→ January 27, 1988
|Commissioner Awards are presented to George Dawson Sr., Andy Hooper (January 5, 1988), Pearl Keenen (January 27, 1988) and Don Taylor.|
|January 5, 1988||Betty and Ed Karman of Haines Junction are named Mr. and Mrs. Yukon 1988.|
|January 5, 1988
→ May 24, 1988
→ August 12, 1988
→ August 29, 1988
|A group of Yukon and Northwest Territories businesspeople plan a bid to buy NorthwesTel in an effort to keep control in the North. It is announced on May 24, 1988, that the Yukon government might become a 10% owner of NorthwesTel since it is part of the northern consortium that submitted a bid to buy the phone company. However, August 12, 1988 the Yukon government and other private investors pull out of the consortium. August 29, 1988 Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. becomes the new owner of NorthwesTel.|
|January 8, 1988||The Marwell industrial area is completely flooded due to an abnormal ice blockage on the Yukon river.|
|January 8, 1988||Helen Horback, Whitehorse historian, ex-president of the MacBride Museum, founding member of the Yukon Historical and Museum Association, dies January 4, 1988.|
|January 13, 1988
→ August 12, 1988
|The Department of National Defence wants to install a short range radar detector on Herschel Island as part of the New North Warning System (January 13, 1988). August 12, 1988 the Yukon government voices its objection to the proposed short-range radar station on Herschel Island.|
|January 18, 1988||Unsafe levels of carcinogenic compounds forced a hasty evacuation of basement offices in the territorial government building downtown Whitehorse.|
|January 19, 1988
→ January 25, 1988
|Johnny Johns dies January 18, 1988 at the age of 89. More than 600 people attend his funeral January 25, 1988.|
|January 20, 1988||The Olympic Torch, on its way from Athens to the Olympic Games in Calgary, arrives in Whitehorse.|
|January 26, 1988
→ December 5, 1988
|The City of Whitehorse introduces in Riverdale "no burn orders" that go into effect as soon as they are warranted by weather conditions. A no-burn order forces Riverdale wood stove users to put out their fires and switch to alternate heat sources. At the end of the year, the City of Whitehorse begins its first no-burn period in Riverdale, the first of its kind in Canada (December 5, 1988).|
|February 4, 1988||Flora Boyle Frisch, daughter of Joe Boyle, dies February 2, 1988 at the age of 94.|
|February 11, 1988
→ September 13, 1988
|Juneau and Whitehorse suggest to become formally twin cities. September 13, 1988 the majority of city councillors vote against twinning Whitehorse with the Caribbean island of Castries, St. Lucia, on the rationale that Whitehorse would not gain the advantage in the relationship.|
|February 16, 1988
→ March 2, 1988
→ June 2, 1988
|Government leader Tony Penikett announces to fight against the Meech Lake constitutional accord, taking it to the Supreme Court of Canada. The challenge goes to the Court April 23, 1988. March 2, 1988 a Senate task force on the Meech Lake accord recommends only the territory in question and the federal government should decide whether that territory becomes a province of Canada. June 2, 1988 the Yukon and the Northwest Territories lost their court battle against the Meech Lake accord as the Supreme Court of Canada blocked attempts to challenge the consitutional amendments in the courts.|
|February 25, 1988||The U.S. Senate's energy and natural resources committee in Washington approves a bill that would permit oil and gas exploration of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Senate has to vote later.|
|February 26, 1988
→ April 29, 1988
|BYG Natural resources hopes for a 1988 re-opening of the gold mine near Carmacks. The Yukon is already assureed of the opening of the Ketza River gold mine by Canamax and the Omni Resources gold mine near Carmacks. The first gold brick is poured at Ketza April 28, 1988.|
|February 26, 1988||Ottawa announces that it will not recognize the Lake Laberge Ta'an Dun band as a separate band in the land claims negotations claiming that the band never legally existed.|
|March 1, 1988
→ April 5, 1988
→ May 5, 1988
→ May 13, 1988
→ July 22, 1988
→ August 10, 1988
→ September 9, 1988
|White Pass and Yukon Corporation announce that trains will begin a limited summer-only tourist operation on May 12, 1988 - 5,5 years after the goldrush era railway closed for business. April 5, 1988 the first train climbs the White Pass summit. The first White Pass passenger train - the restored steam engine Ol' 73 - travels for a test run from Skagway to Clifton May 5, 1988. A few days later (May 13, 1988), Ol' 73 leaves from Skagway for its first official White Pass ride. July 22, 1988 White Pass announces extensions plans that will take passenger trains into Canada. August 10, 1988 White Pass and Yukon Rout railway are recognized as a national historic site. September 9, 1988 White Pass announces to provide service between Fraser and Bennett, B.C. in 1989.|
|March 7, 1988||A 7.3. Earthquake shakes Alaska and the southern Yukon setting off tsunami warnings along the coast line|
|March 7, 1988||A fire destroys the Blattler residence, a 87 year old historic home in Dawson.|
|March 8, 1988||It is announced that parts of the Alaska Highway may have to be turned back into gravel because of major federal money cuts.|
|March 8, 1988||The $900,000 expansion of the City hall has been completed.|
|March 9, 1988||Replacing Rolf Hougen, former commissioner Jim Smith is elected chairman of the Yukon Foundation, a Yukon organization that administers scholarships and other funds.|
|March 10, 1988||The U.S. decides not to allow plutonium-carrying flights to fly over the Yukon and Alaska airspace after organized protests.|
|March 10, 1988||Torpedo-like devices, used by the Canadian Forces to listen to submarines, fall off an airplane into a Whitehorse subdivision.|
|March 10, 1988||Whitehorse councillor Bert Law resigns his seat for health reasons.|
|March 11, 1988||In a quest to add northern and native content, Sesame Street's west coast production unit goes to Mayo and Teslin.|
|March 11, 1988||The Yukon Chamber of Mines recognizes for the first time three new life members: Erik Nielsen, Dorothy Howett and Harry Versluce.|
|March 18, 1988||B.C. government announces to loan up to $25 million to the Cassiar Mining Corporation.|
|March 23, 1988||John Livingston Phelps, a pioneer in the electrical and political fields in the Yukon, dies at the age of 71.|
|March 28, 1988||Good Friday is the expiration date for 24h liquor sales licences. Sales between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. are not longer allowed.|
|April 13, 1988||Leo Heisz, veteran trapper and vice president of the Yukon Trappers Association for 12 years, dies April 9, 1988.|
|April 28, 1988
→ April 29, 1988
→ May 19, 1988
|An agreement between federal and territorial government on French and Aboriginal languages is reached. The agreement exempts the Yukon from the provisions of Bill C-72, the Official Languages Act. The Yukon will improve services in French but it will not establish official bilingualism. As part of its commitment the Yukon announces to set up a translation bureau (April 29, 1988). May 19, 1988 the Yukon MLAs pass the Language Agreement Act.|
|May 3, 1988
→ May 20, 1988
→ June 17, 1988
→ December 22, 1988
|The British government announces to pass a fur labelling regulation that would require to sew warning labels onto fur products and that would have a major impact on Yukon's fur industries. Yukon MP Audrey McLaughlin announces to fight the regulation (May 3, 1988). May 20, 1988 Yukon politicians announce they want trade sanctions against Britain because of the planned fur labelling regulations. After extensive pressure from Canada, the British government decides to scrap plans to impose fur labelling (June 17, 2007). December 22, 1988 it is announced that the resultion no longer calls for labels to be attachted to fur products made from animals that may have been caught in leghold traps.|
|May 5, 1988||Chief territorial court judge Daleatta Ilnicki announces to resign from her job June 6, 1988 after a two-year stint in the Yukon, leaving the Yukon without a permanent judge.|
|May 9, 1988||Government leader Tony Penikett rejects calls for land claims referendum saying Yukon people will have ample time to express their views before a settlement is signed.|
|May 10, 1988||The Yukon Arts Council announces plans to build a heritage park on Lambert Street / 3rd Avenue.|
|May 16, 1988||The Ta'an Dun Council officially recognizes Indian elder George Dawson as its hereditary chief.|
|May 20, 1988||The Yukon government announces it plans to extend CBC radio signals along the major Yukon highways.|
|May 20, 1988||The Thirty Mile River is formally nominated for Canadian heritage river status.|
|May 24, 1988||Omni Resources opens a hard-rock gold mine this summer in the Wheaton River valley 50km south of Whitehorse.|
|May 26, 1988||Radio CKYN-Yukon Gold goes on air. The special visitor radio service is broadcast from the Yukon government's visitor reception centres in Watson Lake, Carcross, Whitehorse, Haines Junction, Beaver Creek and Dawson City.|
|June 2, 1988
→ June 10, 1988
→ June 24, 1988
→ July 7, 1988
|As announced on June 2, 1988, employees of Curragh Resources mine in Faro go on strike June 10, 1988. June 24, 1988 striking employees get their last paycheque for the foreseeable future as the $1-million-a-day strike enters its third week. The strike is over July 7, 1988.|
|June 7, 1988||Foothills Pipelines announces that the price for the Alaska gas pipeline has been reduced from US $26.1 billion to US $14.6 billion.|
|June 8, 1988||Long-time Whitehorse resident and community activist Jan Montgomery dies June 2, 1988 at the age of 76.|
|June 10, 1988||A Ford of Canada commercial is filmed entirely in the Yukon.|
|June 13, 1988
→ September 21, 1988
→ September 23, 1988
→ October 3, 1988
|The Yukon College moves into its facilities at the new Takhini place. In September it is announced that the college will provide the first university-level northern studies program offered in Canada (September 21, 1988). Two days later, Pierre Berton is named the first chancellor of Yukon College (September 23, 1988). The official opening takes place October 3, 1988.|
|June 16, 1988
→ June 21, 1988
→ November 14, 1988
|At the beginning of the summer, Whitehorse Mayor Don Branigan is charged with 51 counts of forging medical documents, 51 counts of using the forged documents and one count of profiting from fraud (June 16, 1988). Despite these charges, Branigan refuses to step down and announces instead to seek nomination by the Liberal Party for the next federal elections (June 21, 1988). November 14, 1988 he is re-elected mayor of Whitehorse.|
|June 20, 1988||It is announced that a new elementary school will be built in Granger.|
|June 22, 1988||The Canada-wide search for a doctor for Faro ends two months after the drowning of four-year-old boy with the hiring of Russell Bamford, a physician working in Grande Prairie, Alta.|
|June 23, 1988||Joyce Hayden of Whitehorse is one of 29 Canadians to be honored with a Canada Volunteer Award.|
|June 28, 1988
→ September 2, 1988
|Margaret Thomson, a woman whose many communities achievements were recognized across Canada, dies of cancer June 22, 1988. On September 2, 1988, Gail Martina and Janet McRobb, daughters of the late Margaret Thomson, accept on behalf of their mother the Citation of Citizienship Award.|
|July 4, 1988||Ted Myles, owner and founder of the oldest taxi company in Whitehorse (Yellow Cab) dies June 28, 1988 at the age of 81.|
|July 5, 1988||Carmacks-Little Salmon Indian Elder Taylor McGundy and former Carmacks chief dies at the age of 79.|
|July 11, 1988
→ August 1, 1988
|Northwest Territories' Dene reject a $500 million land claim deal and ask for a meeting with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney before signing an agreement-in-principle. The federal government announces August 1, 1988 that it is unwilling to renegotiate the deal.|
|July 13, 1988
→ July 14, 1988
→ July 15, 1988
|Record rainfalls are recorded in the first 17 days of July 1988. Heavy rainfalls and mudslides cause the closing of the Alaska Highway (July 13, 1988). Hundreds of enclosed highway travelers are rescued by helicopters (July 14, 1988). Flooding destroys historic buildings at Silver City (July 14, 1988) as the heavy rains coat the City in as much as a metre of silt. In downtown Whitehorse people move in paddleboats.|
|July 15, 1988||Old Crow elder Charlie Peter Charlie is named to the Order of Canada.|
|July 22, 1988||The Council for Yukon Indians approve the land claim framework agreement.|
|July 25, 1988||The Ketza River mine in Ross River opens.|
|July 29, 1988||Northern Native Broadcasting wins five awards at the National Aboriginal Communication Society Annual Multi-media Festival.|
|August 1, 1988
→ August 18, 1988
→ September 7, 1988
→ November 28, 1988
|MV Anna Maria, a replica of the original vessel built in B.C., arrives in Skagway (August 1, 1988). August 18, 1988 concerns are raised that the vessel might be too heavy to make it from Skagway to Whitehorse. Nevertheless, the MV Anna Maria makes it to leave Skagway on September 7, 1988. The vessel arrives in Whitehorse on November 26, 1988.|
|August 2, 1988||The Skukum mine closes.|
|August 5, 1988
→ August 31, 1988
|August 5, 1988 WHTV sends out questionnaires that ask cable subscriber to chose new channels. As a result of the survey a sports channel is added to the cable package (August 31, 1988).|
|August 11, 1988||Work on a 30-unit motel on Strickland Street begin.|
|August 18, 1988||Plans are announced to extend Third Avenue to intersect with Second Avenue.|
|August 22, 1988||John Scott receives the Whitehorse Heritage Award.|
|August 23, 1988||Canadians Jeffrey MacInnis and Michael Beedell are the first to sail through the Northwest Passage powered solely by the wind.|
|August 24, 1988||1,146 Yukon Indians have Indian status reinstated as of June 30 following enactment in 1985 of Bill C31.|
|August 24, 1988
→ September 1, 1988
→ December 5, 1988
|The concept of creating a capital city commission is discussed by the City of Whitehorse and the community affairs branch of the territorial government as a way of filling the void when Target Downtown shuts down. September it is announced that Target Downtown will close permanently on November 30, 1988.|
|August 25, 1988||Frederick H. Collins dies August 24, 1988 in St. Catherines, Ont. at the age of 91.|
|August 26, 1988||John Steevers, a leading lawyer, dies in Dawson at the age of 66.|
|August 26, 1988||A land use report recommends prohibiting future staking.|
|September 6, 1988||The White Pass and Yukon Corp. proposes demolishing the old college in favour of a park and new government building.|
|September 7, 1988||Roger Kimmerley announces his retirement from politics after being a member of the Yukon legislature for almost 7 years.|
|September 8, 1988||It is announced that the government owned sawmill in Watson Lake lost $ 1.8 million in its first year of operation.|
|September 8, 1988||French Language School Emilie-Tremblay in Whitehorse is given official status.|
|September 19, 1988||Statistics Canada reports the Yukon has the highest rate of impaired driving cases in Canada.|
|September 26, 1988||Rolf Hougen accepts nomination for the first vice-chairmanship of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.|
|October 20, 1988||The government passes the Human Rights Regulations.|
|October 27, 1988||Dawson businessman Bill Bowie receives the Business person of the year Award.|
|October 28, 1988||The Dawson Indian band officially opens the Tro-Chu-Tin Indian Heritage Centre in Dawson City.|
|November 1, 1988||171 Yukon miners and prospectors - 2 women and 169 men - are inducted into the Yukon Prospectors' Hall of Fame.|
|November 1, 1988||The federal cabinet orders interim protection for two more Yukon Indian bands: the Na-Cho Nyak Dun Band of Mayo and the Liard Indian Band.|
|November 4, 1988||United Keno Hill Mines Ltd. lays off 50 workers, almost one-quarter of its staff.|
|November 4, 1988
→ December 1, 1988
|Skagway residents are tested for lead in their blood after a consultant company found high levels of lead in vegetation, air and dust samples (November 4, 1988). Tests results indicate lead levels lower than what is considered acceptable (December 1, 1988).|
|November 7, 1988||For the first time in Whitehorse history, a native woman, Norma Shorty, 32, runs for a seat on Whitehorse city council.|
|November 9, 1988||After a seven-hour marathon meeting between Indian Affairs Minister Bill McKnight and Government leader Tony Penikett reached a tentative Indian land claim agreement-in-principle.|
|November 22, 1988||Audrey McLaughlin wins the federal election and is re-elected as the Yukon's MP.|
|December 1, 1988||Works for a 30-unit condominium on Lewes Blvd. are underway.|
|December 2, 1988||Erik Hougen receives the Young Entrepreneurs Award for the Yukon. The Award was presented by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.|
|December 12, 1988||Yukon Indian leaders ratify the Indian land claim agreement-in-principle.|
|December 22, 1988||Deputy minister Andre Gagnon dies at the age of 45 due to cancer.|