Hougen Group

ogilvie-th

William Ogilvie 1846 - 1912.

ogilvie1

A document from the Arctic Brotherhood to William Ogilvie. He was elected an honorary life member of Camp Dawson No. 4. Date: 1901. Yukon Archives. Adams & Larkin fonds. #9046.

William Ogilvie

There's no doubt when you are looking for gold, you need a lot of luck. And that's why Yukon gold miners needed surveyors who came to the territory not to search for gold, but to map the gold fields.

William Ogilvie was a Ottawa boy, a civil service surveyor whose job first took him to the prairies in the mid 1870s.

After George Dawson had surveyed US Canada boundary from east to west, it was Ogilvie who drew the north south lines. His work eventually resulted in the boundary between Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Ogilvie's talent as a surveyor was such that George Dawson chose him as the corner stone of the three member team which essentially mapped the Yukon as we know it today. This was just beginning in the north for William Ogilivie.

On their first trip in 1887, Ogilvie met George Washington Carmack, the man whose gold find opened up Bonanza Creek and the Klondike valley ten years later. Ogilvie began to understand the future of gold in the Yukon and, as a civil servant, he saw the necessity for a stable administration of a potentially unstable situation.

He laid out the boisterous town of Forty Mile and later the streets of Dawson City. His survey work in the actual gold strike area was so complete and the regulations he urged so intelligent, that it was really Ogilvie's work which kept the Klondike from becoming a gold fevered war zone. Because of Ogilvie, miners could depend on the legitimacy of their claims. He insured there was a police force to back them up.

The violence and haphazard rules of the Alaskan gold rush experience was almost completely avoided in the Yukon.

But that wasn't the end of William Ogilvie. He surveyed Dawson City in 1896 and insured the new townsite was named after his friend George Dawson. He was appointed the first commissioner of the Yukon in 1898.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin

whitepass1

Stampeders with gear stopped in front of Pack Train Hotel and Feed Stable en route to White Pass summit which is in background. Date: 1898. Yukon Archives. Anton Vogee fonds, #251.

whitepass2

View of White Pass and Yukon Route railway trestle near White Pass summit. Date: 1898. Yukon Archives. Anton Vogee fonds, #253.

whitepass3

A log building on the White Pass Trail, referred to as "the cabin" which advertises a saloon, beer, and laundry facilities. Date: August 1898. Yukon Archives. H.C. Barley fonds, #5533.

The White Pass

As early as 1887 it became apparent to the Canadian government that mining activity in the Yukon district was growing. But most of the action was by Americans. Canada needed to know exactly where American territory ended and Canadian land began. The border between Canada and Alaska had long since been agreed upon. But exactly where was that border? In the spring of 1887, Government surveyor William Ogilvie was sent to find out. He and his party arrived in Dyea at the foot of the Chilkoot Pass at the end of May. The Chilkoot was the only publicly known route to the Yukon interior. It was also controlled by the Chilkoot Indians who ran it in a very business-like manner. Pay as you go...or don't go.

Captain William Moore was a member of Ogilvie's survey party. He had been a miner and businessman on the west coast since 1858. Now into his 60s, he could still pack and climb with the best of them. His son Bill had spent the previous year in the Yukon district. In a letter to his father, Bill said he had met a big, strong, Tagish Indian named Skookum Jim. Jim, he said, knew the entire region and often worked as a packer for the Chilkoots. He said Jim told him of another pass - a secret pass - into the interior which had an easier grade and, more importantly, was not controlled by the Chilkoots.

As fate would have it, Skookum Jim was in Dyea when Ogilvie's survey party arrived. Captain Moore told Ogilvie about Jim's knowledge of a secret pass. Ogilvie immediatley decided that Moore and Jim should set about looking for this pass, while the rest of the survey crew would head to the interior from Dyea over the Chilkoot Pass. Skookum Jim knew that the Chilkoots jealously guarded their pass and wanted to ensure that no other route to the interior would be used.

On an early morning in June of 1887, Captain William Moore and Skookum Jim set out by canoe to a bay the Indians called Skagway, meaning 'home of the north wind'. Here, they began a climb up this uncharted pass with instructions to meet up with the Ogilvie party at Lake Lindeman. Moore, an accomplished wagon-road builder of his day, made notes about the terrain.

At the summit, he and Skookum Jim surveyed the scene below. The bay at Skagway was deep...much deeper than the tidal flats at Dyea, five miles to the south. The pass was easier to climb...much easier than the Chilkoot. Moore was excited. He could visualize a deep water port and a wagon-road to the summit. He was sure gold-seekers in their thousands would soon enter the Yukon district. When he and Skookum Jim met up with Ogilvie at Lake Lindeman, Ogilvie incorporated all of Moore's observations in his official survey report. Because his expedition had been authorized by the Honorable Thomas White, the Minister of the Interior, Ogilvie named the new route into the Yukon district, the White Pass.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin

rinkrapids1

The sternwheeler Dawson sunk just offshore at Rink Rapids. Date: 1926. Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #7035.

rinkrapids2

The sternwheeler Whitehorse passing through Five Finger Rapids on the Yukon River. Date: 1904. Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #8415.

Rink Rapids

When it comes to place names in the Yukon, we can thank George Dawson for keeping some early day names that mean so much to Yukoners today.

On his government-sponsored journey down the Yukon River in 1887, Dawson, a dominion land surveyor at the time, was mapping the territory, studying the geology and correcting - or accepting - Yukon place names that had been given by an American, Frederick Schwatka back in 1883.

On his journey of exploration, Schwatka named everything he saw. When he arrived at a place we know as Five Finger Rapids, he gave the famous rapids a name that no one would likely know or care about.

He called them Rink Rapids. Why? Well, Schwatka was a trained observer, an engineer and had a nose for naming places after famous people. So who was Rink?

Dr. Henry Rink was the Danish authority on Greenland, its history and its people. In 1875, he wrote a lengthy, definitive work on the life of Greenland Eskimos. The tome is still regarded as the best description of an ancient land and its people. But it certainly had nothing to do with the Yukon, nor is it likely that Rink had ever heard of the Yukon.

So when George Dawson came along in 1887, he accepted many names bestowed by Schwatka and had the authority to do so. However, the imposing rapids had once been called Five Fingers. They were named by one of the earliest Yukon miners, W.B. Moore of Tombstone Arizona in 1882. At Five Fingers, four basalt rocks separate the river into five channels. Only the eastern channel was passable by river boats that began to ply the river.

They were so imposing that river boats coming up river from Dawson City had to be winched through. Captains needed to know what they were doing since there was very little room between the rocks and the river boats. So luckily for the Yukon, Dawson restored the original name.

Nevertheless, he was not going to leave Dr. Henry Rink high and dry. Just below the Five Fingers is a little set of rapids on the western shore. They weren't much although the river boat Dawson once hit the Rink Rapid's rocks and sunk in 1926.

So George Dawson decided to honour Rink by naming the little set of Rapids below the Five Fingers for him.

 

 

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin

Bove Island

If American explorer, Frederick Schwatka had his way, the famous Yukon Lake called Tagish would be named Bove Lake. Imagine that. One of the Yukon’s most beautiful and important lakes named for an Italian naval Lieutenant!

How did it almost happen? Well, the West Point-trained American military man, Frederick Schwatka, was one of the first outsiders to explore the Yukon River system.

In the summer of 1883, Schwatka travelled over the Chilkoot Pass to Lake Lindeman and Lake Bennett, then through the narrows at Carcross and on to the mouth of Windy Arm. From here, Schwatka’s party of seven men continued down Tagish and Marsh lakes and into the Yukon River.

Schwatka, the explorer, was notorious for giving names to almost every geographic feature he saw. He made little or no attempt to record names already in use by the local miners or native people that he met along the way.

He shrewdly bolstered his American-based financial connections during his 1883 expedition by naming many features after prominent geographers or explorers, including Lindeman Lake after Dr. Lindeman of the Bremen Geographical Society, and Lake Bennett after Gordon Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald.

So it is no surprize that even though Schwatka new that Lake Tagish already carried the native name, he named it Lake Bove. There is also a fairly large island, just off the north shore, that he named Bove Island. The name “ Lake Bove “ stuck until the original name Tagish was restored on Canadian Maps in 1887 by explorer George Dawson.

So who was Bove, for whom there is still an island in Tagish Lake named for him? Giacomo Bove was born in a little Italian village (Maranzana) in 1852. He became a Lieutenant in the Italian navy in 1876 and led some Italian-sponsored scientific expeditions to Africa.

Bove had wanted to explore Antarctica but got only as far as Africa. On one trip there he became very ill. When he returned to Italy, the illness got much worse. Giacomo Bove, for whom that much photographed island in Tagish Lake is named, committed suicide in August of 1887.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin

 

See also: Frederick Schwatka