In the early days, it was known as the doctor's house. Not that doctors always lived in it, but back in 1902, a Dr. Nicholson built what has come to be known in later years as the Mast House.
Construction of the Mast house began in May of 1902, in what was then called the south end of town. It was a modest hip-roofed cottage, but much classier for its day than the framed tent shacks which dominated the Whitehorse residential areas. Among other things, the house survived the great Whitehorse Fire of 1905 which virtually wiped out the downtown core. At the turn of the century, it wasn't easy to find a doctor who would stay any length of time in Whitehorse. The little town was not much more than a stopping off place on the way to Dawson. So the Mast house became one of the perks of employment a doctor could expect. The other was that the first hospital in Whitehorse was at the corner of second and Elliot just a few doors down from the house.
The list of doctors who lived in the Mast house is long giving the impression that, even with these perks, none stayed very long. Laura Berton recalled living in Whitehorse when her son was born. She wasn't certain there would be a doctor around for the big event. And some of the ladies in town said she and her unborn son, Pierre, would never live.
Dr. Culbertson, a physician from Dawson City, moved to Whitehorse in 1920. The good doctor added a snazzy veranda to the house giving it a small but friendly look of a home on a southern plantation. The popular doctor left Whitehorse in November 1927 on a year's leave of absence. He was planning to do post-graduate work in Edinburgh and London. He sold his piano to the Ericksons, who kept it in the Regina Hotel for many years. But the doctor never made it back to Whitehorse. Culbertson died at sea on July 12, 1928.
Dr. Allan Duncan, the author of Medicine, Madams and Mounties, lived in the house from 1935 to 1937. In 1940, Dr. Burns Roth began his practice in Whitehorse and moved into the house. He was the Whitehorse physician throughout the war. When he was out of town there was no back-up except for the military. On at least one occasion in 1947, an army doctor was called in to perform an appendectomy on a local resident, a very young Les McLaughlin. Dr. Roth became minister of Health in the Saskatchewan government.
But the house wasn't always occupied by doctors. Magistrate Jock Kerr lived there for a while to be followed by Magistrate Andrew Gibson. In 1961, Ivor and Martha Mast bought the house which today bears his name. Mast had been posted in Mayo with the RCMP for many years. When he left the Mounties, he stayed on in the Yukon. The Masts moved out in 1985. Then the fun began as developers and heritage buffs battled to either keep or tear down the house. Finally the house was jacked up and moved to a new location on Wood Street, just like many an old house in Whitehorse had been moved from location to location over the years.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
John McIntyre of Pembroke, Ontario sailed north on an ocean-going vessel from San Francisco to Saint Michael, Alaska in 1895. From there, he prospected along the Yukon river system, finally ending up in Circle, Alaska in 1897. By 1898, while stampeders were swarming down the river to Dawson, McIntyre was still working his way up the river. He arrived in Whitehorse in July of 1898.
On July 6th, 1898, John McIntyre staked the Copper King claim in the hills just west of the tiny town of Whitehorse. It was not only the first claim staked in the mineral belt but it was also the first to become a mine. The first payload of nine tons of high grade copper ore was ready for shipment south the day the White Pass railway arrived in Whitehorse in 1900.
The Copper King mine lived up to its name and became richest of the early Whitehorse Copper Belt producers.
Shortly after staking the Copper King, McIntyre sold half interest for a thousand dollars to William Grainger. Together the partners developed the Yukon's first hard-rock mine.
In the years that followed there was much mining action in the area, including the War Eagle, staked on July 16, 1899 by the real Sam McGee of Robert Service fame. In 1900, the North-West Mounted Police reported that "copper has been the all-absorbing question" in the Whitehorse area.
Between 1902 and 1909 the Territorial government built almost forty miles of wagon roads and, by 1909, the White Pass and Yukon Route had built a railway spur to the mines.
But the mining business was not much different then as it is now. Money was scarce, so in the fall of 1902, McIntyre hired on as a mail carrier, on the Atlin to Log Cabin run in BC. He needed the money.
Near the end of November, McIntyre and fellow mail carrier Joseph Abbey, left Atlin bound for Log Cabin driving two dog teams. The carriers never reached their destination and a search party was sent to look for them.
Sled tracks were found at the Golden Gate Channel on Taku Inlet and nearby the two dog teams and sleds were found frozen solid under the ice. The fate of the two men remained a mystery until May 1903 when their bodies were found in a nearby shallow bay.
It was a shock for the Whitehorse mining community. McIntyre and Abbey were skilled travellers and had often been in worse difficulties before, without incident. McIntyre and Abbey were buried in the Atlin Pioneer Cemetery.
Shortly after his death, they named Mount McIntyre in his honour and, later, McIntyre Creek, that ran through the Copper King deposit, was also named for him.
Today, McIntyre Creek, flowing from the high hills behind the Copper belt on its meandering course down to the Yukon River, is a central watershed that holds a unique ecosystem for plants, animals and fish.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
See also: Copper Belt
Sometimes national anthems have a tough time catching on. Take O’Canada. It was written first in French in 1880 and translated into English in 1908. Since then, the English version has been revised many times. Who knows what the words to our national anthem may be in 2067, our second centennial.
Still, patriotism knows no bounds. In Dawson City, they took love of country to new heights in 1902 when Gene Allen, the fiesty editor of the Klondike Nugget, decided it was time for Yukoners to show their patriotism.
The newspaper sponsored a contest for the best song submission in praise of the Yukon. On February 10th, Allen announced the winner of the fifty dollar prize. The song was written by Emogene Coleman with music by Arthur Boyle and debuted at a chorale concert at which Boyle was the choir director and Coleman was one of the singers.
The Nugget reported that "the song made a deep impression upon everyone who heard it and the song was so characteristic of the Yukon that it will undoubtably live for as long as the Yukon is capable of maintaining a population."
The rival paper, the Dawson Daily News was also lavish in its praise saying
"It is doubtful if anyone present was conscious of any feeling but one of sincere admiration and the applause at the end of the five stanzas was as spontaneous and noisy as that heard at the political meetings in the same hall a few days ago. Emogene Coleman was shy, and hesitated to come forward until the applause reached a crescendo when Mr. Boyle took her hand and moved her to centre stage."
The Daily News went on to predict that "without doubt the song will soon be as familiar to the ear of residents of the Yukon as are the strains of the Maple Leaf Forever."
So what were the words of this long forgotten Yukon anthem called Yukona. Here is the first verse.
"All hail, all hail the Yukon, Mighty, rich and glorious, We seeking came, Content remain, O’er fiercest gale victories."
And what did the long forgotten Yukon anthem sound like in the Arctic Brotherhood Hall on February 10th, 1902.
Here, from a contemporary CD of Klondike songs called The Music of the Alaska/Klondike Gold Rush, is a portion of Yukona, sung by the Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre.
Part of the winning song Yukona in the 1902 Klondike Nugget song contest that won the 50-dollar prize for Emogene Coleman and Arthur Boyle. However, Yukona seems not to have become the Yukon anthem so boldly predicted by both Dawson City newspapers in the winter of 1902.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
For years after the gold rush, the Yukon was a busy place both in summer and winter. River boats were the lifeline from Whitehorse to Dawson. But they were of no use in the winter.
So in 1902, the Yukon government contracted the White Pass and Yukon Route to build the first winter road between Whitehorse and the gold fields. The contract for building 330 miles of road was one hundred and thirty thousand dollars. The overland trail was opened in November.
Then, the White Pass, which had a monopoly on transportation with its railroad and river boats, started the Yukon Stage Line, which carried the royal mail. From Whitehorse the trail headed west, crossed the Takhini River, then through the bush to Braeburn and Carmacks where the trail crossed the Yukon River and followed the east bank to Pelly, where it crossed the Pelly River. On the north side of the Pelly it ran northwest to Stewart Crossing, finally branching off at the Indian River and into Dawson via Eldorado and Bonanza Creeks.
On November 2, 1902, the first overland stage left Whitehorse for Dawson carrying two passengers. One was Herbert Wheeler, the newly-appointed superintendent of the company, and George Jaeckell, a school teacher who later became Comptroller of the Yukon. The trip between Whitehorse and Dawson took from three to ten days depending on the season, the trail and weather conditions.
The overland trail was a tough journey at the best of times and pricey too. A one-way ticket cost $125. Roadhouse meals and beds were extra. Just like today’s air travel, they allowed passengers 25 pounds of luggage free. Excess baggage was 30-cents a pound. Sometimes, if there was too much freight, passengers had to walk or run behind the horse-drawn stage. In the evening, passengers stayed at one of the many road houses that sprung up along the trail. They were about twenty-five miles apart.
Most road houses had liquor licenses and were required to have comfortable bedrooms, a sitting room and dining room. Most featured saloons where a shot of whisky cost 50 cents.
As many as 250 horses were used by the White Pass along the Overland Trail during the winter season. An average of fifteen teams of four horses each were used for a single trip. Each horse had a number stamped on a front hoof and each had a name. The company employed a veterinarian at Whitehorse where it had large stables and a horse hospital. However, the age of the horse and sleigh would not last forever.
In 1901, the Yukon Sun reported that there were three automobiles in the Dawson area. In reality, cars were a novelty and not of much use for transport to the outside because of the primitive road system in the territory. But horses and sleighs were on the way out and one day motorized would rule the roads.
Competition was keen in the Klondike and their was no greater competitor than Big Joe Boyle. Boyle wanted to be the first at everything and usually was. The Klondike mining King and his wife left Dawson in mid-December of 1912, in an attempt to be the first to drive to Whitehorse on the Overland Trail. Their vehicle was a 20-horsepower Flanders car. Yet as Robert Service said: The trail was bad and they must have felt half mad. The poor car was loaded down with fifteen hundred pounds of baggage and provisions. They were forced to abandon the car and wait for the White Pass horse-drawn sleigh.
A few days later their gallant journey to be the first car to complete the overland trail was upstaged when three men - Commissioner George Black, C.A. Thomas of the Yukon Gold Company and driver George Potter in a Locomobile, arrived in Whitehorse. Their driving time from Dawson was thirty-five hours.
It too was a tough journey. The tires were worn down to the canvas and nearly everything that was not strongly riveted shook loose. After fixing the Locomobile in Whitehorse they started on the return trip. However, the car broke down just north of the Pelly River. The tired trio arrived in Dawson on White Pass stage on New Year's Eve.
During 1914-15, the trail was improved with car travel in mind. Modern cable ferries were built where the trail crossed the Yukon, Pelly and Stewart rivers. They also built an overhead carrier at Yukon Crossing to transfer freight, passengers and mail when ice was running on the river.
The golden age of horse-drawn stage coach on the overland trail ended in 1921 when the White Pass gave up its mail contract. River boats still dominated the transportation scene in the Yukon, but motorized vehicles were definitely taking over and would one day dominate the system.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin