Hougen Group

Princess of the Yukon

It seems during those tumultuous years of 1898-1899, the Klondike Nugget newspaper didn't miss a story. So it's no surprise that the paper gave considerable coverage to the Princess of the Yukon.

Margie Newman was just nine years old, but on stage she carried herself as a poised adult. After a charity performance for hospitals, editor Gene Allen of the Klondike Nugget wrote:

"Little Margie was the sweetest and as clever a child as it has ever been our privilege of hearing." The newspaper marvelled at the singing talents of the youngster. One member of the audience even wrote a poem about her: "God Bless you little Margie, for you made us better men. God Bless you little Margie, for you take us home again."

And so she did few weeks later in another benefit concert. Dressed in Scottish costume, she wowed the crowd with her rendition of Annie Laurie and her skill in dancing the highland fling. The governor, a Colonel Day, who was in the audience proposed a toast. "To little Margie the Princess of the Yukon, and dearest to the hearts of every man, woman and child in the Yukon".

The Nugget said that most children would have been confused by all the attention, but in her reply to the toast, Margie Newman said "Ladies and gentlemen, I didn't come to make a speech, but to thank you one and all".

Margie's stage performances, other than the charity benefit concerts, were for the benefit of her family. She and her two brothers, Willie and George, were child stage performers, who counted on cash donations to help the Newman family survive in the expensive city.

Finally, as with many who sought their fortune in the Klondike, the family left Dawson. Whether little Margie, the Princess of the Yukon, ever became a star of stage, screen and radio outside is unknown. For the Klondike Nugget, Dawson's little paper that had all the news, went out of business in 1903.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin

boundary1

View of Red Ensign and U.S. flag at summit depicting U.S. - Canadian 'boundary'. Date: 1899. Yukon Archives. Anton Vogee fonds, #259.

boundary2

View of the Yukon Detachment of NWMP posing for a group picture between the two flags at the international boundary line between the U.S. and Canada at the White Pass Summit. Date: August 8, 1899. Yukon Archives. H.C. Barley fonds, #5532.

boundary3

View of four men posing beside the international boundary line marker between the two flags at the White Pass Summit. Yukon Archives. H.C. Barley fonds, #5359.

Alaska Boundary Dispute

What if? History is filled with 'what ifs'. So what if a boundary dispute of long ago between Britain and the United States had turned out differently? The Yukon would now have a sea-port on the west coast, and Yukoners would not be showing passports on the Haines or Skagway roads.

It all began in 1825 when Russia, which then owned Alaska, and Britain, which then owned Canada, signed a treaty to define the borders of their colonial possessions in the Pacific Northwest.

After the United States bought Alaska in 1867 and British Columbia united with Canada in 1871, Canada demanded a survey of the Alaska-BC border, but it was refused by the United States as too costly.

It was the discovery of gold in the Klondike that brought the boundary issue to a head when every square foot of land might contain lots of gold. The precise location of the Yukon-BC-Alaska border had to be clear.

Finally, in 1903, a mixed tribunal of six members, three American and two Canadians and one British representative was setup to decide where the border should be.

The main legal points were which coastal mountain range should be chosen as the basis of the boundary, and whether the border should be measured from the heads of the fjords or from a line which would cut across the mouths of the fjords.

The British board member Lord Alverstone sided with the United States.

Thus, the Alaska panhandle, owned by the United States, was approved. So in the northwest, neither BC or the Yukon would have direct access to the coast.

Canada, was however, given a consolation prize in obtaining a triangle of land in the Tatshenshini-Alsek river regions of British Columbia.

So the next time you head to Haines or Skagway remember that this land at the border was almost your land - but not quite.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin

Murder in the Yukon part 3

Canadians from all regions of the country descended on the Klondike during the gold rush. Most, but not all, were law-abiding citizens looking for a better life during the depression of the late 1890s.

Three French Canadians - Leon Bouthillette, Guy Joseph Beaudoin and Alphonse Constantine, had met in Vancouver in June 1902, and decided to travel north together. Constantine had been in the Yukon since 1898 and was returning home after a family visit. The other two were new to the North. All had money.

In Whitehorse, the trio met two other French Canadians named Peter Fournier and Edward Labelle. Both lived in Dawson City and offered to take the three travellers from Whitehorse to Dawson in a small boat for five dollars. The boat was registered with the police and the Mounties were required to record the names of river travellers. On July 14, 1902, Leon Bouthillette's body was found in the Yukon River about forty kilometers south of Dawson. He had been shot three times in the back. On August 1, another body was found. A year later, the third body found. All three of the victims had been shot and their bodies had been weighed down with a stone.

Though Fournier was described as rather dull-witted, Labelle was a clever criminal who had once operated a drug smuggling ring out of Victoria.

The subsequent police investigation determined that Labelle shot Beaudoin and Constantine with a rifle and that Fournier had shot Bouthillette with a revolver.

After Bouthillette's body had been found, Labelle escaped to the United States but Fournier stayed in Dawson City. W.H. Welsh, a police detective, pursued Labelle and finally arrested him in Nevada.

At trial, Fournier testified that all the police evidence against the two was true, but said it was Labelle who did the shooting. The jury didn't buy his story. It deliberated for just three minutes before passing sentence. Both Edward Labelle and Peter Fournier were convicted and executed by hanging in Dawson City in 1903.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin



See also: Murder in the Yukon - 1
Murder in the Yukon - 2
Murder in the Yukon - 4