It was an ingenious piece of police work. It wasn't the police who came up with the idea, but it worked, and resulted in the arrest of the man who blew up Canadian Gold dredge number one.
When the gold rush finally ended and the miners, with their picks and pans had retrieved as much gold as they could, the big companies moved into the Klondike gold fields. These were internationally financed firms, all looking for a piece of the millions Klondike gold would produce. The operation at the turn of the century had everything you could imagine in a modern movie...political intrigue, financial wheeling and dealing...back stabbing and more. The big dredges being used to clean up in the Klondike were expensive machines to build and operate.
Still, Dawson City was pretty much a law-abiding town. The North West Mounted Police saw to that. Major crime was virtually unknown, unless it was of the big business kind, and Mounties didn't have much to say about that.
So it came as a complete shock, on that winter day back in 1912, when Klondike dredge number one, sitting idle for the winter in its frozen pond near Bear Creek, was blown up. The dynamite used to create the massive explosion was stolen from an unlocked storage shed on the outskirts of Dawson. Nothing much was locked up in Dawson way back then. The massive dredge lay pitched on its side looking, as one witness described it, "like a wounded duck". In the snow around the dynamited hulk were ski trails. A major clue for the Mounties to follow.
A group of Swedes (though some say they were Norwegians) lived in the north end of Dawson. They kept to themselves and rarely had much to do with Dawson activities. They were also the few people in the region to use cross-country skis on a regular basis. One of the Swedes had also been seen frequently skiing in the hills around Bear and Bonanza Creeks. When the Mounties came calling he had a ready-made alibi. He had been out skiing in the early morning, heard the explosion at the dredge and raced over on skis to see what had happened. Since their were no witnesses to the event, the Mounties had no choice but to accept the explanation. A month went by and no further leads were found. The investigation ground to a halt.
Company officials were obviously not pleased. Who would dare attack their interests? And worse, not get caught. R.E. Franklin was head of the company's electrical department. He was described as an earnest employee, a whiz at his field and a dynamo of energy. Franklin was certain one of the Swedes had committed the dastardly act. He needed proof. Franklin watched the suspect's cabin. One day, when no one was home, he set up an ingenious device which involved hiding a Dictaphone in the cabin and wiring the gadget to a head set. Then he hid in the snow outside and waited.
When the Swedes returned to the cabin late that winter afternoon, they began talking about the explosion. They discussed in detail how they hated the capitalists who were running the dredges in the Klondike. They described themselves to each other as socialists who wanted, for some unexplained reason, to get even with the big money people of Dawson. Franklin feverishly took notes. Later, he said he was enraged to hear them talk about the big fat capitalists and the stupid police, all the while laughing at the stunt they had pulled off.
Half frozen, Franklin rushed to the police station and delivered the evidence. The Mounties paid a visit to the cabin and charged one man. At the trial that winter in Dawson, one man confessed and was sentenced to twenty years in prison. The million dollar dredge was rebuilt next spring and locks were bought and installed on all dynamite caches.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
Life was simpler when Pearl Keenan was growing up on her father's mink ranch near Teslin. In the days before the Alaska Highway, everything moved by dog team and snowshoes. Pearl got much of her early education on the land.
Pearl Geddes was born in 1918 at 12 Mile on the Nisutlin River. Her father George, a Scot by birth, was a trapper and mink rancher. Her mother Annie Sidney took care of her family of five in the traditional way. As a young woman, Pearl helped on the homestead in the garden and on the ranch.
Things changed dramatically in the Teslin area when the first bulldozers arrived in 1942, clearing the forest and carving a trail that they would call the Alaska Highway. Pearl Geddes married Hugh Keenan in 1947 and the couple raised three children, one of whom, Dave, became a member of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
The family moved to British Columbia and Pearl began a series of interesting careers. She was a homeschool coordinator in the BC public system and later counselled prison inmates in the Vancouver area.
Now eighty-six, Pearl Keenan's CV is long and varied. When she returned to the Yukon, she taught the Tlingit language and operated summer camps for children, always focusing on the purpose of First Nations traditions.
In 1986, she served as Yukon Commissioner for Expo '86 in Vancouver. Then in 1993, it was on to one of her most cherished jobs - that of Chancellor of Yukon College.
Pearl served on many boards and committees over the years, including the Yukon First Nations Elders' Council, First Nations Education Commission, the Skookum Jim Friendship Center, and the Yukon College Elders Advisory Council.
From her work in the 1980s as a member of the newly-formed Yukon Human Rights Commission to her current place on the Council of Yukon First Nations' Elders' Advisory Council and environment board, much of her work has been of the volunteer kind, and that has suited her just fine.
Her over-riding interest in life has been working with youth, and on environmental issues. That is why she served as a guest lecturer on northern first nations culture at both the University of Alaska and the University of Regina.
While involved in youth issues, she is also extremely worried about the environment and global warming, recalling, as she does, a time in the Yukon when there were definitely four distinct seasons.
Pearl Keenan has had a many-faceted career in the Yukon and it is not over yet. But sometime in the future she will journey to Ottawa where the Governor-General will present her with a pin. For Pearl has been named a member of the Order of Canada.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin