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Yukon History

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1890 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899

Inspector Charles Constantine

The first mountie to serve in the Yukon district was born in England. He joined the Northwest Mounted Police in Manitoba in 1885. His trip to the Yukon in 1894, insured that the Klondike gold rush would be much more peaceful than most.

In 1894, Inspector Charles Constantine along with Staff Sergeant Charles Brown were ordered by the Canadian government to inspect the Yukon gold fields. Even before the great Klondike strike, Constantine saw first hand how American miners were controlling Canadian territory. The laws of Canada simply did not apply. In the fall of 1894, Constantine returned to Ottawa and recommended a substantial force of Mounted Police was needed in the Yukon. He returned in 1895, with a party of only 20 mounties. Here at Forty Mile, they built Fort Constantine, the most northerly police post of its day.

Now Constantine was the all powerful Canadian official in the Yukon. He was magistrate, judge and jury. He was also the land agent, the gold commissioner and the customs officer. Then in 1896, the big strike was made. Constantine knew his busy duties were about to get busier. He asked Ottawa for additional men and 20 more Mounties joined the force in the Yukon. All were armed with machine guns and Lee Metford rifles. This was the first show of Canadian sovereignty in the Yukon. And Constantine ruled with an iron fist. He initiated the blue ticket policy. Offenders were given a one way ticket out and warned not to return.

It was Constantine in his role as gold commissioner who decided that the name for a soon to become world famous river, would be Klondike. It was a word the miners used after an Indian name meaning salmon river. Constantine's days an all powerful government official ended in 1898 when Canada declared the Yukon a separate territory and appointed a former mountie W A Walsh to be the first Commissioner of the Yukon.

Walsh and Constantine disagreed on just about everything and in June of that Year, Charles Constantine was transferred out of the territory. But he had left a legacy of law and order and had insured that Canadian's not American's, set the rules in the Klondike.

Constantine 1
Commissioner Ogilvie (seventh from right in front row) and party - including Minister of the Interior Clifford Sifton and Major Walsh. Near "the Cabin" at Newman on the White Pass Trail.
Date: 1898.
Yukon Archives. H.C. Barley fonds, #5403.
Click for larger view.

Charles Constantine 2
Group of N.W.M.P. in Dawson with Constantine in centre.
Yukon Archives. Naomi Schoonover, #1.
Click for larger view.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin



Yukon Order of Pioneers

It has always been an honour to become a member of the Yukon Order of Pioneers, an organization with quite a Yukon history. It was created on December 1st, 1894 at Forty Mile when a group of men got together in George Snow’s opera house to form a Fraternal Organization. Leroy McQueston, often called the father of the Yukon, was the first President.

To become a member back then, you had to be living in the Yukon Territory since 1888. The first group picture of the order shows twenty-four members, but there were 68 present who signed the charter.

Since there was no regular police force in the Territory, the pioneers adopted laws. The first law became their motto: "Do unto others as you would be done by". The Forty Mile lodge didn’t last long. When Klondike gold was discovered in 1896, the townsite at Forty Mile was abandoned and a new lodge, called the Klondike Lodge, was formed in Dawson on July 24, 1897.

Twenty members were present from the Forty Mile lodge, and Thomas O’Brien, of brewery fame, was the first president.

At one time, there were lodges throughout the Yukon. Today only two remain, Lodge #1 in Dawson City and Lodge #2 in Whitehorse, which was formed in 1914. For a short time in 1912, a charter was given to a group of sourdoughs who had moved on to Seattle. The Vancouver Yukoners Association was started mainly by former Yukon Lodge members.

The Arctic Brotherhood was the Alaskan equivalent of the Yukon Order of Pioneers. Today, the Arctic Brotherhood Hall still stands in Skagway with 20,000 pieces of driftwood tacked to the front of it.

The Mayo Lodge was active for many years. In 1921, members built a large log building where they met until the early 1950's. The Order of Pioneers is still active in the Yukon. For example, the Whitehorse Lodge gives two $ 1,000.00 bursaries to two graduate students for further studies, and sponsors Mr. and Mrs. Yukon during the Sourdough Rendezvous. The Order has always been a men’s-only organization, and even faced a Supreme Court challenge over the right to stay that way. They won!


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin