Guide to Theme 5 Yukon and the Klondike Gold Rush

Download 234.93 Kb.
Size234.93 Kb.
Teacher’s Guide to Theme 5 - Yukon and the Klondike Gold Rush
This theme allows teachers and students to explore four of the historical thinking concepts: cause and consequence, historical significance, historical evidence, and continuity and change. Teachers may wish to review the Historical Thinking Concepts outlined in the Introduction to the Educational Materials for the Sir Sam Steele Collection which provide background on the components of the concepts explored in Theme 5. As well, the elements of Historical Significance are explained on pp. 40-41.
The primary source documents included in this theme touch on several issues including the:

A) Consequences for Families Facing a Sudden Move: exploring the

impact on the Steele family of Sam Steele’s sudden appointment and move from the Alberta district to the Yukon

B) Celebrations and Dangerous Weather, Rivers, Living and Mining


C) Protecting Life and Property and Fighting Crime in the Yukon

D) Many Roles of Sam Steele and the NWMP in early Yukon society
Cause and Consequence
Sam Steele’s sudden appointment as Superintendent in charge of the NWMP in Yukon and British Columbia raises the question of the Impact on a person and their family when they can be suddenly sent to another part of the country or the world for their job. Many students and their families have had to face this experience and it allows them to consider the consequences of historical events in a personal way, which is quite rare.
Teachers may ask students if one of their parents/guardians has ever received a new job that required them to move very quickly to another place. Invite students to share their stories. If students have not had this experience, ask them to consider how they would feel and what they would do. Ask students to consider:

How would/did a new move affect the family?

How would/were they able to keep in touch with their parent if he/she had to move ahead of the rest of the family?

How would/did they feel personally about the move of this parent/guardian?

What means of communication would/did they use to stay in touch?

How would/did your experiences compare with Marie, Flora, Gertrude and Harwood Steele in 1898?

Cause and Consequence may also be explored in reviewing Steele’s claims about the key role that the NWMP played in the Yukon. Cause and Consequence was also explored in Theme 2 on the NWMP.
Historical Significance and Historical Evidence
Sam Steele outlined in detail the many tasks that the NWMP carried out in the Yukon in the 1890s when a very sparse and transient population made the creation of a democratic form of local and territorial government very difficult. He acknowledged the support of the Commissioners of the Yukon Territory, the Yukon Field Force of Canadian soldiers, and the judges in the criminal law area and the important role of the medical doctors and church missions in setting up health standards, clinics and hospitals to look after the sick and poor.
What was the significance of the NWMP’s role in the Yukon during the Gold Rush? What impact did their presence have on the safety and quality of life of the people living in the Yukon?
What evidence is there to support Sam Steele’s claims that the NWMP were the key to improving the safety and quality of life for the people?
How was Sam Steele recognized for his service in the Yukon by the police and the government and by the people?
Where could you look for more evidence and what kinds of evidence would you seek to support Sam Steele’s claims for the NWMP?
Continuity and Change

The weather conditions and the climate were very harsh for the people moving to the Yukon in the 1890s. Their experiences raise interesting comparisons on how people travel into the mountains today, how they move mining equipment to sites, and how they move rich ore out of sites. The issues around the role of the government and police are surprisingly similar in principle. The debate around “royalties” is current and Sam Steele’s attitude, actions and reasons for imposing a new royalty regime are quite interesting.

Steele’s willingness to introduce rules, regulate behaviour and set and collect fees on behalf of the common good of the community was demonstrated many times including the navigations of rivers, digging of sanitation ditches, review of building construction, insistence on safe water and food, fair games in hotels and casinos.
Another interesting issue that Sam Steele raised was the influence of outsiders or foreigners, and especially Americans. He comments on the negative characters like the Soapy Smith Gang from Skagway, but he also speaks highly of the American citizens who organized a committee to help avalanche victims and return their property to their families far away.
In all of Steele’s actions it appears that protecting human life and personal property were his top two priorities and he used the law, both public and criminal, to that end.
Using the following selection of documents, students can be asked to construct accounts of what life was like in the Yukon based primarily on NWMP records and on Sam Steele’s personal recollections. It is important to remind students that this represents one perspective and that history is constructed by asking questions about whose voices they are hearing and what other voices were present and not reflected in the evidence in front of them. Students must realize that there is no “final version” of the past and that they should always be asking questions and remain open to new sources of evidence.
Cause and Consequence and Significance
What was the role of Sam Steele and the NWMP in the Yukon in

1898 -1899 ?

Role of Steele &

NWMP in Yukon

How significant were Sam Steele and the NWMP in improving the safety

and the quality of life for people in the Yukon in the 1890s?

Cause and Consequence and Significance
What was the role of Sam Steele and the NWMP in the Yukon in

1898 -1899 ?

Collect duties

on imports

set and collect

royalties from miners regulate boats

on rapids

Sam Steele

patrol all mine sites & check building

on creeks NWMP in Yukon construction

patrol saloons to enforce

prevent cheating sanitation and fraud clean food

& water rules

prevent use of

child performers

in theatres

Some Sources of Evidence from the Yukon and the Klondike Gold Rush 1896-1899

Evidence from

The Klondike

6. 1 Introduction to Theme 5

This version has been slightly edited for easier reading. The original is on the Sir Sam Steele Collection website at
Yukon and the Klondike Gold Rush
When gold was discovered in the Yukon in 1896, the news quickly [led to] a stampede to Dawson City and … the Klondike River. The [Canadian] government [had to deal with the threat of] lawlessness, famine, and … unrest as steamboats brought thousands of prospectors to Alaska from … San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver. Then they had to make their way across the [dangerous] Chilkoot Pass to reach the Yukon goldfields.

Many were [not] prepared for this journey. …Travellers [faced] robbers and con artists, and [many natural] hazards. The Canadian government [decided ] to [send] police … [to] the North, so Sam Steele was sent to Lake Bennett, where he set up his headquarters.

Steele and his men were kept busy administering the laws of Canada, as well as arranging supplies and transport, offering medical care, supervising [water] traffic, collecting duties and fines, and providing mail service. Steele patrolled the tent city relentlessly, to [avoid] trouble, settle disputes, and keep the peace.

As a reward for his success, Steele was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1898 with full command of the Mounted Police in the Yukon. He moved to Dawson City and expanded the force and improved the facilities. Steele [faced] serious problems policing a city with nearly 14,000 residents, many of them suffering from typhoid, scurvy, and other serious [illnesses]. He established sanitation services and the digging of drainage ditches to prevent further typhoid outbreaks. Fines [collected] from lawbreakers were used to pay for these community services. The citizens of Dawson were … sorry to see Steele leave in the fall of 1899, but understood that after almost two years of separation, he was eager to join his wife and children in Montreal.

A) Consequences for Families Facing a Sudden Move
1. What happened to the Steele family on January 28, 1898 and what were

the consequences for their lives for the next 2 years?

Consequences for the Steele Family


The Steele’s Situation in January 1898

When to leave

Where to go

How to get to new place

Who can go with him

If a family can’t travel with the moving parent, where do they do?

How do they stay in touch in 1898?

Reactions of the Steele Family Members Based on the 2 Letters (documents follow)

Family Member

Reaction to the News and Possible

Consequences for their family relations

Sam Steele

Marie Steele

Flora Steele

(age 6)

Gertrude Steele

(age 3)

Harwood Steele

(age 1)

2. a) What are the Consequences for a family when a parent/guardian is

required to move for their job today?

b) How important is the age of a child when a sudden move happens?

6.2 Telegram - NWMP Commissioner Herchmer to Superintendent Sam Steele, 28 January 18998

Sam Steele was selected by the Government to reinforce the small number of police in the Yukon and take control of the dangerous situation. He was known as a man of action and a great organizer.

The transcribed telegram is below.

(EC 1) 2008.

[pg 1]

Canadian Pacific Railway Company’s Telegraph
Rec’d No Ofs. From Sent By Rec’d By Time. Date.

J B MD 17K 28

Received at Macleod January

Check 42 Paid From Regina NWT 28 1898
To Supt Steele
The following from Ottawa,

“Order Supt. Steele to report at Vancouver for duty in Yukon

first train instructions will be sent him there” Sorry but hope it is only for temporary emergency must be very important take a good servant with you

L W Herchmer


6. 3 Marie to Sam on his way to the Yukon Territory

(EC Sam and Marie 4a) 2008.
Macleod, Feb 2nd 98. [pg1]

My own darling old Husband,

Hearing that you are likely to be in Vancouver for some days I cannot resist writing you a few lines knowing they are sure of a hearty welcome. To tell you how much we all miss you every moment of the long day how much we would give for a sight of your dear face, would be simply impossible. I go about from room to room & see you everywhere & the uncertainty of your movements - & the length of your absence being unknown to me only … make my heart grieve more. One never knows the depth or the strength of loss until the loved one is far away then every action, look or word comes back vividly to one’s mind. I am not alone in my sorrow, as your little ones speak constantly about you. Gertrude kneels at my feet morning & evening & lisps her prayers for your safe return to us & when you did not come back with us on Saturday & she heard you had gone to the Yukon she wept bitterly poor little pet! Flora misses you very much also, but being able to play out, comes to console herself to your absence,


more readily than the rest of us. You must keep me well posted as to all your movements & where you are going for I shall be anxious all the time
…. All here are already wishing you back & say they do not know how they will get on without you. Sergt. Morris was telling me the Dr. has had his tooth on him since Sunday – “he was afraid of the Major but now he will nag all the time”. Sergt. Pattison “I never had the least idea of going to the Yukon, but if the Major does not come back soon I am going to try & join him – the square seems deserted without him.” They all come to [dislike] the idea of having the present O.C.[Commanding Officer] for any time. …


… Mr. Casey came in to see if I needed anything & said to be sure & call

on him at any time. Elmes comes & stays here every night. I really felt

so downhearted & lonely that I thought it a good thing to do, for I have someone with me in the evening anyway. He was delighted & says it is doing him good for he got very little exercise – he is off in the morning at 7:15 & returns about eight p.m. He is a good kind fellow & seems pleased at the confidence I have in him. I hope you do not mind my doing so, for it is very nice to have him. I have not been able to eat one meal since your departure, but hope


to feel better soon. Every bite seems to choke me. … Dr. Haultain gave a prescription to be used with the spray which could not be put up here, so I enclosed it in the same box. Be sure & have


it filled in as you may need it. I send you in the same parcel as Skirving’s hat which the Sergt. Major sends him by Thursday’s train. Your large cowboy hat & half dozen navy blue handkerchiefs which you may find very convenient when away. I could not mark them. I also send one of your flannel collars which was forgotten in the hurry of your departure. I hope the things will reach you safely & that you will not find the articles in the way!!
“a big kiss to my darling Papa from his little Gertrude who misses him very much” – This message the little pet was eager to send you & I know it will please you. I am mailing you the private letters which have come since your departure, hoping they will reach you safely. I had to take the envelopes off, of course. Well my darling as the mail leaves early in the morning, I will have to stop.

Baby [Harwood] has cut another tooth since you left & seems to be well. Flora is trying hard to be a good girl for your sake & hopes you will soon return to us. Write me as soon & as often as possible during your absence & be sure to take good care of yourself for my sake. With ever so much love from the little ones & myself.

Your lonely, far away wifie


6. 4 Sam to Marie - Missing her and the children, and asking for some


(EC4) 2008.

[pg 1]

North-West Mounted Police,

Lake Bennett [April] 3 1898

My darling Maye It is now one A.M., and I have been writing for hours, but I must not retire until I write to my own darling wife –


I am much better to-day, and although hard worked feel it hurt me less,

Mr Godson and his wife got here to-day, They mess [eat] with me as we have to feed the customs officials. She is a Canadian and a relation of Mrs Smith Tom McLeans daughter and has an immense


amount of pluck, She left her children with her mother, two there are, and will stay for three months at least, She played out some fat Victoria men on the trail but the White Pass with its storms and blizzards


and the kindness of our brave boys surprised her – She has a tent and messes in this Shack, She is about twenty five –

I was asked out to noonday meal by Peter [Armance?]

a French Canadian, married to a St John girl, a good, pretty, but not cultured woman, still, her heart is in the right place, and She gave us …. a nice dinner


Macaulay of Orillia called and gave me a nice box of Cigars, He is a fine young man, Mr Willison who called on Easter, got home all right, Our men here are fine fellows, “Old Skinny” had done all he could to make me [comfortable?] and has put up


Shelves, still I had lost my [flank?] bag your dear old valise, for six weeks but I have got it again and have a comb and brush without borrowing, I have no sponge – but Continue to get a small percentage of my usual bit


of a douche, I have also met a good young doctor who has restored me with medicine for my atomizer which I had not for two months!! However I am all right and when


you can afford it later on all I want is a lot of stationary to enable me to write to my dear wife –, two pairs of heavy Cavalry breeches – plenty of socks, a couple of suits of good heavy but fine


underwear – and a soft grey cord coat and vest, but that is not now – I can get along for some months without it I would like a [service?] cup as well, Mr Casy, dear old chap, will give you the address of [Wilson?] our tailor


in London, but do not worry about it dear, I have a heavy pair of breaches that I have not yet worn – and two good patrols, I hope you are well my own sweet pet and that by the time you get this things will look better – Love to the dear little ones


Flora, Gertie, and “Dubbie”, Affectionate remembrances to Alice, Reggie + [Elmes?] Sweet kisses to you ??? and the babies from

Your loving and Sorrowful husband


Continuity and Change
B) Celebrations and Dangerous Weather, Rivers, Living and Mining


6. 5 Queen Victoria’s Day in the Yukon, 1898

Sam Steele, Forty Years in Canada, p. 310

Celebrating Queen Victoria’s Birthday, Yukon, 1898
At Lake Bennett the Queen's birthday was loyally observed and everyone was busy at the games which we had arranged. The tug-of-war was the great event; there were Scotch, Nova Scotian, American and Australian teams competing, selected from the most powerful of the many strong men who were encamped along the shores of Lakes Lindeman and Bennett,

but in the final the lithe, active Mounted Police got the best of it. When they lined up for the last pull it was thought that they might be defeated; the anchor man of the opposing team stood 6 feet 7 inches in his stockings and weighed about 250 pounds of hard muscle and bone; none of the team was less than 200. Captain Rant was one of the judges, but, true to his cloth, could not help throwing his hat into the air when the red-coats won the event.

3. Why would Sam Steele and the NWMP help organize celebrations and

games on Queen Victoria’s birthday in the Yukon, Canada?

4. How would this build good relations with the miners and other people in

the community?

5. How is “Victoria day” celebrated in your community and what did you do

on this holiday?

6. How do the police use community and sporting events to build relations

in your community today?

7. Dangerous Conditions in the Yukon
Prepare a list of the dangerous natural and man-made conditions in the Yukon and the ways that Sam Steele responded to each of them based on the following documents.


Responses of Sam Steele and the NWMP

Blizzards and avalanches

Food shortages

Accidental deaths

Deep freezes

Dangerous rapids

Leaky and low sided boats

Short of money to hire boat pilots

Outbreaks of typhoid and scurvy

8. Why were Steele and the NWMP determined to collect the duties on

goods coming into the Yukon and the royalties on the gold going out of the Yukon?

9. How do people travel into the mountains today, how do they move

mining equipment to sites, and how they move rich ore out of sites?

10. Why was open pit mining so dangerous in the Yukon in 1898 and how

have conditions changed?
6. 6 Harsh Weather in the Chilicoot

Sam Steele, Forty Years in Canada, pp. 306-308

Avalanches in the Chilicoot Pass from Alaska to Yukon, Canada
On April 26 I received a report from Inspector Beleher, in command on the Chilkoot summit, that a storm which had been raging for a week had reached its height and had buried his cabin and the Klondykers' caches of supplies on the summit. Six feet of snow fell that day, and the quantity there had already attained sixty feet on the level! At seven o'clock next

morning there was a lull, and large numbers of men began packing their supplies and outfits up the mountain to the summit, which they had been prevented from doing for many days owing to the … state of the weather.

While a number of them were on the summit the storm increased in violence, and, knowing how difficult it would be for them to descend the mountain …and that they could not remain on the summit and live, they

began to descend to The Scales, a place near the foot. They managed to reach a point half a mile below the mountain, but were caught there by a tremendous avalanche, which buried sixty-three of them. Fifty-three [died]; the rest were dug out with difficulty. Two women who had been rescued from a smaller slide at The Scales, the same day, were buried in the

larger; one of these was again rescued, the other being killed. The next morning the manager of the Chilkoot Tramway Company reported that nineteen of their men had perished in the same slide. Amongst them were several of the kindly young engineers who had given shelter to Constable Skirving and myself when we went up the Chilkoot Pass. All the bodies were dug out but two, which Belcher stated were found in the spring.

Although towards the end of April, it was to all appearances the depth of winter.

When the avalanche was reported to me I requested Belcher to send a party to the scene to be present when the bodies were exhumed, and, although the accident occurred in the United States, to render all assistance possible, to organize a committee of good American citizens to see that the property of the dead was taken care of, and make a point of looking after the interests of British subjects, what property they had on them, and the names and addresses of all. This work was well done. ….

A list of all the deceased persons was obtained and sent to the comptroller at Ottawa…. I also wrote to the next-of-kin of all persons killed or injured, no matter where their homes might be.

It was indeed a fortunate thing that the weather was so stormy at the time of the accident, or the trail would have been covered with people and many hundreds, perhaps thousands, would have been buried under the snow. Truly the Chilkoot summit was a dreadful place on which to spend the winter.
It was bad enough to live there, but to carry out the responsible

duties, which the police had to perform, was a tremendous task. The hardships and difficulties were beyond description. Great care had to be exercised lest there should be any attempts to evade the payment of duties. The severe storms and intense cold, the large amount of snow and the small space on the summit of the passes, especially the Chilkoot, compelled the officers in command to hurry the people on as fast as possible, lest they should be caught in the blizzards, which meant certain death.

6. 7 Duty Form on goods coming into Yukon

Yukon EC 9 (2008.


Chilcoot Pass


Report No………………..

PORT OF VICTORIA, B.C. August 26 1898

Entry No………571....….

Imported by F. Austin ……………. per packer

………………………Master, from ……….Dyea

Goods were purchased in U. States…………….and Imported Direct
(State whether direct to a Canadian Port or through United States.)

Marks and Numbers.

Number of Packages


Value in Currency of Invoice

Value for Duty in Dollars


Rate of Duty






150 pr






210 lbs






10 ”

½ c






4 “





Mittens Wool


4 pr








Wool clothing




Fur coat






Silk underwear









Duty not paid on this

consignment marked


6. 8 Dangers of Navigating the Rivers in the Yukon

Sam Steele, Forty Years in Canada, pp. 311-312

Dangers of Navigating the Rivers in the Yukon
On May 29, the lake being clear of ice, the wonderful exodus of boats began. I went up the hill behind the office to see the start, and at one time counted over 800 boats under sail on the 11 1/2 miles of Lake Bennett. I had arranged to go down to Miles Canyon and the White Horse Rapids to superintend their passage, and went down the lake on the little iron steamer Kilbourne, accompanied by several friends. The afternoon was very fine, a light and fair breeze blowing, and the sight, I suppose, the most remarkable of its kind. During the 50 odd miles of our trip we were not at any time more than 200 feet away from a boat, scow or canoe….[I]n the afternoon we arrived at Miles Canyon. a deep and dangerous gorge with perpendicular cliffs of granite, which no one could climb. and a current which ran like a mill race. The water, being closely confined, worked

up into a ridge in the centre, which made the passage by small

craft doubly dangerous. …
Before the canyon are the dangerous White Horse Rapids, named after a Finn who was drowned there, whom the Indians called White Horse on account of his flaxen hair and great strength. I found several thousand boats tied up at the head of the canyon. I had a detachment there, consisting of Corporal Dixon, a clever swift water man, and several

constables. … When I arrived I learned that some of the people who got there before me had started to run the canyon and rapids, regardless of con- sequences with the natural result that about I50 boats and outfits had been lost and smashed to pieces on the rocks and 10 men drowned. Our detachment had rescued several women and children who had been in the boats. It was remarkable that more people were not drowned.

This state of affairs decided me to take action against a [repeat] of such accidents, and I requested the people to assemble so that I could speak to them, and said:
“There are many of your countrymen [Americans] who have said that the Mounted Police make the laws as they go along, and I am going to do so now for your own good, therefore the detractions that I give shall be carried out strictly, and they are these: -

Corporal Dixon, who thoroughly understands this work, will be in charge here and be responsible to me for the proper management of the passage of the [Miles] Canyon and White Horse Rapids. No women or children will be taken in the boats. If they are strong enough to come to the Klondyke they can walk the 5 miles of grassy bank to the foot of the White Horse, and there is no danger for them here. No boat will be permitted to go through the canyon until the Corporal is satisfied that it has sufficient free board to enable It to ride the waves in safety. No boat will be allowed to pass with human beings in it unless it is steered by competent men, and of that the Corporal will be judge. There will be a number of pilots selected, whose names will be on the roll in the Mounted Police barracks here and when a crew needs a man to steer them through the canyon to the foot of the rapids, pilots will be taken in turn from that list. In the event of the men not being able to pay, the Corporal will be permitted to arrange that the boats are run without charge. The rate now charged, 5 dollars, for each boat, seems to be reasonable.¨

They all seemed satisfied with the arrangement, and when

they got through, I know they were, for many thousands of

boats were taken through after that without one being


6.9 Mining for Gold in the Yukon

Sam Steele, Forty Years in Canada, pp. 330, 332-333

Mining for Gold in the Yukon
In the winter I took several trips to the creeks. The sight was a remarkable one, the ground being frozen to the depth. in some places, of 200 feet, the frost of the ice age, not of the present. The miners had to thaw out the ground with large fires of fir or pine wood until they had, after many scrapings and burnings, reached bed rock, and then had to drift along its surface to enable them to scrape up the gold. This operation was dangerous to inexperienced persons, and several, who had no idea of the strength of the fumes of the charcoal, went into the drifts too soon after the fire had been extinguished, and were taken out unconscious or dead.

All the way up the valleys the air was full of dense choking smoke. The spectacle was one which is not likely to be seen again on this earth. There had been steam machines invented which thawed the gravel and hoisted it to the surface, but they had not yet come into general use. … These visits to the creeks were frequently made by the officers …, who always received the greatest kindness from the hospitable miners. A remarkable change had come over the majority … since they arrived in the territory;

there were few disputes now, and our official [meetings were] pleasant.
When the warm spring sun began to melt the snow I suggested in writing that the royalty on the gold could be collected with greater advantage to the country than formerly if the officers and men of the force were employed as when they collected the customs in 1898. The commissioner approved of
this offer, which was not to cost the country any extra outlay, and I posted officers and men on all the creeks which were being worked, Bonanza, Eldorado, Dominion, Hunker, Gold Run, and a few of less note. As it was very difficult to find out from the miners how much gold they had taken out, and to prevent us from being imposed upon, I directed the officers to take the cubic measurement of all dumps of gold bearing gravel and take an average by panning out in different parts of them, so as to find an approximate average of the yield and give us a fair idea of how much royalty we might expect. This plan was just to both parties and answered very well, the royalty being far in excess of what it would have been had the former methods been permitted. The gold output of the Klondyke that year was very great. From some of the claims it was enormous. One young man, for his winter's work, obtained 1,950 pounds avoirdupois of gold dust, valued at 400,000 dollars, ten per cent. of which went to the government in
Almost all gold, particularly the large yields, was escorted to the banks by a constable of the Mounted Police and some of Captain Burstall's men, under a N.C.O. It was then weighed, and the royalty deducted and paid over to the government. After the gold was received in the banks it was
made into ingots, and I sent escorts with it to wherever the bank manager wished, which was always Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
The escorts, always from the N.W.M.P., had more gold in their charge, and under more difficult circumstances, than any men who have performed such duty in any country in the world. Four men took at least five tons of ingots down the Yukon each trip, 2,000 miles of the stream through a wilderness by steamer to the ocean, then transferred it to a sea-going
vessel of very little importance, and finally delivered it at the bank in Seattle, another 2,000 miles distant, and this was always done without a hitch in the arrangements. The men performing this duty were serving for the sum of one dollar twenty-five cents per day. The banks usually made them a small present. . . .
C) Protecting Life and Property and Fighting Crime in the Yukon (Use documents that follow to explore these questions.)
11. What methods did Sam Steele and the NWMP use to catch criminals in

the Yukon?

12. Why was it difficult for southern newspaper reporters to cover cases in

the Yukon and how does this compare with communication systems today?

13. What was the common punishment for people convicted of minor

offences and why did Steele think this was effective?

14. What were some of the characteristics of the suspects covered in the

undercover agent’s report to Sam Steele?

6.10 Magistrates, Security Escorts

Sam Steele, Forty Years in Canada, pp. 309 - 313

NWMP Officers as Magistrates
At Tagish, on May I1, [1898] Strickland was informed that two prospectors, Meehan and Fox, had been attacked on the McClintock River by Indians; Meehan had been killed outright, and Fox severely wounded. Strickland immediately dispatched Dr. Barre to render surgical assistance, and at the

same time Corporal Rudd and a party were ordered to run down and capture the murderers. After a chase of two weeks, through deep snow in an unknown country, Rudd and his men succeeded in securing the four Indians concerned in the murder and brought them in irons to Tagish, where Inspector Strickland, in his capacity as a magistrate, held the usual

preliminary investigation committed them and sent them to be tried at Dawson by Judge McGuire and a jury. The murdered man and Fox had been prospecting 12 miles up the McClintock and were drifting down the river in their canoe when the Indians, in hopes of getting their outfits, fired a

volley at them from the shore; Meehan was killed. but Fox, who was only wounded, lay in the bottom of the canoe feigning death until he drifted out of sight of the Indians, and finally landed and found his way to the nearest police post.

On June 9, the trails being fairly safe, I dispatched Major Wood to Victoria with about 150,000 dollars in gold and notes. This was a dangerous and important duty when one considers the class of persons who were still to be found in Skagway and Dyea [n Alaska, U.S.A.] The party was escorted as far as the Chilkoot summit, but beyond that Wood preferred to take his chance with sufficient men to carry the loads of gold, etc., which were

packed in the ordinary Mounted Police kit bags. It had been quietly circulated that Wood was on transfer to the north west prairies, and was taking his baggage and boatmen only. After a very anxious time he reached Dyea, crossed the bay in a small boat and on one occasion had to threaten to fire on a row boat full of men, who appeared determined to run them down and were only kept at a distance by the threat of shooting.

On arriving at the wharf it was found to be crowded by a bad looking crowd of men, who jostled the escort and no doubt would have robbed Wood and his little party had not the captain of the C.P.R. boat Tartar, who had been previously warned, sent a heavily armed escort of sailors, all Royal Navy Reserve men, to meet them. He had likewise posted a strong party on the … deck of the ship, covering the pier with their rifles. [The gangster] Soapy Smith was there, but, seeing the precautions taken, merely smiled at Wood and invited him to stop over in Skagway for a day or two! The rest of the way was easy, the party deposited the treasure in the bank at Victoria,

6. 11 Challenges of Reporting on Cases in 1898

Sam Steele, Forty Years in Canada, p. 327
We had in our cells a white man and some Indians awaiting execution. As All Saints' Day was a religious holiday and festival, Mr. Justice Dugas decided that the executions, which were set for that date, could not take effect, and he [spared] the condemned men until he could hear from Ottawa. As he had only arrived at the decision late on the night of October 31, the news did not become known until late on the morning of November I. There was at that time in Dawson an enterprising [eager] young lady who represented a leading Toronto daily [newspaper]. As she wished to make a " SCOOP," she wrote out a full and complete description of the execution and sent It off by the mail going out that morning. When she heard of the postponement she came to me in tears, imploring me to help her in her difficulty. The mail had to be overtaken, and, as it was several hours on the way to the coast, there was no time to be lost. A dog train was secured, and after a fast run of 30 miles the offending report was captured and brought back for future use, much to the relief of the distressed damsel. The men were executed on the following August 4, [1899].

6.12 Common punishments for lesser offences

Sam Steele, Forty Years in Canada, p. 328
Yukon Style Punishment
The quantities of firewood consumed in barracks and government offices were enormous. Fires had to be kept up all night except in my quarters, and the absence of it was for self-preservation, for, had my stove caught fire, I should not have been able to escape, as it was between me and the door. I preferred to have the water bucket frozen to the bottom every night. This was a regular occurrence, although my fire did not go out until about 3 a.m., and was replenished and lighted at 6. One can form some idea of the amount of wood consumed when I say that the Mounted Police and government used nearly IOOO cords, equal to a pile of fuel almost 8,000 feet long, 4 feet high and 4 feet wide, all of which was sawn into stove lengths by the prisoners! They hated the" wood pile," if possible, more than they did their escorts. That wood pile was the talk of the town, and kept 50 or more of the toughs of Dawson busy every day.
6. 13 Police Investigations

Sam Steele, Forty Years in Canada, pp. 329

Undercover Reports on Criminals
The criminal class were much the same as one saw m Skagway and Dyea when the rush was on. Many had committed murders in other lands, had held up trains and stage-coaches, committed burglary and safe-blowing, or were diamond thieves, but they could not display themselves openly. No

Soapy Smith could have lived in the Yukon. Our detectives, who were only known to myself, obtained the names and former history of the criminals. They were under our eyes all the time, no mining camp on the creeks was unprotected, and when a crime was committed the delinquent was soon on the" wood pile" or in gaol awaiting trial. These were not the only people who needed watching; there were others, wolves in sheep's clothing, who cheated the decent miner of his hard- earned claims, and had to be disciplined.

6. 14 Intercepted note from a prisoner plotting to escape from NWMP

custody, 21 May 1898. Transcribed below. The original is at
(EC 3) 2008.
The attached (dated May 21st, 1898– could be 1899) is an intercepted note from a prisoner attempting to arrange help from a friend outside enabling him to escape from NWMP custody at – presumably – Lake Bennett, Yukon (if written in 1898) or Dawson (if written in 1899). If was handed to Supt. Steele in the ordinary way by whoever intercepted it.

Harwood Steele

May 11th 1974

[/pg 1]

May 21th [sic]

Dear Friend [Zorthway?], see me Queens Birthday [sic], Slip me a good Jack Knife with too [sic] Big Sharp blaids [sic] I can cut my way out, “

I will ask you if this Plan is all right

I will come out of the deep ditch in too the Slew back of the M.P. prison + Bank, meet me that very night at the Slew + mouth of ditch with a size 6 7/8 hat + coat, at the hour between 10 PM o’clock and 1, a,m, have 1 months grub at the lower end of town + a boat to go strait [sic] across it the River I will then go strait West to the line now it would be wise to have a man Stationed with the boat to watch if the River is clear, of Police, its [sic] the first place they look for down River I am sure they will not find out till morning if I have luck, dont wont [sic] no Blankets no Tent only matches+grub such as Tea Beens

[pg 2]

little Flower, bakeing [sic] 1 frying Pan small tin Pail Tea Pot, have two meals [first?] up so we wont haft [sic] to stop for lunch have a small can of Tea Beef I have one man with me is O, K, also have a good sized hat + coat for him have old two Pr Shoes no 9 + 6,s 1 Pr Pants for me down at the Boat

Remember may 24 that night between 10 P.M. 1 am at mouth of ditch in the Slew be careful not let eny [sic] one detect you I Pray you will manage the Rest all will O K,

You will find the ditch back east of Prison + back of the Bank go look at it be sure Bring the Knife,

[/pg 3]

[upside down on page 3:]


Take in water, first

thing in morning

6. 15 Undercover Report by a NWMP Officer on criminal activity ,30 July

1898. Transcribed. The original is at
(EC 7) 2008.

[pg 1]

To ???

Undercover report

probably after

July 30th 1898


Fred McArthur -

Clever pickpocket, Ex member Soapy Smith gang, Generally found at Bonnifield’s,
Jack Kerwin-

One of the leaders in the Bull Hill riots in Colorado, Several murders were committed + valuable property destroyed by this gang, Is also considered a dangerous hold-up – Working on roulette wheel in Monte Carlo,

Tommy Deering,

Has served several short sentences for robbery + petty crimes, Lives with woman in alley

[pg 2]

back Ash’s saloon, (northern)

Big Fred –

Clever confidence man + general Crook, Ex member Soapy Smith gang, Has done nothing in Dawson but play poker.

Doc Hast,

All around crook, Is clever pickpocket, + considered a dangerous man by

all the other crooks.
Cherokee Bob.-

Ex road agent. Has served about half his life in penitentiary Has record of killing several men. Ordered out if nearly all the Western States, Dealing Faro at Bonnifields

[pg 3]

Parker –

Ex Chief Police Fairhaven Hash, Absconded with large amount city funds, Escaped to South America, Friends, supposed to be in the ring, squared it so he could return when he came to Dawson, Is supposed to belong to a big diamond thief gang in the Eastern States,
Tom Berry –

Confidence man a sure thing gambler

Steve McNichols.

General Crook, Bad record in Butte, Mont.

Jaw Jake.

Ex hold-up, Had leg shot off in street fight. Bonnifields Stackhouse, or

Reardon Bros. General Crooke, members of O’Leary gang, [pg 4]

Boston Page,

Husband Tony Page, who set fire in Green Tree last fall, Swindler, + general bad character, Found at Theatres,
Goldie Farrell –

Considered one of the cleverest pickpockets in United States, was member of May Biglow’s gang of female Crooks, in San Francisco, Driven out of several western States. Works in Monte Carlo Theatre,

Nick Barhart,

New York City Chief, Confidence

[pg 5]

man + hold up, Considered very dangerous, Ordered out of New York, Boston, Chicago, several Colorado camps, + Seattle, Works on Roulette wheel in Northern,

Kid Kelley,

Ex member Soapy Smith gang, sure thing man,

Bob Mumford or Policy Bob –

Chicago Crook, considered dangerous,

Ed Posey or, Chicago Ed,(Colored)

His line is selling fancy goods at houses + getting plans of interior, Is called by Chicago Police records, locator for gangs of housebreakers. Is generally around Monte Carlo,

[pg 6]

Kid Welshons –

Clever pickpocket, + general Bad Character, dance halls or theatres,

Hobo Kid.

General Crook, Very clever poker sharp, makes large sums of money in this line,
Sam Bell,

Gone to Eagle, Expected back about clean up time, Is considered the most dangerous hold up in Colorado, Was connected with Jim Marshal gang of train robbers in California, Has always escaped conviction,

Four members of what is known

[pg 7]

as the Skagway Longshore gang, generally hold out at Opera House, names unknown, This gang are very much feared by gamblers, Did a great deal of shooting Etc at Skagway, Have done no work since coming here,
[/pg 7]

[front envelope]

To ???]undercover

Col, Steele


[/front envelope]

[back envelope]

Secret Agent reports on criminals in Yukon gold Rush days

[/back envelope]

D) Many Other Roles of Sam Steele and the NWMP in early Yukon society

6. 16 Political and Administrative Roles
Sam Steele Appointed to the Yukon Council and a Lieutenant Colonel

Sam Steele, Forty Years in Canada, p. 317

On July 7, [18998] , the government did me the honour of appointing me one of the members of the Council of the Yukon Territory, which had by a recent act of parliament been separated from the North West Territory.

I was also put in command of the N.W.M.P. in the Yukon Territory and British Columbia, promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and given the thanks of the Governor General in Council for the work done since I came to the north. I was also much gratified by the promotion of Inspector Wood to Major and the rank of Superintendent [in the NWMP].

6. 17 Lieutenant Colonel Steele appointed to the Council to aid the

Commissioner in the Administration of the Yukon Territory, 7 July 1898
Picture of Lieutenant Colonel Sam Steele in full uniform in Dawson City,

Yukon, 1898
15. After examining the Warrant and the picture, why do you think that Sam

Steele, the head of the police force, was appointed to the Governing Council of the Yukon Territory in1898?

16. Why do we have elected councillors and appointed citizens supervising

police forces today and we do not have the head of our local police

forces sitting on the Councils of our cities or rural municipalities today?

6. 18 Letter from Reverend Andrew Grant to Sam Steele, 26 May 1899

Transcribed below. Original at

(EC 4) 2008.

[pg 1]

Presbyterian Manse

Dawson May 26/99
Col. Steele,

Dear Sir

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the stand you have taken in establishing law and order in this territory.

You have maintained the dignity of our British institutions here, among a class of American citizens many of them not of the highest grade; which will always reflect credit on your administration and go far to promote the cause of morals and religion here and elsewhere

[pg 2]
I highly appreciate your action in stopping those Sabbath performances; I fully endorse your action in [bringing?] up Newman [under?] the ??? ??? [act?]; and I am strongly in favour of the introduction of an ordinance making it criminal to allow children on the stage.

I hope the ordinance will carry,

Yours respectfuy [sic]

Andrew S Grant

17. Why do you think that Andrew Grant might support Steele’s

appointment as the head of the NWMP in the Yukon and as a member of the Administrative Council?

6. 19 Role of the NWMP in the Yukon

Sam Steele, Forty Years in Canada,

Role of the NWMP in the Yukon

Before I arrived at Bennett, we had seen almost the last of the great rush on "the trail of '98." More than 30,?00 persons everyone of whom had received assistance or advice, had passed down the Yukon. Over 150,000 dollars in duty and fees had been collected, more than thirty million pounds

of solid food, sufficient to feed an army corps for a year, had been inspected and checked over by us. We had seen that the sick were cared for, had buried the dead, administered their estates to the satisfaction of their kin, had brought on our own supplies and means of transport, had built our own quarters and administered the laws of Canada without one well-founded complaint against us. Only three homicides had taken place, none of them preventable, a record which should and, I believe, did give satisfaction to the Government of the Dominion.

pp. 312-313
Conditions in Dawson
Dawson was far from attractive in any way, and most unhealthy. It was built on a frozen swamp which had been navigable the previous spring owing to a flood which sub- merged the place for some weeks, the people going about from one spot to another in canoes. It had partially dried up, but

its last state was worse than the first. Sixteen thousand persons had been encamped on the ground before moving up the creeks to prospect; there had been no attempt at sanitation or organization. The hospitals, Saint Mary's and Good Samaritan, had. been put in order by the Rev. Dr. Grant and Drs. Thompson and Good and other capable doctors in the

own, and they, with the half-dozen small private hospitals, were filled… . The majority of the patients were suffering from typhoid and scurvy. Our

hospital was full of typhoid patients; these were in two small log buildings in the barrack square, but fortunately some young ladies of the Victorian Order of Nurses … helped Dr. Thompson, our assistant surgeon, out

of his difficulties, by their kindly and strict attention to the sick.

The expense of maintaining the sick was very great. Champagne was 20 dollars a bottle, it had been 45; milk was a dollar a tin, eggs at least 5 dollars a dozen. No expenditure could be spared to restore the sick to health, and, to perfect the sanitation, I recommended the formation of a Board of Health… Dr. Thompson was appointed medical health officer for the town and inspector for the Lower Yukon district. The council met and appointed me Chairman of the Board, which consisted of three members, including Dr. Thompson. … [E]verything done to remove all causes of illness.

In addition to these duties the medical health officer had to relieve [give welfare] numbers of people who had no means; the worst of these had to be sent to hospital at a big expenditure to the Yukon government and the country. Those who did not go into hospital were visited by the doctor in their cabins within a radius of two miles from the town, others had to be called upon at the barracks. It was now quite clear that the Klondyke was no place for any but those with the most powerful and sound constitutions. No finer men could be found in any country than those of the rush of 1897-8, but [many’ of them [became ill due] to the climate and the great

hardships [living] in the Yukon. The council was taxed to the utmost in caring for all who applied for relief. When Commissioner Ogilvie [was] was supposed to have … sufficient funds … to manage the territorial government for a year, but he was disappointed to find that, owing to the enormous prices, the funds lasted only a few weeks, and he did not know where to turn for more, as there was no vote to cover the necessary

The place was, however, full of loose characters who had come into the country to [pick on] the respectable but, as a rule, simple and unsuspicious miners, and I dealt with them with the utmost severity. [We had great support from Judge Dugas who made Dawson a hot place for evildoers,… The heavy fines furnished a large and useful fund, which in a few months amounted to many thousands of dollars, every cent of , which was devoted to the patients in the fever-crowded hospitals.
A Board of Licence Commissioners was formed, of which I was the Chairman, the members being Mr. Wills, manager of the Bank of Commerce, Mr. Davis, collector of customs, and Inspector {NWMP] Belcher, secretary. All saloons, dance-halls, wayside inns and other places where intoxicating liquor was sold had to pay for licences to carry on their business. We were all too busy to hold our meetings in the day time; 10 p.m. was our usual hour, and our services were given free, for we wanted to be sure that the work of our country was the best that Canadians could give. … [B]efore winter was over we had collected about 90,000 dollars … .

Steele, pp. 312, 321-323

“Royalties and Royalty”
The majority of the people in the country were orderly and many were refined and well-educated persons, but there were considerable numbers of foreigners who, although doing well and given the protection of the best laws in the world, had not the decency to abstain from abusing the form of government of the country which gave them the privilege of digging out its gold without receiving any appreciable benefit. Canada had but few of her sons in the Yukon; four-fifths of the people were foreigners, and the royalty on the gold did not pay the expenses of the government of the territory or of the protection afforded. Some of the people objected to Royalty in general, did not like monarchs, and would speak slightingly of ours. One of those was an actor in the theatres in Dawson, and when his conduct was reported by the sergeant he was given an opportunity to say he would sin no more or take his ticket for the outside. This had the desired effect.

pp. 326-327

When the warm spring sun began to melt the snow I suggested in writing that the royalty on the gold could be collected with greater advantage to the country than formerly if the officers and men of the force were employed as when they collected the customs in 1898. …The gold output of the Klondyke that year [1899] was very great. From some of the claims it was enormous. One young man, for his winter's work, obtained 1,950 pounds avoirdupois of gold dust, valued at 400,000 dollars, ten per cent. of which went to the government in royalty.

p. 332-333

Public Health and Morals
The Council passed many useful ordinances; we were not tied down by foolish precedent, the situation was before us and had to be faced. Nothing was omitted that was for the good of the community. The hotels and other houses of entertainment along the trails had to provide suitable accommodation, and, on account of the dangers of typhoid, they were obliged to serve chilled boiled water to all who preferred it. The sale of intoxicants to children. and their employment in saloons and variety halls was prohibited. The gambling houses were left as we found them, wide open but closely watched, lest there should be any cheating, and those

[operators] well knew that there was no money in sharp games.

There were worse men in the world than the gamblers of the Klondyke. Some of them were the most charitable of men, always ready with money to help the sick or assist a mission, and one often thought what a pity it was to see such naturally fine characters making their living in that manner.

Sam B. was one of these, he had a large place and made much money, but the sick or poor never went to him in vain.

p. 329-330
The Mounted Police had no time for such recreation, being obliged to take the trail on inspection tours or be in the office. One of them was paymaster, quartermaster, a justice of the peace and, when necessary, superintendent of construction of buildings; one was sheriff and police magistrate, others were in charge of posts on the creeks where gold mining was being done, or out inspecting the posts. Every officer was a magistrate, with the powers of two justices of the peace. In addition to the duties I have mentioned I attended the meetings of the Council, and at the end of the month had huge stacks of cheques…and returns to be signed, so that payments could be made. The whole of the government officers and their employees had to be supplied through us, which made the quartermaster's work very heavy.
In addition to these duties there were many interviews with persons on all sorts of subjects, and letters to be answered from all parts of the world, inquiries about relations from whom the writers had not heard. Every evening numbers of persons dropped in, often as late as midnight, to see me or to have a chat with others who came every night. Frequently I was unable to be present, but it did not matter; they could get on very well until I returned. The party was always cosmopolitan. English, Scotch, Irish,

Canadians, Jews, Americans, Norseman, Danes, Poles, Germans, doctors, lawyers, engineers, soldiers and sailors were amongst the visitors, and discussed the affairs of the territory and the outside, the amount of pay dirt in their claims, their troubles and intentions, until about 2 a.m., when they usually retired to rest, and in winter I was in my sleeping bag by 3 a.m.

p. 330-331
Continuity and Change
18. Why did Sam Steele think that miners should pay royalties on their gold

to the government of Canada?

19. What is the provincial government’s policy on royalties on oil, gas and

minerals today? How do you think that this money should be used?

Cause and Consequence and Significance
For younger students a simple web will allow them to track Steele and the NWMP’s actions. Teachers may have the students read the accounts on the Role of the NWMP in pairs and build their webs together or the teacher may conduct a think aloud or employ one of the read aloud strategies. For older students, a deeper investigation of significance can be followed

20. What was the role of the NWMP in the Yukon between 1898-1899 ?

Role of the

NWMP in Yukon

21. How significant were the NWMP in improving the safety and the quality

of life for people in the Yukon in the 1890s?

What is the Historical Significance of Sam Steele and the North West Mounted Police in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush?

Yes, Steele and the NWMP were really important in the Yukon. We have a lot of information about the conditions in the Yukon and the many things that Steele and the force did. But historians and students of history have a special way to think about how important people, organizations, events, or developments really were. They call this approach the tests for historical significance.

These tests are set out in 3 questions:

1. Did this person, organization or event produce consequences that were


widespread, and

2. How prominent was the person, organization or event at the time and

did the effects of their actions and inactions last ?

3. How revealing were the actions of the Steele and the NWMP about

the time when they lived and the events that happened?

Is the person, organization or event

remembered (celebrated, criticized, regretted)?
So how do Sam Steele and the NWMP measure up between 1896 and

1899 in the history students' tests for historical significance?

What is your judgment based on what you have read, researched and learned to this point? Remember that historians keep an open mind and are always ready to look at new evidence and listen to new arguments.

22. Testing the Historical Significance of the role of Sam Steele and the NWMP in the Yukon in

1898 & 1899

Your Choice of the Top 3 Actions taken by Sam Steele

Were the Consequences deep, for many people,

for a long time?

Was the Action recognized as Prominent: Then and Now?

Was it Revealing and is it still Remembered?

Your Conclusions:

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page