Journey's End

In July 1896 Dawson City didn’t yet exist; one year later it had a population of 5,000, the year after that, 30,000. Forty Mile, once the region’s principal community, was virtually abandoned. NWMP Inspector Charles Constantine, based at Forty Mile, had been the first — and, for several years, the only — person to administer mining regulations in the Yukon; the office was transferred to Dawson in 1897.

Money itself was rare. Gold dust — worth about 16 dollars an ounce — was the common currency. Many other things were rare as well. It was almost impossible to find a cabin to live in, even if someone was willing to pay the high rent. Building a cabin was also an expensive proposition; according to Thomas Fawcett, “Common lumber, which in Ontario would not cost more than $6 or $7 per 1,000 feet, is in demand at $140.”


On May 29, 1898, George Kline wrote in his diary: “The river is still rising and the lower part of town is under water.”

Yukon Archives, Diary of George A. Kline, 87/70 MSS 199; Photo: Yukon Archives, University of Washington collection, #1243

Lousetown Bakery

Paying for bread with gold dust at the Lousetown Bakery.

Yukon Archives, University of Washington collection, #1255

Front Street

Front Street, Dawson, in early 1898

Yukon Archives, Alaska Historical Library photograph collection, #4178

We were finally safely tied up and we stepped off the crude craft which had borne so many miles. We faced a crowd of people, containing as many classes as the world knows.


Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in

Chief Isaac (front, right) of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, with his brother, Walter Benjamin (l), and son Charlie (r). Chief Isaac led his people through the times of great changes brought by the Klondike Gold Rush.

Yukon Archives, Alaska Historical Library photograph collection, #4231


Freight stockpiled at Bennett, September 1899. By July of that year, the White Pass & Yukon Route railway was complete from Skagway to Bennett, and a fleet of sternwheelers carried freight and passengers from Bennett to Dawson.

Yukon Archives, H.C. Barley fonds, #4648

Front Street

Front Street, Dawson, in late 1898

Yukon Archives, Robert P. McLennan fonds, #6480

Some people took jobs in the town or at a mine. Claims were bought, sold and leased, either to make a profit or because the owner needed the money. A somewhat plaintive ad in the Klondike Nugget of July 27, 1898, reads: “Wanted to trade — Will trade a half-interest in a mining claim for a year’s provisions.”

By early 1897 the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in had moved away from Tr’ochëk to a traditional camp downriver called Jëjik Ddhä̀ Dë̀nezhu Kek´it (Moosehide). Although the gold rush brought new economic opportunities for the territory’s First Nations people, it also created great social and cultural upheaval.

By late 1898, however, the rush was starting to subside. Even before the stampeders arrived in Dawson, almost all of the productive ground had already been staked. Thousands of hopefuls gave up their dream of wealth and left the territory. The discovery of gold in Nome, Alaska, in 1899 drew thousands more. The rush was over almost as quickly as it began, leaving in its aftermath a cosmopolitan community with electric lights, telephones, substantial buildings and four newspapers.


Although author Jeremiah Lynch stated that “it took love and persuasion combined to induce women to come to the Far North,” women did travel to Dawson. Some accompanied their husbands; others came to work, some as clerks, cooks, domestic servants, teachers and nurses, some as dance-hall girls or prostitutes. Belinda Mulrooney became a hotel owner and successful entrepreneur. L.B. May, writing at Lindeman on March 31, 1897, noted: “there are several women in camp, among them our doctor.”

Sheet music

Sheet music with a Klondike theme. The gold rush fired the imagination of the public.

Yukon Archives, PAM 1898-112 OVS


Prostitutes in Dawson, ca. 1898

Yukon Archives, Canadian Museum of Civilization collection, #703

Ethel Berry

Ethel Berry (centre) at the family’s claim, No. 6 Eldorado, ca.1898.

Yukon Archives, Glenbow Archives collection (NA-1786-8)

Mrs. Sherman Dewey

Mrs. Sherman Dewey at her cabin in Dawson

Yukon Archives, Gillis family fonds, #4460


Waiting for mail, Dawson. The Klondike Nugget of July 16, 1898 reported that a man had stood in line at the post office “from one o’clock in the afternoon until five in the evening and the closing of the doors found him still number thirty five from that passageway.”

Yukon Archives, Robert P. McLennan fonds, #6487