Early Dawson

This is a brief history of the first 10 years of Dawson City’s life. It was during this period that the Yukon Territory was formed, a commissioner was appointed to oversee the running of the Yukon Territory with the assistant of an appointed council, in 1902 Dawson acquired the status of a city with an elected Mayor and council.

A telephone system was organized, with a phone system to Grand Forks on Bonanza and over to Dominion Creek. Several news papers started printing the news of the day, and Dawson was connected with the rest of the world by a telegraph line.

A water and sewer system established, hotels built, saloons, opera houses, social organizations formed, schools setup, churches, hospitals, in fact Dawson had every thing need for a sophisticated population.

The site of the new gold mining camp that was soon to be come the biggest city west of Winnipeg, and north of San Francisco, built on a 300 acre swamp at the junction of the Klondike river and the Yukon river. This bit of history of Dawson tries to tell the story of the building, not only the hotels stores, theatres and churches but of life in Dawson, the social side, and humour, and the terrible fires, the politics, the chartering of a city, elections of mayor and council.

Like all mining camps there was a large number of camp followers, “‘DAUGHTERS OF JOY,” prostitutes. These people were more or less tolerated for a time, due to the large population of men, but once the town was established and more and more wives and children arrived. The “daughters of joy,” were moved first out of the business section, then out of town across the Klondike river to Klondike city, or “Louse Town,” as it became known, finally they were put out of business.

There were also a number of gambling halls, but like the prostitutes they were also closed. The North West Mounted Police kept strict control, there was very little crime, every saloon and gambling hall closed down Saturday midnight and didn’t open again until after midnight Sunday, no work was allowed on Sundays, not even chopping wood or fishing.

The problems when erecting buildings in the downtown area was extensive, except along the water front the rest of the acreage was a frozen swamp, once the trees and brush were removed the frozen muck began to melt. The method was to lay timbers down that had been flattened on one side, put upright post then start to erect the building. Once the base timbers were down then the whole thing was covered with sawdust this helped to keep the ground from thawing. The first buildings were not of a permanent nature built of canvas over frames and a fire hazard.

©John Gould


One thought on “Early Dawson

  • Jerrine Hughes Craig

    My family history refers to one of my predecessors, Isaac Hughes, as “Ike of the Klondike, Postmaster of Dawson City”. I am interested in discovering any information or stories about him. (Family histories tend to be too cryptic for my taste) Would you or someone else be able to direct me to anything of interest?

    I hope to visit Dawson during the next peak of northern lights activity in two or three years (my husband and I specialize in photographing the sky). I’d love to talk to anyone who can add some detail or colour to Isaac Hughes’ time in Dawson, presumably in around the era of the goldrush.

    Thankyou very much for your attention and help,

    Jerrine Hughes Craig (Verkaik)

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