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ON THE PERIPHERY OF THE KLONDIKE GOLO RUSH: CANYON CITY, AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL PERSPECTlVE Thomas J. Hammer B.A. (Honours), Simon Fraser University, 1994 THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE OEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in the Department of Archaeology @ Thomas J. Hammer 1999 SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY June 1999 All rights resewed. This work may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by photocopy or other means, without permission of the author.
Thomas J. Hammer
in the Department
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This thesis investigates an Upper Yukon River Klondike Gold Rush site
known as Canyon City. Canyon City and other sites like it were integral. but
peripheral to the Klondike Gold Rush. This study attempts to integrate the
oral. archiva1 and archaeoiogical data to provide insights into the day-to-day
life of the resident population at Canyon City during the Klondike Gold Rush,
1897-1 900.
Over the course of four years, six localities within the former settlement
were extensively tested. These include: the West Tent locality, the Canyon
Hotel and Saloon, the NWMP Barracks, the Canyon and White Horse Rapids
Tramway Co. building, the East Cabin and the Machine/Blacksmith Shop. A
total of 1 7,395 artifacts and 1 56 faunal specimens were collected during the
lt is argued that the wrnpany structured the inhabitants' day-to-day
lives within this single industry tom. This structuring is evident in the
settlement characteristics such as the structured settlement layout, the lack of
duplication of services, the predorninately male population and the
dependence of the residents on the Company for sustenance. Although
based on limited data, the settlement also appears ta have been organized
socially-the workers and the ovmers. Furtherrnore, the cultural remains and
architectural data suggest the general nature of the site was expedient and
utilitarian, which not only reflects the logistical problems faced by Klondike
era settlements but also the economic motivation of the townsite's owners.
... 111
The abandonment behavior present at Canyon City appears to have
largely been determined by company interests. Except for the East Cabin,
wtiich burned with much of its contents still intact, the site undervuent planned.
permanent abandonment.
Since the investigations carried out at Canyon City w r e the first of its
kind on the Upper Yukon River, it is unknown whether or not Canyon City can
be considered a typical settlement in this area. Work is needed at similar
settlements along the Upper Yukon to better illuminate their role in the
Klondike Gold Rush and their significance in the development of the Yukon.
This thesis was made possible by the generous support of the Yukon
Heritage Branch, Government of Yukon. The Canyon City Archaeology
Project was a joint endeavor of the Yukon Heritage Branch, Department of
Tourism, and the Kwanlin Dün First Nation with the support of the MacBrîde
Museum and Yukon Conservation Society. I would like to thank Jeff Hunston.
Director of Yukon Heritage Branch, for giving me the opportunity to work at
the site over a period of four years. I greatly appreciate the continued support
from Heritage Branch Archaeologists Ruth Gotthardt and Greg Hare. who
provided me with insights, inspiration and edited parts of this thesis several
times. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the rest of the staff of
Heritage Branch for their assistance. Thanks for the rnap Brent.
I am also grateful to my senior supervisor. Dr. David Burley, for his
patience and rigorous editing. I would also like to thank Dr. Jack Nance and
Dr. Olga Klimko for their comments on my thesis project.
1 am grateful for the financial support for the Department of
Archaeology, SFU, for awarding me a Graduate Fellowship and a Teaching
Assistant position. Further financial support was provided by the Yukon
Heritage Branch, the Canada Employrnent Challenge Program. the Yukon
Government Student Training and Employrnent Program, the Yukon
Foundation, and DIAND Northern Scientific Training Program.
I extend thanks to John Hatch, John Scott and Lawrence Cyr for
sharing their knowledge about the old days. Donna Hagen and Sweeney
Scurvey, from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation provided the understanding of the
traditional land use of the site through their oral history work. Valuable
contributions w r e made by elders Mrs. May Hume, Mrs. Julie Joe. Mrs. Lucy
Wren, Mrs. Mary James, Jimmy G. Smith, Edwin Scurvey, E M r d Gordon.
Mrs. Virginia Vallevand, John Suits, Louie Smith, Rose Charlie and Ronald
The project owes its success to the hard work of the field crew and site
interpreters. These include: Ty Heffner, vvho also did the faunal work. Megan
Williams and Sarah Berquist (Heritage Branch STEP students); Azalea Joe,
Henry Taylor, Corey Pope, John Yaklin: Marilee Smarch, Charlie O'Brien. and
Michael Smith of Kwanlin Dün; Own Williams, Jacob Jirousek, Hillary
Walkley, Sara Neilsen, Sara Bryce, Greg Kubica. Georgina Nicioux.
Wilmonica VanBibber, Loic Markley and Hannah Hickling of the Yukon
Conservation Society; Andrea Hoyt, Rachel Pugh and Christie Colx of the
MacBride Museum.
I wouid also like to acknowiedge the Yukon Underwater Divers
-ociationJs efforts. Doug Davidge. and Perry Diamond conducted the
underwater survey at Canyon City.
Thanks also go out to the support and assistance of the Yukon
Archives, MacBride Museum; Chief Lena Johns, Chef Joe Jack, Pat Joe.
Patty Ann Finlay and Jackie Shortie of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. David
Neufeld of Parks Canada, Flo Whyard and Helene Dobrowolsky openiy
shared their knowiedge and resources with me on Canyon City. Mrs. Whyard
provided the NWMP log book for Canyon City dated 1899-1 900.
An important and productive aspect of the project was the enthusiasm
of the many volunteers who participated in the Canyon City excavations.
Thanks also to the thousands of visitors who took the time to visit Canyon
Finally, I owe the wrnpletion of this thesis to my family and closest
friends. My wife Myra's encouragement, support and patience over the years
kept me going and sane. Afthough unknowingly my children, Melissa and
Nolan, provided me with much inspiration. And of course, thanks to Jim
Slater and Ruth Whitney.
Pre-Gold Rush Era Gold R u s h Era Canyon City
Table 1.
Table 2.
Table 3.
Table 4.
Table 8. Table 9.
Table 10. Table 11. Table 12.
Table showing the historic features tested during the archaeological investigations at Canyon City including number of units, area excavated and approximate sampie size. Functional groups used in the dassification of the Canyon City Historic Artifact assemblage and their associated artifact types. Table of features identified at Canyon City and accompanying identifications. Table showing artifact counts and each locality's relative contribution to the histonc artifact assemblage from Canyon City. West Tent locality artifact functional groups and counts. Faunal rernains coliected from the West Tent locality. Canyon Hotel and Saloon artifact functional groups and counts. NWMP Barracks artifact functional groups and counts. Canyon and White Horse Rapids Tramway Office artifact functional groups and counts. East Cabin artifad functional groups and counts. East Cabin faunal remains. MachineIBlacksrnith Shop artifact functional groups and counts.
Figure 1. Figure 2. Figure 3. Figure 4. Figure 5. Figure 6.
Figure 7.
Figure 8.
Figure 9.
Figure 10.
Figure 11.
Figure 12.
Figure 13.
Figure 14.
Figure 15.
Figure 16.
Figure 17.
Figure 18.
Figure 19.
Figure 20.
Figure 21.
Figure 22.
Map showing location of Canyon City in the Yukon. Map showing the major routes to the Klondike Gold Fields. Archival photograph of Miles Canyon, ca. 1899. Archival photograph of a tramcart on the tramway. Archival photograph of Canyon City Townsite. Archival photograph showing River steamers and freight on Canyon City Dock Map of the Canyon City townsite showing the location of the historic features documented during the investigations. Archival photograph of Canyon City showing the West Tent locality. Schematic diagram of the features documented at the West Tent Locality. Archival photograph of the Canyon Hotel and Saloon ca. 1899. Schematic diagram of the features documented at the Canyon Hotel and Saloon. Archival photograph of Canyon City townsite show-ng the NWMP Post and Storehouse in middle of the photograph. Schematic diagram of the features docurnented at the NWMP Barracks. Archival photograph of the remains of the NVVMP Barracks at Canyon City 1912. Archival photograph of original Tramway Office at Canyon City ca. 1897-1 898. Archival photograph of completed Tramway Office at Canyon City ca. 1898. Schematic diagram of the features docurnented at the Canyon and White Horse Rapids Tramway Co. Building. Archival photograph of the Tramway Office, metal basin sits below the widow next to the second door to from the left. Schematic diagram of the features documented at the East Cabin. A) schematic diagram of the Machine/Blacksmith locality showing estimated perimeter based on depressions obsewed; 6) diagram of the composite feature located in the west portion of the MachineIBlacksmith shop; C) diagram of the composite feature docurnented in Unit 10 located in the east portion of the structure. Graph of the frequency of functional groups within the overall Canyon City historic assemblage. Graph of the frequency of functional groups wi-thin the West Tent Locality historic assemblage.
Figure 23. Graph of the frequency of fundional groups within the Canyon Hotel and Saloon historic assemblage. 90
Figure 24. Graph of the frequency of functional groups within the North- West Mount Police Barracks historic assemblage. 97
Figure 25. Graph of the frequency of fundional groups within the Canyon and White Horse Rapids Tramway Office historic assemblage. 103
Figure 26. Graph of the frequency of fundional groups within the East Cabin historic assemblage. 110
Figure 27. Graph of the frequency of functional groups within the Machine/Blacksmith Shop historic assemblage. 118 .
Figure 28. Archival photograph of tramway crew ca. 1899. 126 Figure 29. Archival photograph of tramway crew, of note is the w m e n
seated behind Norman Macaulay the man with the cane ca. 1899 (Yukon Archives 132
Pierre Berton has noted that the Klondike Gold Rush was one of the best documented adventures of the last 150 years. With the availability of cameras, film, newspapers, books, dianes and recorded interviews, the historian's problem really becornes one of where to focus and what to chmse (Davidson 1996).
Archaeological studies conœming the Klondike Gold Rush have
typically been centred on a few principal locations such as Skagway. the
Chilkoot Trail and Dawson City. In the Yukon, Dawson City and selected sites
along the Chilkoot Trail have been the focus of the majority of historical and
archaeological research so far camed out (Blee 1 991 ; Bradford 1 989; Burley
1985; Burley and Ross 1979a. 1979b; Cooper 1998; Hems and Nieuwhof
1994; Mini 1978; Murray and Hamilton 1986; Spude et al. 1993). Peripheral
gold rush transportation settlements along the Yukon River, however, were
essential to the success of the gold rush and these settlements ensured the
relatively srnooth flow of the mass of stampeders who came from al1 over the
world to the Klondike gold fields (Bennett 1978). The stories of these
argonauts are familiar and well documented by historians; even romanticized
by the likes of author Jack London and poet Robert Service. However,
historians and anthropologists have largely ignored the peripheral settlements
along the Yukon River and their resident populations.
With the centennial of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1998, Canyon City,
located 1 0km upriver from Whitehorse was selected by the Department of
Tourism, Government of Yukon, to be developed as a histonc interpretive site.
In support of this program, archaeological investigations were conducted here
over four field seasons between 1994 and 1997. The main objective of the
project was to gather architectural data for the possible reconstruction of
former buildings. Within this framework, the site was to be developed as an
interpretive museum displaying Canyon City and Klondike gold nish history.
As a result of the Canyon City study, I have had the opportunity to
examine this settlement and its role in the Klondike gold rush from an
archaeological perspective. The settlement was one of several peripheral
transportation oriented communities flourishing on the route to Dawson City
between 1897 and 1900. Aithough my overall goals are structured and limited
by the nature of the Yukon Tourism project. the data can also be used to
address other questions about the nature of life and economy at the site. This
study further contributes to our understanding of gold rush events on the
Upper Yukon River.
Canyon City and other settlements like it were important to the success
of the Klondike gold rush. Unfortunately, as prirnarily single purpose sites,
most were mentioned only in passing by the gold seekers. The typical
stampeder probably viewed towns Iike Canyon City much like today's highway
driver views a gas station-a necessity for continuing the journey but not
worthy of detailed description. If Canyon City were studied solely through the
documentary record, therefore, there would be little to no data on the day-to-
day life of the occupants; at best, there would be simple lists of names, dates
and critical events. As a general objective, my thesis attempts to gain further
understanding of the nature of settlement within this peripheral gold nish site.
Historical Archaeology has a unique position within the social sciences
since it is "capable of gaining sirnultaneuus access to the past through
multiple, independent categories of evidence" (Schuyler 1977 cf. Deagan
1988: 8). These categories. the database of Historical Archaeology, include
"the spoken word, the written word, observed behavior and preserved
behavior" (Deagan 1982; Schuyler 1977 cited in Deagan 1988:8). To gain an
accurate picture of what life was like at Canyon City, this thesis integrates the
'spoken word'-oral history, the 'written word'4ocumentary evidence including
archival photographs, and the 'preserved behaviof-the archaeological record.
Central to this thesis is the premise that Canyon City was a single
purpose company settlement, as indicated by the archival record. It is
hypothesized that the company stnrctured the inhabitants' day-to-day lives
within the single industry town. By both providing and regulating services. the
Canyon and White Horse Rapids Tramway Company dictated the construction
and layout of facilities and workers' accommodation within the settlement and
even the demographics and subsistence base of the resident population.
Finally. since the site was company owned, the abandonment behaviour
should be uniform and consistent throughout.
It is argued here that the layout and buildings of Canyon City were
specifically structured to meet the needs of the corporate owners in support of
the tramway operation. Furthemore, it is expected that commercial senrices
within the site were limited by the curporate structure. In addition. it is argued
that the population was principally itinerate, non-local labourers hired by the
Company as freight hustlen and for the operation of the tramway and related
facilities. Women and children may have been present in small numbers, but
their presence was peripheral to the organkation and functioning of the
townsite. Therefore, few indicators of the presence of women and children
such as toys, women's and children's clothing, toiletries and jewelry should be
represented in the assemblage (Blee 1991 ; Spude and Scott 1993).
The social structure within the settlement is expected to be two tiered.
As with any company there are both owner/manager(s) and workers.
Differences between these groups should be seen archaeologically in several
different areas. It is argued that owner/manager(s) likely lived in the log
buildings and the workers in the tents. Because of the presurned difference in
wealth between the two groups, the contents associated with domestic
structures should refiect these differences. This should be evident in the
archaeological record through the cornparison of utilitarian dominated
assemblages versus assemblages with non-utilitarian artifacts such as
ceramics. furthemore, social status should also be manifested in the faunal
assemblage, more specifically the differences in meat cuts and types,
between the two groups (Shulz and Gust 1983).
Archival data suggest the company supplied workers at the site with
room and board. Therefore, it is expected that these occupants were heavily
dependant on imported goods. Archaeological correlates for this include a
high visibility of imported goods such as tinned goods and a low frequency of
local faunal remains. One variable that must be taken into account is the
possibility of the Company or individuals trading, likely with local First Nations
for country foods.
Finally, the abandonment behavior present at Canyon City is predicted
to have been consistent and unifom throughout the site. It is argued that the
Company's interests dictated abandonment behavior. There are no surface
remains of the former buildings at the site suggesting al1 buildings were
dismantled and building materials removed from the site in a systematic
fashion. A low frequency of usable artifads remaining at the site would further
indicate planned abandonment behavior (Schiffer 1989; Stevenson 1982a;
1 982b).
In the following chapters an archaeological perspective of Canyon City
is presented. Chapter Two reviews the historical setting of Canyon City,
briefly discussing Yukon settlement types, Yukon history and the site itself in
terrns of the historical record. Chapter Three provides the methodological
frarnework and the research design that guided the four years of
archaeological investigations. Chapters Four and Five provide the results of
the excavations at the six Canyon City localities under study, detailing the
site's layout, architectural data and recovered artifact assemblage. The final
chapter synthesizes the results and addresses the questions posed in this
The historic town site of Canyon City (Borden Number: JdUr-5) is
located in southwestern Yukon approximately 2km up river from Miles Canyon
and 1 Okm south of Whitehorse (Latitude: 60°39'30"N; Longitude:
134O59'55'W; Elevation: 637 m a.s.1.) (Figure 1). The site is strategically
situated on the east bank of the Yukon River beside the first large river eddy
before entering Miles Canyon. At this point the river runs east ta west. The
former settlement sits on an old north-south inclined river terrace
approxirnately 1 .Sm above today's river level. It is bordered to the north and
to the east by a yet higher ancient river terrace, approximately 1Om above
today's river level. Towards the western end of the town site the terrain rises,
slightly marked with occasional outcrops of basalt.
Canyon City was originally founded as a tramway service around Miles
Canyon and the White Horse Rapids. The 15m vertical basalt walls of the
Canyon create a bottleneck of the river for about 1 km. Approximately 800m
down-river from the end of Miles Canyon the White Horse Rapids occur.
Canyon City falls within the Lake Laberge Ecoregion. Most of the
terrain in this ecoregion lies between 600 and 1,500m a.s.1. Rolling hills
dissected by plateaus characterise the topography of this area (Oswalt and
Senyk 1977). Vegetation consists of open white spnice forests in older
stands on terraces and plateaus with lodgepole pine occupying burn areas
Figure 1. Map showing location of Canyon City (JdUr-5) in the Yukon. (1 crn=lOOkrn).
(Oswalt and Senyk 1977). Black spruce dominates wetter sites and balsam
poplar is more common on recent alluvium. Paper birch is scattered
throughout the region wncentrating in cooler aspects. The understory
vegetation is characterised by masses with a wide variety of shrubs and forbs
(Oswalt and Senyk 1977). The irnmediate area in and around Canyon City
was heavily logged during the gold rush occupation of the site. The resulting
vegetation that arose and characterises the site today is open stands of pine,
spruce and trernbling aspen with an understory of grasses, fireweed,
bearberry , soapberry , strawberry, roses, juniper and various herbs.
Canyon City lies within the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dün First
Nation-Tagish Kwan. The Kwanlin Dun are Southem Tutchone and Tagish
speakers and are grouped within the larger Athapaskan linguistic family
(McClelIan 1975).
The site is located on the upper Yukon River, which served as a core
resource area for the First Nation people of southwestern Yukon. Both the
Tagish and the Southern Tutchone peoples used the river and the land in the
immediate vicinity of Canyon City (McClellan 1975: 31). McClellan (1975: 34)
reports that the traditional fish camps, one referred to as T' aqadji, were used
by the Tagish Kwan in the general area of Miles Canyon. From her
description of the locations, Canyon City was likely used as a fish camp.
Traditional native land use in the vicinity of Canyon City was
documented by Donna Hagen, a mmmunity researcher hired by the Kwanlin
Dün First Nation in 1994. Aîthough there were very few personal recollections
about the traditional use of the site, Kwanlin Dün First Nation elders did tell of
extensive traditional use in the general area during the 19th and 20th
centuries (tiare and Hammer 1995). Traditional activities included fishing,
hunting, trapping and recreation. In addition, some of the elders recalled their
rnothers and fathers talking of Canyon City, some of whom may have worked
for the owner of the tramway, Norman Macaulay, at Canyon City during the
gold rush. Elder May Hume talked of the trail, which is still visible and cuts
through Canyon City, as a traditional trail that begins at Manh Lake and
continues to Lake Laberge, extending over a distance of 100km in length.
Recently, Mark Lindsay, a researcher for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation,
uncovered an obituary from 1906 in the Whitehorse Star. The obituary was
for a Mrs. John who resided at Canyon City and was predeceased by her
husband the year before.
GOLD RUSH HISTORY - 1800-1 8W'I 900
Non-native settlement of the Yukon c m be divided into three periods.
The slow movement of Europeans into the region between the mid-1800s and
1896 characterises the first period. This early development of the Yukon
produced much of the background geological and transportation related
information on the region, which some researchers argue made the Klondike
gold rush of 1898 possible (Bennett 1978; Newell 1987). The second period
begins with the Klondike gold rush marking the start of rapid settlement of the
region by non-natives and finishes at the end of the gold rush. The third
period is the post-gold rush era (poçt-1900) marked by a stabilisation of the
population and the expansion of settlement out of the Yukon River corridor
(Coates and Momson 1988, 1989; Duerden 1980.).
Pre-Gold Rush Era
The first European incursion into the Yukon was for the quest for furs
(Bennett 1967; Webb 1993; Wright 1976). The Hudson's Bay Company
established itsetf in the interior region of the present day Yukon Territory
between 1842 and 1852. The presence of gold in the Yukon was not
unknown to the Hudson's Bay traders. Robert Campbell, a Hudson's Bay
Company explorer and trader. noticed traces of gold at Fort Selkirk but not in
enough quantities to merit exploitation (Friesen 1978). In the vicinity of Fort
Yukon, at the confluence of the Yukon and Porcupine Rivers, there were
rumours of vast quantities of gold discovered in the immediate region by an
early missionary narned Reverend MacDonald (Friesen 1978: 13). Concerned
only with increasing profits from the fur trade. clerks and traders at the several
posts established along the Yukon River dismissed these grandiose rumours
of gold. These rumours, however, did not fall on deaf ears. 80th successful
and unsuccessful minen from the California and British Columbia gold fields
started to filter into the region to prospect after the 1870s (Clark 1 942; lnnis
1936; Powers 1974; Wright 1976). Between 1880 and 1895 the non-native
population within the Yukon consisted mainly of a small core of miners
estimated to number approximately 1,000 (Gates 1994; Wright 1976) and it
was not until the 1890s that govemmental agencies were established in the
established by the time governments became involved in documenting the
North. Campbell, an Early Hudson's Bay Company trader, first travened the
Liard River route that was quickly considered too difficult to be feasible. Once
the Yukon River was further explored by HBC traders and it was discovered to
provide a continuous water route from Fort Yukon to Fort Selkirk, the HBC and
the fint prospectors such as McQuesten. Mayo and Harper reached the north
via the Mackenzie, Peel and Porcupine Rivers (Bennett 1978; Wright 1976).
This route became the al1 Canadian Route advertised by the growing city of
Edmonton in the 1898 rush. After 1867 the preferred route into the Yukon
interior was the Yukon River via St. Michael's-an al1 water route (Bennett
1 978). By 1869 the stemwheeler Yukon was making regular trips up the
Yukon River into the interior carrying supplies and news for the prospectors
focated in the region (Bennett 1978: 17).
It was not until 1880 that the coastal Chilkat lndians granted entrance
into the Yukon interior via the mountain passes from coastal Alaska to non-
natives. All miners arriving in the Yukon over the steep mountain passes
during this time had to confront Miles Canyon and White Horse Rapids.
Some travellers. who shot the Canyon and Rapids and lived to tell about it,
made this stretch of the Yukon River legendary in their published accounts.
W.B. Haskell (1898: 121) wntes:
the water was boiling through it [Miles Canyon] at such a terrific speed that it ridged up in the center, while along the perpendicular banks it wtiirled in huge eddies which had a very threatening look. The clouds of spray gave the water level a snowy appearance ... We pushed off, and in two minutes my heart failed me, and I would have given al1 the gold I ever expected to get in these regions had I staid out.
Most prospectors portaged around these bamers following the traditional
native portage trails. Dawson (1889) in 1887 and Schwatka (1 893) in 1883
document wind-lasses and log roll-ways set up along this section of the river
by prospectors to aid in the portage of their boats and cargo.
Dawson (1 889), who was travelling upriver, reported three portages
between the start of the White Horse Rapids and the end of Miles Canyon.
The first portage was on the west bank of the Yukon River enabling travellers
to avoid the White Horse Rapids. Approximately 1.2km above the Rapids was
another short portage of 40m. The third portage, which avoids Miles Canyon,
was located on the east bank of the river before entering the Canyon. A
windlass was set up at this point to haul boats for portage up the steep basalt
Gold Rush Era
The discovery of gold on August 16th, 1896 by Skookum Jim, Tagish
Charlie. Kate Cannack and George Carmack on Rabbit Creek (later named
Bonanza Creek), a small tributary of the Klondike River, triggered the Klondike
gold rush. At Forty Mile, which was a log city located at a previous gold strike
40 miles up river from where Dawson City would soon flourish, George
Carmack's arriva1 to register his claim started an intemal gold rush within
Alaska and the Yukon to the Dawson region. In the spring of 1897 with the
docking of the steamer Excelsior in San Francisco with $750,000 worth of
Klondike gold, the Klondike goM rush was on (Hunt 1974; Newell 1 987).
There were four main routes to the Klondike (Figure 2). First was the
al1 Canadian Route that involvecl a 2,700 mile journey starting in Edmonton,
Alberta, up the Athabasca River to the Mackenzie River and then on to the
Peel and Rat Rivers until the Yukon River was reached. The second trait
travelled to the gold fields was the al1 water route that took about a month.
Steamers were boarded in San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver- The
steamers made there way up the Northwest Coast around the Aleutian Islands
to Saint Michael's where the Yukon River drains into the Bearing Strait. Once
at Saint Michael's, the stampeders boarded river steamers that plowed up
river to Dawson City. A third and less popular route was the Ashcroft and
Stikine trails; crossing overland through British Columbia to the headwaters of
the Yukon River.
The fourth and most popular route was the cheapest way to get to the
gold fields (Neufeld and Norns 1996). A total of 35,000 to 40,000 gold
seekers used this route during the gold rush (Neufeld and Noms 1996.). This
is the Trail of 98. Stampeders boarded the many steamers headed to Dyea or
Skagway. settlements situated at the end of Alaska's Lynn Canal and at the
foot of the Chilkoot and White Pass Trails respectively. After off loading, the
would-be miners traversed the treacherous passes and made their way to
Bennett City on Bennett Lake. The geographically short joumey to Bennett
Figure 2. Map showing the major routes to the Klondike gold fields.
could be completed within three weeks, if one had enough money to hire
packers, or it could take up to three months if one had to transport their goods
themselves (Neufeld and Noms 1996). Once at Bennett, the gold seekers
buitt boats or boarded steamers. The joumey continued through the system
of southem lakes to Marsh Lake, drained by the Yukon River. Once on the
Yukon River the only bamers facing the Dawson City bound Stampeders were
Miles Canyon and the White Horse Rapids (Figure 3).
As a result of the mars migration to the Klondike, former settlements
boomed and new towns were created. Prior to the gold rush, Dyea, which
was once a traditional hunting and fishing camp, had one store owned by
Healy and Wilson (Neufeld and Noms 1996: 55). Shortly after news of a gold
strike reached the rest of the world, Dyea boasted 200 businesses including
40 saloons, and a variety of theatres, concert halls and bordellos (Neufeld and
Norris 1996). The population expanded from approximately 1,000 during the
summer of 1897 to 8,000 in the spring of 1898 (Neufeld and Norris 1996).
The same phenomenon occurred in Skagway.
There were two major types of settlement that developed along the
Klondike trails. The largest and most permanent were the service and
distribution centres (Duerden 1980: 16). Skagway, Dyea, Saint Michael's and
Dawson City were settlements of this type. These towns were metropolitan,
consisting of a variety of services for the stampeders and functioned as the
hubs for distribution and transportation. For most stampeders. these types of
settlements were jump stations rather than end destination spots. The second
type and the most numerous along the trail and the Yukon River were
settlements serving lines of communication (Duerden 1900). These
settlements usually cansisted of a small resident population and had a single
purpose. Lindeman and Bennett cities. the most varied of the lot, functioned
mainly as short terni boat building camps. Both towns had a high population
and provided a variety of services, minoring those of service and distribution
centres. However, this mirroring was a resutt of the freezing up of the lakes
and rives, therefore ceasing easy transportation and creating a back up of
stampeders, who were waling for the spring thaw. More typical examples of
the second type of settlement were situated along the Yukon River en-route to
Dawson City. North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) Posts were stationed
approximately every 25 miles along the Southern Lakes system and Yukon
River and served not only to enforce Canadian law and collect customs from
the stampeden but also to aid and infonn them dunng their joumey (Berton
1972; Dobrowolsky 1995). A number of wood cutting camps, which serviced
the steamers on the Yukon, were also present. Other settlernents of this type
offered places of rest and lodging as well as services directly related to
transportation. Canyon City was one of the latter.
Canyon City
The historic settlement of Canyon City arose as a direct result of the
Klondike gold rush. f he community was built around the start of a wooden
tramway operation that enabled the multitudes of Klondike bound stampeders
to circumvent the treacherous Miles Canyon and White Home Rapids. The
primary purpose of Canyon Cdy was to facilitate the tramway operation for the
waves of incoming gold seekers. In June of 1900 the White Pass and Yukon
Railway Company compkted its rail line linking the coastal town of Skagway.
Alaska. with the newly emerging town of Whitehorse. This rail link made trail
and transportation services between Skagway and Whitehorse nonessential.
Like most of the small transportation Settlements along the upper Yukon River
after the amval of the railway. Canyon City's importance to Yukon
transportation waned. It was quickly abandonad in 1900-1901.
In the fall 1897. in anticipation of the great flood of stampeders to come
and presumably with a farniliarity of the region, Norman Macaulay established
a roadhouse on the east bank of the Yukon River at the beginning of the
traditional portage trail around Miles Canyon and the White Horse Rapids
(Hare and Hammer 1995: 15). Macaulay constnicted a 8.8km long wooden
tramway that started in the vicinity of his roadhouse and ended at the foot of
the White Horse Rapids.
The tramway was a simple but effective means of transporting freight
(Figure 4). Archival photographs show the tramway fine consisted of peeled
logs placed parallel to each other approximately l m apart with cross ties every
1 -5-2m. The tramcars were constructed of wooden timbers with a slightly
concave wooden flat bed for freight. A running board extended from one side
of the tramcar for the operator where there was a vertical lever that probably
functioned as a braking mechanism. The horsedrawn tramcars were pulled
along the trarnline on concave, cast-iron wheels. Apparently the 8.8km
tramway took 18 men and 23 horses 21 days to build (Horback 1975; Price
1 898).
From al1 accounts it is ckar that Macaulay's tramway company-the
Canyon and White Horse Rapids Tramway Company-was in operation by the
spring of 1898, ready for the mass of stampeders wintering over at Bennett
City. While Macaulay built and completed his tramline, John Hepbum
struggled to finish construction of a second tramline located on the west bank
1 km upriver from Macaulay's, which he began in 1897. It was not cornpleted
until after November of 1898 (Wood 1898a: 38) and probably was not open
for business until the spring of 1899. Hepbum's company-the Miles Canyon
and Lewes River Tramway Inc.-was short-lived. In July of 1899 Macaulay
bought out Hepbum for $60,000 (The Klondike Nugget 1899). It is uncertain
whether Macaulay kept Hepbum's tramway open for any period of time after
the pirrchase.
The freight levy for the tramway established by Macaulay was three to
five cents per pound for goods, with a flat fee of $25 for boats. Otherwise.
boats could be piloted through the Canyon and White Horse Rapids for a fee
of between five and twenty dollars. At first people risked the trip through the
canyon and rapids on their own. According to Rickard (1 909) numerous
people lost their outfits and 200 lost their lives. Although Rickard no doubt
exaggerated the number of deaths, safety concerns led Superintendent Sam
Steefe of the NWMP to decree:
There are many of your countrymen 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 directions that I give shall be camed 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 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 c m walk the 5 miles of grassy bank to the foot of the White Horse Rapids. 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 enabie it to ride the waves of 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 sekcted, 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 tum from that Iist. In the event of the men not k i n g 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 reasonable (Steele 1915: 31 1- 312).
This declaration guaranteed the success of Macaulay's operation. All
travellers were required to report to the NWMP stationed at Canyon City for
approval to pass through Miles Canyon and the White Horse Rapids.
Violation of this regulation resulted in a fine of $1 00 (Steele 1898: 31). Those
who were not deterred and attempted to bypass Canyon City without checking
in were, at times. forced in by NWMP gun shots fired over the bows of their
scows (Steele 1898: 31).
Early in 1898. a small Company settlement owned by Norman
Macaulay arose at the start of his tramway (Figure 5). The NWMP records
and stampeder jounals refer to this settlernent and surrounding area by
several ternis: Miles Canyon, White Horse, Miles Canyon and White Horse
Rapids and White H o m Rapids. At first, they used these names
Figure 5. Archival photograph of Canyon City townsite. East cabin shown on the right margin of photograph; a woman stands in front (Parks Canada, Sinclair photo.)
interchangeably for the area at the end of the White Horse Rapids, which is
the present location of the city of Whitehorse, and the town site of Canyon
City. This adds much confusion for researchers in detennining exactly where
events took place. Rickard (1909) appears to have been the first to cal1 the
former settlement Canyon CQ.
Archival records for the development of this settlement are scarce,
makîng it difficult to detemine when the buildings at Canyon City were
established. We do know, however, that the settlement eventually consisted of
at least 12 log and several tent structures (Figure 5). Archival photographs
show that the first section of the Canyon and White Horse Rapids Tramway
Co. Office was constnicted by the spring of 1898, with the second section
added shortty thereafter. A section of the Canyon Hotel and Saloon was also
completed at this time. Construction of the NWMP Post was begun after the
!jth of July, 1898, and appears to have k e n cornpleted by the 30"
Septernber, 1898 (Steele 1898a: 21 ; Wood 1898b: 3). The NWMP storehouse
was built in the winter of 1898ll89Q (Wood l898a). From archival
photographs it appears the stable, machine/blacksmith shop, dock, a
residential cabin and other miscellaneous buildings were al1 completed by the
summer of 1899. By September of 1899 a telegraph line was connected and
a telegraph office was established within the NWMP Post, with a second
telegraph office in place at the foot of the White Horse Rapids (Wood 1899).
At the height of operation the tramline was processing between 70 and
100 tons of freight per day (Walley n.d.) (Figure 6). At maximum operation the
tramway operated day and night with 23 horses (Prie 1898). The numbers of
freight hustlers working for the Canyon and White Home Rapids Tramway
Co.. estimated from the archival photographs, was between 30 and 35. They
were paid $4.50 a day plus board with fifty cents extra for overtime (Hitchcock
1899: 431).
The tramline transported goods from stampeders' handrnade scows
and barges. as well as large, paddkwheel river steamers. Between its origin
and Dawson City, the Yukon River was divided into two sections for steamer
transportation. The section upriver from Miles Canyon was designated the
Upper Yukon and the section down river h m the Whitehorse Rapids was
referred to as the Lower Yukon. By the summer of 1898 there were full sized
river steamers on both the Upper and Lower Yukon. The steamers on the
Upper Yukon rân between Bennett City and Canyon City and the steamers on
the Lower Yukon ran between Dawson City and the terminus of Macaulay's
The success of Macaulay's operation prompted an official govemment
survey of the tawn site. Macaulay also proposed to transform the tramline into
a narrow gauge railway in 1899 (Dobrowolsky 1990: 1). It is uncertain
whether these events indicate Macaulay's belief in the permanence of his
tramway business or whether this was a means ta increase the value of his
holdings. Macaulay had known that the completion of the Skagway-
Whitehorse railway was fast approaching and that its completion wouM
adversely affect his business. Therefore, his possession of the east and west
bank flght-of-ways along the Yukon River (Hepbum's trarnline and his own)
and his daims for upcoming commercial improvements likely increased his
property value.
In 1898 the White Pass and Yukon Corporation began construction of
its railway linking Skagway to the foot of the White Horse Rapids opposite the
terminus of Macaulay's tramway. In August of 1899 in a bid to gain a
monopoly on the transportation business and a right-of-way for their rail line,
The White Pass and Yukon Corporation hired C.E. Peabody of the Alaska
Steamship Company to buy out Macaulay (Minter 1987: 320). The price paid
to Macaulay is reported to have been $185,000 (Minter 1987). The Canadian
Development Company. a subsidiary of the Alaska Steamship Company, ran
the trarnline for the next ten months, after which, it ceased to operate. This
gave the railway a complete monopoly on the transportation of freight into the
upper Yukon.
On the 8" of June of 1900, the rail link between Caribou Crossing and
the new town site of Whitehorse was completed. Whitehorse quickfy grew as
Canyon City was abandoned over the next two years.
The post-gold rush period in the Yukon is marked by a significant drop
and stabilization of the population as well as non-native settlement in areas
outside of the Yukon River corridor (Bennett 1978; Burton 1972; Coates 1985;
Duerden 1980; Webb 1993). By 1899 the huge human migration into the
Yukon ceased and other gold rushes such as those in Nome, Alaska, and
Atlin. British Columbia, drew a large part of the transient population out of the
Yukon. Other areas within the Yukon such as the Kluane-White River region
and the Mayo-Keno area saw their own mini-rushes (Bennett 1978: Duerden
1980; Johnston n-d.; Stevenson 1980, 1989a, 1989b; Webb 1993).
Whitehorse located at the terminus of the rail-line became the distribution hub
for the Yukon. Aithough Dawson City's population declined. it still played an
important role politically and served the now commercialized placer gold
industry. After 1900. roads began to be buiit further opening the Yukon to
new settlernents (Bennett 1978; Durden 1980).
The establishment of the railway over the White Pass, a permanent link
between the Yukon and the outside world, and large river steamers on the
Yukon River made many of the small settiements on the Upper Yukon non-
essential. On the trails to the Klondike. towns that once thrived were being
abandoned while others located along the rail-line were ensured of their
permanency, such as Caribou Crossing. Neufeld and Noms (1996) state that
by 1899 only those that could not afford to pay train fare hiked the Chilkoot.
Lindeman and various camps along the Chilkoot trail were abandoned by the
fall of 1899 (Neufeld and Norris 1996). Bennett still survived, albeit in a
smaller capacity, with other short lived settlements established during the first
years of the rail transport.
Very little is known about Canyon City in the post-gold rush pend once
the railway was established and the tramlines ceased to operate. Because
Canyon City was a one-industry town, most if not al1 of its occupants were
linked to the Company. Tharefore, once the tramlines stopped operating and
the new town of Whitehorse began to flourish, Canyon City was quickly
At present there is no archival documentation recording the
abandonment at Canyon City. Ercept for the lingering presence of the
NWMP, who stayed at the town site at ieast periodically until October of 1 901 ,
the majority of the settlement was probably abandoned after completion of the
rail link (Dobrowolsky 1990). Occupation of the site did occur after 1900, for a
short period, by Mr. and Mrs. John as earlier described. At present, the extent
and location of their occupation is unknown.
The resuits of the 1994 and 1995 Canyon City Project suggest that
most of the log structures in the sefflement were systematically dismantled
and removed. Accounts from both native elden and long-time Yukon
residents report that no structures were present at Canyon City during the
1920s except for the wooden dock (Hare and Hammer 1995: 21 ).
Photographs of Canyon City dating to 1912 cleariy show the NWMP
structure still standing. in a partial state of dismantlement. but no others.
Another photograph of the same date and photographer depicts a small log
The materials salvaged from the buildings during abandonment were
more than likely reused in the emerging town of Whitehorse. This was so for
other short-tived upper Yukon River settlements such as Bennett Crty (Ingram
and Dobrowolsky 1994: 7). Aîthough not confirmed, it has been suggested
that segments of the Canyon Hotel and Saloon may have k e n used to '
construct part of the Closeleigh Hotel and Saloon (later narned the Pioneer
Hotel) located in Whitehorse (John Hatch personal communication 1996).
NWMP Corporal Dixon. who was dosely associated with Canyon City. buiît
the hotel on Front Street early in 1900 (Ingram and Dobrowolsky 1994: 54).
Horback (1976) reports that in 1900 Macaulay also brriît a hotel in Whitehorse.
It is possible that Macaulay and Dixon's venture were one and the same and
that the logs from Macaulay's Canyon Hotel and Saloon were used in the
Closeleig h Hotel and Saloon's construction.
The 1994, 1 995 and 1 996 archaeological investigations at Canyon City
revealed limited evidence of postgoid rush occupation of the site dating up to
the present. A series of wire mesh and wooden pans may post-date the
occupation at Canyon City and rnay be related to the John's occupation of the
site. This type of structure is reminiscent of fox fam cages that were popular
in the area during the early 1900s (Hare and Hammer 1995). As yet, no one
recalls there ever k i n g a fox fam located at Canyon City so the structure's
use and time of use are still uncertain. More recent beer and soft drink cans,
some with pull-tabs, are scattered intermittently throughout the town site.
These recent artifacts are the remains left by the people who used and still
use the site as a recreation area, Above the former town site on a flat portion
of the eastem terrace is an area with scattered structural remains and artifacts
(rnetal containers). The artifacts (sanitary tin cans) definitely post-date the
gold rush occupation of Canyon City, suggesting the occupation of this area
does as well.
Archival research on Canyon City has k e n sporadically canied out
over several yean by area and local historians such as Dobrowolsky (1 990),
Knutson (1990), Scuwey (1995), Sawatsky, Whyard and Horback (1 976).
Over the last four years 1, in cosrdination with the Heritage Branch staff. have
been assernbling and reviewing these resources as well as pursuing further
archival sources conœming Canyon City.
Canyon City was firot recorded as an archaeological site by Hunston
during a reconnaissance of the area in the earfy 1980s (Gotthardt 1994). As
described, he documented not only an abundance of gold rush era cultural
material, but also recarded an eadier prehistoric camponent documented by
lithic flakes eroding out of a trail that passes through the terrace.
The next archaeologist to report on Canyon City was Easton (1987)
during an underwater suwey of the Upper Yukon River. His survey team
located the remains of the Canyon City dock, its foundations and part of the
tramway track that were submerged as a result of the damming of the Yukon
River in 1958. Easton (1 987) collected an oar rest and horseshoe.
In 1993, Gotthardt (1 994) carried out preliminary archaeological testing
at Canyon City. A total of two days was spent identifying and locating the
site's main historic features as well as determining the extent of the prehistoric
occupation. A baseline parallel to and 24m from the present-day Yukon
River's edge was established. Small shovel tests were conducted along this
line every 10m within the former town site and every 20m for 500m West of the
site. The shovel test resuits suggested that the main concentration of
prehistoric occupation was at the eastern end of the former town site. Nine
additional shovel tests were placed within this area to further determine the
extent of the occupation.
prehistoric and historic origin. Of the prehistoric assemblage. 14 lithic
specimens were recovered both above and below the White River ash
stratum, which is dated at 1,260 î 50 BP (Clague et al. 1995). The collection
included a chert end scraper and a broken biface fragment. The historic
assemblage cansisted of five nails, one screw, two flat ferrous strips and a
metal buckle with a small fragment of leather stilt attached. The site's principal
historic structures were located by companng gold rush era archival
photographs of the settlement with foundation berm outlines. The 1993
investigations provided exploratory data from which a more indepth field
investigation could be planned.
The archaeological field methodology implemented at Canyon City
refiected the goals, to a certain degree, of the sponsoring institution, Heritage
Branch, Government of Yukon. These goals were to recover as much detailed
structural information as possible on the Canyon and Whitehorse Rapids
Tramway ûffice (year l) , the NoraiWest Mounted Police Barracks (year 2),
and the Canyon Hotel and Saloon (years 3 and 4). In addition, Heritage
Branch sought a sample of material culture rernains associated with these
buildings ta permit the interpretation of activities carried out at these localities.
The data gathered during the investigations and synthesized in the following
months were to be used for restoration, interpretation and display.
A second but important component of the project was its public
orientation. High school and post secondary students were hired to assist in
the excavations from the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, MacBride Museum and the
Yukon Conservation Society. Each year students assisted in excavations as
well as provided on site interpretation services to the many visitors to Canyon
City, which averaged 2,000 per year. With such high public interest and
because of the project's proximity to Whitehorse, several volunteers assisted
in the excavations as well.
Third, although the project's applied objectives structured research,
they also presented an opportunity to test additional localities in order to gain a
broader understanding of the townsite. The additional localities were as
follows: the West Tent LocalRy (years 2 and 4). the 'East Cabin" (years 2 and
3), the MachinelBlacksmith Shop (years 3 and 4) and other features as time
allowed. Because the objectives of the Heritage Bnnch and the research
were essentially in Iine with each other, testing of these lacalities was carried
out under the same research design as discussed below and in Chapter One.
Based on initial site reconnaissance prior to the 1994 feld season. it
was possible to locate al1 of the major structures shown in archival
photographs. Reconnaissance. however, indicated that there were many .
more archaeological features present than first anticipated and that other
features were probably hidden by understory vegetation. Historic features
refer to al1 of the anthropogenic landscape changes, architectural remnants or
artifact clusters present at Canyon City.
To start the fieldwork, the townsite was cleared of vegetation after
which a systematic surface survey was camed out. Crew mernbem walked
parallel transects along the Yukon River bank approximately Sm apart.
Transects were then walked north to the terra- marking the end of the former
townsite. Features encountered in each individual's path or field of vision
were flagged. Transects were repeated until the entire site was traversed.
Field staff from the Historic Sites, Government of Yukon, subsequently
prepared a site feature map (see Figure 7, p.40). Also at this time a 200m x
160m grid was established over the townsite with NOWO located on the
southeastern terrace bordering the site. As well, an east-west running base
line was staked every 10m on the N60 line.
Excavation units were tied into the east-west base Iine and the larger
site grid. Units on the grid were assigned north and west identifier's, such as
N60W135, while others not on the gnd were assigned unit numbers particular
to the structure or feature with which they were associated.
Excavation units were placed judgementally to identîfy and locate
building features according to the characteristics of the feature or structure
being tested. Units within each structure were placed in strategic positions
based on the potential to yield structural data. For exampie. the corners of a
structure as well as fioor joist and orner depressions within it were targeted to
retrieve dimensional and structural data. No less than a five percent area was
excavated from each major structure tested; some localities such as the "East
Cabinn and the Machine1 Blacksmith Shop had up to 50 percent their area
excavated (Table 1). This latge variance regarding area sampled was a resuît
of the size of the structure being tested, wlh the lowest excavated area
fractions corning from the Canyon Hotel and Saloon and the Canyon and
Whitehorse Rapids Tramway Onice, which each enclosed an area of at least
All units were excavated by trowel with back-dirt screened through 3rnm
utility mesh. Excavation proceeded stratïgraphically with arbitrary 5crn levels
excavated within each stratum until sterile deposits were encauntered. Three-
dimensionai provenience (depth below surface. depth below White River Ash.
north coordinates and west mord inates) was recarded on ly for prehistoric
Feature Description No. of Un- Total AM Percent Excavafed A m Excavated Excavated
CC71 Tramway Office 35 252mL 35mL 14% N.W.M.P. Barracks 22 Canyon Hotel and Saloon 25 West Tent Locality 23 MachinelBlacksmith Shop 16 'East Cabinw 25 N.W.M.P. Storehouse 1 Building outline? 1 Tent box frame ouUine 1 Tent box frame outline 3 'East Cabin" Privy 1 N.W.M.P. Privy 1 Privy? 2 Refuse dump 1
Table 1. Table showing the historic features tested during the archaeological investigations at Canyon City including number of units and area excavated.
artifacts as per terrns of referenœ. For provenienœ recording of historic
artifacts, 1 x lm excavation units were divided into four quadrants based on
cardinal directions. In situ historic artifacts and those found while screening
were placed in level bags according to the stratum and quadrant from which
t hey came. Sig nificant artifacts, which were deterrnined according to their
context, and al1 historic features were photographed in situ and recorded on
floor plan sheets. On completion of excavation. unit wall profiles were drawn
and photographed.
Archival research was principatly carried out at the Yukon Archives
located on the Yukon College Campus in Whitehorse, Yukon. The MacBride
Museum, Parks Canada as well as personal 'old timer" libraries were
surveyed. Sources reviewed include newspaper accounts, starnpeder's
journals, North-West Mounted Police annual and monthly reports and Gold
Rush era photographs of the former townsite. The photographie record of
Canyon City is quite extensive; however. primary documents regard ing the
fomer townsite are scarce. The North-West Mounted Police monthly and
annual reports were the most valuable for the purposes of this thesis.
Published literature related to the Klondike Gold Rush and Canyon City was
also surveyed. Sources used include older volumes such as Rickard (1909).
Ogilvie (1 91 3) and Steele (1 91 5) as well as more recent volumes such as
Burton (1 972) and Gates (1994). These secondary sources provide a genenl
overview history of the Gold Rush and only mentioned Canyon City in passing.
Oral histories related to the former townsite were sought in each year of
the excavations. Oldtimers and First Nation elders visited the site and were
asked what they remembered. The results, unfortunately were disappointing.
The length of time since the occupation of Canyon City, two generations,
coupled with its brief fluorescence are probably wntributing factors.
A large histonc artifact collection (N=lï,396) was generated during the
four years of feld investigations. The classificatory scheme used to type the
artifacts is largely based on Sprague (1981). Hardesty (1 988). Klimko and
Hodges (1 993), and Blee (1991). The adapted classification attempts to place
the artifact within the cultural context of use, based on its meaninghnction for
the participants of that system (Sprague 1981 : 252). Furthemore, the
typology devised here attempted to be comparable to that of B k ' s , (Blee
1991 ; Blee and Scott 1992), which is commonly used for assemblages in
In order to identify the function of several of the unknown structures and
comment on the general activities camed out at Canyon City in different
localities the material culture was organized into the following functional
groups: household (domestic); personal rnanagementlclothing; leisure;
transportation; communication; hunting/subsistence; construction/structural;
workinglindustrial; and, miscellaneous. Al1 identifiable artifacts were typed
according to their primary function and placed within these larger functional
Functional Group Type of Artifacts Household Artifacts related to the household as a whole
Personal Management
such as tableware, glassware, food storage. furniture. stovelheaten and lighting. Artifacts related to the individual including ciothing, medicinal, personal hygiene, and adornment. Artifacts related to liquor and tobacca wnsumption. and gaming. Artifacts such as bridle apparatus and wagon and cart parts. Artifacts including glass insulators, telegraph equipment and telegraph wire Artifacts related to amis and ammunition and hunting such as fish hooks. Artifacts related to the construction and structural components of buildings such as nails, screws, grommets, strapping, hooks. bolts, and window glass. Arîifacts such as industrial tools and those artifacts related to machining or blacksmithing activities. Those artifacts that do not fall into the above categories or those where the function is not identifid.
Table 2. Functional groups used in the classification of the Canyon Clty histonc artifact assemblage and their associated artifact types.
categories (Table 2). Unidentad artifacts were classed acwrding to their
material of manufacture.
The goal of this classification scheme is to identify, as best is possible,
the different activities camed out at the site as well as within the different
structures at Canyon City. Within a one Company owned senlement buildings
would have had a primary purpose, although it is likely that other activities
would have been carried out in them as well. Thus, by looking at the different
functional groups and their frequency. 1 should be possibk to identify the
primary purpose of each structure in addition to secondary activities carried
out there.
It is recognized that not al1 artifacts recovered represent the function
they were initially designed for ( B k 1991: 84; Sprague 1981). even without
artifact alteration. As well, some artifacts cross into two or more functional
groups. In such instances the nature of artifacts and their relation to function
is problematic; however, by using this type of classification one artifact is not
the sole deteminant of an a d M i or function. Rather, the functional groups
from a specific locality are viewed together and in relation to each other
according to their relative frequency thus reducing the effect of anomalies
such as the unaiteieâ. secondary reuse of artifacts.
Faunal remains were identifii and catalogued separately. Remains
were identifîed to species where possible using the resources at the
Archaeology Branch, Government of Yukon. The number of identified
specimens present (NISP) were tabulated for each tocalrty where faunal
remains were present.
A total of 98 surface historic features were identified and mapped
during the 1 994 transect suwey of the Canyon City townsite (Figure 7; Table
3). The historic features include 21 possible structures or tent frame outlines,
eight large and two small metal container middens, two boffle rniddens, 21
individual or groups of depressions, remains of a wooden sled, several small
artifact scatters, tramline earthen beds, and concentrations of bailing wire. Not
al1 of the features shown on the site feature map (Figure 7) were tested. Table
3 summarizes the features identified and those that were tested during the
four years of investigations at the townsite.
This chapter describes the townsite layout and surnmarizes structural
remains for each of the localities. Six major lacalities were the focus of
detailed excavations and include the West Tent Locality (CC2-CC7), The
Canyon Hotel and Saloon (CC1 l ) , the Machine/Blacksmith Shop (CC59), the
NWMP Barracks (CC39), the Canyon and Whitehorse Rapids Tramway Office
(CC71), and the 'East Cabinn (CC86).
The boundaries of the historic townsite of Canyon City run
approximately 190m east to west by 120m north to south encornpassing an
area of approximately 22,800m2 . The majority of features within the townsite
are related to the Gold Rush occupation of the site. The pen enclosure (CC90)
and CC8 and CC41, however, likely postdate the gold rush occupation.
Feature Description Festuli) ûescn'ption CC1 S d e r of teather footwear Cc50 Small scatter of boffle glass
Tent outiine' Tent outline* Tent outiine' Scatter of footwear ûepression' ûepression* Benn outline' Bonow pit Depression Canyon Hotel and Sabon' BottWcan midden Floor remains Depression Structure outline Small metal container scatter Notched building bg Rectangular depression' Bottie midden Can midden (M-2)' Can midden (M-3)' Can midden (M4)' Can midden (M-5)' Galvanized chicken wire Can midden (M4)' Can midden (M-1)' Can midden (M-7)' Circle of cobbles Fencing? Wooden sled Can midden (M-8)' Depression Cluster of cobbles and FCR Cluster of cut logs and cans Small cluster of metal containers Tent outline* Fire pit, circle of cobbles Teiegraph Wire NWMP Poste NWMP Storehouse* Structure outline with burnt floor NWMP Privy?' Depression De pression De pression Structure outline? Wooden feature - Tramcar? Depression
Scattered woode n featu re Bailing wire Borrow pit Large structural timbers Benn outlirie and depression Depressions' Two scatters of bailing wire Notch logs - corral corner Machine shop outline* Scatter of femus objects Stable outline Baling wire Depression Stabk enüy? Brome? ûepression Scatter of cans and bottles (recent) Baling wire in depression Tramway spur line Borrow pits CBWR Tramway Office' Depression Depression ûepression Tent ouüine* Depression Depression Depression (tent outline) Chicken wire with wood Gahranized chicken wire Small metal container scatter Chicken wire Chicken wire Structure outline Structure outline 'East Cabin"' Bonow pit Can rnidden (M-IO)* 'East Cabin's" privy* Pen enclosure Square depression Telegraph wire Wooden feature Plank Fenced enclosure assoc. CC86 Deep square depression Tramway bed
CC49 ~ k d e n feature - Tramcar? CC98 ~ramw& line spur ' fsmanrn
Table 3. Table of features identified at Canyon City and accompanying identifications.
The pen enclosure, located at the base of the eastem tenace, is one of
the largest features observed at the site. It is rectanguiar in shape consisting
of 10 pens and was fenced with chicken wire. The feature appears to be the
remains of a fur fami which likely dates to around the First Woild War, 1914-
1920, when fur faning boomed al1 over the Yukon (McCandiess 1985).
Figure 5, page 22, is an archival photo of Canyon City and the only one so far
encountered that provides a good view of the eastem tenace of the site. This
photograph was likely taken in 1899 and shows the 'East Cabinn on its right
margin. The two small tents nom of the cabin are likely CC84 and CC85.
Beyond these two wall tents, however, there is no indication of a significant
feature such as the pen enclosure. The pens were likely constnicted much
later than the gold rush occupation of Canyon City and may be associated with
the post-Gold Rush materials atop of the eastem tenace.
CC8, a rectangular b e n outline located behind the West Tent Localdy,
and CC41, a buiiding outline, do not show up on any of the 24 historic
photographs of Canyon Cdy. The photographs span the years 1897 to 1900.
Within CC41 several sanitary tin can fragments were observed along with
metal flashing and other bumt building debns suggesting a post-ûold Rush
date (at least post 1904) for the occupation of this structure. No artifacts were
on the surface in and around CC8 and the one unit excavated within this
structure yielded no time sensitive artifacts. Its absence from the photographs
is the only evidence suggesting it is not contemporaneous with the Gold Rush.
Those features that clearly are associated with the Gold Rush
occupation appear to be quite structured in their placement. The townsite was
organized around the tramline. The major structures dosest to the Yukon
River ail face south towards the river and the tramline and are oriented in two
blocks running east to west. The first bîock consists of the East Cabin and the
Canyon and White H o m Rapids Tramway Co. onice, located in the eastem
portion of the site. The second b W , about 20m north of block one, consists
of the tents CC84, CC85, CC75 the NWMP Barracks and storehouse, the
Canyon Hotel and Saloon and the West Tent locality. The
MachinelBlacksmith Shop and the stables are located further north and set
opposite frorn a spur of the tramline that runs south to north.
The largest middens of metal containers are wncentrated in the
northwestern portion of the townsite. Pathways are numerous here and likely
post date the gold rush occupation of the site. Their creation may have
contributed to the further division of the larger middens sinœ there is no
physical or photographic evidence of any structures in this vicinity. The large
concentration of metal containers in this area suggests an intentional use of
the area for refuse disposal.
The town layout into blocks pre-dates the official townsite survey
carried out between September 26M and October 3d 1899 by Dominion Land
Surveyor Paul Dumais (Department of lnterior 9899). There are no natural
features, such as manh or undulating topography, within boundaries of the
site that would necessitate such a stnictured town plan. It is evident that
buildings were placed according to some structureci plan and it follows that
Macaulay's Company imposeci this stniduring.
The West Tent Locality was sampkd during the 1995, 1996 and 1997
archaeological investigations. It is located approximately 8m west of the
Canyon Hotel and Saloon. The locality wvers an area of approximately 17m
east to west by 10m north to south. A number of Gold Rush era photographs
depict three wall tents Iined up side by side from east to west (Figure 8).
Today, only the benn outlines of the three still exist (features CC2. CC3 and
CC4). lrnmediately behind the b e n outlines are four shallow rectangular
depressions, three of which uvere tested. The goals of the excavations at this
locality were to first gather structural data about the tents including their
dimensions, and second to infer what types of activities were associated with
their use.
A total of 23 units were excavated at the West Tent Locality equaling
26m2. Placement of the unita was judgmental and rested solely on the
presence of bems or depressions. As a resuît of the investigations several
intact structural features were documented, three middens identified and 1,635
artifacts and 27 faunal specimens collected.
Intact structural features between 5 and 10cm below surface relate to
the box frames buiît as bases for each of three tents (Figure 9). Two square
bem outlines defined the location of the two western most tents and an L-
year. They appear to be relying on the name association with the
Canadian Standards Association (CSA) for credibility in the industry.
Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS) has been severely disrupted
in the past year by the move to KPMG QRI of two of their senior staff in
Western Canada. SGS stüi operates in a central Canadian rnindset.
since its operationai activities are coordinated through their Toronto
head oflice location. SGS will only issue about 5% of the new certificates
in BC in 1999. and do not appear to have made s igdcan t inroads into
the local market in the past year. Approximately 20% of their clients
switched to KPMG QRI with the recent move of their senior staff.
Qualitv Control Bureau (QCB) will probable emerge as KPMG QRI's
main competitor in the western Canadian market in 1999. They tend to
target the srnail and emerging business community. and have developed
excellent links to the BC Institute of Technology (BCIT). with whom they
offer joint training courses in quality management systems. QCB wili
issue approximately 25% of the new registrations in BC this year.
Intertek Testina Services (ITS) is emerging as a serious competitor
in the local market following the hire of a new manager for their ISO
9000 registration practice in late 1997. ITS tends to be on the bidder's
list for the majority of contracts let competitively in BC. Many of the
local Q M S consultants are being eniisted by ITS as subcontractors. ITS
also actively seeks to recruit current KPMG QRI ciients with proposais to
transfer their registrations. However. they only gained about 5% of the
new registrations in BC in 1998.
Figure 9. Schematic diagram of the features docurnented at the West Tent Locality.
shaped benn marked the east and norai walls of the eastem most tent. The
bems' likely functioned to insulate Me Roor box frames from drafts. Sill legs
were obsewed along the inner base of the benn outlines as were floor planks.
The westein most tent wntaineâ north-south running floor joists and the floor
planks were placed on these joists. Tents CC3 and CC4 did not have floor
joists. Rather, the planks were set directly on top of the surface. The two
western most tents had a circle of rocks associated with a circular depression.
The presence of these features is problematic. They may relate to later
recreational use of this locality or they might have functioned as areas for
stove placement.
Three corners were exposed for the box frame of CC2 and from these
corners the tent appears to have been 2.7~2.1 m (8ftlOin.xGPtl Oin.) suggesting
that the wall tent used for this dwelling was a standard 7x9ft wall tent. This
type of tent could fit two comfortably, but might have had up to four individuals
if it was intended to be a sleeping area only. The northeast and southwest
corners of the middle tent (CC3) indicate 1 was a larger tent measuring
3.3x3.8rn (10ftiOin.xl2ft6in.). Two corners were excavated within the eastern
most tent box frame. Its dimensions were 2.5x2.8m (8ft2in.x9ft2in.), which are
very close to that of CC2.
The tent box frames were simply constnicted. Saddle notching is
present on al1 of the corners observed and the sill logs or planks were set on
the ground with littk to no preparation, such as digging or filling for leveling.
Each of the box frames had floor planks. However, if the two rock circles in
CC2 and CC3 are directly associated, then 1 is likely that the entire fiwr area
of each tent was not planked. Rather, a portion of the area inside the tent may
have beeo left uncovered for the placement of a stove or heater. The flwr
planks were placed directly on the ground in CC3 and CC4 but were raised
with the aid of sleeper sills and floor joists in CC2. The archival photographs
of this area fumish no further information of the box frames or platioms
because the canvas wall tenh were placed on the outside thereby covenng
the frames.
Approximately 8rn directly east of the West Tent Locality are the
remains of the former Canyon Hotel and Saloon (Roadhouse). All that exist
today of the former log structure is a rectangular berm outline surmunding
north-south running floor joist depressions and a east-west running centre sill
depression. This outline is well defined along segments of the north. east and
south walls but fades into the natural terrain towards the east along the south
and east walls. Gold Rush era photographs of the Roadhouse show that the
log structure consisted of three cribs, or conjoined sections. with four
entranceways along its south wall (Figure IO) . The number of entrance ways
likely reflect the intemal division of the different functions of the Roadhouse
such as a restaurant or saloon and sleeping quarters. It is likely that the
number of doomays do not exadly represent the nurnber of different fundions
or interna1 divisions. In addition, a cold cellar existed 10m south of the
structure that was later used for refuse deposition. This latter feature was not
Investigations were camed out at the Roadhouse locality during the
1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997 field seasons. The goals were to gather structural
information and detemine and dinerentiate actnrity areas within the building.
A total of 25 units were excavated of which three were 50xSOcm, one
was 2xlm, another was 2x2m and the rernainder were I x lm in size (Figure
11). The total surface area excavated was 26.75m2, which is a 12.5 percent
area sample of the entire structure. Like al1 the localifes investigated at
Canyon C w the placement of excavation units was judgmental, guided by the
goals of the testing. Of the 25 units, 14 were placed along the peflmeter of the
building to provide a cross section of the berrn and determine the placement of
sill logs. The remaining eight units were excavated within the berm outline to
test the inside of the former structure. Several intact structural features were
documented allowing for ar! accurate estimate of the dimensions of the
building at 31.5x7m (1 03ft6in.x23ft).
Foundation and flaoring features of the Roadhouse were documented
in 16 of 25 units excavated. All wood remains were in a severe state of decay.
and none showed evidence of buming.
Wall sill logs were present within eight units of those placed on the
building perimeter. The north sill remains in Unit 1 terrninated within the
southeast quadrant of the unit and it is likely that the point of temination
represents the northwestem corner. The southeast corner of the structure
was documented within Unit 22 with the presence of the east and south sill log
remains. These two units were wed for detennining the dimensions of the
structure. A large basalt cobbîe and a complete evaporated mild can were
observed to the norai and just abng the side of the north sill log in Unit 3. The
cobble rnay have fundioned to stabilize the north sill M i le the metal container
could have fundioned as a cap or a sleeve for a post.
A total of 11 units intersedecl Roor joist and centre sill depressions.
However. intact remains of floor joists in line with their respective depressions
were observed in only four units. Two of the units had temains that were
probable floor joists but appear to have been displaced. Their displacernent
likely occurred during the dismantling of the structure. A stack of logs ninning
north to south was docurnented in Units 10, 11 and 12 located in the
southeast portion of the Roadhouse. The stack consists of nine logs in width
and three to four logs deep. The logs, which may have been flwr joists.
appear to have been stockpiled in this location after the Canyon Hotel and
Saloon was dismantled.
Remains of a doorstep or walkway were present in Units 19, 20. and
RHTP 1,2, and 3. These consist of four t 5x9cm (6ftx3ftll2in.) planks placed
parallel to each other and secured by wire nails to three small poles, 4cm in
diameter. Its presence indicates the placement of a doonuay at this location
(Figure 1 1 ). Oriented by archival photographs, Units 17, 18 and 21 were
placed along the south perimeter whete other entranœways were believed
present. Steps or walkways were not encountered within these units.
The stratigraphie profiles of the units excavated mthin the Canyon Hotel
and Saloon indicate that the construction of the building disturbed much of the
surface deposits. Units W h distu- stratigraphy are located along the north
portion of the structure and the disturbance œases once north of the noRh sill
log. It appears, therefore, that the surfa- was îeveled to prepare a building
surface, a technique used for the construction of most other buildings at
Canyon City.
The relatively low frequency of wood remains suggests the building was
systematically dismantled during or after the abandonment of Canyon City.
None of the features or depressions present illustrate intemal room divisions.
Further west of the Canyon Hotel and Saloon are two former buildings
that make up the North-West Mounted Police locality. CC39 has been
identified through archival records as the Barracks and CC40 as the NWMP
Storehouse. Archival photographs only show the front of both structures
(Figure 12). 60th buildings were log and had sod roofs. The barracks has one
entranceway located along the middle of the south wall, and two windows on
each side of the doorway. The entianceway to the storehouse is located near
the southeastem corner of the structure and a small window is evident towards
the southwestern portion of the south wall. The investigations at this locality
focused almost exclusively on the Barracks.
A total of 22 units were excavated in and around the NWMP Barracks.
Three of the 22 units were placed outside of the b e n outline in order to test
Figure 12. Archival photograph of Canyon City townsite showing the NWMP Post and Storehouse in middle of the photograph (Yukon Archives Beatty Coll.).
the areas surrounding the former building. The berm outline encloses an area
of 91 m2 and the 19 units excavated within this outline constitute a 21 percent
area sample. Units were placed in the corners of the berm outline to verify the
actual location and dimensions of the building. Units were also placed along
the sides of the bem in order to expose the four outside wall sill logs. Surfaœ
depressions and artifact dusters largely detennined the placement of units
within the structure.
Woaden remains in the N W P Barracks were in various states of
decay, but al1 can be assessed as poor to very poor. Evidence of a previous
fire was present in rnost of the features observed. Structural features in the
north half of the structure displayed extensive charring whereas remains in the
southern portion showed less intensive burning. It is clear that the building
was dismantled before the fire occurred. That is, if the entire building bumed
then it would be expected that deposits within the inner surface of the structure
woufd have contained evidence of collapsed logs and extensive charcoal.
This was not the case, al1 of the structural rernains appear to be situated in
their primary contexts.
The excavations revealed significant information on the constructiori of
the former building foundations. Figure 13 is a plan of the foundations from
the 1994 and 1995 investigations. Structural remains include floor joists. sill
logs. a floor plank and two hewn centre sill logs running in the middle of the
structure traverse to the north-south running floor joists. Chaned remains and
the oxidation of the deposits where logs once sat enabled an estimation of the
diameter of the logs used. Flaor joists had an average diameter of
approximately 14cm and sill logs an average diameter of 30-35m.
The four inside corners of the building were documented with the
exposure of traces of the outer sill logs. The building was approximately 45ft
or 13.2111 in length and 23R or 7m in width. These dimensions are relatively
consistent to those provided by Superintendent Wood (1 898c: 3) in his
October 1898 report to the comptroller in Dawson City. Specifically, he states
that the barrack