Log Cabin, BC
The story of Log Cabin is told in a series of interpretive panels at the Log Cabin Rest Area, located at Km 43.9 of the South Klondike Highway, where the White Pass & Yukon Route railway (WP&YR) crosses the highway. The main part of the town was across the tracks from the rest area, on the same side of the highway - only foundation pits and garbage dumps remain.
In the days of the Klondike Gold Rush a lively community came into being here. More than 15,000 stampeders travelled along the White Pass trail, resting here after the rigours of the Summit. They were on their way to the headwaters of the Yukon River at Bennett Lake. At Bennett they built boats and continued their journey by water. It was a full day's walk with a heavy pack to Bennett from Log Cabin.
A thousand pounds of goods could only be considered a fair outfit for one man, and if the man had to carry it himself, it would take him no less than a month to do it.
The Chicago Record
The gold rush placed new demands on the existing transportation system and created opportunities for development. In May 1898 a group of British financiers backed work on a narrow-gauge railway through the White Pass from tidewater to the Yukon. Work on the 110-mile/180-km White Pass & Yukon Route was finished in July 1900. At the peak of construction more than 2,000 men worked on the railway. The company continued to be an important employer for many workers, including First Nations people, for many years.
No passenger allowed to make any remarks if the horses climb a tree, and, if the sled drops through the ice, each one must retain his seat until the bottom of the lake is reached, when all are expected to get out and walk ashore.
'Stikine Bill' Robinson, Red Line Transportation Company
Upper left - Thomas and Lilly Tugwell are shown here with friends at the Log Cabin station, about 1900.
Lower right - By late fall of 1898 the tracks reached the Summit and freight was stockpiling there at an alarming rate. The Red Line Transportation Company transported freight and passengers from the end of rail to Bennett.
The Mountain Passes
The barrier of the Coast Ranges separates the interior of the Yukon and Alaska from the Pacific Coast. There are only a small number of corridors through this natural barrier: the White Pass and the Chilkoot Pass are the most famous.
The White Pass trail - 2,865 feet/870 meters high and 24 km/15 miles from the mouth of the Skagway River - began in Skagway and led inland past this point to Bennett, British Columbia. The trail through the Chilkoot Pass - slightly higher than the White Pass - led from Dyea, at the mouth of the Taiya River, to Bennett.
The map from the panel above
First Nations people created the Chilkoot Trail as a trade and travel route, using it for countless years. Although they hunted and travelled in this area, the White Pass trail was not developed until the advent of the gold rush. Promoters advertised the White Pass, lower and less steep than the rival Chilkoot, as an easier route, suitable for pack animals and wagons. In reality, the trail was subject to severe snowstorms in winter and endless mud in the summer and was frequently impassable.
Left - During the gold rush, people struggled over the mountain passes to the headwater lakes, building boats there for the journey to the gold fields.
Centre - In winter, snow levelled the surface of the White Pass rail and marshy sections were frozen hard. Note nearby Mt. Halcyon.
Right - Skookum Jim (front), shown mining in the Klondike, was a member of the Dakhl'awedi Clan, who had ownership over the Chilkoot Trail.
Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site
The Log Cabin-Bennett trail is the most northerly section of the historic White Pass route between Skagway, Alaska and Bennett, B.C. Log Cabin lies at the perimeter of Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site. The site, which is administered by Parks Canada and the United States National Parks Service, was set up to protect the history and resources of this beautiful area. It encompasses a rich variety of natural environments, from alpine tundra to coastal rain forest.
See ExploreNorth's Chilkoot Trail page for much more information.
The Fantail Trail
In 1898 the White Pass and Yukon Route built the Fantail trail from Log Cabin to Atlin. The 45-mile/70-km sled trail was used for many years. Passengers and freight travelled on horse-drawn sleighs, while dog teams carried the mail. One enterprising butcher even drove cattle over the trail in the late spring. The Fantail Trail was only used in the winter; in the summer passengers and freight travelled to Atlin on lake steamers.
The Atlin Rush
In early August 1898, gold was discovered in Atlin, British Columbia. Hundreds of railway workers quit their jobs, collected their cheques, and rushed to Atlin, hoping to find gold. Clarence Hartshorn, seen in the lower right photo, joined the rush to Atlin in search of his fortune. He didn't find it.
Showing the Flag
At the turn of the century, Canada and the United States squabbled about the location of the Yukon-Alaska boundary in the panhandle area [see The Alaska-Canada Boundary Dispute]. Canada wanted the boundary to be as far seaward as possible. The U.S. wanted the line well inland, which would put communities like Log Cabin and Bennett on American soil. In 1898 Canada seized the initiative and established Northwest Mounted Police posts at the summits of the Chilkoot and White passes. That is still the location of the boundary today.
Customs duties were a major source of revenue during the gold rush, with thousands of people each bringing a ton of supplies. The NWMP collected customs at the summit until July 1898 when they moved to Log Cabin. The Log Cabin police post housed two officers, four constables, and a milk cow. As well as helping with the collection of customs, the NWMP carried mail, conducted patrols and prevented cruelty to animals.
We make the trail for our own use; if others wish to use it should they not compensate us for our labour?
Chilkoot Chief Klanot
There were many entrepreneurs in Log Cabin who realized they could make more money from the people on the trail than they could on the creeks of the Klondike. Thomas Tugwell established the first enterprise, the British Hostelry, in the fall of 1897. By 1898 you could buy everything from supplies and feed to five kinds of British beer. Although many stampders carried their own goods, Log Cabin also did a good business as a depot for commercial freighting.
Gold rush communities like Log Cabin were transitory; most business, like the saloon in the lower centre photo, were housed in tents. Tugwell's British Hostelry advertised itself as "the only wooden building with rooms."
One day, hearing a commotion in the house, I went to see what caused it and found a burro eating off the table and seemingly enjoying himself.
Day to Day Life
Log Cabin was a place to rest after struggling through the White Pass from Skagway. Travellers could sleep, eat, pay duty and buy supplies inn the settlement. It was a constant jumble of activity: full of horses, dogs, mules and people. There was an unceasing flow of freight through the community: some stacked up ready to be inspected, some loaded on pack animals, some carried on the backs of tired stampeders.
My riding habit was not very elaborate, being a short skirt, rubber boots, and cowboy hat. I do not like horseback riding nearly as much as in a comfortable buggy, but would like to see a horse and bugy go where we went in the next three days.
Mrs. Hartshorn, cook at the Kittitas Restaurant (seen in the lower right photo)
Picking berries in the Log Cabin area continues as a tradition of the Southern Lakes aboriginal peoples. Groups of women, children and elders gather here in late summer to pick blueberries and lowbush cranberries. Each family returns to their berry patch each year. Traditionally people walked. Once the railway was built they came here by rail or, after the highway was built in the 1970s, by car.
The railway delivered our groceries to the berry camp. We really had something going with the railway.
The First Nations people of the Southern Lakes area have hunted and harvested in this area for many thousands of years. People still have close ties to the land. Life continues as a seasonal round of activities; hunting caribou and moose in the fall, ice-fishing and trapping in the winer, fishing and snaring small game in the spring and harvesting berries and plants in the summer.
I was too small to shoot the gun I guess so I got to set snares. It was more fun to set snares. I did the night check after supper.