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The Unsung Hero: Charles S. Harper, RCMP

In the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse is the small, rugged granite headstone of "Srgt. C.S. Harper, R.C.M.Police". The obituary that follows was published in the Dawson Daily News on the afternoon of his death, and provides a glimpse at the degree of respect that the community had for Mounted Police Sergeant Charles Sydney Harper, whose service to his adopted country cut his life very short, at the age of 41.

Headstone of Sergeant Charles Harper, RCMP, at Whitehorse Pioneer Cemetery

Dawson Daily News

Dawson, Yukon Territory         December 11, 1922

    Capt. E. Telford, commander of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for Yukon, received a wire from Whitehorse advising him that Sergeant Charles S. Harper died at 10:15 this morning in the Whitehorse hospital, where he was resting, on his way outside for medical treatment.
    Sergeant Harper was taken with a bad turn at 3 a. m., and Captain Telford was notified by wire of the fact and that the sergeant was not expected to live many hours. The second telegram, announcing his death, followed within a half hour.
    Sergeant Charles Sydney Harper was born in England in 1881. He joined the Northwest Mounted Police in 1900, and served in the Medicine Hat division. He was transferred to the Peace River division, and was promoted to staff sergeant. In the fall of 1915 he took his discharge from the force and enlisted in the 138th battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, at Edmonton. In the spring of 1916 he went overseas with the battalion, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Belcher, an old-time Yukoner and Mounted Police officer.
    Sergeant Harper served two years with the colors in France, during which time he saw a great deal of hard fighting. He was wounded and gassed, and was invalided to England for treatment. On leaving the hospital he received his discharge from the army on account of his wounds, and in 1917 he rejoined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police force. He came to the Yukon in 1918.
    Sergeant Harper made a large number of friends while in Dawson. He had a genial disposition and a warm, sincere personality which impressed those who came in contact with him. He had charge of the town station here, and later was transferred to Mayo and Keno City. He left the Mayo district on account of poor health, returning to Dawson last summer.
    It was thought that the sergeant would regain his health in Dawson, and for a time he appeared to do so, but in the early part of the winter he began to fail, and then he decided to go outside. He left here on the overland stage November 22. On arriving at Whitehorse he was so poorly that he decided to wait over a few days to rest.
    Sergeant Harper was the founder of the G. W. V. A. in Dawson, and was elected treasurer here in the first year of the organization's existence.

The headline for this article is a scan of the original.

When Sergeant Harper rejoined the Force in 1918, it was actually called the Royal North West Mounted Police; it did not become the Royal Canadian Mounted Police until 1919.

The G. W. V. A. was the Great War Veterans' Association, which grew to become the Canadian Legion.

To more Yukon-Alaska Pioneer Biographies

Policing in the North

Photograph of Sergeant Harper's grave is © by Murray Lundberg