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Grainger and Joyce killed at Copper King Mine, 1907

Arctic & Northern Biographies

Highlights of History from The Whitehorse Star

The Weekly Star (Whitehorse, Y.T. - Friday, May 10, 1907)

FRIGHTFUL ACCIDENT. William P. Grainger and Gilbert Joyce Dead as Result of Fire Damp in Shaft of Copper King Mine - Mantle of Gloom Hangs over Whitehorse as Result of First Mine Disaster - 1907

"In the midst of life we are in death."

    Today a mantle of gloom is spread over Whitehorse such as has never before in her history been unfolded.

    William P. Grainger and Gilbert Joyce are both dead, the result of what is known among miners as "black damp." The two men met death yesterday shortly before 12 o'clock in the southwesterly shaft of the Copper King mine four miles out from Whiteborse.

    The circumstances surrounding this, the most deplorable happening in the history of Southern Yukon are as follows:

    For some days previous to yesterday a fire had been in the shaft in which no work had been done for several years, for the purpose of thawing out a thick coating of ice which encased its sides for the purpose of putting it in condition for inspection by Mining Expert W. H. Wiley who is here for the Pennsylvania Syndicate which lately bonded the property at a good price, a fair cash payment having already been made to Mr. Grainger.

    At between 11:30 and 12 o'clock yesterday Grainger and Joyce left the messhouse for the purpose of investigating the results of the fire which had been kept going in the shaft for a few days previous. As they did not return to the messhouse for dinner Forman M. H. Gilliam, on finishing his dinner, went to the shaft to see what was the matter and, after calling down the shaft, which is but 50 feet deep, and receiving no answer, he started down the ladder. He had gone but a few feet when he scented the deadly fumes. He immediately retraced his steps and gave the alarm. One of the men was hurriedly sent to for a doctor and others at the camp to the number of a dozen or fifteen, went to work at pumping the gas from the shaft.

    It was 2 o'clock before the shaft could be entered. The body of Joyce was found lying in the bottom of the shaft while that of Grainger was near the foot of the ladder to which he was clinging wilb a death grip.

    By means of ropes and willing hands the bodies were quickly hoisted to the surface. By this time Dr. Pare was on the ground but 45 minutes of most strenuous work and appliance of the remedies known to medical skill and science failed to revive the inanimate bodies.

    In the meantime the news of the accident had reached town and it was a sad and mouroful crowd that met the wagon which arrived with the bodies at 4:30 o'clock. They were taken to their respective homes where the cause of death was officially investigated by Dr. Pare, Royal N. W. M. P. The body of each man was found to be bruised in several places and two of Grainger's ribs were broken, indicating that the gas overcame them while on the ladder, causing them to fall and striking on the bottom is supposed to have sufficiently aroused Grainger to enable him to attempt to start back up the ladder before being finally overcome.

    While no definite arrangements for the funerals have been made it is probable that both will be held tomorrow and that intermant will be in the Whitehorse cemetery.


    Gilbert Joyce, the younger of the unfortunate men, leaves a wife and beautiful baby girl, the latter being six months old yesterday. Mrs. Joyce had just had their baby photographed at Hamacher's gallery and came out on the street when she was imformed of the heartrending news that made her a widow and her baby an orphan. Mr. Joyce had just completed paying for his cozy little home in the western part of town. He went to work at the Copper King only four days previous to his death. He was from Newfoundland to which place he returned about 20 months ago returning with his bride, now his widow. A brother of deceased is here and is employed at the shipyards. He was 30 years of age.


    The other unfortunate victim of yesterday's disaster was William P. Grainger who was born in Kentucky from 46 to 50 years ago. He was a typical Kentuckian, intensely impetuous but generous to a degree that amounted to extravagance in his willingness to aid and assist others.

    In 1899 Mr. Grainger acquired an interest in the Copper King mine with the original staker, Jack McIntyre, who was drowned at Taku Arm while carrying mail between Log Cabin and Atlin four years ago. Grainger was the most ardent believer in a "Greater Whitehorse" the country has ever known and for nine long years he worked his property as his means would permit, always and continuously boosting the camp and predicting for it a glorious future. And now, just as his fondest anticipations were being realized, he is taken to that bourne from whence none return.

    Mr. Grainger has not a relative living that is known of by his most intimate friends.


    Both the victims of the sad accident will be greatly missed in Whitehorse where both were so well and favorably known.

    To Mrs. Joyce and ber fatherless babe is extended the united and heartfelt sympathy of a sorrowing community, while around the memory of W. P. Grainger will ever hover a deep and lasting reverence. He was the greatest advocate and believer in our camp's future that ever honored it with his presence and unswerving loyalty.

The Weekly Star (Whitehorse, Y.T. - Friday, May 17, 1907)

 - 1907

    All Whitehorse truly mourned last Saturday, the sad day being the occasion of the funeral and burial of William P. Grainger and Gilbert Joyce, the two men who lost their lives through being overcome by black damp in a shaft at the Copper King mine about noon of the preceding Thursday.

    At 2 o'clock Saturday afternoon all the business houses in town were closed and at 2 the bodies were taken from their respective residences to the Presbyterian church where impressive services were conducted by Rev. Turkington, assisted by Rev Cody. The church was thronged to the doors and numbers were unable to get in.

    After the services practically the whole town followed the bodies to the local cemetery where the services were concluded by Rev. Cody.

    The floral offerings were profuse for the season, many natural flowers having been sent from Skagway. A special choir of fourteen voices rendered music for the occasion. The pallbearers were:

    For W. P. Grainger - Harry Baxter, J. P. Whitney, Geo. Armstrong, J. M. Murray, Samuel McGee, Inspector Fitz Horrigan.

    For Gilbert Joyce - J. Saint, W. Mooreside, Capt S. Martin, Daniel Gillis, Chas French, Lloyd Hicks.

    Today (2020), the grave of Gilbert Joyce at what is now called the Pioneer Cemetery has a headstone, that of William Grainger does not.

    Although Mount Granger and the Granger subdivision were named to honour William Grainger, both are spelled incorrectly.