ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth

Alphonse and Eugene LaRose Drown in Whitehorse Rapids, 1908

    On June 20, 1908, brothers "Gene" and "Al" LaRose drowned in the rapids on the Yukon River just above Whitehorse when their canoe filled with water and flipped. They had been doing a trial run to see if running a large raft of lumber through was reasonable. They are buried in what is now called the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, though their graves are unmarked.

    Five years earlier, in 1903, Gene was running the Whitehorse Rapids for sport on a regular basis. On May 17th, though, his Peterborough canoe swamped, and passengers Bud Harkin, owner of the Windsor Hotel, and waitress Lila Wallace were drowned. Wallace was buried in what is now called the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, while Harkin's body was shipped to Marshfield, Wisconsin, for burial in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

The Weekly Star

Whitehorse, Y. T.

Friday, June 26, 1908

    All Whitehorse was plunged into mourning last Saturday evening about 7:30 o'clock by the startling news that both Alphonse and Eugene Larose had lost their lives in the historic Whitehorse Rapids a mile above town.

    The news was brought to town by Harry G. Dickson who, accompanied by his wife, was fishing in the river at a point just below the rapids.

    In five minutes after the news of the disaster reached town over one hundred men were on the way up the river, several crossing on the ferry and going up on the side opposite town. A little later a number of small boats were rowing up and one of these, its course being directed by E. A. Dixon, was instrumental in locating the lifeless body of Eugene, the younger of the drowned brothers, on a bar nearly a quarter of a mile below the rapids. This was shortly after 9 o'clock but at that time the body had been in the water fully an hour and a half. It was brought to the morgue and later prepared for burial and taken to the home of Will Larose, another brother, on Main street and kept there until the funeral on Tuesday.

How Drowning Occurred

    The circumstances leading up to tho deplorable accident were as follows: "Gene," the younger of the brothers, was operating a sawmill on Windy Arm and had brought a raft containing 45,000 feet of lumber to the head of Miles Canyon where be tied it up on Wednesday of last week and came on to town for the purpose of securing his brother "Al," an experienced canyon and rapids pilot, to assist him in bringing it through to this place. "Al" had been employed all spring with the bridge gang on the railroad spur and after quitting work Saturday evening met "Gene" at the head of the canyon for the purpose of coming through the canyon and rapids in a canoe to see if the water was sufficiently high to permit of bringing the raft of lumber through. The trip through the canyon and Squaw Rapids was safely made and the two men were seen and spoken to a quarter of a mile above Whitehorse Rapids by D. Macaulay who was fishing. The next seen of them was when Mr. Dickson and his wife heard hollering and glancing at the lower end of the rapids saw the two men struggling in the water, both of them sinking before assistance could be more than thought of. Their canoe had filled and sank in the raging rapids.

Search For "Al's" Body

    Nearly ever since the accident happened continuous search has been vigorously prosecuted for "Al's" body. The river has been patrolled by small boats and gasolene launches but to no avail. Powder has also been used in the eddies below the rapids but all efforts to bring the body to the surface have so far failed. In the opinion of many the body has been carried down the river and will be eventually found on the flats near the head of Lake Lebarge.

"Gene's" Funeral

    The funeral of "Gene" Larose took place from the Catholic church Tuesday morning at 9 o'clock and was very largely attended by friends of the stricken family. The exercises consisted oi the Requiem Mass, the highest rite of the church. In the beautiful and impressive ceremony Rev. Father Lebert was assisted by Rev. Father Ed. Lecompte, S. J., a high apostle of the church who arrived here Monday evening with his secretary and two novitiate brothers, on the way down the Yukon on a tour of inspection of all the Catholic churches and missions of Alaska and Yukon. Interment was in the local cemetery. The pallbearers were Joseph McKinnon, Frank Dumontier, Joseph Beauchamp, Thos. Sweet, Patrick Campbell and A. E. Perreault. Geo. W. Wilson served in the capacity of undertaker.

Family of the Dead Brothers

    "Al" and "Gene" Larose were born and raised at Masson, Quebec, being members of a family of nine children, six boys and three girls, all of whom grew to manhood and womanhood. "Al" would have been 38 years old on the 14th of July while "Gene" was 25 on the 8th of last April. The former leaves a heartbroken wife and sweet little girl, the latter being just one year and ten days old on the day of her father's death. "Gene" was unmarried. Other members of the family here are an older brother, Will Larose, and wife and a sister, Miss Maggie Larose, the latter being the accommodating and popular assistant postmistress. The father, aged 68 years, and mother, aged 64, still reside with the youngest daughter at the old home in Quebec. Other brothers and a sister are married and live near the old home while the youngest son, Fred, just younger than "Gene," is in Winnipeg.

Were Beloved By All

    Neither "Al" or "Gene" Larose were known to have an enemy in the country. Honorable, generous, peaceful and hardworking, they were the stamp of men who make many friends and no enemies and their sudden taking off is most keenly deplored by all who knew them. To the now prostrate wife and prattling infant, the brother and sisters here, the aged parents and other brothers and sisters back at the old home is extended the true and sincere sympathy of a mourning community.