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Captain Patrick J. "Paddy" Martin, 1890-1940

Arctic & Northern Biographies

The Whitehorse Star (Whitehorse, Yukon Territory) - Friday, June 7, 1940

    It was with profound regret that the news was circulated around town on Tuesday afternoon that Captain P. Martin had passed away at the local hospital shortly after 3 p.m.

    For sometime past Captain Martin had been in indifferent health and three weeks ago last Saturday he entered the Whitehorse General Hospital for medical treatment. Everything that was humanly possible was done for him and although his passing was to some extent anticipated it nevertheless came as a distinct shock when it occurred. Captain Paddy Martin, Whitehorse

    For many years past the 'Skipper' as he was affectionately termed, has been an outstanding figure in this community. His rugged individuality made of him a veritable institution and what a wealth of local lore and happenings he possessed to be sure. Both old and young alike had for him the highest regard, amounting in some instances to real affection. From one end of the Territory to the other his name was familiar and his popularity well maintained.

    During his long residence in the north Captain Martin was actively engaged in commercial undertakings of one sort and another. At one time he operated at Conrad when that place was considered a flourishing mining town in the making. Trading under the style of The Arctic Trading Co., he opened one of the first stores to be established in Whitehorse upon the site now occupied by the spacious store of The Northern Commercial Co. Ltd. Years later, when he disposed of this undertaking and was ready to settle down and "take it easy" he found it too monotonous and so secured the store from the late Mr. Hamacker, the well-known photographer of the early days, which he has occupied and operated up to the time of his demise. His native wit and quaint philosophy, coupled with his penchant for fraternizing with all with whom he came in personal contact made his store the favorite rendezvous in town. There on occasion one could hear almost every subject under the sun discussed with more or less gusto and sometimes interspersed with heated arguments upon some controversial subject. An "atmosphere" pervaded "Capt. Martin's store" which was not in evidence elsewhere and the reason for this was to be found in the fact that the "Skipper", as he was affectionately termed, could always be relied upon either to start a discussion on his own account or inveigle others into starting an argument while he sat back and quietly "watched the fun."

    To hear Captain Martin narrate the outstanding episodes in his long and adventurous life was indeed a favour and as impressive as it was instructive. And now that voice is hushed and that quaint mannerism so familiar to us all becomes but a memory. To Capt. Martin belongs the unique distinction of bringing the first big steamer to come up river from St. Michael to Whitehorse. This was the Canadian, built in Victoria in 1898. Captain Martin navigated her from her home port to St. Michael, Alaska, where a river pilot was taken on board and the steamboat brought through the waters of the mighty Yukon up to Whitehorse.

    Having passed the allotted span of three score years and ten Captain Martin passed, in his 76th year, to his great reward beloved by all. And with the history of the Yukon his name will ever be associated.

    To his sorrowing widow and the members of his family who are left to mourn his loss is expressed the deepest and sincerest sympathy of us all.

    The remains after being embalmed were shipped, yesterday to Victoria, B.C., where they will be interred in accordance with the expressed wishes of the deceased.

Yukon sternwheeler 'Canadian'

The Whitehorse Star (Whitehorse, Yukon Territory) - Thursday, October 30, 1958

    Early days in Whitehorse were recalled recently in an interview published in the Niagara Falls Review. Subject of the nostalgic interlude was W. S. Martin, QC, noted lawyer of the Niagara District. His father was steamboat Captain Paddy Martin.

    Mr. Martin, who was born in Whitehorse in 1903, lived in the Yukon until his elementary and secondary sehool education at Whitehorse and further studies at Mount Angel College in St. Benedict, Oregon.

    He graduated trom St. Michael's College and the University of Toronto, prior to entering Osgoode Hall and his call to the bar in Ontario.

    "From a boy's point of view, the Yukon is the ideal place to grow up - it affords limitless experience in outdoor life," said Mr. Martin in describing cold clear glacier-fed lakes nestled among the mountains of the territory, its millions of wild flowers, and the clear blue northern sky so often called "the gateway to space."

    "The scenery is magnificent on river trips," he said, "you never get tired of it. And when the leaves turn in late August, the countryside presents an almost unbelievable sight. They remain among my happiest recollections of the Yukon," he asserted.

    Mr. Martin's father, the late Captain Paddy Martin, originally a Newfoundlander, operated the steam vessel "The Canadian" on the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson for many years.

    Whitehorse, the home of the Martins, was a town of about 350 people at that time.

    Mr. Martin's first job was as a "printer's devil" with the Whitehorse Star. He worked on his father's vessel each summer while enrolled at the Oregon and Ontario colleges.

Many Activities

    Baseball was his most popular sports activity recalls Mr. Martin. Senior teams from Alaska journeyed to the Yukon annually for a two-day series with teams from Yukon communities. On the fourth of July, the Yukon groups would go to Skagway to meet teams from Alaskan towns, in a reciprocal move.

    Tennis, snow-shoeing, dog-driving and fishing all went to round out the extra-curricular activities of the youths of the Yukon, Mr. Martin related. "Hunting was tops on the list," he said. "When rabbits and grouse were plentiful, you could shoot 50 to 60 every day. They were never wasted though - they were always stored for food - usually in the 'natural refrigerator' of the snows atop sheds."

Good Hunting

    "Moose were also plentiful in the hills surrounding Whitehorse," he asserted. "Meat was usually brought in by the Indian hunters and sold to the towntolk for five to ten cents a pound, as I recall."

    Arctic Grayling, a small fish weighing from ½ to two lbs. was fished for in the Yukon River," states Mr. Martin. "We used a light bamboo rod with four flies on the leader. When they're biting you could get a fish on every cast, two fish on every fifth or sixth cast, and not infrequently, four fish would seize the four flies on the leader as it hit the water."

    "The Yukon is bountiful with fish and game," said Mr. Martin. "It is hard to grasp this idea unless you remember that the territory in almost as large as Texas, 207,076 square miles, and only 3,000-people inhabited the entire area at that time. There are only 12,190 inhabitants now," he said.

Patriotic Area

    "During World War I," he noted, "the Yukon sent more men per capita, and spent more money per capita, than any like region in Canada. A frequent visitor to our home was Corporal Pearkes of the Royal North West Mounted Police. He enlisted as a private in the first war, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel at the termination of hostilities. During the Second World War our former house guest attained the rank of lieutenant-general," he said. "He now serves in the federal cabinet as minister of national defence - he is Lieut-General G. R. Pearkes, V.C, D.S.O., M.C.

    I also see from time to time two qentlemen who are of the Anglican Church in Whitehorse, the Rev. Cecil Swanson who is now dean of St. Paul's in Toronto and one of the finest after-dinner speakers I know, Rev. C. R. Nicoll, now minister of the Presbyterian Church at Oakville.

    "We also had a Roman Catholic Church and the First Church of Christ Scientist at Whitehorse," he said.

    "In thinking back to the days when I worked as a mess boy on the SS. Dawson plying the waters of the Yukon River," said Mr. Martin, "I recall that the first mate of the ship had also been the first mate of my father's vessel, The Canadian, when he purchased the steamer in 1898."

    Although I thoroughly enjoyed boating in the rugged beauty of the northland," said Mr. Martin, "it was adventure tinged with tragedy for the entire crew of 24, except for myself and the 2nd cook, took their last passage on the ill-fated CPR liner Princess Sophia in what was the greatest marine disaster in the Pacific Northwest."

    "Years later, the Chinese second cook operated a restaurant in Seattle where I visited when the opportunity prevailed," Mr. Martin noted, "and each time and every time I was royally received by my former shipmate."

RCMP Barracks

    "I recall the large barracks square of the Royal North West Mounted Police at Whitehorse," continued Mr. Martin, "about 20 log buildings with the mounties' drill and parade area in the centre. They were all fine men and maintained the finest traditions of their splendid force. They were extremely popular in the community, and always in demand at teas, dances and other social functions."

    Captain Patrick Joseph Martin was buried at Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, British Columbia.

    There is some confusion about Captain Martin's family life. Captain Martin married 24-year-old Winnifred Ann Bradshaw on October 14, 1895, in Victoria, BC. At Ancestry.ca, they are recorded as having 2 daughters: Mary Irene Martin, born on August 15, 1896, in Victoria; and Evelyn Sybil Martin, born in 1907 in Whitehorse, Yukon. From the pages of the Star, however, we see that they had a son and a daughter: son W. S. Martin was born in Whitehorse in 1903; and daughter Katherine B. Martin was born in Whitehorse.