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Willard Leroy Phelps (1867-1951)

Highlights of History from The Whitehorse Star

The Whitehorse Pioneer Cemetery

The Whitehorse Star - Friday, March 30, 1951

Headline: W. L. Phelps, Oldtimer of the North, Passes Suddenly, 1951

    The sudden passing of Mr. W. L. Phelps, K. C. last Tuesday evening was a great shock to his many friends in the Yukon.

    Born in Merriton Ontario in 1867, Mr. Phelps left Merriton in 1898 to try his luck in the Klondike Gold Rush. He came into the Yukon via Telegraph Creek, camping for the winter 40 miles from Teslin. He proceeded to Atlin B.C where he stayed for one year from 1899 arriving in Whitehorse in 1900. He spent a few months of the spring of 1900 at Dawson were he met Capt. George Black.

    After settling in Whitehorse he established a law office here and took an active part in civic affairs. He was instrumental in assisting in the establishment of the North Star Civic Centre Association in 1900. In 1908 he was elected Yukon Councillor for Whitehorse and served in this capacity until 1944. It was at the height of his career that he was made a K.C. in 1923.

    In partnership with T. C. Richards they established the Klondike Airways, and in 1927 acquired the mail contract to haul the mail by caterpillar tractor over the old Dawson Trail between Dawson and Whitehorse. This lasted until 1936.

    Going back a few years, he assumed managership of the Yukon Electrical Company in 1904 when the Company was owned by a Mr. Wylie, Mr. Jack French and Mr. Fred Gray. Mr Phelps purchased the shares of Mr. Wylie in 1914 and later the shares of Mr. French, assuming control of the company. In 1949 he established the Yukon Hydro Co., and served as president until his death. He was also Yukon Agent for the Phoenix Insurance Co.. and the Liverpool and Globe Insurance Co.

    The funeral was held from the Old Log Church in Whitehorse today. Many of his old friends paid last respects to a man who had accomplished much in his life, and worked hard for the Yukon.

    He leaves his wife, one son, John and one daughter, Mrs. Dorothy Scott, one older brother and a sister in Merriton, Ontario.