This great territory is one of the farthest north and most remote from the chief centres of Canadian civilization. Its marvellous development in so short a time is a sort of guarantee of the possibilities and prospects of all the territories that lie between.
The Yukon territory may be described as including all the Canadian territory lying north of British Columbia’s boundary, and west of the Rocky Mountains. Its area is about two hundred thousand square miles, classing it with the largest of Canadian territories.
Prior to 1896 the Yukon territory was a veritable terra incognita and popularly regarded as a region of almost perpetual cold and devoid of vegetation or value. This ignorance concerning its true character largely resulted from its isolated position. Few white people penetrated the depths of its solitude. With the opening up, however, of the country, upon the discovery of gold on the Klondike and other rivers, much of this ignorance and isolation has been removed. It seems almost incredible that such changes as have been witnessed there could take place in so short a period.
Lieut. Schwatka, when passing down the Yukon River as late as 1883, remarked that the present site of Dawson City would make a good grazing place for cattle if the mosquitoes would not eat them up, to which Major Woodside aptly replies : ” The cattle graze on the hillside now, and there are not as many mosquitoes in Dawson in summer as there are in the city of Chicago. From a mosquito haunted muskeg in 1896 the city of Dawson has grown up like magic, and is now a place of probably eight to ten thousand inhabitants. It has broad sidewalks, well-graded streets, an excellent system of drains, electric lights, telephone system, telegraph system, north and south, and many fine buildings, some of brick and a number of warehouses.
“All the principal denominations are represented and have commodious churches. There are banks, excellent stores, while wharves and water fronts are the termini of many lines of steamers running both north and south. There are saw-mills, planing mills, brick yards, electric light and power plants, showing an investment of an immense sum of money. Dawson City has three daily newspapers and, indeed, all the advantages. of an up-to-date city.”
Moreover, it is still a busy and flourishing city, and when one considers its extreme youth its present development is nothing short of marvellous. Of course, this extraordinary development is the result of extraordinary conditions, and apart from the gold discoveries the population would have been very slow in reaching that distant section of our country, but as a gold producing country it will likely be permanent, and the, population now there will in all probability continue to increase. The country, now that it is opened up, will doubtless continue to develop. Other minerals will be mined, and doubtless agriculture, to some extent, will be followed.
Some $110,000,000 worth of gold has been produced since 1896. This enormous sum is an indication of the mineral wealth of the Yukon, yet it represents but the scratchings of a more permanent source of wealth, the gold-bearing quartz veins from whence it came. The mountain torrents and creeks have acted as nature’s stamp mill by grinding together boulders from the surface of the veins till the gold has been freed from the quartz. Thus, placer mining is essentially of a superficial and temporary character, but though the diggings of California and Australia have long been a mere matter of history, the quartz veins found and operated as a consequence are yet yielding a far greater and increasing quantity of gold annually. It takes a considerable amount of time and money to develop lode mines, and in the meantime there may be a diminished output of placer gold from the Yukon, but who can say what its future will be when the mother lodes have been opened up and the vast, and at present unproductive; areas of low-grade gravel have been subjected to hydraulic mining. The future of the Yukon is still before it, and its varied mineral resources will not be exhausted for generations.
As to the other mineral deposits of the Yukon) territory, good authority has the following to say : ” Another product of the country that demands attention is copper. It is doubtless to be found some-where in that district in great abundance, although the location of the main deposits has yet to be discovered.
“Silver has also been found, and lead, and in addition, to profitably work out precious metals, we have coal in abundance. It is to be found in the Rocky Mountains, or rather the ridges of high mountains running parallel to them in the interior. A deposit of coal in this range runs right through our territory. At two points near Forty Mile it crops out prominently ; in one place about three-quarters of a mile from the Yukon River. Farther up the Yukon, on one of its many smaller feeders, at Fifteen Mile Creek, and on the head of the Trondik, there are also outcroppings of coal. A short distance above this it crops out again, only eight miles from the Yukon, and whenever the Cone Hill Mine is operated the coal to work it with is only some four-teen or fifteen miles distant from the scene of operations. About thirty miles farther up, on one of the small affluents of the Yukon, it again crops out a few miles from the bank of the main river. On the branches of the Stewart, and on some of Five Fingers of the Yukon coal is also exposed. In fact, there is any amount of coal in the country with which to work our minerals when we can get in the necessary facilities.”
More recently coal has been found close to Dawson City on the Yukon River. The deposit is right on the bank and can be run from the mine onto scows without two handlings. Goal is now being actually mined and shipped, but statistics are not available as yet as to output.
Many eminent men who have visited the country and are quite qualified to judge have expressed their faith in the permanency. of the gold deposits and other forms of wealth in this territory. The words of Major Woodside may be regarded as a representative opinion in this regard. He says : ” Its permanency does not seem to be doubted by those shrewd financial men who freely invested their money in various kinds of permanent enterprises on the strength of an assured future.”
The prospect of a permanent and growing population gives the question of climate and agriculture considerable importance, and in both respects this wonderful country of the north has greatly surprised the world. So much has been said concerning its climate that little need now be told. The winters, of course, are cold, but the general testimony is that they are no harder to withstand than those of other parts of the North-West ; but It is the summer climate of Yukon in which we are the most interested. During the summer months the climate is all that could be desired, and whatever lands the gold-seekers have come from they have all expressed their satisfaction with the splendid summer conditions of the country. The following is a sample : ” Everything is in bloom. I never saw such a beautiful climate in my life. The days are warm and long ; the sun rises at 2.30 a.m. and sets at 10 p.m. The thermometer climbs up to 80° and 90° above, but no one seems to mind it, and the nights are lovely and cool. It is dry and hot, and we haven’t had a rainy day yet, and I don’t believe we will see any either. We have slept outdoors for three weeks now, And we wouldn’t bother putting up a tent, as there is no dew at all. I never saw so many beautiful wild flowers in my life. I only wish I could send you a bouquet of wild roses I am wearing tonight.”
This territory, it goes without saying, can never be preeminent as an agricultural country, however favorable the climate. In the pursuit of this industry the comparatively small percentage of good soil and insufficiency of moisture are not favorable features. A limited agricultural population, however, could easily be sustained, and as the bulk of the population of the Yukon will likely be employed in mining, those who do devote themselves to farming should find it profitable, as their products will always be in demand. The experiments of the past have been so encouraging that Mr. Acklin, who has been experimenting on behalf of the Government, speaks of the agricultural possibilities as follows : ” There are large bodies of good land capable of producing crops in that section. The vegetables planted consist of onions, radishes, turnips, rutabagas, lettuce, cabbage, peas, beans, spinach, beets, potatoes and parsley. All these did well and yielded almost phenomenal crops.” Mr. Acklin experimented with the different grains and the results are highly gratifying. Of these there are royal six-row barley, Canadian Thorp barley, Trooper barley, Odessa six-rowed barley, Bannamon oats, Preston, Ladoga, Percy, white and red Fife wheat, all sown May 22nd. It seems quite evident, therefore, that agriculture, to a considerable extent, can be carried on in this far northern section of the Dominion.
The fact that it is possible to live and grow rich in the, Yukon Territory, over fifteen hundred miles north of the most southern part of Canada, has been a revelation to Canadians. A few years ago no one dreamed that there would ever be any settlement in that extreme northwest corner of Canada, even centuries hence. There is no doubt that the development of the Yukon will greatly increase Canadian confidence in the future of many uninhabited sections of the Dominion more than a thousand miles south of Dawson City.
” The days of pessimism have passed away and Canadians in general now believe that the Dominion is destined to have a great future, but they do not yet fully understand how wide the habitable area of Canada really is.” Towards the development of this great land the present century will be devoted.