1916 Yukon Nuggets
Sheriff George Brimston asked the man with the noose around his neck if he had any last words. The reply, in Russian, was 'nyet'. "May God have mercy on your soul", said Brimston. The trap door was sprung. The first and only hanging in Whitehorse was carried out.
Alex Gagoff came to the Yukon in 1914 with a party of 40 Russians heading down the river to prospect for gold. He spent the summer in the Dawson area and then moved to Whitehorse in the early winter of 1915.
He worked briefly with a White Pass section gang and then went outside in the spring. He could barely speak English and often said he thought some of the men were making fun of him. In the early fall he returned to Whitehorse.
On September 30th, 1915, the five-man section crew with the White Pass railway were on their lunch break. They were working on the tracks near Ear Lake. Then Alex Gagoff came walking down the tracks. The soul survivor of the looming rampage, Arthur Wilkens, told police that someone said "here comes Alex". At that moment, a round of 30-30 rifle shots split the cool fall air.
Foreman Pat Kinslow was shot in the heart and died instantly. George Lane was shot in the leg and while he tried to tie off his wound, was shot in the head. Tom Bobconich was shot in the head. Henry Cook was shot in the chest and died later in hospital. Arthur Wilkens escaped death by hiding in the bushes.
Gagoff then walked to Whitehorse and strolled down the main street holding his rifle for all to see. He entered McPherson's drug store on Front Street where he was persuaded to give up the weapon. A short time later he was arrested by members of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. The town was in shock. All four men were known and well liked in the community.
Gagoff offered no motive for the killings. On October 22, 1915 a six-man jury found Alex Gagoff guilty of first-degree murder. Mr. Justice MacCaulley, of the Territorial Supreme court, handed down the sentence. Death by hanging to take place on March 10th, 1916. On that day, a six-man jury was selected to witness the event. Official hangman Ellis, from Ottawa, sprung the trap door. Alex Gagoff was dead.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.