Yukon Nuggets

  • Cover of a booklet written by McQuesten.

1988 Yukon Nuggets

Leroy Napoleon “Jack” McQuesten (1836-1909) FATHER OF THE YUKON


He was in the Yukon long before almost anyone knew where the territory was, long before it was a territory, for that matter. Leroy "Jack" McQuesten rightly earned the nickname, Father of the Yukon.

He was born in New Hampshire in 1836. He worked on a Puget Sound-based schooner owned by his older brother. That’s where he got the nickname, "Jack", which was later prefixed with the title "Captain." And why not - when he entered the Yukon district, McQuesten skippered one of the first steamboats that plied the Yukon River.

In 1874, McQuesten established Fort Reliance, six miles down the Yukon river from what would later become Dawson City. He used Reliance as his trading post for about a decade. While there, he made the first recording of Yukon weather in 1880-81. In 1879, McQuesten was hired by the Hudson's Bay Company to manage their trading posts. In 1893, he founded Circle City, Alaska.

McQuesten was one of the first white men to marry a native Athabascan woman in the Yukon Alaska district – Katherine McQuesten. He proudly told his relatives in the southern United States how much he loved his dark-skinned children. McQuesten came into the country with his partners, Arthur Harper and Al Mayo. They established trading posts at Stewart City, Fort Reliance, Forty Mile, Eagle, Circle City, and Fort Yukon, and McQuesten’s patience with native trappers became legendary. The trading posts also served as meeting places.

Before the Mounties arrived in the Yukon, McQuesten, Harper or Mayo presided over miners’ meetings. This is where the law was established and enforced in the mining camps. At the post in Forty Mile in 1894, the Alaskan and Yukon Order of Pioneers were formed, with Captain Jack McQuesten as the first President.

As a businessman, McQuesten did well. His philosophy was that if everyone is digging for gold, someone has to sell them the shovels. After twenty-five years in the North, he could afford to move his family into a palatial Victorian home at Berkeley, California, and educate his children in the best schools. Leroy Jack McQueston died in 1909 and his wife Katherine in 1921.


A tributary of the Yukon River is named the McQuesten River. The area also features the McQuesten Mineral Belt. Yukon Jack, the 100-proof Canadian whiskey is said to be named after McQuesten. Leroy “Jack” McQuesten was also inducted into the Yukon Prospectors’ Association’s Hall of Fame in1988. His name is engraved on the goldseeker statue in Whitehorse.



A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.