Yukon Nuggets

1901 Yukon Nuggets

Murder in the Yukon - part two


On a Christmas day we were mushing our way, over the Dawson trail. When poet Robert Service wrote those lines, he was not referring to three men murdererd on the Dawson trail.

However, on Christmas day, 1899, that's what happened to three men who were leaving the Yukon. Fred Clayson was a gold buyer from Skagway; Ole Olsen, a telegraph lineman and Lynn Relfe, a bartender from Dawson. They had banded together to help each other on the overland winter journey to the coast.

The three had stopped at Minto Roadhouse, signed a guest book, and continued down the frigid Yukon River trail. At Hootaliqua Post, Corporal Ryan, of the NWMP, had been expecting his friend Olson for Christmas dinner. When Olsen did not arrive, Ryan began a search and made a gruesome discovery. The three men had been shot, robbed, and dumped into a hole in the ice. Ryan also found some of the stolen goods hidden nearby.

NWMP Constable Pennycuick, who had been patrolling the Yukon River, remembered seeing a man named George O'Brien in the area where the bodies of the three men were found.

O'Brien had spent time in a British jail for shooting a man. And, in the Yukon, he had spent time in jail for theft.

They took O'Brien into custody and his trial took place in Dawson in June 1901. With more than four hundred pieces of evidence, the Mountie's case against O'Brien was ironclad. He was convicted and hanged in Dawson City on August 23, 1901.

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.