1898 Yukon Nuggets
Yukon Field Force
They were a smart looking bunch. Two hundred and three men in scarlet jackets and white helmets, carrying bayonets. They marched over the tough trail through the BC interior, sailed down the Teslin and Yukon Rivers and into the history books. They were called the Yukon Field Force.
The massive influx of gold seekers trekking to the Klondike in 1898 raised alarm bells in Ottawa. The small band of Northwest Mounted Police would soon be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers...mostly foreigners heading for the Yukon interior. On March 21, 1898, the Canadian government passed an order in council to authorize the formation of the Yukon Field Force. They were made up of officers and men from the Royal Canadian rifles, the Royal Canadian dragoons and the Royal Canadian artillery.
Their final destination was Fort Selkirk which was selected as the future capital of the Yukon. When the Field Force arrived in September of 1898, they quickly set about building an impressive military-style fort. In a short time, they had constructed twelve buildings using local logs. There were three barracks, a store-house, a hospital and quartermasters stores, a bakery and, not to be missed, both officers' and sergeants' messes.
However, most of the action during those few short years of gold-rush activity was taking place in Dawson. The field force was divided between the two areas. In September of 1899, Dawson was officially made the headquarters for the Force. But the city of gold proved less difficult to police than the government expected. By June of 1900, the last of the troops was withdrawn from the Yukon.
As for the impressive fort they had built at Selkirk: once the riverboat trade on the Yukon River expanded, Fort Selkirk became an important location. It was surveyed as a townsite, with neat streets crossing first and second avenues. New buildings were constructed using the logs from the structures built by the Yukon Field Force. Thus, little of the work they did in Fort Selkirk in 1898 remains today.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.