Yukon Nuggets

1902 Yukon Nuggets



Sometimes national anthems have a tough time catching on. Take O’Canada. It was written first in French in 1880 and translated into English in 1908. Since then, the English version has been revised many times. Who knows what the words to our national anthem may be in 2067, our second centennial.

Still, patriotism knows no bounds. In Dawson City, they took love of country to new heights in 1902 when Gene Allen, the fiesty editor of the Klondike Nugget, decided it was time for Yukoners to show their patriotism.

The newspaper sponsored a contest for the best song submission in praise of the Yukon. On February 10th, Allen announced the winner of the fifty dollar prize. The song was written by Emogene Coleman with music by Arthur Boyle and debuted at a chorale concert at which Boyle was the choir director and Coleman was one of the singers.

The Nugget reported that "the song made a deep impression upon everyone who heard it and the song was so characteristic of the Yukon that it will undoubtably live for as long as the Yukon is capable of maintaining a population."

The rival paper, the Dawson Daily News was also lavish in its praise saying

"It is doubtful if anyone present was conscious of any feeling but one of sincere admiration and the applause at the end of the five stanzas was as spontaneous and noisy as that heard at the political meetings in the same hall a few days ago. Emogene Coleman was shy, and hesitated to come forward until the applause reached a crescendo when Mr. Boyle took her hand and moved her to centre stage."

The Daily News went on to predict that "without doubt the song will soon be as familiar to the ear of residents of the Yukon as are the strains of the Maple Leaf Forever."

So what were the words of this long forgotten Yukon anthem called Yukona. Here is the first verse.

"All hail, all hail the Yukon, Mighty, rich and glorious, We seeking came, Content remain, O’er fiercest gale victories."

And what did the long forgotten Yukon anthem sound like in the Arctic Brotherhood Hall on February 10th, 1902.

Here, from a contemporary CD of Klondike songs called The Music of the Alaska/Klondike Gold Rush, is a portion of Yukona, sung by the Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre.

Part of the winning song Yukona in the 1902 Klondike Nugget song contest that won the 50-dollar prize for Emogene Coleman and Arthur Boyle. However, Yukona seems not to have become the Yukon anthem so boldly predicted by both Dawson City newspapers in the winter of 1902.

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.