Dawson City, Yukon Friday, June 28, 1996

Feature Stories

Celebration and Renewal at St. Mary's

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

"If the Lord does not build a house, then in vain do the builders labour."
- hymn by Dan Schutte, S.J., adapted from Psalm 27 and Jeremiah 9

The Rededication of the Church of St Mary of the Immaculate Conception became a community event in the best way on June 12, beginning with a pot-luck supper and continuing with the service itself and a social time after.

Bishop Thomas Lobsinger, o.m.i., presided over the service in a packed sanctuary, assisted by the local priest, Father Tim Coonen, o.m.i.

Saint Mary's, the third building in Dawson to bear that name, has been in continuous service for the Roman Catholic Church since it was first constructed as a school in 1904, and has served as a place of worship since the 1920s. The Catholics have had a presence in Dawson for the last 99 years, lead here by the vision of Father William Judge, S.J., who had already established a church at Forty Mile during the rush there, moved his mission to Dawson within a year of the discovery of gold on Bonanza Creek.

The original Saint Mary's was a log structure in Dawson's north end near the hospital which Judge also founded. It burned almost immediately and was replaced by a frame structure which lasted until the mid-20s, when the congregation was moved to its current home, which had been built as a school in 1904. Of the present structure it must be said that little had been done to remedy its accumulation of problems since the 1950s, and it had reached the point where the congregation either had to repair it or face the prospect of a condemned building. Combine that with the push for centennial projects in the community just now, and you have ample motive for this work, which is estimated at $125,000 in value.

The service began with the presentation of the church to the Bishop as the rightful representative of the church in the Yukon. Father Coonen introduced the contractors and the building committee, including Barry & Nancy Kidd of Morganston Contracting, Jim Williams of Williams Construction, and Darcy Braga of the parish council. Braga presented the Bishop with the keys to the building.

Bishop Lobsinger then proceeded with blessing of the sanctuary and sprinkling of water as a sign of spiritual rebirth.

The scriptures assigned for this service were a collection of material devoted to the dedication of buildings and services. The Bishop worked them into an effective sermon on the nature of sacredness and how little we take it into account in this day and age. Having described some of the extreme rituals used in the past to commemorate the original construction and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, Bishop Lobsinger returned to the present to look at the revived St. Mary's.

"What a wonderful place this should be," he said, "not just for visitors but for the people of God. Let God open your minds and your hearts,,,to realize that what you have sacrificed in making this a very beautiful place for the presence of God is truly a sacrifice of love...as a sign of faith that you believe in God. This building... for 92 years, this has been a sign of faith for all the people in this region, in this town, to realize that, yes, you believe there is a God, that he is in your midst. It is His house, truly his house. But more than that, it is the house of the people of God."

On that note he returned the keys of the building to the parish council for their use and safe-keeping.

Special guests at the service included members of the Oblate missionaries from the Yukon British Columbia and Alberta, as well as some visiting priests from Alaska. The Oblates were in Dawson for their regular council meeting.

Also present were members of the Sisters of Saint Ann, who were intrumental in beginning the social work of the church here in Dawson during Gold Rush days by running both a hospital and a school. Sister Margaret Cantwell, the author of North to Share, a history of the order, and their archivist, who assisted the restoration committee in preparing the display of historical photographs, was present at the service, along with Sister Mary Ellen King, the Provincial of the order, and Sister Patricia Dickinson, who once taught school (as Sister Mary Antonius) in the ground floor classrooms below the sanctuary.


The Salvation of St. Mary's

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Father Tim Coonen peels himself out of his turn of the century vestments, playfully propping his biretta on the head of a plaster angel. He plops himself down in a folding chair and looks about him, satisfied with what he sees and still flying high on the emotion of the accomplishment that surrounds us.

Deadlines on the restoration project were tight. Contractor Jim Williams had finished making his donation of a new altar presentable at about 5 pm for a gathering that was set to begin at 5:30. Half an hour before, Father Tim had decided that all the period push-button light switches were going to have to wait for another day.

He met people on the steps still dressed in his dusty jeans and shirt from working, and then dashed off to the house next door to make the first of several costume changes that he would go through in the next three hours.

So now he is tired, yes, but also immensely satisfied, and it shows in his voice and his body language as he points out some of the key features of the newly repaired room.

This wasn't a vanity project, he is quick to point out. The roof was sagging, the support trusses and roof supports were rotting, the walls were canted out an average of 15 centimetres as the weight pressed on them. One wall section had rotted away. St. Mary's, in spite of an ambitious foundation project just a few years before, was in dire straits, and only a massive injection of money and effort was going to save her.

"In the late 80's the ground floor had about a 2 foot crown in it, where it had sunk into the permafrost," Coonen says. "At that congregation got together under the direction of Father Boyd and David Brickner, a local contractor, and replaced the foundation, rescuing it from oblivion.

"Then, a year ago, we started rebuilding this place. The roof bent in every direction, the walls were leaning, the top plates were rotten. When it rained we had water running down the inside of the windows. The whole place was really messy."

They kicked around every idea from a coat of paint to a major project, and finally decided it was worth a try. But where to get the money?

"The director of the Catholic Church Extension Society came through here in March of last year, looked at the whole thing, put an extraordinary resolution through at their annual general meeting and voted us $50,000.

"He gave me a phone call and said, 'I have bad news. Our grant limit is 50.' I'd told him 58 thinking we would get 20. Then the territorial government kicked in $16,730 through their historic sites program." The YTG contribution took care of half the cost of replacing the roof.

A new roof was constructed to replace the old. Then ,wall by wall, the building was winched in and straightened out. That year's work ate up $85,000. Then the interior work could begin.

The current St. Mary's is the third building to bear the name. The first was Father' Judge's original log structure, built in the north end in 1897. It burned down after an accident with a candle IN 1898 and was replaced the same year by a frame building. The pictures of that church show it to have been done up in high style, but it vanished from sight in the 1920s and no one seems to know where it went. Many people say it was taken to Mayo, as recorded in the local history Gold and Galena, but Coonen has historical photographs in which the Mayo church seems to match the Catholic Church from Bonanza Creek, so he thinks that isn't the answer.

The statuary in the present building goes back to the 1898 church, as do the ceremonial chairs, the large wall cross, and the hanging lantern assembly near the front. The wall paper was picked to match a pattern that was found on one layer of the walls. The new interior colours were selected to highlight the green in the paper trim.

"As much as we could we've tried to be faithful to the original look of the place, knowing, at the same time, that it has to be a modern, functional church, that we can't just build a museum piece that you can't use. So everything that's in here is useful and still works for us."

The room now used as the sanctuary was originally a school auditorium according to old photographs. Layers of interior remodelling were revealed as the workers stripped off the debris, down through the gyp rock, to wallpaper and the original canvas wall coverings. Some of the trim that has been added to it now is there to hide messes that couldn't be fixed when the walls and ceiling were reunited.

Some things were added or improved. The painted grapevine trim behind the altar and the dove descending from the ceiling could not be retained from the original walls. Local artist Halin did much nicer versions of these motifs in their place, and is dying to add some angels as well.

The original altar attached to the back wall causes the priest to face away from the congregation, in the old style for Mass. Since this is no longer liturgically proper, numerous mismatched altars have served this purpose over the last 30 years. Now Jim Williams has done up a new altar, in a design similar to the one that is already there.

There's work to be done. Lots of little things, like the light switches, permanent captions for the photo display that now lines the walls downstairs, cabinets and cupboards in places that the public doesn't see, and one large section of wallpaper trim on the ceiling where the supplier sent one too few rolls.

New work a few years down the road could include adding a permanently heated area downstairs so that water and washrooms could be installed, and restoring the look of the church hall to the period when it was a school.

For now, though, the congregation can be content with celebrating its faith in much more congenial surroundings, no longer needing to worry about the roof falling on their heads.


The Mystery of Dawsie Klondike Schultz

compiled by John Gould
Sun Volunteer

The following is the story of the first white child born in Dawson, as it was told in the Klondike Nugget News and Yukon Sun papers of 1898 to 1901. Sometimes she is identified as Dawsie Klondike Schultz and other times as Klondike Dawsie Shultz.

At the time of her birth all marriages, births and deaths were registered with the Royal North West Mounted Police, so far I have been unable to find these records.

The first mention of this little child was in the Klondike Nugget of June 18, 1898. At that time the father, Charles Schultz, decided that his wife, who had been very sickly since the baby had been born, should go Outside for better medical attention.

The miners had given considerable gold to the little one, others donated money. Mr. Schultz sold their cabin and $300.00 was given to the North American Trading and Transportation Co. for the fare of Mrs. Schultz and the 10 month old child. She also had $700.00 to help. Mr. Schultz was to stay in Dawson and work at the mines.

The Klondike Nugget of August 6, 1898 tells of Mr. Schultz receiving word of the death of Mrs. Schultz on the way down the river and of her being buried on the river bank. The baby and the personal effects of the mother were turned over to the United States commissioner at the mouth of the Yukon River.

Charles Schultz tried to get some of the passage money refunded but it was refused on the grounds that the N. A. T. & T. Co. did not want to take the child or mother in the first place due to her health. Schultz wanted to go down and see that the grave was properly marked and take possession of the child, but had no money for the fare.

The next item was in the Klondike Nugget of January 5, 1901. Dawsie Schultz had been taken to Seattle by the U.S. Commissioner and put in a foster home in the care of a Mrs. Hume of Seattle. Apparently Charles Schultz had promised to send money for the care of the little girl but the money ran out.

Mrs. Hume, who apparently had several children of her own and could not afford to keep the child, sent a couple of letters to a friend in Dawson asking for help in finding the child's father and letting him know of the situation. If there was no money coming she would have to put the child in an orphanage.

Charles Schultz was located and he promised to send money, but an item in the Yukon Sun of March 16 contained information from a Mrs. H. A. Hume of East Pennyway in Seattle saying that she had heard nothing from Schultz and it was now necessary for Dawsie Schultz to go to an orphanage.

That is the last there was in the papers concerning Dawsie Klondike Schultz. What happened to this little early Klondiker?

The Dawson Museum recently had a letter from a woman in the state of Washington asking for information on a "Daisy Dawson Warden". She said her grandmother had told her this woman was the first White child born in Dawson. Is this the same person?


Fun at the Follies

by Christopher Deraiche
Sun Volunteer

The Palace Grand Theatre swelled with laughter and energy for Scott Burke's Gaslight Follies. Audience members were not only indeed entertained, but for a lucky few, involved in the the show as well.

Connecticut resident Eddie O'Regan was one of the randomly chosen audience members to be woven into the Follies' off the wall, vaudvillian storyline.

Cast member Timm Hughes wowed the audience with his wide aray of characters and witty ad-libbing. The audience was quick to "hiss" Hughes' coniving portrayal of the evil Uncle Vandervoor, and in turn crow automatic cheers for his role as the heroic Mountie.

Dawson resident Harmony Hunter returned to the Palace Grand for her third consecutive season and impressed the audience with her vocals.

The Gaslight Follies was a real treat for vacationers and locals alike. The six member cast, along with musical director and piano player Glen Stevenson, had its fingers on the pulse of the audience and gave a performance only outdone by the history and ambiance of the Palance Grande itself.

The Gaslight Follies will be running for the duration of the summer, Monday's, and Wednesday's through Sunday's at 8:00 pm.


Canada Post Gives the Centennial its Stamp

by Ken Spotswood
for the Klondyke Centennials Society

Five new stamps commemorating the Klondike gold rush have really taken a licking! Six thousand first day covers went on sale to the public in Dawson City June 13th. They sold out in four days--partly due to an error in French on the hand-cancellation stamp which makes them instant collectors' items.

More than 200 people turned out for the gala ceremony outside the old Post Office. Dignitaries attired in period costume included Dawson City Postmaster Lambert Curzon; Canada Post officials Marc L'Anglais, general manager northern services and Ed Miller, director of operations northern services, both from Ottawa, and Dawson City Mayor Art Webster.

A special presentation was made to Dawson City artist Albert Fuhre for his winning logo design which will be used on 1998 banners for the gold rush centennial. Yukon Anniversaries Commission executive director Mark E. Smith travelled from Whitehorse to present Fuhre with a one-ounce gold wafer and a framed enlargement of one of the five new gold rush stamps. Credit for detecting the French error goes to Nathalie Forest, who works for Sesame Ventures at the old Post Office. Curzon says her skills as a proof-reader has prompted Canada Post to ask for her resume, as has Denny Kobayashi of the Klondike Visitors' Association.

The Klondyke Centennial Society hosted a reception following the ceremony. Guests were treated to a variety of finger foods and punch. For several hours dignitaries, invited guests, local residents and tourists mingled and praised organizers of the event which was a great success.

"I really want to compliment Wendy Burns of the Yukon Anniversaries Commission," Curzon said. "She made a tremendous effort in getting the brunch together and organizing the flowers. She gave a thousand percent and is a tremendous asset to this community."

Special thanks also goes to Rose Margeson of Parks Canada who contributed benches for public seating, tables, table cloths, flags and colourful bunting which adorned the old Post Office. Other benches were provided by Curzon, Lenore Calnan and Shelley Hakanson--and credit goes to City of Dawson works crews who picked them up from a variety of locations, delivered and returned them afterwards.

Organizers also wish to thank the City of Dawson for closing off four streets surrounding the old Post Office to traffic, which enabled the crowd to enjoy the festivities in comfort.


Visitors may soon be all ears

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

If Klondike National Historic Sites has its way some of its tour clients will be all ears during the season ahead. On June 14 KNHS inaugurated the beginning of its self-guided walking tour of Dawson City.

Linda Johnson, the Director of the Yukon District of the Department of Canadian Heritage, was on hand and in costume to help introduce the service.

"We're very excited about this," she told a small group of locals and tourists.

Walking tours with guides continue to be a major feature of KNHS's services in Dawson City, but Johnson says they lack the flexibility to address a number of other concerns. The tours are on a fixed schedule, run only during the working day and do not address sufficiently the need for services in French and in German, which will capture a good bit of the growing European market.

In addition, Johnson suggested that the new tape/cassette player service could answer the need to tours outside the traditional tourist season. She fantasized the possibility of 200 or more visitors from the Trek Over the Top doing historic Dawson tours in mid-February next winter.

According to Beverly Mitchell, the parks employee who developed the concept locally, the service currently in place at Fort St. James was the inspiration for this effort.

Selecting a route and identifying the type of service desired was a local job, then the project was contracted to Cal Waddington's AV Action, where it move beyond the concept to become a script and finally a finished tape in three languages.

A straight rental for the tape and player will be $5, or the visitor can purchase the tape for $14.95 and have free use of the player.

The tour purports to be a monologue by town founder Joe Ladue, who conducts the listener to 15 selected sites in the downtown core area.

A skit by Parks staff completed the ceremonies and then folks moved off to try the tour, which takes about and hour and a half to complete. Initial reports are quite positive.


Discovery Days Festivities: August 13-25

Tentative Schedule
(Unless specified, all times to be announced)









E-Mail to the SUN

To: The Klondike Sun
From: calonj@cadvision.com (Jon Calon)
Subject: Greetings from Cowtown!

Well, it took a while, but I finally stumbled across the Klondike Sun's website...man, what a trip down memory lane! Living those 4 years in Dawson embedded quite a few memories, and the stories I read from your website dredged up almost all of them. Quite a nice looking page you've got there...

Although Calgary is quite fun, there are a few times when I wish I could come back north to visit/work, but alas, the funds aren't there. Mark my words though, I will return. The saying "you can take me out of the north, but you can't take the north out of me" certainly applies here. Keep up the good work everyone, and write me if you're on the Internet!

Ta-Ta For Now from Calgary,

Jon Calon


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