MYSTERIES

Who discovered Klondike Gold?

There are other mysteries in Canada about unusual cases from the Viking age to the Klondike Gold Rush

Michael B.
Nov 16 2021 ·
Gold Rush
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A team of historians have been trying to solve some historical "cold cases" in Canada -- old crimes in which the guilty ones walked, and even more insidious crimes where a whole village may have been complicit. There are other mysteries too, about unusual cases from the Viking age to the Klondike Gold Rush.

Who discovered Klondike Gold?

Why is the Canadian flag flown upside down?

And who really invented hockey?

The Case of William McArthur... A man of mystery?

William McArthur, a Scottish ex-miner, was the first man to discover gold at Klondike. He claimed he found it near the mouth of the Yukon River in 1897, and when word got out, it was big news. He went on to become mayor of Dawson City, one of the world's most important mining centres in the late 19th century.

McArthur left Dawson City in 1900 and started another gold boom town - this time, at the mouth of the Stikine River. But he never went back to Canada. In fact, he didn't even go back to Scotland.

In 1903 he went to South Africa to make a fortune in diamonds. He returned to Scotland and became an MP, where he stood up for free trade and the abolition of tariffs.

CBC series has been able to solve the mystery of the man who helped shape Dawson City - the founder of the Yukon's first university and its first library. CBC's Amanda Lang sat down with McArthur's granddaughter, Anne McArthur, in the home where she grew up, which still stands on Stikine Street.

As a young woman, Anne McArthur was determined to find out more about her grandfather's life. She had never seen any photos of him, other than the two or three on his headstone. She wondered if she could track him down in the Yukon or elsewhere. It wasn't easy.

The last known address of her grandmother's sister, Anne's mother, was in Manitoba. She moved around a lot and left Canada for good. As she was leaving for university in the early 1970s, however, Anne got a phone call from an old family friend who lived in Montreal. "She said, 'Have you ever heard of a place called Little Red River?"' Anne recalls. She thought the name sounded familiar. "I went to the library and looked up maps and I found it. It was only a dot on the map, about 25 miles from Winnipeg, but there it was."

The two women drove to Little Red River. It was a bleak little settlement with few people. Anne was astounded. There were only three houses, a school house, a church and the river. The townspeople, who had been living off fish they caught in the river, welcomed her and her brother and aunt, and gave them jobs helping build the local school. Anne, who was 16, stayed for almost two years, until she finished high school.

The school taught only three subjects: reading, writing and arithmetic. She wrote letters home and drew pictures of the prairies. When Anne was 17, the new Manitoba School Act was passed, and a teacher-training school opened near Stonewall, about 50 miles northwest of Red River. She began teaching there, and the following year, she married William Lyle McKinnon, a man 20 years older than her. In 1905, Anne's husband accepted a position as superintendent of schools for the rural area south of Winnipeg. He and his wife moved to that area in 1907.

There, Anne gave birth to four children: sons, Bill and Bruce, and daughters, Marjorie and Margaret. In 1914, after eight years as superintendent, Mr. McKinnon became principal of Brandon College (now Brandon University), where he stayed until his death in 1936.

Anne McKinnon continued to teach at the college. In 1924, she started a correspondence school, and in 1926, she founded a commercial art school called "Academy of Art." Anne McKinnon, who lived a quiet life of teaching, gardening, and painting, died in 1948 at the age of sixty-seven.

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