Klondike Korner: Memories of Clinton Creek

When I began teaching Social Studies 10 while living in Faro, the main text for the geography portion of the course featured a big section on the Clinton Creek Mine, which the book said had been the salvation of the nearby town of Dawson City.

The former territorial capital had been in some danger of fading away after the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation shut down its operations in 1966. YCGC had decided to run its dredges into the ground in 1950 and it took 16 years for that process to come to an end.

In 1967 the Clinton Creek Mine opened up and began shipping asbestos ore through Dawson.

In a way, that textbook was right. This shipping activity did give Dawson some bridging economic activity before Parks Canada’s investment in history could give a boost to the tourism efforts of the Klondike Visitors Association.

The problem was that my SS10 class was in 1981 and the Clinton Creek Mine, which lasted only 10 years, had been closed since 1978. The asbestos market had fallen afoul of threatened lawsuits over various lung ailments.

Instead of a triumphant story of mining in action, that chapter became rather a cautionary tale, prophetic really, when you consider the ultimate fate of what was then the Cyprus Anvil Mine near Faro.

There’s not much left in Clinton Creek now. Twenty-five years ago you could still see some of the townsite and signs of local infrastructure. Dawsonites who had known the place in its heyday used to visit and I recall a couple of church picnics over there.

Most of it’s gone now. Strenuous efforts have been made since 2003 to clean up environmental hazards and manage the toxicity of the remaining tailings pond.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of Clinton Creek in houses all over Dawson. Clinton Creek may be gone, but the memory lingers on.

This column itself is being written in a Clinton Creek house, which was moved here and set up for John Gould’s daughter’s family sometime in the 1970s.

We’ve expanded the ground floor and added a second, but the original floor plan is pretty much intact in at least two-thirds of the first storey.

Our home was originally a bungalow. There are several two-storey staff houses also to be found around town, but more noticeable are some of the larger buildings, including one hotel and a number of business properties.

The two halves of the linked Pan-Abode buildings that used to be in Clinton Creek as staff housing now exist in Dawson as part of St. Paul’s Anglican Church. One half is the Richard Martin Memorial Chapel, used for services in the winter, and the other holds the church’s Thrift Store that serves the community year round as a source of second hand goods, baby clothes and costumes for special events.

One prominent residential hostelry is the Front Street Inn, located next to the much older Yukon Hotel.

As Michael Gates has noted in his “History Hunter” columns, folks in the Yukon have long been into recycling. These days we’re extending it to the everyday items we used to simply chuck in the trash, but in our time we have recycled entire towns.

After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.

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