The following story is from an online exhibit by Yukon Archives that features letters, diaries, manuscripts, newspaper articles, photos, home movies and sound recordings collected and saved by Mary’s family in Pennsylvania.
He was a British teacher who came to Canada in 1910 and became a Mountie. She was an American farm girl-turned-nurse on the lookout for far-flung adventure. In the Yukon she would find her adventure — and the love of her life.
In August 1924, Claude Tidd and Mary Ryder met while she was heading to fill a nursing position in Fort Yukon. When her steamer, the S.S. Casca, made a stop at Dawson City, where Claude was posted, the two met and Mary was smitten.
“I met a wonderful specimen of manhood — one of the Royal Northwest Police who wore a gorgeous uniform with a coat of scarlet,” she wrote. “We went to a ball on Pioneer Day…and this particular corporal danced with me so often that ever since they tell me what a grave oversight it was to be inoculated against everything almost and then succumb to ‘scarlet fever’.”
They spent her short stay in Dawson together, driving around town and hiking the Midnight Dome. Then Mary left for a tough winter at Fort Yukon where she dealt with a mission fire, flood, and severe cold. She even helped amputate the mailman Mr. Bredermian’s frozen feet. Through it all, she kept up a correspondence with her handsome Mountie.
In April 1925, Claude wrote her mother saying “I have fallen in love with Mary,” and petitioned his RCMP commander for permission to marry. He received it, and on August 2, 1925, the whole town of Fort Yukon came out for the nuptials.
Bishop Rowe, who performed the ceremony, remarked to friends he had never seen “a prettier wedding or a more impressive ceremony than ours in the little church within the Arctic Circle.”
Claude gave Mary a bouquet of “mixed white flowers, roses, flox, [and] sweet peas,” and they decorated half a dozen dogs with bells and red ribbons for the occasion. Then everyone boarded the S.S. Yukon — which Claude had arranged to take north — for a grand reception.
Over the next decades, the couple lived in towns such as Old Crow, Mayo, Forty Mile, Whitehorse and Dawson City. They even lived in Vancouver for a few short stints, but as Claude wrote, “the ‘Spell of the Yukon’ proved too strong and we returned north.”
After he retired from the RCMP in 1935, Claude tried different things. He was a purser on the White Pass and Yukon Route Company’s steamboats during the Second World War, and ran the Northern Commercial Company store. His real passion, though, was photography, and his images document different corners of the territory during a period of tremendous change.
In the mid-1940s, the couple left the Yukon forever. They crossed the Atlantic, bound for Claude’s hometown of Norfolk, England, but they found the deprivation of post-war Great Britain very hard.
Claude became seriously ill and passed away in 1949. Mary returned to her family home in Pennsylvania and died a few years later.
They had their ups and downs; Mary was prone to depression and Claude sometimes struggled to find work, but their love never wavered.
They spent many happy days in remote outposts, getting out on the trail with their dogs, and living a quiet life close to the land.
To learn more about the Tidds, please visit the Yukon Archives online exhibit at www.yukonromance.ca.