Wednesday, March 29, 2023
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100 Years - The history of the YUKON ORDER OF PIONEERS 1894 to 1994 -

Yukon Order of Pioneers is a male fraternity with members residing in the Yukon for over 25 years. YOOP consists of a Grand Lodge which oversees the subordinate Lodges #1 in Dawson City and #2 in Whitehorse. Organized at Forty Mile, Yukon Territory, on December 1st, 1894.

Many stories derive from the early days of Yukon history. Where did people come from and when? Stories state of early day explorers and traders that were here almost since time began.

One organization that we can relate to is the YUKON ORDER OF PIONEERS. It all began when the earlier prospectors arrived to stake their claims at the town site of FORTY MILE on the YUKON RIVER near the Alaska border. At that time it was a trading centre where people could purchase some food, clothing and tools of the trade to locate the elusive gold.

Many of the transients were not too truthful and might overstake someone else's claim. This caused many a disagreement. A group got together to form some sort of law and order as there was no police force here of any sort. And that is how the "Order of Pioneers" came into being.

In the late 1890's, Skagway and Dyea, Alaska were hotbeds of violent crime. The Arctic Brotherhood was the Alaskan equivalent of the Yukon Order of Pioneers (whose motto was "do as you would be done by"). It was formed during the Gold Rush era to ensure stampeders' rights were protected. The 1899 Arctic Brotherhood Hall can still be visited in Skagway. With 20,000 pieces of driftwood tacked to the front of it, it's hard to miss. The Arctic Brotherhood Hall, established in 1899, remains a historic site in Skagway, Alaska today.

When a person was apprehended for his misdemeanour there was a short court session and if proven guilty the culprit was immediately ordered out of the Territory.

Back row: Gordon Bettles, Pete McDonald, Barney Hill, Frank Buteau, Geo Matlock, Al Mayo, John Nelson, Billy Loyd, J.O'Donnel, L. LaFlem Center: Jas Kenedy, H. Scales, Pete Nelson
Front row: H. Hamilton Hart, Bill McPhee, N. Picotte, L.N. McQuesten, Frank Boker, Harry Rivers, Jo Navarro

The lodge at FORTY MILE was formed after some other meetings throughout the year 1894 on the 1st DECEMBER with the election of officers and JACK LEROY McQUESTEN was the first president.

The first application for a charter was from a town on the YUKON RIVER but this was issued to CIRCLE ALASKA which became Lode #1 on April 1895 and another charter was issued to RAMPART ALASKA a short while later and it was Lodge #2.

After the Bonanza Gold was discovered these lodges were disbanded in a short time as most prospectors flocked to the new town of DAWSON on the YUKON RIVER.

The first Lodge then formed in the town of DAWSON was called KLONDIKE LODGE. Though this order was named YUKON as part of CANADA at the time was the NORTH WEST TERRITORIES.

By 1912 many of the miners had all moved to SEATTLE and applied to form a Lodge there, but as Historian I cannot fathom the reason for a charter being granted there as the Lodges were to be on the YUKON RIVER watershed but never the less it was done only to last a short time.

The International Sourdough Group derived from this under the new name in time. As did the Alaska Pioneers were also formed by past members from the Yukon, in towns of Alaska they still exist today but are called IGLOOS instead Lodges.

The Vancouver Yukoners Association was started mainly by former Lodge members but most certainly former YUKON residents.

The MAYO YUKON LODGE was formed about 1913 and was given the number #3 as these numbers had been disbanded earlier as Lodges closed down.

MAYO Lodge was quite active for many years and they built a large log building as a meeting hall in 1921 and it was used until the early 1950's. The building remained and was used by the community as a movie theatre and dance hall and also local meetings were held there.

The records of this lodge were taken to DAWSON CITY where they were lost in the fire of 1967, plus a lot of Dawson City history.

Whitehorse Lodge was formed in 1914 and was number 4. It is not known how long it really has existed, but we do have a certificate duly signed by the Grand Lodge Officers of the day in 1915 to Issac Taylor who was a merchant in Whitehorse at that time. The records of this Lodge were no doubt lost in the 1967 Dawson fire. The building where meetings were held is still standing and being used to this day. It used to be called the Moose Lodge and later became the existing Burns Building on Main Street in Whitehorse. It is not exactly known when this Lodge closed. In 1958 - 1960 there was interest to form again, which took some time, but was finally done. A charter was issued; an election took place, followed by an installation of officers on December 1st 1966. The Constitution is unchanged from the original in 1894. The emblem of the Order is an open Golden Rule in a Seath of Green. The motto is "Do Unto Others As You Would Be Done By", this is still the same today. Minor changes have been made to the residency clause: before it was ten years, today it is twenty-five years, and twenty years before an individual can even be considered as a member. There is a Ladies Auxiliary in Whitehorse, they have been operating for over twenty years; some of the same regulations apply as with the men's applicants. Any major changes that are requested must be approved by the Grand Lodge at their annual meetings. The present Grand Lodge is comprised of members of both the remaining active Lodges of Dawson City and Whitehorse. The President and Vice-President must be past Presidents of a subordinate Lodge. They meet at least once a year alternately in the two communities. This body has the distinction of never closing a meeting so it can be called upon at a moments notice with a quorum to decide on something important that has arisen. The annuals are always held in April.

We are looking forward to our 100th ANNIVERSARY in 1994 with various functions throughout the year still being planned. There are not many organizations still active in the country and able to celebrate their 100th!

L.A. Cyr, Historian of the Yukon Order of Pioneers - 1994

Historical sequence of YUKON ORDER OF PIONEERS --- by John Gould ---

On December 1, 1894 a group of men got together in George T. Snow’s opera house in Forty Mile town site for the purpose of forming a Fraternal Organization. A constitution and bylaws were written up at several meetings during the summer. This new organization was named “The Yukon Order of Pioneers”. There was one requirement that they had to be in the country on or before 1888. There were 68 present who signed the charter. At the December 7th meeting it was decided that the charter would be kept open so that those men out on the creeks that were in the country in 1888 would have time to sign and become Charter members.

Subordinate Lodge. It was the scene of the 1893 gold discovery on Birch Creek. This was at the mouth of the Minook River on the Yukon. The miners did not get their Circle City lodge but applied for a charter for Rampart in January 1895. There were 200 members in this new Rampart community when they applied for a charter for a subordinate lodge in 1899. It was granted No.2, the town of Rampart charter until 1922, by that time the number had been changed twice, No. 2 was given to Seattle and No. 3 to Mayo, so they were designated as No 1A.

The first lodge in Dawson was formed on July 24, 1897. There were 20 members present from the Forty Mile lodge. It was known as the Klondike lodge . Thomas W. O’Brien was voted in as the first president. It wasn’t long when they became Lodge No.1. In a years time there was also Lodge No. 2, then a large group of the members of loge No 1 went over to Granville on Dominion creek and initiated their 30 members into Lodge No 3.

Lodges No. 2 and 3 didn’t last long. Lodge No. 1 became the Dawson Lodge. At the meeting on September 11,1897 it was decide to build a hall, 5,000 shares at a dollar each were sold to the members, the shares could not be sold to any one who was not a member. The shares were bought back by fund raising projects.

In 1900 some of the members of the Dawson lodge went to the strike at Nome Alaska. They got together and formed a Yukon Order of Pioneer lodge. Then in 1906 they asked the Grand Lodge if the Constitution could be changed so that those who were in any place in Alaska at the proper date could become members but the answer was no! Only on the water shed of the Yukon. The Nome lodge turned in their charter and formed Igloo No.1 of the Alaska Pioneers.

By this time there was also a pioneer lodge in Fairbanks then in 1910. They also asked if those who were in any part of Alaska at the proper time could become a member. The answer was again no, they turned in their charter and formed Igloo No 4 of the Alaska Pioneers.

Seattle Lodge was formed in 1912 by George T. Snow and Tom O’Brien. In 1921 George T. Snow and Mrs. Snow were in Dawson for the Grand Lodge meeting. George asked if the name of the Seattle Lodge could be changed to Yukon Alaska Pioneers, the answer was no. George Snow died in 1925. Shortly after the Seattle lodge did change its name to Alaska Pioneer Yukon.

In 1914 a lodge was formed in Whitehorse, lodge No.4. It did not last long.

In 1921 a lodge was formed in Mayo lodge No.3.

In 1922 a lodge was formed in Vancouver B.C. Lodge No.5. It did not last long. The Vancouver Yukoner Association was formed at that time and took all the members. George Carmack had come up from Seattle to help with the forming of the No.5 Lodge; he took sick while in Vancouver and died at that time.

There was also possibly a lodge in San Francisco.

It was at Fortymile that the organization, The “Yukon Miners Association” was formed. This was a group of men who more-or-less kept law and order by settling disputes among the miners and residents. In some cases, if the person charged was found guilty and considered an undesirable citizen, he would be given enough supplies and told to leave the country.

The owner of the “Mark Twain Museum” in Virginia City, Nevada, has the original banner of the Yukon Miners Association.Member YOOP

Once the residents of Forty Mile knew that official law and order was coming to that part of the far north, the miners committee was no longer needed.

Many of these early residents had been members of fraternal orders, such as the Masons, or the Fraternal Order of Eagles, before they came north, and probably decided to form a similar group at Forty Mile. Since law and order was coming to that part of the far north.


“Do Unto Others as You Would be Done by”

At meetings held on April 28,1894, June 1,1894 and in July of that year, a constitution and a set of by-laws were writing up. On December 1,1894, a meeting was held in George T. Snow's, opera house for the purpose of establishing a new fraternal organization, The Yukon Order of Pioneers included in the minutes of this meeting was the following passage:

“Proposed by Levante and second by R. English that G. T. Snow be temporary Chairman and F. Bowker be Secretary, carried

Proposed by F. Dinsmore that the chair shall state the object of the meeting, carried.

The chairman then stated the objects of the meeting (these “Objects” were not stated in the records)

Nominations for offices were then carried out: Nomination by C. Levantie and second by R. English that Mr. L. N. McQuesten be President, carried unanimously.

Nomination for vice president, Proposed that F. Dinsmore be vice President, carried unanimously.

Moved by F. Wilborg and second by R. English that McPhee be Treasure; carried.

Proposed by Levantie and second by G.T.Snow that J. Cooper be Guard, carried.

George T. Snow

Proposed by Lee Hagen and second by Hamilton that Frank Buteau be Warden, carried.”

At this meeting Pete Wiborg, Frank Bowker and Robert English were appointed as a committee on the Constitution and by-laws.  Those who were in the country in 1888 and earlier were eligible to become members. The meeting then proceeded to pass the bylaws and constitution.

The following men signed the Charter at that historic meeting and recorded the year they had entered the country.   
McQuesten, Leroy N. 1873 Navaroo, Joe 1888
Stewart, William 1886 McPhee, Wm. H. 1888
Dinsmore, Frank 1882 Campbell, J.A.  1887
Nelson, John 1886 Levantie, Charles 1888
Harte, Fred W.  1873 Segrin, Frank  1888
Bowker, Francis, G.H.  1888 Hagen, Lee 1886
Hamilton, Howard 1886 Sullivan, F.M.  1887
Copper, Joe A. 1887 Smith, H. 1887
McCue, Georg 1889 Sreans, L. C. 1887
Wiborg, Peter A. 1885 Scals, Hans 1888
Brannan, Peter  1887 Blake, Thos  1887
English, Robert J. 1886 Kennedy,  J. D. 1887
Atwater, Ben J. 1886 Miller, Fred 1887
Nelson, Pete 1886 Bender, James 1887
O'Brien, Thomas W. 1887 Grignon, Ed 1887
Picotte, Napoleon 1886 Gazerlais, Joe H. 1886
Meunier, Fred  1887 Roux, Victor 1899
Willett, Henry 1888 Leautaue, L. Baptise 1887
Lloyd, William R. 1888 Huot, Napoleon 1887
Hayes, Wm. 1883 Seymore, Henry 1888
Donald, John O. 1888 Powers, Issac 1885
Fortier, Albert 1888 Lavois, Louis 1888
Carter, Henry 1887 Boullais, Fred 1888
Rivers, Henry 1887 Marks, John 1882
Blanchard, A.S.  1887 McArthur, N. 1888
Young, Thomas 1888 Lewis, Ellis  1886
Lowrie, R. 1887 Newman, Rudolph 1873
Matlock, C.H. 1887 Bettles, G.C. 1887
Hutchinson, Fred 1886 Snow, George T. 1888
Hill, Bernard 1886 McDonald, P.I. 1886
Buteau, Frank 1886 Mayo, Alfred H. 1873
Matthews, Samuel 1888 Mitchel, S. S. 1886
Gauthier, William 1888 Hall, Matt 1887
Harper, Arthur 1873