One of the Yukon’s most famous residents, Captain Jack McQuesten was a pioneer, setting up trading posts – crucial to the survival of countless gold seekers
Father of the Yukon
If you visit the Yukon, you’re almost guaranteed to come across the name Jack McQuesten. No surprise, as Leroy Napoleon “Jack” McQuesten is known as the Father of the Yukon. Virtually everyone venturing into the territory in the late 1800’s knew his name or experienced his unrelenting generosity.
Hailing from New Hampshire, McQuesten was attracted to life in the wild from a young age and travelled his way up the Pacific Coast, working as a prospector, miller or as employee of the Hudson Bay Company. He landed in the Yukon in 1873, where he would spend the next 25 years.
After enduring the cold winter along the Yukon River, McQuesten founded a trading post at Fort Reliance, about 10 kilometers from what would become Dawson City. Located at Mile 0 on the Yukon River, the post, consisting of log general stores, became a hub for trappers and travelers. A subsequent settlement 40 miles downstream from Reliance would become known as Fortymile, while Sixtymile was 60 miles upstream.
Along with his partners, McQuesten spent the next eight years setting up more trading posts along the Yukon River, including at Stewart City, Eagle, Circle City and Fort Yukon.
McQuesten’s Golden Rule
This was a time before formal law enforcement, and McQuesten and his partners presided over miner’s meetings which dealt with matters of conduct. These gatherings laid the foundation for the Yukon Order of Pioneers. In 1894, McQuesten became the group’s first president – adopting “do unto others as you would be done by” as its motto.
Many consider McQuesten’s greatest legacy to be his integrity and honesty in dealing with travelers. He would equip them with outfits, granting endless credit and waving pay until they had found gold.
One prospector paid tribute to McQuesten’s generosity, writing: “hundreds of men now on the river owe all the success they have to his help, and they know it and appreciate it.”
McQuesten’s legacy is alive and well today. You might come across the McQuesten River, a branch of the Stewart River named after him, or McQuesten Lake, McQuesten Airtrip, McQuesten Mineral Belt. Faro, Mayo and Whitehorse all have streets named after him.
Perhaps you’ll pass through McQuesten along the Klondike Highway, named after him by several miners who spent winter here after striking gold along the Stewart River. Today, it’s home to … .
In Dawson City, you’ll find a plaque dedicated to McQuesten, unveiled in August 2007, with 7 of his family members in attendance.
Get to know Jack …
Provided more than 200 specimens to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. along with the first weather reports for the region.
Was one of the first white men in the Yukon Valley to marry an Athabaskan woman, Satejdenalno, whom he called Kate.
Arrived in San Francisco in 1987 on board the gold-loaded Excelsior steamer, a sight which subsequently ignited the Klondike gold rush.
Him and his wife at one point used moose to plow the soil of the vegetable garden at their home in Forty Mile.
Settled in Berkeley, California in a large home, with his wife and 11 children. He died of blood poisoning in 1909.