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Emil Forrest, Yukon Riverboat Pioneer



    The headstone seen below is in the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon. It marks the grave of one of the most experienced of Yukon River pilots and skippers. Following that is the notice of his death that appeared in the August 25, 1960 issue of The Whitehorse Star, and links to more information about his life and the boats he worked on.

    Emil was an enthusiastic amateur photographer, and a collection of 655 of his photos, as well as films, scrapbooks and other material, were donated to the Yukon Archives. Dating from 1898-1960, these photos of communities, sternwheelers, mines, roadhouses and people throughout the Yukon and Alaska are valuable records of a time when there weren't many people here taking photos.

Headstone of Emil joseph Forrest at Whitehorse Pioneer Cemetery



Headline - 'Death Takes Old Riverboat Pilot: Emil Forrest Dies at Launching'

    Emil J. Forrest, 71, died of a heart attack at 11:35 a.m. August 20, while helping launch the paddlewheeler Keno.

    Mr. Forrest, retired from active navigation since 1947, was to pilot the sternwheeler in its historic voyage to Dawson City August 24. It was to be his first time piloting a craft as large as the Keno, and likely the last voyage one of the old BYN paddlewheelers would make on the Yukon River.

    Mr. Forrest began his career on the river in 1910, at the age of 21. He served as an assistant pilot on a motor launch charting the tricky channel between Circle and Fort Yukon.

    From 1914 to 1922 he carried mail from Dawson City to the mouth of the YUkon. After 1922 he did some prospecting in the Mayo and Carmacks area, and had considerable mine interests in the Mayo region. He was employed as an airplane mechanic from 1929 to 1937 at Mayo.

    The river called him back in 1941. He was made engineer aboard the Neecheah and later skipper of the Loon. The Loon, a BYN motor launch, was used to make soundings on the river to make it safe for the giant paddlewheelers to follow through. When the Loon was pulled into Whitehorse drydock in 1947, Mr. Forrest stayed on with White Pass as a night watchman.

    Mr. Forrest came to the Yukon from Alberta with his family in 1901, at the age of 12, and went to school at Dawson City.

    Funeral services were held in Whitehorse 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Old Log Church.



To more Yukon-Alaska Pioneer Biographies

The Last Voyage of the Keno

Roster of Yukon/Alaska Sternwheelers

The photograph of Emil Forrest's grave is ©2001 by Murray Lundberg