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Northern Cemeteries and Graves

A Guide to Fort Selkirk, Yukon

Yukon Field Force Graves at Fort Selkirk, Yukon

by Murray Lundberg

Yukon Field Force Graves at Fort Selkirk, Yukon

    There are 2 or 3 cemeteries at Fort Selkirk, depending on how you define a cemetery. The Fort Selkirk Cemetery is the cemetery for non-Native people, located in the forest at the upriver end of the community. Within this cemetery is the Yukon Field Force Cemetery, for the 3 members of the Canadian Army's Yukon Field Force who died while serving in Fort Selkirk. The other cemetery is the Fort Selkirk First Nations Cemetery, for Native people - it is located at the opposite (downriver) end of the community. There are also an unknown number of other unmarked gravesites scattered throughout the town.

    When the Klondike Gold Rush began, the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) in the Yukon were soon overwhelmed. On March 21, 1898, the Yukon Field Force (YFF) was formed to assist them. Commanded by Major Thomas D. B. Evans of the Royal Canadian Dragoons (he was promoted to acting Lieutenant-Colonel for the duration of the FYFF duty) the Yukon Field Force consisted of 3 officers and 46 men from the Royal Canadian Artillery, 3 officers and 130 men from the Royal Regiment of Canadian Infantry, 1 officer and 16 men from the Royal Canadian Dragoons, and a headquarters staff of 5 officers.

    Fort Selkirk was chosen as the primary base for the YFF. Upon their arrival after a grueling journey along the "All-Canadian" route that started in Wrangell, Alaska, a sawmill was constructed, and civilian contractors joined in erecting 11 large log buildings.

    The 203 soldiers were a force in name only, as they were sent to protect Canadian sovereignty with only 2 Maxim machine guns, 2 seven-pound field guns, and their Lee-Enfield rifles. In October 1898, 2 officers and 50 other ranks with a Maxim gun were sent to Dawson City, although the main force remained in Fort Selkirk.

    In June 1900, with the gold rush largely over, the Yukon Field Force was recalled, leaving behind their buildings, and the graves of 1 member in Dawson City (in the Police Cemetery), and 3 members in Fort Selkirk:

This cairn is located in the centre of the Yukon Field Force section of the main Fort Selkirk cemetery:

In memory of
The first members of the Canadian Armed Forces to die on active service in the Yukon Territory while serving with the Yukon Field Force, 1898-1900.

Fort Selkirk, Y.T.
Reg. No. 42 Gunner J. Corcoran
Reg. No. 63 Corporal G. Hansen
Reg. No. 127 Private H. Walters

Dawson City, Y.T.
Reg. No. 125 Corporal M. Watson

"I am the land that listens,
I am the land that broods.
Steeped in eternal beauty,
Crystaline waters and woods."
                Robert Service

Cairn erected by Canadian Forces Northern Region and 2685 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps, 1971

J. Corcoran

Gunner, Artillery
Yukon Field Force

27 Sept. 1898

A close view of the headstone can be seen here.

G. Hansen

Corporal, Infantry
Yukon Field Force

18 Feb. 1899

A close view of the headstone can be seen here.

A. E. Walters

Private, Infantry
Yukon Field Force

28 Feb. 1899

A close view of the headstone can be seen here.