MILLER, Bill




Between 1899 and 1901, work crews somehow strung nearly 2,000 miles of wire between Ashcroft and Dawson City. New York-born Bill Miller of Atlin, B.C. recalls the Yukon Telegraph--from its conception after gold was discovered in the Yukon in 1897 to its abandonment in 1951--in his Wires in the Wilderness: The Story of the Yukon Telegraph (Heritage, 2004, $19.95). The remaining wilderness trail is becoming a haven for high-powered hikers.

[BCBW 2004] "Communication"

Review of the author’s work by BC Studies:
Wires in the Wilderness: The Story of the Yukon Telegraph

Wires in the Wilderness (2004)
Publisher's promo



When gold was discovered in the Yukon in 1897, the
government and its law officers, the NWMP, needed a faster
way to communicate with the remote northern territory. Isolated
residents also wanted a more reliable connection with the outside
world. Thus was born the Yukon Telegraph.

Between 1899 and 1901, work crews strung nearly 2,000 miles
of wire between Dawson City, Yukon, and Ashcroft, B.C. They
faced some of the roughest, most isolated terrain imaginable, with
barely a three-month working season between the snows of May
and June and freeze-up in September.

Bill Miller tells the story of the Yukon Telegraph from its
conception to its abandonment in 1952, from the political
wrangling and scandal that surrounded the building of the line
to the daunting task of stringing the line itself. But at the heart of
the book are the stories of the linemen who survived the isolation,
low pay, scant or mouldy provisions, weather extremes, nearly
impassable terrain, and encounters with grizzlies and moose.
Some of the other characters brought to life are:

Simon Peter Gunanoot, the Native man who was accused of
murder and spent the next 13 years as a refugee until he turned
himself in at Hazelton and was acquitted at trial.

Slim Williams, who ran a dog team nearly 3,000 miles from
Alaska to the Chicago World’s Fair.

Lillian Alling, who walked from New York to Dawson, then possibly attempted to cross the Bering Strait back to her native Russia.

In the 1980s, a growing interest in wilderness hiking saw
the old trail attracting a new breed: the adventure hiker. Today,
serious backpackers hike certain sections, and there is interest in
restoring and preserving other segments to create a world-class
wilderness trail. Wires in the Wilderness is a fascinating look at
the rich history of the Yukon Telegraph Trail and its potential for
future generations.

[Heritage House, 2004]