Trading Posts and Steamboats

Fort Reliance was established by Jack McQuesten in 1874 about 6 miles below present-day Dawson City. Jack and his 18-year-old helper, Frank Banfield, were the only two white-men here for the first season. Al Mayo and Arthur Harper ran the post for the next two seasons but left because of "Indian troubles". Jack returned for the 4th season and ran the post until 1886. This is the only known photograph of that post and was provided by the Dawson City Museum.

Fort Nelson was established in 1886 to serve the miners on the Stewart River. I don't have a good picture of this post but here is a shot of a typical miner's cabin taken from an old book on the Klondike Gold Rush. Jack reports that river ice was used for windows, and had to be replaced often.

Later the same year, 1886, Forty Mile was established near the mouth of the Forty Mile River to service the miners in the Birch Creek mining district. This became the first modern "white" town on the Yukon and was located in the Yukon Territory. A small part of the town, possibly known as Mitchell, was located in Alaska, a little further up the Forty Mile. This allowed for the U.S. Postal Service to deliver there while avoiding Canadian customs. Jack McQuesten was the postmaster at Mitchell, but not at Forty Mile. This picture was taken from an old newspaper of the period.

Once Canadian "Mounties" began enforcing customs laws and whiskey making policies, Jack McQuesten moved into Alaska, at Circle City, where two Natives he had grubstaked found gold. Eventually, American authorities moved into this very remote part of Alaska. Jack was considered the "King of Circle City". This painting by an unknown artist shows Jack's store, which was most likely the largest building on the Yukon River. Jack was postmaster at Circle and his store also served as the local drug store.

Jack's partner, Joe Ladue, founded Dawson City, Yukon near the mouth of the Klondike River, just 6 miles from Jack's old post of Fort Reliance. Jack had no interest in establishing any new towns. In fact, he took his family out of the Yukon River Valley just before the onslaught of new miners stampeded the Klondike. He was asked to return and build an Alaska Commercial Company store at Dawson, in 1898. It was during that year that he met author Jack London, and gunslinger Wyatt Earp.

McQuesten captained most of the earliest steamboats on the Yukon including these two. At left is the "Yukon" steamer and at right is the "New Racket". This photo curiously shows a sled dog tied to the Yukon steamer. It is hard to determine if the dog is keeping the boat in place or vice versa. The Iditarod dog sled race course passes many of Jack's old haunts, including Nulato, where Kate was born, Unalakleet, where Jack's great grandson now lives, and Nome, where stood the McQuesten Saloon.