TRADE AND SUPPLY
A long time ago, Mr. Pitts (manager of Harper's trading post at
Fort Selkirk) traded with square money. He cut up paper, something
just like cardboard. He cut it and made money... That guy at
Selkirk, he sold with paper. They couldn't use it anyplace else,
just at the one store, that's all.
-David Silas in Part of the Land, Part of the Water
Yes it was Christmas holiday everybody comes to (Fort Selkirk)
after they been out trapping all the first part of the year. When
Christmas comes, there's just about half the winter gone, and
everybody come in with their catch and sell their fur and they had
spending money. No such thing as drinking. There were hardly
anybody drinking them days.
-George Dawson (FSOHP, 1984, p. 269)
(Isaac) Taylor and Mr. Drury started a trading post store to
sell stuff. That time you could buy dry meat, dry fish from T&D
-Grace Johnson, 1994
1930, we went by dogteam. We got little bit of f supply from
Nisling River about 60 miles from Lynx City. Charlie David,
Jack Allen and myself. We went there to sell fur, get supply, just
trapping as we go. No Hudson's Bay that time, Zimmerlee &
Schofield and T & D's store, that time
-Sam Williams, 1994
Before the arrival of Hudson's Bay traders, Northern Tutchone
people traded with the coastal Tlingits at various locations
including Minto and near Fort Selkirk. After the construction of
Campbell's second post, Fort Selkirk became a destination for
Northern Tutchone people and their neighbours for a few years.
After the Chilkat traders sacked Fort Selkirk in 1852, however, it
was nearly 40 years before another outside trader tried to do
business here. When Frederick Schwatka stopped here in 1883, all
that remained of the post were the two chimneys constructed of
In 1889, the American trader Arthur Harper travelled to Fort
Selkirk with his Han wife and family to set up a trading post near
the site of the abandoned Hudson's Bay Co. operation. He built a
store, a warehouse and a number of small cabins where First Nations
traders could stay while they sold their furs and bought supplies.
Our first photographs of Fort Selkirk date from the early 1890s and
show the buildings of Harper's post. By the time of the Klondike
Gold Rush, Harper had left the Yukon due to illness. His operation
was taken over by a man called Harold Harris Pitts.
"Buffalo" Pitts, as he was sometimes called, lived at
Fort Selkirk until his death in 1913.
By this time, there were other stores at Fort Selkirk and the
settlement was well established as a trading and supply centre for
a large area extending up and down the Yukon River, as well as up
the Pelly and South Macmillan Rivers. First Nations people as well
as white prospectors and trappers travelled here to sell furs and
buy provisions. Since there were always at least two stores, people
had the opportunity to bargain and find out who was offering the
better price for furs.
Dominion Hotel/Taylor & Drury Store
Sometime before 1902, the Dominion Hotel was constructed
(Building 26 - the T&D Store), its first owner being a baker
named Anton Klimesch. This building had rooms for rent, a general
store and a bar (the 'Club Room' in the east extension), as well as
various outbuildings. The store and hotel were later taken over by
his nephew Frank Vodicka and his wife. Vodicka, in turn, sold the building to Taylor
& Drury in the late 1910s or early 1920s.
The Taylor & Drury Store was a Fort Selkirk institution
until some time in the 1940s. Taylor & Drury was a well-known
partnership, based in Whitehorse, with branches throughout the
Yukon. Over the years, the store managers included Bill Cathro, Joe
Menzies, Archie McLennan, and Bill Houston. This is the last
remaining building to depict commercial activity in the settlement.
Early in the century, Joe Horsfall ran a hotel, bar, cafe and
store at Fort Selkirk. The exact location is not known but it was
somewhere on the edge of the terrace at the downriver end of the
campground. In 1910, Joe Horsfall took over the liquor license of
the Dominion Hotel.
That same year, the Horsfall's two year old son set the store on
fire while playing with matches and died soon after from his bums.
Not long after this tragedy, the family moved downriver to set up a
Schofield & Zimmerlee Store
About 1919, William Schofield moved to Fort Selkirk from Dawson
where he had been mining and working as a mining recorder. He
teamed up with Art Zimmerlee and Alex Coward to take over the Pitt
buildings (formerly Harper's Post) as a store. These buildings are
no longer standing.
Alex Coward moved on to other endeavours, but the Schofield and
Zimmerlee partnership lasted nearly 20 years. William Schofield
lived in an apartment upstairs from the store and Art Zimmerlee and
his family lived in one of the old Field Force buildings next door
(bldg. #15 - now the Garage). Art Zimmerlee also ran a post on the
South Macmillan River at Russell Creek.
The Hudson's Bay Company Returns
By the mid 1930s, the Hudson's Bay Company decided to move back
into the Yukon. In 1938, they bought out the Schofield and
Zimmerlee store. The store prospered sufficiently that they decided
to erect new buildings in the mid 1940s. In 1946/47, the Hudson's
Bay Co. built a substantial frame store and residence.
This proved to be poor timing as Fort Selkirk was in its last
years as a trade and supply centre. After the building of the
Alaska Highway, plans were made to construct all-weather roads to
Mayo and Dawson. People moved to Minto to work on the new road and
the sternwheeler era was coming to an end. In 1951, the Hudson's
Bay Co. closed down its store and moved the two new buildings to
Nelson Forks near Fort Nelson. All that remains are the cement
foundations of the store and residence. The Hudson's Bay Company
was the last commercial trader to operate at Fort Selkirk, and it
closed nearly 100 years after the abandonment of Campbell's post.
Appendix #3 - Fort Selkirk: The Historical Resources. Fort Selkirk
H. Dobrowolsky, ed., 1985. Fort Selkirk Oral History Project, 1984;
transcript of tapes. Government of Yukon, Heritage Branch.
H. Dobrowolsky, ed., 1986. Fort Selkirk Elders Oral History Project,
1985, transcript of tapes. Yukon Government, Heritage Branch.
R. Gotthardt, 1987. Selkirk Indian Band. Land Use and Culture Study.
Stewart, Loree. Fort Selkirk Building Synopses. Prepared for Heritage Branch
in 1993. Heritage Branch. Building Research Files.
C. McLellan, 1987. Part of the Land, Part of the Water, pp. 63-70.