Wires in the Wilderness: The Story of the Yukon Telegraph


336 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-894384-58-X
DDC 971.9'102





Reviewed by Alex Curran

Alex Curran is a former member of both the National Advisory Board on
Science and Technology and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
Council. He was chair of the Telecommunications Sectoral Advisory
Committee on Free Trade and the first recipien


Many books have been written about the Klondike gold rush. They have
made well known the hardships endured by those who “moiled for gold”
in the very harsh environment of the Yukon in the late 19th century.
However, these were not the only players in the Yukon drama. In this
book, readers are introduced to those secondary players who undertook to
construct and operate a telegraph line from Dawson City to Ashcroft,
B.C., where it connected with the existing railway telegraph lines to
provide links to the centres of political and corporate power.

That purpose demanded a different form of pioneering in a harsh
environment. The line itself was a single strand of iron wire supported
on poles or trees. At its peak, it was some 2,000 miles long—a
challenge to build, and an even greater challenge to operate in the
mountainous virtually uninhabited region of northern British Columbia
and the Yukon. In this sideline to the main story of the gold rush is
the tale of those who had the inventiveness to construct the line, and
who also had the stamina to operate it for some 35 years in spite of
snow, floods, avalanches, wild animals, and the psychological pressures
of loneliness.

Bill Miller has researched his subject well. He tells the story not so
much as a historian, but rather as one who appreciates human
interactions ranging from bureaucrats in Ottawa to lonely men in
snowbound cabins who, without hesitation, would challenge the winter
weather to bring help to an ailing fellow worker. Embedded in the story
are some early issues concerning Canada’s dependence on
telecommunications. Miller even shares his thoughts about how the
Telegraph Trail might remain a living part of our history.

Here is Canadian pioneering at its best.


Miller, Bill., “Wires in the Wilderness: The Story of the Yukon Telegraph,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 13, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/15130.