Hills of Silver.


336 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-55017-394-4
DDC 971.9'1






Reviewed by Merle Massie


Miners have their own culture. They’re modern-day goldseekers with eyes glinting, always searching for the next big find. Robert Service got it right when he said the land would hold men “like a spell.”


Before his untimely death in 1977 at the age of 51, Dr. Aaro E. Aho, a geological engineer with 20 years of experience mining and prospecting in the Yukon and a passion for history, penned a massive manuscript documenting the history of the Keno Hill silver area. His manuscript lay unpublished for almost 30 years, until the Keno Community Club, with funds from various sources, polished and published it. Incredibly detailed and bursting with characters, Aho sketches the mighty Yukon Gold Rush as nothing but a foretaste of the rich silver deposits at Keno Hill that led much of Yukon’s 20th century prosperity.


Hills of Silver is a gem of a book, a brilliant mix of geology and history, spiced with gossip and risky stories, from the prostitute who walked through town in nothing but her toenail paint to various stories of murders, intrigue, and madness. But through it all, it’s the hills, and the science and economics of geology and mining, that carry the story. A six-page glossary, explaining terms from adit to winze, buckbrush to whiskey jacks, is key, particularly for readers unfamiliar with Canadian mining. Readers learn the difference between finding something interesting and building a profitable mine. Logistics of transportation and communication, capital funding, markets, employees, and town-building—not to mention bitterly cold weather, frostbite, and cabin fever—are clearly brought to light. Even sled dogs—those ever-present northern denizens—work the mines, pulling cars up narrow-gage railway tracks.


Particularly fascinating to Yukon historians and genealogists, Hills of Silver nonetheless offers a broad appeal, giving insight into the world of Canadian mining, mining towns, and the people who make them live.


Aho, Aaro E., “Hills of Silver.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 12, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28158.