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Photos courtesy of Mike and Joan Sinnwell June  2010

Montague Roadhouse Yukon Territory

On the road from Whitehorse Yukon Territory to Dawson City we followed the North Klondike Highway. A route similar to the one taken by the Overland Stage during the Klondike Gold Rush.  Staging posts were built about every 20 to 30 miles along the trail. A stage would stop at two or three of these roadhouses a day to change horses. If you wanted a meal it would cost about $1.50 and if you wanted a bed for the night you shelled out a $1.

Each of these staging posts had a stable, storehouse, cabins and a roadhouse. Typically the roadhouses were large two story structures with attached sheds similar to the remains of the roadhouse in the photos below.  This roadhouse had a shed separate from the roadhouse.

The Montague Roadhouse was first built in 1900 in a different location. Fire destroyed that one so a new roadhouse was built and it too burned to the ground in 1909. In 1915 this log structure was built and used as a roadhouse until the 1950’s. The eating area was on the first floor and the sleeping quarters were upstairs. Two woodstoves provided heat. A rack was provided as place for the Skinners and travelers to hang their wet clothes to dry out. A long table was provided and usually it was crammed full of food. A meal might consist of Moose, caribou, mountain sheep, baked beans and Huckleberry pie for dessert.  The inside of the building was lined with cheesecloth to brighten up the inside and to prevent dirt and moss from falling into your food or bed.

All that is left at many of these are a shell of  buildings or the footprint of a foundation.

The stage drivers, called Skinners, were a mix of colorful characters with names like “Dummy” Coghlan, “Hard Nose” Ned Reeves, and “The High Priest” Joe McDonald.  Dressed in raccoon coats, red sashes and buckskin gloves they held the reins. Sometimes when extremely cold they held the reins in one hand and pounded the other one against their shoulders to keep up the circulation. Switching hands was required frequently to continue the trek. Some passengers were expected to bring along rum to keep the drivers happy.

The stage line would have as many as 250 to 300 horses on a stage line in a single season. They were well feed with imported bran mash, oats, and timothy hay. Native hay was considered inferior and lacking in the proper nourishment. Even the horses wore protectors over their chests and nostrils against the cold. On their shoes were welded caulks for traction. Each horse had a number stamped on the front hoof that matched their name.

River crossings were an obstacle that had to be overcome. If no ferry was available the freight and passengers were unloaded and put in canoes and reloaded on the other side. Sometimes the trail was not easily found in the heavy snows and a sleigh would get off the trail and stuck. Again, an unload and reload process.