The Bishop Who Ate His Boots: The Full Story - Bishop Stringer - The Bishop who ate his Boots

1 | 2 | 3 |  Next >

In the spring of 1909, in addition to his responsibilities in the Yukon Diocese, Bishop Isaac Stringer assumed the burden of the Mackenzie River Diocese. Bishop Reeve had retired in 1907 and there was no replacement forthcoming until 1913 when Bishop Lucas was consecrated. In the interim, Stringer included this region in his regular rounds of Episcopal visits.

In early September 1909, returning from the Mackenzie River Diocese to the Yukon Diocese, Bishop Stringer, accompanied by Charles F. Johnson, set out from Fort McPherson to Dawson City. Ahead was a 500 mile trek through muskeg, dense bush, and over a steep mountain divide. They were dressed in light clothing and carried provisions for 8 days though they expected to complete the trip in five days. Little did they know they would be lost in the mountains for 51 days and be on the brink of death.

They chose to take the well-known route via the Rat River and McDougall's Pass.
They arranged for 2 native guides to take them to the head of the Rat River. At this point one guide turned back and the other, Enoch, continued on with them to Rampart House on the Porcupine River. From there Stringer and Johnson planned to continue on their own to Dawson City.

The group travelled down the Peel River in canoes to the mouth of the Husky River and from the Husky to the Rat River. On the fourth day Enoch became ill and the Bishop felt obliged to take him back to Fort McPherson. Here he secured another guide but this delayed the group by a week.

When they reached the divide at Loon Lake, the last guide turned back. Stringer and Johnson felt confident that they would be able to find their way to Rampart House as they had travelled this route many times before.

They navigated the Rat River in their canoes, but progress slowed as the river increasingly began to freeze. They persevered, hoping to reach the Porcupine River. Provisions were dwindling, snow was falling, and the weather was rapidly getting colder. After 6 days they realized they were covering only about 5 miles a day and were becoming exhausted. They then decided that it would be best to return to Fort McPherson, directly across the mountains, a distance of fewer than 100 miles. It was now September 24th.

Their first thought was to try to reach LaPierre House where they knew there would be food and shelter and possibly some natives to guide them to safety. After 3 days of fruitless searching they reverted to the Fort McPherson plan and struck out across the mountains.

Old Log Church Museum 2002