The Force in the North

Whitehorse

At the turn of the 20th century, 80 Mounties were stationed at Whitehorse, the headquarters for southern Yukon. But as the population declined, so did policing needs. By the 1930s only three Mounties patrolled the Whitehorse area.

During this period, Whitehorse headquarters were located where MacBride Museum sits now. This museum site was also home to the officers' housing, the jail and the RCMP stables.

In 1899, Superintendent Perry recommended that the headquarters of ‘H’ Division be moved from Tagish to the future site of Whitehorse at the terminus of the road. Tagish will be off the line of communication so the removal of the post is necessary. Regrets because it is a charming spot. Barracks accommodation will be required for four officers and 50 men. (Report of the North-West Mounted Police, 1899. Sessional Paper No.15. Ottawa: Queen’s Printer. 1900:5.)

'H' Division of the NWMP was moved to White Horse in 1900. Eight buildings were erected with the help of the Department of Public Works. They were completed by November using lumber from local sawmills. The men lived in tents while the buildings were being constructed. (Jim Wallace, Forty Mile to Bonanza: The North West Mounted Police in the Klondike Gold Rush. Calgary: Bunker to Bunker Publishing. 2000:175.)

The ‘H’ Division Headquarters is now at White Horse, the terminus of the rail line and the head of navigation.  (Report of the North-West Mounted Police, 1900. Sessional Papers, Volume 11. Ottawa: Queen’s Printer. 1901:2.)

In 1901, a new guard room is required as, due to an error in measurement, what should have been the outside measure became the inside and the building is too narrow to insert cells. It can be used for something else. A new one and a half story store building 60’ x 20’ was erected as well as a bath and wash house, a division and casualty store, quarters for the Asst. Surgeon, a latrine and an ice house as well as two pump houses. (Report of the North-West Mounted Police, 1901. Sessional Papers, Volume 11. Ottawa: Queen’s Printer. 1902:6-7.)

In the decades before World War II, a diminishing force ran the headquarters of "H" Division at Whitehorse. The force declined in step with the population and the local economy. Whitehorse had been a small, quiet town, until 1942, when the war prompted the construction of the Alaska Highway and brought about the "second Gold Rush."

Construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942 created a booming economy. The Yukon’s economic and political centre shifted from Dawson to Whitehorse and so did police headquarters. Since 1974, Whitehorse has been the headquarters for “M” Division.