Chief Executive Officer and Commissioner 1897 to 1898

With news of gold in the Klondike, the population of Dawson exploded. The position of Chief Executive Officer and Commissioner of Yukon was created to bring order and prepare Yukon for its separation from the Northwest Territories.

James Walsh
James Morrow Walsh

Chief Executive Officer of the Yukon Judicial District from August 17, 1897- June 13, 1898 (appointed at age 57)

Commissioner of Yukon from June 13, 1898 to July 4, 1898 (title changed after the official creation of Yukon)

James Morrow Walsh was born on May 22, 1840, in Prescott, Ontario. After being forced to spend the winter of 1897 near Big Salmon with few supplies, Walsh insisted that the police at Lake Bennett and Tagish ensure that every entrant to the territory carry with him a year’s supply of food. He also recommended that police posts should be established at 35-mile intervals along the Yukon River. This undoubtedly saved many from starvation. Walsh also recommended that Canada secure the trade connected with the gold rush. His first action on arrival in Dawson was to impose a royalty of 10 percent on gold output. He curtailed the importation of liquor into the territory but honoured all the liquor permits and salon licences already issued. He rigorously enforced Sunday observance. Due to the great distance from Ottawa and poor communication systems, the Commissioner oversaw all employees of the Post Office, Customs, Public Works and Justice, and officers on the NWMP and Yukon Field Force. Walsh also had additional powers to pass ordinances on the same basis as the Northwest Territories Lieutenant Governor in Council for territorial taxation, civil service, municipalities, prisons, schools, hospitals, company incorporation, marriage licences, the expenditure of territorial funds, setting of fines and punishments for infractions, and all other matters of a local nature similar to a provincial government. Walsh died on July 25, 1905 in Brockville, Ontario.

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