Commissioners of Yukon 1898-1918

The position of Commissioner of Yukon was created to preside over Yukon, now a separate territory from the Northwest Territories.




George Norris Williams (Acting Commissioner)

Term of Office: October 13, 1916, to April 1,1918

Born: 1886
Died: 1949

  • Yukon Councilor when George Black was Commissioner.
  • Appointed Administrator of Yukon and Acting Commissioner, filling in for Commissioner George Black.
  • Held role until both the position of Administrator and Commissioner of Yukon were abolished and the Gold Commissioner became the Chief Executive Officer of Yukon.


George Black

Term of Office: February 1, 1912, to April 1, 1918

Born: April 10, 1873, Woodstock, New Brunswick
Died: August 23, 1965, Vancouver, British Columbia

  • Studied law in Fredericton.
  • Left New Brunswick in 1898 at the age of 26 for the Klondike and staked a claim on Livingston Creek in 1899.
  • After working his claim for 2 years he went to Dawson and practiced law.
  • Served for 3 terms on the Yukon Council.
  • Married Martha Louise Purdy in 1904. Martha went on to become the second woman elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 1935, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
  • Fought in World War I along with more than 200 other Yukoners. During this time he retained the title of Commissioner of Yukon.
  • After World War I he moved to Vancouver and set up a law practice.
  • Ran for and was elected as Yukon's Member of Parliament in 1912.
  • Won each subsequent election in Yukon and became Speaker of the House until 1936 when he was unable to run due to poor mental health. His wife ran instead and was elected. The following election he had recovered and ran successfully again. He would go on to serve two more subsequent terms.


Arthur Wilson (Acting Commissioner)

Term of Office: July 1911, to February 1, 1912

Born: Unknown
Died: Unknown

  • Filled in for the Commissioner of Yukon as Administrator when Alexander Henderson retired until George Black was appointed.
  • Came to the Klondike from Sault St. Marie, Ontario and secured a claim at Ruby Creek.
  • Worked as a purser on the sternwheelers for the White Pass Yukon route.
  • Ran successfully as a Yukon Party candidate for the Yukon Territorial Council in the 1900 Yukon general election.


Alexander Henderson

Term of Office: June 17, 1907, to July 1911

Born: March 13, 1861, Oshawa, Ontario (at the time: Canada West)
Died: December 13, 1940, Vancouver, British Columbia

  • Studied law at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall.
  • Called to the Ontario and British Columbia bars in 1889 and 1892 respectively.
  • Elected as a member of British Columbia's Legislature for the riding of New Westminster in 1898.
  • Named Kings Council in 1899.
  • Court judge in Vancouver from 1901 until 1907.
  • As Commissioner of Yukon he presided over the first wholly elected Yukon Council.


William Wallace Burns McInnes

Term of Office: May 27, 1905, to January 1907

Born: April 1871, Dresden, Ontario
Died: 1954, Vancouver, British Columbia

  • Father was Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia from 1897 to 1900.
  • Studied at the University of Toronto when he was only 14 and was the youngest student to graduate from the university at that time.
  • Studied law at Osgoode Hall and worked at a Nanaimo law firm starting in 1893.
  • Elected as a Member of Parliament of Canada representing Vancouver in 1896.
  • Member of the British Columbia Legislature representing Port Alberni in 1900.
  • Instrumental in bringing the Miners' Lien Bill into law. This provided guarantees to all employees working in the gold fields and is used to this day.
  • Judge for the County Court of Vancouver from 1909 to 1917 after resigning as Commissioner.


Zachary Taylor Wood (Acting Commissioner)

First Term of Office: August 15, 1902, to March 4, 1903
Second Term of Office: October 29, 1904, to May 27, 1905

Born: November 11, 1860, Annapolis, Maryland
Died: January 15, 1915, Asheville, North Carolina

  • Acted as Acting Commissioner twice:
    • first when James Hamilton Ross became Yukon's first Member of Parliament
    • second when then Commissioner Frederick Tennyson Congdon ran but failed to secure Yukon's seat in Parliament.
  • Great-grandson of Zachary Taylor, the 12th president of the United States and also the great-grandnephew of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States during the American Civil War.
  • Graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario in 1882.
  • Transferred north to enforce Canadian law and oversee the Canadian/American border as inspector of the North-West Mounted Police in 1897.
  • Superintendent in 1898, assumed command of the North-West Mounted Police in 1900 and was promoted to assistant Commissioner in 1902.
  • Left Yukon for Regina, Saskatchewan where he was second in command to the whole North-West Mounted Police in 1910.


Henry William Newlands (Acting Commissioner)

Term of Office: February 8, 1902, to August 15, 1902

Born: March 19, 1862, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Died: August 9, 1954, St. Thomas, Ontario

  • Served as Acting Commissioner of Yukon after James Hamilton Ross left the position as a result of becoming Yukon's first Member of Parliament.
  • Practiced law in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, was an inspector of land titles in the Northwest Territories and a law advisor to the Yukon Executive Council.
  • Served as a judge on the Supreme Count of the Northwest Territories, the Supreme Court of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.
  • Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan for two terms from 1921 to 1931.


James Hamilton Ross

Term of Office: March 11, 1901, to October 16, 1902

Born: March May 12, 1856, London, Ontario (at the time: Canada West)
Died: December 14, 1932, Victoria, British Columbia

  • Established a ranch with his father and brother near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
  • Elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories in 1883, became treasurer on the Territorial Executive Council.
  • First Commissioner to move into the newly built Commissioner's Residence in Dawson.
  • Supported the establishment of a municipal government in Dawson to better facilitate the improvement and building of infrastructure in the city.
  • Successfully lobbied Ottawa for a Yukon Member of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons.
  • Had serious personal setbacks during his term, including the death of his wife and youngest child when their boat hit an iceberg and sank in 1901. He also suffered a paralytic stroke in 1902.
  • Elected as Yukon's first Member of Parliament on December 2, 1902, thus ending his term as Commissioner of Yukon.


William Ogilvie

Term of Office: July 4, 1898, to March 1901

Born: April 7, 1846, Ottawa, Ontario
Died: November 13, 1912, Winnipeg, Manitoba

  • The first Commissioner of Yukon Territory. Some may consider him the second Commissioner, however the previous Commissioner presided over Yukon when it was a district of the Northwest Territories.
  • Was a land surveyor working in Western and Northern Canada before becoming Commissioner of Yukon.
  • Commissioned to make all the required surveys for town sites, mining claims and mineral deposits in Yukon in 1895.
  • Surveyed the Yukon and Porcupine rivers, the Chilkoot Pass, the boarder of Yukon and Alaska as well as Dawson City.
  • Named Dawson City, naming it after his former supervisor, George Mercer Dawson.
  • With no official residence in place for the Commissioner of Yukon in Dawson, William Ogilvie and his 17 office staff all lived in a cramped cabin next to his rented office.
  • With no municipal government, was also the Mayor, City Engineer and Fire Chief of Dawson City.
  • With the introduction of taxes in Yukon there were complaints that there was taxation but no elected representation. Ogilvie was in favour of an elected council and two elected councilors were approved by Ottawa.
  • As Commissioner of Yukon he created a drainage system in Dawson, took steps to reduce deforestation and encouraged road development.
  • Resigned in February 1901 due to poor health.

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