Dawson Loses a Beloved Resident Historian


Madeleine and John Gould at Canada Day during the Centennial Years. Photo by Jay Armitage

by Dan Davidson

The Yukon has lost another irreplaceable reservoir of knowledge and good will with the passing of John Gould, who left Dawson to join his late wife, Madeleine, at about 3 a.m. on Boxing Day.

Grandson Tim Grenon was staying with him at his house that night and was at his side when he took his last breath in his sleep.

Gould had been quietly winding down in the almost two years since the death of his wife and had no fear of dying.

Indeed, he expressed the desire to move on to both friends and family on several occasions.

Born in 1919, Gould lived the mining life as a boy at Nugget Hill, just off the Hunker Creek Road, spending enough time at school in Dawson to become boyhood friends with the late Pierre Berton.

According to the short memoir in his book Frozen Gold, the family moved to Burnaby, B.C. in 1933.

He was back for summers starting in 1936, until he signed up for military service in the Air Force in 1942 during the Second World War.

It was while training in Ontario that he met Madeleine and brought her to live in the same rural cabin where he had spent much of his boyhood.

Gould worked at the mine with his father until 1958 and toiled part-time at the mine even during the 13 years he worked for Parks Canada at Klondike National Historic Sites.

When he retired from Parks, it was to return to mining with his own son, Peter, in 1980.

By then, however, his interest in local history had been stoked to the point where it would become almost an occupation after his own retirement from mining in 1998.

Gould was a founding member of the Klondike Sun newspaper and a key member of the Klondike Centennial Society.

While not terribly political, he did serve as a town councillor at one time.

He was a stalwart member of the Yukon Order of Pioneers, even while he supported his wife’s attempt to break its gender bar, as well as being a faithful member of the Dawson branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.

In his later years, the Centennial Society and his research and support work at the Dawson City Museum took up much of his time.

He was instrumental in pushing for the revival and improvement of interpretation at the Discovery Claim, which formally opened this past August. His attendance at the ceremonies was his last major public event.

In recent weeks, Gould had finally lost his driving licence. Prior to that, he could be seen in his small blue car driving to the post office, the grocery store or to visit friends, with his small dog, Mike, perched on his lap.

Gould was a member of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and a funeral service was held there on January 7.

His ashes, along with Madeleine’s, will be interred in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in the spring.



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