Eighth Cabin - Life on the Yukon Telegraph

 

Life at Eighth Cabin on the Yukon Telegraph Line

 

Cabin No. 8 was the eighth numbered cabin north of Hazelton.  It was located at the headwaters of Muskaboo (sometimes called Muckaboo) Creek.  Muskaboo Creek was a major tributary of the upper Nass River.  The main station cabins from Hazelton were number 1 to 9.  Cabin No. 1 was located on the Kispiox River near the junction with Cullon Creek.  The Ninth Cabin was located in the south side of the Bell Irving River (as it is known today) near the junction with Rochester Creek.  Between each of the numbered cabins were Refuge Cabins.  In some writings these cabin where known as quarterway and halfway cabins.  The lineman commonly referred to these cabins by the distance they were from their home station, such as 9 Mile Cabin or 41 Mile Cabin.  Beyond the Ninth Cabin the next home station or main cabin was Echo Lake station which is near present day Bob Quinn Lake. 

From Hazelton the Yukon Telegraph Line followed the Kispiox Valley north to Cabin No. 1 then went over a low height of land to Deep Canoe Creek down to the Skeena River following the west side of the Skeena River to Slamgeesh Creek where it went over a low height of land in to the Nass River drainage to Damdochax Lake.  From Damdochax Lake it followed the east side of the Nass River until it crossed the river just upstream of the junction with Muskaboo Creek.  From there it followed on the north side of Muskaboo Creek to its headwaters and then went over the 5000 foot height of land down Rochester Creek to the Bell Irving River where it crossed to the north side of the river following it downstream until it left the Bell Irving and turned north to go through the Ningunsaw Pass and onto Echo Lake, Telegraph Creek and ultimately the Yukon.  See Yukon Telegraph Maps 1 & 2. Click Here to view Map 1 Kispiox to Echo Lake.  Click Here to view Map 2 Echo Lake to Telegraph Creek.

Cabin No. 8 Location Map

Typically two linemen lived at each station or numbered cabin and each serviced a section of the telegraph line from the home station.  From Cabin No. 8, in the early 1930s, Charlie Janze maintained the line north from Cabin No. 8 while John Jensen serviced the line south.  At this time when Janze and Jensen were working on the Yukon Telegraph the Dominion Telegraph Service had been cutting back on the service including reducing the number of linemen stationed along the line.  Judging by their work reports it appears no one was stationed at Cabin No. 9 but there were linemen stationed at Echo Lake, the next station north.  To the south there must have been linemen station at Cabin No. 6, as Jensen doesn’t report going any further south than Cabin No. 7, but there is no mention by Jensen of anyone from the south in these few reports.  This period was near the end of the operation of the Yukon Telegraph.  By 1936 the telegraph was permanently shut down due in part to new wireless radio technology but also because in the spring of 1936 substantial flooding occurred throughout northwest BC and significant sections of the line and supporting infrastructure were wiped out.  Following the floods the Dominion Telegraph was not prepared to spend the money to fix those sections and therefore closed the Yukon Telegraph Line permanently.

 

 

John Jensen & Charlie Janze at Cabin No. 8

John Jensen and Charlie Janze at Cabin No. 8. Photo taken by John Sutherland c.1930s

Courtesy of District of Stewart Museum

Each summer the numbered cabins north of Hazelton were supplied by mule pack trains from Hazelton, while the Echo Lake and stations north were serviced by pack trains from Telegraph Creek.  These supplies were to last the linemen through the winter until new supplies arrived the following summer.  The linemen would often supplement their supplies by hunting, trapping and growing gardens.  George Beirnes and Jean Caux-Cataline where among the packers servicing cabins north of Hazelton, while Frank Callbreath for a time supplied cabins out of Telegraph Creek.  During the early 1930’s it was likely George Beirnes that was supplying Janze and Jensen. 

Pack Train on the Yukon Telegraph

A Pack Train on the Yukon Telegraph, 1914

Royal BC Museum Archives Photo # b-01323

The Work Reports transcribed here (see below) from Janze and Jensen are examples of what each lineman was required to do to provide their superiors of an account of their monthly activities on the line.  It is unknown how these reports where delivered to their superiors or how often.  It is assumed they would have at least been sent out at least once a year when the pack trains would arrive with supplies.  The reports would chronicle their monthly activities.  Each monthly report gave a daily account of their work and would provide a monthly total of the miles traveled by the lineman along the trail that paralleled the telegraph line.  It provided details of maintenance such as cutting fallen trees, repairing breaks in the line, replacing insulators and side blocks.  In addition to maintenance of the line they also maintained the trail, bridges, cable crossings and the cabins that were their refuge along the line. 

Work Reports by John Jensen (click date to view)

Work Reports by Charlie Janze (click date to view)

 

Charlie Janze & Partner at Cabin No. 8  

Charlie Janze and Partner at Cabin No. 8

Hazelton Library Museum & Archives photo

In reading these few reports it is easy to see that winter was the most difficult time of year for the linemen.  Poor weather conditions at the home station and on the trail hampered life.  In some areas snow slides were common and would wipe out large sections of the line threatening the lives of the men.  When considering Charlie Janze and John Jensen, in these reports it appears that Janze had the more difficult section of the line.  Jensen’s responsibility was the section south of Cabin No. 8 to Cabin No. 7, a distance calculated today to be approximately 15 miles.  The trail south was largely in the timber and at relatively low elevation with no major river crossings.  In contrast Janze’s section north was substantially more rugged.  Cabin No. 8 was located very near the headwaters of Muskaboo Creek not far from what Janze called the Big Summit.  This was the high elevation pass from Muskaboo to Rochester Creek, which others called the Nass Summit.  This section went to Ninth Cabin, a distance calculated today as about 22 miles from Cabin No. 8 but also included crossing the Bell Irving River to 41 Mile Refuge Cabin.  It is unknown where this refuge cabin was or where the distance of 41 miles is measured from or how accurate the linemen where in figuring their distances but it is suspected that it is a distance from the Echo Lake station. 

Charlie Janze walking over Nass Summit

A John Sutherland Photo of Charlie Janze crossing the Nass Summit heading for Cabin No. 9

District of Stewart Museum Photo

These reports mention other men that worked on the line with Janze and Jensen.  Most commonly mentioned is a lineman named only as Sutherland.  This is John Sutherland, the lineman stationed at Echo Lake who patrolled the section of the telegraph line south toward Janze.  Janze and Sutherland occasionally assisted each other during particularly challenging periods of bad weather and line repairs.  Sutherland, like Janze, had a difficult section of line to maintain as the line passed through the avalanche prone Ningunsaw Pass.  Copies of some of Sutherland’s reports are also available.  He was an avid photographer and kept many personal notes from his time while working on the Yukon Telegraph and would later donate many of his photos and work notes to the Museum in Stewart and the Yukon Archives.  Chapter 16 of “Wires in the Wilderness, The Story of the Yukon Telegraph” by Bill Miller provides more information on John Sutherland.  Miller’s book also references Charlie Janze and John Jensen. 

Someone named Tiegen is also mentioned in some of the notes by Janze.  Tiegen assisted Janze and Sutherland in repairing the line on one particularly difficult occasion when a series of bad winter weather events resulted in numerous snow slides that wiped out several sections of the line.  Tiegen’s first name is unknown and it is further unknown if Tiegen is a lineman from another station, a short term employee of the Dominion Telegraph or exactly where he came from.  Today there is a creek and lake with the name Teigen (slightly different spelling) located not far from the sections of the telegraph line maintained by Janze and Sutherland.  Teigen Lake, through Teigen Creek, flows east to empty into the Bell Irving River near present day Bell II  According to the Province of BC Geographical Names the creek and lake were named after Matthew Teigen of Kispiox who was a trapper in the area for many years. 

The last person mentioned in these few reports is a fellow named Blackstock.  It is unsure where he came from but in Bill Miller’s book “Wires in the Wilderness, The Story of the Yukon Telegraph”, when relating the story of Lillian Alling, he mentions an operator named Bill Blackstock stationed at the First Cabin in 1925.  The name Blackstock also appears in earlier documents listing the employees of the Yukon Telegraph.  In the Canada, Report of the Minister of Public Works for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1920, a Wm. Blackstock is listed as the Line Foreman stationed in Hazelton.  In this same report Chas. P. Janze is listed as a lineman stationed at Eighth Cabin.  There is no Jensen listed in 1920.

 For a printable copy of this page Click Here.

 

Yukon Telegraph Highway Sign

Copy of the Interpretive Sign located on Highway 37 near Bob Quinn Lake