2011-02-25 / Travel

Alaska, the Final Frontier

Part 18: Dawson City: Pierre Berton, Prisoner of the North
By Warner M. Montgomery Warner@ TheColumbiaStar.com


Pierre Berton’s family lived in this home from 1921 to 1932. It was built in 1901 and insulated with saw dust. The kitchen on the left was added in 1926. Pierre’s father, Dawson City’s mining recorder, bought it for $500 and sold it for $500. His mother was a school teacher. The Berton home is owned by the Klondike Visitors Association and used as a writers’ retreat. Pierre Berton’s family lived in this home from 1921 to 1932. It was built in 1901 and insulated with saw dust. The kitchen on the left was added in 1926. Pierre’s father, Dawson City’s mining recorder, bought it for $500 and sold it for $500. His mother was a school teacher. The Berton home is owned by the Klondike Visitors Association and used as a writers’ retreat. Dawson City was a rough and ready city full of brothels, gambling parlors, and saloons during the Klondike Gold Rush at the turn of the 19th century. It was also home to three literary giants—Robert Service, Jack London, and Pierre Berton— whose homes are now museums open to the public.

Pierre Burton (1920– 2004) was born in the Yukon where his father had gone as a prospector during the Klondike Gold Rush. The Bertons lived in Dawson City until they moved to Vancouver in 1932. During his college days, Pierre spent his summers working at mining camps in the Klondike. Af ter graduat ion, he became city editor at a Vancouver newspaper until he volunteered for the Canadian Army during World War II but never saw action.


Pierre Berton’s 50th and last book was Prisoners of the North, a story of the Klondike gold miners. Pierre Berton’s 50th and last book was Prisoners of the North, a story of the Klondike gold miners. After the war, Berton became managing editor of Macleans, a Canadian weekly news magazine in Toronto. In 1957, he became a television commentator and host for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Until 1973, he was featured on the Pierre Ber ton Show where he interviewed celebrities such as Malcolm X, Lenny Bruce, and Bruce Lee.

During his career, Berton published 50 books, his last being Prisoners of the Nor th. He received many national awards for television and literature, was conducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 1998, and received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.


Pierre Berton’s The Great Railway is an illustrated history of the building of the trans–continental railroad across Canada. Pierre Berton’s The Great Railway is an illustrated history of the building of the trans–continental railroad across Canada. The Pierre Berton Award is presented annually by Canada’s National History Society for achievement in presenting history. Berton is acknowleged as having written the best history of the gold rush— Klondike, The Last Great Gold Rush.

Next week: Dawson City, A Trip on the Yukon

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