The United States Army and Burwash Landing
In August 1942, the American soldiers building the Alaska Highway tote road arrived at Burwash Landing. After four months of rough camp life this prosperous little settlement seemed like an oasis in the wilderness. The soldiers were surprised and delighted by the fresh produce from the bountiful garden, the well-kept horses, and even a herd of cows, one of which was milked by a homesick soldier. Those lucky enough to buy a meal from the Jacquots never forgot the experience:
“To sit down to a table, eating from dishes, and passing around steaming platters of caribou steak and fresh garden vegetables, to drink good coffee and fresh milk was like an answer to a dream.” From A. Molans. “A Record of the Work and Activities of Company E, 18th Engineers, during the Construction of the Alaska Military Highway.”
The founders of Burwash, Eugene and Louis Jacquot, came to the Kluane area during the short-lived gold rush of 1903. They stayed on to establish a trading post and successful big game guiding business. Many area natives worked here as guides, ranch hands, and woodcutters. Their experience later proved valuable to army surveyors in choosing the best route for the road.
Like many other local families, the Jacquots were generous with advice and assistance to the newcomers. They provided the army with horses, the use of their two launches and a steam-powered sawmill. They enthralled the soldiers with stories of hunting trips, the great glaciers, and a caribou herd that took two days to pass. Best of all, they gave the soldiers a touch of the home life that they sadly missed.
Father Eusebe Morisset, o.m.i.
The construction of the Alaska Highway brought a new resident to the Kluane area in August 1943. Father Eusebe Morisset, an Oblate missionary, served as an auxiliary chaplain with the American Army and visited army camps between Whitehorse and the American border.
When he met the Jacquot brothers at Burwash Landing, they invited him to start a church and school in their community. In 1944, Father Morisset moved to Burwash where the local native people helped him build a log church. During his 20 years in the region, this energetic priest regularly visited the Kluane settlements and constructed churches in Champagne, Aishihik, Haines Junction, Snag, and Beaver Creek.
* Southern Tutchone name meaning "place of fish".
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