July 1923, Panorama of the Pelly River Valley with the Pelly Mountains visible in the background.
Yukon Archives: #7112
The first white person to reach the confluence of the Pelly and Ross Rivers was the dynamic Hudson's Bay trader Robert Campbell in 1840. He named the Ross River after Chief Factor Donald Ross of the HBC. The Bay, however, had a disappointing experience in this part of the Yukon; fur returns didn't justify the transportation difficulties. Eventually, hostile relations with some coastal First Nations traders who wished to preserve a monopoly in the interior caused the Bay to abandon much of the central and eastern Yukon.
Isn't this 'some' place to live and call home?” Ross River community, ca. 1930.
Yukon Archives: #7285
However, at the beginning of the 20th century, an independent post was erected at the confluence of the Ross and Pelly rivers. Named Nahanni House after the First Nations people who frequently traded there, it was sold a few years later to a pair of trappers. They in turn sold the operation to Taylor and Drury in 1906. That trading company ran its own boats to the Ross River Post, first the Thistle
, then the Yukon Rose
. The Tidds would come to rely on both for personal transportation and supplies. (Mike Rourke, Rivers of the Yukon Territory: Ross River, 3-5)
Ross River Area First Nations Profile
The Kaska people of the Ross River area had managed to maintain their
isolation from the non-Native incursion longer than many other First
Nations groups in the Yukon and Alaska. The Gwitchin of Rampart House
and Fort Yukon and the Han of the Dawson City area had long been exposed
to missionaries, churches and the Christmas celebrations Mary was so
fond of. But for many of those who lived near Ross River, Christian rituals
and the god they celebrated were new. Mary Moses was one of the daughters
of Bella Martin and Reverend John Martin, an Anglican missionary who
served in Ross River during the early 1930s. She would later recall "It
was strange. Those people up at Ross River hadn't heard about the Lord.
So we had to teach them, and I taught them." (quoted
in: Catherine McClellan, Part of the Land, Part of the Water, 289.)