Century-old cheques found in Dawson City's historic CIBC building

Contractors doing work on Dawson City's old CIBC building have found a stack of cancelled cheques, some dating to the years just after the Klondike gold rush.

'The gold standard for bank drafts would be one signed by Robert Service,' said Dawson mayor

One of 'a stack' of cancelled cheques recently found behind a wall in Dawson City's historic CIBC building. (Facebook)

You might think everything of historic interest has already been found in Dawson City, a community that's been mining its past almost since the Klondike gold rush ended more than century ago.

But you'd be wrong.

Contractors doing work on the old CIBC building in Dawson recently found a stack of cancelled cheques, dated from 1899 to 1903, behind a wall.  

"These are pretty old," mayor Wayne Potoroka said. "I didn't want to touch them too much because they appear pretty brittle."

The Dawson City Canadian Bank of Commerce branch opened in 1898 amid the prospecting frenzy of the gold rush. The bank leased the building from the town, but that lease ran out in 1999. The building has sat vacant since the 1980s. 

Two years ago, the Town of Dawson City settled a dispute over ownership of the building, paying $170,000 to former owner Mike Palma. Soon after, the town began restoration work.

One of the building's major claims to fame is that poet Robert Service, the so-called "Bard of the Yukon" who composed The Cremation of Sam McGee, worked there in 1908.

"The gold standard for bank drafts would be one signed by Robert Service, there's no doubt about it," Potoroka said. "I'm not sure if there's one in the stack."

Potoroka says the old cheques will likely be turned over to a local museum to study and preserve.

The mayor is intrigued by the recent finds but said that living in Dawson City, one gets used to such discoveries.

"I know some people in town who have renovated historic and heritage buildings in the past have found some really neat stuff, either stuffed under the floorboards or behind the walls," Potoroka said.

"I've learned not to be too shocked by this sort of thing."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?