MCMILLANS AND THE YUKON TERRITORY
The Yukon Territory lies next to Alaska, and north of British Columbia. In James McMillan's time, however, the Territory was an undifferentiated part of the "Columbia District" and the "MacKenzie District" It was a true wilderness, and the only way to traverse the area was via its network of rivers. The major river is the Yukon River. Flowing into the Yukon is the Pelly and into the Pelly River, is the McMillan River.
Robert Campbell "of the Yukon" was, like James McMillan, born in Scotland. In his case, he was a generation younger than McMillan. In Campbell's memoirs, he writes,
I assisted my father on the farm till my 22nd year, when an event took place which was destined to change the whole current of my life.
This was the arrival in Scotland of Chief Factor James McMillan, a cousin of ours, who came 'hame' on a year's furlough. Through him I heard for the first time of the Great North-West and the free and active life that awaited one there; of the Hudson's Bay Company and the Fur Trade, the boundless prairies roamed by tribes of Indians and herds of Buffalo, the vast Lakes and the giant streams, the sublime majesty of the Rocky Mountains, the impenetrable forests, the abundance of game of all kinds - all was a revelation to me and opened a new and attractive field of enterprise to my fascinated gaze. I became possessed with an irresistable longing to go to that land of romance and adventure. (quoted by Clifford Wilson, in "Campbell of the Yukon", 1970.)
Robert Campbell bade farewell to Scotland, and travelled to 'the New World', where he became an employee of the Hudson's Bay Company. He was soon posted to the Mackenzie River District. For the following 2 decades, he explored the Liard (LEE ard) River, discovered and named the Pelly River, and proved its connection with the Yukon River. As he travelled up the Pelly,
Every now and then we passed the mouths of tributaries which I named: the largest of these, entering from the N. E. was christened the McMillan after Chief Factor McMillan.... (Wilson, p. 70)
According to a Parks Canada pamphlet of 1971, The river has a meander pattern, with islands and drifwood-covered slip off slopes throughout its length. The river is 100 to 150 metres wide, and shallow at times, though still navigable by canoe. Potential campsites may be found almost anywhere, as gravel bars occur frequently. Here there are few insects, ample driftwood for fires and escellent shorelines for landing. (from Wild Rivers Survey, Parks Canada, Ottawa, 1976.)
Today, the McMillan River is almost as isolated as it was in Campbell's day. it comprises 2 branches, the North and the South McMillan. These flow south and west from the MacKenzie Mountain Range. You can follow the McMillan, more or less, by driving the Canol Road, to its eastern end at the "Mac Pass." The Canol is not accessible during the winter months, and indeed, has no services for travellers..
THREE GENERATIONS OF YUKON MCMILLANSWhen I decided to add a Clan McMillan chapter to knapdalepeople, it was clear that the McMillans had a strong influence upon Knapdale and Argyll. McMillan's Tower on Castle Sween, and the amazingly beautiful Alexander McMillan Cross are important. But so was the strong McMillan influence upon the Arichonan Affray. During the attempts to trap knapdale men into the Argyll Militia, it was outstanding that Alexander McMillan was designated a 'Deserter' in 1799, and yet, it seems that he continued to live and work undisturbed at Ballimore Knap until he died in 1827! He must have been a man of some standing in Knapdale.
I live in the Yukon, and I had heard of the McMillan River and the Mac Pass and the Canol Road for most of my life. Through a friend, I have become aware of a family living much like James McMillan did, back in his HBC days. As far as I know, they are not related to James, but, here they are: Kenneth McMillan operated a trap line near the Hyland River in the Yukon until his death sometime before 1957. With his wife, Mary Tom, he raised a large family. One of his sons, Alex McMillan, has prospected for gold, and found a very large and rich ore body near the Hyland River. Because of this, he has been awarded "Prospector of 2012" at the Yukon Geosciences Forum. To quote the Yukon News report,
"McMillan, who began prospecting in 1964, was hunting for deposits with his son, Liard, on the 3Ace claims that Alex had first staked in the Little Hyland River area near Watson Lake in 1999. They'd been doing assessment work, drilling with heavy equipment that they lugged across difficult terrain."...
Liard McMillan, aside from being his father's partner, is (as I write this in January 2013), Chief of the Liard First Nation, in the southern Yukon, near Watson Lake.
Alexander appreciated fine art, too: the Cross at Kilmory Knap
In order to go back to the page on MacMillan's wandering times go here
To go back to the MacMillan introductory page: go here
Following the MacMillans to Glengarry, Canada