There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
Robert Service - The Cremation of Sam Mcgee
I grew up in a 250 year old farmhouse hewn from local pine and field stone. Nestled between two farms on rural road outside of Montreal, our busy home was often filled with the sounds of music, my parents and my scrabbling seven younger siblings. My father an amateur composer and local historian had a passion for researching the area's first settlers. One day he discovered that our home was once owned by the French-Canadian explorer Michel Laberge.
In the 1860s the Western Union Telegraph Company wanted to route a telephone line across the Bering strait and into Russia. To survey a possible route for the line they hired the American naturalist William D. Hall and Michel Laberge. Years later The United States Geographic Board adopted the name Lake Laberge in honor of Hall’s fellow explorer Michel Laberge (LaBarge).
Lake Laberge, 30 km north of Whitehorse and 651 km south of the Arctic circle measures 50 km long and 1 to 2 km wide. The lake is actually a widening of the Yukon river and is located in the territory of Yukon, Canada. The lake’s name was made famous yet again by the British-Canadian poet Robert Service who wrote “The Cremation of Sam Mcgee". Known as the the "Bard of the Yukon" Service's poem published in 1906 tells the story of a Tennessee gold prospector who was cremated on a burning stern-wheeler on the "marge of Lake Labarge" after freezing to death in the Yukon.
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