George Johnston Store

My friend Sherrie Hovatter has been providing Facebook updates on what she refers to as her Great Northwest Adventure. She has been travelling around the United States and Canada for the past couple of months writing great stories and providing photos of places she has visited.

She had this to say about her stop in Teslin where she visited the George Johnston Museum.

“My journal for Day 78 of our Great Northwest Adventure, Aug 4, 2022:

Our route brought us to Teslin, Yukon.

We parked in front of a library in a First Nation (Tlingit) village. Library closed and WiFi password posted in the window. The next morning we are at the George Johnston Museum as it opens at 9:00. We weren’t expecting much but had an incredible experience.

The museum is very well done and run by two Tlingit (pronounced Kling-it) women. An older woman of the Wolf clan and a younger one of the Eagle clan.

George Johnston was born on the Nakina River in his mother’s Wolf Clan in 1897. Raised in the traditional Tlingit ways despite the changes that came with the gold rush. He learned to make snowshoes, build boats, trapped and hunted.

At the age of sixteen he had moved to his brother’s in Juneau for a short while. He returned with progressive ideas and with a great mind for commerce and bettering his community.

George opened a general store in Teslin and with full pockets from fur sales he went to Whitehorse and bought a 1928 Chevy. The ALCAN was underway and he knew it would only be a matter of time before there was a road to drive it on. George had a fifteen minute driving lesson on the Whitehorse runway and shipped the car via barge to Teslin. The barge was stuck in ice for a short time and eventually the car was carried to shore by some of the local men.

George ordered an Eaton’s catalog and purchased a camera. Self-taught, this began a 25-year ethnographic record of the daily events in Inland Tlingit life. He took the camera with him everywhere, developing the film himself in his cabin. His photos are on display in the museum and following them tells an amazing story.”

In her post, Sherrie also included these photos on display in the Museum.

George in Front of His Store (Note No Ice Boxes)
Store Rebuilt in Museum

As Sherrie stated, George was quite the entrepreneur. After he purchased that 28 Chevrolet, he then built a road in Teslin to give folks a ride in his car for $1 per trip. Hence, his Teslin Taxi. Note that the 4 mile road he built eventually became part of the ALCAN highway. Click here for that story and photos, one of which I have reprinted here:

George’s Taxi

Music-wise, did you know that another George, “The Possum,” once had his own museum too but it is now closed (click here.) Here he is performing his first hit tune White Lightning which seems appropriate given all his subsequent “No Show” problems that he had with alcohol.

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