Glass-Plate Image

Glass-Plate Image

Large positive glass plate image

The image is a sultry studio portait of a woman, Elsie Britton, also known as Gypsy Treole, mounted in an ornate gold painted wooden frame. The caption below reads, "... Copyrighted 1897... Studio, NY".

Mrs Elsie Violet Britton was born on July 4th, 1879 in Mexico City to parents Oscar Wellington Archibald, a prominent doctor surgeon and Olivia Costello. Elsie grew up in a very religious environment. She was taught by French Sisters with whom she learned to speak English, French and Spanish. During her teens she was taught to sew, knit, crochet, lace, needlepoint and how to cook. Towards the end of her teens, Elsie had an 'adventure' with a boy named Samuel Longhorn Clements and was soon pregnant. She carried out her term with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and gave birth to a son, who was left in the care of her parents. Clements left for India and Elsie returned to the Sisters as a postulant. Clements did not return and Elsie heard the call of the north.

She worked in a kitchen in Ketchican, Alaska before reaching Skagway, the gateway city to Canada. Afterwards she moved onto Discovery, the original town site of Atlin, British Columbia. In 1907 she moved up to Dawson City, Yukon via the SS Prospector. Once in Dawson, Elsie operated bath houses and a cigar store, which at the time were popular covers for houses of ill repute. Since she was fluent in French, Elsie ran with the French Canadian boys. In the early days, there were so few women in the North that men would try and sway women to marry them regardless of their reputation.

On September 13, 1928, Elsie married Joe Britton. Joe Britton was a cook working for the RCMP detachments in Dawson City. He finally grew tired of this and went to go work at the gold mines on Canadian Creek and Kirkman Creek. Elsie cooked for the crew and proved to be quite the horticulturalist as she grew all her own vegetables and flowers. After Joe's arthritis became unbearable, the couple moved to Carmacks and opened up a roadhouse. After a few years they sold the place to Loe and Vera Liden and moved near the Taylor and Drury store in Carmacks. Later they bought a lot and a small cabin where Joe built a kitchen. They spent there last independent years here. Elsie died on May 25, 1960 in Whitehorse's hospital. Joe joined Elsie forty-eight days later.

Elsie had the true spirit of a northerner, she had all the adventure of the Gold Rush days, found love, and did not feel the need to visit the 'Outside' in over sixty years.


MacBride Museum of Yukon History, Whitehorse

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