Paper Knife

Paper Knife

Letter opener and sheath

Ivory-bladed letter opener with filagree silver hilt, owl foot with feathers and claw forms haft, and ermine fur sheath.

The most popular means of correspondence from the Yukon was through the post. Mail in the Yukon was unreliable and tended to arrive in bundles a few times a year. For decades after the establishment of post offices in the Yukon, dogsleds were used to carry the majority of the mail. The seclusion felt by the residents of the vast Yukon Territory created an environment where correspondence with the outside became a vital part of life. Receiving news from the outside allowed people to temporarily reconnect with the rest of the world.

This letter opener was undoubtedly a well used and cherished item. It was crafted from ivory with a decorative handle of owl foot and feather. The ermine case is made from the fur of a small but vicious member of the weasel family. The letter opener was given to Mrs. Edwards by Bishop Bompas, and later given to Bishop Greenwood to be given to the museum. The letter opener was fashioned from items taken from all over the north. The owl claw handle is from Slave Lake and the ermine skin holder is from Fort Norman.

Right Reverend William Carpenter Bompas was the first Bishop of Athabasca (1874-1884), first Bishop of the MacKenzie River (1884-1891) and first Bishop of Selkirk (1891-1906). He was born in London, England, in 1834 and died, still serving at Carcross, in 1906. His father, Charles Carpenter Bompas, Sergeant at Law and eminent advocate before the British Bar, was said to be the original of Charles Dickens' Sergeant Buzzfuzz in Pickwick Papers.

Bishop Bompas first entered the Yukon in 1873, visiting the Indians at LaPierre's House from the MacKenzie River. In 1874, he went to Fort Yukon to encourage and enlarge his missionary services to the Indians. He spent 1891 and 1892 at Rampart House on the Porcupine River and, having heard of the needs of the miners and First Nations in the Fortymile district, he set up Buxton Mission there. He established missions at Fort Selkirk and later at Carcross and, in 1897, created the original St. Paul's Church in Dawson.

His greatest efforts were always for the First Nations people and his residential school for First Nations children at Carcross where he taught the children to be proud of their heritage. He served 43 years in the MacKenzie Delta and theYukon, returning only once to England during this time. When he was summoned home to be consecrated as the first Bishop of Athabasca, May 3rd, 1873, he married his cousin, Charlotte Cox.


Old Log Church Museum, Whitehorse

Accession Number


rollover rollover