Archival Documents

Margaret Erskine McCarter fonds

Creation Date(s): 1904-1922, 1915-1922 predominant

Physical Description:
1 album (434 photographs : b&w prints)
12 photographs : b&w prints

Bio Sketch / Admin History:
Margaret Erskine McCarter was born on September 15, 1893, to Alexander and Helen McCarter in Kingston, Ontario. Margaret was one of seven children.

In 1898 Margaret’s father joined the Klondike stampede, mining on Dominion Creek. Margaret was raised in Dawson City, where her father later worked as a jeweler and postmaster.

Before the outbreak of World War I, Margaret met Charles Rodney Thornback, an English immigrant and North West Mounted Police officer stationed in Dawson City. The two became engaged in 1914. In February 1916 Thornback traveled overseas and enlisted in the British army. McCarter joined him in July 1916 and the couple was married in Southampton, England, on October 22, 1916.

On January 25, 1918, Margaret and Charles had their first of two children, Charles Alexander Thornback (later known as John Alexander McCarter). Charles was born in Wareham, Dorset, England. After the War, the Thornbacks resettled in Dawson City. Their second child, Helen Beatrice Thornback (later known as Helen Erskine McCarter), was born in Dawson on December 5, 1920.

In February 1920 Charles Thornback left his young family to seek medical treatment in Vancouver. While he was in Vancouver he became involved with a nurse, and Margaret and Charles were never reconciled. Margaret filed for divorce against Charles on the grounds of adultery and abandonment, and the divorce was granted on October 22, 1923. Theirs was the first divorce case to be heard in the Yukon.

Margaret’s health went into serious decline following the divorce. She died of tuberculosis on April 28, 1924 at the age of thirty. Her two children were adopted by their maternal grandparents, Alexander and Helen McCarter, who changed the children’s names to expunge any connection to their father. The children remained in Dawson City until 1932 when they moved to Vancouver with the McCarters so that Alexander could receive hospital care following an accident.

Scope and Content:
This fonds consists of twelve loose photographs, and one photograph album, compiled and annotated by Margaret McCarter of Dawson City. The majority of the photographs were taken between 1915 and 1922, and include images of the McCarter family and their friends, life at the McCarter's Dawson residence, recreational excursions around Dawson City, and other social functions. The album also contains several photographs taken during Margaret McCarter's time in England during WWI, as well as a few images from visits to British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

Accession Number(s): 2001.48

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