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William McBride Family and the Mud Bay Farm

The McBride farm, in time, was bought by the Cosens family and later by the McDonald Family. This is the history of their farms as well.

The McBride family were United Empire Loyalist who settled in what was to become New Brunswick as a result of the repercussions of the American Revolution. The McBrides of Mud Bay, Surrey began with William McBride who was born in 1845 the oldest child of Thomas McBride and Mary Jane Lindsay. The other children were in descending order: Hanford McBride, Ernest McBride, Margaret McBride, John McBride, and Albert McBride.


William McBride

William McBride was born in Lindsay, New Brunswick, about 11 Km from Woodstock, and his future wife, Victoria, was born in Florenceville, New Brunswick. In 1885, William pre–empted 160 acres in Mud Bay between the Serpentine and Nicomekl Rivers. This was the last land to be taken up on the river delta at the mouth of the Serpentine. William and Victoria McBride built up their farm and had four children; Ethel, Richard William, Albert Arthur, and May.


William McBride was born in Lindsay, New Brunswick, about 11 Km from Woodstock, and his future wife, Victoria, was born in Florenceville, New Brunswick. William and his brothers Albert and Hanford and four cousins (names not known) came to BC. Ernest came later but returned to New Brunswick. It is not known how old they were but from family stories, they were young men or older teens and rambunctious. Family lore says they left Lindsay under a cloud as they had one of their practical jokes go wrong. They rolled a large rock down a hill which destroyed a meeting place used by some of the ex–slaves that had escaped to New Brunswick from the USA. They first went to Virginia City (a rough area at the time) but the brothers and cousins were probably a formidable crew of large men. William was 6'4" in his stocking feet and the others were of equal size. They eventually made it to the Pacific Coast and came north by boat, probably lured by rumours of gold, to Hastings Mill.


The brothers and cousins worked where ever work was available. They possibly worked in Hastings Mill, and they did work in local logging operations and as transport drivers moving goods and supplies to Barkerville and the BC interior.


Hanford McBride

Hanford McBride was an engineer and surveyor and worked on many Provincial Government road construction projects in the Interior. He never married but would regularly return to William's farm in Mud Bay. In the early years before the Mud Bay farm, Hanford logged with William in what is now downtown Vancouver. One of the McBride second cousins was Sir Richard McBride who was the Premier of British Columbia from June 1903 to December 1915 representing Dewdney Trunk riding.


After a short stay but one that put William in love with the province, he returned to New Brunswick. He had known Victoria Baker who was born in Florenceville, New Brunswick in 1846. The Bakers were also United Empire Loyalists who settled in New Brunswick due to repercussions of the American Revolution. Unknown to William, Victoria had moved to Denver, Colorado to assist her sister. William followed her to Denver and they were married in 1880 in Denver.


William and Victoria moved back to BC in 1881 to settle in the Hastings Mill area. They were the first settlers who took up residence on what is now known as Cordova Street in Vancouver. Mr. McBride was the one of the first to cut timber on that now busy thoroughfare, which at that time was covered with trees and brush. They lived in what was known as Gastown, on Water Street, Vancouver, until 1885, the year before the Vancouver fire. Their first child, Ethel was born in 1882 at Hastings Mill in a tent with one of the local native women as a midwife. Ethel was purported to be the first white girl born in the area of Hastings Mill (in the days before Vancouver).


The Mud Bay Farm

Mud Bay 1897

In 1885, William pre–empted 160 acres in Mud Bay between the Serpentine and Nicomekl Rivers. This was the last land to be taken up on the river delta at the mouth of the Serpentine. His immediate neighbours where the Chantrell family. McBride's pre–emption was the last piece of land in the delta between the rivers. When pre–empting land one could claim only 160 acres every three years. The Chantrell Family, who owned much of the property beside the land McBride wanted to pre–empt, thought that they were entitled to that piece and all the land between the two rivers. For this reason, William had to carry a shotgun and actually shoot when he wanted to travel down McBride Road. McBride Road was later called Mud Bay Road. McBride and Chantrell were not on good terms for years.


"William received a land grant 'from Queen Victoria' of 160 acres at Mud Bay 1885. The deed read, in part, that the grant was for the land as far down as the centre of the earth and up as far as the Heaven's above." Sharon (McBride) Newton


Neighbouring farms to the south were held by H.D. Chantrell and J. Weaver on the foreshore west of the Chantrell property. To the north along the Serpentine was the Wade Family and to the east of the McBride's was J.A. Chantrell.


It was good rich farm land which he bought for one dollar an acre. It was foreshore property that was subject to tidal flooding and had to be hand dyked. The actual clearing of the land was not difficult, for there was no timber to cut. All the property was delta land which contained only a few shrubs and tall grass. The land had many sloughs running through it.


The main problem William and the other residents of Mud Bay were faced with was the annual flooding of the rivers. Dykes had to be built and William and the other farmers built them by hand, with shovel and wheelbarrow. There were breaks in the dyke every year. The worst place for this was Seal Point on the ocean, at the west side of the McBride place.


The first building William made was a granary. They lived in this for one year and then they built a small house beside it. They built a huge barn. In 1900 the people of Mud Bay built a dam at the back of the McBride place. This dam was able to hold back the tides, but the engineers disregarded the pressure of water from the spring freshets, and the dam was washed out within a year. There are remains of this dam still in evidence today. (See Dyking)


At the time the McBrides came to Mud Bay, Elgin was a booming port with a Customs House, a hotel, school, church and a wharf. The Haddens owned and operated a sawmill that supplied the Mud Bay region with lumber. The Semiahmoo Trail was the only road and it linked Semiahmoo (present Blaine) with New Westminster. There were no bridges over the rivers at first, so settlers had to wade across them at low tide. Later wooden lift spans were built in the vicinity of the present control dams.


Mud Bay foreshore and agricultural land

In 1906 the Great Northern Railway began construction of the line west of the McBride place. The GNR agreed with William that the right–of–way would act as a dyke and the railway was to maintain it in perpetuity. This solved in part the flooding of Mud Bay from the ocean side. The McBride farm was split however, with 154 acres within the protected area and 11 acres of tidal land remaining unprotected at Seal Point. In subsequent years William and his neighbours hired Harry Benson to dredge and dyke their properties along the Serpentine.


In May 1898, William McBride and his neighbours Messrs. Chantrell, John Woodward, and John Stewart formed a company to dyke the farms with outside help. The total cost being $5,162.20 for 277.911/2 chains, or 3.473 miles at $1400 a mile, enclosing 538.73 acres. This price also included the necessary flood boxes.


At the mouth of the Serpentine there was a wharf. The McBrides had a barn there for storing hay and grain. The hay and grain was loaded at this wharf and shipped to Scott and Peden of Victoria. Product was sold elsewhere as well. Albert McBride recalled accompanying his father on a wagon trip to Yale with several wagon loads of hay destined for points farther up the Fraser. Albert was about 10 years old and drove one wagon but he was so scared at times that he drove with his horses' heads in the back of his Dad's wagon.


Fresh water for drinking was hard to come by in Mud Bay, so the McBrides had to travel all the way to Woodward's Hill. They would have to make this five mile trip twice a day as cattle drink lots of water. In 1903 the first galvanized pipes in Surrey were run from Chantrell Creek, along Crescent Road, to the McBride place. This settled the water problem.


The McBride family home was the centre of community activity. Dances were held here as well as other social activites. Mrs. McBride was an active member of the Anglican Church and a gracious host to members of her community.


In 1914 the telephone came into Mud Bay. This helped communication considerably.


In 1916 the big barn burned. A new one, the barn that's there today, was built in its place. Electricity came to the Mud Bay flats in the 1940s, enabling farmers to use milking machines, and other electrically run machinery.


New pump house

Electricity also solved the water supply problem. A deep well was drilled and an electric pump made the flow possible. The farm had a sweet–water well even though it was so close to the ocean. This picture shows the new pump house for the sweet water well drilled shortly after the electricity supply was available.


William McBride had a booming voice. The neighbours in Elgin gave him the nickname "Whispering Willie" as when William spoke in his ordinary voice he could be heard for nearly half a mile.


The McBrides were very active in local and municipal affairs; William was a member of the Surrey School Board when it was first created in 1906.


William and Victoria McBride's children

William and Victoria McBride had four children; Ethel, Richard William, Albert Arthur, and May. Ethel was the oldest being born in 1882 in Hasting Mill. She was alleged to be the first white girl born in the area of Hastings Mill, three years before Vancouver came into being. She married Alex McCallum and they had three children; Morris, Joyce, Lawrence with the nickname "Happy",.


Alex McCallum (Ethel's husband) was in the great fire of New Westminster in 1898. Family lore had it that: "Alex was reputed to be playing the piano in a waterfront tavern when the fire started. As it drew closer the drinks became free. When it was burning at the front door, the story states they carried the piano and Uncle Alex out the back door with him playing 'There will be a hot time in the old town tonight!'" Hanford McBride Jr. and Sharon (McBride) Newton.


Alex and Ethel McCallum farmed and raised their family in the Mount Leman area of the Fraser Valley.


Richard William (Uncle Dick) was born in Mud Bay in 1888. After William's death in 1921, Dick had a half share in the family farm but left most of the farming to his brother Albert "Bert". Richard had many interests. He lived at Crescent and operated a store "McBrides" at the corner of McBride and Beecher Street. He later sold it to Dick "Pop" Taylor. He was a fisherman and trolled and gill netted in season. He worked in construction and assisted surveyors in one of the many surveys made in the staged development of Crescent Beach. He assisted on the farm when needed and would access the farm by walking over the GNR trestle to the farm. Richard "Dick" never married.


Bert and Dick on the Annes M

Bert and Dick (in the foreground) gill netting near mouth of Serpentine aboard the Annes M.


One of the family stories about Uncle Dick was he weighed 16 pounds at birth and was always extremely large for his age. When it was time for Dick to start school at about six years of age his father took him to a tailor in New Westminster. He left the boy outside the shop while he asked the tailor to set a price for a suit for a six–year–old boy. The tailor said $7.00 but that he would have to measure the boy. Undoubtedly he lost money on that deal. Dick weighted 365 pounds when he was sixteen, very powerful man. There were many stories of his feats of strength. He died suddenly at a meeting in Cloverdale when he was 52.


Albert Arthur "Bert" was the farmer in the family. He was born in Mud Bay in 1890. The year of his birth is in question as the family knew he was born on February 29th a leap year. However, 1890 was not a leap year but his birth date could not be confirmed. The elderly ladies in the community at the time Burt was thinking of applying for Old Age Pension, all agreed he was born on Feb. 29 but no one could agree on the year. Unfortunately, the church records were lost, and the house had burned down losing the information in the family Bible.


May McBride married Billy Hadden and had 10 children.(See The Hadden Family) (See Elgin)


Albert McBride Bert McBride 1930s

On the left is Albert Arthur McBride and on the right is Bert McBride 1930s


Albert Arthur "Bert" McBride operated the farm with his father and took over joint ownership with his brother Dick after their father’s death in 1921. However, Albert was the full time farmer and Dick was a part time farmer when his other activities permitted.


"My dad (Albert) married Dorothy Jane Cormak Melville and had one daughter, Betty. Dorothy died in childbirth and later Betty died in a roller skating accident." Sharon (McBride) Newton


Burt, Annes, Hanford

Bert with Annes, with an unknown gentleman standing to the right, on the beach in Crescent.


Dad married Annes Mills and had one son, Hanford born 1927. Annes died before Hanford was a year old.


Bert and Mary Ellen Bert and Ellen 1954

On the left is Bert and Mary Ellen in 1933 on the right Bert and Mary Ellen 1955


"My Dad then married my Mother, Mary Ellen Wilkinson, 1932 and had two children; one son, Michael born in 1938 and myself, Sharon birn in 1939." Sharon (McBride) Newton


Sharon and Michael 1942 Sharon and Michael 1943

On the left is Sharon and Michael in 1943, on the right is Sharon and Michael at Crescent Beach in 1942


The farm was primarily a dairy farm but cash crops were grown on the side. Milk was sold locally in season to the Crescent Hotel. After 1903 it was collected and shipped via rail to market. Milk delivery service started and Bjernson collected in the Elgin area and took the cans to Alluvia Station. He had a very slow horse, but he always left in plenty of time. One of the Loney brothers remembers being out at 5 am to start milking when Bjernson came along, two hours early to collect the milk. Bert and Dick McBride also hauled milk, followed by Billy and Doug Haddon. At first the Haddens got 30 cents a can for hauling, later raised to 40 cents a ten gallon can. Hauling was a heavy job.


Ellen and Hanford in a 1930s flood

Hanford and Ellen during a flood in the 1930s


The McBride family operated the farm from 1885 to 1945. At the height of the farming activity, Bert and Dick owned other properties including a large wheat farm in Alberta (Bert visited there in the early 1920s). They also owned some property, at various times, in; Crescent Beach, Panorama Ridge, and British Properties etc. All of which were lost during the dirty thirties – the farm was saved but barely. Uncle Dick, according to family stories, "lost" title to several properties with little remuneration to himself or the family.


Threshing crew Provost Alberta

Threshing grain in Provost, Alberta in 1910.
Bert is sixth from the right, the one not holding a pitchfork.


Bert McBride cutting hay in Mud Bay

Bert McBride cutting grain in Mud Bay
The team was known as Dixie and May


The farm had 12 horses altogether. Hanford could recall only two other teams; Kate and Dolly and Bess and Pete. The McBrides were still using the work horses up to the selling of the farm even though they had tractors and other mechanized machinery.


After the McBrides sold the farm, Albert Arthur "Bert" and his son Hanford "Hank" built a modern fishing boat, the "Sharon M". Bert never went fishing with Hanford as he stated the bow was too far off the water and he preferred the much smaller gillnetter. Hanford began a career as fishermen along both the south and north coasts. This new boat allowed him to venture farther afield in his fishing expeditions. Bert had always fished locally in season using a small skiff. He harvested the local runs of salmon. He continued in this capacity fishing as far north as Rivers Inlet.


McBride Farmily 1994

From left to right:
Front: Stephanie McBride
Middle row: Shirley McBride, Ruth McBride, Hanford McBride, Sharon (McBride) Newton, Mary Ellen (previously McBride) Smith
Back row: Michael McBride, Albert James (Bert)McBride, Gail Bernice McBride.


Hanford and Ruth McBride

Hanford and Ruth McBride's history was provided by the Peace Arch News on Wednesday January 3, 2001 to mark their golden anniversary.


Hanford and Ruth McBride

Hank McBride remembers well what caught his eye about the woman he would later marry. "Grey slacks, blue sweater, blonde hair and that was it – I crashed," McBride said of the 1949 meeting with Ruth in Namu, BC. She was 18 at the time, and had come to ask him for a ride to Bella Bella aboard his boat, the "Sharon M". It was just after a bad experience had made him vow he’d take no more passengers on his fishing trips up the west coast. "Best move I ever made in my life," McBride said of this change of heart. The two married in New Westminster 18 months later, a small affair that included only immediate family.

Two children, and three grandchildren later, they recently celebrated their golden anniversary. "I don’t know, it just works," Ruth said of what made their relationship a success for more than five decades. "I guess we're compatible and friends. We've just had a good life together. It just never enters your head it’s anything else." The McBrides have long roots in White Rock/South Surrey. McBride Street (Now McBride Avenue in Crescent Beach is named after his uncle, Richard "Dick" McBride, who owned the first store in the area. (See Crescent Beach Road Names) Another Richard McBride, Hank's grandfather's cousin, was premier of BC in the early 1900s.

When Ruth and Hank met, he was a skipper, and she worked in the Namu Cannery. At 73, Hank still goes out on the job when he gets the chance.

The Cosens' family farm

Mr. Lloyd Cosens Sr. bought the farm from Bert McBride in 1945. The government bought or claimed the mineral and air rights before the Cosens were able to buy the farm. Lloyd Cosen and his sons operated the farm until 1959, when they sold it to the McDonald family.


John Lloyd Cosens was born in the Nass River area but moved to Vancouver at an early age. He married Margaret Isabel Stewart and they lived in the Marpole District of South Vancouver. One of their early homes was at the corner of 64th Avenue and Oak Street. Lloyd had a job at a major cannery in Steveston and while employed took further studies to become a "Steam Engineer".


Lloyd longed to farm and in 1944 he and Margaret and their children Jack and Lloyd Jr. moved to Forest Hill Farm. This is the present site of the Nico Wynd condos and golf course, near the Elgin Hall. In 1946 the Cosens made the big move when they purchased the 160 acre McBride farm at 13503 Mud Bay Road (40th Ave.). The farm was a rich piece of land between the Serpentine and Nicomekl Rivers. They lived in the big McBride home for a year or so until their rancher beside it was finished. Greg Cosens was born when they still lived in the old McBride home and before they moved into the rancher.


For four or five years they hired farm help to assist with the day to day operations. When Jack and Lloyd Jr. were old enough to help their Dad with the farm chores the old white McBride house became vacant.


Albert McBride had built a rancher on Mud Bay Road and almost across from the Cryer's farm buildings. His family lived here but the old McBride house, built in 1914, was also still used by the extended family. Uncle Dick McBride had rooms there. Hanford lived there when cousins his age were living there as well.


When the Cosens' purchased the farm the small rancher on the property was unoccupied. They built a cement foundation across the lane from the old McBride home and with skidders and manpower they moved the rancher about a quarter mile and onto the foundation. It was totally renovated and the family moved in, in 1947 after the birth of Greg.


Foundations of rancher

The foundation for the rancher


William McBride home

The original McBride home built in 1910


The old white house was the original McBride home built in 1910. Behind it is the potato–pit. This is the building for storing potatoes and other crops. The foundation in the foreground is for the rancher to be moved to the site.


Lloyd Cosen being recognized

The farm was primarily a dairy farm. Lloyd Sr. worked very hard and won many awards with his prize winning herd of dairy cows, mainly Holstiens and some Guernsey. In this Vancouver Sun picture Lloyd is being recognized with the Dairymens' shield for the best butterfat production among his herd.


Other crops were grown as cash crops. It was the same herd that welcomed the boys, Jack and Lloyd Jr. at 5:00 am every day of the week. They milked 40 cows twice a day. The farm harvested about 400 tons of netted gem potatoes every fall to sell to the Potato Board. Oats were traded to the Co–op in Cloverdale for mixed grain feed, groceries, gasoline, etc. Corn, hay and grass were grown for the farm's use. The straw for the cow's bedding was from the stalks left after combining the oats.


Lloyd Cosens Sr. also worked off the farm. He had an engineering ticket and when the cannery in Steveston was canning salmon, he was responsible for the boilers. He took up this seasonal occupation most canning seasons.


Margaret Cosens had a vegetable garden of her own. She kept the family well fed with her home grown produce.


Cosen's farm in the 1950s

The Mud Bay farm in the late 1950s
Surrey Leader photo courtesy of Surrey Archives


The farm consisted of a barn, loafing barn, implement shed (this was also used for sorting potatoes), a small dairy, a large silo, and the old McBride home. This large 2–storey house was used by the hired men and their families. The Cosens' rancher was where the family lived. The silo was filled with cut up corn stalks from the farm and pea vine from the pea farms in Delta.


Dairy barn in the snow

The dairy barn in the snow


The farm had 40 dairy cows, mostly Holstein but some were Guernsey, some heifers and a large bull. Cows were milked twice a day so the men were up at 5:00 am. and then out to the barn at 4:00 pm. When the cows came in to be milked they were fed grain, potatoes, turnips, hay and black strap molasses (molasses came in 45 gallon drums and was scooped out with a large spoon to give to each cow). Each cow's udder had to be washed before placing on the milking machine. Some cows didn't like the machines so they had to be milked by hand because they wouldn't let their milk down.


The fields were divided by large ditches. When a plank was removed from the bridges, the cows would not cross over. This became the preferred method of rotating the access and grazing in the fields.


Cosen boys with Ed Fader

The Cosens boys; Jack, Greg, friend Ed Fader, and Lloyd


The Cosens, at harvest time, used to assist the neighbours in baling and combining as theirs was one of the few machines in the area. The boys, Jack, Lloyd and their friend Ed Fader would help the neighbours get the bailed hay into their barns while the weather was still fine. Sometimes they would use the lights from the truck so they could find the bales.


In the mid fifties there was a break out of Hoof and Mouth Disease in the Fraser Valley but the farm was not impacted.


There was a flood in the winter of 1951–52, high tides and strong winds broke the dykes of the Serpentine River and the farm was under sea water for five months. There were sand bags placed around the house and barn to provide protection. During the flood, the family had to paddle to the barn from the house. At the worst, the water on the roads was so deep the boys had to ride the high tractor to Crescent Road and King George Highway to catch the school bus. (See Dyking) Lloyd Jr. recalled: "I thought it was fun taking the tractor and wagon loads of milk to the highway every morning but to our Dad it was most stressful having to keep the cows in the barn on raised platforms in their stalls and continually pumping water to keep the barn dry."


Greg Cosens recalls the long cold snowy winters with much more snow than we get now. He also remembers ice skating on the pond in front of their rancher. Skating was the pastime on the large frozen flooded ponds and the southeast corner of King George Highway and Colebrook Road where all the farming community came to have some winter fun.


Local hunters would access the farm in the early autumn to hunt the ring necked pheasants. This was before the invasion of the urban coyote cleaned out pheasant populations. Duck hunters used to go through the farm to the Serpentine River in the early evening to hunt the incoming migrating ducks.


Some other neighbouring farmers on the stretch of Mud Bay Road from the railway tracks to King George were: the Weavers; next to the tracks, on the south side of Mud Bay Road was Don and June Weaver's farm. Just next to them on the east was Norm Cryer's farm. Around 1955 Cryer's place was sold to the Campbells. East of Cryer's was Findlay Robinson's farm. His daughter Velda Parsons lives on Denman Island (Husband Douglas). Across the road from Robinson's on the north side of Mud Bay Road was the Kitzel Farm. East of the Kitzel farm on the north side of Mud Bay was Ed Haskins Farm with children Dorothy, and Vivian.


The farm on Mud Bay was sold in 1959 as Lloyd Sr. was having heart problems and it was the advice of his doctor to sell and not to worry about the day to day operations. He offered the farm to his sons Jack and Lloyd Jr. but they realized that he would still be worrying about how the boys were operating the farm.


The McDonald family farm

Ken McDonald purchased the farm in 1958. This is his story of the McDonald family farm.


The McDonald Family Farm

The Mud Bay farm in the McDonald era


We moved from Sea island in1959 with 30 truckloads of equipment and a herd of cows. Hank (Hanford) McBride came to see me and asked what I paid for the farm, I told him $70,000.00 and he said that figures. I asked why, and he said they sold the farm to Lloyd Cosens for $50,000.00 and built a seine boat which was now worth $70,000.00.

I re–fenced the farm put in under–drains and limed the soil. The farm remained primarily a dairy farm, but we grew cash crops as well. We grew around 400 tons of potatoes each year until Fresh Pack was bought out by McCains and that company closed the plant and shipped potato chips from the prairies. That cost me my contract of 200 tons. I also grew clover seed, sugar beet seed, brussel sprout seed and oats.

We milked around 50 cows twice daily with the milk going by pipeline to a refrigerated tank in a separate adjacent building. The dairy sent a tanker every other day to get the milk. We baled hay and filled three thirty foot silos for cow feed.

On November 22nd, 1972 the Serpentine dyke broke due to wind and high tides. The whole area flooded. It was my turn to be Chairman and we all had a meeting with Bill Vanderzalm, Mayor of Surrey, at Kitzel's house. Bill said he would send his engineer out to survey the damage and get the break fixed and pumps would get the salt water out. I asked who was going to pay for this, Bill said Surrey would. What a relief! What a help to us! We were lucky to have a former Dutchman take charge. We had to nail down our bridges over the ditches, I found it difficult to nail under water and interesting to see a log and a pile of shavings floating past me. On the way out to the bridge the land was mostly dry, but on the way back the tractor fan was blowing salt water back in my face.

I phoned the marketing Co–op and told them my potatoes would all be ruined if we didn't get them out right away. This year the potatoes were in 1000 lb. tote boxes. The trucks came and kept coming day and night until the potatoes were all gone, the crop was saved. I had sold the herd on October 6th; so they had been gone for a month, what a lucky break for us when the flood came.

I sold the farm and the cows in 1972. The farm was bought by the Greenbelt Fund that was started by W.A.C. Bennett and I rented the place back for another 10 years. After selling I got into beef cattle but found that was''t worth the effort so just carried on with seed crops and potatoes and hay. Regarding the Agricultural Land Freeze, I guess it lowered the value of the farm land temporarily. Hardest hit were marginal farm land owners. I had sold out before the Freeze so was unaffected.

In 1982 I moved off the farm and retired to Pender Harbour. My son Duncan took over the farm for a few years and then moved to a smaller place. The farm is now rented to Stan van Keulen and is used to grow silage crops, grass and corn. Since the Van Keulen's milk 1000 cows, there is a lot of manure to get rid of. They put in a long pipe line from their barns to where I farmed and built a couple of lagoons to hold the liquid manure. From there a pipeline was run along the edge of the fields to be tapped at various spots for a large travelling sprinkler.

They tore down all the buildings except the potato barn. This included the historic McBride home and the rancher occupied by the Cosens' family. I wasn't impressed with that move as it limited anyone else renting the place.

Ken McDonald married Margaret Norris October 30th, 1954. They had five children; Ellen (a Lawyer), Gordon (a Veterinarian), Duncan (Lawncare), Ian (an Engineer), and Donald (Medical Doctor). Sadly Marg developed Altzheimers and had to eventually go to a place where she could get care. She died after 10 years or so in long term care. Sue Pavitt and Ken were married August 5th, 1983.


McDonald Farmily 2012

The McDonald Family 2012


The picture is of the McDonald Family as of last year, 2012. From left to right is; Sandra and Gordon, Chantal and Donald, Bill and Ellen, Duncan is in the back, Ken and Sue in front and Arlene and Ian to our right.


Ken McDonald's stories of Farm Life

The Farm had a couple of wide sloughs splitting up fields. These, before the dyking took over, were significant waterways and used by Indians of the past for fishing. On the bend in a slough, the inside tends to be higher and that would be where the natives might camp.

Indian Artifact

One day, while plowing such a spot, a stone came up and since there should not be stones in alluvial soil, I had to have a look. It turned out to be a ceremonial crudely carved turtle with a concave back and was used to grind up paint. The Museum said it could be 2000 or 3000 years old and must have been a great loss back then.


Before moving to the McBride Farm we farmed on Sea Island and grew potatoes. I became the youngest President of the Columbia Potato Grower'’ Association. We also milked cows and after the move joined the Surrey Cow Testing Association. We had 90% pure bred Holsteins. Top producing cows were mentioned in a monthly report in the local paper. We won various cups and awards over the years and the other farmers the same. In my time a 50 cow milking herd was about average, now 400 to 1000 cows seems to be the way with newer and better milking equipment. There is now even a robot that can milk cows. Next door to the farm, Kitzel's milk 400 cows in a carousel in 2 or 2 1/2 hours. The cows walk on, are milked, and walk off after the carousel has made a full circle. What advances since 1972 when we sold out?

Life on a farm with milk cows entails a lot of work especially in the winter. When the kids got old enough each had his own calf to feed milk or milk replacer. This was before and after school.

In the winter I backed the manure spreader between the gutters, loaded it up and took it out to the closest field. When Gordon was 4 he could steer the tractor around the field and make a full circle and then turn the key off. Of course I always started him going as he couldn't reach the pedals. He wore a cute yellow rain suit and hat, while he did that I had other barn chores to do, I really missed him when he started school.

One day I used a series of ladders to get up the hip roof and onto the adjacent barn to fix a roof leak. While up 40 feet and nailing shingles I heard a "Hello Dad" there was 4 year old Gordon standing beside me, this was not a good surprise; especially when my wife came out and saw Gordon up there. I got a real berating, as if this was my fault.

For a couple of days the kids told me about a wolf in the dry slough behind the barn, I didn't pay any attention. The next day I was heading to the barn around 4:30 am and here was an emaciated German shepherd dog lying on the ground, I ran back to the house and got a loaf of sliced bread which the starving beast wolfed down then brought back a gallon of milk. After I got through with the milking (It was my turn) the dog was standing and wagging his tail. He would ride in the back of the pickup, but especially liked the little old convertible Sunbeam I got the kids to learn to drive around the farm. The dog always sat in the back.

One day I had to go to the White Rock drugstore, I never noticed the Shepherd (Toby) in the back of the pickup until too late. He had never been off the farm for years, I told him to sit while I went into get pills or something which took me some time. At the cash register the lady said "Is that your dog?", I looked and saw a lineup of older people wanting out, but a six foot Shepherd was standing up against the glass door looking in for me. I told the lady "No, not my dog" left the place with Toby running ahead of me, I looked back and she was watching, I grinned and left with the dog in the back of the pickup.

We always had a mixed lumber pile and a couple of boxes of nails in the shop, the boys decided to build a fort behind the barn in the dry slough. You just had to follow the trail of nails on the ground to find it. It even had a basement floor.

Every year the Grade 1 kids from Elgin School would be brought out to the farm. We had a couple of horses so I saddled one and everyone got a short ride. I had to lift everyone up on the horse, they got heavier and heavier. Next came the hayride; bales of hay around the wagon and was that ever popular, it sure surprised me. We went around behind the barn and passed the so called fort. I drove very slowly here, and every kid knew what that was, a play house and I was afraid to stop or I would lose everyone on the wagon. I wondered how many kids went home and asked Dad to build them a play house. I figured those little kids would remember the farm trip the rest of their lives. It was something I enjoyed immensely.

When the family got to High School age, we started getting school friends visiting. Soon Sundays became chicken and chips day at McDonalds. We had a chip maker screwed to the kitchen wall it was my job to pull the lever down on a big potato as no one else could. Ellen and her Mother cut up the chicken for the meal. We had lots of visitors on Sundays. A number of years later, when Sue and I were flying to England, I was walking down the aisle and was stopped by a lady and she asked if I was Ken McDonald, I said "Yes". She said she used to come to the farm on Sundays for McDonald'’s chicken and chips, she told me her name and where she lived but an airplane is not a good place to chat and catch up, what a small world.

We put up three 30 foot silos and the first one nearly fell over when full. The silo expert helping us said rather than pouring a cement slab, let's just pour a ring to set the silo on. When the silo was full one night one side sunk and it had about a 70 deg. lean right over the dairy, with its big stainless steel tank and compressor. I got right to work at 5.00am, nailed a cleat up some 20 feet on the silo side and had 2 long 12' x 12's braced "A" frame style against the cleat. It worked and held the silo and when it was empty, jacked it back up. It took a truck load of head size rocks to fill the cavity inside the silo. From then on it was reinforced cement slabs.

Fishing Shack

"John Lee was a good friend of my Dad's (Bert McBride). John Lee had a set claim (for coho) on the Nicomekl River and probably the Serpentine. He lived on the Crescent Road across from the junction of Nicol road and Crescent Rd. Probably used the shack for storage as well as a camp during fishing season especially if fishing at night – due to tides." Sharon (McBride) Newton


Springtime came and we need a tractor driver. Clark Peden arrived, a former mechanic. We had an abandoned small fisherman's house (the shack as we called it) outside the dyke and built on pilings. It was fully furnished, table and chairs, stove, all the cookware etc. There was even a rain barrel to collect rain off the roof. Clark moved in and turned out to be a great asset and also a good friend. He liked to talk and was fond of a pint of beer. On time off, where better to go than the local hotel pub, as long as he could find someone to listen. He found Doug Hepburn, the world famous weight lifter. He competed in Canada and across the USA and Europe. He won the Gold Medal for Canada in weightlifting, in 1954 at the British Empire & Commonwealth Games. He was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame.

Doug Hepburn

Doug Hepburn used to travel through Cosens farm to his little shack by the Serpentine River. Hepburn won gold medals in the 1953 World Weightlifting Championships and 1954 British Empire Games even though he had a club foot. He never got the recognition he deserved. He died in 2000. In this picture he is holding five year old Donald McDonald


Doug went through a drinking stage, recovered somewhat and was soon living with Clark in the shack. He had a car, Clark didn't. One day at 11:00pm when I went out to check the cows, Doug's car wasn't parked by the milk stand as it usually was. He would drink a case of beer in the car and leave the empties for me, as I made my own beer. I knew something had happened. Next morning about 6 am I saw the two of them walking past the barn heading for the shack. About 10 am a well–dressed Mountie showed up in shiny shoes, leather leggings etc. He was looking for Doug Hepburn. I told him where he could be found, across that muddy field and over the dyke. He looked at his clothes and decided to leave. I could have taken him back on the tractor but didn't offer as I knew what he would find.

It appears their car went off the #10 Highway, flipped over and sat upside down neatly filling the ditch. Doug lay on his back and kicked the rear window out and they crawled out to walk the miles home. In their state of mind they walked right past the Serpentine dyke where their shack was just a few hundred yards down the dyke road. They walked a half mile more than they needed to.

Farming gave a person the opportunity to meet a lot of good hardworking people who became good friends. The people who worked on the farm came from all walks of life. Potato harvesting we had Chinese, Dutch, East Indians and rubbies from skid row. The rest of the work we saw; English, Irish, Canadians, Germans and Dutch.

We had a full satisfying life on the farm and we retired to Pender Harbour in 1982 to do some fishing.


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