After the Municipal Election in 1881 (January), the Councilors decided it would be in order to celebrate the event in a manner becoming the occasion. So a public ball was decided on as the method of celebrating.
The writer had been to Victoria to meet his family, but they failed to arrive as had been arranged and no word came from them to explain the cause of the delay. After waiting for three weeks and still no word from them, he telegraphed money enough to Frisco to bring them through and on the next steamer, the old Idaho, along they came, 2nd January, 1831. The children had been sick and this had been the cause of the delay.
On second day after their arrival I had to leave them in Victoria and hike back to Yale, I found on arrival at New Westminster a mail steamer, The Gem would try and get through to Chilliwack the next day, so having the evening before me I crossed the river to Brownsville to see the Johnstons; on this particular evening the Surrey Council Ball was held at Brownsville in the Johnston's house.
I was invited to attend the function as I had never the privilege of joining in a frolic of that kind before I accepted the invitation and saw the thing through. The function passed off in fine style, the attendance was not large, especially of the feminine sex of whom there were just four, two children 12 and 14 years of age, one girl about 18, 1 judge and a quite elderly woman, certainly passed middle age. The male portion of the company numbered 6 dancers, with two fiddlers and one onlooker.
Some of the dancers appeared in full dress, just as they left their workshop, hip gum boots and all. All appeared to thoroughly enjoy the pleasurable occasion This was the first and last Ball held under the auspices of the Surrey Municipal Council.
Doubtless there are but very few of the present residents of Surrey who are acquainted with the history of the inception, surveying for right of way and construction of the first railway in our part of the country, and the peculiar struggle undertaken by the Surrey Council in securing that desirable connection with the outside world; so perhaps a short review of some of the salient features in connection with the undertaking may possibly be interesting.
About the time construction on the C.P.R. commenced at Emory, B.C. a charter conferring the right to construct and operate a certain Railway was granted by the B.C. Legislature to certain individuals resident in New Westminster, on one occasion in conversation with K.C.; that gentleman informed me that the Charter was granted to him, but when I learned of the existence there of it was reported it was held by the New Westminster Board of Trade; be that as it may, the Charter was in existence and when New Westminster's expectations of becoming the freshwater terminus of the C.P.R. and it found itself left high and dry, not even connected with that Railway system, owing to the Government decision to make the terminus on Burrard Inlet, it was then that a loyal determination to get even, appeared to seize some of the worthy residents of the City on the Fraser, and to that end secure the construction of a railway to connect with the American Railways. At the same time the Surrey Council took up the Railway project with a view to promote its own interests, the Federal government at Ottawa had under consideration the disallowance of the Charter, upon the member for New Westminster district, the late Doc. Chisholm, bringing the matter to its attention. In the meantime Surrey was carrying on preparations for immediate action provided the Board of Trade would venture to explain, at this time there was no place between the Fraser River and the International Boundary where it was possible to purchase a continuous strip of land for Right of way, without crossing Dominion land; but the Municipal Act of that date contained certain clauses authorizing the Municipal Councils to construct Public Roads; they were also empowered to accord certain rights to Railway companies to lay ties, and steel rails on the Public Roads of the Municipalities also to grant such Companies the rights to operate locomotive cars, trains, carry passengers, freight, etc.
So far as could be ascertained, only one person resident in Surrey was eligible for membership in the Board of Trade as then constituted. The Surrey Clerk of the Municipal Council, became a member of the Board of Trade and as it was important that an elected-member of the council should also be a Board of Trade member the late Thomas Shannon J.P. was accommodated and he became a member of the New Westminster Board, of Trade representing the Surrey Council on that board; then the late Albert J. Hill C.E. was engaged to do any surveying the Corporation of the District of Surrey might require, at a stipulated price per.
While these preparations were proceeding in B.C., matters began to get interesting at Ottawa. The governments in drawing the Charter for the C.P.R. had stipulated as one of the most objectionable conditions that no other railways should be permitted to come in or cross the country for 20 miles on either side of the C.P.R.
There was a very worthy person a native of Canada, a famous railway builder, but whoso special interests at the time were south of the International Boundary Line, the late J.H. Hill; this worthy gentleman was desirous of running his system into the City of Winnipeg and he continued to build his road until he actually struck the C.P.R. and with a small army of men, in spite of the opposition of the C.P.R. the crossing was installed and the J.H. Hill locomotive stood on the crossing. While this was taking place at Winnipeg, apparently the Government saw its mistake in quoting the wide open monopoly to the C.P.R. and thinking it would be easier to deal with the trouble nearest home, Sir J. A. MacDonald requested Mr. Doc Chisholm, M.L. to communicate with his friends of the New Westminster Board, of Trade and urge them to abandon the local Charter, taking no further action in the construction of the rood, and if that were done he said he personally would support a Inter bill granting a Dominion Charter for the B.C. Railway.
This telegram came through, a special meeting of the Board of Trade was convened, and the Surrey men were invited to attend. At the meeting the matter was discussed, without reference to the Surrey members, and those present had practically decided to submit a resolution to the meeting to abandon further action and accept the suggestion made by Sir J. A. MacDonald to Mr. Chisholm, M.P.
Before this action was taken however the Chairman asked Surrey delegation what they thought of the matter, the Surrey delegates replied that they had a suggestion to offer. They believed it would be a great mistake to fall in with the suggestion contained in the telegram; at present they held something tangible in the local Charter and while Sir John A. MacDonald doubtless was honest and sincere in saying he would support the granting of a Dominion Charter, could they depend that the supporters, in view of the C.P.R. Monopoly House, who would vote in favor of our road, therefore Surrey would suggest that immediate action be taken to commence the Survey of the right of way. The Surrey Delegates outlined more fully the engagement the municipal council had with Mr. Hill, C.E. in regard to the suggested survey, they pressed for an immediate survey for a right of way for a public road 100 ft. wide from the Fraser River to the Boundary Line; as soon as this would be completed. Surrey Council was prepared to pass a By–law gazetting such right of way as a Public road, to let a contract in the name of Surrey Council for construction, the Board of Trade to provide the finances for such construction work, and when the construction was sufficiently advanced the Council would pass a second by–law granting the Board of Trade rights to lay a track on such a Public Highway and rights to operate trains, cars, etc.
After matters were more fully discussed the meeting expressed itself as being of the opinion that the Surrey delegates place was the most in the interest of New Westminster and of Surrey district. A resolution was therefore passed instructing Surrey to engage Mr. A. J. Hill, C.E. to get a crew together and proceed with the Survey for the Right of Way – such survey to be undertaken in the name of the Corporation of the District of Surrey and financing to be undertaken by the N.W. Board of Trade.
The bargain was duly made with Mr. A. J. Hill, the survey commenced within three days and when completed was at once duly advertised in the B.C. Gazette as a Public Highway by the Surrey Council; a contract was let for grading the said highway and was awarded to Mr. J. K. Lancey and his partner, both of whom were forever subcontractors on the C.P.R. construction work.
The grading, the bridges and the work duly constructed and then the Surrey Council passed another By-law authorizing the New Westminster Southern Railway Company to lay tracks, ties, rails, etc., there on and to run cars, trains, locomotives, etc., for hire and generally to operate and carry on the business of a Common Carrier on and over the said Public Highway between the International Boundary Line and the Fraser River.
The road was finally completed and taken over by the Great Northern Railway or the J. H. Hill Company.
Official opening of the line for traffic took place on the 14th February 1891, with a public excursion from New Westminster to Fairhaven. The Lieut. Governor of B.C. Hon. Mr. Nelson; the Hon. John Robson, the Provincial Secretary; the Reeve of Surrey and many other invited guests. A stop was made at Liverpool to admit of a very pleasant ceremony being carried out in the presentation of a lot on the newly surveyed town site of Liverpool, B.C. to Mrs. Nelson, wife of the Lieut. Governor, by Mr. T. J. Trapp, President of the local company.
Further ceremonies wore held on crossing the Boundary Line at Blaine, Washington, where an excursion train from Whatcom, Lehouse and Fairhaven was met on its way north to New Westminster.
About this time the Federal Government discovered the error made in granting the monopoly to the C.P.R. blanketing the country from east to west for twenty miles on each side of their line, so the matter was taken up and eventually compromised for the trifling sum of Eleven Million Dollars.
The New Westminster Southern Railroad was operated for a number of years to the great advantage of Surrey, assisting greatly in the development and settling up of the district. The line was finally abandoned when the water-level route of the G.N.R. was constructed along the shores of Semiahmoo and Mud Bays in 1903–09.
Henry T. Thrift
Up until 1883 there were few, very few, permanent settlers located within the area now known as the Municipality of Surrey, a few people mainly fishermen were settled along the banks of the Fraser river; there were several fish canneries and the settlers were generally situated adjacent to these canneries. One of the canneries was known as Haighs and Bon Accord Cannery and was located on the river front near where the C.N. repair shops are now located at Port Mann; another was English's Cannery, located at Brownsville opposite New Westminster, while a third was erected partly in Surrey and partly in Delta Municipalities further down the river.
There were just two families who settled near the mouth of the Nicomekl River, plus traders and fishermen; a few isolated settlers round. Clover Valley and Surrey Center districts and a few scattered through Mud Bay, Port Kells and the Alder Bottom or Johnston Settlement.
In 1886 the John Hendry interests obtained control of the valuable tract of timber on the ridges between the Campbell River and the Nicomekl River valleys. A mail route was established between Halls Prairie on the South and Clover Valley, Langley Prairie, Clayton and a little later Surrey Center and New Westminster, the mails were weekly and Mr. H. T. Thrift drove this mail stage and carried the mails for some nine years and over until the New Westminster Southern Railway was constructed and in operation.
After a great deal of agitation with the Council the L.M.L. got the Councilors to consent to permit him to publish information respecting Surrey, its advantages and opportunities for settlement in the B.C. papers and otherwise.
This effort met with immediate response. Settlers came into Kensington Prairie district; and soon practically the whole of that splendid tract of land was settled.
Henry T. Thrift
In the good old days before the introduction of party lines in the Province of B.C. by our late friend and "nyas tillicum" Sir Richard McBride, generally every year after the session of the Legislature was over, Surrey would be honored by a visit from our representative who was also a member of the Government.
The visit was usually arranged about as follows: The Hon. Provincial Secretary would write a letter to the C.M.C. informing him that he would on a certain date visit the Municipality of Surrey, and he would like to meet the Settlers, as he had a little money to spend on the roads; would the C.M.C. please arrange for a public meeting at Surrey Centre. That worthy individual, always willing to serve the public, soon had the news of the proposed visit, its purpose, the date and the place of meeting in circulation, of course the number of settlers all told, were comparatively very few, but money to be spent on the Roads! Every settler wanted a road, and they responded to the invitation to attend the meeting at Surrey Centre; a description of one such meeting is characteristic of a number of others.
The Hon. the Provincial Secretary has arrived, the Settlers are also in evidence; Meeting called to order – Chairman and Secretary elected in the person of Mr. Edward Parr, with Mr. H. T. Thrift as Secretary.
Mr. Chairman did not consider it as any part of his duty to waste time on Chairman's remarks. The business on hand was altogether too important for that, so he addressed himself direct to the visitor, "Now, Mr. Executor, what have you got to say".
The Hon. Provincial Secretary, who by the way was a good and forcible speaker, at once took up the challenge and gave an excellent description of the progress and advancement the Province was making under the benign and fostering care of the (then) present government of which he had the honor of being a member; etc. etc.
He was also proud to note on his way out from the City the marked progress and development manifested by the Settlers since his last visit to Surrey, etc.
And now Gentlemen, he continues"'I realize only too well the difficulties you are all laboring under in the matter of roads and I have great pleasure in informing you that I have $500.00 to be expended on the Surrey roads and I leave it to you to decide where the money shall be applied".
A very worthy gentleman who lived at Surrey Centre (the late Mr. G. Boothroyd) moved that the money be expended on the Coast Meridian Road, across the Serpentine Flats, Mr. Boothroyd gave many reasons why the $500 should be expended as he proposed.
Mr. K. T. Thrift moved in amendment that the $500 be expended on the construction of a bridge over the Campbell River on the Coast Meridian Road, three–quarters of a mile north of the International Boundary and thus connecting the Campbell River Road with an old skid–road running south to the line and there intersecting the road along the Beach (constructed by the British troops at the time of the delineation of the Boundary line) and thus giving an outlet to the Saltwater and to Victoria, for the Settlers of Hazelmere and Hall's Prairie. This amendment was seconded and carried; the Hon. Prov. Secretary instructed the Council to let a contract for the erection of the bridge and to draw on the Government for the amount of $500 when complete. This was done, Mr. A. Milton of Cloverdale took the contract and erected the bridge and when completed the Council attended the official opening, a grand dance was held on the Bridge, the settlers ran pony races across the structure and there was much jollification in celebrating the opening of the Campbell River Bridge on the Coast Meridian Road.
The Coast Meridian Road was commenced south, from Surrey Centre, in 1884 and continued in 1885 and 1886 south of the Nicomekl River, the Settlers giving much of the labor, as much of the work was digging ditches, drainages being a very important item in the construction of this road.
In the year 1886 Mr. Gordon P. Dafoe of Surrey Centre waited on the Council on behalf of himself and other men working in the Royal City Company's logging camps, south of Kensington Prairie, and requested the Council to undertake the opening of the Coast Meridian south of Kensington Prairie to McMillans Clearing, Mr. Dafoe and his fellow workmen had subscribed $75.00 to open a trail through the timber, but they thought it would be more to the point if the Council would undertake the work, and he would hand the money over to the Officials.
Halls Prairie Road opened after the completion of the bridge over the Campbell River.
The Council by Resolution agreed to open the road as requested, and accepted the $75.00 with thanks to Mr. Dafoe and his associates.
Early in the history of Surrey many of the public roads when first opened were called after the names of the settlers near whose location the first Municipal expenditures were made, as for instance the Brown road, the McInnes road in Ward 5, etc.
This order was changed somewhat when H. T. Thrift undertook the duties of G.M.C.(General Municipal Clerk) in 1833 and introduced a standard form of Specification and Contract for all the Municipal Works. This with the object of avoiding friction and misunderstanding in describing several contracts on the same road such as the Campbell River road, North Bluff road, Mud Bay and Kensington Prairie road and many others.
Then as to the location of place names; for instance when Bailey Ross erected the hotel on the Boundary Line he was greatly exercised as to what name it should be known by and requested H. T. Thrift to suggest a suitable name, the latter suggested, as the possibilities were favorable for an extensive public seaside resort in the neighborhood why not designate the St. Leonard's after St. Leonards on Sea, County of Sussex, England, Mr. Ross therefore accepted the suggestion.
In respect to Cloverdale the engineers surveying the route for the right of way for the New Westminster and Southern Railway were impressed with the location and surrounding neighborhood as a most suitable site for a Civil Center, they gave it the name Cloverdale and the name held fast.
Clover Valley of undefined area located South East from Cloverdale was named by the Messrs. Thomas and William Shannon from the luxuriant growth of wild, clover among the cottonwood timber in the neighborhood before the land was cleared and cultivated.
Kensington Prairie; having had some little difficulty in securing what I considered a suitable location when I first came to Surrey, owing to the lack of information, after I had access to the Municipal Assessment Rolls and had made one Assessment of all the alienated lands of the municipality, I made it a point to note all Government Lands that were open and suitable for settlement, so that people coming in desirous of locating could be directed to suitable lands without waste of time and effort in hunting all over the Municipality.
I also wrote end published in the New Westminster papers practically every week, the description and lists of those lands so that information was ready and accessible to strangers. Among those who came, attracted by my description of the area now known as Kensington Prairie of which at that time there were a number of open spaces of grass grown prairie. In the month of May, 1883 in wandering about through the woods endeavoring with two other settlers, Forest Boothroyd and Albert Milton, to discover what had become of a young German who had been missing for several days and was presumed to be lost in the woods, among other areas traversed we struck into the woods on the Section line of the Halls Prairie Road, west from Russell Smither's S.E. corner, about the centre of the area, in the lands formerly owned by the late Thomas Hookway, to the Nicomekl river then struck north to Surrey Centre, we did not find our man nor was he ever seen in the neighborhood after wards, I was so favorably struck by what I had seen of the land its suitability for settlement, on reaching home I wrote descriptions thereof and sent copies to the Daily and Weekly Columbian for publication and also to the Government Immigration Agent at New Westminster, Mr. Bailey Ross.
A few days after a party of about a dozen persons came and crossed the Nicomekl river a little west of the bridge site on the Pacific Highway, where on both sides of the river was a very heavy growth of Cedar, spruce and other timber; they wandered among the timber till finally they struck the river again and they then struggled back to New Westminster without having seen any of the open land.
On getting back to town one of the party got particularly bush, a Mr. Webster, who settled in the timber north of Whonnock and gave his name to Webster's Corners, he wrote a long story about the difficulties of their trip and further stated that there was no open land in the area I had described, he said that one of the party had climbed up a tree and reported there was nothing but timber as far as he could see and no open country for a long chalk – this appeared in the New Westminster Columbian. In the next issue of that paper I replied to Mr. Webster showing conclusively that on the Kensington Prairie area as described by me, there were 2,000 acres at least of as fine productive lands as could be found any where – and thus the name Kensington Prairie – and it stuck "Kensington Prairie" after the place Kensington in London, England.
Hazelmere – This was the name I gave my Homestead, S.W.1/4, Sec. 16, Township of N.W.D. We constructed a dam across the creek and the brickyard a short distance east of the Church, and made a Kiln of brick there shortly after my two brothers–in–law R.J. and Wm. McMenemeny came out to B.C. from Ontario in 1886–87.
When the N.W.S. Railway was constructed and in operation, the company's engineer adopted Hazelmere as the name of the railways station and when a Post Office was established at our place Hazelmere was adopted as the name of the Post Office and then I got a new name for the Homestead viz The Firs, White Rock. An old Indian tradition has it that the origin of the place began on the other side of the straits of Georgia when a young Indian chief did the very foolish action of falling in love with an Indian girl. That action of his caused no end of trouble to both families and so the young people came to the conclusion that there would be no comfort or happiness for them in the vicinity of the home of the house of their youth, so, according to the story, the young chap proposed to the girl that he pick up our Rock and heave it across the Straits and where it settled there they would follow and there establish their headquarters and there engage in the arts and crafts of nation building, in which they were eminently successful, as witness the Rock is still in Evidence, as also there are still a few representatives of the nation thus established living in the district mainly and upon the Semiahmoo Indian Reserve.(See Semiahmoo Legund)
When I first settled at Hazelmere, their Chief was known as Old Spas, he was reputed to be then 130 years of age and he used to describe the invasion of the Northern Indians in this neighborhood. On one occasion he said that the center of attack was where the American town of Blaine now is, three miles from White Rock – The Chief of the Northern Indians was described by Old Spas, as a man with an enormously developed head on one side, so much so that on the developed side his head rested upon his shoulder. This Northern Indian Chief was killed during one of the local battles and was buried on the Town site, that it, the area now known as Blaine, this town site was subdivided in 1889, also several blocks of land on the Canadian side of the boundary, including Blaine, B.C. and White Rock about the same time.
Ocean Park – When Mr. W, P. Goord first came to the Coast I was in business in Hew Westminster and met him, he wished to purchase land here as near the salt water as possible if I had anything that looked promising he would like to purchase, so after assuring him I had just what he wanted; and brought him out at once and showed him the Sec. 11, Tp. 1, he said I will purchase price $3,000.00 have you anything similar, yes, I informed him I had and described the area now known as Ocean Park, he offered to take it and pay the price asked, but I could not close, as I was not authorized to accept the terms offered, as he requested we get an option on the–property, this I did, in the meantime Mr. Goord returned to Winnipeg, the purchase was consummated Mr. G. wrote me as to a suitable name for it and enclosed sketch of same.
Prior to the Dominion Government erecting the present public Pier at White Rock the only facilities for landing from boats from the waters of Semiahmoo Bay, was a very light and temporary floating landing stage about 300 feet from the shore and between this float and the shore and between this place at intervals by light piles, these planks when the tide was in were loose and afloat, making it a difficult job to make a landing without getting a thorough wetting.
Observing in the morning paper on one occasion during the year 1912–13 that the Hon. Mr. Clifford Hazen the Minister of Marine and Fisheries would be visiting White Rock that evening and that he was coming on the Government special patrol steam yacht "The Kestral" the thought occurred to me "Why here is an excellent opportunity to improve our landing facilities at White Rock". "We will present the address of welcome to the Hon. Gentleman and at the same time point out to him the most urgent need for an up to date pier and landing stage to facilitate the transaction of business between vessels calling and the White Rock Customs offices. I immediately proceeded to look up a sheet of the correct kind of paper on which to write an Address of Welcome – to my dismay I found my supply of that class of writing material was completely exhausted, so I headed myself to the Printing office of The Surrey Gazette, our local paper then owned and operated by Charles E. Sands, from that worthy gentleman I obtained the necessary material and at the same time had an understanding with Editor Sands for assistance in drawing out and presenting the address – So "Charley" got out his typewriter and struck off the address as I dictated it to him.
This part of the Program completed we waited for the Government launch, but it was getting dark by the time she hove in sight and White Rock at that period did not have Electric Light facilities. The tide was full at the hour the Government steamer chugged up to the float off the shore adjacent to the actual White Rock itself.
A few of us were waiting for the Hon. Gentleman at the float while a few others who had been let into the secret, were waiting for him near the East end of the G.H. Railway Depot and Government Customs and Immigrations office building.
When preparing to come ashore the Hon. Gentleman was informed than an address of welcome was to be presented to him on landing.
The loose floating plank pathway from the landing stage to the shore, performed their work beautifully, but eventually our visitor and all of us got safely to the shore, but not before complete darkness had fallen. These a special gasoline lantern was produced and lighted by Editor Sands of the Surrey Gazette and by the light of this lantern I read the address and presented it to our Honourable and distinguished visitor.
In reply the Hon. Mr. Hazen gave an immediate response and a definite promise of the line of action he would take to have White Rock suitable provided with a proper boat and steamer landing place, for, as he remarked he had had personal and rather nerve racking experience of the urgent necessity for action in the matter.
White Rock's pier looking east.
At the following session of Parliament at Ottawa an appropriation was made for the White Rock Pier and during the same season one half of the pier was constructed and in operation and at the next session the Pier was carried through to its completed length of 1700 feet – and that is how we got the public pier at White Rock.
Early Efforts among the Settlers of Surrey and the Fraser Valley to Induce the Government to Assist in Active Development of Agricultural Lands, in the Fraser Valley.
The first attempt to organize the farmer on a co–operative basis, in the Fraser Valley, could not be termed a pronounced success. People who had located on the timbered lands were actuated by the idea that they could the more effectively promote their private interests by going their own way and allowing others to carry on on the same plan. They could not then see that there was any advantage in combination for the County at large.
Among the most pronounced of this latter class were three from Surrey, one from South Vancouver and one from Duncan, Vancouver Island.
We organized ourselves as the Farmer's Alliance of B.C., we held regular meetings, discussed various questions that effected or affected the new settler on the bush lands and brought the various matters to the attention of the general public and we also made it a point for several years, to interview as frequent as possible the government representatives and as many of the cabinet ministers as were available, giving them our views and urging the government to afford the settlers every possible encouragement in the way of opening roads, assistance in furnishing blasting powder for land clearing and as only a very few of the Settlers had any capital we urged the adoption of the New Zealand system of advancing cheap money or farm loans, on the security of the holdings, and many other such like ways for developing our own B.C. agricultural resources the more rapidly.
We also, as the Farmer's Alliance, pointed out to the government the fact that in thus assisting the settler, the whole community would be benefited, as practically all food stuffs except beef, were at that time imported, immense sums of money thus wrongly sent out of B.C. to procure food stuffs we would and should raise in the Fraser Valley, were our own lands brought under cultivation; the government always expressed the utmost sympathy for the settlers, but the revenue was so small; they would give our suggestions consideration, etc. so be it.
The changes did not all come in one year, or even in five years, still it is very gratifying to those who are still spared, to know and to realize that today practically all those matters we then advocated and worked for, are now available for the B.C. Agriculturist.
Of course it will be remembered that at the time in the history of B.C. when the "Farmer's Alliance" was in bloom, we had no party lines in B.C. politics, it was simply the 'ins' and the 'outs'; neither had we developed the system of designating farmers with a string of letters after their names, until the Schools and Farmer's Institutes of Ontario commenced to send their surplus graduates to B.C. to enlighten our bush farmers and incidentally to make their own way in the world.
And it came to pass, the Hon. the Minister of Agriculture of that day, the late respected Hon. J. H. Turner, met the B.C. Farmer's Alliance members, on their last Annual Visit to the opening of the Session of the Legislature, with the draft of a bill to establish the system of Farmers Institutes in B.C. which bill the Hon. Genten stated the Government in at that session.
The Bill was based largely on the Ontario Measure, but the Hon. Mr. Turner stated he would be glad if we, the Farmer's Alliance representatives, would take it to read and study carefully, criticize its provisions and if we felt that certain improvements were needed to meet local conditions in B.C. he would be glad if we would insert the necessary amendments.
We were provided with a room and we got to work; we studied the proposed Bill, made many suggestions and amendments and then returned the document to the Hon. Mr. Turner who thanked us for our valued assistance.
The Bill was introduced and was discussed in all its bearings and then passed by the Legislature and became the law of the Farmers. But Utopia had not yet arrived and thereby hangs a tale.
As intimated in a former article in this series, the refusal of permission to members of the Farmers' Institutes of free discussion of the money difficulties the original settlers had to contend with in their work of opening up a new country and developing agricultural resources, in view of the fact that scarcely any of such settlers possessed any capital, other than his muscles, his ability to work and the grim determination to do his best to achieve his objective in providing a home and fairly comfortable conditions of living the new country for his dependents, was a sore disappointment for those who had worked so hard to bring about the opportunities as they believed, for the removal or alienation of the more pronounced difficulties they met with.
Not that one would for a moment reflect upon the principle of the Farmer's Institute, I still believe it is an ideal organization for promoting the material interests and advancement of the Settlers of any given locality, after they have attained a position on their land holdings where the returns are reasonably sure and life seems more like worth living.
Or for those more fortunately situated who have command of capital, can buy out the original settler after he has opened up and developed an area of the holding sufficient to enable the purchaser to go ahead and operate it as a productive farm, without the rough knocks the former owner had to contend with.
In respect to my own case, I had been living where Cloverdale is now located, for some months where I took a contract to carry Her Majesty's mails for a term of three years at first weekly between the City of New Westminster and Hall's Prairie.
On the route there were instituted five Post Offices; after operating the route for some time I found it took altogether too much time to cover the distance between the several points.
For instance my contract provided that I should start from Cloverdale, go to Hall's Prairie on Tuesday afternoon, collect the mail at the latter place and return to Cloverdale, then on Wednesday morning go to Clover Valley, get mail there, thence to Langley Prairie to Adam Innis, later Boyce Brd. farm, there to follow along the Yale road, collect mails en route and proceed to New Westminster, and please remember there was then neither ferry nor bridge across the Fraser, though generally there was a fishing boat within call.
After receiving the return mail bags at New Westminster, the return trip was made over the same route as far as Clover Valley and mails left at each post office on the route, then back home to Cloverdale. The next day, Thursday, had to go from my own home with the mail to Hall's Prairie at the Post Office operated by Mr. D. H. Brown J.P. then return to Cloverdale, thus on account of the condition of the trails, requiring well on to three days each week to make the round trip of 44 miles.
This was altogether too much time wasted; so in the early spring of 1884 I went into the S.W.1/4, Sec. 16, Tp. 7, and erected a small house and cleared up quite a piece of land that season, ready for cropping the following year.
I moved the family out two days before Christmas 1884, then for several years I used to go out to Clover Valley on Tuesday evening and stop either at Anton Appels or at Alec MacKenzie's overnight, then make the return trip right through and deliver mails same day at Hall's Prairie, thus saving practically one full day's time.
At this date the settlers on Dominion Lands were labouring under great difficulties, for one thing the Dominion Government had an Agency in the Province of B.C. where the settlers could obtain Homestead Entry or Preemption records on their lands, making our tenure liable to disruption at any time we might be absent for a few weeks, so we got together, held meetings, sent to Ottawa protests against the continuance of the then existing order of things and we also urged the establishment of a Government Land Office at New Westminster.
After several years of waiting, (we were simply squatters on government land) the government appointed an Agent, Mr. Aitken and Clerk, Mr. J. McKenzie and established a Land Office at New Westminster.
We then were able to obtain our entries to our lands and the settlers after this, had a feeling of much greater security in the ultimate granting of title thereto, but still there was dissatisfaction owing to some of the conditions of Settlement, some of which were of a most irritating character.
Again, at the time we are now considering the Dominion government were bringing foreigners into Canada by thousands, settling thence on the open prairies of the Northwest, furnishing them with everything necessary for them to start farming on the Prairie, while here in B.C. the lands were more or less heavily timbered and instead of assisting our settlers as were the foreigners on the Prairies, we seemed to have hindrances cast in our way on every hand and we had to pay for our land into the bargain.
In addition to our own difficulties on the land there was a general time of real stress, no work available, hard times and many of the Settlers mortgaged their holdings as soon as they could prove upon them and then immediately abandoned them.
I had a little difficulty with the Surrey Council over the location of the section line on the South side of my place, now called the North Bluff road. I had cleared and fenced my land up to the surveyed line, which the Council declared was a 'random' line, and over an acre of my choicest cleared land was taken from me for road purposes. In addition I had to build another house, and to enable me to do this I had to borrow $750.00; as I could get no work and my farm was not of a sufficient capacity to produce a living for the family and at the time also pay off the mortgage and interest.
So it ran on and I could see no alternative but to lose my farm, home and everything that I possessed.
This state of affairs continued for some months until I received a communication from the party who held the mortgage on my property, requesting me to meet him in New Westminster a few days later. I now concluded that my time had arrived, I could only think of foreclosure of the mortgages.
However I went in to meet Mr. Legg on the appointed date. That gentleman did not wait for me to meet him at the hotel as arranged, but met me on the ferry and his first words relieved my anxiety.
He said, "Mr. Thrift I have so much to do, I cannot attend to it all, will you took after the Real Estate for me?"
I then learned that Mr. Legg was simply the Agent for three Old Country Mortgages Co. whose headquarters were at Liverpool, England.
The result of our interview was that I was placed in charge of the company's lands, instructed to make a thorough survey of all the properties, inspect and make a fair valuation of each and report when through.
This effort took me about six weeks.
I sent in my report, Mr. Legg had resigned and I was appointed company's agent and Attorney for B.C.
In going over the company's lands I became acquainted with a few things. I already knew my own low financial condition but did not realize that others were in just as difficult a position as I was. I was awakened to the fact that at least two thirds of the people on the Dominion Lands were in just as bad a condition as I was, some much worse.
After this it looked to me that I had been placed in charge of the company's interests for a higher purpose than simply the advancement of my own interests, so I began to look around and consider where I should begin.
I felt that the people who had gone onto those lands in good faith and had put forth such extraordinary efforts towards the development of the resources of the country, were entitled to the very highest consideration, so as a beginning I went and saw Aulay Morrison; a rising lawyer of New Westminster, now Chief Justice Morrison, and at the time he had just been elected M.P. for Westminster District. I explained to him the condition I had found throughout the Fraser Valley and asked him if I prepared a petition addressed to the Dominion Government setting forth the conditions as they existed in B.C., would he present the petition and do the best he could for his own supporters. He said he would be glad to do all that and more for them.
With the assurance of Mr. Morrison's assistance I drew a form of petition addressed to Sir Wilfred Laurier, Premier and the Government of Canada, setting forth the conditions existing within the Railway Belt in B.C. and urging that the settlers be granted the timber on their holdings, that homesteads be made free in B.C., the same condition as in force in the prairies and for those settlers who had already paid for their land that the money be refunded to them.
Then in traveling through the district on my company's business (they paid my expenses and my time belonged to them during the day, but the evenings and nights were my own) I got a few settlers interested, to them described my plan of operation and then our joint names convened a Mass Meeting of settlers on Dominion Lands in B.C., the meeting to be held in the Public Hall at Murray's Corners, Langley Municipality on a date given. The poor fellows turned out en mass some of them remembering the success that crowned our efforts in respect to getting the Government Land Office established at New Westminster.
The meeting was called to order, Mr. J. McDonald was elected chairman who after explaining the object of the meeting expressed the view that if anything the conditions for the settlers were becoming worse and worse but he said he believed there was now an opportunity to obtain relief and in this connection he would "call upon Mr. H. T. Thrift whom they all knew, to explain the proposed line of action".
I first explained my position to the meeting; what I had seen and learned as to the conditions of the Letters on Dominion Lands in the Fraser Valley; they all knew their own position, I had endured the same as they for many years, but I felt persuaded that by sticking together and presenting a solid front to the Government it was possible changes could be effected that would very materially advance the interests of the settlers.
I then explained how I had secured the active assistance and the promise to do all he possibly could to promote the best interests of the settlers at Ottawa from Mr. Aulay Morrison, M.P.; I also explained the proposed method of procedure in respect to this petition and obtaining signatures thereto, that as I traveled over the district I would secure signatures, get the settlers interested and in the evenings hold meetings among the settlers and thus secure their co-operation, etc.
After I was through resolutions were brought forward adopting the suggestions advanced and authorizing me to draw petition, circulate it for signatures and when signed hand it to Mr. Aulay Morrison, M.P., for presentation.
The petition was drawn, signed and handed to Mr. Morrison who on his next annual trip to Ottawa duly presented the petition to the government and urged that due consideration be given to the prayer of the settlers.
Mr. Morrison was a good Liberal, the Liberals were then in power at Ottawa, about three weeks after the presentation of the petition there appeared an item in the British Columbian newspaper of New Westminster to the effect the Dominion Government had granted the prayer of the petitioners to the extent of granting them the timber on their holdings on which no timber leases existed. As soon as this piece of news came, as instructed by the former meeting, I commenced another Mass Meeting at the same place, to report and to take such other action in the mass meeting at the same place, to report and to take such other action in the matter as should be considered expedient. Again we had a splendid meeting, my report on the result of the presentation of the petition of the settlers was received and adopted, after which the customary votes of thanks were passed. Many of the poor fellows were excited over the thought that they had signed a petition addressed to the Government of Canada and that part of their request had been granted.
As the afternoon was drawing on many who had come long distances to attend the meeting began to think of their chores and suggested an adjournment, I suggested to them I brought there was some very important business requiring their attention, some of those present, said "Why, what more can we do?"
I said to them they had addressed a petition to the Government and the Government had granted one of their requests, I would suggest that now as we certainly had made progress with the Government, that we form a permanent organization to act as a medium between both the Provincial and Dominion Government in the interests of the settlers; this suggestion appealed to the meeting.
Then I moved a resolution "That it is expedient that we proceed to organize an Association to handle any question that may arise between either the Provincial Government and the Settlers; or the Dominion Government, and that we continue the agitation in regard to the free lands within the Railway Belt and that the Association be known and described as The Settlers Association of B.C."
This resolution was carried without question and then I again moved a resolution that we proceed to elect President, Secretary–Treasurer and Executive. This was carried and the meeting elected me as President – hit or miss.
I protested, I explained to the meeting that there was some very important work to be done and so far as I could see I was the individual to perform the duties as Secretary, if they in their wisdom thought I was competent to fill the position, so John McDonald was elected President and H. T. Thrift, Secretary–Treasurer.
We also arranged for the Executive Council and the general form of the Association. Headquarters at Hazelmere and that as quickly as possible efforts put forth for extending the influence of the Association by organizing local branches in any place where the settlers took an interest in local affairs. The effort was made to extend the advantages of the Association and eventually we had nearly thirty branches in various places all through the Fraser Valley, both sides of the river; also at Nicola and other places in the Interior of B.C. and much was accomplished through the influence of the Association with benefit and advantage to the settlers; as for instance, obtaining the recognition by the local government of the Squatters Rights to their land on the Chilliwack river; securing an adjustment of difficulties between the Provincial Government and the Settlers and, most unwillingly, the Speculators; who had years before preempted government land in various parts of the province and after obtaining their preemption and paying 1/4 price of the land forgot to complete their part of the contract until the Hon. Carter–Cotton, Minister of Lands and Works, in one of the periodical 'clean up days' of these times, stumbled upon the old records and in due course gave notice of cancellation of the records by advertisement in the Government Gazette and other provincial papers.
In this instance a number of the actual Settlers involved, having seen the work of the Settlers Association on behalf of the Settlers in the Railway Belt, wrote to the Secretary requesting our good offices in their difficulty. Upon obtaining as far as possible the particulars, our Executive took up the matter and sent the Secretary to Victoria to lay the whole matter before the Government and to urge that the Settlers, many of whom had extensive improvements on their preemptions, should be dealt with liberally, as while they acknowledged the neglect, they had no intention of attempting to evade payment, but that the Government had given them no trouble and they had just gone on from year to year without thinking there was anything wrong with the matter.
After due consideration of all the facts advanced the Government decided that the notice as to Cancellation of Preemption records should be withdrawn and that an advertisement should be published to the effect that Preemptors who paid on or before a certain date 25 cents per acre on their Preemption and 25� per acre thereon at another given date, all interest and other charges against the lands in question would be remitted and all placed in good standing.
It was shortly after these arrangements were made that I learned that a number of speculators had also benefited by our efforts as well as the Settlers, so in the name of the Association I sent in a vigorous protest against land speculators benefiting by our efforts.
The reply I received from the Minister was, "These parties were on record as Preemptors of Government Lands and were in the same category as those for whom the Settlers' Association acted and the government could not make fish of one fowl of the other."
Then again, after the Dominion government had granted the Settlers on the Railway Belt the rights to cut and sell the timber on their Homesteads, Hon. R. McBride, needing more revenue for the Province, placed a Provincial Tax on shingles, bolts, and this knocked the bottom out of any good the settlers might have derived from the timber concession; had that tax been maintained.
Again the Settlers Association got busy and though strange to relate some politicians claimed that it was through their efforts the tax was taken off, I know that on behalf of the settlers and the Settlers Association I took another trip to Victoria and on the way there, on the C.N.R. train and on the boat, I had as fellow passengers Mr. Aulay Morrison, M.P. and my old friend John Oliver, M.L.A. both of whom seemed to enjoy twitting me on the tax and that after all our efforts to get the timber for the settlers, and after Sir Wilfred Laurier had conceded the timber to them then 'Dick' McBride stultified the whole matter by taxing it and thus making the concession of no value to the settler!
But I met the Hon. Mr. McBride in Victoria, had a heart to heart talk with him, showed him how the tax would most injuriously affect the Settlers and certainly would not increase the popularity of the Hon. Premier McBride!, etc. The result was that the tax was reduced to 1 cent per cord and then not collected!
Numerous school difficulties and workmen's troubles in various places were adjusted by our Association and not the least of our successes was the bringing of the need of better facilities for transportation of crossing the Eraser River.
Reaching out: throughout the whole of the Fraser Valley, convening meetings, getting delegates to attend meetings from all municipalities in the district, and mainland cities, to consider a Bridge at New Westminster.
Preparing petitions to both Provincial and Dominion governments, urging the former to undertake the erection of a standard traffic and railway bridge at New Westminster. The latter, to make an appropriation of at least $200,000, to assist the construction of such a bridge.
The meeting endorsed these petitions and left them in the hands of the Settlers Association to circulate for signature and after complete to present to the Government. As we were well organized and had branches in practically all the Southern portion of B.C. it was not difficult to obtain signatures.
The result of the effort was 1500 names to the petition, with the backing of New Westminster and Victoria Boards of Trade and finally the Bridge.
The Dominion Government refused to grant assistance to the Provincial Government towards the bridge, but would subsidize a private company.
The Settlers Association protested against any private company having control, even if the local government had no assistance in the matter.
The President of the Company which was trying to secure control met H. T. Thrift and endeavored in the strongest possible way to get him to side with the views of his company. H. T. Thrift had drawn the petition and was the prime mover in the whole proposition and he could not agree with the worthy gentleman, as the petition requested the government to construct and maintain the bridge as a Provincial Work and under the direct control of the Government of B.C., Mr. Thrift felt that he could not betray those 1500 people who had signed the petition in good faith; nor could he stupefy himself, with the government of B.C.
Thereafter when any report would arise respecting any interference with the plans of the Government in respect to the Bridge or its control, a strong protest was sent from the Association to Victoria against any change of control – and thus the Fraser River Bridge at New Westminster has been a prime factor in the development of Surrey and also in the development of the whole of the south side of the river and the Coast Cities.
Supplies such as flour and groceries, were obtained at J. E. Murne's Store on Semiahmoo Spit, near where the big cannery is now located after the settlers had opened trails, they could drive the ox–sled down to the beach near the Boundary Line where the ferryman Mr. Dick Richards would meet them, the women folk going shopping would be carried from the ox–team to the boat through the shallow water, in the arms of Mr. Richards going and returning, mules would get through the best way they could, fair prices and a good selection of goods could be obtained in the Murne Store, but it was hard.
A few incidents that occurred in the work of making homes in the bush, in the timbered areas of B.C., some of which were tragic in the extreme, among which was the case of Mr. J. W. Higg, Server.
Mr. Higg came to B.C. from England about 1885–1886. He located, and obtained homestead entry on S.E.1/4, Sec. 13, Washington. He had made considerable progress in clearing quite an area for a garden, there was some very large old growth of fir trees on the corner of his land where Mr. Higg commenced his clearing, at the time of which I am writing he was burning a number of the trees down (a practice in which many of the early settlers indulged). Mr. Higg had been up to the Hall's Prairie Post Office for his mail according to his regular custom, I forget the exact date, but remember it was on a Sunday afternoon, and on his return from the post office apparently he proceeded to prepare his evening meal and evidently he was eating, when one of the trees, that was burning began to fall, he laid down his food and started to run for safety, but apparently as he was running a short heavy piece of a broken limb of one of the trees fell and struck him in the back, knocked him down prone on his face, killing him. Mr. Keery, brother of Mr. John Keery, of Kensington Prairie who had located on the lot on the east of the Higg lot, found the poor fellow just as he was knocked down, and at once gave the alarm. A few of us soon got together and carried his body through the bush down to McMillans clearing (now Chadford's farm) where it was prepared for burial. This accident occurred prior to the opening of the Coast Meridian Road over the ridge through the timber.
About the same time a poor fellow was killed in a similar manner on the Biggar Road, opposite the Baumgartner Homestead, Langley, and several others through the Valley.
On 18th March, 1885, there was a total eclipse of the sun, I had a large tree a crooked awkward thing I was afraid might fall across my house. This I bored and got it burning; if I remember correctly, it had been burning nearly three weeks, on the above date, it fell, and as it was falling owing to the crooked growth of the tree, it twisted on the thin edge of the burned stump and the top of the tree fell across my house, making a complete wreck of it and smashing everything therein except the cook stove and the grand father clock. I had only occupied the house since the previous Christmas, when I moved the family into the homestead. Had it fallen in the night when we were all asleep, we should doubtless have all been jailed.
But thank the Lord for His great mercy. He was watching over us protecting and keeping us. Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, for His great loving kindness and tender mercy to us most unworthy creatures, in thus sparing us, from a horrible death.
The difficulties, sometimes in the way of regular church meetings, at various times we met with incidents in our church life that showed up the peculiarities of the individual for instance, while tended the ministrations of Rev. W. Bell, who held forth, in the old Municipal Hall at Surrey Centre, this was before the Church (Christ Church) was erected, Mr. Bell lived at Ladner, came to Surrey Centre Sunday morning. After the church was erected occasionally we were favored by visits by Bishop Sillitoe (?).
After a year or two Rev. Ebenezer Robson came out and held forth in the new schoolhouse, on the Old McLennan Road. Then when we moved to Hazelmere and the road became somewhat improved so that one could get over it with a horse, for some time Rev. Mr. W. Bell came out occasionally and held forth in H. Stender's log house, and when there was no service in our own settlement, wife and I used to walk across to where Blaine is now, as there was Sunday School and service every Sunday. Then, the Presbyterian came out and held services in the schoolhouse after it was erected, on one occasion the preacher had arrived, a very worthy man in the person of Rev. Mr. MacElmon and the few settlers that constituted the congregation. It was winter time and the secretary of the Trustee Board, would not permit the Settlers to have the meeting as was usual in the school house. He lived some two and a half miles from the schoolhouse and neglected to come, or send the key. Anyway we had the meeting outside on the lee side of the building, but before adjournment it came on to snow thus rendering the experience somewhat of a chilling character, notwithstanding first one and then another a very worthy gentleman an Evangelist, a converted Catholic from Quebec came to Hazelmere, with a big tent, and pitched it in my clearing a little east of the present church at Hazelmere. He held services there for some little time and was the means of organizing the Methodist Church in that place, and the erection of the present church building.
The Public School System in the early days of settlement, were somewhat different to that of today, in that every school was a Corporation sore, each school had its own Board of Trustees, who had control of this school. Very shortly after the Hall's Prairie School District was organized we engaged the services of a young man as teacher who really was a very capable teacher. This party used to visit the homes of the settlers and he made himself friendly with the majority.
Among others there were two families living about half mile apart, one family was American quite a number of children in each family, and on Saturdays these children went back and forth between, each other's home to play.
After, one of these Saturday playing terms, some of the children, girls, small not responsible, I would think not more than seven or eight years of age, told a rather unsavory story of what they had seen the teacher doing in the home of the other family on that particular day. At that time our School Trustees were three in number, all average, plain citizens, some of them at times were very virtuously in sentiment but dearly enjoyed gossip. I had the honor of holding the position of Secretary to the Trustee Board. Hearing of the story before mentioned, I felt disgusted to think the little urchins should see such things and then chatter among other children. I could not forget it, and as I was going down the Campbell River Road I came to another of the Trustees who was digging or repairing a road ditch. After passing the time of day with him I asked him if he had heard anything of these children's stories. He became quite exercised about it, he would go up and tell the other Trustee about it, I suggested I thought the better way would be to get the teacher and the child together quietly, and ascertain what measure of truth there was in it, if any, remembering there might be reputations at stake. No, he was going to see the other Trustee and tell him. Well, do as you please, only you know if you satisfy yourself that there is any truth in the story, it will be published all over the settlement. He would go and see the other Trustee. Well, suit yourself. He went and as I said to him, in a very short time the story was sowed broadcast all over the settlement, but with the addition that I had started it. Talk about an uproar it was there. I went about my own business, but did not bother about the thing; left others have the stew that had caused the commotion.
Two or three days after the fuss started the other two Trustees came to my house and handed me a letter. I asked; "What is this about?" "Well, open it and see". So I opened it, and it makes me laugh now when I think of the purport of that missive. After reading it I looked at both of them and said, "It did one good sometimes to see and realize the good opinion one's neighbour held of one". Personally, I was not aware that I possessed so many admirable qualities as they stated in the letter. Then the scene became amusing. The letter they gave me was not intended for me at all, but was addressed to the Superintendent of Education. We had no Minister of Education then, and of all the scurrilous imaginary things I had said and done to injure the reputation of that poor teacher.
The eldest man of the two made a great to do. He had made a mistake, would I not give him that letter back again, the letter I should have had, demanded my resignation from the School Board, but they had got them in the wrong envelopes. I told them that letter would be framed and hung up so that I might be always reminded of the exalted opinion those two worthies held of me.
However the poison had done its work. Well, after all the racket, a public meeting was convened in the schoolhouse. This meeting I attended and of all the public gatherings I ever was present at that led the group. No thought was explained (?) as to the truth or otherwise of the children's story as to what they said they said, but simply to condemn H.T.T. for something the very opposite to his ideas. Women and men were more like a pack of wolves. In fact, I could not but think the meeting was convened for the purpose of doing me up. I saw there was no intention of inquiring into the truth or falsity of the children's story. So I wished them a good day and walked toward the entrance but I did not get out in a hurry. The man interested in the matter beside the teacher ran ahead of me and stood in the doorway so that I could not get out. I really felt sorry for the poor fellow. He begged of me repeatedly to withdraw what I had said. I replied I had said nothing and could not withdraw what I had not said. By this time the crowd was desperate, but, fortunately for me, a neighbour and his wife who took no stock in the wretched thing, were just passing the gate. Mr. and Mrs. Bamford, I said to the man. Mr. _____ let me out if you please, there is Mr. Bamford. I want to speak to him and he stood aside and I ran over. It was reported Mr. Bamford carried a pistol. I rushed out and asked him to lend it to me but he would not. Perhaps it were best he would not, though cool and collected while I had no chance inside, as soon as I got out in the air I was wild. I would have fought the whole crowd.
Here again I can but believe the Lord was watching over me, for some year or two afterward the man was quite friendly again, and in conversation one day, he informed me that morning of the meeting in the schoolhouse he had purchased a knife for the express purpose of doing me up with it, if I was not willing to withdraw the story I was accused of starting.
The teacher left shortly afterward, his record since has not been clean.
The woman was divorced.