Thursday, October 23, 2014

Giving Tuesday

It is a new Canadian movement for giving and volunteering, taking place each year after Cyber Monday, December 2, 2014. The “Opening day of the giving season,” it is a day where charities, companies and individuals join together to share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others.

The Maple Ridge Historical Society receives significant support through the year from other non-profits and our supporting citizens.  We’d like to give some of that back by participating in this program.

As our open hours are rather restricted, we are going to extend the program period by starting on October 26 with the DARS open house. Admission will be free to the Haney House and Maple Ridge Museums if visitors bring in at least 2 canned goods upon visiting.  The campaign will run until the museums are closed for the holiday period, December 17th.


After December 17th the canned goods will be gathered up and donated to the Friends in Need Foodbank, along with a contribution of $100.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween at Haney House


Pumpkins and Pioneers
Haney House Museum
Sunday October 26, 2014
11:00 AM - 3:00 PM

$3.00/child
(Parents are included)

Join us at Haney House for Halloween activities!

S - Scavenger Hunt
C - Cookie Decorating
A - Activities and Crafts
R - Really Cool Costumes
E - Event Display and Tours

Questions? Email us at mrmeventplanner@gmail.com

11612 224th Street 
Maple Ridge, BC V2X 5Z7
phone: 604.463.5311

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Spotlight on Betty Dubé, Centennial Mayor

1973.  Betty Dubé served as mayor 1974-1974, as Maple Ridge celebrated its hundredth birthday and the town was struggling to cope with rapid development.  Seen here with her children.  P02368.

Betty Dubé was Maple Ridge’s first female mayor, serving during the symbolic 1974-1975 centenary term.  She was first elected to Council as an alderwoman under Mayor Peter Jenewein in 1969.  She served 1969-1970 and 1972-1973, and was elected as mayor at the end of 1973.  Since the tenure of Solomon Mussallem, Maple Ridge had grown from a rural community into an urban one, faced with dramatically different and more complex problems.  The crucial issue during Dubé’s tenure was no less than the government’s ability to exercise control over its land base.  At the same time, the year – “Century 74” – was celebrated with frequent events and exercises in costume, almost belying the changes to the community that had only accelerated during the 1960s.

Addressing Council at its inaugural meeting on January 7, 1974, Dubé, wearing full Victorian costume in heavy taffeta, spoke plainly about the accomplishment of the district’s first sewage treatment plant, the completion of street lighting in central Haney, the adjustment of the tax burden, planning for the “south Haney bypass”, and the orderly development of “Area No. 1”, a wide swath of central Maple Ridge north of Lougheed Highway and west of Laity Street.  In Dubé’s first week as mayor, she visited Victoria to follow up on initiatives made by the outgoing council, including the controversial routing of a new highway to the south of the Haney townsite and the release of lands from the (newly-created) Agricultural Land Reserve for an industrial park.  Neither initiative would see ground break during her tenure.

A running issue was the municipality’s ability to enforce its own soils bylaw, which assessed royalties against people who removed gravel for profit from private lands.  In was revealed that many removals were occurring without oversight or compensation to the district after Dubé’s council commissioned an aerial survey of suspect sites that was capable of estimating the volume of earth on the move.  Landowners were incensed that the gravel pit on the Kwantlen First Nation land at Whonnock was not subject to the soils bylaw.  Dubé communicated with federal Indian Affairs Minister Jean Chrétien on the issue but nothing could change the fact that the municipality had no jurisdiction on federal reserve lands.  Another unfortunate event concerned access to water.  In still rural areas like Albion, some residents were dependent on hauling water – for free – from a municipal station on 240th Street.  Service was being abused by residents who would take water and sell it to residents in Mission, and Dubé’s council acted to shut down the water station and replace it with deliveries or a paid-access station on Dewdney Trunk Road.  The price was to be $6 per 500 gallons, but outrage in the neighbourhood led to an alternative, whereby water would remain free but regulated by a permit and key-controlled access system.

At the time of Dubé’s mayoralty, the character of Maple Ridge had shifted and continued to do so.  Surveys and plans had earmarked the land between Haney and Hammond for urban development, and the rezoning of small-lot farmland met local resistance at times.  Bad feelings about development were soon to boil over: the municipality, running on a hamstring budget in the absence of tax adjustments, couldn’t afford enough building inspectors to adequately police the quality of new housing subdivisions.  In July 1974, residents of the newly-built “Tantus Estates” in “Development Area No. 1” protested outside their homes over poor build quality, citing frequent leaks and foundation issues.  Some of their neighbours, evidently concerned about the value of their own homes, made counterstatements to the press.  Dubé took the matter before council to add pressure for new hires under the chief building inspector.  The department was in disarray following the September resignation of Chief Inspector Erne Neale, but by the end of 1975 three additional staff were hired.

Highlights of Dubé’s mayoralty were undoubtedly the multiple celebrations of the district’s first 100 years.  Gala events and sports tournaments were met with quirky proposals like the Fraser River Raft Race, on which participants sailed the Fraser in period costume from the Mission Bridge to the Port Haney wharf.  The municipality donated its flag to fly in September at the provincial legislature as well as to the city of Winnipeg, which shared Maple Ridge's centennial year.  Following the election of 1975, Dubé served as a school trustee and worked for the public service of the city and the province. 

Born 1926 in Montreal, Dubé arrived in British Columbia in 1951 to visit an aunt and decided to stay.  Widowed and with one child, she married a veteran and built a home with him in Whonnock.  Together they adopted three children after becoming foster parents.  It was a lifelong commitment for Dubé, who fostered over 200 children.  Widowed in 1968, she appeared alone with her children in campaign materials. Dubé died at age 65 in 1991, after being recognized by BC Lieutenant-Governor David Lam for her outstanding reputation in the foster care system.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

From District to City

Arms of the District of Maple Ridge
Maple Ridge's Coat of Arms.  Public Register of Arms, Flags, and Badges Vol. III, p. 302.


What does it mean to become the City of Maple Ridge?  In British Columbia, municipalities are classified at the time of incorporation into basic size categories.  Communities of no more than 2,500 people are incorporated as Villages; those of 2,501 to 5,000 become Towns; and if population is greater than 5,000 people, Cities.  District Municipalities, like our dear town, appear wherever the area proposing to incorporate exceeds 800 hectares (imagine a rectangle of two by four kilometres) and population is less than 4,000.  (Fast math: that’s a population density of about two persons per acre).  District municipalities like ours are a common feature of sparsely-populated BC, and often have historically strong connections to the rural economy, including agriculture and resource extraction.  Since changes to the classification of municipalities begin only with some form of local approval and council initiative, the naming system doesn’t always reflect the present state of the community.  Drastic changes in municipal boundaries and populations can make the labels seem arbitrary.  Today, Maple Ridge’s population is roughly 80,000, although its large land area means that our population density is still lower than the two per acre standard.   

Incorporation is the legal process which allows a community to elect its own local government and raise money through taxes for services and infrastructure.  If there is approval among eligible voters for incorporation, the provincial cabinet can prepare to issue letters patent.  Letters patent is a type of legal document that confers rights and status, and contains a description of the new municipality’s “metes and bounds”, or borders.  Historically, letters patent are orders released by the monarch or their representative in British Columbia, the lieutenant governor.  As such the creation of new municipalities is never subject to a vote in the provincial legislature.

Letters patent were issued for the incorporation of Maple Ridge on September 12, 1874, and published shortly thereafter in the British Columbia Gazette – a public record for government matters, printed in Victoria.  At the time, local approval for incorporation considered only the opinions of “at least two-thirds of the male freeholders, householders, free miners, pre-emptors, and leaseholders, for a term of not less than two years, being respectively of the full age of twenty-one years […]”.  This explicitly excluded women, renters, and recent migrants from participating in the petition for incorporation, and also had the effect of excluding any non-white ethnic groups whose ability to own property was restricted under the law.

On October 3rd, 1874, George Howison, Wellington Harris, J. Bell, John McKenney, Henry Dawon, Thomas Henderson, and John Hammond were elected councillors by a gathering of peers at John McIver’s farm.  Harris was elected as the District’s first warden.  Mary McFarlane, daughter of John McIver, later suggested that incorporation had been pursued to fund road and bridge construction.  She delighted in retelling a story of McKenney’s, reporting that the Fraser’s north bank was scandalized when $1000 dollars of provincial money was squandered by an ad hoc citizens’ committee on “building a road to the Cariboo”.  The track would become Maple Ridge’s first east-west land route, River Road.  Harris quickly arranged for Council to meet on October 7th, to agree on rules of decorum and accountability that would allow them to conduct business with the public’s good faith.

Maple Ridge was only the sixth of 161 local governments incorporated to date in British Columbia, which reminds us of the track of history and population across our province.  The city of New Westminster incorporated in 1860, followed by the city of Victoria in 1862.  These two cities were the major entry points to the western portion of British North America, and supplied people and trade materials to settlement areas in their hinterlands.  At the time, New Westminster and Victoria were the seats of separate British colonies on Vancouver Island and the mainland; they would be united together in the colony of British Columbia in 1866.  The city of Chilliwack and township of Langley, upstream from New Westminster, were incorporated on the same day, April 26, in 1873, followed by the district of North Cowichan, up island from Victoria, later that spring. 


In the future, amateur historians might use the renaming of Maple Ridge as shorthand for this time when we rapidly developed.  Let’s hope they find nothing arbitrary about our becoming a city.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

"Mussallem means 'Peaceful Man'"

Here's an article originally published in the BC Magazine, a supplement to the Vancouver Province, on March 6th, 1954.  By Ed Moyer, who also provided the accompanying illustration, it includes notes and quotes from the author's interview with legendary Maple Ridge reeve [mayor] Solomon Mussallem, who was in office for multiple terms between 1930 and 1953.

......

Illustration by Ed Moyer, BC Magazine staff writer
In the end it was a whip in the hands of a Turkish tax collector that drove the 17 year-old Lebanese youth to Canada.

But there were many things that led up to it.  There was the day-to-day humiliation of existing in an occupied country.  There were the endless hours of labour in the white heat of Lebanon as a stone mason for 10 cents a day.

There were the arrogant police.  There was the hand-to-mouth living, the perpetual fear and the lack of security.

And finally there was Canada beckoning to the unwanted, the unhappy and oppressed; promising them shelter and food, freedom and equality and hope.

So young Solomon Mussallem emigrated.

Last year, and more than a half-century later, the civic and business leader who was that penniless immigrant boy, rounded off a record of service unequalled in B.C., unsurpassed in Canada.

Sol Mussallem has served Maple Ridge as Reeve for 21 years and for two years as a councilor.

Now, although as alert, mentally, as ever, a crippling affliction has forced him to retire from active politics but he still works an eight-hour day and, from his upstairs office in the Haney branch of his Fraser Valley garage chain, he aids, from his experience, younger men who follow in his footsteps.

His Lebanese name in English means “peaceful man”.  His life has been a constant battle.
Sol was born in a small agricultural village called Karaoun, the oldest son of a Christian family of six.  His father earned an adequate living operating a “rural truck line with mules,” as Sol puts it.

In those early days life was not too bad and Sol attended a Presbyterian Mission where he learned Arabic.  He still writes and speaks it.

When he was 14 the death of his father saddled him with the responsibilities of adulthood.  He went to work for a stone mason to support the family.

His payment was 10 cents a day and it was sufficient to provide food and warmth without luxury, but young Sol had a bright and insatiably curious mind that hungered for grooming.  In the evenings, for three years, he dragged his work-weary body to night school.  This life exploded that afternoon in the crack of a rawhide lash and a woman’s cry of pain.

Solomon Mussallem still recalls, vividly, the mounted tax collector and the puzzled upturned face of the neighbor woman.

“He asked for money.  I’m sure she didn’t even know what money was.  She lived from her land.  She had a few chickens, a goat, and a vegetable garden.  He whipped her there in her front yard and I stood by helpless.  I knew then that I must get out of Lebanon.”

An uncle in a distant village gave Sol $100 to finance his proposed emigration to Canada.  The greatest obstacles were the Turkish police and soldiery.  Lebanese were forbidden to leave the country and those captured attempting to do so were punished with starving years of imprisonment in filthy windowless jails – a dragged out death.

Sol joined a party of 20 who were bent on escaping from the port of Tyre.  The capital, Beirut, was patrolled too diligently.

The band of hopefuls travelled by foot across Lebanon, moving only at night, sleeping in caves and forests in the daytime.  It was a long, harrowing journey but one morning they stood on the crest of a hill and looked upon the domes of Tyre, golden in the sunrise.

It was a quietly emotional moment for them – the end of oppression, the beginning of life.
“Then we heard a voice behind us, a Turkish voice, we turned, in despair, to face our captors,” said Sol.

“We were herded like cattle to the local jail, a building without windows, and only an earthen floor to sleep upon.  Days passed and then one morning a magistrate came to us and charged us with attempting to flee the country without authorization.”

“We pleaded not guilty, claimed we were traders from the country but we were convicted, fined heavily and released.  They didn’t have enough proof to send us to jail.”

For two weeks the party lurked in a hut near the Tyre docks furtively trying to arrange passage to Port Said, a distance, by dhow, of 24 [sic] miles.  But there were captains who would do anything for gold and they contacted one who agreed to take the risk.  The same night they sneaked aboard.

“We were jubilant.  We were sure we would be free of the country in a day or so but even the elements seemed to be against us.  For 10 days – for an eternity – we lay becalmed and with each passing hour our dreams and Canada faded further away.”

But the breezes finally quickened and the small vessel sailed down the Mediterranean to Port Said.  There the refugees, through an agent, bought passage on a British ship.
“From the time we left out native village we had discussed and speculated how we could get aboard the big ship.  The harbor was closely patrolled.  The ship anchored two miles from port and that night we hired a small boat to take us to it.

“When we approached it we saw that a police launch, obviously suspicious, was circling the ship, but we couldn’t turn back.  When it was offside we closed in fast.

“Rope ladders had been lowered over the side.  We were clambering up them when the launch nosed into view.  The leader of our party, Ferhat Haddad, literally threw me onto the ladder – political sanctuary.  The last two members were captured and I never heard of them again.”

When Sol landed in New York he had only four dollars in his pocket and not an English word in his head.
It took him as far as Carlton Place, Ontario, where hunger forced him to seek work as a farm laborer.

“I didn’t know anything about farming so naturally I didn’t last long.  When the farmer told me I was fired I didn’t understand what he was saying.  I got what he was driving at when he took me by the hand and led me off his farm,” chuckled Sol.

But Solomon Mussallem was a resourceful youth.  He talked a fellow countryman into grubstaking him to a suitcase of novelties.  Much later he married his benefactor’s sister.

Despite his inability to speak English young Sol made good, fast.
“I just knocked on a door and when a head popped out I opened my suitcase and stood there speechless.  If they wanted something they took it and paid me.  I trusted them not to cheat me and they didn’t because I made money.”

Nothing demonstrates more forcibly the unswerving singleness of purpose that has characterized Sol Mussallem’s entire life than the swift success he achieved in the first few years he was in Canada.

He went to night school again, this time to learn English.  In less than three years he was operating his own shop – similar to the 15 cent stores of today – in Pembroke.

Two years later he made and lost his first fortune gambling in cobalt so he took Horace Greeley’s advice.

In 1905 he opened a warehouse on Higgins Avenue in Winnipeg to cater to pedlars.  He hadn’t been there long when Prince Rupert became the Grand Trunk Pacific terminus and reverberations from the ensuing boom echoed across Canada.  Sol responded.

He opened a grocery-jewellery store in the frontier town and, like everybody else, began to dabble in real estate.  It became more than mere dabbling.

When the bottom dropped out of everything about $100,000 of Sol’s money dropped with it.  He evacuated to Vancouver.

“The automobile business was coming to the front.  I decided to get into it.”

An inherent shrewdness sharpened by sad experience impelled him, this time, to proceed more cautiously.  He surveyed the field, traveled from Vancouver to Edmonton looking for a town with a future and returned to the one he first scouted – Haney.  His choice was a prophetically happy one for himself and the community.

He bought an abandoned barn, installed a pump and for six months, ran it alone.  Four years later, he was employing 10 mechanics and from then on he has never looked back.

At the end of 1952 he owned and operated three of the largest and most modern auto emporiums in the Fraser Valley and employed a combined staff of 50.

When Sol goes out for anything he means to get it – usually he does.  In 1928 he tossed his hat in the local political arena and swept to victory on the most sweeping majority ever counted up by a councilor in that district.

After two years he figured he had enough experience to lead council so he decided he’d better become reeve.  He did, most conclusively.  As Jack Boothe, one-time Vancouver Province cartoonist, put it in caricature: “the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold!”

Remembering that election Sol said: “My opponent and I were waiting together for the returns.  The phone rang and he answered, then he turned to me and said in great bewilderment, ’99 votes were cast in that poll, you got 90 of them, must be something wrong.’

“Gimme that phone, I told him, something is wrong.  I want to find out how I lost those nine.”
Another time he missed a 100 percent victory at one poll by one vote.  He’s still wondering who the guy was.

It was that attitude of “I will not be beaten and I know it better than anyone”; of his complete faith in his own predestined success that swept Sol from one victory to the next, and although the results were monotonous the battles for them definitely were not.

In those days in Maple Ridge electioneering was really something.  The last meeting before the ballots were cast was always held in the Hammond Hall and were better than Barnum’s best.

It was a real, downright donnybrook with every candidate in the act and everybody in the district, including the kids, in the audience.

The insults and vilifications were a wonder and a joy to hear.  Sol was always the last speaker and he sat in glowering silence, squirming occasionally from the sharper thrusts, while his opponents, often in mule-driving vernacular, heaped it on his head.

When his turn came he would rear to his feet and start to talk, slowly, carefully, enunciating each word with distinction.  But as his indignation mounted so did his voice until it thundered through the old building and the voters shivered with delight, dissolving his opponents’ chances in shouts of delighted laughter.

Because of Sol the municipality of Maple Ridge has as good, and possibly better roads and bridges than any other in B.C.

Because of him it has a spanking new city hall as modern as money.

And because of what he’s done for his neighbors it has a liking, respect and admiration verging on awe for this immigrant boy who still has trouble with his English.

And that, of course, is the yardstick that Solomon Mussallem uses to measure his success.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

On Display: Imaging History

ND [1860]. Stó:lō canoes pulled ashore at a Fraser River 
settlement.  BC Archives C-09286
2013.  View of the Maple Ridge Museum and Fraserview 
area from the Fraser River.  P13156

Presently on display at the Maple Ridge Public Library, “Imaging History: Photography” surveys the importance of photography to the community archives, and tells the story of photography’s development as a recreation and profession through images and artefacts taken from archives. 

Modern photography is based on the principles of the camera obscura, which was used in ancient China and Greece to project images.  A camera obscura uses a pinhole to project an image upside-down onto the rear wall of a dark space, and could be small boxes or the size of entire rooms.  They were purely projection machines, lacking the photochemistry required to record and preserve the images they captured.  The first example of a chemical process capable of recording light was developed in the 1820s and 1830s by Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre in France.  They coated metal plates in light-sensitive chemicals and added them to simple box cameras to capture the first true photographs.  In 1840, Briton Henry Fox Talbot invented the first photographic process that produced translucent paper negatives from which “positives” could rapidly be printed.   What we would recognize as film was developed by George Eastman, American, in the 1880s at his Eastman-Kodak Company.

1951.  Aerial view of dyke construction in Pitt Polder.  P00057

Early cameras, using “wet” plates, were large and unwieldy.  The adoption of “dry” plates and later film would make photography much more convenient and cameras more portable.  Box cameras are essentially camerae obscurae, with simple lenses incapable of adjusting the camera’s focus.  Folding cameras were compact bellows cameras, which, when extended, produced the correct focal length for their lens.  Early in the 20th century, as incomes rose and photography became an important pastime and profession, it became important to produce cameras that could adjust focus.  “Rangefinder” cameras allowed novices to set the appropriate focal length by introducing built-in viewfinders.  The concept was improved with single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs), which used interior mirrors to provide a direct view through the lens on the subject, which could then be focused with greater accuracy.

Digital cameras did not replace focusing technologies, and today’s digital SLRs appear similar to earlier film versions.  However, instead of recording the image chemically on film, light which enters the lens of a digital camera is captured by an electronic sensor which fills in an array of pixels with different values associated with discrete wavelengths of light.

ND.  Resident of Allco Infirmary.
William Saunders, photographer.
P12406
ND.  Orderly at Allco Infirmary.
William Saunders, photographer.
P12405

The images in the Museum’s collections are typically commercial or recreational in nature.  Commercial photographs were the product of a paid exchange between the photographer and their client.  These include studio portraits of people and families, hired aerial photography, some images of businesses and facilities, and photographs taken by local media for publication.  These kinds of images are valuable because of their consistent quality and high level of documentation.  Recreational photographs were made for personal purposes.  While professional photographers make many “recreational” images, many more are made by amateurs.  Amateur photographers can be highly skilled and have contributed stunning images to the collection.  This kind of photography may also focus on topics that, having no commercial basis, would go unnoticed.  

In the collections of the Community Archives, all kinds of photographers are represented.  William (Norton) Saunders was a highly skilled amateur who took many portraits of the town’s social life.  W.B. Piers donated many of his family pictures along with images he made of Maple Ridge businesses.  Len McGregor made his living professionally making photographs of industry, people in studio, and public figures, and later taught the art.  Jo Ann Kronquist took photographs of local events before receiving her B.F.A. and becoming a professional artist.  These are only a few of the many people represented in the Community Archives.


1932-33.  Water tower at Hammond
Cedar mill covered in ice.  W.B. Piers,
photographer.  P12570
Most images in the archives have no identified photographer.  The remainder were taken by a handful of people whose collections have been donated to the museum.  From time to time, we receive the same printed photos from separate donors – this can help us to locate the origin of the images if each source arrived with partial information.  Other times, comparing conflicting information can point the way to an error in our interpretation of the historical record.  While we may not always know to whom an image belonged originally, even images with scant documentation can be powerful visually and tell invaluable stories.  


Photographs are an important secondary source of historical information, and in many cases “recall” an event, person, or place more clearly than would a person in the retelling.  Although photos do contain bias, in the context of community history an amateur photographer’s bias can suggest community values.  Regrettably, few photos in the collection concern non-white minorities and Aboriginal communities, and very few of our identified photographers are women or minorities.


The Museum welcomes images of cultural significance to Maple Ridge.  Please contact mrmuseum@gmail.com.  “Imaging History: Photography” can be viewed at the Maple Ridge Public Library until the end of August.

ND [1920-25].  Myrtle (L), Vera, and Birdie
Anderson out for a walk; Birdie holds a
folding camera.  P03298


On Display: Our Churches

ND [1926-31].  St. Patrick's was the first Catholic church in Maple Ridge, seen in its second location north of the yet-to-be-built Lougheed Highway.  Land for this building donated by Daniel Haney, son of Thomas, in 1926.  P02737

1906.  St. Andrew's Church was the first to be built in the Port Haney townsite, and originally served Presbyterians while the Methodist church remained on "the Ridge" between Haney and Hammond.  At church union in 1925-26, Methodists began attending services in Haney, and circa 1931 a belfry was added to St. Andrew's to house the disbanded church's bell.  P07547

Presently on display at the Maple Ridge Public Library, “Our Churches” recalls the religious life of Maple Ridge in the 60 years hinged around 1900, a time when the district built its first Western churches.  While this “religious life” was mostly Christian, the town was also home to religious minorities from Japan and China, as well as the ancestral practices of the First Nations Katzie who had been missionized in the mid-1800s by the Roman Catholic Church.  Arguably, distinctions within protestant Christianity were seen as more important spiritually than they are today.  In spite of this, there are many documented examples of community support between Christian sects.  The results of decennial censuses from the period around 1900 indicate the racial discrimination that accompanied and overlapped with religious differences.  Identified “agnostics” were largely single white men who worked in logging.  Buddhism and Confucianism were recognizable categories applied to some Chinese immigrants, while many more were simply identified as “heathens”.  These were likely rural immigrants from the Zhujiang and other southern river valleys who practiced a mix of census-interpreted eastern religions and regional animism and spirituality.  Maple Ridge was also home to one “infidel”, Origen Martin, an American and avowed atheist who lived a solitary life in Webster’s Corners.

ND.  This bell, cast 1871 in San Francisco, was installed in
the First Methodist Church on the Ridge.  It later moved
to St. Andrew's United Church in Haney.  P01510
The first purpose-built church in Maple Ridge was a Methodist Church erected 1872-1873 on “the Ridge” above Nelson’s Landing.  This area, located near the present-day intersection of Laity Street and River Road, also received the district’s second (and oldest) church, St. John-the-Divine in 1882.  The church of St. John-the-Divine was first erected on the Langley side of the Fraser River at Derby in 1859.  At the time, it was expected that Derby would be surveyed for a townsite by the new Government of British Columbia – a plan that fell through when New Westminster was selected as the site for the mainland capital.  St. John-the-Divine sat unused until 1882, when T.H. Gilbert, head of the Anglican Fraser River Mission, arranged for its transportation to the District of Maple Ridge.  Anglican services continue to be held in the church, which was moved 20 metres in 1983 to accommodate the construction of a parking lot.  As the district developed, churches were erected in many of the new communities.  Churches were built in Whonnock (1891), Webster’s Corners (1912), Albion (1910), Haney (1888), and Hammond (1910).  As areas grew, churches were added to fulfil the demands of growing denominations.  The first church to close was the First Methodist Church at the Ridge.  In 1926, with Church Union of Methodist, Congregationalist and some Presbyterian churches, there was no longer need for it.  The new “United” churches in Haney and Hammond received the old congregation. 

Prior to church construction, settlers opened their homes to like-minded families and travelling ministers.  Thomas and Anne Haney received a Catholic priest every Saturday night at their home above Port Haney, who would offer a Catholic service to their family and their in-laws the Callaghans.  In 1888, Haney donated land for the construction of Port Haney’s first church – St. Andrew’s Presbyterian – and, circa 1894, the land for a Catholic church.  Early Baptists began meeting in the Fuller home on July 7, 1912.  In 1893 the Reverend Alexander Dunn became the minister at St. Andrew’s after 18 years ministering “not merely to Presbyterians, but to Episcopalians, Lutherans, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Quakers, Seventh Day Adventists, etc.” throughout the Fraser Valley.  Reflecting on his polyglot ministry, Dunn expressed hope about the diversity of the region he had been sent from Scotland in 1875 to proselytize: “I have thus had exceptional opportunities of meeting with men of all nationalities and all religious creeds.  And yet during these years only on two or three occasions have I met with anything approaching incivility or want of kindness.”

The first documented non-Christian religious building in the Municipality was a Buddhist temple erected 1932 on Dewdney Trunk Road in the vicinity of the Town Line [216th Street] by the Japanese community of Haney.  With Japanese immigration to the area beginning in 1907, many families practiced variants of Buddhism and other eastern philosophies within the privacy of their homes.  On display at the museum is a Butsudan previously belonging to the Oike family.  The Butsudan is a small wooden shrine in Buddhism that can be fully closed or partly contained with a silk screen, and would contain a religious icon, typically the Buddha or a mandala scroll.  It would be the focus of morning and evening prayer in the household of practicing Japanese émigrés.  A significant portion of the Japanese community converted to Christianity in an effort to assimilate.  In 1917, the Canadian census recorded over half the Japanese community were Christians, mainly Methodists and Presbyterians.

ND [1920-39].  Sunday school group posed on the steps of the Japanese 
United Church at Dewdney Trunk Road and the Lillooet Road [232].  In
1917, William Hall and Yasutaro Yamaga collaborated to open an 
international sunday school for Hakujin (white) and Nikkei (Japanese) 
children.  The school operated until the wartime expulsion of Japanese-
Canadians.  P01011
Religion served an important role in the social life of the community, with churches functioning as a “third place” between home and work where events and friendships took place.  Many service organizations grew up around weekend outings in advance of evening church services, while young boys and girls were encouraged to frame their relationships with each other through participation in church-sponsored groups like the Trail Rangers, Tuxis, and Young People’s Group.  Church organized activities for youth often made use of the sensational natural areas around Maple Ridge, effecting a connection in the minds of young people between ecological integrity and creationism.


You can learn more about the early churches of Maple Ridge by visiting the Maple Ridge Public Library.  “Our Churches” will be on display until the end of August.

1928.  Youth from St. Andrew's on a Sunday hike to
Mike Lake.  They are seen in a logging cut.  P01215