Thursday, January 29, 2015

#ThisWeek in 1935: Perfect Storm Causes Major Flooding

#ThisWeek in 1935, major flooding in lowland areas throughout the Fraser Valley is the result of a freak freeze-thaw cycle.  January was marked by prolonged cold and snowfall, followed by  temperatures below -10 degrees Celsius.  After local watercourses had frozen and snow had begun to pile into drifts around the valley, temperature reversed and was accompanied by freezing and then liquid rainfall.  Stressed waterways overflowed rapidly when secondary dykes were overtopped.  Exacerbating the problem were power lines downed by ice, which made electric pumping stations useless.

In the resulting floods bridges were washed out across the upland watersheds of the Alouette and Kanaka Creek, while 250 residents in Yennadon and Pitt Meadows required evacuation.  Similar effects were found around rivers in all parts of the valley, severing communications and transportation into early February.  In Abbotsford, the year's tobacco crop and thousands of farm animals were lost when the historic basin of Sumas Lake refilled with flood water to depths of up to 5 metres.  Mudslides resulted in the deaths of four people.

Our archives contain no photos of the effects of this January storm, but you can view photos of flooding in Abbotsford using the The Reach Gallery Museum's online archives.

Clippings from the Fraser Valley Record review flood damage caused by an extreme January freeze-thaw.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Call for Musicians

Music on the Wharf 2015
Submission Information

The Maple Ridge Historical Society is seeking musical groups to submit applications to perform at the 2015 Music on the Wharf Concert Series: July 13, 27 and August 10, 24.

  • A Hardcopy CD and biography is required: We will accept burned CDs
  • Send by MAIL to Maple Ridge Museum: V2X 0S4
  • You may also drop off submission package to the Maple Ridge Museum located 22520 116th Avenue.
  • Please download the submission form by clicking the link below:

    2015 Submission Form

Please submit the above by Sunday March 1, 2015 by 4pm.

Thank-you in advance for your interest in our event, if you have any questions please contact Allison at 604-463-5311 or

Attn: Music on the Wharf Committee
22520-116th Ave
Maple Ridge, BC
V2X 0S4

Monday, January 5, 2015

Port Haney Brick and Tile Company

P00619.  ND.  Wide aerial view of Maple Ridge from over the Fraser River, with brickyard complex in lower right and Haney above it.
P00404.  View from Carr Hill looking southeast toward Albion.  Steam rises from the area of the brickyard and the Maple Ridge lumber mill, both located on the waterfront at Hinch Road [225 Street].

P03474.  ND [1910-15].  Prior to the introduction of the site's first excavator in 1929, clay was dug and carted by hand.  It moved from the rear of the yard site into the sheds via a track system.  Four labourers.  Before 1908 when exclusionary immigration laws were enacted, many Punjabi Sikhs arrived in Maple Ridge to take jobs at the brickyard.

In 1907 on the former Hinch Road (225th Street), W. Horie, E. Baynes and H. Burnet purchased a riverside lot from a Mr. Carlson and proceeded to tear up the place.  Like many Europeans who came to Haney, including the town's namesake, these men knew the soil could give them what they wanted: creamy grey clay, thick but pliable enough...  While small brick-making operations had gone on here for years, the founders of the Port Haney Brick and Tile Company were keen on the business opportunity presented by the convenient nexus of an ample site and its clay deposits, good access to the river and railroad, and - their special observation -- the growing demand for brick to face the public buildings of rapidly expanding Vancouver.

Haney was  a wood-framed town, where brick has always been somewhat out of place and out of reach: an unnecessary decoration on tired and well-worn farm buildings and hobby houses which happened to sit amid a generous supply of trees.

From 1907 to 1977, the brickyard at the bottom of Hinch pumped out clay products: facing brick for buildings, and diversifying into drainage tile for agricultural fields.  After the Second World War, the yard shifted yet again toward tile and consumer products for gardening.  Managed by three hands in its 70 year history -- Harold Burnet from 1907-1946, Jim Hadgkiss 1946-1970, and Alan Findlay 1970-1977 -- the yard employed as many as 90 hands in the 1920s before mechanical improvements and changes in operation thinned the labour roll.  The Burnets, Hadgkisses, and Findlays all received the privilege of living in the brick house where the Maple Ridge Museum is now located.  Many of the plant's early employees were immigrants from India and China, while stringent federal restrictions on non-white immigration and general Anti-Asian discrimination between the 1910s and 40s kept the yard white in later years.

P01310.  ND [1940].  Kiln shed of the Port Haney Brick and Tile.  The company had eight "beehive" kilns into which fuel and bricks were loaded for firing.

P00434.  1972.  Tunnel dryers were used to extract all leftover moisture from clay tile products.

P01520.  ND [1913].  ND [1913].  Labourers stacking bricks in the shipping yard.  Men lived in workers' housing at the rear of the site and some remitted portions of their paycheques to families in far away Punjab and China.
P00181.  1919.  Photograph taken in Haney Brick & Tile Manager's house. Shows Velma Burnet (Davison) seated at piano with sister, Hazel Burnet, and mother, Janet Burnet, standing and grandmother, Katherine (Kit) Selkirk seated.

The yard pushed on through the depression, aided indirectly by subsidies to farmers (who purchased its drainage tiles), and through the Second World War.  Wood fuel was replaced by "sticky" fuel oil, and then by natural gas.  Shovels had been replaced by excavators much earlier.  But the large beehive kilns and tunnel dryers were essentially the same when the plant shut down in 1977, no longer profitable.  Facing brick hadn't made a comeback, PVC was eating away at the market for drainage tile, and the local cost of labour had risen.

Deliberations over the site involved the Provincial Ministry of Highways, who wanted to supplement the Lougheed corridor through central Maple Ridge.  The result was the Haney Bypass, which by design would have shaved off corners of the manager's house and brickyard office.  The municipality was interested in converting the area for medium-density housing and preserving the industrial site as a public park.  The historical society, meanwhile, was lobbying to preserve the historic street grid and buildings of Port Haney to the west; an effort which failed.  The compromise, however, underpins the neighbourhood we know today: the Bypass went through, the manager's house and yard office were moved several dozen feet uphill onto new foundations and leased to the Historical Society for the purpose of operating a museum, Hadgkiss Park was created, and the remaining land was divvied up for small garden apartments and townhouses.  The main sheds, beehive kilns, and remaining industrial landscape was demolished and the ground, burned.

Not quite all in a day's work.

P00437. ND [1930-39].  Across River Road from the yard site, bricks and clay tiles were loaded onto barges for shipment to market.  Unidentified man in a derby hat.

P00480.  1932.  In addition to manufacturing bricks, drainage tiles, and other clay products, the Port Haney Brick Company Ltd. visited farmsites throughout the Fraser Valley with its team of excavators and piping installers. Excavators typically operated in four-person teams. Company photo taken at the T. Davison farm, near present day 128 Ave and 210 Street.
P00544.  ND [1930s].  Company photo.  Used for advertising, this photo shows one of the many buildings faced with Haney bricks - the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel at Harrison Lake.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Gravel and Road-Building

P09059. 1925.  Plank road in unknown location [Blaney Bog?].  Roads like this were commonly the first improvements to access over dirt trails throughout the district, where clay soil, rainfall, and thick woods made travel difficult.  Planks covered wet spots and made use of the trees that would be cut down to give a new road its path, but they required regular maintenance.
P04966.  ND [1920].  Men with horse teams mined gravel in Kanaka Creek.  The rear team has been identified as that of Frank Galbraith.

Gravel has always played a prominent role in Maple Ridge in general and in Webster’s Corners in particular.  The expansion of settlement in the region was dependent on the construction of roads into the lands north of the river and it wasn't much use to have dirt roads that were only passable during the dry weather of mid-summer.

The combination of high rainfall and clay-rich soils have confounded residents since the first settlers arrived.  It was the need to cooperate on the construction of roads between settlements that necessitated the formation of the district in 1874.  All road work in the earliest days was done by hand and using horse-drawn wagons.  A wagon could only support the weight of a limited amount of gravel each trip, so it was a long slow process to transport all the needed material. 

Many hands made lighter work and there were incentives for settlers to apply themselves to road building.  A man with a wagon and a good team could live decently hauling gravel for the district.  He could also get a tax break if he had contributed two days labour with a wagon team released him from the road tax that was $3 in 1898.  George Hinch lived where Valley Fair Mall is today, but he completed road work to the east out to Webster’s Corners and later married one of James Murray Webster’s daughters [Annie Webster].

In 1915, Leonard Humphries, who had a farm on Martin Road [256th Street] with his brother, described the Dewdney Trunk between Haney and Webster’s Corners as “just earth and cut up by buggy tyres until river gravel or shingle was placed on it”.  Martin Road itself “came past giant firs to a sharp rise, which was clayey and had to be corduroyed with planks - quite a pull up if loaded”.  It would get so bad during the spring and winter rainy seasons that even horses could no longer negotiate the road as great clods of clay built up on their hooves, disabling them.

Perhaps the worst piece of road in town was the hill at the bottom of 224th Street, then Ontario Street, where wagons had to be re-hitched to the front of the horses who then lowered them slowly down the slope, sometimes turning into sleds with their brakes full on and the horses struggling along behind them.

P01388. 1914.  View up Martin Road [256th Street] in summer, looking north from Webster's Corners vicinity. 256th Street would later become crucial to the municipality's gravel supply, offering (and restricting) access to large deposits southeast of the Alouette River.  William Humphrey, photographer.
P00168.  1909.  Finlay Webster and his wagon team posed on Dewdney Trunk Road.  Webster was part of the road crew hired to grade and gravel the Trunk Road in 1909.
P00172.  ND [1929]. Aerial view of Port Haney and hinterland, looking northeast toward Alouette Lake prior to construction of Lougheed Highway.  Improved (gravel) roads were required to bring people into the neighbourhood villages for business and social activities.  They also improved the delivery of the mail and farm equipment to outlying communities away from the railway and river.

By 1922, there were 110 miles of gravel road in the district.  Road building contracts were considered lucrative and so there were inevitable controversies.  Tom Davison submitted a tender to gravel the Blackstock Road for 200 yards east and west of the Townline Road [216th Street] for the grand sum of $1.85.  This was challenged because he was a school trustee at the time.  

Because of its importance as a construction material and its heavy bulk weight, it has long been important for municipalities to secure gravel mines nearby.  Often the earliest road-building contracts would involve the district paying private land owners for the privilege of extracting rock from their properties nearby a project.  As the need for gravel increased with population growth, larger, centralized quarries began to make sense to operate as businesses.  These quarries were instead subject to royalties, paid to the district for the use of a public resource. The Kirkpatrick family of Webster’s Corners was the proprietors of the district’s major gravel mine, located near the north end of 256th Street.  The district of Maple Ridge also had its own quarry on Thornhill’s Industrial Avenue (now Jackson Road).  Both these facilities were nearing exhaustion in 1995.  

ND [1920-29].  Formal portrait of Fanny Johnson, Webster's Corners resident and neighbour to Kirkpatrick's gravel mining operation in the 13600 block of 256th Street.

Although more gravel was located near the Kirkpatrick facility, the municipality had included “policy 17” in its official plan, which stated that new gravel mining would not occur in Webster’s Corners until an alternate trucking route to 256th Street and Dewdney Trunk Road was constructed.  Residents of Webster’s Corners were opposed to truck traffic on Dewdney Trunk Road because they disliked the idea of more heavy vehicles moving through their community.  In the early 2000s, with no local source, gravel for construction projects was being introduced from Mission and Pitt Meadows (Sheridan Hill), and the district was foregoing royalties on gravel extraction which – pending some proposals – could total in the millions of dollars.  Rezoning in 2008 allowed a municipal gravel pit in the area to move forwards, so long as annual hauls down 256th Street were limited to 300,000 cubic metres and the municipality developed its concept for Abernethy Way as an alternative trucking route. Proposals by the Katzie Nation and private concessionaires for new quarries in the area were made in 2012.

Monday, December 8, 2014


Reprinted below is an account from the Vancouver Daily Province of October 13, 1916, of a major fire in the Port Hammond townsite.  In a wood-framed town lit almost exclusively with fuel oil and wood stoves the risks were high.  Unfortunate also was the lack of a pump car, capable of drawing water from a water source to a pressurized hose, within town.  After the fire's discovery, the call was put to the organized fire department in Vancouver for the use of theirs.  When it was not available, the next available pumper from the now-defunct municipality of Point Grey was called out to Maple Ridge.  Arriving from Vancouver's west side over gravel roads and the newly opened Pitt River Bridge, the equipment was too late to be put to use.  Despite the torching of Port Hammond, and later fires in Haney (1926), Hammond (1926), and Haney (1932), it was 1945 before the municipality organized its first fire department on a volunteer basis.

The article below describes the losses to Port Hammond's business section, making a distinction between the value of the buildings (low) and their merchandise (high).  For a commercial store owner in a rural hamlet, the loss of wares was far more onerous than the loss of a building, which could be erected relatively quickly and cheaply.

In a small aside at the end of the article, the author speculates on the cause of the blaze: "Tramps in a stable at the rear of the hotel area believed to have started the fire."  While both Port Hammond and Port Haney were rest stops for travellers on the Canadian Pacific, no cause of the 1916 fire was substantiated.

P00896.  1909 c.  The Dale Store and Hotel (L), Dale Hall and Bank of Hamilton, and several outbuildings were some of many engulfed by the 1916 fire.  Barrowclough, photographer.

ND [1920].  P04344.  Arthur Lazenby, postmaster at Hammond, reportedly saved his place of work by covering its vulnerable west facade with wet blankets.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Editor's Last Chapter: J.J. Dougan's Obituary

A daughter recounts her father's first hours in death.

J Juniur Dougan [no typo] was the editor of the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows weekly Gazette from 1922 until his death this week in November 1932.  Dougan was well-remembered for his community service in Maple Ridge and Vancouver, where he had lived until 1922.  His daughter Ethel's obituary, printed across three columns on the front page of the Gazette of November 16, 1932, told the journey of her father's body from Maple Ridge to the family burial plot in the Cowichan area of Vancouver Island.  Her passage evokes many themes, among them her father's Protestant theology and their family's connection to the landscape of the British Columbia coast.  She reveals the pageantry associated with the funeral, describing the circulation of her father's Orange Order colleagues around her father's casket and the participation of community personalities in the funeral procession.  Dougan Barton's writing is reminiscent of her father's prose, with its alternately clipped and arching sentences, heavy religious influence and imagery, and extended metaphors.  The following obituary is an interesting record of the perception of death in the 1930s.  Photos from Archives.
J. J. Dougan circa 1922.

The Editor’s Last Chapter
by his daughter, Ethel Dougan Barton

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Alouette Dam and the Flood of '55

1924.  Alouette River exit from lake, pre-dam.  P04023.
The first dam at Alouette Lake was designed and built between 1924 and 1928 by the British Columbia Electric Railway Company, later BC Hydro.  However, the facility at the south end of the lake has never contained power generation equipment.  Instead, the purpose of the dam was to raise water levels in Alouette Lake by fifty feet in the process of diverting them to power projects in the Stave Lake watershed.  As part of the dam project, the BCER dug a one-kilometre tunnel between Alouette and Stave lakes underneath the north slope of Mount Crickmer.  Water flows down this tunnel to power a turbine at the Stave Lake portal.  The combined watershed of the Stave and Alouette then hosts two more generating stations at Stave Falls and Ruskin before its water falls into the Fraser River at Ruskin.  The Alouette diversion was designed to produce 8.5 megawatts at its generating station on the western shore of Stave Lake[1] [2].

The construction of the dam at the south end of the new Alouette Reservoir began on March 22, 1924.  The railway to the dam site was extended as a branch of the existing Abernethy and Lougheed Logging Company (Allco) railway, which served the company’s extensive timber holdings in Maple Ridge.  The construction railway ran six-and-a-half kilometres between the Allco logging camp at the top of present 248th Street and the lakehead.  Materials and labour destined for the tunnel project would be taken by boat to the top of the lake to a point near the new intake.  A workers’ camp, hosting between 100 and 200 men, existed at the rail-water break for the duration of the construction project – until the autumn of 1928.  The right-of-way of the construction railway is now maintained as a private road by BC Hydro[3].

1924.  Dam-site construction camp.  Excavation has begun for foundations of clay-earth dam.  P04014.