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.

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

It seems fitting that, for this issue, the two objects dear to my father’s heart should unite and present to you the concluding chapter of his life’s record.  Then close the book, lock its clasps and lay it away, leaving others to take up the theme and carry on.  It seems hard to think that, after 10 years of untiring effort to give you the best – and just when the struggle seemed a little easier that in a moment he was called to leave it all without even a word of farewell – but, such is the uncertainty of life.
J.J. Dougan circa 1922.

Every issue of the Gazette brought its editorials, its spicy news – the pages were as full as he could make them with something that he felt would be of interest to all.  But, that is past.   His hand and pen are still, and never again will his familiar figure pass in and out among you.

But to take up the thread.  Aside from his companion, who has so nobly struggled beside him, there were two objects that he held dearer than life; first was his family, who, I believe, no father enjoyed more than he.  His closest friends will tell you that in the quiet chat his favorite theme was the achievement, however small it might be, that one of his children had accomplished. No doubt the readers had wondered many a time at space being occupied by a news note to the effect that a son or a daughter had visited him, or vice versa, not that he might fill up space, but that the readers – his other family – might share with him the pleasure that he had enjoyed.

Second was his paper, and none but those who were closest to him knew the fondness he had for it.  It seemed like his very lifeblood flowed for it, and it was a part of him.  Every waking hour was spent in making it a better publication.  Never did he pick up a paper but he did not peruse it that he might take the best from it and give it to you.

So, it seems fitting that one of his own should use his paper for the last time to bid farewell for him to the community he loved.  To express thanks for him for the many honors you have paid him, and, in his behalf, bid you all to strive in this life to make a preparation for the life to come.
Last week’s Gazette gave you the details of his life and sudden demise, so I need not reiterate those items.  In Reverend Henderson’s beautiful “In Memoriam” he left him “Asleep by God’s touch” – and I have but to conclude the chapter.

As soon as the inquest was over, Mr. Patterson – more of a friend than a mortician – hurriedly prepared the remains and placed them in the chapel, where, surrounded with flowers, his friends might come and bid him a quiet farewell.

At 1 pm Thursday, November 3, all that remained of our “Daddy” was brought back to the district that his friends and colleagues might look upon him for the last time and bid him his long farewell.
When Reverend Mr. Venables suggested the Agricultural Hall to accommodate the crowd, I did not understand, but at the appointed hour, when I saw the group assembled I had a better understanding of what our dear adviser was alluding to.  It was most fitting that he should be carried into the hall of his district by those representing the different activities with which he was connected most closely.  Mr. Mussallem for the municipality which he had tried to aid in building bigger and better for his stay in it.  Mr. Evans for the Agricultural Association, of which he was always an active and enthusiastic member.  Mr. Davison for the School Board, a department of public activity in which he always took a keen interest.  (Well do I remember, as a child, what election meant to him when he was again successful in being elected to the School Board in Vancouver.  That was his life.  I could tell you a lot about this if space would permit, for his life has always been full of such activities.)  Mr. Lazenby for their long friendship and the A.O.U.W [Ancient Order of United Workmen].  Mr. Hutchinson for the L.O.L [The Orange Order]., of which order he had been a member most of his life.  And Mr. Hambly, of his own office staff.

Thus they brought him back to his own, and though the smile had gone and the voice was still, yet it re-echoed in the tribute offered him there.  When the casket was placed the school children came into his presence, each with a floral contribution which was placed on and around the stage.  So beautiful and touching was the scene that the grim reaper, Death, seemed almost defeated in the love that yet lived in the hearts of the community.

Reverend F.E. Cyril Venables read the Scripture reading and offered prayer, after which Reverend Henderson gave the address of the hour.

His remarks were most fitting.  His text was from Luke’s record of David, “the man after God’s own heart.”  He dwelt particularly on the recorded fact that David served his generation and then slept.  How beautifully and truly put!  His nearest and dearest know that he did serve his generation, and, alas, they are slowly realizing that he is now asleep.

Reverend Mr. Henderson then dwelt on the characteristics that he liked best in his dear friend and brother.  He spoke of his kindness to all, especial to children and the less fortunate; of his courteousness in spite of the fact that ours is not a polite age; of his always seeing the best in everyone.  In his remarks he mentioned that a lady of Haney had stated a wish to die in Haney that Mr. Dougan might write her obituary, because nothing but the very best of her life would be mentioned.  He could mourn with those who mourned and rejoice with those who rejoiced.  Then he spoke words of comfort to those who will feel his loss the keenest.

Reverend Mr. Venables read from “The Book” of the hope of beyond, which was both fitting and comforting.  After prayer, the district and local Orange Lodges came forward and made their circles on either side of the bier, so that the casket made an unbroken circle.  The Grand Master presided, and the service will long be remembered by those present.  After prayer and song, each slowly passed the casket and placed his emblem upon it, and the service was concluded.

I do not know how many were present, but it seemed that for hours there was a steady tramp of feet as each came up to say the last farewell.

The funeral car was left at Lougheed Highway, and the whole distance from the hall was lined on either side by lodge members and schoolchildren, who paid their respects to their beloved comrade as he was carried for the last time from the district he loved so well.

The children again came for the flowers, and it was a touching sight, and one long to be remembered by those present.

P00067.  1932.  J.J. Dougan, third from left, observes the children of Hammond parade at the Agricultural grounds in Haney for May Day celebrations, May 24.  He died in November of the year.
The funeral cortege then moved on to the Harron Funeral Parlors in Vancouver, where a second service was held, that his old friends of the early days might come and bid him farewell.

Mr. Meady, a member of his lodge in Vancouver, ably sang “Abide with Me,” and, after a fitting prayer, Reverend MacBeth gave the address.  It, too, was fitting and one of reminiscence of the early days.  He spoke of the deceased as one who stood for the two greatest things in the world – the chuch and the school.  He spoke of a boy now in college and making his mark because of an aspiration planted there by a mother, an ex-teacher who was given her first educational boosts by Mr. Dougan, attesting to the fact that “Though dead, he yet seeketh”.  It was a grand thought given by a grand man, and so the service was ended.  The casket was again opened, and friends passed for their last look.  The curtains of the family room were opened, and friends of the old and better days greeted us with tear-dimmed eyes.  But darkness came on, and the day was done.

The remains were taken to the CPR wharf to await the hour of loading on the Princess Joan for Victoria.  Midnight found us out upon the waters crossing the Straits so familiar to him as a young man and then a father.  But this time, instead of all happy on deck watching the gulls and the “skid road”, a wife and daughter were heart-broken and a father was lying silent in the baggage room below.  What a change had been wrought in a few short hours!  Then, too, came the thought of the only son and brother far out in the middle of that same mighty water, longing and looking once more on the “Dad” he loved, but the distance between so hopelessly great.  But love came on wings across the water, followed by a letter which said: “We have had a grand Daddy, and he faced life heroically, so we are proud of him. I hope I may serve as well.”

But morning came at last, and with it a view of the beautiful city of Victoria – and such is life, a darkness or shadow and then then dawn.  Soon we were winding up the Malahat, the scenic Island Highway, over which 60 years before his father walked, carrying home on his back the necessities of life to his wife and children, the eldest of whom was soon to rest beside them.

By noon, the casket had been placed in the large sitting room of the old home – a fitting place for those near and dear to bid him good-bye.  From this room he could look on the farm he had helped to clear as a boy.  Here on Sabbath the family gathered to write the chapter they had learned that day.  Here, 41 years ago, he and Mother were married.  From here, in 1915, his father was carried to his final resting place.  Here, in 1922, he bid farewell to his mother, and she, too, was carried to the hilltop.  Seven years later his eldest son, Wilson, was laid to rest.

At 1pm, Mrs. Kingston of White Rock presided at the organ, and I sang “Does Jesus Care?”  After prayer, Elder McGill spoke beautifully on the companionship he had had with the deceased for 35 years.  The service closed with “The Sweet Bye and Bye” as a solo, and as we said the last good-bye, we softly sang “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.”

Six of the seven brothers carried him to his last resting place in a plot picked out by his father as the family plot in the very early days.

It is a spot that, by nature, like the open grave of Hanover, Germany, teaches of the life to come, a fitting topic to ponder at a time like this.  Just over the grave stands “the tree a part of God’s great lesson book.”  Years ago, when your beloved Editor was a small boy, this tree was struck by lightning and apparently killed by a touch of a might power from above.  Some time later, as the father, in taking a walk with his children, passed this tree he looked up, and, behold! from the apparently dead stump was springing forth a new and perfect tree.  “This,” he said, “is a symbol of the resurrection to everlasting life which follows death. Here we will bury our dead and here, though the sorrow be ever too deep, they can look up at this new tree and claim the promise that they will see their loved ones again.”

So, hope sprang into our heart as the casket was being lowered from our sight, and we could say farewell with a sorrow not as others who have no hope.

So, your Editor’s last editorial is written; his life’s chapter is closed.  But, though he is dead, may the promise of the tree give you hope that what was not done here may be shared and accomplished together over in that better land.

He is resting on the hilltop,
                That precious Daddy of mine;
His life’s record is ended,
                Now he’s resting so sublime.

I’m so glad he’s on the hilltop,
                For it represents his life:
Ever climbing, ne’er complaining,
                Though his days with cares were rife.

It recalls another hilltop,
                Called Golgotha, far away:
Where our Saviour gladly suffered,
                To ope’ to us that better way.

Life is either vale of hilltop –
                We can make it what we will –
Vale if life is not a struggle,
                To know and do the Father’s will.

Oh, that we may gain our hilltops
                In the few remaining hours;
Come to Christ, and gain our vict’ries
                Through our Saviour’s divine power.

When the graves upon that hilltop
                Are opened by God’s hand,
May we meet, no more to sever,
                Over in that better land.

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.

ND [1928].  Logged shore of Alouette Lake, incompletely cleared.  Looking south to the dam (visible).  P02813.
While the primary purpose of the dam was to divert water into BC Electric Railway power generating stations, the local population demanded the BCER become involved in flood prevention.  The responsibility of the dam to prevent floods was a matter of public debate, and the management of water levels by the BCER came under attack during times of flood on the Alouette[4] [5].  Following unusually high water in 1941, popular opinion was that the reservoir levels were being kept too high—leaving too little room for expansion in times of heavy rain or snowmelt.  In a 1942 letter published in the Gazette, BCER President W. G. Murrin reported that “the removal of the timber from the watershed has had the effect, here as elsewhere, of hastening the run-off, and this, therefore, has had a tendency towards aggravating flood conditions in the River”.  He suggested that the dam bore credit for reducing the volatility of run-off from logged slopes:

“We may consider the greatest [run-off], in October, which resulted from an unusually heavy rainfall.  […]  thirteen and one-half inches [of rainfall] were recorded in thirteen days at Alouette Dam.  To take care of this condition, we loaded our Alouette Plant to the limit, and also discharged water through the tunnel gate directly into Stave Lake, from October 9 to 20.  This enabled us to divert 4,000 acre-feet of water per day, and to avoid a great flood down the Alouette River.”  At the time, Murrin considered a total run-off through the Alouette River of more than 8000 acre-feet per day to qualify as “flood conditions”.

He cautioned, however, “We cannot generally allow the storage in the Lake to be depleted, as a measure of flood control, in anticipation of a possible future heavy run-off which may not always materialize.”[6]  This indicated the company’s commitment to its first goal – producing electricity at its Stave River power generating complex.

ND.  Alouette Dam during draw down.  Prior to reconstruction in 1983.  P09954.
The largest flood on record in the Alouette River valley occurred between November 3rd and 5th, 1955.  Early in the morning on November 3rd, water in the south Alouette River had risen approximately four feet between midnight and 2:30am from a high autumn flow[7].  Water had been released by the breaching of the dam, and a wide area below Yennadon was inundated[8] [9].  Although the greatest acreage was flooded in Pitt Meadows, property losses were greatest where the flows were faster and deeper, in the area around Maple Ridge Park[10].  Five homes were damaged beyond repair by floodwater on 14th Avenue (232nd Street) and 29th Road (Dogwood Avenue).  Of these, four were completely destroyed, belonging to the Harms, Warianko, Spalding, and Marshall families[11] [12] [13].  28 cattle were drowned in Pitt Polder after water overflowed the dyke at the Edge property[14].  Although total municipal and private losses were first predicted to reach as high as $75,000 in 1955 dollars (roughly $650,000 2012 dollars), compensation assessments were revised down to $50,000 by November 24, and the province eventually refused to reimburse any more than 80% of damage claims lodged[15].

During this event, log jams at Maple Ridge Park and the 8th Avenue (224th St) bridge created swift and unpredictable currents.  During high water on November 3rd and 4th, the volunteer fire department and Haney police attempted to rescue families trapped in the inundated area on 29th and 32nd roads.  The town was later captivated by the rescue of Mrs. Warianko and her daughter Kathy, who – after several submersions in the fast-running water at Yennadon – climbed out onto a log jam and waited 12 hours for help to arrive.  They were joined by several of their would-be rescuers whose skiffs had capsized in rough waters.[16]  The Gazette wrote: “Kathy was swept under a brush pile despite the rescue line around her waist.  Fortunately Constable Millhouse pulled her out and got her into the boat.  Then the boat upset and apart from Constable Millhouse, who had the recue line in a half hitch around his waist, all occupants were swept about 300 feet downstream where they managed to climb on a log.  Constable Millhouse is reported by other [sic] to have worked his way back up the life line about 300 yards in the extremely deep and fast water to reach and bring help to the marooned four whose plight was unknown to anybody at the time.”

As floodwaters receded, local residents used tractors to ferry food and supplies across washed-out roads.  The Medical Health Officer at the Maple Ridge Health Center, W. J. Armstrong, posted a warning that all those affected should boil or chlorinate their well water, scrub down flooded cellars with disinfectant, and remove all contaminated foodstuffs[17].  Oddities emerged soon after flooded areas had been drained, including a refrigerator recovered in Maple Ridge Park containing unbroken eggs[18] and the story of George Stanley Evans, age 79, who remained in his flooded home on 32nd road (132nd Avenue) for five days before seeking aid at a neighbour’s farm: Evans had been missed by rescue boats because his front lights were put out, and he reported having continued to sleep on his waterlogged bed[19]

1955, November.  High rainfall (and some said poor management) allowed water to overtop the Alouette Dam.  Downstream flooding resulted in concentrated property damage.  P03885.

Construction on the present dam began in 1983.  The dam’s owners, now BC Hydro, intended to replace the 1926 structure with an earthquake-resistant design, which could also handle higher water volumes.  At this time Colin Gurnsey, senior land supervisor for BC Hydro, considered a broader view of the dam’s purpose, summarizing neatly: “If we’re managing the river […] the costs of fixing up [flood] damages more than offset any costs for bringing the dam up to standards so [floods] can be controlled.  We’ll have to spend the money one way or another eventually, so we might as well do it right.  I guess that’s the argument that won out.”[20]

[1] Carpenter, E. E.  “Launching of Alouette Development Continues Company’s Power Programme”.  The BC Electric Employee’s Magazine,  (1924, April).  p. 4-8.
[2] Carpenter, E. E.  “Alouette-Stave Development Well Under Way”.  The BC Electric Employee’s Magazine, (1924, June.) p. 7-8.
[3] Carpenter, E. E.  “Alouette-Stave Development Well Under Way”.  The BC Electric Employee’s Magazine, (1924, June.) p. 7-8.
[4] “Alouette Rivers Controllable?”.  Gazette, (1951, January 5).  p. 2.
[5] “Alouette Dam Improves Flood Control.”  Gazette, (1942, March 15).
[6] “Alouette Dam Improves Flood Control”.  Gazette, (1942, March 15). 
[7] “Alouette River Flood Damage Will Not Exceed $100,000”.  Gazette¸ (1955, November 10). p.1.
[8] “Dam’s Collapse Kept Secret”.  Vancouver Sun, (1955, December 12).
[9] “Drastic Loss in District Caused by Flooding of Alouette Rivers”.  Gazette, (1955, November 10).  p.1.
[10] “Reeves to Meet with B.C. Premier”.  Gazette, (1955, November 24). p.1.
[11] Alouette River Flood Damage Will Not Exceed $100,000”.  Gazette.
[12] “Mr. & Mrs. W. Harms Lose Everything in Flood”.  Gazette, (1955, November 10). p.7.
[13] “Flood, Fires Destroy Ten Homes in District in Past Two Weeks”.  Gazette, (1955, November 24), p.1.
[14] “28 Cattle Drowned in Pitt Polder Area”.  Gazette, (1955, November 10). p.8.
[15] “Reeves to Meet with B.C. Premier”.  Gazette.
[16] “Drastic Loss in District Caused by Flooding of Alouette Rivers”.  Gazette.
[17] “Residents Advised to Guard Against Contamination”.  Gazette, (1955, November 10).  s.2. p.1.
[18] “Refrigerator Lands in Maple Ridge Park”.  Gazette, (1955, November 10).  S.2. p.1.
[19] “Flooding South Alouette Strands Resident 5 Days”.  Gazette, (1955, November 17).  p.7.
[20] McKave, Marianne.  “57-year-old dam gets grand tour before replacement work begins.”  Gazette, (1983, March 2).

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

(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

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.