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.

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.