Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Closed for the Holiday

The Maple Ridge Museum and Haney House 
will be closed Sunday April 5, 2015.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

This Week in 1931: Local Doctor Cleared of Charges in Death of Depression-Era Vagrant

This week in 1931, Dr. Francis Joseph Buckley, of Haney, was cleared of the charge of manslaughter in the case of John Connely, a depression-era rail-rider. A sad case, in which the coroner found that Connely had died from alcohol poisoning. The brucine-laced "wood alcohol" was allegedly purchased by Buckley in Hammond, where Buckley had taken Connely and traveller Herbert Brown to buy food. Brown testified that it was common for Connely to drink the denatured liquor, normally reserved for industrial applications. Vagrants commonly stayed in Maple Ridge during the worst winters of the Depression, where they were allowed by management at the Port Haney Brick Company to sleep in the warm kiln sheds.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Buying Kanaka Creek

P09074.  2005.  Aerial photo looking southeast over the course of Kanaka Creek.

Kanaka Creek is a small river that enters the Fraser in Albion.  It descends from Blue Mountain through a series of forested ravines until it meets the level of the Fraser near 240th Street. Then the Kanaka meanders through wetlands and floodplain forest to its mouth.

Long respected for its bounty of salmon, game, and plants, Kanaka Creek has also been appreciated for its scenic beauty.  Aboriginal people and European settlers visited the dramatic waterfalls now at Cliff Park.  While farms encroached on the river on its flats, disturbances along the upper reaches of the stream came from fishing and the use of the spring freshet to push sawn timber down to the Fraser.  Light population kept the river's riparian area mostly intact, despite being subject to human use.

P13318.  Falls on the Kanaka.  The river's splendid environment provided 
resources to earlier communities and recreation to the rural residents of 
post-war Maple Ridge.  In the 1970s, most of the creek's course was privately
held.  Today it runs on public lands from the Fraser River to Blue Mountain.

The transformation of the Kanaka's rural landscape into a suburban one began after the Second World War.  Even though the population density of the area remained relatively low, the popularity of the car allowed urban housing to push onto rural sites.  Retreats and family estates were carved out of the 160-acre farm allotments.  These square parcels had always been impractical in this area of rolling hills and steeply cut ravines, where they often included inaccessible corners isolated by swift streams.  Subdivided and used for housing, the lots including the thickly-forested creek valley made living in this area scenic and attractive.  Subdivision confirmed that most of the river lay in private hands.

Beginning early on in this phase of suburban growth, the regional planning authority laid out priorities for protecting and acquiring natural and recreational areas of significance.  In 1966, regional planners with Vancouver-Fraser Park District, predecessor of today's regional parks system, selected the watershed of the Kanaka as one such area.  When the municipality of Maple Ridge entered this system in 1972, the Greater Vancouver Regional District began assembling properties along the course of the Kanaka, beginning with those that were already held by other levels of government.  The concept was to deliver a "linear park" that could offer recreational hiking, fishing, and other activities to the public while preserving the creek's ecosystems.  To do this, the regional district required a vote on its financial plan for acquiring the portions of the Kanaka watershed that were held privately.  At a meeting of the board on April 26, 1972, Kanaka Creek was one of many parks in the Lower Mainland where $860,000 was allotted for land purchases.  The board also approved a by-law to authorize the borrowing of up to $5,000,000 for future parkland acquisition.

The flow of public opinion on the park proposal turned into a torrent when, in 1977, leaked details about purchase negotiations suggested the regional district's strategy was to accelerate property acquisition, which many interpreted as implying expropriation of lands.  One property owner, Jeff Tarris, gave fuel to the newly organized "Kanaka Creek Residents' Association when he received a letter from the GVRD which he said implied expropriation would be considered for his property within three to five years.  Expropriation was not explicitly mentioned.  Plans showed that the park would infringe on 191 privately-held properties and completely enclosed 35 homes.  This inflamed property owners--and some elected officials on the regional district board such as Vancouver councillor May Brown, who claimed the board had not been made aware by planning staff that many of the properties to be acquired had already been built upon.

P13172.  ND.  Seen from a canoe, the McVeety House was one of many rural properties that technically owned portions of the creek.  Farming led to early observable impacts on the creek and its banks, such as increased erosion.
While some property owners supported the designation of a "Greenbelt", under which their lands in the Kanaka's riparian area would be subject to a restrictive covenant prohibiting their disturbance, yet would remain off-limits to the public; other residents of the Kanaka watershed proposed changing the park proposal to achieve ecological protection and recreational potential, and satisfy private property interests.  There was disagreement on the effectiveness of all proposals: the Greenbelt idea required compensation for property holders without providing any recreational benefit to the public--a clear mandate of the GVRD--while the modified park proposal appeared to only weakly protect the creek's environmental value.  Planning staff with the regional district repeatedly claimed they had no intention of expropriation--except under circumstances where soil dumping and other activities on private lands were urgently threatening the quality of the creek, or where--according to regional planner Rick Hankin--"excessive costs would result from private development".  Residents of the Kanaka watershed were left anxious and unsatisfied when Hankin failed to elaborate on the nature of "excessive costs" in defense of the park program.

Many local residents and members of the Kanaka Creek Residents' Association, as well as GVRD board members, blamed the municipality of Maple Ridge for the public relations crisis.  After all, many of the area's residents had purchased property in the Kanaka basin after 1972, when the intent to acquire property in the area became public record.  It was felt by property owners that the municipality had failed to disclose the park plan even as it had continued to approve building permits and rezoning applications within the boundaries of the future park.  These approvals continued until March 1977, when the municipality was also chastised in an April meeting of the GVRD board. Eyebrows were further raised when local councillor and Maple Ridge's representative at the regional district, Don Boyce, along with several family members and colleagues, was revealed to have purchased plots of land in 1976 that would acquired and compensated under the park proposal. No illegality was implied.  Boyce recused himself from later decisions on the future park lands, though he maintained there was no conflict of interest.

Following two open house events at which a modified park boundary was presented, the GVRD re-approved a five-year acquisition program in spite of a handful of property owners who howled that they had not been compensated for depressed land values.  Land speculation had been a serious issue, which Harry Fuller, area resident and member of the Kanaka Creek Residents' Association, summarized the issue:
"A creek is an attractive natural feature and a selling point for developers holding land [...] Therefore land along the creek will tend to be developed in the overall development pattern.  The resulting pressure for the expansion of services along the creek will force taxation sharply upward, and people holding small acreage along the creek will be forced to subdivide and sell. [...] To leave things as they are is not acceptable because of the threat of large-sale housing development.  Even now each additional house along the creek, especially on some of the smaller lots, reduces privacy, and if additional houses are built near the creek, they threaten the creek environment."
P06411.  1981.  This property near 240th Street was expropriated by the GVRD when 
its owner continued to (legally) dump soil from agricultural operations near the stream
bank.  The regional district pledged to expropriate to halt environmentally damaging
As consensus widened around the need to protect the creek's ecological health, and park boundaries were redrawn to affect fewer properties, support for the GVRD's public-access park concept prevailed in the community and at city hall.  In September 1981, the regional district expropriated seven acres on the lower Kanaka to prevent soil dumping on the creek's foreshore.  Then, in the spring of 1982, consultation between Maple Ridge, the regional district, and the Kanaka Creek Residents' Association allowed planner Ron Boyes to call meetings between regional district and property owners for the purpose of negotiating purchase agreements.  The municipality also agreed to disallow or reject any subdivision and rezoning applications that affected "undevelopable lands" within the Kanaka Creek ravine and floodplain.  By this time, portions of the park that had been owned by other governments were accepting visitors, as at Cliff Falls and the 256th Street entrance.

The last major portion of Kanaka Creek Regional Park was opened in 1993, when the riverfront was purchased from New Zealand-based forestry company Fletcher Challenge.  The site, nearly 160 acres in size, cost the regional district and municipality $1.8 million.  Acquisition of small parcels in the Cliff Falls area continued into the 2000s.  In total, just over $13,000,000 were spent by the regional district and the municipality to preserve this vital green space--the cost of making the Kanaka public.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mad Hatter Tea-Party

Mad Hatter Tea Party
Haney House Museum

The Haney House Museum is celebrating Spring with an Alice-in-Wonderland themed event! Children are encouraged to wear a crazy hat to the Mad Hatter Tea Party, where they can participate in heritage crafts and games. Beverages and treats will also be served. 

For more details email

Where: Haney House Museum 11612 224th, Maple Ridge
When: Sunday, March 22nd 11am- 3pm
Cost: $5

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.