Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mussallem means 'Peaceful Man'

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

......

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

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

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

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

So young Solomon Mussallem emigrated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August Tea

Tea on the Veranda
Sunday August 17th, 2014
11:00am - 3:00 pm

Join us for refreshments on the veranda and tours of the historic Haney House Museum August 17th. 

For large groups, email mrmeventplanner@gmail.com or call 604-463-5311 to let us know you're coming!

On Display: Imaging History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


On Display: Our Churches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

On Display: Ridge Royalty

1958.  As part of a tour celebrating BC's centennial, Princess Margaret of the United Kingdom visited Maple Ridge's St. John-the-Divine Anglican Church, just turned 99.  She was welcomed by the town, and officially by local "Blueberry Queen" Anne Seigo.  P02416

Presently on display at the Maple Ridge Public Library, “Ridge Royalty” recalls pageants and celebrations in the history of Maple Ridge to describe ideas about femininity at mid-century.  While a visit from true British royalty was a cause for jubilation and pride in the (provincial) town, Maple Ridge proposed that its own girls and young women could be objects of fascination and cultural refinement.  Pageant girls wore elaborate and elegant costumes in the course of impressing community judges, some male, with their perfect habits and lively volunteerism.  Winners were crowned and offered prizes by local businesses, while some went on to compete in higher levels of contest – provincial or even national.

In 1958, Maple Ridge received Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon and the younger sister of Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.  British Columbians were staunch loyalists just five years after Elizabeth’s coronation and within memory of the threats made to England during the Second World War.  On a tour to celebrate the centennial of the Colony of British Columbia, Margaret was to visit Fort Langley – the location of the proclamation by Governor Douglas announcing the colony – and decided to include a visit to Maple Ridge’s St. John-the-Divine church, dating to 1859.  Arriving on a red carpet via seaplane to Port Haney, she ascended to a motorcade from the Fraser dock past youth groups in uniform, the town’s junior band, and 1958 Blueberry Queen, Anne Seigo, who presented the princess with a piece of needlepoint. 

ND [1960].  Blueberry Queen contestants sort Lulabelle berries as part of their competition labours.  A major purpose of the Blueberry Festival was to represent and promote the local agricultural industry.  P02439.

In the 1950s, the Blueberry Festival took place each August to celebrate local farm produce.  The event included a ceremony to select and crown the next Blueberry Queen of Maple Ridge.  The contest began with local organizations nominating “deserving” young girls to be recognized at the festival.  The contestants would be invited to a meet-and-greet event at the Haney Odeon Theatre, located near the present-day intersection of Lougheed Highway and 225th Street.  With little time to prepare the contestants would be expected to impress the judges, typically local business owners and figures, with their knowledge of politics and current events.  Alice Brecht, Blueberry Queen 1956, was acknowledged specially as an expert blueberry picker, making the ideal candidate.

1923.  Postcard depicting the coronation of the Maple Ridge May Queen.
May Day conflated attitudes toward the monarchy with expectations
about the upbringing of girls.  P01956
May Day, or Victoria Day, was another celebration that seamed together ideas about royalty and girlhood.  Ostensibly celebrating the famously long-reigning British monarch, committees in Maple Ridge would prepare throughout the spring between 1919 and the Second World War for the parade, maypole dance, and May Queen ceremony.  The coronation ceremony arranged young girls, typically ages 8-11, from each of the district’s elementary schools in competition: one would be chosen as May Queen, with the others becoming Maids of Honor during the coronation.

While beauty pageants were smaller in the 1970s, reflecting new attitudes in North America about women’s role in society, the 1980s saw a return to popularity of these events.  In 1984, the Ridge Meadows pageant, sponsored by Valley Fair Mall, began with a contestant carwash, which was followed by a swimsuit competition at the municipality’s new leisure centre.  Here, contestants were judged on “appearance, poise, and confidence”.  A question-and-answer period intended to interrogate each contestant’s intelligence and personality occurred immediately before the coronation ceremony.  Miss Ridge Meadows would ride with “Miss Congeniality” on a decorated float and antique car in the community’s Mountain Parade.  This recalled the earlier Blueberry Festival parade, when beauty queens rode atop the hoods and trunks of long American cars down the middle of Lougheed Highway.

Between 1948 and 1991, the culmination of local beauty pageants was the Pacific National Exhibition competition grand prize.  The young woman crowned here would receive a trip across Canada, all expenses paid, during which she might visit oil drilling operations, industrial farms, gold mines, head offices, and the Canadian parliament, also stopping at every provincial capital along the way.  The auspices of winning a diplomatic tour played on ideas about the purpose of royalty, even as the tour itself bookended a fairytale exercise in make-believe.


Ridge Royalty can be viewed at the Maple Ridge Public Library until the end of August.

1981.  Miss Ridge Meadows, newly crowned, seen before the beginning of a parade.   P13248

On Display: Timberland

When the colonial government of British Columbia opened lands in the New Westminster district for settlement in 1858, the land north of Stó:lō [the Fraser River] was well-forested from the alpine to tidal marshes located two miles behind the ridge across from Derby.  Logging was a necessary activity for early settlers, many of whom received government subsidies requiring them to clear certain amounts of land.  Industrial logging arrived in Maple Ridge in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, and reached its zenith in the early twentieth.  Crucial elements of these activities were the legal system which regulated the ownership of the forest resource and the technologies required to survey and extract the trees.

There are different ways of valuing the coastal forest, and these values influence the way the forest is used.  Some pastimes and activities, like walking, fishing, collecting, or nature appreciation value the experience of the forest as a unique environment.  But the key element of the forest – its trees – also has a cash value when it is processed and converted into industrial materials or household goods.  Furniture, toys, paper, beams, shingles – all of these things come from the forest; demand for them puts a demand on the forest for trees.  The price people are willing to pay for these things works its way back into the forest as a price on trees.  Wood harvested for sale or use by the market is called timber.  This display looks at how Maple Ridge’s forests were valued – how trees were “turned into” timber.

ND [1937].  This homesteader's cabin was abandoned in the
Silver Valley area and later occupied by the local Scouts.  To
receive government subsidies, homesteading settlers had to
have cleared fifteen acres of wooded land from their property
within two years of occupying it.  P03824
The first logging in the district occurred piecemeal as white settlers took up homesteads under the settlement acts of the colonial and Canadian governments.  These pieces of law required settler families to meet specific maintenance targets in return for their title – or right – to property.  The federal 1874 Free Homestead Act asked settlers to have cleared 15 acres of wooded land from the property claim within two years of it being granted.  Wood collected in this way could be used on the homestead as fuel or construction material, but could not be sold without additional licenses under the provincial government.  At Confederation, the provincial governments had retained a right to regulate property which extended to their management of natural resources, including forest lands.  Forests were seen by early homesteaders as a hindrance and a threat to the household economy, even as the settlers depended on ready access to wood for the maintenance and operation of their farms.  As commercial logging developed in the Fraser Valley, farmers came in to conflict with loggers, who were thought to profit unfairly from the resource.

Individuals and settler families were not the only people able to pre-empt land in early Maple Ridge.  The area within 20 miles [32 kilometres] of the Canadian Pacific Railway was called the “Railway Belt” and was administered and surveyed by the federal government in the 1880s.  Commercial logging was a developing industry throughout the province, but especially in the south coast areas with good transportation and water access.  The forests on crown lands – areas over which the government claimed control – could be alienated using a few different kinds of ownership.  As markets for wood products developed, there were three main legal instruments which granted private logging companies access to newly valuable timber: timber leases, timber licenses, and the outright purchase of land title.

In 1859, negotiations between Captain Stamp, a logging operator on the southwest coast, and the colonial government led to the first formal lease of timber.  Timber leases separated the forest from the land by awarding loggers the right to extract wood from a specific crown tract for a 21-year period.  Leases required that the logger operate a sawmill in connection with the land lien as a means of adding value to the industry – and the tax base.  Licenses, like leases, permitted operators remove stands of timber on crown lands without acquiring title.  Licensees were not required to operate a sawmill, and licensing was used by the government to allow small operators and hand-loggers to remove timber from crown lands.  Stumpage fees were resource royalties paid to the government for the privilege of logging crown lands.

ND.  E.H. Heaps company mill, seen from the lower Stave River.  A mid-
sized sawmill could process 30,000 to 50,000 board-feet of timber per 
working day, which could last up to 12 hours.  P03357
Loggers also speculated on timber values by purchasing large forested properties and holding them until supply and demand ran in their favour.  Leases, licenses, and title were often combined in the portfolios of large companies.  Big claim holders in Maple Ridge were the E.H. Heaps, with timber leases and a sawmill in Ruskin before 1912, and the Miami Corporation, which held timber leases – including the large Timber Berth W – around the face of Mount Blanshard.  The Miami Corporation belonged to the Chicago-based Deering family, who had made their fortune by manufacturing agricultural equipment.  These timber rights were contracted out to the Abernethy and Lougheed Logging Company, popularly “Allco”, which in the 1920s was the largest commercial logging outfit in the province of British Columbia.  Both E.H. Heaps and Allco were “railway loggers”, using short-chassis locomotives to pull loads of lumber out of the woods from the cutting zones.  Many camps with permanent and temporary structures dotted the woods, and the population of some of these could be in the hundreds.

1920-1924.  Allco headquarters camp, seen from the western slope of the Alouette River valley.  P01811
ND [1921].  Margaret Lougheed, sister of Allco principal Nelson Lougheed, seen in the cab window of Allco locomotive #55.  The operations of Allco were so well-known that they were toured by politicians and dignitaries, as well as family, and were followed regularly by the Vancouver and New Westminster presses.  P00738.
In early years, a major concern of the backcountry operators was loss of logs in transport.  Logs were floated to sawmills in large booms, but the onset of a freshet could break the boom and send unidentified logs ashore far away from their intended destination.  The solution was to stamp each individual log with an ID number which corresponded to a government timber berth.  This protected the investments of government claim holders, and helped the government assess stumpage fees.

1911.  This survey crew, none identified, worked in the Stave
watershed, where multiple mills sourced logs from both 
upstream lands and inland berths accessed by logging
railways.  P02689
Before moving onto a piece of land, logging companies had to predict its value and profitability.  Timber leases were only as valuable as their harvestable “board-feet”, a volumetric measurement of timber.  Surveying was part of big business, and supported the extensive work camps, sawmills, railways, post offices, hostels, skylines and skid roads operated by large companies.  Logging operations could be massive investments made by financiers in distant cities, and surveying reports were used by logging operators to leverage credit and plan out their operations years in advance.  Teams “cruised” the timber berths, laying down chains to measure off a rectangular grid which could be used to organize a forest sample.  The sampled distance between trees, the average girth of trees, and the distribution of species were applied to the grid’s subsections, allowing companies to estimate the recoverable board-feet for their claims and its market value, and weigh this against their expenses.

ND [1931].  View of a fire, likely the 1931 blaze, from 
Alouette Lake.  P00095
In Maple Ridge, big logging declined at the end of the 1920s.  One problem was the frequent fires started by the activities of workers and their spark-setting locomotives, donkey engines and skyline rigging.  Fires, if uncontrolled, could burn through accessible timber stands and immediately diminish a company’s earnings.   There was also the risk of physical injury: moving large and unwieldy logs required unwieldy and dangerous equipment, and the nature of the work often found lumbermen off the ground or amid the saws.  Workers unionized to lobby for better working conditions and higher pay.  Local powerhouse Allco’s reliance on expensive heavy equipment, onsite labour, and American credit meant that as a whole the company was highly indebted.  As the stock market fluctuated in the autumn of 1929, the value of Allco’s holdings decreased dramatically, making it difficult for the company to pay its workers and service its debts.  Its holdings were sold off by 1930.  Its successor, the Commercial Lumber Company, was burnt out of the remaining timber claims north of town in 1931 after a large fire broke out from the premises of a rival operation, Brown and Kirkland.

By the end of logging operations in the Alouette River Valley, the new forests science had grown out of logging operations in central Canada and the eastern United States, where forests had been seriously damaged by short-term planning and timber exploitation.  Conservation policies required longer-term planning than the 21-year timber leases encouraged, and Allco had already been tasked with replanting in some of the older clear-cuts.  The value of the forest was increasingly seen in environmental and economic spinoffs, in addition to its board-feet.  By the early 1930s, Nelson Lougheed, principal of now-defunct Allco, was provincial minister of public works.  He lobbied the federal and provincial governments for the creation of a park on the disused timber lands north of Maple Ridge.  The local Gazette voiced support for the plan, extolling the need to protect the last “stand of giant virgin forest” in the Lower Mainland – and the need to replace the logging industry with the economic benefits of tourism. 

ND [1932].  Reverend James Dunn hiking on an abandoned railway in Timber Berth W.  The Blanshard Needle can be seen in the background.  Loggingi n the area had halted after the 1929 stock market crash and a large 1931 fire.  P00287

The old area of Timber Berth W was protected after 1933 within the confines of Garibaldi Provincial Park.  Access remained only on foot or by horseback, though many local residents were regular visitors to the abandoned clear-cuts and many small lakes. The area would be accessed by public road only in 1958, from which point its popularity within the Lower Mainland blossomed.  Increased use led to the administrative separation of Golden Ears Provincial Park from Garibaldi Park in 1967.  Meanwhile in 1949, the western portions of Timber Berth W, north of the Silver Valley area, had become the private “research forest” of the University of British Columbia under the leadership of F. Malcolm Knapp, forester and professor.  The university was one of the promoters of the science of forestry, and Knapp himself was known for his belief in restorative management of forest resources.  Much of the forested land in the area is now 60- to 70-year old second-growth, composed mainly of western hemlock, red cedar, and douglas fir.  In Whonnock, Ruskin, and Webster’s Corners, private logging continued using government licenses.  Following the Depression, these operations were smaller than the railway logging outfits and used flatbed trucks to move single logs felled from the woods.  Truck logging was an integral part of clearing areas in eastern Maple Ridge for small-lot agriculture and rural settlement.

1953.  Gold Standard Logging truck in Whonnock, with (L) Pete
Alexander, Gill McNutt, Charlie Kilburn, Claire Butt, and Enoch
Alexander.  P00981

Today, parks and protected areas pepper Maple Ridge’s forests, affording the community access and recreational opportunities.  “Re-creation” is a good word to describe how we see the forest today.  We might appreciate it because we value its beauty or believe the experience is wild, but the trees themselves will always contain another history: one that speaks to the spirit of early industry and the environment’s seizure and sale – the exchange of the forest for trees, and the trees for timber.

You can see artefacts relating to the logging industry in Maple Ridge at the Museum, where Timberland is on display.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Maple Ridge Museum’s 40th Anniversary

Sunday August 10, 2014
Come celebrate with us!
11:00 am - 4:00 pm
22520 116th Avenue


 Visit Jim Hadgkiss Park for family games, food and fun!

The Event includes:
  • Free admission to the Maple Ridge Museum
  • Live music by Kat Wahamaa & Tony Rees (12:00pm - 1:00pm)
  • Performance by the Sionnaine Irish Dance Academy (1:00pm)
  • Live music by Gary Comeau & the VoodDoo Allstars (2.30pm - 4:00pm) 
  • Book launch of Looking Back at Maple Ridge: Volume One
  • Market vendors including: Lupita Mexican Foods, Seasoned Gourmand, Steeped Tea, and Urban Bog
  • Kiwanis Food Truck
  • Face Painting by Emerald Pigs, and other kids activities
    And More...


Don't forget to bring your lawn chair to enjoy the concerts from a comfortable vantage point! Street parking is available along 116th, and surrounding streets. The parking lot will be closed off for the festivities. 


If you have any questions or comments, email mrmuseum@gmail.com or call 604-463-5311.