Early History of Municipality of Maple Ridge with Port Hammond and Haney

The valley of the Fraser River is the bed of an ancient arm of the sea which extended as far inland as Hope. It is to a large extent made up of alluvial deposits, according to Dr. Dawson. The Indians have a very ancient tradition which bears out in a legendary way this more scientific premise. They say that the receding of the sea from this district explains the presence of certain varieties of fish. From Lillooet Lake to the Fraser and from Lillooet River to the Stave River is the district of Maple Ridge, which as the name implies, is a shelf or table-land, declining at the two ends, that occurs in the rise of the land from the Fraser River towards the mountains in the far background. It is the neighboring [sic] Municipality to that of Coquitlam and shares most of the natural features of the latter, but having the advantage of lying considerably higher above the level of the river. Briefly, this is how this part came to be settled:

Three hundred and thirty-five years after the discovery of America by Columbus, Fort Langley was founded. In the meantime a few events had slowly unravelled themselves. Twenty-one years after the finding of the continent, Balboa stood on a peak in Mexico and saw the Pacific Ocean (in 1513). Then follows a glorious roll of navigators. In 1520 Magellan sailed into the Pacific. Dauntless spirits pursued the search for the North West Passage. Somewhere about 1579 Drake made a “good and fair bay” on this coast under the 38th parallel in the “Golden Hinde” of glorious memory. In 1670 the Hudson Bay Company received their charter. Behring took another step in 1740 by reaching the coast of Alaska, and Captain Cook explored St. Juan de Fuca in 1778. In 1787 Captain Barkley again found the Strait of St. Juan de Fuca. Land explorers were equally active by this time. In 1789 Mackenzie reached the Arctic Ocean by the river that bears his name. The opening up of the west by the Hudson Bay Company and navigations of the coast coincide, which brings us up to the founding of Fort Langley, in 1827, near the Indian trail south of the Fraser River. The Yale-Cariboo Road, was later built to the south of the Fort. This Fort was the first home of a white man in the district of New Westminster. There was nothing nearer than Vancouver and then Chilcotin and Thompson.

Settlements have a way of pushing out limbs on all sides. From this post Derby became the nucleus of dwellings, and this spread to Maple Ridge on the north side of the river. When Mr. John McIvor came out from Stornoway, in the Hebrides, sailing round Cape Horn and landing at Victoria, he made his way to this point and took up work as a collector for the Hudson Bay Company. This was the year 1852, and Mr. Newton was agent for the Hudson Bay Company.

Mr. McIvor, as the oldest and one of the most respected of early pioneers, has kindly given many points in respect to those days. He would have been a remarkable man in any society. He tells not only of the [illegible]ings, and land and water [illegible] [illegible] made the Hudson Bay Company’s [illegible] almost amphibious, but of sleeping out in the open for months at a time, and of going sleeveless at times because the sleeves of his coat had rotted off with the rain. In the long hours of solitary life, however, he devoured many works of great masters of literature. His mind was full of the thoughts of Milton, the makers of history were profoundly absorbing to this lonely student. He saw much likeness in the visions of the Indians and the prophetic books of the Bible. In appearance Mr. McIvor is nearing on six feet, with a great breadth of chest, a fine upstanding man that holds his head well. His resounding R’s and Gaelic vowels carry one back to North Britain. Though now a white haired old man, wearing his hair long in the old style, there are still fires in this hazel eyes, and stirring tones in his voice, while his undying love for Scotland brings a mist to one’s eyes. His wife would have put some of their property on the market ere now, but Mr. McIvor cannot see it go for any money. He is a man of great tenacity and has huge strength. Asked if in the old days they were not worn out with fatigue, he replied they never thought of it, they were just trained to endure and to meet literally all kinds of hardships. Hardy, kind, devoted to his home, full of lusty strength, and in some ways with the simplicity of a child, keen as a hunter, tactful with the Indians, philosophical in misfortune — this typifies the old timer who is passing away from us with the advent of railways and commercial exploitation of the land. One may be pardoned a detailed description, for this type of pioneer is dear to our hearts.

From drinking tea quietly with the family in their parlor [sic] one is carried back to the long ago on the stream of his eloquence that paints the early life again plainly before us.

Settlers at first lived on the south side of the river. The first detachment of the Royal Engineers came to Derby, which it was hoped to build into a big place, and an English syndicate was formed with great expectations. Shortly after Col. Moody made his first survey of the whole district. It was, however, found that what suited as a centre among the Indians for collecting skins did not recommend itself to the commanding officer in those days as the site of a new city. It was therefore superseded by New Westminster. The new church, which had been given to Derby by the Baroness Burdett Coutts, was removed about 1880 to Maple Ridge, where it now stands, the old church on the mainland. It was constructed of giant red wood cedar, specially brought for the purpose from California.

The little handful of white men at Fort Langley, including McIvor, were among some of those who were the original finders of gold in the Fraser River. McIvor moved to Hammond [illegible] [illegible], where was situated the only landing spot of those days. He lived there for a time, going back and forth to the Cariboo. The officer of the Fort was then Mr. Newton. When the Hudson Bay Company’s charter expired and the Colonial Office took over the territory, Governor James Douglas, the late senior chief factor of the Company, took the oath of allegiance as Governor of B.C. at Fort Langley, on November 19, 1858. “So help me God” it ended, as Mr. McIvor, who was present, well remembers. Among other good men and [illegible] who witnessed the swearing-in were Jim Taylor, Cormachty, Bonson, and other engineers. Was the Governor true to that oath? a friend asked the old pioneer. “Ay, was he? Did ye no ken James Douglas? That was a mon, that was a grrand mon.”

The old maps, McIvor relates, were made by the H. B. Co.’s officers from information supplied by the Indians. They would come into the camp weary from a long trail. After a meal they would be asked how they got there. Then would follow explanations. “It was this way along the river bank, over a hill, over rapids” (marking on the palm of the hand); “three days through forest” (counting on the fingers); and so on. The information supplied was always approximately correct. They had made the trail and had firm hold of it in their mind’s eye, for losing it was a matter of life or death. The good terms on which the H. B. Co. lived with the Indians, terms which compare favorably [sic] with the French and Spanish intercourse of the American continent, thus made them masters of the general geography of their territory, and this knowledge was the basis of all the first maps. Mr. McIvor was on the same friendly footing. His children [illegible to end of paragraph]

[illegible] on the north bank for 160 acres of land, paying him $40. This was about 1862, and he owns that land today. Three white men settled near, named Nelson, Wickwere, and Howison, the last the father of the Justice. The whole place was dense forest, trees growing to an immense height. Going up from the river to his home, he could only see the sky here and there. For entertainment, on a bright night, he would go out about 200 yards from the house to a break in the woods where a view of the heavens could be obtained, and have a good look at it. Maple Ridge was not popular in those days. It went by the name of British Siberia. John Foster, in order to get away, sold out for five bottles of rum to McKenzie and Lindsay. Then Brook’s place below Hammond was pre-empted by John Macintosh. Blenkinsopp and Mr. Newton held 160 acres each between that holding and the river. To get rid of it, the owner sold it to them for two bottles of rum and one bottle of brandy (perhaps the rum was giving out by this time!). Twenty acres of the same land is now valued at $20,000. McIvor was a witness of this transaction, the recording of which cost $2.

William Hammond and John Anderson came in later. Hammond bought his land of an Orkney boy: a sailor named “Billie,” who had likewise purchased it of “Billie” (the Kanaka), paying a sack of flour and two blankets. The Indian struck his tent pegs, roamed to Katzie Slough and thence to the mouth of Pitt Lake. For fixing up and recording this transaction, Judge Crease, who was a countryman of Hammonds, mulcted him the sum of $70, over which item he was rather sore. It was not any credit to own land or appreciate salmon then. McIvor, who had his work as a cooper near the landing at Hammond, used to trade direct with the fishermen as they brought in their haul. He recollects the jibe, “Ya, ya, look at him; there goes a rancher and a salmon-eater!”

In this wise it came about that the settlers spread over to the north bank of the river. The English Church, as related, was transported from Derby. Two years ago it celebrated the jubilee of the first service. McIvor, and the late John Hammond being the only survivors present who had witnessed the first dedication. Mrs. Howison’s house at Maple Ridge, which was also the store and post office, then stood in the forest. The orchard planted there is the first in B. C. Furthermore, the Town Hall and centre of things was in Maple Ridge until the C. P. R. came through in 1885, when stations being opened at Hammond and Haney, Maple Ridge shunned publicity for a short spell.

Brown’s up-to-date nursery and other interests now make this one of the finest parts of the district. No less than four acres of Mrs. Howison’s property took on itself to slide into the river in 1881, when the backwash of the river on the other bank caused the death of a man. Mrs. Carter, who belongs to the later old settlers, remembers this occurrence, as also the terrible flood of Pitt Meadows in 1894 when the water rose to the knees in Charlton’s store in Haney. Charlton’s is still a going concern, known to all, and another large store is owned by R. Carter.

Settlers were beginning to find out Haney had its pleasant hight bluffs above the river [much illegible] on to Haney from the Hammond Landing, taking up land and pitching his house on the first bluff above the river. Others who came were Dawson and Isaacs. The old paddle boat “Reliance” (Capt. Irving, master) brought them from New Westminster. McLennen, late of the Scot’s Greys, was purser on this boat, and he also took up land. Several trappers lived in Haney, amongst them Jim Scott, Robeson, Baker, all of the H. B. Co. There was the same struggle to clear the land as in Vancouver. It was the same dense forest, inhabited by beasts of prey, bears and cougar, such as only exterminations can subdue. Deer would have come in close to the house. No money was used in the early days, which all agree were pretty hard times. Once in two weeks a boat came from Westminster, and the one span of horses made themselves generally useful for work and pleasure. In everything but general stores the settlers were self-supplied.

The food proposition presents interesting features. John Hammond learned of the Indian to eat muskrat, which he highly approved. Bear cub steaks where sweet and juicy, and had a perfume like hazel nuts. Fish and game and venison was there in plenty. Thirty pounds of salmon sold for 50c. The prices of stores must have rejoiced the hearts of store-keepers. Barley sold 5 lbs. for $1. Canned salmon, per 2 lb tin, was 25c. Potatoes, $1.76 per sack of about 90 pounds. Eggs, $1.50 per dozen. And it is remembered that flour was a rare luxury.

Mrs. Haney was the third white woman ever seen there when they first arrived, the other two being Mrs. Jonkine and Mrs. Samuel Edge. She confesses she would often have run away if she had had anywhere to run to. Later came the Hendersons and Irvings. Neighbors [sic] were good to each other in log-cabin days. It is recalled by Mrs. Webber, the well-known journalist, who with her husband, the C. M. C., lives at Haney, and who has many experiences to relate of that part and the Lillooet, how Mrs. Blaney crossed the prairie alone at night to go to the help of Mrs. Macdonald. The settlers way back were even more cut-off, having no river for their highway. The doctor in bad cases was fetched from Westminster, the fee bing $65 to $100. Most of the mothers went through their troubles with the aid of an Indian midwife. There was much good health and freedom from accidents.

For occupation, the men worked on the roads, at lumbering and fishing. After the survey for the C. P. R., Haney, from being a microscopically small place, took a better turn. In 1886, at the opening of the line, it was a flag-station. Four years ago it was still a flag-station, with one store and no boarding house. Kind Mrs. Haney took in any stray folk that came along. These last few years have been progressive for Vancouver and Haney and all the districts around have profitted [sic]. In the meantime, the various industries pointed out in another article had been growing up. Dairy, fruit, lumber, brick, etc., trades developed in Haney and the neighborhood [sic], and are still flourishing with all the accompanying related activities that invest a live town.

In the Haney of today you find a fully equipped small town of 500 inhabitants. The Bank of Montreal has a branch there, and at the Fraser Hotel one can get a really good dinner. Pretty houses with gardens greet one, green and brown bungalows with hospitable, sheltering roofs. The town is spreading out to the back. The spot where Mr. Best’s house stands in a good clearing was virgin forest four years ago, heavily timbered. The old schoolhouse is no more, instead a new two-roomed building caters for the 88 pupils, and there are Presbyterian and Roman Catholic churches.

The recreative side is taken care of by the Agricultural Association, the Travelling Library, Skating Rink, Young People’s Guild. There is the inevitable pool room. Fishing and shooting is of the very best, and attract large numbers of outsiders for week-ends. The women of Haney support a W. C. T. U. branch and a Political Equality League, of which Mrs. Webber is the president, and Mrs. Hinton the secretary. Electric light has pushed out the lamp, and fresh water supply is making the well old-fashioned. Haney now spreads nearly to Maple Ridge, and Maple Ridge extends roughly to Hammond, and the awakened countryside is also at Maple Ridge.

John Hammond, a pioneer Englishman of old family, gave his name to Port Hammond, which was registered and the townsite laid out in 1883. Mr. Webber and his family settled there in the same year, when Mr. Webber started the first small fruit farm of the district. Another was started later by Mr. Henry. Mr. Sison was the first Clerk, succeeded by Mr. Webber in 1884, who was followed by Mr. Willard Beckett. Mr. Webber again became C. M. C. in recent years. The water supply for the district is got from a spring which was unearthed by the landslide in 1881.

Early History of Municipality of Maple Ridge with Port Hammond and Haney. (1912, May 8). The Coquitlam Star, pp. 22-23.

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