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In the Flow — Brownsville 1879

April 2, 2011

On stream

Taking advantage of the burgeoning Fraser River salmon runs, a new cannery operated by Haigh & Sons was established in 1879, a few miles upstream of Brownsville and opposite the mouth of the Coquitlam River.    Captain Thomas Penny ran a steamer, the Nellie Taylor, ferrying excursionists and employees to English’s,  Haigh’s and other local spots,  leaving every half hour from Herring’s Slip on Front Street, New Westminster.   His ads noted “Pic-nic parties will only by charged 50 cts each.”   The Orangemen crossed over to Brownsville for a dinner at Robert Johnson’s Hotel, “where they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.”  As a measure of prices this year Johnson, from his  Brownsville Dairy, was selling milk to the city folk, also at 50 cents per gallon.

Mrs Annie Maria Johnson, hostess at the Hotel, was born in Ontario, the  daughter of William Holmes,  a New Westminster pioneer who was the holder of Lot 1, Group 1, on the North Road at  Brunette River.  She was married to JG Jennings in 1865 and he died in 1871.  In 1873 Annie Maria Jennings took over the Columbia Hotel to run as a private Boarding House.


Columbia Hotel-New Westminster 1865 The Columbia Hotel — located on Columbia Street above Lytton Square east of Church Street — was one of the first in New Westminster, opened by WH Burr in January 1862. It had some slow times and was seeking a lessee in 1865 when the international telegraph line arrived in British Columbia. It was taken over as the northern headquarters of the Collins Overland Telegraph Company and flew the Star and Stripes on its tall mast.
Columbia Hotel, New Westminster – HQ of the Collins Overland Telegraph Co. 1865  


Annie Maria Jennings  married Robert Johnson, a native of Stranraer, Scotland and  a stone cutter by trade, in 1877.  Notices for accommodation and entertainment across the river at the Brownsville Hotel began appearing that year.


Cut to the bone

As in the past, development pressures at Brownsville encroached upon the Indian reserves situated in Lot 1, prompting the creation of a second reserve for the Langley (Kwantlen) Indians in 1879. They were allotted 40 acres near the junction of the Yale Road and Semiahmoo Road, designated Langley Reserve No. 7.  Chief Cassimir, of the Langley Indians, at a Royal Commission hearing in 1915, recalled the reason.

Chief Casimir / Chief Cassimir / Chief Cassimere

"This tribe used to live in Sapperton and South Westminster years ago, and during the time of Mr Sproat . . . I asked him to give me so many acres for the bones that were buried there, and that was granted."

Chief Casimir  / Chief Cassimir Chief Casimir is sometimes spelled Cassimir or Cassimere


By decisions of Indian Commissioner Gilbert M Sproat, dated June 20 and June 30, 1879, the original Indian Reserve on the left bank of Fraser River next to Herring’s was reduced to two small portions, of 5.25 acres each— one for the Musqueam (Musqueam Reserve No. 1), and one for the Langley Indians (Langley Reserve No. 8). The site of the Musqueam Chief Tsimlana’s house appears to have become the Langley reserve. The remainder of the Government Reserve land in Lot 1, Group 2, surveyed to be 104.25 acres, was set aside as a Reserve for “New Westminster Indians,” subject to the claim of Samuel W Herring.


Langley Indian Reserve 7, 1879

The new 40 acre Langley Reserve 7 in Section 21, Block 5 North, Range 2 West was later sold to the municipality and in 1954, with some adjacent land added on, the tract on 104 Avenue at Old Yale Road was dedicated as Royal Kwantlen Park.

Langley Reserve No. 7   Kwantlen 1879  
Fred Clark of Peterson Hill Surrey Iron Cross grave marker The graves from Reserve 7 were removed to Langley.

  Fred Clark and Mrs Clark with iron grave marker from old Reserve No. 7  -  Kwantlen –  



Langley Indian Reserve 7, Royal Kwantlen Park Surrey BC
View to location of old Reserve No 7 at Royal Kwantlen Park,  Old Yale Road & 104 Avenue.


Discharge of Arms and Slow Marches

A new Rifle Range, 800 yards long, was completed in 1879 on the meadows back of Herring’s Point.   It would be the scene of shooting matches for years to come.  Marksmanship was a popular sport during the 19th and early 20th Century, as militia were kept on their mettle. The Brownsville range was the home practice range for the New Westminster sharpshooters, and a host site for competitions with other Dominion rifle corps. Rivalry with Victoria was, as in all matters, intense.


New Westminster Rifles 1884 Rifle Range
New Westminster Rifles 1884 A rifle range


A more serious shooting occurred in September just upriver at the Haighs’ Cannery,  site of present day Port Mann.  Two men were missing under unrelated, but mysterious circumstances. One man was found shot to death, and another man left in a small canoe from the cannery and had not been heard of since. His canoe was seen gliding past the City, empty.

The verdict of an inquest on "Mr Michael Kerrigan, watchman at Messrs Hague & Sons’ cannery: death from accidental discharge of a rifle."

It was calculated that he set off his gun accidentally in climbing over a log while out hunting.  Sadly, the Guardian reported, Kerrigan was refused a Christian burial.

"One of our city tradesmen supplied a first-class coffin mounted in black cloth, a grave was also dug at the cemetery, the undertaker waiting till late in the afternoon. But from some unexplained reason the remains of the poor fellow were consigned to a hole in the woods."

The canoe of the missing man, Hyack band leader Professor Charles Braden, was soon found washed up on a sand bar, his hat was found, also in the river, and in a few days his body was discovered near the mouth of the Fraser. His death was put down to marine mishap, due to his inexperience in handling a light canoe in the swirling currents of the river.  The Hyacks and officers of the Artillery and Rifle Corps turned out en masse for his funeral.


The British Columbia government Gazette announced in the first week of November 1879 that three districts south of the Fraser River, ranging from the Strait of Georgia to Langley, would be incorporated as Municipalities,  to be known as   “Richmond,”  “Delta” and “Surrey.”

The two western districts chose names specific to their own history or geography, while the choice of the name “Surrey” reflected a peasantry-like deference to the  commercial and administrative stature of City of New Westminster opposite,  a focus as radially aligned as the roads system leading to Brown’s Landing,  though it could just as well have referenced its own history, or or its relationship with its older neighbour, Langley, or to the American Frontier, or its own topography, with its significant rivers, prairies, forests and extensive ocean bays.  New Westminster, for its part, viewed the farming hinterlands as its new source of custom and wealth,  which would sluice  naturally into the coffers of the city merchants, if only the trails, and roads and ferries and railways would be built.

Surrey Municipality  extended from opposite the east tip of Annacis Island on the Fraser to opposite the eastern end of Barnston Island, and from the Fraser River to Mud Bay, Semiahmoo Bay and  Hall’s Prairie, east along the United States Boundary Line, uniting  the scattered settlements at Brownsville,  Serpentine, Surrey Centre, Clover Valley, Hall’s Prairie and Mud Bay.  Elections to choose Councillors  were to be held the first week of 1880.




Mechanics Monument Peter Donahue San Francisco

In December of 1879 a tax sale of delinquent properties disposed of Brownsville Lot 11, Group 2, held by Peter Donahue of the Union Iron Works of San Francisco, a brother of Thomas Donahue who had established the first saw mill at New Westminster.

JW Howison claimed 43 acres of the lot, the other two acres, a strip off the east side, having been sold in April to H Elliott. Donahue had been unaware of his delinquency and some years later his estate would make a claim for the property, complicating another sale of the land.

Mechanics Monument
Memorial to Peter Donahue


Sam Herring also had  been delinquent in paying taxes for a small lot he owned downriver, Section 20 in B5N R6W.  And John Herring, father of Samuel Herring, was delinquent with his taxes on Lot 2, Group 2, situated between the Indian Reserves and the properties of Ebenezer Brown. These lots did not go to sale.

Another sale which would prove problematic was the property of Edwin Clay Johnson along the border south of Hall’s Prairie. After losing the land in the tax sale to James Morrison, Johnson went on to sell it to James Murne of Semiahmoo, prompting another complicated suit.

Taking Chances

In late December of 1879 the Fraser River was again choked by ice, cutting off boat traffic.  The steamers Royal City and Reliance were locked in the ice near the mouth of the Harrison River, about 50 miles above New Westminster,  and their crew and passengers left the stranded boats and made their way down the valley to Herring’s Point.  Conditions on the river here were treacherous, with frozen sections on the south side and open water near the City.

Steamer Reliance 1880 Fraser River
       Steamer Reliance at a Fraser River landing


The party from the trapped steamers was joined by a posse of officers escorting the notorious Kamloops outlaws, the McLean brothers and Hare, all having made the trip down from Yale shackled in irons.

In the afternoon of Christmas Day, a large crowd assembled on the City side to watch the group of about 40 persons attempt the traverse on ice and water,  with the prisoners still bound hand and foot, each man chained to another.  From an account in the press:

"About 3 o’clock they were noticed coming slowly on the ice, the officers in charge moving cautiously, not having full confidence in the ice, which certainly looked dubious. As a matter of course the crowd upon the shore was composed of a mixed gathering of whites, Indians and Chinese, and a variety of opinions were expressed and idle jokes passed, all going to argue a reckless feeling among the lookers on,  in some cases exhibiting a heartlessness respecting the misery of others."

All made it safely, with the outlaws surviving only to meet the gallows.
For more information about Allan McLean (outlaw) see Wikipedia article.

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