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Any land to boom?

July 9, 2011

 A new Ferry generates speculation

The New Westminster Southern Railway would give an impetus to the creation of several new communities along the line in Surrey, each of which was the solely the creation of land developers, and which townsites achieved only moderate degrees of success: Port Kells (new subdivision on Fraser River upstream by the Kells family; Liverpool (terminus);  Cloverdale (new subdivision at Clover Valley); South Westminster (new ferry landing and later train station);  Blaine BC (Douglas border crossing).

New Westminster had the grandest hopes for the railway.  The city had been bypassed by the construction of the Canadian Pacific through to Burrard Inlet.  A railroad connecting to the United States would put New Westminster back in the action.  Its leading citizens invested heavily in the railway venture. 

The city had hoped for a bridge, but settled for a new ferry to connect with the railway on the south side of the river.  A real-estate developer offered a free landing spot about a half mile downriver from the ferry landing at Brown’s wharf.  At Lots 7 and 8 the new terminal would be directly opposite the center of the city.

The consideration of a change of venue for the ferry landing was greeted with considerable scepticism by interested parties on the south side.

"You will please allow me to express my astonishment at the offer made by Woods, Turner & Gamble, to the City Council of a free site for a ferry landing on lots 7 & 8, Group 2, on the south side of the river, opposite Mary Street. . .  Is there any land to boom near lots 7 & 8, Group 2?"

A suggestion for a road there years before had galvanized Ebenezer Brown into action, with the result being the line of the Yale Road passing through Brown’s property between lots 3 and 4.   The same effect was visited on present owner James Punch, who had a considerable investment on the Yale Road property, and he protested vigorously.  The new location would require a new plank road to connect with the Scott Road, and another to connect with the Yale Road.  

Farmers in Langley and points east opposed the terminal move.  Those to the south and west, especially Ladner, applauded the move, as it shortened their trip by about a mile.  Surrey council weighed in officially opposing the change.  A strongly worded resolution was forwarded to New Westminster council.

"This Council most emphatically protests against the proposed action of the New Westminster City Council in changing the ferry landing from Brownsville to some point further down the river;  they consider such change will be detrimental to the interest of at least two-thirds of the residents of Surrey,  and that the change would be a gross and most unwarrantable breach of faith on the part of the New Westminster City Council, and that this Council will take such further action to protect the interests of the corporation as may deemed advisable in the matter."

In an 1888 agreement Surrey surrendered a strip of land along the river bank to New Westminster.  This was done under some conditions.  Most importantly, the ferry was restricted to landing within the bounds of lots 2 to 4, whereas the new wharf would be down at lot 7. 

Concessions were made to Surrey in order for New Westminster to abolish the existing ferry agreement and buy out the contract of the existing ferry, the K de K,   but the strip of land would remain part of New Westminster, paying its taxes across the river until 1927, after Surrey belatedly appealed to the Province to re-establish its historic boundaries and reclaim its property.

A larger issue than the move of the ferry landing a half-mile, was the alteration to trunk road system.  With the new connection to Scott Road, it was feared traffic and improvement would flow that way, and the Yale Road, which served the greater part of Surrey and the Valley, would lose out. 

Complaints were voiced in the press over the lack of government support to settlers up the valley.

"The people along the Yale road, from Brownsville to Hope, have very little to thank the Government for this year . . . the road in many places is in a frightful condition. Many of the bridges are on their last legs. . .The road in many places is a regular sea of mud at present, which is no wonder as there are no ditches to carry the water off. . .[settlers] are anxious to have the road improved sufficiently, at least, to allow them to make free use of vehicles to convey their produce to market or to the steamboat landings along the river."

The Fraser River paid no heed to political machinations.  A sand bar had begun to impede the ferry landing at the Yale Road wharf, with the K de K being limited to loading at high tide.  The river is forever shifting.  Eventually, sand bars would obstruct the new ferry from approaching the lower terminal and conversely, the sand bar at Brownsville would be washed away.

New Westminster Council struck a committee to advise on the best kind of ferry to operate to the proposed new terminus on the south side of the river.  After a trip to Portland, Alderman Bartley W Shiles  recommended a copy of the successful and popular Stark Street Ferry operating on the Willamette River.


Stark Street Ferry

"I have arranged to procure drawings of the hull of a similar boat, which I think would meet the requirements at present: 100 feet long and 32 feet beam."

Stark Street Ferry —  Willamette River  


New Westminster agreed to pay the Willamette Iron Works for the plans.  In July 1890 tenders were called for the building of the new steam ferry to replace the K de K.  Captain Michael Terhune won the bid and work started on the vessel at the Brunette Shipyards.  Reid and Currie were subcontractors for the fittings.

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