Skip to content

Rising spirits: colportage and coal exploration

July 9, 2011

The chapel car “Evangel” comes to South Westminster

Bringing Gospel hope to settlers, hotel lodgers, and other itinerants on the south side of the Fraser River, the Baptist chapel car Evangel rolled up to the last stop on the Great Northern line on April 25, 1892 and the Baptist minister EG Wheeler held a rail church service on board.
The brightly varnished Tuscan-red "Evangel" was as new as the rails to South Westminster, having been dedicated in May 1891 at Cincinnati.  Partly funded by American millionaire JD Rockefeller, the gold-lettered car measured 60 feet in length, and included a living apartment  and an ash-wood lined church, complete with pulpit and organ, that could hold 70 persons. The car had been given free running rights on North American railroads and arrived here during a tour of the northwest.
Many from New Westminster crossed over on the ferry Surrey, joining local lodgers and residents in worship. Rev Mr Wheeler was described as "a young, energetic man, with the faculty of expressing his thoughts in clear, forcible style."


Mining the Brownsville Hill

Above the flats on Brownsville hill serious work was being done to explore the coal deposits,  first discovered in 1890 on the property of John Stein. Notable New Westminster businessmen TJ Trapp, TF Fisher, FC Turner, and JW McColl partnered with South Westminster and Brownsville landowners John Douglas, William Manson and JW Stein.  A shaft had been sunk into the hillside on the Stein property. The following year John Douglas would discover an outcropping of bituminous coal at his place near the corner of Yale Road and present King George Highway and once again exploratory shafts were drilled.

On a Sunday afternoon in April, some boys playing on the hill at South Westminster broke open a large stone and found it to be "a mass of petrified mussels."  This belt of marine life on the hillside would be rediscovered during construction of the Trans-Provincial Highway in 1913 and again noticed during the paving of Peterson Hill on the latterly named Pacific Highway in 1923.  (This geological curiosity was exposed yet again with the construction of townhouses lately at the old road curve on King George Boulevard at 132 St.)

No comments yet


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s