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John William Stein – Part 3 – Brownsville BC

September 20, 2011

JW Stein moves to Brownsville BC, 1888

After five years residence on the Serpentine River, and having attained clear title to the property, JW Stein and family moved closer to the city, purchasing a tract of land opposite New Westminster at Brownsville, BC. It was part of one of the original sections held by Ebenezer Brown, in Section 20, Block 5 North, Range 2 West.

The land lay along the Yale Road, partly on Brownsville Hill and partly on the flats. Stein had woodland and pasture. Far less isolated than the Mud Bay homestead — a 10-minute ride on the Fraser River ferry K de K would take them across to the city— the move signified a more comfortable relationship with society in general.

Stein was first noticed by the press in May of 1888. It was not an auspicious introduction to the community. John Stein had been clearing his land by burning brushwood when the flames had gotten picked up by the wind.

“A man named Stein, of Brownsville, set out a clearing fire some days ago on his property at the bottom of the hill near the Yale Road. Mr L F Bonson had 3, 000 fence rails cut and lying ready for removal at the top of the hill, and he warned Stein to be careful not to allow the fire to spread in that direction. Stein replied that there was not the slightest danger. This morning the fire spread to where the rails were lying and the whole lot were consumed.” —British Columbian

Stein established a first-class dairy herd on his pasture acreage and in May 1889 it was reported in The Commercial journal,

“J. W. Stein of Brownsville, is about to set out one of the largest fruit orchards in British Columbia. He purchased from Mr. J. L. Walworth $1,000 dollars worth of fruit trees, which will be set out this fall. This sale of trees is considered the largest ever made in the province.”

Stein’s daughter, Glennie immigrated to Canada from the USA in 1889, to join her father and Lillian. She was then 19 years of age. It is possible that John Jr. also came that year, had he not been here before.

Booming Brownsville, BC

JW Stein was in transition again, but within the same district.

On the Province of British Columbia Voters List, dated April 30, 1890, Stein is numbered twice:

“No. 1615 – Stein, John William . . . Mud Bay . . .Farmer.”

“No. 1660 – Stein, J. W. . . . Brownsville . . . Farmer.”

Stein moved northward at an opportune time. The countryside opposite the City of New Westminster was experiencing a real-estate boom spurred by the construction of a railway to the United States, which would have its northern terminus situated on the banks of the Fraser River at Brownsville. In addition, a new ferry was to be built and new landing would connect with the railway. Stein’s land holdings became more valuable with each development. Large lots were being subdivided into smaller holdings for farming and, close to the ferry and rail-links, city-sized lots were carved out for hotels, stores and other businesses.

Soul and Body Together— Surface finds, introspections and exploratory shafts

In April of 1890, in the British Columbian newspaper—serving New Westminster District—the Surrey correspondent inserted a brief note of business gossip, to accompany musings about the weather and the progress of field crops.

“I am informed that one of our neighbours has discovered coal on his property and is considerable elated about it.”

Thinking the note was about him, and with typical excoriation of pride, Stein reacted to the report in the form of a letter to the newspaper, which the Editor chose to run to its full length under the headline—

“Elated Over Coal

Editor, Columbian—Sir— Your correspondent, ‘T,’ under ‘Surrey Notes’ in your weekly issue of the 23rd inst., says: ‘I am informed that one of our neighbors has discovered coal on his property and is considerably elated (my italics) over it.’

I speak of this because you have recently made several public allusions to the discovery of lignite on my property near Brownsville, Surrey, and since ‘elated’ in this connection might mean ‘puffed up,’ ‘proud,’ ‘lofty,’ ‘haughty,’ ‘swelling,’ etc., etc., it is calculated to prejudice the mind of the strange reader.

If ‘T,’ refers to the Brownsville coal discovery, I see nothing to be ‘elated over.’

Several months after we discovered lignite, I laid a piece on your table as a prospectus. While many have since visited and examined the croppings, and gentlemen of means have tendered financial assistance, if required for their development, I have paid no further attention to the matter except to forward a specimen, through the Dominion Land Office, to the Government geologist at Ottawa for his opinion.

So far from being ‘elated over it,’ I have not the least idea whether or not there is anything valuable connected with it. Others have certainly manifested more anxiety about it than I.

However, should it prove to be the index to a valuable coal field, I would be glad, both for myself and others. I would not object to a good income from such a source, and would be glad to see Westminster and its surroundings benefit by ten thousand times more valuable resources of profit than this would be, were it to exceed even much the most sanguine hopes expressed by friends on the subject.

I repeat it, I see nothing in it to be elated over. It may never be worth a cent, I base no plans or calculations upon it whatever.

Again, if I believed it to be the precursor of millions, I would not see any reason to be elated over it. But I would be glad if ‘T,’ and every other settler in Surrey would find, not merely a vein of lignite, but one solid, inexhaustible stratum of the best anthracite in the world, on his ranch, and their weary limbs emerging from the task of eking out a hard livelihood in order ‘to keep soul and body together’ might permit the care-worn mind the privilege of more cultivated thought and finer feeling, which would probably be engaged with purer purposes and nobler efforts.

But, one who has nothing else to do but be elated over his own success, is envious at the good fortune of others, is a despicable soul, and needs the impulse of contact with higher thought and purer motives. J. W. Stein.

Westminster, April 26, ‘90”

Note: The Surrey correspondent ‘T’ was most probably H T Thrift of Hazelmere, Hall’s Prairie, a prolific writer to papers, booster of the district and sometime Municipal Clerk.

Professional Again— John William Stein, JP

Later in the summer of 1890, it was disclosed in the paper that–

“It is reported on good authority that Mr. Stein, the well-known and popular milk rancher of Surrey, has disposed of his prosperous business to Mr. Sweet, of Surrey. The purchaser, it is understood, will carry on the business with the same attention and punctuality that distinguished his predecessor. The headquarters of this business, which is one of the most thriving in the neighborhood of Westminster, is situated near Brownsville.”

In the Report on Agriculture for 1891, Stein is quoted as saying “Jerseys and Shorthorns are best suited” to conditions in this locale, so it would appear that Jerseys were his milk cows. It is not likely Stein divested all his agricultural pursuits, as he continued to reside in Brownsville.

In October 1890 Surrey Council requested the Provincial government appoint a Justice of the Peace at Brownsville, and recommended JW Stein for the position. In November 1890 a brief notice appeared in the British Columbia Government Gazette—

John William Stein, of Brownsville, Esquire, to be a Justice of the Peace within and for the Westminster Electoral District.”Nov 5, 1891

This was a return to a professional occupation for Stein, and a decidedly more public role, as he once again remade his life in a new place.

A Justice of the Peace at that time appears to have been more of a judicial role than is currently the case in British Columbia, functioning at that time rather more like a magistrate or judge in local court. The Westminster Electoral District covered a wide area, including the entire Fraser Valley.

Neighbors of Stein

Just up the winding “Snake Hill” on the Yale Road, above Stein’s place, was the homestead of old Michael Davey, whom John Stein had known for some years while living at Mud Bay. Davey was occupying Section 21, a portion of which was held in Reserve as an Indian burial ground. Davey was known to be a harmless character, but he had a liking for strong drink. One weekday night, the first week of March, 1891, Davey went down the hill to the house of William Devine, who happened to live across the road from John Stein. There he socialized and got to drinking some more, sharing a glass or two with Devine and a second man, George Wilkinson. During the course of a long night something went amiss—the story picked up by the Columbian, dated Friday Evening, March 6th, 1891.

Sudden Death

After a Protracted Spree, Old Michael Davie Dies Very Suddenly This Morning

“News was brought to the city to-day by Constable Beaton, of Brownsville, of the sudden death of an old man named Michael Davie, a rancher on the Yale road, who had been on a spree for a few days. It appears that Davie had been drinking very hard at the cabin of a man named Devine, who was also on a spree. What caused Davie’s death is not known, but it was probably brought about by overindulgence in spirits. It appears he died suddenly and without a moment’s warning, shortly after daylight this morning. Devine was awake at the time and went in a great state of excitement to Mr. J. W. Stein’s house, across the road, and informed him of the circumstance. Mr. Stein went over and found the man dead and, assistance being useless, he sent word to Mr. Beaton to notify the authorities. Mr. Beaton went to the house at once and examined the body, but found no marks of violence on it. He then came to the city, and reported the matter to Capt. Pittendrigh, who decided to hold an inquest, and take medical testimony as to the cause of death. He went over to Brownsville this afternoon to swear in the jury, and the inquest will probably be held this evening or tomorrow.
Davie was a man about 50 years of age, and well known to the settlers on the other side of the river. His only fault was an inordinate liking for strong drink.”

What a world away this community was from Mount Morris, where the daily stresses involved dress codes and the dagger was gossip.

The inquest into the death of Michael Davey took a strange twist when something aroused the suspicions of William Moresby, the astute governor of the Provincial Gaol in New Westminster. After an autopsy was performed by Dr Walker, medical samples were sent over to Dr EA Praeger in Nanaimo for analysis. William Devine and his other drinking partner George Wilkinson were taken into custody. The inquest re-opened and it was revealed that Dr Praeger had found traces of strychnine poisoning in the stomach tissues of Davey. Praeger’s written report contained even more damning evidence:

“I received from Dr. Walker a small packet containing a crystalline powder, said to have been found in a bottle of rye whisky. I have submitted a portion of this to analysis, and have proved it to be strychnine.”

Further evidence at the inquest was given by William Moresby.

“Mr. Moresby stated that he could not find to whom strychnine has been sold, with the exception of Mr. Stein.
Mr. Stein, who was in court, stated that he obtained strychnine from Mr. D. S. Curtis & Co. last fall, and it had only been used by his daughter, and had never been out of his house. It was kept in a room facing the road. None of his neighbors, to his knowledge, knew that he had poison in his house.”

Daily Columbian, April 23, 1891

After adjourning to consider the matter, the inquest jury returned just less than an hour later with the verdict.

“That Michael Davy met his death through poison given him by William Devine, and that as George Wilkinson, through Devine’s evidence, is also implicated, would recommend the said George Wilkinson to be bound over and brought before a magistrate.”

Devine and Wilkinson were both held over in custody to await trial on a charge of the wilful murder of Michael Davey.

The Stein family household at Brownsville BC

The Census of Canada, 1891, records the Stein family household at Brownsville, including three Chinese employees.

Name Age Married Relation Place of Birth –of Father –of Mother Religion Occupation
Stein, Jno W 49 M US Prussia US Meth Farmer
“ , L M 30 M W Brethren Ch
“, Glennie 18 D US US Meth
“, Jno H —* S
Ah Sang 31 Dom China China China Farm Laborer
Ah Sing 32 Dom
Wah Tai 38 Dom

1891 Census of Canada – New Westminster District – Brownsville – JW Stein household

In the US Census 1880, the name of the son is given as John W. Stein.  There is no explanation why no age is recorded for Jno H Stein, but based on the 1880 Census he would be 13.

Glennie is recorded as 18, but other records indicate her birth year was 1871, making her 20 at the time of the Census.

Glennie and her father both give their religious affiliation as Methodist now, while Lillie is holding on to her Brethren roots.

Back to School

John Stein, Jr was not the only youngster at Brownsville. With the population at increasing steadily, local residents successfully petitioned the Provincial government for the establishment of a school for their children.

In May 1891, John W Stein was elected one of three Trustees of the new Brownsville School District.

Stein was in the Chair at a meeting to select a site for a school, while Michael Robert Barry of the Brownsville Hotel, who had been around in the early years of the Cariboo gold rush, served as Secretary. Many offers of building lots came in. Stein himself offered a free lot, 50 X 125 feet, on a subdivision of his Section 20 in Block 5 North Range 2 West. Ultimately the voters accepted an offer from Peter Orford for a one acre lot near the top of the hill on the Yale Road.

Stein’s son John would be one of the first pupils at the new school in its first term, January 1892, and he was one of three students to make the “Honour List” — for “Pupils Accredited by Their Teachers With First Rank.” John Stein was recognized for “Deportment.”

New Rules Apply

In his role as Justice of the Peace, John W Stein presided in a trial in June of 1891 that raised some interesting legal issues, and moral issues, both public and private. A man accused of “indecent assault” on a woman in Hope, BC had been brought forward on remand to appear before JW Stein, JP, and Capt Pittendrigh, JP, at the District Court in New Westminster. The defence argued that the two JPs had no jurisdiction to hear the case, as the accused had already appeared before three Justices of the Peace on the same information, who found insufficient evidence to commit the accused.

“It was an extraordinary procedure for two Justices of the Peace to sit as a court of appeal from the three Magistrates who had found no evidence to justify the detention of his client. He submitted that no man could be legally tried twice for the same offence.”

The Prosecutor argued that the prior appearance was a “preliminary Magisterial inquiry,” whereas this was to be “a regular court trial.” Stein and Pittendrigh continued to consider the testimony of witnesses.

The woman, 19, had been living with a man since the age of 14 and since had a child with him who was now three years old. Another man committed the assault on her in her own home. The Justices of the Peace found the accused guilty, imposing a fine of $100, and in addition they

“censured severely the conduct of the parents of the girl. They were not to be excused for allowing a girl of 15 years to live with a man to whom she was not married. Although it was the custom in the Hudson’s Bay Company in old times to excuse this loose standard of morality among their employees, that was no reason why such a state of things should be allowed to continue in these days.”

Reports from the Daily News Advertiser Sunday June 14, 1891

Coal Company Formed – Stein on Board

In the year 1891 tremendous developments had taken place at Brownsville. Land developers were breaking up the large lots at Brownsville and selling them with the name “South Westminster.” The Great Northern Railway was at last connected to the American railroads, with its northern terminus at the landing of a new ferry, the Surrey, that ran from South Westminster across to the city of New Westminster. A first Post Office had been opened and a first school had been built. There were four new hotels at South Westminster alone. New settlers were establishing small farms, logging operations continued on the uplands to the south, and coal had been discovered on the property of JW Stein.

In March of 1892, the South Westminster Coal Company was formed to explore for coal and develop a mine if warranted. Chairman pro tem of the new company was TJ Trapp, while permanent Chairman was TF Fisher, both prominent New Westminster businessmen. Secretary was FC Turner, and the board was comprised of major South Westminster land owners TJ McColl, William Manson, John Douglas and JW Stein.

Permission to enter and drill had been obtained from Stein and neighboring property owners on the uplands. Stein’s samples had appeared to be lignite, however in 1892 bituminous coal was found on the property of John Douglas, of the “Douglas Ranch,” three miles up on the Yale Road—site of present day Surrey Centre. Experts and diamond drills were brought over from Nanaimo and it was reported that an exploratory mine-shaft was dug some 200 feet deep into the Brownsville uplands.

Farm-on-the-old-Stein-property There is still some greenery to be found along the Brownsville hillside, including a small patch of farmland complete with cows. However, residences and industrial land encroach on all sides and soon the vacant lands will disappear.
Somewhere on that hill is a lost mine. . .
The dark patch near the top of the BingMap view at left, near where the Stein residence is presumed to have been, is a beautiful little pond.Pond-on-old-Stein-property
Brownsville Hillside -BingMap Pond on the old Stein property, Brownsville

A daughter given away — Glennie Stein gets married

On July 27, 1892 Glennie May Stein, daughter of John William Stein of Brownsville BC, was married to William Asbury (Jr), of Mud Bay, Delta BC, a farmer. (Asbury is often rendered Ashbury, as in the following news report.)

Stein – Ashbury

On Wednesday morning, at the residence of O. D. Sweet, North Arm, Miss G. Stein, daughter of J. W. Stein, of Surrey, was married to W. Ashbury, of Mud Bay. The interesting ceremony was witnessed by a number of friends. Miss E. Ashbury acted as bridesmaid, while S. Ashbury filled the place of best man. The happy pair were the recipients of a large number of beautiful presents. THE WORLD joins in the congratulations.

Vancouver Daily World, July 30, 1892

Glennie Stein was born in Byhalia, Marshall County, Mississippi, the eldest child of Sarah Ann Stein, first wife of John W Stein. The marriage certificate gives her age as 21 years. She would be 22 on December 19. Described as blond-haired, William Asbury, the son of William Asbury Sr., a prominent pioneer farmer in Delta at Mud Bay, was 24. He was born June 10, 1868. Asbury’s birthplace is given as Dunham Hill, (Cheshire) England. Orison Davis Sweet was a pioneer farmer on Lulu Island. One of William Asbury’s younger sisters, Mary Jane, was married to CJ Sweet, son of OD Sweet.

The marriage ceremony was performed by the Rev. James A Wood. The groom states his religion as Methodist and the bride now as Baptist. Sam Asbury, of Delta, and Emily Palmer, of Vancouver were witnesses.

And . . John Stein and Lillie Stein of Brownsville BC have more family

On February 17, 1893 a son was born to Lillian Stein and John W Stein, at Brownsville, BC opposite the city of New Westminster. The birth of the new Stein baby, whom they called Ellsworth Lee Stein, was not registered until December 3, 1894, and while the delay was not unusual in this district, it is rather odd considering JW Stein was a Justice of the Peace. The maiden name of the mother is given as “L M Tombaugh.” Lillian was formerly known as Delila Tombaugh. A Miss Caldwell assisted at the birth.

When Ellsworth L Stein was a few months shy of his second birthday, mother Lillian Stein gave birth again, this time to a baby girl. She was called Selma Stein, and her birthday was October 5, 1894. Selma’s birth and that of Ellsworth were both registered the same day, on December 3, 1894. The parents are named as John W Stein, father, and LM Tombaugh—maiden name of mother. Mrs Borgstrom, a neighbour in Brownsville, assisted with the birth.

Older brother to the new siblings, John Stein would be 16 years old in 1894.

Stein’s Brownsville home lost

The residence of JW Stein, Brownsville, was destroyed by fire on January 10, 1895, fortunately without injury to anyone. Brief notice of the fire was reported even in Victoria. The more detailed, though somewhat dispassionate report from the News-Advertiser follows.

A Clean Sweep Out

Yesterday the wife of Mr. J. W. Stein, of Brownsville, was engaged unpacking some garments which had been packed in cedar shavings and had gathered a nice little pile of the shavings beside her when she found it necessary to leave the room for a very short time. Some of the children were left in the room, and one of them thought it would be a nice thing to see the pile of shavings ablaze. Immediately the thought was put into action, the pile was lit and it did blaze more rapidly and more seriously than was expected. When Mrs. Stein came in and saw the blaze the first care was, naturally, for the little folks — though possibly at that time she might easily have put out the flames. She at once carried out her children and called for help, which was rendered as far as was possible, but it was of little avail, as the devouring element had then got a firm hold of the building and its contents and ere many minutes passed the whole were consumed. The total loss is estimated at $2,000, and there is $1,200 insurance on it with the United Fire Insurance Company of Manchester.

Vancouver Daily News Advertiser, Jan 12, 1895

From the report, it would appear there were more than two young children, Ellsworth and Selma, in the house at the time, but more specific details are not known.

Mother nature also struck a blow at Brownsville on the weekend following the fire.  A heavy warm rain melted snow, and a high winter tide combined with westerly winds to back up the Fraser River,  just as swollen tributaries rushed in torrents down hillsides and onto the flats. Floodwaters inundated the  lowlands, reaching up to the foot of Brownsville hill and overflowing the Stein farm.

Was Stagecoach House the Stein house?

Following the devastating fire of 1895, the Stein’s may have rebuilt the home.  Some say that a house still standing on the old Stein property, was built by John W Stein, but it is probably of a later vintage than 1896.  The house there today is nicknamed the “Stagecoach House” and is listed in the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

A grandchild brings joy and sadness to the Stein family

On June 3, 1897, and son was born to Glennie May Asbury (nee Stein) and William Asbury, whom they named Joseph Archibald Asbury.

Joseph Asbury’s life was cut short at the age of just nine months. He was accidentally drowned, March 7, 1898.

At the time of the 1901 Census of Canada, Glennie and William Asbury were living near the family farm in Delta where William was a farm manager. They had no children.

Neighboring the Asbury place was the farm of John Oliver, politician and later Premier of BC.

In 1910 William and Glennie Asbury were living at Ontario, California, where William was employed a farm laborer. Glennie was a US citizen, while William was classed as alien. They had no children living.

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