Skip to content

Punch & Quible — Brownsville BC Pioneers

February 16, 2012

Introduction  — Punch, Quible and McKay

In 1892, in the first term of the Brownsville School, the name Lilian Punch appeared on the Honour Roll. This was Catherine Helen Punch,called Lilian (Lillian). She also made the list the following year, when she was joined by Caroline Quible.

Caroline Quible and Lilian Punch were cousins. Their mothers were sisters and all came to Brownsville from Nova Scotia.

Jane (McKay) Punch had come out west to join husband James Punch who arrived in 1881.  In 1882 James Punch took over the Brownsville Hotel on the south bank of the Fraser River opposite New Westminster. Daughter Mary Christine Punch was born at Brownsville in September 1883 and grew up here. Mary joined her cousin Caroline on the Honor Roll of Brownsville School in 1894.

Jane Punch’s sister Mary Ann (McKay) Quible arrived in British Columbia later, in 1889, at a time when settlement on the uplands back of the river was only just beginning. A half-mile off the Yale Road in dense forest John Quible selected 160 acres to homestead, where the Surrey Memorial Hospital is now located.

With the Quibles came Jane and Mary Ann’s mother Catherine McKay. She would grandmother about a dozen of the youngsters from these two pioneering families, until her death in 1894.  Donald McKay, a brother to Jane and Mary Ann, also came to the district.

Following are short accounts of the Punch and Quible pioneer families of Brownsville.


  Brownsville Pioneers - McKay - Punch - Quible

The Quible family of Brownsville, Timberland, and South Port Mann —  Surrey BC

John Quible hailed from Cape Breton, son of George and Caroline Quible, born in 1858. He arrived in British Columbia in 1889 and took up 160 acres (NW 1/4, Sect 33,Tsp 2, WCM) of land on which to establish a farm and raise his family. Nowadays it is the southeast corner of 96 Ave and King George Boulevard, where the Surrey Memorial Hospital is located. The property ranged from 96 Avenue to 92 Avenue and from King George Blvd to 140 Street. Gently sloping mainly southward, the section is bisected by two creeks which flow southward into Bear Creek, part of the Serpentine River watershed.

John Quible brought along his wife, Mary Ann Quible, born 1860, and her mother Catherine McKay, and five children under the age of eight: Caroline, Catherine, Flora, Jane and John.

Donald McKay, brother to Mary Anne Quible, also made the trip out west. 

The Quibles had family already established in the district.  Another daughter of Catherine McKay was Jane Punch, wife of Brownsville Hotel proprietor James Punch.

At the time the Quibles arrived in this area, the uplands back of Brownsville were heavily forested, largely inaccessible and difficult to log.  Only a handful of settlers had cut out lots scattered along the Yale Road. This was not the best land for agriculture. By necessity most men had outside jobs in local industries: logging, fishing, canning, or railroading.

To arrive at their property from New Westminster, they would take the ferry steamer "Surrey" to the south shore of the Fraser River and then head up the hill on the Yale Road for about 3 miles, before turning south on a trail. When the trail was improved into a track wide enough for wagons to travel, it was called the Quible Road.  Roads were commonly called after the destination, and the Quible homestead is where the road went.

In January of 1892 the Brownsville School opened its doors and the Quible children made up a large minority of the pupils attending.  The walk to the school on the Yale Road was about two miles. Nine year old Caroline Quible was on the first Honour Roll of the school and in subsequent years.

A mile and a half further down Yale Road at the Fraser River, Brown’s Landing was where people in the district picked up their mail. John Quible’s brother-in-law James Punch was Postmaster.

Grandmother Catherine McKay died in 1894 at the age of 74. Uncle Don McKay died of consumption at New Westminster in 1898.

By 1905 the children were growing up and moving on. The Henderson’s Directory for that year lists Caroline, Florence, and John Quible working and sharing a residence in New Westminster. John Quible was employed as a foundryman at the Schaake Machine Works and on the family homestead raised chickens.

In 1906 the local population was large enough to justify postal service and the neighbourhood at last had name. Aage Buck, who lived up on the Yale Road at the junction with the Quible Road, was the first Postmaster of Timberland Post Office. 

In 1911 the  line of the  New Yale Road had been put through from the Westminster Bridge direct to the junction with the Old Yale Road, the route followed today by the King George Boulevard.  Under the influence of a large railway terminus and townsite being developed down on the river, Timberland was renamed South Port Mann.

John Quible kept up the old homestead until 1920 before retiring  to Vancouver. In that year the Pacific Highway was paved to the South Port Mann Post Office  on Yale Road and beyond the Green Timbers forest.  At the corner where the old footpath had led off to the Quible homestead, motor cars were now whizzing by on a ribbon of concrete.  In an area once dense with ancient forest,  nearby  Green Timbers was the last stand, and soon to fall to the axe. 

John Quible died in 1938 just a month before his 80th birthday. Mary Ann Quible also lived until the age of seventy nine.  At the time of her death in 1941 she had nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Caroline, the oldest of the Quible children when they arrived in Surrey,  and first on the Honour Roll at Brownsville School,  passed away in White Rock at 96 years of age.

A small matter about the name . . .

  Quible grave monument
McKay - Quible grave monument
Catherine McKay, Donald McKay, Mary Johnson and infant.

Rose Ella Quible

Quible monument at New Westminster  BC records three generations of the family, born in Nova Scotia and British Columbia.

The name is plainly chiselled out as  “OUIBLE.” 
A nice touch.


Quible grave monument at New Westminster BC.  John and Mary Ann Quible

Mary Quible 2 m &
Rose Ella Quible 6


The Quible name also  lives on in Surrey.  After the fashion of the monument,  the city calls the stream on the old Quible homestead "Quibble Creek."


  Map of Quibble Creek showing location of Quible homestead

City of Surrey Map — “Quibble Creek”

The Punch family at Brownsville

James Punch biography in brief.
James Punch came out from Nova Scotia to British Columbia in 1881 and was engaged in work on telegraph lines. He took over proprietorship of the Brownsville Hotel, at the foot of the Yale Road opposite New Westminster, in 1882. At Brownsville, James Punch raised his family and  ran a farm and the hotel business. He was elected a municipal councillor, then Reeve of Surrey, and was a Member of the Provincial Parliament of British Columbia  (MPP) from 1891 to 1894. He served as Postmaster at Brownsville from 1891 until 1898, when he had relocated to the Kootenay mining district as a mine manager. He was elected to the first city council of Phoenix, BC in 1900. Moving to Pemberton Meadows in 1905 to take up ranching, he was also the district road superintendent. He helped raise a second family after the death of his son. He was Postmaster at Pemberton Meadows from 1913 until his death in 1922.

A Hotel at Brownsville BC

James Punch was born in Nova Scotia, of an Irish immigrant father, probably in 1841. (Dates in the Census and other sources vary between 1841 and 1849.) In 1871 James Punch married Jane McKay, daughter of a Scots immigrant. They lived for a time at Cape Breton and started a family.

In the Maritimes Punch had begun to work as a private contractor on construction jobs,  and by 1881 he was out in British Columbia working on the telegraph line for the federal government.

In 1882, the proprietor of the Brownsville Hotel, Robert Johnson, passed away, and when Mrs Annie Johnson decided to sell out and move to a farm at Mud Bay, it was an opportunity at the right time for James Punch.

  Map of Brownsville Hotel - J Punch The Brownsville Hotel stood on property owned by Ebenezer Brown since 1861. In front of the hotel the access road first built by Brown was now the start and end of the Yale Wagon Road, the Semiahmoo Wagon Road, and the road to Ladner via Scott Road. This was the crossing point to and from New Westminster.

The Hotel and stables were a place to overnight and leave horses or livestock before crossing to the City–an ample acreage of meadows and forage surrounded the hostelry— or a place to start from and obtain supplies before setting out up country or south to the American border. Large herds of cattle were driven down from Interior ranches to be auctioned at New Westminster.

Not just a waypoint, "Johnson’s hotel" had attracted steamboat excursions and hosted banquets and picnics and trail riding in the rural setting, a bit distant from, but in sight of the city.

  Map of J Punch Hotel, Brownsville   Archives Canada map

The Brownsville Hotel was a going concern with great prospects and with an adjacent farm, James Punch found it a great place for his family home.

In January of 1883 Punch proudly advertised his hospitality across the river from New Westminster.

1883 01  Brownsville Hotel - James Punch BROWNSVILLE HOTEL
Has fitted up the above well-known establishment with every convenience and comfort. MEALS and BEDS can be had at all hours, and the BAR is furnished with the best Liquors in the market.

The Stabling is commodious, and an ample supply of food always on hand.

Leaves the Landing at the foot of Mary Street, every hour during the day, returning in like manner.


The Brownsville Hotel served the needs of a small town, with everything from stabling and blacksmithing, to refreshment in the Saloon, to outdoor recreation for city folks.

Punch did not pass up any business opportunity and in the summer of 1883 was engaged in more telegraph work, constructing under contract a 17 1/2 mile land line between New Westminster and Ladner’s landing and laying 1/2 mile underwater cable.

In June 1883, Punch’s landlord, pioneer Ebenezer Brown, died of a heart attack at New Westminster.

The Punch family was increased by one. Mary Christina Punch was born September 25, 1883 at Brownsville.  She was baptized the next month at St Peter’s, New Westminster.

The passing of Ebenezer Brown brought a second opportunity for James Punch in the selling of Brown’s Estate by his son in law JSK de Knevett. Punch purchased the property at Brownsville and a second hotel business in New Westminster, the Merchants’ Exchange.

  James Punch Advertisement for Merchants Exchange Hotel 1884 Merchants Exchange
The handsome Saloon, near Lewis’ stables, is now fitted up and stocked with a good supply of genuine LIQUORS and CIGARS.


Call and taste the Good Cheer
JAMES PUNCH . . . . . Proprietor


After the inauguration of a public ferry service in March 1884 Brownsville became a very busy place. Farmers, residents, and wayfarers to the Interior came by the Brownsville Hotel as the K de K ferry kept up a regular schedule of service. The population of the district was also expanding and traffic on the wagon roads increased year by year.  The Hotel soon came to be popularly known as "Punch’s."

Punch’s farm back of the Hotel was also a matter of some pride. In the Agricultural Exhibition in 1885, James Punch won acclaim for his Berkshire pigs.

"James Punch exhibited as fine an example of Berkshire boar as could be found anywhere and was awarded first prize."

In 1886 the New Westminster Woollen Manufacturing Company was formed with James Punch the principal shareholder and director. The Woollen Mill operated for a number of years on Front Street in the city before running into financial difficulties.
James Punch embarked on a career of public service in 1886 when he was first elected to the Council of Surrey Municipality as the member from Ward 2. He was re-elected in 1887.

Brownsville experienced its next major boom during the construction of the railway from 1888 onward.   James Punch’s businesses flourished with the increase in trade and demand for accommodation.

In January 1888 James Punch took a step up in politics and was elected Reeve (Mayor) of Surrey. He was also the Treasurer of the newly formed Surrey Agricultural Association.

In 1889 the Punch’s were joined by their relations from Nova Scotia. The Quibles and Mrs McKay took up a homestead further up the Yale Road.

James Punch was elected for his second term as Reeve of Surrey in 1889.  He was a Director of the British Columbia Fruit Growers Association and was on the Council of the New Westminster Board of Trade. The Board of Trade was an influential organization in promoting the railway through Surrey and a Fraser River crossing. Punch was also nominated to run for City Council of New Westminster, but he withdrew from the race. 

Vice-Regal Visit — Lord Stanley comes to Surrey BC


When the Governor-General of Canada, Lord Stanley, visited the Lower Mainland on November 9,1889, he was greeted by James Punch, Reeve of Surrey and HT Thrift, Clerk, who read a welcome address to him at a ceremony in New Westminster.   Lord Stanley

Lord Stanley

Surrey Welcomes  the Governor-General, Lord Stanley of Preston

To His Excellency the Right Honourable Baron Stanley, C.G.M., Governor-General of Canada:
May It Please Your Excellency:
We, the undersigned, representing the Council and Citizens of the Corporation of the District of Surrey, embrace this opportunity of extending to Your Excellency and Lady Stanley a cordial and hearty welcome to this portion of British Columbia and to assure Your Excellency that we esteem it a great pleasure to meet with you on this occasion, and knowing the great interest you have always manifested in the progress and development of all portions of the vast Dominion, we are persuaded that after having seen something of the illimitable resources of this western portion thereof, Your Excellency will return east most favourably impressed with the bountiful provision with which nature has endowed this Province.
Our only regret at this time is our inability to make Your Excellency personally acquainted with the beauties and advantages of our district of Surrey, together with its immense wealth of agricultural, dairy, fishing, lumbering, and other natural, but as yet undeveloped resources.
And while we have every confidence in the future of this our adopted country, our thoughts often revert to the dear old land across the sea, the home of our youth and to Her Most Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria, under whose benign rule we enjoy the blessings of peace and prosperity, whom God preserve.
We trust Your Excellency and Lady Stanley have enjoyed your visit while in British Columbia.
On behalf of the Council and Citizens of the Corporation of the District of Surrey.

James Punch, Reeve
Henry T Thrift, CMC



Bon Accord

On November 9, 1889, following the reception in New Westminster for Lord Stanley of Preston, Governor General of Canada,  His Excellency, his party and local officials boarded the steamer Samson for a cruise up the river and across to Surrey.

Regardless of poor weather, not the best of days for sightseeing, Lord Stanley had indeed found the time to make himself "personally acquainted" with some of the "beauties and advantages" of the district on the south bank of the Fraser River.

The steamer landed up at Bon Accord and the passengers disembarked for a tour of the Bon Accord Cannery and the Fraser River Hatchery, both impressive enterprises. The cannery was a private concern operated by Munn and Company and the Hatchery a public facility managed by Thomas Mowat, and both were suitably fascinating to visitors. With heavy rain beating on the roof of the Hatchery, the visitors filed past metal trays fed with clear stream water from the hillside back of the hatchery, much enthralled as  Mowat explained how salmon fry were hatched and raised.  Following his tour of the buildings the Governor-General braved a walk outside to view the Reservoir at the foot of the hill.

  Reservoir at Fraser River Hatchery, Bon Accord, Surrey
  Reservoir at Fraser River Hatchery, Bon Accord Creek, Surrey         BC Archives Photo

The guests also noted with approval the progress of construction on the New Westminster Southern Railway, which passed through Bon Accord on its run from Liverpool to Blaine.  The road bed and cribbing was complete and only awaiting rails. DJ Munn had arranged for a spur line to service the cannery.

Following the visit to Bon Accord — later called Port Mann — the Vice-Regal party boarded the SS Samson again and dropped down to Brownsville before crossing over to the city side once again. After some further functions in New Westminster in the afternoon, Lord Stanley boarded a train and left for the East the same day.

James Punch was re-elected Reeve of Surrey in January 1890 , and in June he was nominated to run for the legislature of British Columbia.

James Punch was elected a Member of Provincial Parliament for New Westminster District in 1891. John Robson, who in 1860 had been the first to claim the property now owned by James Punch, topped the polls, with Punch coming in third in the three-member riding.

Brownsville business
The construction of the New Westminster Southern Railway railway heralded a new status for Brownsville, but the machinations and manoeuvres of its promoters cast the entire district into a state of uncertainty. 

  Map of  Great Northern Railway at Brownsville BC The railway terminus fluctuated between Liverpool, a mile upriver, Brownsville at the center, and a new ferry landing a half mile downriver from Brown’s Landing at South Westminster,  the transportation hubs being the object of much political wrangling and litigation.
  Liverpool, Brownsville and South Westminster   -  Ferry and Rail  

Many on the south side of the river blamed New Westminster for disturbing the established business of Brownsville by promoting the new ferry landing downriver, a move which seemed primarily instigated to further competing private interests.

Out in the Cold: The Punch – Bole Crisscross

As the Yale Road ran right down the middle of the property of James Punch to its terminus at the Ferry Wharf where the K de K ran across to New Westminster, James Punch was more than amenable to accommodating the public interest.

When the City of New Westminster needed a foothold on the south shore, in order to facilitate financing a railway connection to the United States, Punch and the owner of the other affected property, WN Bole,  had cooperated with an agreement between the City and Surrey Municipality to cede a strip of land to New Westminster. A proviso in the agreement was that the Ferry Landing would not stray outside the bounds of these city limits, between Lots 2 and 4, Brownsville.

Punch and Bole were both on the New Westminster Board of Trade with interests in promoting the railway, and indeed WN Bole had been a director of the New Westminster Southern Railway.

However, when the City of New Westminster subsequently decided to build a new ferry landing further downriver, and run the railway right past Brownsville, the long established patterns of travel and trade were overturned, and the fortune of Brownsville well and truly spiked. 

Punch, Bole, and many others in Surrey were outraged.  It was evident people at the new location stood to make a lot of money and at the same time, be the ruin of Brown’s Landing. 

The new landing was not only a departure from the agreement, it was out of the way, a further half mile downstream where no road yet existed. Punch would have the indignity of the railway running through his property at no direct benefit to him, and moreover, have to give up more land for a road from the old landing to the new one.

A measure of the machinations involved and the general controversy over this dispute has been noted in previous posts.

On December 6, 1890 James Punch took the matter to court in an attempt to keep the ferry running within the limits of the City of New Westminster (in Surrey) as per agreement and continue to land at Brown’s Wharf.

When a public enquiry commenced in March 1891, Punch was seriously ill and unable to voice his concerns. 

Mayor JC Brown of New Westminster, also MPP for the City, was questioned by WN Bole about moving the ferry to a new location downriver from its Yale Road landing.  These  are excerpts, with Bole’s words in bold.

With respect to the place where the ferry landing now is—-that is outside of the limits of the Corporation of New Westminster?
On the Surrey side; yes.
. . .
You know where the ferry landing was before-—in Brownsville ?
That is on Mr. Punch’s property ?
I don’t know. Of course, in ordinary conversation I would at once say "yes," but I don’t know of my own personal knowledge.

Would you be prepared to say what damage has been done to Mr. Punch’s property and the adjoining property, in some of which I am interested, by moving the ferry landing some distance down the river ?
No, I couldn’t say. The question never occurred to me.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Brown, is not Mr. McColl the city solicitor, the owner of the land on which the new ferry landing was built ?
Yes, I believe he is the owner of it. The city has become, to a certain extent, the owner of it now. The city, before it built the landing there, secured what it considered a reasonably good lease of the land for ferry purposes.
From Mr. McColl ?

Are you aware that since the building of the ferry landing on Mr. McColl’s property, land there has sold for very high prices ?
I am aware of it only by the booming notices I see in the newspapers, that is all. I haven’t bought any myself.
As a matter of fact, haven’t you seen by the newspapers that all the boom has been down there, while the proprietors on the upper side have been left in the cold since the ferry landing has been changed ?
I don’t know that the owners on the north side have subdivided and put their property on the market, or attempted to sell.

—South Westminster landowner Angus John McColl was a partner in the law firm that represented the City of New Westminster.  McColl later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
—Full text of the hearing concerning the New Westminster Enabling Bill  is online at the British Columbia Legislative Library

William Norman Bole also spoke directly to the committee in the interests of himself and his neighbour at Brownsville, James Punch.

W. N. BOLE, appearing as a ratepayer. Sworn.

I trust you will remember, Mr. Chairman, that I haven’t the advantage of having counsel to represent me in this matter. I may say that I appear, and oppose this Bill, as a ratepayer of the City of New Westminster, and as a ratepayer of the Municipality of Surrey, and I shall state, shortly, my objections.
. . .
Now, to the steam ferry—I object, as a ratepayer of Surrey. I happen to be one of the owners of a piece of land immediately adjoining the old ferry landing, which has been laid out in town lots, and has been referred to in that matter of Punch against the corporation. At the time the agreement, which has been referred to, was made, it was desired to donate to the New Westminster Southern Railway Company the sum of $150,000, but, inasmuch as the railway didn’t come into the city limits, it was necessary to have a portion of the Municipality of Surrey enclosed within the limits of the City of New Westminster, and for that purpose, as the railway terminated on land the property of Mr. Punch and myself, it was necessary to obtain our consent and have a portion of our property included within the limits of the City of New Westminster, in order to make the way clear to give a bonus to the railway company. In the negotiations leading up to that it was agreed that the ferry charter was to be surrendered and the new ferry landing was not to be made lower than the western end of Mr. Punch’s property, and not more than two chains from my property. I object to the new landing on the Surrey side—as I surely have a right to object–on the ground that there is an agreement, entered into between the corporation of Westminster and of Surrey.
. . .
I say that I object to this matter, on behalf of myself and of the adjoining owners, on the ground that the moving of this ferry landing a distance of some 40 or 50 chains down the river, is a serious injury to our property. It is a breach of that agreement, and, more than that, it is asking this Committee to settle, by Act of Parliament, a matter now in dispute in the Courts. The matter is now in the Courts, and in reference to what I believe Mr. Brown has stated about Mr. Punch refusing to give a right of way through his land for a new road, I think it was very natural that he should look upon it in this way : That the corporation had broken their agreement with him and then had come to him and asked him to assist them in breaking that agreement ; and it was something more than flesh and blood could stand. Now I believe that the injury to my land, caused by the moving of the ferry landing, is at least $6,000 or $7,000, and I submit that one’s private rights ought not to be taken away in this manner, without the fullest opportunity being given all parties to be heard. Mr. Punch is lying seriously ill, but I am glad to say he is recovering. I saw his legal adviser the other day, and he said that Mr. Punch was seriously ill, and that the medical adviser will allow no one to approach him. He owns 90 acres, whereas I only own an interest in 45. This change of the landing takes the ferry away from the main trunk road, established by the Government at very great expense, and this road mentioned by Mr. Brown is simply a connection between the Scott road and the ferry ; the trunk road is left out in the cold, without any ferry whatsoever.

  Line of New Westminster Southern Railway to Brownsville and South Westminster James Punch and William Norman Bole, whose properties were crossed by the railway, sued for compensation and succeeded in gaining injunctions.
  Line of the GN railway crossing Bole and Punch lots  


Brownsville Post Boom

A building boom brought new Hotels to the south side of the river and the large properties were broken up into smaller farms. A new general store on Punch’s property was opened up and operated as a Post Office.

Then as quickly as the land rush started, it was over. There was to be no new city. Land speculation subsided, with only the sorting out of suits to haunt the coming years. 

The general store of Beaton and Pike at Brownsville went broke and was taken over by Punch, who began a term as Postmaster at Brownsville in November, 1891.

The ferry service alternated between the old landing at Brown’s and the new dock downriver. Road traffic also flowed from one spot to the other, there and back, changing as often as the ever-shifting bars of sand, vanishing and reforming along the river bank.  Rail service shunted between stations as need be.

Late in 1891 James Punch was in negotiations in Victoria with a view to moving the Westminster Woollen Mills to that city. The firm was in trouble and its properties at New Westminster were auctioned off in June of 1892. Also that year, Punch leased his Merchant’s Exchange Hotel.

Punch won his court battle against the Great Northern Railway Company and was awarded compensation for the railroad right of way and damage to his Brownsville property, Lots 3 and 4. The new terminal city on the south bank of the river envisioned by railway promoters and land speculators failed to materialize, but Brownsville was changing nonetheless. In a district before populated mainly by itinerant cannery workers, loggers, railway labourers, fishermen and solitary ranchers, families had arrived to take up homesteading. The Brownsville school was opened in January 1892 with the children of James Punch in attendance, joined by their cousins, the Quibles. Other settlers were moving into districts further up the Yale Road and as before, Punch enjoyed good business at the foot of the main thoroughfare.

James Punch was elected a Director of the Surrey Agricultural Association in 1892.

It was also in 1892 that some events that occurred during and immediately after Punch’s term as Reeve of Surrey came to a head.

I’m not there  —   James Punch and the magic pen

In August 1889, Surrey council had passed a by-law to provide for flood control along the Serpentine River and in November 1890 passed another by-law to borrow the money, which was obtained from the Bank of Montreal.  The issuance of debentures to cover the repayment of the money was controversial and the procedure was found to have been irregular and not legally valid.

Rather remarkably, although James Punch was out of office in 1891 –then a sitting Member of the Legislature and no longer Reeve of Surrey— it was alleged some debentures had been issued with his signature in March 1891.

Surrey experienced a near civil war barrage  of competing petitions in appeals to the Legislature to escape repaying the money, or, conversely, that all the ratepayers should pay regardless of the illegality of the transaction.  Bewildered homesteaders found both arms being pulled at once, and some signed petitions for one side and the other.


From a Petition to the BC Legislature of the Corporation of the District of Surrey, signed by Reeve WJ Walker:

”That on the 23 day of March, A.D. 1891, Henry T Thrift, Esq., then Reeve of the Municipality, applied to Council for permission to sign and issue certain forms of debenture, proposed to be issued as aforesaid, which permission was refused.
That your petitioners believe the said forms were afterwards signed by a person thereby purporting to be Reeve of Surrey, who was neither Reeve nor a Councillor of the same, and, therefore, that such proceeding was fraudulent, and greatly to the injury of your petitioners.”

Another Petition was less circumspect:

"The said so-called debentures were not signed by the Reeve of the Municipality of Surrey, but by Mr. James Punch, after he had ceased to be Reeve of Surrey (Mr Henry T Thrift, or other person, being then Reeve of Surrey), and after the Council of the said Municipality had refused to authorize their issue.”


It did not help that matters that the Serpentine diking works were a colossal failure. It is difficult to find anyone to champion a bank that has made a poor investment, but those who favoured repaying the money regardless of the necessity for doing so, stood on grounds of principle in petitioning the Legislature to validate the Surrey Debentures and assist them in

"meeting their legitimate obligations and maintaining the credit and honour of the Municipality and the good faith and reputation of the inhabitants thereof."


It is suggested that James Punch had signed documents  in 1890, when he was still Reeve, which Thrift apparently saw fit to execute  in 1891, although the new Council stood opposed.

It was a delicate matter and HT Thrift, long serving Clerk of the Council, and  Reeve in 1891, gives his own interesting account in his Reminiscences.

The "Tinegate" scandal divided the citizenry and had lasting effects on the body politic of Surrey for some years, but James Punch was assessed no blame in this civic matter, for at the time the serious irregularities occurred,  he was not there.

Punch continued to serve as MPP for New Westminster District until the election of 1894. New Westminster District, which formerly held three seats, was broken up into smaller constituencies with Surrey being a part of the new riding of Delta. A Conservative, Punch was nominated as the government candidate in Delta and was opposed by labour candidate Thomas Forster.  Forster was a sitting MPP for Nanaimo, but resided at Clayton in Surrey and decided to run locally. In the election of 1894 Punch was unseated by Forster.

In the year following his defeat James Punch received a two  government appointments.  He served some months as Immigration Agent for the district, and also as Seed Inspector, in charge of distributing seed aid to farmers in the Fraser Valley who has been wiped out by flood waters.

Boundary move —  James Punch in Mining at Phoenix and Greenwood BC

Early in 1897 James Punch moved his family to the Boundary country to work in mine development, leaving the management of the Brownsville Hotel in the hands of his able bartender, old Cariboo hand Michael Robert Barry. Barry took over as Postmaster at Brownsville in 1898.

In 1899, James Punch’s daughter Catherine Helen [Lilian] Punch, who was on the first Honour Roll of Brownsville School, was married to Patrick James Dermody at Spokane WA. Pat Dermody was a foreman at the Old Ironsides mine at Phoenix BC.

In November of 1900 James Punch garnered the most votes in gaining a seat on the first city council of Phoenix, British Columbia. In 1901 he also received Provincial appointments as Police Commissioner and License Commissioner for Phoenix. Punch as served on the Hospital Board and the Board of Trade and was active in the Provincial Mining Association. He was the President of the Conservative Association.

After a lengthy illness, Mrs Jane Punch died October 7, 1902 and was buried in the cemetery at Greenwood. 

In January of 1904 James Punch’s daughter, Mary Christine Punch, who was born at Brownsville, BC in 1883, was married to Joseph John Strutzel, an American accountant resident in Phoenix BC.

The Henderson’s BC Directory for 1904 lists James Punch as "shift boss" and PJ Dermody "mine foreman,"  and JJ Strutzel "storekeeper,"  all at the Granby Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company.

Later in 1904 James Punch was working at the Providence Mine at Greenwood.


  Providence Mine - Greenwood BC 1908  

Providence Mine near Greenwood BC


James Punch Ranching at  Pemberton Meadows

In 1905 James Punch had moved on once again, taking up a new life as a rancher in the Lillooet country at Pemberton Meadows along with his son John Punch, who there met and was married to a Welsh girl, Maria Poole, in 1908. 

PJ Dermody, married to one of the Punch girls,  had an interest in ranch property and a sawmill in Pemberton Meadows and he got there as often as possible, his family staying there some months at a time, but he retained employment in mining in the Boundary district. He was foreman of the Old Ironsides, the Granby, and the Providence mines.  


  James Punch   The story of the Punch and Dermody families at Pemberton Meadows is to be found in the comprehensive book Pemberton: History of a Settlement [by Frances Decker, Margaret Fougberg, Mary Ronayne ; consultant and editor : Gordon R. Elliott. Pemberton, B.C. : Pemberton Pioneer Women, 1978.], which includes a map showing the location of their properties and also this  photo of James Punch in his later years, shown with some of his family.
  James Punch    



  Rancherie at Pemberton Meadows  

Rancherie at Pemberton Meadows



As in Brownsville district the pressing need for settlers in the Pemberton Valley was always road improvements. James Punch obtained additional work as district road superintendent for the Province. John Punch also did road work.

In 1911 James Punch was living at Pemberton Meadows with the families of his son John Punch and his daughter Catherine Dermody close by — six grandchildren included. Younger daughter Mary was living in Phoenix with husband JJ Strutzel and three children.

In 1912 John Punch died at the age of 37 leaving behind a widow and three young children. The Pemberton history says he died in a bridging accident while engaged in road work, and a newspaper reported he died on the farm.

In the following years James Punch assisted his daughter-in-law Maria and her children. 

James Punch became Postmaster at Pemberton Meadows in 1913 and stayed on in that capacity until his death.  Punch was also involved for the second time in the establishment of a pioneer school. Once source says he donated the land for the first Pemberton Meadows School, and even sent his granddaughter to school a year early, in order to make up the required enrolment. The school opened in 1915.

  Pemberton Meadows Post Office  

Pemberton Meadows Post Office


Punch’s youngest, Mary Strutzel, continued to live in Phoenix, though she and her children often visited her father’s ranch. Husband JJ Strutzel opened the first auto garage in Phoenix in 1914.

James Punch died on September 21, 1922, but this date is difficult to confirm. The  BC Archives database does not list his death record, nor have we yet found any obituaries or cemetery records.

In March of 1923 Maria Punch married again to Nelson Fraser. Maria had taken over as Pemberton Meadows Postmaster after the death of her father in law, and she ran the Post Office until it was closed in 1951 upon the inauguration of Rural Mail Delivery.

James Punch’s elder daughter Catherine (Lillian) Dermody died in the springtime of 1923 at Pemberton Meadows, just a half year after her father.  As a girl she attended the first term of Brownsville School in 1892, and was first on the Honour Roll.

Mary Christine Strutzel, youngest daughter of James Punch, born in Brownsville in 1883, died at Los Angeles California in 1971.

Whereas the foregoing account records a lot of  the activities and accomplishments of James Punch, which often took him away from Brownsville, it can be supposed, although such accomplishments do not appear in print, that Mrs Jane Punch was the manager at the family  home and at the Brownsville Hotel business.

There does not appear to be any commemoration in the City of Surrey BC of the name Punch, one of its most notable pioneer families.

  Location of Brownsville Hotel on Old Yale Road  

Location of James Punch’s Hotel on the Old Yale Road near Brown’s Landing


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