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Off the beaten track – days of roses and wine

June 13, 2012

Artist Edward Roper

Author and artist Edward Roper was in New Westminster in June of 1887, visiting, writing and sketching.  Here is his impression of  Brownsville:

“Across the river were some small houses, which looked like settler’s cabins; then came the usual forest lands, pines standing up higher than all the other trees. Looking straight south from New Westminster, it could not be termed very picturesque; but gazing up the river, you are filled with admiration, for there a glorious range of snow-capped mountains, with the Golden Ears conspicuous above them, is stretched across the distance.”

Roper walked upriver to  suitable vantage point  near the old Royal Engineer Camp in Sapperton, and produced descriptive accounts in text and in water-colour.

“I was seated during that afternoon by a road-side, amongst ferns and rose-bushes,making a sketch up the river, and while there I was much amused with the strange diversity of people who passed by me along a side-walk across the road. First came some ladies, dressed in the latest style, fit for Bond Street. Then two Celestials, with their pig-tails, their poles, and swinging baskets. After them came along, laughing and shouting, a number of school children—rather regular young Britishers, I was sure. Then two smug, well-dressed Chinese gentlemen, in complete Chinese dress, but wearing straw hats like ours, and each carrying an English silk umbrella neatly furled. By and by there passed by me some Indian men, followed by a party of gaily-shawled klootchmans [women], with their tenas (young ones). Then some more ladies, then some Indians; afterwards some white labourers, and so on — a continual procession of all kinds of people, but all looked well-to-do. I did not see in all that place one specimen of pauper humanity, such as you will see in a town at home so frequently.” By Track and Trail – A Journey Through Canada

Looking up Fraser River - Edward Roper

Looking up Fraser River, 1887 – Edward Roper –  Archives Canada

Queen’s Reach on Fraser River  –  Herring’s Point across the river to the right



Royal Navy Commander and artist, E A Porcher

The stretch of road along the Fraser past the camp at Sapperton had long been a favourite of artists.  Twenty-one years before, in 1866,  Captain Edwin Augustus Porcher painted a view of the road looking toward the residence of the Governor of British Columbia.


Governor's Residence - New Westminster -  from a painting by  AE Porcher

Governor’s Residence – New Westminster – EA Porcher – Beinecke Library

HMS Sparrowhawk at anchor


Many of Porcher’s  illustrations are contained in the superb version of his diary edited and annotated by Dwight L. Smith, A Tour of Duty in the Pacific Northwest: E. A. Porcher and H.M.S. Sparrowhawk, 1865-1868. 

Opposite the Camp

Captain Porcher’s painting of his Royal Navy ship HMS Sparrowhawk in Fraser River includes a rare glimpse of the scenery on the opposite shore — forested hillside in the distance,  houses and sheds strung out along the riverbank at Herring’s Point.


HMS Sparrowhawk -  Fraser River -  Herring's Point -AE Porcher

Detail from HMS Sparrowhawk in the Fraser, 1866 by EA Porcher – Beinecke Library


Cranberry bog and meadows lay back of the river to the base of the hill, an attraction to natives who harvested the natural produce,  and,  in the first years of  the Colony,  affording an opportunity for agriculture. The innovative pioneer Sam Herring had been making wine here since 1861,  and in 1870 he began the first commercial winery in British Columbia, marketing his currant wines locally and along the coast, complete with designer labels. See What was Herring’s Point?

A Victual Reality

As mentioned in a previous post,   Brownsville settler John William Stein had also been a winemaker, while resident in the Mud Bay district. He applied to the council of the municipality in 1886, asking for a license to sell his rhubarb wine. It was a precedent and council was undecided how to handle the matter, but from the minutes of the meeting, one can draw a conclusion that discussion of the matter, ‘laid on the table,’ was convivial.

“Mr JW Stein submitted a sample of the rhubarb wine he has manufacturing this season and wished to be informed what license he would have to pay to sell the same. The Municipality act was consulted but no provisions are there regulating the manufacture and sale of home made wine. On motion by Coun Bamford sec by Coun Robinson that Mr Stein’s communication be laid on the table until next meeting in the meantime the clerk to consult the legal advisor of the council on the subject and report at next meeting.”

Adjacent to Stein’s first homestead on the Serpentine River a modern winery has been established under the name River’s Bend Winery.

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