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Pacific Highway bog, 1927 -Practical matters

October 15, 2012

Anrep’s Report

Hugo Osvald was not the only person examining bogs in the Lower Mainland in 1927.  Aleph Anrep,  working for the Department of Mines, had been instructed to conduct a survey of the peat bogs to determine their practicality for commercial exploitation.  His thorough report dealt with the uses of peat moss  in agriculture and industry, and he evaluated the bogs with an eye to the extent and quality of peat resources and in general the economics of extracting, refining and marketing peat products.

At the time, there was no manufacturing of peat litter in Canada and some chicken ranches in British Columbia were importing peat litter from Europe for use in the barns—at a premium price.  Peat litter is more absorbent  than straw, and possesses antiseptic qualities, making it a much superior bedding material.  It is also an excellent insulator. Peat mull — a fine material that is a by-product — is an effective packing material for fruit.   Anrep visited the bog at South Port Mann, which he calls the "Pacific Highway Bog."

  "This bog adjoins the Pacific highway 3 1/2 miles southeast of New Westminster. The total area is, approximately, 37 acres. The peat moss cover has been preserved almost in its natural state. Borings indicated that 27 acres have a moss covering varying in depth between 2 and 8 feet and averaging 6 feet . . . . Drillings indicate that the total depth of the bog varies from 2 to 22 feet and that the peat below the moss layer is fairly well humified and could be converted to agricultural purposes. The peat moss layer is above sea level and can be drained either to the north or the south."  

Pacific Highway bog - Geological Survey Canada 1927   At left, Anrep’s sketch of the Pacific Highway from Whalley’s Corner, top, to just below the crossing of Hjorth Road.
The length of the bog is about 3/8 of a mile.
(The position of the Indian Reserve on this map is incorrect, belonging a half-mile west.)
In the present day, the intersection at the bog is the corner of King George Boulevard and 104 Avenue in the Surrey City Centre.

Pacific Highway bog – A. Anrep, Geological Survey of Canada, 1927


Further information from Anrep’s report:

  “In the vicinity of Vancouver, in Fraser River delta area, the number of hens is estimated to exceed 2,000,000 and some difficulty is experienced in keeping the fowl in a sanitary condition by using straw for bedding and a covering for scratching ground. In 1926 several of the owners of the larger chicken ranches imported from Europe a limited amount of peat litter and on using it instead of straw, found that the chickens became cleaner and brighter, scratched more vigorously, and laid more eggs.  . . .
The manufacture of peat litter and peat mull is an important industry in various northern European countries.  . . .
At present no peat litter is manufactured in Canada. During the period March, 1926 to February, 1927, 677 tons were imported from Belgium, Germany, and Holland.  Of this amount 589 tons were brought in through the port of Vancouver, and delivered to the owners of chicken ranches in the vicinity of New Westminster . . .”

Famous for poultry

In the early years of the 20th Century the style of farming best suited to farms hacked out of the bush in Surrey was chicken ranching. 

“Surrey is famous for Size, Poultry, and Beach Resorts. …Poultry raising tops the farming ventures, some of the largest ranches in the province being located in Surrey.” – The British Columbian.

black white red poultry farm  

A fine example of an early poultry operation, Baron von Mackensen’s ranch at Port Kells was taking prizes for its hens before the First World War.

To Market

Anrep estimated the potential market for peat litter locally to be 16,000 tons per year. This, incidentally, was the entire estimated potential volume that could be extracted from the South Port Mann, or Pacific Highway bog, over a period of years.

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