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To Calm the Public Mind –Selling Section 8

June 4, 2013

In early 1887 the Dominion Land Agent at New Westminster was dealing with two applications for a parcel of land, hitherto unclaimed,  which lay next to the Government Reserve. 

The  Agent pointed out that the public had had plenty of opportunity to select the 175 acres comprised of Section 8 and Fractional Section 5 since the earliest days of the Colony, yet the land was undesirable due to its being low-lying and difficult to drain.

Section 8 township map

Conditions had changed by the year 1887, making this parcel of 175 acres more desirable for its location than its character. One of the applicants was AJ Hill, CE, the man in charge of determining the route of the New Westminster Southern Railway, which would run through this section,  a possible location  for townsite. The other was John Edward Insley, proprietor of the Colonial Hotel. 

Hill made a low bid,  50 cents per acre versus Insley’s offer of $2.50.  Hill then dropped out, with the effect of making the high bid of Insley appear rather more than reasonable.

The section was destined not to come on the market in the usual way. 

The remarks of  HBW Aikman,   the Agent at New Westminster, to his superiors in Ottawa:

  "As regards calling for Public tenders I would state that it is in this Province a very expensive proceeding; advertising being fully, if not more than, double the eastern rates and as a matter of economy should not be adopted — if possible to avoid it, more especially as the practice of the Dominion Government Agent has been to advertize in all — some seven or eight — newspapers; and to depart from that practice at the present time — when there are so many outstanding questions as to squatters’ rights, and timber restrictions, as well as petitions for free grants alleged oppressiveness of the Regulations, and other imaginary complaints agitating the public mind — would certainly lead to unpleasant public comment upon the management of the Railway Belt and the land system generally." (Aikman to Smith, April 13, 1887)  


Who said lawyers have not a sense of humour?  The department approved a private sale to Mr Insley.

All of this is just a precursor.  The land eventually passed into the hands of one Thomas Wilson Paterson, and a turn of events that ‘agitated the public mind’ to the extent that the Prime Minister himself would be called to account.

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