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Martin Nelson – Brownsville BC, 1876

March 14, 2014

Martin Nelson (1876)  Section 28, B5N R2W.

Martin Nelson was the first settler on the hill above Brown’s landing, near the present-day city centre.   He built a cabin in  August 1876 in that section where the recently completed Yale road branched off from the Semiahmoo road.

Air photo of the junction of the Semiahmoo road and Old Yale road, mid 1950s.

Old Yale road & Semiahmoo road

Although others lived in the area from time to time,  Nelson maintained continuous occupation long enough to make a homestead application in 1887 and obtain a Dominion crown grant in 1890.

Nelson Martin mapNorwegian by birth, Martin Nelson of New Westminster had obtained his citizenship from Judge Mathew B Begbie on October 21, 1873.

Martin Nelson was best  known for his industry as a supplier of wood fuel to the canneries, earning him the sobriquet “Charcoal Nelson.”

Among those cutting a farm out of the bush  in this district, Nelson was unique in being able to keep a couple of horses, a valuable commodity. It is likely the horses were employed in logging timber for his coal burning enterprise.

In the 1881 census George Hawkins, a 41 year old Englishman, is  recorded as residing at Nelson’s and working in the charcoal burning business. Nelson was 36 years of age.

In August 1883 Nelson nearly lost his buildings during one of the seasonal forest fires that raged through the district.

“Martin Nelson, working opposite the city, lost 100 cords of wood within the last two days, and succeeded, after great difficulty, in saving his barn, which was on fire twice.”

Towards the late 1880’s Nelson, when not farming, found paid work in fishing on Fraser River.

Even after such a long period of occupation, Nelson had just 2.5 acres under cultivation with oats and clover, and about 6 acres partly cleared and fenced, evidence of the densely forested character of his tract.  He had planted an orchard of about 75 fruit trees and a plot of small fruit bushes.

Martin Nelson’s house was substantial, built of lumber and  measuring 26 feet by 18 feet.

In 1890 Nelson reported that his barn, 28 x 30 feet, which had escaped previous conflagrations, had at last been lost to fire. He maintained two small sheds.

Vouching for Martin Nelson on his application were neighbors John Douglas and John W Stein.  In October 1890 Nelson was issued the  crown grant to Section 28 in  Block 5 North, Range 2 West of the Coast Meridian.

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