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Home grown – Two photographers from the Fraser Valley – George Nelson and Alfred Broe

July 31, 2014

Since writing about the jitney service operating through South Port Mann in the 1920’s, and the career of Tom Coldicutt,  we came across a set of old postcards posted on Flickr under the heading "Coldicutt Villas at White Rock, B.C." Glancing around the same site brought up a postcard titled "White Rock, & Beach" by the photographer Broe.

1911 July - First Auto over Pacific Highway BCBroe is a name we recognized from a picture in the Columbian newspaper.  An earlier post noting the completion of five sections of the Pacific Highway was based on an article that included a photo commemorating the first run by automobiles over this new stretch of highway in July 1911.  The photographer was Broe, and the picture from the microfilm is of very poor quality.

There was a party of 11 people who made the trip to inaugurate the new Pacific Highway — at the time newly blasted clear of stumps, graded and crowned, but still a dirt road.
One auto  — that of Miller –  came down from New Westminster bearing the Columbian reporter and the government officials, and a second car came up from Blaine with the photographer.  They met at the crest of the hill, around 20th Avenue nowadays, and posed for the photo in front of the two cars.

First Auto Over Pacific Highway BC – July 31, 1911 – Photographer A. Broe

1911 July - First Auto over Pacific Highway

In  the picture, left to right are:

John Keery of Surrey,  foreman of Section 4;
Dugald MacKenzie of Surrey, general overseer of the five work crews;
Columbian reporter, unnamed;
William Figg of Surrey,  foreman of Section 5;
SA Fletcher, Government Agent, representing John Sprott, the Road Superintendent for the Provincial government that funded the construction;
Charles Miller, owner/driver of  “the powerful car which conveyed the party over the road “  from New Westminster (compare  Archives photo of Miller’s car);
Frank J MacKenzie MPP  -  called the ‘father of the road;"
Harry Litton of Blaine,  Stateside campaigner for the Pacific Highway;
JS Bryson, Alderman of New Westminster;
H W Sheets, editor/publisher of the Blaine Journal.

Crew foremen not present were A Murchison, GW Atkinson and Robert Collishaw.
The new Pacific Highway was 19 miles in length and was claimed to put Blaine within  40 minutes driving time from  New Westminster, if one kept to the speed limit. Up to four tons of blasting powder had been employed to clear stumps from a two-mile section of road.

Alfred Broe, Photographer

Blaine photographer Alfred Broe had lived most of his life in Canada, albeit straddling the border, as was possible in those early days. He was born March 13, 1886 in BC, yet at the same time the family postal address was Delta, in Whatcom County  — the little community along the border, east of Blaine WA.
His father was  John L  Broe,  born in Iowa of Norwegian stock, who homesteaded at Aldergrove in 1884.   Alfred was the first of his family to be born in British Columbia.
John Broe is credited with being the first person to cultivate hops in British Columbia, taking his produce to market at New Westminster and no doubt flavoring the early brews of Robert Riesterer or Nels Nelson.  Broe’s  root stock established the hop-growing industry at Chilliwack.
Alfred Broe was a photographer in Canada before moving to Blaine around 1910, about age 24. He  later migrated to Portland, Oregon where he lived with  wife Margaret.
Alfred Broe is the second of two rural-based early photographers that we know of.

George R Nelson, Photographer

The other early Fraser Valley  photographer is George  R Nelson of Hazelmere.  Nelson, like Broe, was confident enough of his calling at an early age  to have declared his profession as "photographer" in the census of Canada.
George Nelson does not appear to have marked his photographs with his name, as did Broe, yet we believe it likely that many of the best-known logging photographs of the Royal City camp were taken by him. The camp was nearby his home, and the employees were his neighbors and friends.
George Nelson and many of these people figure in the diary of Phoebe McInnis, previously noted on this blog. He is also mentioned in Along the Way, by Margaret Lang Hastings.

George Nelson was born in New York May 13, 1872,  child of German parents Charles D Nelson and Dora.  The family came to BC in 1890,  to a farm on the Hall’s Prairie road.
George Nelson also left this district and moved with his wife Nettie and  family — most of their children born in Surrey — to the United States.  In the 1920 US census the family, with Nettie at the head, is also living at Portland.

Curly locomotive Royal City Mills camp

-Vancouver Archives photo

old curly -  royal city logging camp -  robert harvie and percy des brisay-SFU Postcard Collection

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