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A Paradise for our venture – El Bar Ranch on the Pacific Highway

August 13, 2014

Ethelwynn Adamson Barker and Bralef King Franz - El Bar Ranch - 1922Ethelwynne Barker and the amiable Bralef King Franz posed for a photo at the  El Bar Ranch on Pacific Highway in 1921, obviously delighted.

The ranch owned by Herbert and Ethelwynne Barker was located on the west side of the now-called King George Boulevard between 108 Avenue and 104 Avenue. 

The only paved stretch of highway in the Fraser Valley was a magnet for day-trippers from Vancouver,  but motorists could not help pulling over at the goat ranch. 

More so than the grand sire himself,  the playful antics of goat kids frolicking on the verges and leaping on to the tops of cars proved an irresistible attraction to passing motorists.
The Columbian newspaper reported that on Sundays, 2,000 people were stopping their autos and getting out to view the goats.

The Barkers found that having the El Bar Ranch open to the public in such a prime location was the best form of advertising they could buy. The property line at the highway was unfenced and  the goats were kept in check by a brave and reliable "Scotch sheep dog.”

Ethelwynne actively promoted the health benefits of goat’s milk, butter, butter milk and cheese, taking full advantage off every marketing opportunity.  Mothers came for the easily-digestible milk, while  "Italians besiege Mrs Barker for her Roquefort cheese."  

Don HermesHerbert W Barker managed a progressive breeding program.  El Bar goats dominated competitions at provincial exhibitions, winning a majority of prizes. 
The two best known bucks were Saanen sire Bralef King Franz, shown in the photo above, and Toggenburg sire Don Hermes de las Calbritas, right, shown in his salad days at Burnaby.1921 04 advert El Bar Ranch - New Westminster

A gift from the gods – to a  place on Pacific Highway

1906 Smith College yearbook photo

Ethelwynne Mary Adamson was born of English parents in Montana in 1884  and attended Smith College in Massachusetts.  At Smith she managed the Banjo Club and played guitar while earning a Bachelor of Science in Education degree, class of 1906. 

She obtained teacher certification at Columbia University and found employment as Pupil Dietitian in the New York City Hospitals and Schools.

Herbert William Barker was born in Ontario in 1884 and trained as a chemist. He worked as a druggist and real estate agent.

 

HW Barker and EM Adamson were married in 1912  and resided first in Florida before coming to Canada the same year.

 
They were living in Winnipeg in 1915 when Herbert Barker enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary force to the First World War.  After service with the  Medical Corps he was discharged after less than two years service with the rank of Sergeant-Major.

 

The Barkers came out to BC and lived  in Burnaby,  at McKay,  where they first bought a goat and found they liked raising goats and selling milk, an occupation that complemented both their dispositions and talents.   However they soon found they needed some place "’remote yet accessible’  to the two cities of Vancouver and New Westminster."

In an article written for her Smith alumnae journal in 1922, Ethelwynne Adamson Barker described  what it was like to find  their dream location.

 

"After months of futile search we stumbled upon a Paradise for our venture. A fifty-acre tract once a lumber mill, with a motley collection of shanties and barns, located on the paved Pacific Highway two miles out of New Westminster and seventeen from Vancouver, with thousands of acres of wild logged-off land covered with ideal goat feed. This was indeed a gift from the gods. The lumber from the shanties quickly furnished model goat barns for 150  animals."

 

Ethelwynne was ever eager to extol the virtues and benefits of goat milk,  and it is worth quoting more of how they set up shop on the Pacific Highway.

1922 04 string of goats - El Bar Ranch"Then arose the problem of marketing the milk. The public must be made familiar with its value, and that meant time and propaganda. So we opened our advertising campaign. We had no money for newspaper publicity but we did have 40 frolicsome kids.  A corral was built beside the Highway wherein we installed regular playground apparatus — a teeter board, slide bars for balancing on, and a barrel to roll. Each afternoon the kids were turned in all ready to give a three-ringed show.

We expected results but nothing like those that followed. The first Sunday we were mobbed.  Men, women, and children jumped from their cars and jostled each other for a place to watch. Traffic was completely held up. The following week a traffic cop was installed to see that cars were properly parked or moved on.

We talked goats and their milk to every visitor. Those who did not ask to buy milk were urged to try a free sample. We gave more than we sold. But the leaven began its work.

Hard-headed businessmen advised us to erect a fence and charge admission for the kid show, but that was not our object.

Soon reporters came and articles on the goats appeared in papers from coast to coast, giving us publicity that could not have been bought for thousands of dollars. Next came the movie men with their cameras. It was comedy stuff they wanted largely and they got it. But the educational side was not neglected."

 

They also opened up their barns to the public to observe the milking and processing.
Ethelwynne and Herbert worked 16 hour days building their renowned goat ranch.  The 1921 census shows they also employed a hired hand, Joseph Whitaker of Hjorth Road.

In 1921 Goat World magazine informed its readers  of "the wonderful success the Barkers have made of their great venture in Canada." Herbert Barker concerned himself with the business of breeding and selling stock. He competed fiercely for the top prizes for his animals and they were achievers. 1921 10 advert HW Barker - El Bar exhibition prizes It appears the Barkers very much enjoyed the working partnership in building this enterprise. Ethelwynne wrote that they did it together, with the rewards evident—

"a healthy, happy life, a comfortable living (or you will not stick ), a knowledge that in maintaining or restoring the health of others you are doing work of the finest kind. You can make your life what you will, being your own boss. And your work will bring you countless friends."

 

In 1925 the Barkers purchased an additional 400 acres, “one-half mile nearer the town, and on the highway, as a new location for their ranch.”    And it was reported that in 1929 they had sold the goat ranch.

The Barkers began selling off some plots of land — HW Barker was now in the “real estate” business and involved in other speculative investments. They retained a home in the area. However it appeared that the “healthy, happy life” with the goats that they enjoyed at the start on the Pacific Highway, was now eluding them.

In the wintery January of 1937, with 25 inches of snow having fallen since New Years Day, Ethelwynne was taken ill and admitted to St Mary’s Hospital, where she passed away February 1st at the age of 52.  The papers read:  "Mrs Barker was highly esteemed by a large circle of friends in Surrey and New Westminster."

The couple had no children. Ethelwynne was survived by her husband, two nephews and two nieces in Cambridge Massachusetts, and an uncle in Virginia.  The Barkers would have been married 25 years that summer.

Herbert William Barker lived only four years longer.  He passed away at Shaughnessy Military Hospital in 1941, aged 56. He was survived by three brothers – one living in Vancouver -  and a sister.


End Notes: 
Ethelwynne Mary (Adamson) Barker, born 1884 03 29 Montana, USA, died New Westminster, 1937 02 01.   Herbert William Barker, born 1884 12 12  Ontario, died Vancouver BC 1941 04 12.

The Barkers are like some others of the pioneers in this district who exist in local lore only by vague references. Most who "remembered" history, came after them, and they left no descendants to keep their stories living.
There is even more to the Barker story, but it  is beyond our scope. Additional facts can be found in the British Columbia Reports, for what they are worth, as it always surprising what a lack of precision is shown in such documents.
There is a stream named Barker Creek that flowed out of the El Bar Ranch, the ancient outlet from the South Port Mann bog.  It flows north, under the highway, down to the Fraser River.  Whether the creek  was named for them, or another person of the same name, we don’t know. But it too has been largely overwritten by being renamed Bolivar Creek.  A worthy name also, but both versions now appear on maps and in documents.

The Barkers had found their "Paradise" on Section 22, B5N R2W — originally homesteaded by Anton Klavanes .  Their second location is unknown to us.

As referred to by Mrs Barker, there could be some newsreel footage of the El Bar Ranch goats, dating back to the early 1920’s.

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