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Property Owners Maps Update

January 18, 2015

Many maps on this blog were made with a version of Google Maps that has been phased out. As a result these maps may not display now, or not the same way as before.

We have put together new versions of the  1880 Property Owners Maps which include some additional information and covers the Fraser Valley south of the Fraser River.

As before, one  map lists properties alphabetically by the name of the owner:

Property Owners Map 1880 by Name – South of Fraser

The second map lists properties by lot number, block, range, and township.  The pre-emption lot numbers of Group 2 are the hardest to find, so that list should be most useful .

Property Map 1880 by Lot Number – South of Fraser

Below is a screen-shot of the look of the new maps.

Property Map 1880 screenshot

The data for the maps comes from the Tax Assessment Roll for the year 1880.  Surrey, Delta and Richmond were all new municipalities.  The major trunk roads had been built, linking the scattered settlements of the Fraser Valley. Few lots had been subdivided. 

The basic lot size of the squares on the map is a quarter mile section, or 160 acres. Lots which indicate 150 acres were most often Military Grants, which were open to retired British military personnel.  The Royal Engineers who settled here took up most of these, although many sold their claims without taking possession.   Lots which differ from the standard grid were the first pre-emptions.

The display of the Group 2 layer gives a good view of the availability of prairie, or easily cleared and cultivated land throughout the valley.  In 1880 large tracts of land were densely forested, and even putting a road through – such as the Semiahmoo Road – did not attract settlement along the route.   Most early trails were built to provide access to settlement properties.

The islands at the mouth of the river, the Delta lowlands, the valleys of the Serpentine and Nicomekl rivers, the Langley Prairies, Matsqui prairie, Sumas prairie and Chilliwack lands attracted the first settlers.

By no means do these maps show all the people living in the valley. Many owners did not reside on their land and did rent it out.  However many of the most established and well-known settler names are here.  For more information, including names not on the tax roll, check out the 1881 Census for New Westminster (South) and  the 1882 BC Directory and community histories found in the local library.

It is evident even on modern maps that topography shaped farms and determined the route of roads.  That is visible on the large scale, and also in small details where roads wound along the sides of ravines, or along the banks of sloughs.   Some ranches still retain their original configuration and location of buildings.  There is, for example,  a small meadow, surrounded by a wood, on the northwest end of the old HBC farm, that was depicted on a map in 1878 and still visible today in the same shape. 

The lines of the trails and roads on the map have been traced from early maps, but can not be more than a rough guide in some sections.

Included on this map is some information, not complete, that shows the assessed value of the lot and the number of cattle, horses, etc., residing there.  It gives an idea of where the best farms were.  The most valuable piece of property was  located at Brownsville, owned by Ebenezer Brown and occupied by a cannery, a hotel, barns, etc.

The classic Google maps version of the Property Owners maps are found here.

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