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Slips and Landings

December 21, 2016

These days there is a danger of slipping on ice, but in 19th century British Columbia the most treacherous of surface to walk on was wet and slimy wood.

Here are a few examples of the hazards of getting around on foot in the old days.

1880 07
Slippery Wharf:. Mariner Takes Ugly Fall

“Something should be done to guard against accidents at the ‘slip’ on the wharves.
Walking along in the dark, one not intimately acquainted with the geography of the place is apt to get an ugly fall, and on Tuesday night last, an accident of this sort actually did happen to an officer of one of the steamers in port.”

1885 03
K de K Gang Plank A “Man Trap”

“A Man Trap — It appears that in order to prevent contact between the ferry steamer and the wharf, the boat usually lays about 6 or 8 feet from the wharf.

There is a plank placed from the boat to the wharf to admit passengers landing, but at night it is impossible to see the plank and this nearly produced a fatal accident on Thursday evening about 7 o’clock, when a lady, Mrs WM Campbell, of Sumas, in the act of landing, ire to be such as they are, the town council should place a lamp on the ferry landing to enable passengers to see where they are going.”


A typical gang plank landing to the riverbank, from the Fraser River stern-wheeler, SS Ramona.

Mrs Campbell was the former Phoebe York, daughter of Thomas York, who came to Yale in 1858 and Upper Sumas in 1865. Phoebe York married William Moore Campbell, JP.
Mrs Campbell lived at Abbotsford until 1935 and died at Mission in 1936, 51 years after her near fatal accident disembarking from the ferry K de K.

1890 10

Titania,s Captain Dunn Fell and Perished While Walking Back to His Ship

titania-captain-jl-dunnIn the early hours of the morning of October 15, 1890, Captain James L Dunn of the famed clipper ship Titania, after an evening of socializing with some cannerymen friends, was making his way back to his ship a!ong the lower end of Columbia Street. At Begbie Street Alex Ewen bid the mariner a good night and walked up hill to his home. Captain Dunn continued on alone along the south side of Columbia Street for another block, where he encountered some unprotected street extension work and he:

“accidentally fell from the edge of the wharf near the CPR track, a distance of six feet against some wooden slabs used in filling up the street, where no danger signals were shown,. . “

Capt Dunn struck his head on the slabs and perished on the spot.

The Hudson’s Bay Company (the late Captain’s employer), cannerymen and private citizens contributed funds to provide for Mrs Dunn, and in February 1891, the City of New Westminster also came through with a satisfactory sum of money.

Captain Dunn’s body was taken to Victoria for burial.

1893 06

Captain Takes Gang Plank Fall

“Captain Robinson, who had six ribs broken by falling from a gang plank to the guard of the steamer Samson on Saturday night, is out of danger and resting well this evening.”

This was Capt. James Robinson, who also did a stint as Master of the ferry Surrey.

1925 05

Bridge Fall: Sharkey Is Landed at Brownsville Bar

“Tom Gifford Takes Plunge in Fraser –

The Fox Film movie operator was in town this morning, looking for flood pictures.

He missed a good bet at the Fraser River bridge where Tom Gifford, superintendent of the structure, performed an unrehearsed diving and swimming stunt as the result of a plank giving way at the south end of the bridge.

In taking the plunge, which fortunately was made in a shallow section, Mr. Gifford’s arm struck one of the girders, with the result that medical attention was necessary.

Immediately on striking the water the superintendent struck out for a pile, to which he clung until the workmen from the bridge could rescue him with a boat.”

This was “Sharkey” Gifford, Tom Gifford, Jr., who was a star player for the Salmonbellies lacrosse team. He was the first Superintendent on the Fraser River bridge, appointed in 1904, at the age of 24. He retired from the job in 1946.

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