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John William Stein – Part 3 – Brownsville BC

September 20, 2011

JW Stein moves to Brownsville BC, 1888

After five years residence on the Serpentine River, and having attained clear title to the property, JW Stein and family moved closer to the city, purchasing a tract of land opposite New Westminster at Brownsville, BC. It was part of one of the original sections held by Ebenezer Brown, in Section 20, Block 5 North, Range 2 West.

The land lay along the Yale Road, partly on Brownsville Hill and partly on the flats. Stein had woodland and pasture. Far less isolated than the Mud Bay homestead — a 10-minute ride on the Fraser River ferry K de K would take them across to the city— the move signified a more comfortable relationship with society in general.

Stein was first noticed by the press in May of 1888. It was not an auspicious introduction to the community. John Stein had been clearing his land by burning brushwood when the flames had gotten picked up by the wind.

“A man named Stein, of Brownsville, set out a clearing fire some days ago on his property at the bottom of the hill near the Yale Road. Mr L F Bonson had 3, 000 fence rails cut and lying ready for removal at the top of the hill, and he warned Stein to be careful not to allow the fire to spread in that direction. Stein replied that there was not the slightest danger. This morning the fire spread to where the rails were lying and the whole lot were consumed.” —British Columbian

Stein established a first-class dairy herd on his pasture acreage and in May 1889 it was reported in The Commercial journal,

“J. W. Stein of Brownsville, is about to set out one of the largest fruit orchards in British Columbia. He purchased from Mr. J. L. Walworth $1,000 dollars worth of fruit trees, which will be set out this fall. This sale of trees is considered the largest ever made in the province.”

Stein’s daughter, Glennie immigrated to Canada from the USA in 1889, to join her father and Lillian. She was then 19 years of age. It is possible that John Jr. also came that year, had he not been here before.

Booming Brownsville, BC

JW Stein was in transition again, but within the same district.

On the Province of British Columbia Voters List, dated April 30, 1890, Stein is numbered twice:

“No. 1615 – Stein, John William . . . Mud Bay . . .Farmer.”

“No. 1660 – Stein, J. W. . . . Brownsville . . . Farmer.”

Stein moved northward at an opportune time. The countryside opposite the City of New Westminster was experiencing a real-estate boom spurred by the construction of a railway to the United States, which would have its northern terminus situated on the banks of the Fraser River at Brownsville. In addition, a new ferry was to be built and new landing would connect with the railway. Stein’s land holdings became more valuable with each development. Large lots were being subdivided into smaller holdings for farming and, close to the ferry and rail-links, city-sized lots were carved out for hotels, stores and other businesses.

Soul and Body Together— Surface finds, introspections and exploratory shafts

In April of 1890, in the British Columbian newspaper—serving New Westminster District—the Surrey correspondent inserted a brief note of business gossip, to accompany musings about the weather and the progress of field crops.

“I am informed that one of our neighbours has discovered coal on his property and is considerable elated about it.”

Thinking the note was about him, and with typical excoriation of pride, Stein reacted to the report in the form of a letter to the newspaper, which the Editor chose to run to its full length under the headline—

“Elated Over Coal

Editor, Columbian—Sir— Your correspondent, ‘T,’ under ‘Surrey Notes’ in your weekly issue of the 23rd inst., says: ‘I am informed that one of our neighbors has discovered coal on his property and is considerably elated (my italics) over it.’

I speak of this because you have recently made several public allusions to the discovery of lignite on my property near Brownsville, Surrey, and since ‘elated’ in this connection might mean ‘puffed up,’ ‘proud,’ ‘lofty,’ ‘haughty,’ ‘swelling,’ etc., etc., it is calculated to prejudice the mind of the strange reader.

If ‘T,’ refers to the Brownsville coal discovery, I see nothing to be ‘elated over.’

Several months after we discovered lignite, I laid a piece on your table as a prospectus. While many have since visited and examined the croppings, and gentlemen of means have tendered financial assistance, if required for their development, I have paid no further attention to the matter except to forward a specimen, through the Dominion Land Office, to the Government geologist at Ottawa for his opinion.

So far from being ‘elated over it,’ I have not the least idea whether or not there is anything valuable connected with it. Others have certainly manifested more anxiety about it than I.

However, should it prove to be the index to a valuable coal field, I would be glad, both for myself and others. I would not object to a good income from such a source, and would be glad to see Westminster and its surroundings benefit by ten thousand times more valuable resources of profit than this would be, were it to exceed even much the most sanguine hopes expressed by friends on the subject.

I repeat it, I see nothing in it to be elated over. It may never be worth a cent, I base no plans or calculations upon it whatever.

Again, if I believed it to be the precursor of millions, I would not see any reason to be elated over it. But I would be glad if ‘T,’ and every other settler in Surrey would find, not merely a vein of lignite, but one solid, inexhaustible stratum of the best anthracite in the world, on his ranch, and their weary limbs emerging from the task of eking out a hard livelihood in order ‘to keep soul and body together’ might permit the care-worn mind the privilege of more cultivated thought and finer feeling, which would probably be engaged with purer purposes and nobler efforts.

But, one who has nothing else to do but be elated over his own success, is envious at the good fortune of others, is a despicable soul, and needs the impulse of contact with higher thought and purer motives. J. W. Stein.

Westminster, April 26, ‘90”

Note: The Surrey correspondent ‘T’ was most probably H T Thrift of Hazelmere, Hall’s Prairie, a prolific writer to papers, booster of the district and sometime Municipal Clerk.

Professional Again— John William Stein, JP

Later in the summer of 1890, it was disclosed in the paper that–

“It is reported on good authority that Mr. Stein, the well-known and popular milk rancher of Surrey, has disposed of his prosperous business to Mr. Sweet, of Surrey. The purchaser, it is understood, will carry on the business with the same attention and punctuality that distinguished his predecessor. The headquarters of this business, which is one of the most thriving in the neighborhood of Westminster, is situated near Brownsville.”

In the Report on Agriculture for 1891, Stein is quoted as saying “Jerseys and Shorthorns are best suited” to conditions in this locale, so it would appear that Jerseys were his milk cows. It is not likely Stein divested all his agricultural pursuits, as he continued to reside in Brownsville.

In October 1890 Surrey Council requested the Provincial government appoint a Justice of the Peace at Brownsville, and recommended JW Stein for the position. In November 1890 a brief notice appeared in the British Columbia Government Gazette—

John William Stein, of Brownsville, Esquire, to be a Justice of the Peace within and for the Westminster Electoral District.”Nov 5, 1891

This was a return to a professional occupation for Stein, and a decidedly more public role, as he once again remade his life in a new place.

A Justice of the Peace at that time appears to have been more of a judicial role than is currently the case in British Columbia, functioning at that time rather more like a magistrate or judge in local court. The Westminster Electoral District covered a wide area, including the entire Fraser Valley.

Neighbors of Stein

Just up the winding “Snake Hill” on the Yale Road, above Stein’s place, was the homestead of old Michael Davey, whom John Stein had known for some years while living at Mud Bay. Davey was occupying Section 21, a portion of which was held in Reserve as an Indian burial ground. Davey was known to be a harmless character, but he had a liking for strong drink. One weekday night, the first week of March, 1891, Davey went down the hill to the house of William Devine, who happened to live across the road from John Stein. There he socialized and got to drinking some more, sharing a glass or two with Devine and a second man, George Wilkinson. During the course of a long night something went amiss—the story picked up by the Columbian, dated Friday Evening, March 6th, 1891.

Sudden Death

After a Protracted Spree, Old Michael Davie Dies Very Suddenly This Morning

“News was brought to the city to-day by Constable Beaton, of Brownsville, of the sudden death of an old man named Michael Davie, a rancher on the Yale road, who had been on a spree for a few days. It appears that Davie had been drinking very hard at the cabin of a man named Devine, who was also on a spree. What caused Davie’s death is not known, but it was probably brought about by overindulgence in spirits. It appears he died suddenly and without a moment’s warning, shortly after daylight this morning. Devine was awake at the time and went in a great state of excitement to Mr. J. W. Stein’s house, across the road, and informed him of the circumstance. Mr. Stein went over and found the man dead and, assistance being useless, he sent word to Mr. Beaton to notify the authorities. Mr. Beaton went to the house at once and examined the body, but found no marks of violence on it. He then came to the city, and reported the matter to Capt. Pittendrigh, who decided to hold an inquest, and take medical testimony as to the cause of death. He went over to Brownsville this afternoon to swear in the jury, and the inquest will probably be held this evening or tomorrow.
Davie was a man about 50 years of age, and well known to the settlers on the other side of the river. His only fault was an inordinate liking for strong drink.”

What a world away this community was from Mount Morris, where the daily stresses involved dress codes and the dagger was gossip.

The inquest into the death of Michael Davey took a strange twist when something aroused the suspicions of William Moresby, the astute governor of the Provincial Gaol in New Westminster. After an autopsy was performed by Dr Walker, medical samples were sent over to Dr EA Praeger in Nanaimo for analysis. William Devine and his other drinking partner George Wilkinson were taken into custody. The inquest re-opened and it was revealed that Dr Praeger had found traces of strychnine poisoning in the stomach tissues of Davey. Praeger’s written report contained even more damning evidence:

“I received from Dr. Walker a small packet containing a crystalline powder, said to have been found in a bottle of rye whisky. I have submitted a portion of this to analysis, and have proved it to be strychnine.”

Further evidence at the inquest was given by William Moresby.

“Mr. Moresby stated that he could not find to whom strychnine has been sold, with the exception of Mr. Stein.
Mr. Stein, who was in court, stated that he obtained strychnine from Mr. D. S. Curtis & Co. last fall, and it had only been used by his daughter, and had never been out of his house. It was kept in a room facing the road. None of his neighbors, to his knowledge, knew that he had poison in his house.”

Daily Columbian, April 23, 1891

After adjourning to consider the matter, the inquest jury returned just less than an hour later with the verdict.

“That Michael Davy met his death through poison given him by William Devine, and that as George Wilkinson, through Devine’s evidence, is also implicated, would recommend the said George Wilkinson to be bound over and brought before a magistrate.”

Devine and Wilkinson were both held over in custody to await trial on a charge of the wilful murder of Michael Davey.

The Stein family household at Brownsville BC

The Census of Canada, 1891, records the Stein family household at Brownsville, including three Chinese employees.

Name Age Married Relation Place of Birth –of Father –of Mother Religion Occupation
Stein, Jno W 49 M US Prussia US Meth Farmer
“ , L M 30 M W Brethren Ch
“, Glennie 18 D US US Meth
“, Jno H —* S
Ah Sang 31 Dom China China China Farm Laborer
Ah Sing 32 Dom
Wah Tai 38 Dom

1891 Census of Canada – New Westminster District – Brownsville – JW Stein household

In the US Census 1880, the name of the son is given as John W. Stein.  There is no explanation why no age is recorded for Jno H Stein, but based on the 1880 Census he would be 13.

Glennie is recorded as 18, but other records indicate her birth year was 1871, making her 20 at the time of the Census.

Glennie and her father both give their religious affiliation as Methodist now, while Lillie is holding on to her Brethren roots.

Back to School

John Stein, Jr was not the only youngster at Brownsville. With the population at increasing steadily, local residents successfully petitioned the Provincial government for the establishment of a school for their children.

In May 1891, John W Stein was elected one of three Trustees of the new Brownsville School District.

Stein was in the Chair at a meeting to select a site for a school, while Michael Robert Barry of the Brownsville Hotel, who had been around in the early years of the Cariboo gold rush, served as Secretary. Many offers of building lots came in. Stein himself offered a free lot, 50 X 125 feet, on a subdivision of his Section 20 in Block 5 North Range 2 West. Ultimately the voters accepted an offer from Peter Orford for a one acre lot near the top of the hill on the Yale Road.

Stein’s son John would be one of the first pupils at the new school in its first term, January 1892, and he was one of three students to make the “Honour List” — for “Pupils Accredited by Their Teachers With First Rank.” John Stein was recognized for “Deportment.”

New Rules Apply

In his role as Justice of the Peace, John W Stein presided in a trial in June of 1891 that raised some interesting legal issues, and moral issues, both public and private. A man accused of “indecent assault” on a woman in Hope, BC had been brought forward on remand to appear before JW Stein, JP, and Capt Pittendrigh, JP, at the District Court in New Westminster. The defence argued that the two JPs had no jurisdiction to hear the case, as the accused had already appeared before three Justices of the Peace on the same information, who found insufficient evidence to commit the accused.

“It was an extraordinary procedure for two Justices of the Peace to sit as a court of appeal from the three Magistrates who had found no evidence to justify the detention of his client. He submitted that no man could be legally tried twice for the same offence.”

The Prosecutor argued that the prior appearance was a “preliminary Magisterial inquiry,” whereas this was to be “a regular court trial.” Stein and Pittendrigh continued to consider the testimony of witnesses.

The woman, 19, had been living with a man since the age of 14 and since had a child with him who was now three years old. Another man committed the assault on her in her own home. The Justices of the Peace found the accused guilty, imposing a fine of $100, and in addition they

“censured severely the conduct of the parents of the girl. They were not to be excused for allowing a girl of 15 years to live with a man to whom she was not married. Although it was the custom in the Hudson’s Bay Company in old times to excuse this loose standard of morality among their employees, that was no reason why such a state of things should be allowed to continue in these days.”

Reports from the Daily News Advertiser Sunday June 14, 1891

Coal Company Formed – Stein on Board

In the year 1891 tremendous developments had taken place at Brownsville. Land developers were breaking up the large lots at Brownsville and selling them with the name “South Westminster.” The Great Northern Railway was at last connected to the American railroads, with its northern terminus at the landing of a new ferry, the Surrey, that ran from South Westminster across to the city of New Westminster. A first Post Office had been opened and a first school had been built. There were four new hotels at South Westminster alone. New settlers were establishing small farms, logging operations continued on the uplands to the south, and coal had been discovered on the property of JW Stein.

In March of 1892, the South Westminster Coal Company was formed to explore for coal and develop a mine if warranted. Chairman pro tem of the new company was TJ Trapp, while permanent Chairman was TF Fisher, both prominent New Westminster businessmen. Secretary was FC Turner, and the board was comprised of major South Westminster land owners TJ McColl, William Manson, John Douglas and JW Stein.

Permission to enter and drill had been obtained from Stein and neighboring property owners on the uplands. Stein’s samples had appeared to be lignite, however in 1892 bituminous coal was found on the property of John Douglas, of the “Douglas Ranch,” three miles up on the Yale Road—site of present day Surrey Centre. Experts and diamond drills were brought over from Nanaimo and it was reported that an exploratory mine-shaft was dug some 200 feet deep into the Brownsville uplands.

Farm-on-the-old-Stein-property There is still some greenery to be found along the Brownsville hillside, including a small patch of farmland complete with cows. However, residences and industrial land encroach on all sides and soon the vacant lands will disappear.
Somewhere on that hill is a lost mine. . .
The dark patch near the top of the BingMap view at left, near where the Stein residence is presumed to have been, is a beautiful little pond.Pond-on-old-Stein-property
Brownsville Hillside -BingMap Pond on the old Stein property, Brownsville

A daughter given away — Glennie Stein gets married

On July 27, 1892 Glennie May Stein, daughter of John William Stein of Brownsville BC, was married to William Asbury (Jr), of Mud Bay, Delta BC, a farmer. (Asbury is often rendered Ashbury, as in the following news report.)

Stein – Ashbury

On Wednesday morning, at the residence of O. D. Sweet, North Arm, Miss G. Stein, daughter of J. W. Stein, of Surrey, was married to W. Ashbury, of Mud Bay. The interesting ceremony was witnessed by a number of friends. Miss E. Ashbury acted as bridesmaid, while S. Ashbury filled the place of best man. The happy pair were the recipients of a large number of beautiful presents. THE WORLD joins in the congratulations.

Vancouver Daily World, July 30, 1892

Glennie Stein was born in Byhalia, Marshall County, Mississippi, the eldest child of Sarah Ann Stein, first wife of John W Stein. The marriage certificate gives her age as 21 years. She would be 22 on December 19. Described as blond-haired, William Asbury, the son of William Asbury Sr., a prominent pioneer farmer in Delta at Mud Bay, was 24. He was born June 10, 1868. Asbury’s birthplace is given as Dunham Hill, (Cheshire) England. Orison Davis Sweet was a pioneer farmer on Lulu Island. One of William Asbury’s younger sisters, Mary Jane, was married to CJ Sweet, son of OD Sweet.

The marriage ceremony was performed by the Rev. James A Wood. The groom states his religion as Methodist and the bride now as Baptist. Sam Asbury, of Delta, and Emily Palmer, of Vancouver were witnesses.

And . . John Stein and Lillie Stein of Brownsville BC have more family

On February 17, 1893 a son was born to Lillian Stein and John W Stein, at Brownsville, BC opposite the city of New Westminster. The birth of the new Stein baby, whom they called Ellsworth Lee Stein, was not registered until December 3, 1894, and while the delay was not unusual in this district, it is rather odd considering JW Stein was a Justice of the Peace. The maiden name of the mother is given as “L M Tombaugh.” Lillian was formerly known as Delila Tombaugh. A Miss Caldwell assisted at the birth.

When Ellsworth L Stein was a few months shy of his second birthday, mother Lillian Stein gave birth again, this time to a baby girl. She was called Selma Stein, and her birthday was October 5, 1894. Selma’s birth and that of Ellsworth were both registered the same day, on December 3, 1894. The parents are named as John W Stein, father, and LM Tombaugh—maiden name of mother. Mrs Borgstrom, a neighbour in Brownsville, assisted with the birth.

Older brother to the new siblings, John Stein would be 16 years old in 1894.

Stein’s Brownsville home lost

The residence of JW Stein, Brownsville, was destroyed by fire on January 10, 1895, fortunately without injury to anyone. Brief notice of the fire was reported even in Victoria. The more detailed, though somewhat dispassionate report from the News-Advertiser follows.

A Clean Sweep Out

Yesterday the wife of Mr. J. W. Stein, of Brownsville, was engaged unpacking some garments which had been packed in cedar shavings and had gathered a nice little pile of the shavings beside her when she found it necessary to leave the room for a very short time. Some of the children were left in the room, and one of them thought it would be a nice thing to see the pile of shavings ablaze. Immediately the thought was put into action, the pile was lit and it did blaze more rapidly and more seriously than was expected. When Mrs. Stein came in and saw the blaze the first care was, naturally, for the little folks — though possibly at that time she might easily have put out the flames. She at once carried out her children and called for help, which was rendered as far as was possible, but it was of little avail, as the devouring element had then got a firm hold of the building and its contents and ere many minutes passed the whole were consumed. The total loss is estimated at $2,000, and there is $1,200 insurance on it with the United Fire Insurance Company of Manchester.

Vancouver Daily News Advertiser, Jan 12, 1895

From the report, it would appear there were more than two young children, Ellsworth and Selma, in the house at the time, but more specific details are not known.

Mother nature also struck a blow at Brownsville on the weekend following the fire.  A heavy warm rain melted snow, and a high winter tide combined with westerly winds to back up the Fraser River,  just as swollen tributaries rushed in torrents down hillsides and onto the flats. Floodwaters inundated the  lowlands, reaching up to the foot of Brownsville hill and overflowing the Stein farm.

Was Stagecoach House the Stein house?

Following the devastating fire of 1895, the Stein’s may have rebuilt the home.  Some say that a house still standing on the old Stein property, was built by John W Stein, but it is probably of a later vintage than 1896.  The house there today is nicknamed the “Stagecoach House” and is listed in the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

A grandchild brings joy and sadness to the Stein family

On June 3, 1897, and son was born to Glennie May Asbury (nee Stein) and William Asbury, whom they named Joseph Archibald Asbury.

Joseph Asbury’s life was cut short at the age of just nine months. He was accidentally drowned, March 7, 1898.

At the time of the 1901 Census of Canada, Glennie and William Asbury were living near the family farm in Delta where William was a farm manager. They had no children.

Neighboring the Asbury place was the farm of John Oliver, politician and later Premier of BC.

In 1910 William and Glennie Asbury were living at Ontario, California, where William was employed a farm laborer. Glennie was a US citizen, while William was classed as alien. They had no children living.

John William Stein – Part 4 – New Religion

September 20, 2011

Back in the USA — A Mystery Child

John W Stein and Lillie Stein returned to the USA with their family in 1898.  In the United States Census for 1900, the Steins are recorded living on N. Washington Avenue in Battle Creek City, Calhoun County, Michigan, where John Stein worked as a Journalist.

The Stein household is listed as: JW Stein and Lillian May Stein, with children Ellsworth Lee Stein, age 7 and Selma Stein, age 5. Both children, born outside the USA in British Columbia, are listed as immigrating in 1898. A third child resided with the Steins—a girl, Ada Marshall, age 16. She is listed as a boarder, and she was born in Indiana, also Lillian’s birthplace.

There is a mystery in the Census data. Lillian declares having given birth to three children— all still living—but who is the third child? Could it refer to John William Stein Junior, who also lived with his father and Lillian in Canada? Or could it refer to Ada Marshall, living with them now? Or another? Press reports following the elopement of John W Stein and Delila Tombaugh in 1881, suggested they had subsequently had a child in the USA, before moving to Canada in 1883. However, this child was not recorded in the Canadian Census when the Steins resided at Brownsville.

1900 US Census Battle Creek Click this thumbnail to open a page from the  US Census 1900, Battle Creek, Michigan and view the record for John William Stein and household on Washington Ave.

Penning and Proselytizing:  Seventh-Day Adventism the New Cause

Resident at Battle Creek, Michigan, John W Stein began submitting work for a number of journals associated with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, one of which, The Advent Review & Sabbath Herald, was published at Battle Creek.

An example of work below the name “John Wm Stein” is a poem entitled “Everywhere” which appeared on the front page of the Review & Herald for September 17, 1901.

Everywhere” – including the front page of the Review & Herald

JW Stein was  involved in publishing and selling his own work, as he had done some years previous with The Stein – Ray Debate. An ad offers a book of poetry entitled “Crystals of Life, by John William Stein.”

Ad-for-JW-Stein-book-of-poetry Book blurb –“A beautiful new book of poems of rare merit.  Its themes are natural, rational, and religious.””The author, who prefers to handle his own publication, needs three hundred subscribers yet to cover the cost of publication.”Crystals of Life – A book of poems by John William Stein.

Stein gives his address as 282 N. Washington Ave., Battle Creek, Michigan, but it is evident he travelled widely in mission service for the Adventist church. A September 1904 report from Winchester, Kentucky credits Bro John Wm Stein with the organization of a new church there in the fall of 1903 and the summer of 1904. In such a cause, it is likely his preaching prowess, suppressed during his Canadian sojourn, came once again to the fore.

To the North Coast: John William Stein living and dead in Bella Coola Valley

How many years John W Stein lived and worked in the USA has not yet come to light, but what is certain is that by 1907 he had returned to British Columbia and was living in the remote Bella Coola valley, four hundred miles up the coast from Vancouver.

Stein lived nearby to a colony of Norwegian settlers, in a community of Seventh-Day Adventists called Sloan.

Sloan, as described in the BC Directory of towns, was very isolated. There was no road at that time, only a steep winding trail down from the Chilcotin Plateau.  The nearest railway was at Vancouver, 410 miles distant.  The nearest telegraph was at Port Simpson, 250 miles up the coast. Service and supplies came in by boat. Sloan was at the upper end of the Bella Coola Valley, about 20 miles from Bella Coola, which itself lies at the head of a long inlet from the Pacific Ocean.

According to Bella Coola historian Peter Solhjell, John William Stein arrived with John Hober and Ford Dodds in 1906, the founding year of the settlement. There is no mention of other family members accompanying him to Sloan, as far as known by Solhjell —

“He was fondly spoken of as Mr Stein, by the Astleford family. The cabin he lived in is now gone and the property is part of one of the largest cattle farms in the valley. I can remember the cabin still there in the 1950’s.”

A Post Office was opened in Sloan on November 1, 1907 and John William Stein was the first Postmaster there. Running a Post Office brings in your neighbours, and though living alone, Stein would not lack company. Stein had also bought land and established a homestead.

Stein-in-Directory-Sloan Sloan
”A post office on Sec 28, Tp 8, Rg 3, in the Comox-Atlin district, provincial electoral division of Essington. Located in the Bella Coola Valley, 410 miles north of Vancouver. The nearest telegraph is Port Simpson or Fort Frazier, 250 miles distant, and the nearest railway is Vancouver. Has Seventh Day Adventist mission. Mails semi-monthly.
Postmaster — J W Stein”

After just two years here in the upper end of the Bella Coola valley, hemmed in by mountains,  much-travelled John William Stein died on March 13, 1908.

On his death certificate, neighbour Frank A Johnson identifies Stein as a native of Roanoke, Virginia, USA. His age was noted as ‘”66 years and one month.”  Stein is stated to have been sick for about six months from a supposed abdominal tumor or cancer. Peter Solhjell believes Stein died in the home the Johnson family, who lived about a mile from him.

Stein was still in charge of the Post Office at the time of his death, and it closed in April 1908. A Post Office was re-opened at Sloan in January the following year, under John W Hober.

In a truly beautiful setting, it is unfortunately not possible to find Stein’s grave today. According to Peter Solhjell:

“The Seventh Day community had a cemetery of their own just a half mile from Mr. Stein’s place and I am sure he was buried there as he is not in the other local cemetery. There were only about five or six graves there and a flood tore most of it away.”

It is a finely situated resting place for John William Stein.  It seemed he was always abiding beside a winding river, or along a winding road, as indeed his life story has many twists and turns. His one constant strength was his ability to inspire and make a firm foundation.

In the springs, the brooks, the rills,
In the valleys and the hills,
In the incidence of sound,
In the echoes which rebound ”

Excerpt from “Everywhere” by John Wm Stein

The Last Will and Testament of John William Stein of Sloan, BC

There is no date on The Last Will and Testament of John William Stein of Sloan, Bella Coola Valley B.C.  However, as both his handwriting and his signature have evolved, it is likely it was written when he was old and near death.  It  is a curious document.

The will appoints EM Phelps and FA Johnson as Executors. Both were neighbors at Sloan. Phelps, according to Peter Solhjell, was a teacher.

First the will provides for the sale of some twenty acres of land at Sloan to “Bro F Dodds” at a fixed price of $2.50 per acre. (Ford Dodds arrived with Stein in 1906, the year the settlement took root.)  Dodds also signed the will as one of the witnesses.

The rest of his property Stein bequeaths

“to the British Columbia Seventh Day Adventist Conference in fee simple to be used for the purposes of an industrial school for the training of Bible workers.”

In the event the school is not needed by the Conference locally, then it is to be used to fund foreign missions.

Scant attention is given to Stein’s family, to whom he was devoted. Only two children are noticed, and they rather as an afterthought, in that, if the money is used to start a school,

“and the whereabouts of my son Ellsworth Lee & my daughter Selma should ever be discovered by the trustees of the school, that they be extended all the educational privileges connected with that institution that can be considered practical by the school board.”

It is possible John Stein had another will in the USA or had taken care of his family there before leaving for Bella Coola. Still, the wording of the will is rather odd, and one would think Stein could give particulars as to the whereabouts of his family.

Shown below are two exhibits of Stein’s rather distinctive signature from the 1894 registrations of his two children born at Brownsville BC, and below those the signature on his will of 1908.

JW-Stein-signature-1894 Jno-W-Stein-signature-1894
Signature of J W Stein 1894 Signature of Jno W Stein 1894
Signature of Jno Wm Stein 1908

In the summer of 1912, Bella Coola received a visit from the President of the British Columbia Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, JG Walker, who reported on his trip as “An Eventful Visit.” While in the Valley, Walker determined the Church had no use for Bro Stein’s property as an educational institution.

“Some time ago Brother Stein died leaving his estate of 112 acres to the educational work, subject to the will of the Bella Coola church. While we were there the church turned this estate over to the conference unqualifiedly for educational work, to be place on the market as soon as possible. It is a valuable property, but will be sold at a reasonable price.”                       -Western Canadian Tidings, September 4, 1912

What became of John W Stein’s family from British Columbia

Information as to the later lives of the Steins can only be given here in sketchy detail. Hopefully more information will can be made available, dependent on family concerns.
Lillian May Stein, 49 years of age and widowed, was living at Corning, Tehama County, California in 1910. As recorded by the US Census, the family name was spelled Stine. Living at home were the two children Ellsworth Stine, 17, and Selma Stine, 15, both born at Brownsville, in British Columbia, Canada.

The California Death Index records that Lillian May Stein died December 30, 1941 at Los Angeles, aged 80 years. Her birthdate given as March 11, 1861. What an interesting life was hers.

What became of Stein’s book of poems

It is not known if the book of poems advertised by John William Stein in 1901 is anywhere available. A search of libraries turned up nothing.

And could John William Stein have published a book of poems while living at Brownsville? If any place was conducive to writing poetry, it surely would have been Mud Bay in the 1880’s or Brownsville in the 1890’s — and certainly no man had a mind more tuned to a muse than John William Stein.

An advertisement placed in a religious journal, as late as 1932, suggests such a book of poetry can be found, and perhaps it can . . .

Wanted: A copy of J. W. Stein’s poems, published about 1889.

Keep Thy Heart


The memory may be at fault,
The understanding go astray;
The judgement may be in default,
The will be bankrupt—can not pay;
But if man’s courage still is strong,
If all his purposes are true,
He still may live and labor long,
And to the end at last endure.
Then take good courage and be strong;
Determine to do well thy part;
Gladden thy way with cheerful song,
Move on and upward, —‘keep thy heart.’

Excerpt from Keep Thy Heart by John William Stein



John William Stein — Acknowledgements and References

Many thanks to the Archivist and Manchester College for providing copies of much material from the JW Stein Papers in their collection:   J.W. Stein Papers, MC2003/119, Archives and Brethren Historical Collection, Funderburg Library, Manchester College, North Manchester, Indiana. This is the source of the Stein-Cassel correspondence and material collected by George Heeter, Grover Thomas, and Russell L. Chatham, who diligently researched and assembled material relating to JW Stein and the Tombaugh family.

Article ‘John William Stein’  in The Brethren Encyclopaedia

Mount Morris Past and Present

Memories of Old Sandstone

Brethren Digital Archives

Seventh-Day Adventist Church Online Archives

Thanks to Peter Solhjell for his notes on JW Stein and other pioneers at Sloan,BC  and the settlements in the Bella Coola Valley.  For more on Bella Coola valley history see:

Spuds among the stumps : Norwegian immigrant settlement photos, Bella Coola, 1896-1897 / compiled by Peter Solhjell ; photographs by Simon Oleson Bangen.

Local newspapers relied upon include the British Columbian of New Westminster and the News Advertiser of Vancouver BC.

For more historical information about Brownsville,  JW Stein’s home for the years 1888 to about 1898, please refer to other posts on this blog.

Surrey’s finest hour

July 9, 2011

Two of the finest old buildings on Columbia Street in New Westminster owe their existence to the steam ferry Surrey.
During the great conflagration of  September 10,1898, when virtually the entire downtown was left a charred ruin, the two buildings were saved when Chief Carlisle of the Vancouver Fire Department, arriving ahead of his wagons and men,  seized an opportunity to limit the flames now touching the Burr Block and the adjoining Queen’s Hotel at the upper end of Columbia Street at 4th Street.

“Both were brick blocks and the Chief determined to cut the fire off at this point at all costs. Taking command of the firemen stationed there, he carried the hose to the top of the Burr Block, where three or four rooms were alight, and had just commenced to play on the flames when the water failed.
A messenger was at once sent off to Captain Card, of the river float Surrey, and he connected his pumps with the hose.  Chief Carlisle and his men again got to work and after a desperate fight, succeeded in cutting off the fire at the Burr Block, and so saved the Queen’s Hotel, the only residential hotel left standing in the city.”


New Westminster Fire of 1898 map of east limits

Queens Hotel 1887
Queen’s Hotel (1887)

New Westminster Fire of 1898, map of east limits —  Burr Block & Queen’s Hotel –

 New Westminster Archives map, annotated


Queens Hotel & Burr Block Sept 11, 1898 Queen's Hotel & Burr Block - New Westminster 2011
Queen’s Hotel & Burr Block – New Westminster Sept 11, 1898 Queen’s Hotel & Burr Block, New Westminster 2011


The boat that saved the day for the upper east end of the city was the river ferry Surrey, which led a rather unassuming existence, limited to transporting passengers and farm-wagons between the banks of South Westminster, Brownsville and New Westminster.

However, when the ferry was designed, in 1890, it was wisely decided to harness the power of its steam pumps to a turret water nozzle, capable of sending a cutting stream of water,   and on-board hydrants, capable of supplying high-pressure water to hoses.

The boat had been quickly rushed into action in 1891, even before going into regular service, and had twice put out hotel fires on the opposite side of the river, once saving South Westminster from being consumed, roadways and all.

The day had not started well for the Surrey, as that Saturday morning she had been unable to reach the wharf on the south side, owing to a sand-bar. Passengers and freight suffered the indignity of being towed over to the city on a scow.

The Surrey‘s time to shine would come later on, when the City was in greatest need. Two buildings still standing on Columbia Street  testify to her hour of glory.

The Surrey was modelled after the Stark Street Ferry in Portland, Oregon, with some local modifications to the design. She was a strong double-hulled catamaran with paddle wheel in the middle.


Ferry steamer Surrey fire boat
Steam ferry Surrey – fire boat


As well as being the only fire-boat in British Columbia, the Surrey functioned superbly as an ice-breaker.

Her crew were all trained as firefighters.

“Her powerful fire pumps, 18x19x12, are capable of throwing five large streams, besides the killing torrent from the monitor or turret nozzle.”

She was said to be able to blow the bricks off the top of buildings on Front Street.

“Moreover in the particular business for which she was designed she has been a success and an important source of civic revenue.”

At one stage this slow ferry made so much money it was suggested the fares should be lowered.

Some of the more famous master mariners of the Fraser had her command at one time or another, including M Terhune, WP Grant, R Purdy, W Rogers and J Card.


Ferry Steamer Surrey new After the fire of 1898, the ferry Surrey underwent a complete overall and refitting by the City of New Westminster.
Ferry Steamer Surrey after refit

Surrey continued to serve until the Fraser Bridge was opened in 1904, when she was decommissioned and put up for auction.  The Surrey left South Westminster on her last run to the City at 6:00 p.m., October 15, 1904.

The Surrey was purchased by North Vancouver for running across Burrard Inlet, but was found to be too slow on that route.  Taken out of service, she was beached at Lonsdale Gardens and ended her days there, on the North Shore, opposite the city of Vancouver.

Loose ends–Acts of God & governance

July 9, 2011

Flood and fire

On January 10, 1895 the home of JW Stein at Brownsville was destroyed by fire. This was followed five days later by a natural calamity of Biblical proportions.  An rare winter thaw, combined with an abnormally high winter tide, and  strong storm winds blowing inland, resulted in the Fraser River overflowing across the lowlands of Brownsville, inundating field, barn and house alike with water extending right up to the hillside.

Later that year, summer bush fires descended the from the forested uplands above Brownsville, “threatening the destruction of many houses.”

“Most of the time the smoke covers the Mainland like a dense fog and the sun is a very dark red.”

In February of 1896 the home of JE Murphy at his Surrey Dairy farm on the Scott Road in South Westminster was consumed by fire. And in August a fire at the farm of Donald Stewart destroyed his house, which dated back to 1874, “one of the oldest buildings in repair in that part of the district.”

K de K dismantled

The venerable old ferry K de K was being dismantled.

“The scow has been sold to up-river parties to be used in fishing operations, and the boiler is now lying on the wharf at South Westminster.”

K d K -  Fraser River ferry -  1884
K de K ferry, Fraser River, Brownsville

The steam engine would find its way into another stage of Surrey history, being put into service in logging operations of the McLain brothers at Tynehead.  Their shingle mill was later taken over by James Goodfellow Robson and Gibson. Robson would go broke with a year, but rebound in glorious fashion, later opening a large mill at Craig’s before relocating in 1918 on the Fraser at Brownsville. The Timberland Mill would become a mainstay of the local economy for many years to come. Robson Road is named after JG Robson, Timberland Road after the mill.

Donahue v Howison and Manson

At South Westminster, William Manson, “gentleman farmer,” and a major landowner, found himself in a sticky dispute involving the purchase of Lot 11, Group 2 from Mrs Howison of New Westminster.  This was one of the original 45 acre allotments surveyed by the Royal Engineers.

The lot had in early years been acquired by Peter Donahue, the noted iron man of San Francisco. Peter’s brother Thomas Donahue built the first saw mill at New Westminster in 1859.

Donahue Union Iron and Brass Foundry
Donahue’s Union Iron and Brass Foundry, The First Established in the State, Corner First and Mission Streets,—-Happy Valley
Peter Donahue Manufacturer
Peter Donahue — Manufacturer

The land  was of little interest for many years and had fallen from the view of  Donahue, who neglected to pay the yearly assessment  The 45 acres of Lot 11 was advertised for taxes due in 1884, and was sold to JW Howison.

With the death of Peter Donahue in 1885, his title to the property came to the attention of his estate, which made a claim to the lot, throwing the sale by Howison to Manson under a cloud before it could be completed.  At the time the suit of Donahue vs Howison and Manson was initiated, reported the Colonist:

“The land was worthless for years, but with the growth of Westminster it is now reckoned to be worth between $100,000 and $250,000.”

In the meantime, owing to a drop in real estate prices after the land boom promoted by the ferry and railway interest subsided, Manson wanted out of his deal with the widowed Mrs Howison.  A notable court case ensued. Donahue’s claim was found to be extinguished and Manson had to pay damages for reneging on his deal with Howison.

[For details of the legal cases see the BC Reports, online at UBC, here.]

Changeover at Brownsville PO

James Punch resigned from the Brownsville Post Office in September of 1898 and it was taken over by his long-time employee, Michael R Barry, who would also run the Hotel until his death in 1903, the Brownsville Post Office closing with his passing.

Yankees came, and tore up the tracks again

July 9, 2011

Stole a march

At Liverpool, Brownsville, and South Westminster, relations with the railroad had turned sour.

The extension from Liverpool westward ran through many established properties from Brownsville to South Westminster, and the Great Northern was slow to settle with the landowners.  Eventually one property owner got a court order for the portion of railway on his property. On March 30, 1893, LP Eckstein, acting for the landowners

"took over a force of carpenters with him and a barricade was run up quickly at both ends of the property and the officers were left in possession with orders to watch the barricades day and night until further orders . . .  The incoming train this evening was obliged to stop at Liverpool, a mile and a half up the river, and send the passengers to the city by special steamer. There is a rumour that the company will abandon the South Westminster branch and make its terminus at Liverpool until the bridge is built."

Indeed the Great Northern played hardball with the South Westminster stakeholders, announcing April 1st that they would take up the track west of Brownsville and the landowners could keep their land.

However, without a settlement of outstanding claims, this was not amenable to the land owners and when, late on a Saturday night, a special train arrived from Fairhaven with 80 men and commenced tearing up the track and preparing to take down the station building, the locals were ready for them armed with a restraining order.

The owner with the most to lose, was AJ McColl, who had first "boomed" the subdivisions there and coined the name "South Westminster" when he gave property to the City of New Westminster for a Ferry Wharf.  The railway station was also on his land, and he took out an injunction against its removal. Other land owners with property at Brownsville included Judge Norman Bole and James Punch.

Punch’s case against the Great Northern Railway was quickly settled in the Arbitration Court with an award "for damages done to his property at Brownsville and for right of way."

While other legal proceedings passed through the courts, the railroad people, in typical go-ahead fashion, seized a moment in May to salvage their investment.

Chortled a Seattle paper:

Stole a March on the Canadians

"The Great Northern railroad took advantage of the fact that yesterday being the Queen’s birthday, was a public holiday in Canada and removed its depot building from South Westminster to Liverpool and tore up the track from South Westminster to Brownsville.

The injunction proceedings had been settled with the owner of property, so far as the depot ground was concerned, and as the court was not in session it was impossible to enjoin the tearing up of the track.

Thus the company has got rid of a piece of track for which it had no use without sacrificing the rails which composed it and which would have been forfeited if the owners of the ground had begun proceedings for trespass as they threatened."

In May of 1893, without fanfare, the Great Northern Railway having withdrawn from South Westminster, and latterly Brownsville,  re-established their station back at Liverpool.

Railway town excitement was extinguished, but would be rekindled in 1910 with the announcement that Canada’s second great transcontinental railway, the Canadian Northern, would build a terminus and a new city at Bon Accord,  to be called Port Mann.  Tremendous real estate "booming" ensued, encompassing all of Brownsville and South Westminster, but Port Mann also fell prey to railway manoeuvring, with traffic passing right by the incipient City and on over the Westminster Bridge and through to Vancouver.

December 15th 1893 the Westminster and Burrard Inlet Telephone Co laid a cable across the river to a point just below the Brownsville wharf with a line directed to Ladner’s Landing, bringing that settlement into telephone communication with New Westminster.

At the Brownsville Hotel, long time manager Michael Barry was reported to be up to celebrate New Years, 1894, "looking quite spry" after being laid up with rheumatism for more than a year.