Wellington Jeffers Harris was advised by Simon Fraser to purchase land in Pitt Meadows along where the CP Rail line was being planned.

Looking Back: A fascinating experience 75 years ago

William Harris was advised to buy land in Pitt Meadows by Simon Fraser.

A few weeks ago, the Pitt Meadows Museum had a visitor who dropped by to follow up on an oral history interview he had done with us a few years earlier.

He was here to drop off some documents he had found and to ask a few questions about a street, Herring Road, that had disappeared under the regional airport when it was developed.

As is always the case with interesting visitors, one conversation led to another and soon we were discussing a fascinating experience he had in the late 1930s, when he was about eight years old.

On that day, more than 75 years ago, he was walking along Harris Road and his inquisitive nature led him into a discussion with the occupant of a house that stood just to the north of the CPR tracks on the eastern side of Harris Road.

The house, built in 1903, is now gone – replaced with a condo building – but we know it to have been one of two built by William Manson for Wellington Jeffers Harris – the first Reeve of Maple Ridge, an MLA, a diking commissioner, and a pioneering resident of Pitt Meadows.

One story tells us that, as a very young man, Harris was directed to Pitt Meadows by none other than Simon Fraser, who in retirement settled on land next to his family near Ingersoll, Ont. Fraser told him that one day a railway would push through the area and he would become wealthy if he invested in land in Pitt Meadows.

Harris took heed of the information and arrived here in 1874, having preempted more than 147 acres of land throughout the highland area, including most along what would become Harris Road.

He farmed some, but held most on a speculative basis and did become a wealthy man from land sales and other ventures.

On that day so many years ago, our visitor was invited in to the house and given a tour.  He was led upstairs to a large and grand meeting room and was told that, at one time, important people who made decisions about the community and area would meet in the room.

His attention was drawn to a very large and ornate table capable of seating a group of these “important” people.

So ornate was the table, he remembers it to this day.

The table was eventually sold or given to someone living out in the Whonnock area and many years later he remembers seeing it rotting away on property out that way, a sad end to a table that graced the home of Wellington Jeffers Harris and may have been used for the first meetings of the group that came together to petition for incorporation of this community.

Harris passed away in 1919 and his wife, Mary Jane, followed him in 1937.

Their son Frank, a life-long bachelor, died in 1940, leaving no children to inherit the house or the table.

• Next time:  What did our first council discuss at its first meeting?

Don’t forget to come in and talk to us about our “100th Anniversary Memory Band” project.

 

By Leslie Norman, curator at Pitt Meadows Museum.

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