Maple Ridge Museum has this picture on file in its archives depicting old Haney with the land mass created by the landslide sticking out into the Fraser. The picture was taken approximately 20 years after the disaster struck, according to museum records. (Maple Ridge Museum & Archives #P00396/Special to The News)

Maple Ridge Museum has this picture on file in its archives depicting old Haney with the land mass created by the landslide sticking out into the Fraser. The picture was taken approximately 20 years after the disaster struck, according to museum records. (Maple Ridge Museum & Archives #P00396/Special to The News)

LOOKING BACK: 141 years ago Haney suffered a great landslide

Maple Ridge Museum shares recollections of a deadly slide along the Fraser River

By Melissa Rollit/Special to The News

It was mid-afternoon on Jan. 30, 1880, when a great landslide struck Haney taking 20 acres of J. Howison’s farm and depositing it into the Fraser River.

The event was abrupt and unexpected and for several years after there was a general suspicion of the affected area.

The distrust was so deep that the CPR train was nearly diverted to “safer” terrain further away from the river.

The cause of the landslide is still unclear, although geologists suspect that it was because of the alternating layers of heavy clay soil and sandy deposits along the river’s edge paired with heavy rain and land clearing.

The museum is fortunate to have multiple eyewitness accounts in our archives of this sudden disastrous event.

A LITTLE MORE HANEY HISTORY

One eyewitness, Anne Haney, recalled the deafening thunderclap sound as this giant mass of earth plunged into the Fraser. The resulting tidal wave, reportedly 60 to 70 feet in height, surged towards the south side of the river in the direction of Langley. Anne Haney described the wave as a scythe mowing down trees as if they were grass.

The wave was so powerful that buildings 20 miles away in New Westminster shook.

John McIver, one of the first White settlers of the area, who had been out on the Fraser River in his rowboat to the west of the landslide found himself cast up on Barnston Island.

Sadly, William Edge, who had been out in his orchard on the south side of the river, was picked up by the tidal wave and dashed against his own trees. He lived two days after the disaster before succumbing to his injuries. He was the only recorded casualty from the slide.

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In addition to the immediate destruction from the wave, the slide created an obstruction in the middle of the Fraser, blocking about two thirds of the river.

This left a narrow passage in between the riverbank and the side of the new land mass, effectively creating a bottleneck in the river.

The resulting currents were so turbulent that those in small lightweight boats such as canoes had to portage over the debris to continue up the Fraser.

The “island” itself became a bit of an oddity, and in fact drew out a sternwheeler boat from New Westminster full of curious passengers.

As time passed, the Fraser River slowly washed away the land mass, and today there is hardly a trace that the landslide ever occurred.

PREVIOUS LOOKING BACK: Sharing memories of winters past

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– Melissa Rollit is the curator of the Maple Ridge Museum & Community Archives

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