By Melissa Rollit/Special to The News
Although pioneer life is often portrayed as a life of simple pleasures, it was also a life of hard work and harder times.
André and Alice Marc knew this better than most as their transition from city to rural life was incredibly tumultuous in its first years.
The French expats married in 1909 and lived in Victoria for a while, before purchasing the last homestead in Maple Ridge; 175 acres of dense forest located around Loon Lake.
In the summer of 1911, Alice made her first visit to the homestead, pregnant with her first son and with baby Yvonne in tow.
This initial visit went rather poorly, as Alice was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of mosquitos, which she described as by the millions.
The cabin they were living in, which Alice nicknamed the ‘soapbox,’ had no screens or glass in the windows.
After four days, at which point her baby was having difficulty crawling due to the bites, she left the homestead.
Her family had returned to France and so instead of returning to Victoria, she stayed at a Vancouver hotel until her son Jacques was born in late September.
With her family still away, she had no choice but to return to the isolated homestead.
Thomas Haney gave her a ride to the end of the road before she set out on foot with her young children back to the cabin.
Sadly, Jacques became ill with pneumonia and one November morning she woke to find her son had passed away at six weeks old.
She would spend the night alone as a fearful storm passed through since André had left for New Westminster to procure a coffin.
The next day, upon André’s return, the couple carried their son down to the main road where they met Thomas Haney, who helped carry the little white coffin to the church where Jacques was buried.
After the trauma of their first stay at the homestead, Alice and André returned to Victoria.
The couple would reside on and off at the homestead in the years leading up to the First World War.
While André was overseas, serving as a major in the French Army, Alice stayed in Victoria with family.
At the end of the war, she met with André in France and they lived in Versailles for some time before begrudgingly returning to the homestead in 1925.
The plan had been to stay long enough to start a timber mill, make a sufficient amount of money, and then return to France.
However, the couple eventually grew to love life at the homestead and stayed there up until André’s death in 1959, at which point the land was sold to the UBC Research Forest.
Alice would live to the age of 100 and called Haney home for the rest of her life.
– Melissa Rollit is the museum curator for the Maple Ridge Museum & Community Archives and can be reached at email@example.com