Looking Back: Wellington Harris lent his name to Pitt Meadows road

Looking Back: Wellington Harris lent his name to Pitt Meadows road

There’s a history behind major road

By Keagan Nagy

Contributor

With discussions of the future the Harris Road crossing, one might wonder the history of the people behind the street. Harris Road was named after Wellington J. Harris and his family.

Wellington Harris was born in the late 1830s in Ingersoll, Ont. During Wellington’s childhood, his retired neighbour, Simon Fraser, discussed the possibility of a Trans-Canada railway. Fraser’s advice for the young boy was to go west and buy land in the Fraser Valley as an investment before the construction began. Harris took his advice to heart and in 1873 made the decision to bring his wife Mary Jane and son Frank to the Fraser Valley.

Harris acquired more than 147 acres of land throughout the highland area, most of which was along what would become Harris Road.

During Princess Louise and Lord Dufferin’s visit to British Columbia in 1882, it is said that Mrs. Harris succeeded in convincing Lord Dufferin to have the CPR tracks pass right through the middle of their property.

In the 1880s, the CPR purchased land from Harris for its right of way, and Harris worked as a foreman during construction. By the completion of the railway in 1885, it had cut through the middle of the property.

When Maple Ridge incorporated in January 1874, Harris served as its first Warden (1874-75 and again in 1887 and 1890).

He would go on to a role as diking commissioner 1893, as an MLA 1878-1882 and would play a pivotal role in petitioning for the incorporation of Pitt Meadows (which happened in 1914).

His wife Mary Jane, was an active citizen in Pitt Meadows. She established the first Sunday school in the area, acted as a mid-wife before the arrival of a doctor in the community, ran a successful family-based cheese making business and campaigned for and was a founding member of the Pitt Meadows Woman’s Institute. Their son Frank also left his mark on the city. He served the municipality as councillor, acting reeve, assessor and for many years was the secretary of the Pitt Meadows school board.

Before Lougheed Highway cut through Pitt Meadows, Harris Road served as the link between Dewdney Trunk Road and Hammond Road. In the early years, there was little development along this corridor.

By the time of Pitt Meadows incorporation, it was lined with farms, forest and bushland, and the only commercial buildings were the general store and post office that sat along the CPR tracks and on the far end of the road was the number one school house.

Harris Road was first paved in the 1940s and in 1977 was widened to four lanes, repaved and a sidewalk added. Today, it’s still the main route into and out of most areas of the central part of Pitt Meadows.

It is heavily used and is lined with condominiums, shopping malls and a mix of other retail and commercial spaces.

With the inevitable underpass going at the Harris Road crossing, it will be interesting to see how the train once again changes the area.

Keagan Nagy is a summer museum assistant at the Pitt Meadows Museum.

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