This year marks the 150th birthday of Canada, and over the course of the year the Pitt Meadows Museum to walk back through events, both nationally and locally, in 18-year increments, this month starting with 1867 through 1885.
From 1867 to 1885, the pivotal event during this period is the establishment of the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867.
The British North America Act had actually been signed on May 8, but came into effect on the date we now call Canada Day.
John A. MacDonald, who helped draft the act, was appointed prime minister of the new country and would be elected to the position in August.
The founding four: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Meanwhile, out west, gold was discovered in the Fraser Canyon in 1858. The British government, to keep American incursions at bay, established the colony of British Columbia, and surveyed much of what is now the Lower Mainland.
Pitt Meadows appears on maps soon after and the first land grant in the area was given in 1859 to a Charles Good.
By 1867, two further land grants had been given, only one of which was actively farmed.
By 1871, the dominion government faced its first major obstacle – Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion.
Out west, British Columbia was preparing to join confederation, and did so on July 20.
In Pitt Meadows, land grants continued through 1873 and then stopped through to 1887.
A land grant for the site our Hoffmann and Son building was given in 1871, the first owner being John McKenney, who would become Reeve of Maple Ridge in 1879.
A few years later, in 1874, Wellington Jeffers Harris, along with his wife Mary Jane and son Frank, arrived in Pitt Meadows and acquired considerable acreage in what we now call the highland area, including the property on the east side of what is now Harris Road to both the north and south of what would eventually become the CPR corridor.
The building that is the museum would eventually occupy some of that land.
Folklore tells us Harris, while still a young man in Ontario, had heard of Pitt Meadows and the possibility of a railway from Simon Fraser, who had retired to farmland near Harris’ family.
The Pacific line of said railway would begin in 1876 and be renamed the Canadian Pacific in 1879.
The stretch through Pitt Meadows, and the completion of the railway overall, would take place in 1885, with the first train from the east passing through in November of that year.
The “Fraser Valley Local” daily run would be established in 1886, bringing about the demise of river boats to the area.
In 1874, the municipality of Maple Ridge incorporated and Pitt Meadows was a part of the incorporation, with Mr. Harris, a Pitt Meadows resident, as its first reeve/warden.
Eighteen years post confederation, John A. was again our prime minister, the Dominion government had dealt again with that thorn in its side, Louis Riel and the North West Rebellion, and put him to death in November 1885.
The young country had female doctors, a completed transcontinental railway, its first national park (Banff), tariffs to protect Canadian trade goods, its first university (Manitoba), the North West Mounted Police, seven provinces and one territory, and a population of approximately 4,325,000.
Pitt Meadows, by that time, was still an isolated community with fewer than 100 residents, including the area’s original people, Katzie (who were now subject to laws such as Provincial Land Acts and the Dominion’s Indian Act), a railway connection to Port Moody and to points east, and George Howison as reeve of the entire area.
There were farms and settlers with names such as Harris, Cook, Richardson and Bonson, but no other industry and no schools, churches or shops.
In March, we will look at the years 1886 through 1905.
– Leslie Norman is curator of the Pitt Meadows Museum.