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Haney The Town, The Man

Updated on April 12, 2012

Location of Haney House

Thomas Haney was a man in the vanguard of colonization along the great southern British Columbia Fraser River during the nineteenth century. Cape Breton Island, discovered by John Cabot in 1497, is on the opposite Canadian coastline of where the Haneys left their legacy. Did the stories of the legendary John Cabot inspire Haney to go west to Sacramento, California in search of business opportunities before buying land in what is now called Haney, British Columbia?

Thomas Haney was born in the Aspy Valley of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia on July 20, 1841 to Dennis and Bridget Haney. Thomas was the first of seven children. Thomas’ father died by falling through ice while driving livestock home over a frozen lake when young Haney was only eight years old. So his mom Bridget moved the family to Paris, Ontario to be with her family. Thomas later quit school at the age of fifteen to assist the family budget. He learned the brick making trade and became business partners in a brick making factory with two of his brothers in Paris city.

Haney married Ann Callaghan before leaving Paris in 1873. Then he went in search of his own business opportunities in Sacramento, California before coming to Maple Ridge in the British Columbia Fraser Valley. Haney traveled from San Francisco to New Westminster on Captain John Irving’s steamer, Reliance. to the municipality of Maple Ridge in the district of New Westminster with his father-in-law Daniel Callaghan and sons.

Prior to purchasing any land he had to make sure there was clay suitable for brick making. This pathfinder explored both sides of the Fraser to find clay. His wife, Ann, and one year old Mary Florence came shortly after that same year. After finding some clay filled land and hearing rumors of the railroad Mr. and Mrs. Haney promptly bought 160 acres from the Wickwire brothers for one thousand dollars. Mrs Haney was to become one of the first white women to settle in the area bringing with her the skill of dressmaking which was her career before she married Thomas. They first lived in the old Anglican Church manse across the river from their property before moving into a cabin to wait for the Haney residence to be completed. The house was completed in 1878. Mr. and Mrs. Haney also befriended and put up newcomers in their home until they could settle.

After all, they knew what it was like to come to a foreign locale. These trailblazing pioneers worked hard to build an economy for the new area of settlement. Thomas Haney founded the town of Port Haney only six years after his arrival. He was responsible for starting the first brick yard.

He sold the brick yard after eleven years to start a livery stable in which he raised horses for the purpose of renting them for work such as the Allouette Dam and perhaps World War I. There are some rumors of Haney just letting some of the horses go free. Mr. Haney and son Daniel also installed the first water works. They were visionaries who were courageous and enterprising.

Mr.Haney was a devout Roman Catholic. Mass was held in the family home every Sunday until 1881 when he donated land for the building of Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church which was named after the family’s patron saint.

Thomas helped build the first Catholic church in the area on the Haney property. He also donated land for the Presbyterian church which was built in 1888. This was broad-minded for an 1880’s Irish Roman Catholic man to donate land for a protestant church building. They also took care of Saint Patrick’s Church and housed visiting Catholic priests. When there was a visiting priest Thomas would tell his boys to give up their room. They had six children. From oldest to youngest there was Mary, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ann, Elizabeth, and Margaret. When Thomas’ daughter Mary Florence died of diphtheria at age eleven Margaret was only three days old. The closest Roman Catholic cemetery was in Mission City. So they took the body of the Haneys’ eldest child by steamship up the Fraser River to be buried in Saint Mary’s Mission Cemetery. Today there is a painting of Mary Florence, created after her death, hanging in the living room of the original farm house. This painting was commissioned by Thomas and Ann to remember their beloved daughter who was robbed of life at such a young age. As I stepped on to the old Haney house porch I felt as though I was walking into another time. I mused over an old pair of boots by the door.

This time honored rustic farm house stands on the verge of a slope with a commandable view of the Fraser River to the south and mountain ranges to the north. I am told that Thomas sat on his master bedroom balcony to watch the steamers and paddle wheels go by. The home is white with wooden siding and green trim. Two brick chimneys rise through the roof and a trellised balcony overhangs the front porch where tea is still served every Sunday. The house went through minor changes over the last century until renovated to it’s original state in 1979. After Mrs.Haney died in 1931 Elizabeth owned the house and remained until 1979. Elizabeth sold the house to the District of Maple Ridge for one dollar then moved into a nursing home where she lived until her death in 1981. After viewing the house I realized it is impossible to separate the house from the man who built and lived in it for thirty-six years before his death on February 27, 1916.

When Thomas Haney died in 1916 representatives from the entire community crowded into the small Catholic church for his funeral at ten in the morning. The day was declared a school holiday and the Canadian flag at the Maple Ridge Municipal Hall was lowered in honor of this great pioneer, farmer, land assessor, path master, business man, brick maker, churchman, politician and family man who was respected by all who knew him.

It is amazing this hustle bustle little city was just a few farming homesteads nestled along the river the Katzie First Nation peoples called the Stahlo. He envisioned a vibrant community. Haney is now a dream come true. Thomas Haney had a great sense of community spirit which is prevalent today. The biggest difference is the way people work and, of course, the way we travel. Today there are schools, churches and various businesses bearing his name--with pride.



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