Chapter 2: First Pre-emption Act  

Photo courtesy of Mrs. Percy Armstrong, Aldergrove, B.C.
Barvis Ranch
The Kenneth Morrison homestead
(page 45)
     It took Governor Douglas until February 4, 1859 to issue the first Pre-emption Act whereby land could be purchased at the upset price of ten shillings per acre, half cash and the balance in two years.  A second one passed on January 4, 1860, provided for pre-emption of rectangular blocks, of which the shorter should be at least two-thirds the length of the longer side.  The settler had to stake out the four corners of his property and pay a registration fee of eight shillings to the nearest magistrate.  These acts were amended from time to time over the next couple of years.

     The first man to pre-empt land in Langley was Kenneth Morrison.  He pre-empted 160 acres just upriver from the fort.  He called his home Barvis, in honour of his birthplace, and operated it as a stopping house for the miners.  His friend John McIver also pre- empted on the south side of the river.  He took up land west of the fort opposite the Katzie Indian Reserve.

     Both Morrison and McIver were present at the Crown Colony of British Columbia's birth.  As the boats came up the river with the dignitaries the pair posted themselves in the fort's bastions and (44) fired salutes of welcome. Later McIver, like so many others, left to prospect in the Kamloops area.  He mined at Cherry Creek, just outside Kamloops, where he lived with an Indian girl and fathered her child.  When the 'Chilcotin War' broke out in 1864 he joined a punitive party headed by Donald McLean, ex-Chief Trader at Kamloops, to go after the Indians accused of murdering the Alfred Waddington road building party.  McLean, upon leaving the company had built the Hat Creek Stopping House on the Cariboo Road out of Ashcroft.  McLean, upon going into battle, always wore a bullet-proof steel-plated breastplate for protection.  Unfortunately for him he bragged to one too many Indians about it.  A Chilcotin Indian killed him with a bullet in the back.  McIver was closest to him at the time of the shooting.  Upon returning to Langley, McIver learned that his original pre-emption had previously been a potato patch belonging to Chief Michel of Katzie.  The Royal Engineers had investigated the dispute and issued McIver a piece of land on the opposite side of the river while he was away.


     With the retirement of Yale in 1859 Clerk William Henry Newton took charge of the fort.  Yale had ruled the fort's destiny for over 25 years.  He would live out the rest of his life on Vancouver Island.

     Newton, a native of Bromely, Kent, England, had come to Vancouver Island in 1851 as an agricultural assistant to E.E. Langford, bailiff of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company at Colwood, a subsidiary of the Hudson's Bay Company.  He soon afterwards went to Fort Victoria in the direct employ of the Hudson's Bay Company.  In 1856 he married Emmeline Jane Tod, the daughter of Chief Trader John Tod of Fort Kamloops.  He was transferred to Fort Langley shortly after the marriage.

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Copyright Donald E. Waite / Lisa M. Peppan