Hector Ferguson circa 1930.
Hector Ferguson circa 1930.

Hector Ferguson was a man of such local renown and respect that when he died in November of 1931, the Gazette Newspaper devoted more than 82 column inches to his passing.  “The Gazette is of the conviction that our late friend and erstwhile citizen of the municipality, Mr. Hector Ross McLean Ferguson, was not less than a great man – in the grandest sense, a district builder.”

Hector Ferguson’s family moved to Canada from Scotland in 1848, settling in Waterloo County, Ontario.  He left home at 19 and went to the United States where he resided in Oregon for a time.  From there, he moved to BC, arriving in Victoria in early 1878.  While there, he asked which communities were most recommended.  He was told it depended greatly on what his aspirations were – if he were religiously inclined, go to Chilliwack; if politics was his game, then Langley was best; and if he was fond of dancing, Maple Ridge should be his destination.

Hector Ferguson loved a good dance, so Maple Ridge it was.  In his own words: “Maple Ridge long held a reputation for merry dances – not the mawkish, waddling things called dances today [1930] but the regular old hoe-downs and reels, after which a man seating his partner, would walk over to the door and open up his vest in order to dry his shirt, which would be dripping with perspiration.”

Maple Leaf House - a pen and ink drawing of Hector and Lavinia Ferguson's home by their grand-daughter, child of daughter Isabelle Ellen Ferguson and Earle Selkirk.  The house was built circa 1885.
Maple Leaf House – a pen and ink drawing of Hector and Lavinia Ferguson’s home by their grand-daughter, child of daughter Isabelle Ellen Ferguson and Earle Selkirk. The house was built circa 1885.

Very soon after he arrived in Port Haney, Hector purchased his first tract of land just east of Port Haney on Kanaka Creek.   His first contract was to clear land for J. W. Howison who owned a large section just west of Port Haney on the river bank.  He had cleared 12 acres when in February 1880, all 12 plus 18 more slid into the river in the greatest landslide in our history.   Hector was one of the few witnesses to the slide from his vantage point on Thomas Haney’s property where he was working at the time and it must have been heart-breaking to see all his hard work swept away in a moment.

Despite having his own property, his labour for others kept him from starting work on his own farm until May of 1879 when he had cleared a patch sufficient for a small garden.

Hector and Mary Lavinia Ferguson with three of their six children in 1890.  From left to right, children are Mary, Hector and Archibald.
Hector and Mary Lavinia Ferguson with three of their six children in 1890. From left to right, children are Mary, Hector and Archibald.

Ferguson was drawn into politics after attending a court of revision hearing near the end of his first year in Port Haney where Robert Robertson, who had rowed all the way from Whonnock, made a complaint about being taxed on improvements to his land – his taxes had been increased by $25 because he had cleared an additional half acre.

Ferguson thought this was completely unfair and did not give much incentive to a man to clear his land.  This was his platform at the next election and he became a councillor in late 1879.  Owing to his efforts, Maple Ridge was the first municipality in British Columbia to eliminate taxation on improvements.  He held various council posts and the Reeve’s position for the next twenty years, at times also performing as police magistrate.  In 1882, he became Justice of the Peace.

Ferguson was an early and firm believer in women’s suffrage and perhaps that helped to attract the attention of Mary Lavinia Stephens who provided them with seven children, many of whose descendants still live in the area.