A meeting to propose a Farmer’s Institute for Maple Ridge was held at the Hammond Hall [the Dale Hall] in early January of 1898. At that time, James Murray Webster was appointed secretary ‘pro tem’ and indicated that he had already collected a list of interested parties so the Institute could be petitioned.
As reported in the “Weekly Columbian” of January 14, 1898, all the leading farmers of the district were keen to pay their 50 cents per year for a Farmer’s Institute branch that would cover Maple Ridge and Coquitlam. “The farmers of this district are now determined that they won’t stand any more of the rubbing in process from monopoly.” And no, we don’t know what that means.
A meeting for the organization of a Farmers’ Institute was held in the Municipal Hall, Port Haney on the 26th Feb. The Maple Ridge branch opened with 51 members. The first slate of officers were: President, W. J. Harris; vice-president, John Laity; sec-treasurer, J. M. Webster; director, Hector Ferguson, Moses Ball, Donald McLean, Henry Dawson, and E. A. Atkins; auditors, Paul Murray and J. H. White. This was a veritable ‘who’s who’ of our pioneer farmers.
Our archival document was produced in the second year of the local institute’s existence. The first thing we notice about it is that it is a form provided by the parent group of the Farmer’s Institute to their local chapters for the purpose of calling members to meetings.
It is interesting to note the day and time of the meeting – it is a Tuesday morning at 10 am on December 5th. It was winter, so chores, while still abundant, were likely less scheduled.
It is clear from the record of meetings in the “Weekly Columbian” newspaper that the main topics were aimed at schooling farmers in modern techniques in everything from ground preparation to marketing. Speakers could be invited from elsewhere – as in the case of John Stewart of Nanaimo – or resident farmers with particular expertise to share.
The note at the bottom indicates that the meeting had free admission and that women were included in the invitation. For an earlier meeting in March of 1898, the “Weekly Columbian” reported that the meeting had consisted of one third women, who clearly played an active part in farm life.