To detail the full contribution of these and other families to the fishing and marine industry in Maple Ridge would be a massive undertaking. The names include Carlson, Hill, Hilland, Jenewein, Lahti, Lind, Moore, Oling, Pierce, Salmi, Sidewell, Waska, and Weedmark.[i]
[i] In conversation with Jo-Anne Hertzog (Baker) and Andrea Lister, August 18, 2021.
Alexander Baker’s other son, Gerald Gordon Baker, was a fisherman too, but not until the 1940s.[i] Les Baker had his own smoke house where he smoked the sockeye and eulachon. Smoked eulachon was a popular snack in the pubs in the 1950s.[ii] Clarence Edward “Bud” Baker, nephew to Alexander, was also a fisherman, on his boat Le Roi. The long connection of the Baker family to water was described in the April 4, 2017 Maple Ridge News’ obituary for Alan Baker, the grandson of Alexander Baker. He was a third-generation fisherman and a pioneer of the herring industry and partially funded the Albion test fishery to provide data for chum salmon. In 1981 he started the Chinook test fishery.
Nels Christian Nelson, the son of John Christian Nelson and Anna Martinsen, worked as a net maker in the fishing industry until 1948.[iii] His brother, Charles Hilmer Nelson, worked as a commercial fisherman for thirty-seven years and died in Ruskin in 1954.[iv] Sverre Andrew Nelson, son of Ole Nelson and Anna Peterson Berg, was a fish collector for fifteen years.[v] Axel Oswald Nelson, son of Ole Andreas Nelson and Martha Marie Lee, was a fish buyer.[vi]
On August 21, 1951, Leonard Andrew Nelson, a fish buyer and son of Sverre Nelson and employee of the Johnston Fishing and Packing Company, “slipped and fell while jumping from the cabin of his boat to the deck.” The forty-one-year-old had been a fisherman for twenty-two years. He drowned in the Fraser River near Port Hammond leaving a wife and two children behind.[vii]
Several of the sons of Isaac Nelson and Catherine Lehman were involved in the fishing industry. Ivan Jacob “Jake” Nelson was net boss at Port Edward until his retirement in 1984.[viii] His brother, William Isaac Nelson was a net foreman in the fishing industry in Delta.[ix] Earl Gordon Nelson was a salmon fisherman for twelve years and a veteran of the Second World War.[x] Earl Gordon Nelson died, age twenty-eight, in Westminster on his boat in 1950.[xi]
The Puska family came to Webster’s Corner in the early 1900s from Helsinki, Finland. Donald (Tauno) Puska started Albion Boat Works in the 1940s and built hundreds of fishing boats until his retirement in the 1980s.[xii]
No account of the fishing industry in Maple Ridge would be complete without a mention of Bruce’s Market. Saskatchewan-born Bruce McEachern listed his occupation as fisherman on his marriage to Elnora Muth in 1944.[xiii] They opened Bruce’s Market on April 2, 1948. Still in business today, their website boasts that they have “been commercial fishermen for four generations and now operate a fleet of salmon gillnet boats, a processing plant,” and their own smokehouses.
Charles Henry Owen lived through the changes in the industry. Born in 1895, Charles lost his father, John Owen, when he was nine years old. Charles worked as a fisherman for over seventy years and saw the decline in the industry first-hand. In an August 7, 1985 interview with the Ridge Meadows Times Charles stated that it was no longer possible to make a living as a fisherman due to government restrictions. The title of the article, “Fishing the Fraser—it’s just not a living anymore”, sums up the sentiments of many of the fishermen on the Fraser.
[i] The British Columbia and Yukon Directory 1944 (Vancouver: Sun Directories Limited), 7.
[ii] In conversation with Jo-Anne Hertzog (Baker) and Andrea Lister, August 18, 2021.
[iii] Death of Nels Christian Nelson, age 77; Informant his son (illegible) Nelson. British Columbia Death Registrations (British Columbia Archives), Registration Number: 1952-09-004350, BC Archives Mfilm Number: B13211, GSU Mfilm Number: 2032860. Event Date: April 4, 1952.
[iv] Death of Charles Hilmer Nelson, age 76, Informant his son H H Nelson, British Columbia Death Registrations (British Columbia Archives) Registration Number: 1954-09-010735, BC Archives Mfilm Number: B13221, GSU Mfilm Number: 2032967. Event Date: October 21, 1954.
[v] Death of Sverre Andrew Nelson, age 54, Informant wife Mary Regina Nelson, British Columbia Death Registrations (British Columbia Archives), Registration Number 1936-09-522708; BC Archives Mfilm Number: B13158; GSU Mfilm Number: 1953022. Event Date: December 17, 1936
[vi] Death of Axel Oswald Nelson, age 49, Informant his daughter Ruth E Pedersen, British Columbia Death Registrations (British Columbia Archives) Registration Number: 1941-09-584552, BC Archives Mfilm Number: B13170, GSU Mfilm Number: 1953630. Event Date: January 25, 1941.
[vii] “River Dragged for Fisherman,” Vancouver Sun, August 21, 1951, 2. Second source: Death of Leonard Andrew Nelson, age 41, Informant his brother G Nelson, British Columbia Death Registrations (British Columbia Archives) Registration Number: 1951-09-009941. Event Date: August 20, 1951.
[viii] Jacob (Jake) Ivan Nelson Obituary, The Northern View, May 10, 2013.
[ix] Death of William Isaac Nelson, age 51, Informant his wife Jean E Nelson, British Columbia Death Registrations (British Columbia Archives) Registration Number 1982-09-002406, BC Archives Mfilm Number: B13617, GSU Mfilm Number: 2051674. Event Date: January 9, 1982.
[x] “Seaforth Wounded on Christmas Day,” Vancouver Sun, January 6, 1944, 7.
[xi] Death of Earl Gordon Nelson, age 28, Informant his father Isaac Nelson, British Columbia Death Registrations (British Columbia Archives) Registration Number: 1950-09-009871; BC Archives Mfilm Number: B13206; GSU Mfilm Number: 2032634. Event Date: October 25, 1950. Second source: Bowell & Sons, Event Date: October 25, 1950, Record No 389. Record Bowell Funeral Record Database of the New Westminster Public Library.
[xii] John M. MacFarlane, “Vessels Built by Albion Boat Works Ltd.” Nauticapedia.ca 2015. Accessed April 18, 2021, http://www.nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Vessel_Builders_Albion_Boat.php?Page=1
[xiii] Marriage of Bruce Allan McEachern and Elnora Ruby Muth, British Columbia Marriage Registrations (British Columbia Archives), Registration Number: 1944-09-570243. Event Date: 1944-06-04.
1897 – John Gilchrist, 30
1904 – John Owen, 44
1922 – Dougal Harris, 45
1927 – Philip Cheer, 27
1946 – Joseph Garner, 65
1950 – Earl Gordon Nelson, 28
1951– Leonard Andrew Nelson, 41
Gladstone, Percy Henry. “Industrial Disputes in the Commercial Fisheries of British Columbia.” Retrospective Theses and Dissertations, 1919-2007. Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1959. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0106030.
Maple Ridge Museum, https://mapleridgemuseum.org/
Newell, Diane. Tangled Webs of History: Indians and the Law in Canada’s Pacific Coast Fisheries. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993.
We acknowledge that the land on which we live, work, and play is the traditional and unceded territory of the Katzie First Nation and the Kwantlen First Nation Peoples. We respectfully honour their traditions and culture.