As promised, here is part two – on the streets where we live!
Jonathan Reece was born in Ontario in 1831 and as a young man in his twenties headed west. Hearing word of a gold strike in California, he made California his first stop before landing in Victoria. There he purchased a dug-out canoe (with gold dust!) packed it with provisions and paddled through the waterways – the mouth of the Fraser River was his destination. From there Reece continued his journey up the river towards the Fraser canyon, where another gold discovery had been made.
During 1859 Jonathan opened a butcher shop in Fort Hope to supply the throngs of men who had flocked to the area searching for their fortune in gold. Being an entrepreneur, Reece purchased his own herd of cattle to supply fresh meat to the butcher shop. The fertile land of the Chilliwack area provided perfect grazing pasture for his cattle and in 1861 Jonathan Reece pre-empted 270 acres of provincial crown land in Chilliwack, the first pre-emption of crown land in B.C. For clarification, land pre-emption is described as the act of acquiring provincial crown land by claiming it for settlement and agricultural purposes. Pre-empted land was meant to be used for cultivating crops. This process of claiming land in B.C. occurred from the 1850’s until 1970.
Once steamboats were able to navigate the waters of the Fraser River all the way to Yale, Jonathan re-located his butcher shop to the Fraser Canyon town in 1862. Several years later in 1869, Mr. Reece sold his butcher shop in Yale and moved to Chilliwack.
Jonathan Reece has the distinction of several firsts. He was:
1. The first settler to pre-empt provincial crown land in the province.
2. The first president of the Agricultural Association in 1873 (originally held in his barn)
3. Together with his cousin Isaac Kipp, they were the first to register cattle brands in B.C. Cattle belonging to Reece were branded appropriately with “JR”.
Jonathan Reece passed away in 1904 at the age of 73.