Civilian Surveyor

John Maclure

Born in 1831,John Maclure was a native of Wigtonshire, Scotland.  In his studies he manifested a tendency towards mathematics and pursued his course along that line, becoming a surveyor.  His ability increased through practical experience and at length he was selected by the Ordnance Survey to assist in trigonometrical survey of much of Great Britain and Ireland, in which connection he aided in perfecting the survey of Belfast and its environs.

In 1854, Maclure married Miss Martha McIntyre near Belfast, Ireland.  They became parents to five children: Sarah Anne (Mrs. J.C. McLagan); Susan E. (Mrs. W. McColl, son of Sapper McColl); Samuel, noted Vancouver Architect; J.C and F.C. who established the "Clayburn Company" later the Kilgard Fire Clay Company Ltd. of Sumass.

Because Maclure was an Enrolled Civilian his pay is unknown.

Maclure was among those who volunteered when the British government wanted young men to come to British Columbia.  Although a civilian surveyor, Maclure was attached to the Royal Engineers.

3rd May 1944

"In reply...John MacLure , RE is listed in the 1907 reprint of the Emigrant Soldier's Gazette as a Sapper.  Being a surveyor, he probably came to B.C. with Captain Parsons who sailed from England (with 20 Men) on September 2nd 1858, in the steamer "La Plata" by way of Panama.  They reached Victoria, 29th October 1858."

 (Provincial Archivist to City Archivist, 1st May 1944)

 Note by City Archivist:

If, as is stated by his children, and grandchildren, that John Maclure was NOT a Royal Engineer, and NEVER a Serjeant in that Corps, then an explanation might be that he was "enrolled" rather than "enlisted" in the Royal Engineers.  As a civilian civil engineer he would be debarred from certain military privileges and rights of a soldier, and it might be that, to give him the same rights as his companions of the expedition, he was enrolled as a "Sapper" on the RE strength, or "establishment".  For instance, in the war of 1914-1918, a certain commissioned officer of Vancouver was taken to England in a CEF battalion as a 'private', because, otherwise, the establishment being complete, he would have had to have been left behind.


Maclure traveled with Captain Parsons party, arriving in the Colony in November of 1859.

Maclure continued to work as a surveyor in the Colony and remained in BC when the Detachment disbanded in 1863.

Surveyors, Civil Engineers,
Auctioneers, Land and General
Opposite Mr. Holbrook's Store
THE SUBSCRIBERS, in devoting attention to the
above branches of business believe that, from many
years of service in various parts of the British Empire,
they possess such a thorough knowledge of the Survey-
ing and Engineering profession as will warrant them
in soliciting public patronage.
New Westminster, B.C.
November 2nd, 1863

While his children were being reared on the home farm on the mainland, Maclure was given charge of a new telegraph station, which was installed in his home.

Maclure was a provincial land surveyor and civil engineer, who was employed to construct the government telegraph line.  Taking a fancy to the locality during the process of that work, he decided to remain and secured the tract of land on which the family home was established.

After the telegraph was installed in the home, each of his children acquired a knowledge of the Morse Code and all became capable telegraph operators, several members of the family later followed in the business.

In October of 1869, George Leggatt, Captain Luard's brother-in-law, searched the Pitt Meadows area of the Colony fore a suitable location for a cattle ranch.

Oct. 26th – Got under weigh at 9 am. Made the mouth of the Matsqui creek at noon.  Followed it up in its windings 7 or 8 miles and camped about 4 pm about ˝ mile from Maclure’s - the telegraph station. Creek awfully winding, subject to the tide for about 2 miles.  Banks covered with brush for 5 or 6 miles.  After that open prairie with low undulating maple and alder ridges all round, with view of Mount Baker in the distance.  Went up to Maclure’s but found that he had gone to N.W. that morning.  Day fine.

October 29th – In camp all day waiting Maclure’s arrival who did not turn up till evening.  Was delighted at seeing me, having heard that Luard was my brother in law, who it appears was a great favorite of his, he having been in his company.  Promised to do anything he could for me.  Arranged to go out with him next Morning.   Day fine.

Oct. 30th – Went up to Maclure’s who went out with us taking his horse, which we took turn about in riding and followed the telegraph line down to another part of the prairie over a ridge which we had not seen before.  Saw one or two nice little points but too small a back range for our purpose, prairie very good.  Went some distance along a trail cut and graded by the Indians going to Whatcom, saw nothing but heavy pine country, so returned to Maclure’s, had dinner there and got back to camp about dusk.  Day cloudy, with light shower of rain.

 October 31st – Maclure came down to the camp this morning and we took him across to the country we had seen on the 27th Inst.  He was quite surprised, said he did not know of any place nearly as good, so decided on pre-empting it.  Stuck out stakes accordingly and went back to Maclure’s to dinner.  Day cloudy.  Commenced to rain in the evening.

--From the 1869 Journal of George Leggatt

Maclure passed away at Clayburn, in November of 1907, and was termed "The Grand Old Man of Matsqui".

[Much of the above was taken from "BC, From the earliest Times to the Present, Biographical Vol. 4, PGs. 1061 - 1063.]