Pioneer's legacy in jeopardy

Ma Murray was a strong voice for B.C. and had Anmore connections but damp home puts memorabilia in danger

Dampness and mould are putting at risk Anmore village archives as well old newspapers and photos from the days of newspaper woman and pioneer Ma Murray.

The problem has come to light as the village seeks a temporary home for village business, which has outgrown three Atco trailers purchased in 2012 when pest infestations, mould and other problems pushed the staff and council out of the village hall.

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Now, while the village council looks for ways to build a new permanent structure, staff and the council have the more immediate issue of where to conduct day-to-day business, including storing Ma Murray memorabilia and important village documents.

Anmore
Anmore Village Mayor John McEwen and administrator Juli Kolby inside the entrance to the old Anmore village hall, formerly the home of newspapering couple George and Margaret Murray. Plans are to seal off a 2006 addition and use it for council business and to store documents, including Murray family memorabilia, until a replacement village hall can be built. But mould and flooding in the basement may put that plan into jeopardy. - Diane Strandberg

The original plan, approved in January was to to renovate and repair a 2006 addition, sealing it off from the old farmhouse, but water damage from winter rains and a mould problem in the archive room have put that plan in jeopardy, says Mayor John McEwen.

Ma Murray
A stack of newspapers with a photo of Ma Murray on the cover. - Diane Strandberg

Adding to the problems faced by the village, which was incorporated in 1988, is lack of space for public council meetings because a portable at Anmore elementary school isn't available when school is not in session.
Last summer, for example, the council had to meet outdoors at a gazebo in Spirit Park.

"We need some help from the federal and provincial government," said McEwen, who said the village's 700 taxpayers have put some funds aside in a fixed asset levy but it's not enough to pay for a new civic building, expected to cost between $2 million and $3 million.

Anmore Hall
A stained glass window in the Anmore village hall, installed by the Murrays. - Diane Strandberg

The village applied for a Canada 150 grant but the application went missing during the 2015 election and, since then, the funds have been dispersed, said Juli Kolby, chief administrative officer. The village now plans to resubmit the grant application and look for other sources of funding.

In the meantime, the village will determine whether the 2006 addition can be saved and used to store the archives and Ma Murray memorabilia, and possibly be used for council meetings as well.

Kolby confirmed a consultant will look into short term strategies including fixing the HVAC system to heat the building so the papers can be safely stored.

"I don't have concerns we won't be able to accommodate that within our budget," Kolby said, "We want to be preserving those [Ma Murray memorabilia] and all the files."


 

Ma Murray
Margaret Lally Murray - Photo of original

WHO IS MA MURRAY

The village hall, with its quaint shingles, stained glass window and unusual burl newel post in the entryway, is a reminder of the early days, when homesteaders and city people came to Anmore looking for a vacation retreat and to put down roots.

In 1916, when newspapering couple Margaret Lally 'Ma' Murray and George Matheson Murray established The Homestead, Anmore was a newly logged area and the Imperial Oil Co. refinery had begun operating nearby.
Family photos collected for a blog by grandson Dan Murray show the Murray homestead as a hobby farm with animals, including pigs, and was a headquarters for Murray family gatherings. But the couple put down roots in other B.C. communities as well, and the Murrays were synonymous with the opening up of B.C.

Among the newspapers they started were the Bridge River Lillooet News and the Alaska Highway News, both still operating, and while George also got involved in politics, becoming a BC Liberal MLA, Ma Murray became a popular newspaper writer. Although she was born in Kansas and had a limited education, she was a good businesswoman and a feisty editorialist who signed off her spicy columns with the provocative phrase "And that's ferdamshur!"

Murray was also noted for her outspoken political views, so much so that the paper was repeatedly sued. In later years, Ma Murray was honoured with the Order of Canada.

She is also a respected figure in the B.C. journalism community. The BC Yukon Community Newspaper Association has named its annual awards and a Community Service Award after her. (In 2015, the Tri-City News was presented with the Ma Murray Award for a series promoting the Mossom Creek Hatchery re-construction project).

Today, the 100 year old Anmore building where the Murrays got their start, and which had several additions over the years, is in disrepair.

Anmore
A type setting machine from B.C.'s early newspaper days. - Diane Strandberg

A recent tour showed signs of flooding in the basement, foundations sinking, the fireplace crumbling and the upstairs bedrooms damp and unwelcoming.

Consideration has been given to donating the old building but it's unlikely to survive a move given its compromised structural integrity.

In January, village council approved renovating the 2006 addition and issuing and awarding a request for proposals for the design of a replacement Village Hall, with the goal of replacing the facility with a multi-purpose building that would be suitable for a range of community uses. The new replacement building would house and showcase the artifacts, which also includes a printing press located in the converted garage.

As for the home itself, it has been updated for administrative use over the years. All that remains of the Murray residency, in one corner next to a window, is a stack of old newspapers and some photographs recalling B.C.'s swashbuckling early days.

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