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Our History

James Stafford Chartered Professional Accountants was founded in and has close ties with Vancouver, British Columbia. The ancestors of the Firm’s original founder built and lived in the first home in Vancouver located on the present day McCleery Golf Course near the Kerrisdale area of Vancouver. Descendants have been actively involved in Vancouver business life ever since, including Mr. Stanley James who was a public accountant with Holmon, James & Company in the 1890s, one of the first businesses in Vancouver. Mr. Stanley James was also the auditor of the City of Vancouver from 1894 to 1903.

From its founding, the Firm has evolved into a diverse team of professionals who maintain a culture of premier technical expertise, accessibility and value for money. We continue to strive to be the firm of first choice for clients seeking sophisticated and valuable accounting services.

Vancouver’s First House

In 1863, our ancestors Fitzgerald and Samuel McCleery were the first Europeans to build Vancouver’s first house. The McCleerys settled on a 160 acre piece of land within the area presently called Southlands. The northern boundary was formed by the present day Marine Drive with the southern boundary of their acreage lying on the banks of the Fraser River. It was near the southern portion of these lands where the brothers built a simple log cabin, starting on April 1, 1863 and finishing the next day.

In January 1864, Fitzgerald McCleery undertook an expedition to Eugene, Oregon to purchase cattle. He finally returned home in April after leading the herd over land and using primitive sloops over waterways. After selling off some of the cattle stock, the remainder formed the basis of his dairy farm. They also planted crops, including, potatoes, peas, turnips, cabbage, barely, oats and carrots becoming true farmers. The McCleery farmhouse, shown in the photo above, located just below Marine Drive, faced south towards the Fraser River and was the first substantial building constructed on the site of what would become the City of Vancouver. The house was demolished in the 1970’s to make way for the McCleery Golf Course. Today, the 11th tee is located where Vancouver’s first house stood.

R.H. Stafford Gold Mine, Klondike 1890

Richard “Dick” Hill Stafford was one of the first settlers in Lethbridge Alberta, and one of the most well known. Dick Stafford was eight years old in 1883 when William Stafford (Dick’s father) and his family of 14 children came west up the Missouri River, along the old Fort Benton Trail to Fort Macleod and then on to Lethbridge. During the early 1880s, Lethbridge (known then as Coalbanks) was only a small, stop-over for the oxen teams hauling coal between Fort Macleod and Fort Benton.

In 1863, Sir Alexander Galt, the head of the coal mining industry in the North West Territories decided that the coal at Coalbanks should be opened up for use by the Canadian Pacific Railway. This decision led to the future and prosperous development of Lethbridge as a mining community and then as an agricultural centre.

When Dick Stafford was 23 years old, he travelled to the Yukon in search of adventure. He and an associate obtained a claim in the boom town of Dawson City and started the gold mine shown in the photo. During the first two years, the partners extracted $24,000 worth of gold. After his partner returned home, Dick Stafford remained in the Yukon for eight years conducting “placer” gold mining.

View of Vancouver From Cypress Mountain Before 1900

Cypress Provincial Park was designated a recreational park by the BC government in 1975 with 2,100 hectares for skiing and hiking. Until that time, this mountainous area was known as Hollyburn Ridge and forms part of the majestic North Shore Mountain Range. The natural vegetation of the area includes old growth forests of Coastal Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock.

At the end of the 19th century, it was a favorite pastime of Vancouver residents to take the West Vancouver Ferry across Burrard Inlet to the North Shore and hike up Hollyburn Ridge to enjoy the spectacular views of Burrard Inlet, Stanley Park and the emerging City of Vancouver. Vintage cabins were built in the forested area near First Lake attesting to the attraction of this area for hikers and skiers, and some of these old cabins still stand today.

In 1939, the Lions Gate Bridge was opened by His Majesty King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Although the bridge’s opening spelled the demise of the ferries across Burrard Inlet, the new link to the North Shore encouraged a rapid growth in population.

New Year’s Day 1899

The Marine Drive Trail was built by the Irish McCleery brothers in 1867 linking the village of Vancouver to the past capital of British Columbia, New Westminster. Southwest Marine Drive connected to 49th Avenue, which lead directly into Kerrisdale. Kerrisdale acquired its name in 1905 when one of the earliest residents was asked to name the B.C. Electric Railway tram stop at Wilson Road (now 41st Avenue). The early pioneer named it “Kerrisdale” after her family’s ancestral home in Kerrydale, Scotland. Kerrisdale was incorporated prior to Vancouver and joined with the village of Point Grey in 1908 to form a municipality. It was not until January 1, 1929, that Kerrisdale and Point Grey amalgamated with the City of Vancouver.

Residents at the time would talk of the absolute silence and tranquility that would prevail on their walks along the Marine Drive Trail to Kerrisdale after a new snowfall.

Spring Picnic in Stanley Park, 1901

Vancouver’s first and most famous green space, Stanley Park, was officially opened in 1888 after the first Vancouver City Council petitioned and was granted 1,000 acres located on a peninsula for park and recreation purposes. The park was named for Lord Stanley, Governor General of Canada during the period. The area forming the park was traditionally used by the Burrard, Musqueam and Squamish First Nations people. The native village of Chaythoos (pronounce “chay toos”) was located near the present day Prospect Point.

Prospect Point is the tallest point in Stanley Park and is a required stop for all tourists as its vantage point encompasses spectacular views of the Lions Gate Bridge and the North Shore Mountains. In this picture, North Vancouver is virtually uninhabited. The photo shown was taken in the summer of 1901 and includes our ancestor Catherine James (fourth from right). Catherine and her friends would often make the long day trip to the park from their farm house on Marine Drive to take a break from the rigours of daily life on the farm and to enjoy the scenery and beauty of their natural surroundings. This trip was made by horse or wagon through what was essentially uninhabited virgin forest. Of course, the strict rules of “summer dress and etiquette” were maintained at all times.

Bicycles at Stanley Park in 1901

The McCleery family, ancestors of the Firm’s founders, built the first house in Vancouver on Marine Drive. The photo shown was taken in the summer of 1901 and includes our ancestor Catherine James (far left) with her friends and relatives enjoying a summer day in Stanley Park.

The history of bicycles naturally goes along with the history of Vancouver. At the turn of the last century, almost every family in Vancouver would have owned one or more bicycles. It was the most convenient and cost-effective means of transportation in the City before the introduction of full street car service. As you can see from this picture, men and women, young and old, enjoyed the “safety” bicycle with both wheels the same size, which replaced the earlier model with one big wheel in the front and one small wheel in the rear. Cycling in Vancouver was so popular that numerous businesses and municipal buildings installed bicycle racks for their patrons. Bicycle racing often took place at Brockton Point and Hastings Park starting as early as the 1890s. Long before the modern version of the bike lane, the City Council of Vancouver passed a bylaw allowing for the construction and maintenance of many bicycle paths along the most frequently used streets. These bicycle paths were approximately six feet wide, made out of cinder and rolled flat.

Catherine and her friends and relatives would often ride to Stanley Park from their farm house on Marine Drive to take a break from the rigours of their daily life on the farm and to enjoy the fellowship of other City pioneers. Parts of this trip were made over rough road and through what was essentially uninhabited virgin forest. Of course, the strict rules of “summer dress and etiquette” were maintained at all times.

Farming in Southlands

The first non-native settlement in Vancouver was the McCleery farmstead built in about 1862 in the area which is now known as Southlands, along the northern branch of the Fraser River. The McCleery family and their neighbours settled in this fertile area and became Vancouver’s first farmers.

The increase in agriculture in Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia started with the rise of European settlers searching for fur and later gold. Farming in the last decades of the 19th century was very labour intensive, with no cars, telephones or electricity. As a result, the pioneers of Vancouver relied heavily on horses and mules to assist them with the demanding job of farming. In 1894, there were 17,000 horses in use on BC farms. Tractors were not invented and were not found on local farms until 1922, when only 322 were in use in the entire province. The antiquated farm techniques did not become outdated until approximately 1933, with the invention of the combine. Along with the standard agricultural products, farmers kept chickens, pigs, and beef cattle as livestock for sale or for their own consumption. Most farms also grew orchard trees for their produce. The agricultural industry in BC began to increase after 1871, when BC joined Confederation and the importing and exporting of agricultural goods became its own industry.

The Burrard Street Bridge in 1932

The Burrard Street Bridge was opened to the public with much fanfare on July 1, 1932. Construction of the six lane structure began on December 8, 1930 by the architect G.L. Thornton Sharp. The most memorable or striking physical feature of the bridge is the tall pillars spanning the central section. These sections were deliberately connected to a covered passageway over the roadway and helped to disguise the steel trusses which supported the structure. It was once believed that people lived in the “apartment” above the bridge.

In the centre of the covered passage is the Coat of Arms of the City of Vancouver and bows of boats and figureheads are carved on the pillars. These carvings are said to represent Captain George Vancouver and Captain Harry Burrard, a colleague of Captain Vancouver. At the ends of each span are large lamps which are a tribute to Canadian veterans of World War I, and specifically the prisoners of war who sat around open fires to keep warm in the prison camps.

The photo clearly records an image of less congestion than present day. Some would say that the modern version of the bridge has lost some of its original glory with the replacement of the lamp standards and the addition of the cement barriers for bike lanes.

The “Grouse Grind” in 1933

Grouse Mountain was named by a group of hunters shooting blue grouse birds in the area in 1894. It wasn’t until the 1920’s and 30’s that the number of local adventurers tried their hand at hiking the mountain, mostly due to its close proximity to the City of Vancouver. At that time, the small cabins located at the base of what is now “The Cut” ski run were a favorite destination. The present form of the Grouse Grind hiking trail was laid out in 1981 following the route established by animal tracks and was completed in 1983. This trail has proven to be a challenging day climb for hiking or workout enthusiasts of all ages.

The photo shown was taken before the snow melt in the spring of 1933 and shows our ancestor, A.S. James, ready to partake in the trek up the steep trails of Grouse Mountain. The pair of shotguns was a necessary implement in order to defend against any unforeseen encounter with a wild animal.

More Historical Images

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