The Three Greenhorns
John Morton, with his partners Samuel Brighouse and William Hailstone, landed at English Bay in October, 1862, and a month later bought 550 acres – the future West End – for about a dollar an acre. The partners established the first non-Native dwelling on Burrard Inlet, on the bluff above Coal Harbour at about the foot of Bute Street (see Along the Bluff), on the edge of their “Brickmaker’s Claim.” They received their “greenhorns” monicker because, in the opinion of pundits in New Westminster (established only a few years earlier), they had bought useless land in the middle of nowhere.
The promise of coal and clay identified in the 1859 Royal Navy survey of Burrard Inlet turned out to be ill-founded and the partners were unable to profit from their investment. They divided the property in 1871, with Morton taking the western part, while Brighouse and Hailstone engaged David Oppenheimer, a speculator, merchant and future mayor, in the subdivision of the eastern part. The latter was marketed briefly in 1882 as the “City of Liverpool” before the railway arrived and Vancouver incorporated.
John and Ruth Morton
Ruth was Morton’s second wife; his first wife Jane died in 1881, during the birth of their second child. Ruth was born Ruth Mount in Yorkshire England and in 1884 she came to Vancouver via Iowa to meet John who was also from Yorkshire. She was allegedly the first white woman to settle in the area. The Mortons left Vancouver for a ranch at Mission Junction, later spending time in England. In 1899, they returned to Vancouver, living in a cottage at 1947 Pendrell Street near English Bay. After a lifetime of struggle, John Morton became wealthy through lot sales of his increasingly valuable share of the land.
The Ruth Morton Memorial Baptist Church
As a Baptist, Morton put money towards establishing the First Baptist Church at Burrard and Nelson in 1911. He died in 1912 at the age of 78, and bequeathed funds from his $700,000 estate to fund a Baptist church on East 27th Avenue to be named as a memorial to his wife Ruth. Prior to that, a Baptist church congregation had met in farmhouses in what was then the municipality of South Vancouver. On June 29, 1912, Ruth Morton laid the cornerstone of the new church bearing her name. Subsequently settling in rural South Vancouver, Ruth attended it until her death in 1939 at the age of 91. The church still has its original pews and stained-glass windows and a pipe organ installed in the 1920s. In 2015, the Ruth Morton Memorial Baptist Church joined with the 19th Avenue Christian Fellowship under a new name: Mountainview Christian Fellowship.
- Davis, Chuck, ed. The Greater Vancouver Book. Surrey: Linkman Press, 1997.
- Michael Kluckner. Vancouver The Way It Was. Whitecap Books, 1984.
- Bruce MacDonald. Vancouver: A Visual History. Talon Books, 1992.
- Bruce M. Watson. “A Vancouver Romance: John and Ruth Morton.” Vancouver Historical Society Newsletter. April 2012.
- “John Morton.” Vancouver As It Was: A Photo-Historical Journey. Jan 11, 2016.
- Ruth Morton Memorial Baptist Church 100 Year Brochure.
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