Hugh Magee, a Point Grey Pioneer

Posted by Daniel on Oct 8, 2009

Vancouver historian Chuck Davis writes:

2009 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Hugh Magee, a pioneer farmer in Point Grey. Magee was born in 1826 in what is now Northern Ireland. In 1858, hearing of the Fraser River gold strike, Magee, by then married with children, came to New Westminster.

By October of 1864 the Magees had settled west of Marpole. He was the first farmer to settle on the North Arm of the Fraser. In his book Vancouver, The Way It Was, Michael Kluckner describes how Magee purchased a home in New Westminster, put it on a barge, floated it down the river, and landed it in a grove of spruce trees near what is today the foot of Blenheim Street. They called their new home Spruce Grove.

Ten years later, high water forced Magee to move the house up the hill to what later became 3250 West 48th Avenue. This was a fertile area in more ways than one: Magee and his wife Isabella had fifteen children in all.

In 1902 the Magees cleared a road through the forest from Blenheim St. to the newly constructed Granville Street. It was known as Magee Road until the name was changed to 49th Avenue. But the name Magee got on the map the next year when the Magee station was built on the Interurban line from Vancouver to Steveston.

Hugh Magee died March 9, 1909 in Point Grey, at the age of 83. (At that time Point Grey was a separate municipality; it merged with Vancouver on the first day of 1929.) He left an estate valued at more than $100,000—a BIG amount at the time—and a will with instructions that kept lawyers and the courts busy for the next fifty-three years. It took until the last of his children had died before the estate was finally settled in 1962.

The Magee name lives on in Magee High School, which had its beginnings in 1913 when Point Grey established its first high school. At first, classes met in Eburne Elementary School until a building was ready at 49th Avenue and Maple Street in 1914. Soon after, the name was changed from Point Grey High School to King George V High School. This name caused confusion with King George High School in Vancouver and residents and students persisted in calling the school “Magee.” That name became official in 1927.

Much of this interesting material came from John Macdonald of Vancouver, whose wife Brenda was Hugh Magee’s great-great-granddaughter.