Profiles of Historic Sites

Butter-Inman Farm (MCA 243-28).
Image courtesy Mission Community Archives.

Butter Inman Farm

41608 Lougheed Highway

Nicomen Island

Date of Original Construction:

Resource Type:

Current Owner/Occupant:
Eagle Mountain Farms Ltd.
(as of January 31, 2011)

Site Description:

This is one of the earliest homesteads on the Fraser, being pre-empted by Joseph Deroche in 1862. It is still a rural farm located on the north-east boundary of Nicomen Island. The house is south of the Deroche bridge and surrounded by large fields, set back from the Lougheed Highway. It has driveway access off Hodgson Road. Mount Cheam across the river is visible to the south east.

Site History:

Joseph Deroche, after whom the small community of Deroche is named, was a Caribou teamster who drove oxen on freight wagons up to Caribou gold fields. He took up land on Nicomen Island about 1862, at the age of forty and began farming. The paddle wheel steamboats ran up as far as Fort Yale, and "Deroche Landing" was a regular stopping place.

Joseph's first dwelling was a log cabin that he built; years later his son Alphonse would lived in it. In 1864, Joseph Deroche married a teenage Metis girl by the name of Marie Daneau.

Joseph eventually built a farmhouse on his property just south of where the Deroche Bridge now stands. The lumber used for his house was cut from trees grown on the place and he also hauled out some logs and floated them down to the Mission Saw mill, which cut the lumber and ground wheat on shares for the first settlers.

Daughter Zoe remembers that this house had a big pantry, living room and two bedrooms. Old fashioned milk sheds were also built. When the farmhouse burned down Joseph built another one similar to the first in ca 1886, which survived and eventually became a local landmark. From Mrs. Faulkner's scrapbook we read that the old Deroche home was always warm because of a huge old cook stove with a tank on one end which was filled with water or snow and was heated from the wood burning stove; there were just bare floors, a large wooden kitchen table, and one rocking chair which old Mr. Deroche seemed always to be sitting in.

The Deroche children used to row across the Fraser River to Sumas to get their mail. When the CPR came through the station was named after Mr. Joseph Deroche.

In the mid-1920's, was the partnership of Alfred Butter and John Inman who purchased the Joseph's old homestead. The original Deroche house still stood 35 years later in March of 1957. By then it was completely redecorated and renovated inside.

The Butter and Inman farm was one of the most progressive farms on Nicomen Island. It was principally a Holstein dairy farm, though beef cattle and sheep were kept too; the farm was known for its modern methods and its constant experimentation with different types of crops and systems of cultivation.

The historic old Deroche farmhouse close to the road became the home of the farm manager and his wife, William Edward and Marjorie Joan Thorn, who superintended the farm until the 1960's. The old Deroche home was modernized and the Thorn family lived there.

The owners, Butter and Inman, chose a new house-site for themselves, set back a field's length from the road, and built a striking new home, which was much admired locally for its modern stuccoed exterior and its two fireplaces.

The well-known Butter and Inman farm, which flourished for over twenty years, suffered the loss of both partners, Alfred Butter in 1949 and John Inman in 1951, but the acreage was not put up for sale when this happened. Mrs. Inman decided that the farm should continue to operate under the expert management of Bill Thorn, who had been in charge for so long. The farm was not sold until the 1960's.

Sometime after the Inman family the Leroo (Leroux?) family owned the farm. It appears that is was sold by Mrs. Inman to the Leroos.

In the early spring of 1966 husband and wife, Jim and Betty Verdonk, along with their 14 month old son David, moved to Deroche onto the old Inman farm. It is likely that the Verdonk's leased the farm from the Leroos (Leroux?). William Edward Thorn and his son Edward continued to work along with the Verdonk family.

In the late 1960's along with the Verdonk family, Art Postma and a couple other neighbours including the Jacobies and Dejong's leased some of the farm land from the Leroos.

In 1981 the owner of the farm was a Mr. Ted Horsting. Jasbir Singh Banwait, the President and CEO of Eagle Mountain Farms Ltd., used to supply labour to the farm at this time. Jasbir remembers that the farm grew leeks, black currents, raspberry, strawberry, sprouts, and cauliflower among other things. Mr. Art Postma the long time neighbour to the farm also remembers a man with the first name Ted who owned the farm for some time and grew vegetables and raspberries. It is assumed that this is the same Ted Horsting that Mr. Banwait has mentioned supplying labour to.

The farm was sold in 1985/86 to Mr. Didar Singh Bains from California who was an absentee landlord. In 1989/90 the farm was leased to Malkit Sidhu (a.k.a. Pancho [sp?]). In 1995/96 Mr. Ajit Singh Bains, who is from the same village in Punjab, India as Malkit Sidhu, purchased the farm and owned it until 2000 when it went into receivership.

On October 25, 2001 it was purchased by Fraser Valley Packers.

Eagle Mountain Farms Ltd. purchased it on January 30, 2007 and since 2009 Eagle Mountain Farms has continued to own the farm. In 2009 farm workers lived in the old Inman house which is still standing and is visible a ways back from Lougheed Highway.

People Associated with the Site:

Joseph Deroche may have been born in France or Quebec in 1824, and left home at the early age of 17 years to seek his fortune in the United States. For a number of years he worked in Milwaukee and New York; then went west to the California Gold Rush. There was no railway across the Isthmus of Panama in those days, and along with other hardy adventurers Mr. Deroche walked the entire distance from Atlantic to Pacific.

He was later attracted to the Caribou Gold Rush, worked as a teamster, and then acquired land on Nicomen Island where he settled. He brought his oxen there, swimming them across the Fraser River from Chilliwack. His ten yoke of cattle thrived on bull rushes until he got enough land cleared to grow hay for them. Mr. Deroche had to paddle down to New Westminster for his tea, flour, sugar and other articles; meat and fish were abundant.

He developed two large farms - one in Deroche and another north of the Nicomen Slough. By the time the railway came through, he owned hundreds of acres of land in the area and by the time of his death in March of 1922, the Deroche estate had grown from pioneer beginnings to 700 acres. Mr. Deroche passed away at 98 years old. At the time of his death he was perhaps the oldest resident in the Mission or even Fraser Valley area. He left a family of six children and his wife Mary.

Mary Deroche [Daneau] married Joseph when she was a teenager. She was originally from Victoria and her father had brought her to St. Mary's Residential School after her mother's death. The couple had nine children together; three children died and six survived to adulthood.

1. Daughter Philomene 1877-1949. Married Emedie[s] Tremblay of Vancouver.
2. Son Alphonse 1881[1879]-1949.
3. Daughter Rose[alie] 1883-1922. Married D.A. MacDonald
4. Son Oliver 1885[1883]-1922.
5. Daughter Zoe born 1893. First marriage to A. Hill. Second marriage to F. Newitt of Vancouver in 1929.
6. Son Isadore 1885-1965.

Alfred Butter (? to 1949) and John Inman (? to 1951); partners purchased the land in the late 1920's and operated it until their deaths.

Mrs. Blanche Inman was born in Keighley, Yorks, England, and came to South Westminster in 1913. She was a resident of Nicomen Island for several years before selling the farm; she moved in to Mission in 1964. In March of 1982 Mrs. Inman moved to Cartier House in Coquitlam where on July 14th 1982 she celebrated her 100th birthday.

William Edward and Marjorie Joan Thorn superintended the farm until the 1960's. With their son Edward, they lived in the old Deroche farmhouse, and continued as managers until it was sold. Marjorie Thorn was raised in Dewdney and spent most of her married life in Deroche before moving to Hatzic in 1969. She passed away on June 26, 1988 at Mission Memorial Hospital at the age of 74. She was predeceased by her husband William.

Edward Thorn, who graduated high school in ca 1966, also lived and worked on the farm.

Leroo (Leroux) family purchased the farm from Mrs. Inman

Jim and Betty Verdonk, and son David, likely leased the farm from the Leroos (Leroux?). The Verdonk family periodically heard voices and footsteps that they believed belonged to ghost(s). Some of their guests also experienced this. Jim finally had enough and the last time they heard the voices and footsteps he was waiting and he told the ghost(s) that this was their home now and it was time for them to move on. After that the family never heard the ghost(s) again. There is speculation that the ghosts were those of Mrs. Inman and her son.

Art Postma and neighbours the Jacobies and Dejong's leased some of the farm land from the Leroos in the 1980's.

Ted Horsting owned the property in the 1980's.

Jasbir Singh Banwait supplied labour to the Horsting Farm. He is CEO of Eagle Mountain Farms, who purchased the property in 2007.

Architectural Features:

The original Deroche farmhouse is no longer standing.

The current farmhouse, which was built in the 1960's, is two stories plus an attic. It has a white stucco exterior, two fireplaces, and six steps leading up to a covered front entrance/doorway.

On the front of the house there are two ground floor windows one on each side of the door, the second floor has three windows, one immediately above the door and then one on each side. On the east side of the house the ground floor has two windows and the second floor two smaller windows above and it looks like the attic also has one window on this side. A later addition is an open porch on the ground floor, over a two car garage which extends from behind the house, and continues around the west side of the house.

Builder(s): Alfred Butter and John Inman


A few shrubs and trees grow near the farmhouse.
In 2009 the only farm crop is blueberries.

Where to get further information:

Atkinson, Kathy et al. As it Was: Mission City and District. Simple Thoughts Press: 1973, page 85. Available at Mission Library in the Genealogy Room.

Banwait, Jasbir Singh. Phone conversations with Meggie Shields. March 2009. MDHS Heritage Places file.

Postma, Art. Phone conversation with Meggie Shields. May 29, 2009. MDHS Heritage Places file.

Mission Community Archives:
File 702 1/T
File 270.1
File 702.20/DER1

Sleigh, Daphne. Discovering Deroche. Abbotsford Printing: 1983. Pages 69-70, 83.

Vollick, Mildred. Phone conversation with Meggie Shields. March 2009. MDHS Heritage Places file.

Verdonk, Betty. Handwritten notes. Heritage Places - Butter-Inman Farm file. MDHS Heritage Places file.

Yeow, Tams and Darren Penner. Mission Farms and Farmers. P. 3-4. 2003. Available at Mission Musuem.

Last Modified January 30, 2011