Chapter 3: Birth of Langley Municipality
| As more and more
settlers flocked into the Fraser Valley it
became increasingly apparent that local governments would
need to be set up. It was Fort Langley hotel keeper
James Taylor who prompted 29 land owners in the Langley
and Derby district to petition the
authorities in Victoria and request incorporation
into a municipality. The area was to take in roughly a ten-mile
square parcel of land. The men claimed, in their correspondence,
to represent two-thirds of the settlers of the proposed municipality.
The petition was signed on March 23, 1872. Those signing were: Jethro
R. Chellow, James Anthony Clarke,
William Clarke, Thomas
Henry Cudlip, James Ralph Elkins, William
Henry Emptage, Henry Fallardeau, Noel Fallardeau, Alfred
Freeman, James Houston, Adam
Innes, William Innes, William
Jenkins, John Jolly, Lipson
Lapa, James McKee, Robert
McRoberts McKee, T.W. Mackie,
Robert Mackie, John
Maxwell, William Morrison, Edward
Julius Muench, Ephraim Pollock, John
James Taylor, Solly Thorarsen,
Henry Wark, Alexander
Williams, and William Williams.
Their petition prompted the newly elected legislature of the Province of British Columbia to pass the Municipality Act on April 11, 1872. Chilliwack and Langley were the first two rural districts to incorporate. Their birth as municipalities was April (59) 26, 1873. Maple Ridge was the third, incorporating on September 12, 1874 and Surrey was fourth, incorporating November 10, 1879.
The first election of warden and councillors took place in the "Meeting House" or "White Chapel", located just to the east of the fort, on June 2, 1873, at 12:00 o'clock noon. William Henry Newton was the Returning Officer. James W Mackie was elected the first Warden. His councillors were: James Anthony Clarke, James Houston, Alfred Freeman, Adam Innes, John Maxwell, and Kenneth Morrison.
Langley's politics seem to have run smoothly for the first three years of the Municipality's existence. James Mackie was re-elected Warden in 1874 and 1875. He had arrived in British Columbia in the early 1870's and had settled along the Salmon River not far from Fort Langley. His clan was native of (60) Banffshire, Scotland. Ironically little else is known about the movements of the municipality's first Warden prior to his coming to Langley.
There is no record of who suggested the motto for the Municipality of Langley's crest. The latin inscription, "Nihil sine cerere", means nothing is without work.
Many of the Municipality of Langley's founding fathers were former employees of the Hudson's Bay Company. Others, such as James Houston, John Maxwell, and John Jolly, had come to North America searching for gold but ended up working the land. Brothers Adam and William Innes, and Edward Muench, had come into the area with intentions of transporting freight along the Cariboo Wagon Road to Barkerville. They too ended up on the land. Ironically there is no information on a few of Langley's Fathers. Unfortunately their names are all that is recorded for posterity.
The movements of James Houston prior to his arrival in Langley are well known. Those of John Maxwell and John Jolly are not.
Fighter John Maxwell cut a wide swath in the municipality's growing up years. He had pre-empted over 400 acres a mile and a half southeast of the fort in 1871. Born in Ireland in 1838 he had sailed to Canada with relatives at the age of ten. His first job upon reaching manhood had been breaking log jams on the Gatineau River in the Province of Quebec. He was no stranger to British Columbia, having left Wakefield, Quebec, in 1862 with a cousin James Reid, to try his luck in the Cariboo. Instead of striking it rich he took sick that winter and Reid had to pack him out to the hospital in New Westminster by dog sled. The trip from Lillooet, via the Harrison-Lillooet Wagon Road, was a nightmare. Hampered by deep snow they ran out of food and were forced to eat their dogs. Reid struggled along on foot with his delirious partner. Stopping to rest, he managed to shoot a whisky jack. He shook out their flour bags for a second time and managed to make a broth, using the camp-robbing bird to keep them from starving to death. When Maxwell recovered he refused to return to the Cariboo and instead went back to Ontario. Reid went back to the Cariboo (61) and prosperity. Going into partnership with Hibbard Hudson, he built the largest store in Quesnel, before getting involved in riverboat construction, flour and sawmills, and mine management. He eventually became a Member of Parliament and served Cariboo in that capacity until 1881 when he was made a Senator. He held that position until his death in 1904.
Maxwell left Ontario again in 1871 for British Columbia to buy land in the fertile Fraser Valley. For the first years of Langley Municipality's existence, he was always actively involved in its politics. The only two meetings he missed were in July and August of 1874 when he was back in Wakefield, Ontario, trying to persuade a young Elizabeth Carmen, the daughter of a United Empire Loyalist, to marry and accompany him back to British Columbia. He had a hard time convincing her that Canada's newly acquired most westerly province was the land of plenty. At last she consented to marry him, and the pair, along with her mother and brother Simeon, came to Langley.
John Jolly was yet another miner turned farmer in Langley. So was his father-in-law James James. The pair had apparently overcome their gold fever by the time they reached Langley in 1869. Both men came from Cornwall, England. As a young man Jolly had left England for the United States. Familiar with the tin mining in Cornwall, Jolly found work in the tin mines of Michigan before travelling on the gold boom town of Grass Valley in California. With the petering out of gold in California, together with the threat of a civil war, Jolly left for the gold rush at Clunes, in the State of Victoria, Australia.
It was here that Jolly first met the James family who were also originally from Cornwall. James had been a mine manager in Bogota, Colombia, South America, before coming to Australia. In 1866 Jolly married James' daughter Mary. Shortly afterwards Jolly, his wife, and parents-in-law, decided to return to Grass Valley. Dissatisfied with the prospects there the two men came (63) north to British Columbia to scout around for good farm land. They found what they were looking for in Langley. The pair put up in the manse beside the St. John the Divine Anglican Church in Derby while they built their homes. Upon moving into their own homes William Emptage dismantled the manse and used its lumber to build his first house.
Shortly after their arrival Jolly walked from Derby upriver to the Hudson's Bay Company Store to buy some molasses. Dipping the ladle into a keg of molasses he came to something hard on the end of the spoon. Rinsing it off in water he discovered that it was a dead rat. Ovid Allard told him not to complain. After all it was fresh meat.
The two men did not send back to California for their wives until 1871. The two women came up from San Francisco by steamer in five days. Langley school teacher James Kennedy met them at New Westminster. He escorted them down to a canoe manned by 14 Indian paddlers which took them to Fort Langley to meet their husbands. For the next five years, they were the only white women in the area, with the exception of Mrs. Kennedy.
Another of the 30,000 men attracted to British Columbia because of the gold rush, and who signed the petition for the incorporation of Langley Municipality, was Edward Julius Muench. He had arrived in British Columbia prior to 1871. Instead of prospecting he made his West Langley farm a headquarters for packing freight to Barkerville. Here he would fatten up his oxen for the 800 mile return trip to the Cariboo. The animals were excellent for freighting because, unlike horses, they would feed out at night on twigs and grass. Despite this the beasts of burden were usually only capable of making one trip a year. They would return in the fall, skin and bone, to be fattened over winter for the next year's trip.
Muench was of German ancestry. His parents were burlap manufacturers in New York. When the freighting to the Cariboo ended Muench settled down to raising cattle and (64) children. He had earlier married a Flat Head Indian widow with two children from Port Townsend. He had met her while she was visiting with her sister in Whonnock, who was married to Robert Robertson. Muench's wife bore him eleven children.
In 1875 Muench sold a portion of his farm to James Gordon McAdam, including a two storey house of log and lumber construction. McAdam, a native of Dumfries, Scotland, had farmed in Ontario before coming to British Columbia. He got involved in Langley politics, becoming reeve in 1884, before moving to Surrey.
Brothers Adam and William Innes came out to British Columbia with intentions of freighting to the Cariboo goldfields. They, like Muench, were among the 29 men who were Founding father's of Langley Municipality. They founded Innes' Corners, later Langley Prairie and now Langley City.
Both men bullpunched on the Cariboo Wagon Road for a time (65) after pre-empting land in Langley. They came out from near London, Ontario. Adam brought with him his wife and family. Their daughter Belle was claimed to have been the first white child born in the municipality. Nothing is known about William Innes.
In 1874 Adam Innes was elected Secretary of the School Board. He gave the land for the Langley Prairie School at Innes' Corners. By 1876 Innes had 300 acres, of which 200 was fenced and 40 under cultivation, up for sale. No buyer and politics kept him in Langley.
It was Warden James Mackie who lodged the Reverend Alexander Dunn, the second Presbyterian minister on the mainland, in two rooms of his spacious home for $30 a month. The minister had been educated at the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland. In the spring of 1875, Dunn was one of four volunteers sent by the Church of Scotland for missionary work in British Columbia. The day following his arrival in Victoria, Dunn was ordained in St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church and assigned to minister to both sides of the Fraser from its mouth up to Yale. The district had previously been the responsibility of Reverend Robert Jamieson.
Dunn's task was gigantic. Over the years he married and buried most of the Protestant pioneers in the Fraser Valley. Every second Saturday he rode horseback from Langley to Sumas Prairie, a distance of 33 miles, to be ready for service the following morning. On alternate Saturdays he rode to Ladner to preach there. Rarely did he ever encounter another traveller. In Langley, Dunn preached in an old church situated on the Mackie property right in the midst of tall second growth fir. The building had originally been a school house in New Westminster but in 1872 had been dismantled and brought upriver to be reassembled under the supervision of Reverend Jamieson. It was used continuously for 13 years as a place of worship, a school, and for council meetings. Everyone referred to it as the "Meeting House".
Henry West arrived in Langley with a steam saw mill in the early 1870s. Born in Bremen, Germany, in 1835, he had stowed away three times by the time he was 15, in an effort to get out of the militaristic country. Each time he was caught and returned home. Giving up temporarily, he joined the German Navy and worked on deep sea freighters as a mechanic. About 1866, at a time when Germany was at war with France, West found himself aboard the German battleship Hindenberg, which (67) was making a tour of the American West Coast. By this time West was a midshipman engineer. It was while this ship was docked at Bremerton, Washington, that West saw the opportunity to leave his native land once and for all. Here he jumped ship and immediately began working his way north toward British Columbia. He first found work in the Bellingham coal mines as a chief engineer. Shortly afterwards be became connected with a man by the name of Pickford and in partnership with him bought a steam saw mill at Seattle which they used in their West-Pickford Mill. This operation was located at the mouth of the Little Sumas River on Sumas Prairie. Their first big contract was supplying 1,000,000 board feet of timber for the first Matsqui Dyke. When Pickford mysteriously disappeared from the mill, West decided to pull up stakes and move to Langley. By this time he was married to Louisa Fallardeau, daughter of a former steward with the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Langley.
West chose a mill location on the Fraser River about a mile upriver from the fort. He had the boilers for his steam saw mill floated from Sumas to the new location. The remaining mill parts were moved by oxen. At Langley, West did a thriving business. He built a saloon just west of the fort, of split cedar without any sawn lumber. This hotel was later sold to James Taylor.
The man who prompted the pioneers to seek incorporation had come from the Orkney Islands to British Columbia with the Royal Engineers. He was not one of them. Trained as a blacksmith and barrel maker in the Old Country, James Taylor had applied these trades while employed at Fort Langley. Upon leaving the company he bought 160 acres west of the fort. In the late 1860s he built, at various times, the Fort Langley Hotel and a blacksmith shop. He trained Indians to do the blacksmith work while he ran the hotel. He was first married to Catherine Fallardeau, the daughter of Narcisse Fallardeau and sister of Mrs. West, who bore him seven children. When she died in 1874 at the age of 31, he married Barbara Jamieson, who may have been from Aberdeenshire, Scotland. This union produced no children.
Taylor did not have the only saloon in Langley prior to incorporation. Wilson Towle, his wife Eliza, and their family of (68) five, arrived in Fort Langley from St. David's County, New Brunswick, in 1871. Towle was 43; his wife seven years younger. Towle immediately built a hotel, which he called the Commercial, directly across the street from Taylor's Fort Langley Hotel. He left his wife and oldest son George Albion to look after it while he worked in logging camps across the line.
The McKee brothers had arrived in Langley from Belfast, Ireland, just in time to sign the petition for incorporation. They had pre-empted 160 acres each on the Salmon River just south east of the fort farm.
James McKee had been a marine in the British Navy for 11 years prior to coming to British Columbia, while his brother Robert had been a lithographer. James was a bachelor. Robert had married Esther McCleery in Ireland in 1870. Their first child, a son, had been born there. They were expecting their second upon arriving in British Columbia. The McKee brothers' uncle, Hugh McRoberts, and Robert's wife's brothers, Fitzgerald (70) and Samuel McCleery, had been the first pre-empters of land in what is now the City of Vancouver. McRoberts had settled in 1861. The year before he and William Powers had worked in conjunction with the Royal Engineers putting the Cariboo Road through the Fraser Canyon. It was considered the most difficult section of the entire 400 mile undertaking.
By 1874 the government realized that a more reliable method of surveying in the Fraser Valley would have to be put into operation since earlier methods were simply not reliable. As early as January 4, 1860, Governor Douglas had issued a proclamation which permitted any British subject the right to enter on and pre-empt land, not exceeding 160 acres, by planting a post at one corner and giving a description of the land to the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works. The only stipulation had been that the shortest side was at least two-thirds as long as the longest side. Nothing was said about the direction of the lines. Many of these early surveys had been carried out by members of the Royal Engineers or by the settlers themselves.
In 1874 the government decided to introduce the township system. Each township was 6 miles square, which, when broken down made up 144, 160 acre homesteads. The surveyors had no difficulty laying out the south half of Langley using this system. They began encountering problems when their square 160-acre homesteads began to inter-mesh with the lots laid out years earlier by the settlers themselves.
The homesteader, once on the land, had his share of problems, one of which was the Wild Land Tax Bylaw. Each homesteader was expected to make improvements on his farm to the equivalent of $330-$400 a year. This was called "proving up". The clearing of 4-5 acres of heavily timbered land was the equivalent to this amount of cash. The act was invoked to keep land speculators from buying up large parcels of land for real estate purposes. Another newcomer to Langley in 1874 was Richard Henry Holding, his wife the former Isabella Guest, and their four children. Holding had been born and married in Blackpool, Lancashire, England. Shortly after the marriage the couple were willed two hotels. His wife encouraged him to sell them and with the money go to Australia. They left Lancashire, England, with two children, aboard a sailing vessel in 1859. Their youngest child died enroute and was given a sea burial. After teaching in Oakland, near Sydney, for thirteen years, the Holding family again decided to move. This time their destination was British Columbia.
Although reasonably well off, Holding arrived at the (72) Langley Wharf broke. He knew no one. He was looking in his trunk for some valuables to exchange for cash when one of the pioneers spotted his masonic apron. Since the pioneer was from the same fraternity he gave Holding credit.
The first school in Langley was built at the Derby Townsite in the late 1860s where Kennedy taught the local children. The first school at Fort Langley was the red painted 'White Chapel'. A second school was built at Fort Langley in the 1870s south-east of the fort. A negro ex-slave from across the border, known as 'Alex the Darkie', could never understand why the school trustees chose to build among the trees instead of along the riverbank so that the children could watch the steamers. This school was later moved a short distance and a third school was built on the foundations of the first. The second school was used for years by George Simpson, a pioneer settler not related to the Governor of (73) the Hudson's Bay Company, for a piggery. This school, recently restored, is today (1977) being used as a home.
It was the Robert McRoberts McKee family that put up Nathaniel Larmon and his wife, the former Eleanor Moore, when they came out to Langley in 1875. Larmon, the youngest of 16 children, had worked in the Harland and Wolfe Shipyards in Belfast, Ireland, for a shilling a day, before deciding to elope with his sweetheart. After the marriage the pair took a sailing ship bound for America. They then crossed the middle United States to reach San Francisco. From here they came to Victoria where Larmon got work building ships. Shortly afterwards they came to Langley and homesteaded east of the Hudson's Bay Company farm. They immediately built a 12 x 16 foot cedar shake cabin. It was not uncommon that winter for them to awaken with snow on their bedsheets. It had not been chinked very well.
Here he drifted west, reaching Langley in the fall of 1875, where he met Larmon who told him that he could take him to land as black as his Derby hat. He did just that and the following spring the two men went to the Land Registry Office in New Westminster where Medd registered a farm north of Larmon. Medd later married Ann Forsythe Holding, the school teacher's daughter, and raised eight children. Medd's first years were spent grubbing out huge first growth cedar roots to clear a spot for a log cabin.
Any dead or very resinous trees would usually be felled by drilling two inch bores into the tree base. The holes would be drilled horizontally and diagonally so that they met at the tree's heart. Alder coals would then be poured into the diagonal hole. Because of the manner of drilling these holes would permit air to circulate through the drill openings and over the coals. Eventually the fire would get into the pitch of the tree. After 24 to 48 hours the huge trees would burn through and come crashing (75) down. It was a dangerous occupation since one never knew the moment a tree would fall. Once down most trees were cut up and burned.
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© Donald E. Waite / Lisa M. Peppan
updated 18 Dec 2008