To the origin of settlement in Fraseropolis

A stone marking the site of the original Fort Langley, B.C., founded 1829The Golden Ears Bridge forms part of the Trans Canada trail. As you cycle south, it takes you over the Fraser River and over a Metro Vancouver poop processing station, and lands you in a terrain of mills and warehouses. Do not despair.

Derby Reach, looking to Maple RidgeFive minutes to the east, staying on the trail, the industrial lands give way to agriculture; fifteen minutes later you’re at Derby Reach, a fine regional park on the river that contains a marker for the original Fort Langley, the first point of white settlement on British Columbia’s coast.

The plaque says that Hudson’s Bay Company men started to clear the land in 1829; that is, in the reign of George IV.  hey were Scotsmen, Metis, Iroquois, and a few Hawaiians (Hawaii being a British colony at the time.) They had to impose on the local first people to teach them how to fish for salmon. They began as fur traders, but developed into a colony of farmers and fishermen, growing and canning food for the company and for other customers moving into the area. Within a few years they found  better farmland upstream, and moved Fort Langley to its present location, where it has been preserved as a national historic museum.

The Cariboo gold rush of the 1850s brought another small wave of activity. A few farmers settled around the site of the old fort, and called their settlement Derby. They built a pretty Anglican church, which was later floated over the water to Maple Ridge, where it remains in use today. Otherwise, nothing remains of Derby (that I could see, in my prowling around) except the helpful explanations posted by regional government staff, and a walking trail named after Farmer Houston.

There’s a biggish modern farm at the western end of the park, and the owners have a coffee and ice cream stand for park visitors and Sunday cyclists. The woman in charge appeared to be a member of the family. The paved road that serves the park and present-day Fort Langley village cuts the farm in two, like in many European hamlets. She says many of the motorists and truckers who use the road drive too fast, and she wishes they would slow down.

This vintage barn was constructed around 1880 near Chilliwack, in the central Fraser Valley; it was moved to Langley's Derby Reach Park in recent years to substitute for the vanished buildings of the Derby settlement

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