Val Patenaude

Efforts afoot 110 years ago to bolster old Maple Ridge neighbourhood

Thanks to newspapers of the day, historians are able to recount efforts to grow area in early 1900s

by Val Patenaude/Special to THE NEWS

Local newspapers are one of history’s greatest assets.

Our Gazette newspaper served Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows 1919 to 1984.

For that whole period, we have good local coverage on the day to day and week to week life of our community.

Prior to that, we must rely on older newspapers from the surrounding region.

One such paper is the Fraser Valley Record in Mission. We have obtained copies of materials relevant to Maple Ridge from 1908 to 1911, and are working our way through them to gather stories and timeline elements for people and buildings.

1908 was quite a year. By then, sufficient infrastructure had been developed to have established communities.

All of the historic post offices were in place, except for Yennadon – which was only a couple of years away.

There were churches of all major denominations and several fraternal organizations that served as insurance policies where fellows would help rebuild after a loss.

Perhaps the main asset was transportation where both rail and steamship were available to bring in mail and needed goods, and to take crops and other products to larger markets.

Locally, the tree fruit industry had exploded with mature orchards to be found throughout the municipality.

Most of the people then living in Maple Ridge or immigrating here had spent time in a city and they knew what cities had to offer and why small towns lacked amenities; population.

Hence the local progressives – as “movers and shakers” or community builders as they were known – formed booster associations to add infrastructure and make local neighbourhoods more attractive to newcomers.

Both Port Haney and Port Hammond developed Progressive Associations that lobbied the B.C. government for road funding, the CPR for more and better rail stops, and the local population for its efforts at attracting newcomers – especially in the way of rental accommodation.

The real estate ads of the day wax poetic over the glories to be found in Maple Ridge, even then praising the natural setting of rivers and mountains.

But, it was not all easy sledding.

Then, as now, there were naysayers who preferred things as they were and who chafed at the number of new arrivals and their needs.

“The many obstacles are being slowly overcome through the efforts of the progressive association and we are slowly developing into a village of modern ideas, and those who are pretending to advocate the building up of Hammond – but in reality want the place to revert to the ways of 20 years ago – will be sadly disappointed for with the present population and vast resources opening up, it is impossible for this district to go backward,” the Hammond correspondent wrote in the Record on Oct. 8, 1908.

Safe to say, the progressive voices won out, and during the next three years there would be huge additions to infrastructure including schools, railway stations, and the Aggie Hall.

This leads back to the future where we enjoy some of the fruits of city life, especially our ACT theatre.

– Val Patenaude is director at the Maple Ridge Museum and Archives

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