On the north-east slope of Thornhill, you may have noticed a road sign on the curve of the road where 112th Avenue turns towards Kanaka Creek Hatchery and Webster’s Corners.
Who was Palmer Rolph, and why was a road named for him?
It is only a short distance away where another well known person, Louise Poole, has a horse trail named for her in memory of her active work with pony club and trail riding.
Rolph lived on a 120-acre farm he purchased in 1931, after years of working as a trusted farm manager for several local families and as a logger.
His grand-daughter, Val Lynch, has kept her mother Rosemary’s diary, photographs and family memories alive to share the family story.
Like many immigrants to Canada, Rolph was born in the British Isles, in his case Norfolk, England, in July of 1891, one of 12 living children. At 18, Rolph immigrated first to Alberta. He soon persuaded Louie de Brunner, a teacher he had known in Norfolk, to join him there. They were married, and soon had three children born within two years: a son Bernard, followed by twins, James and George.
The family moved to Victoria, then to South Pender Island and Saturna Island, where they farmed. He sent vegetables and sheep by boat to market in Victoria. Their daughter Rosemary was born at the closest hospital, Lady Minto Hospital in Ganges, Salt Spring Island, in January of 1918. She recalled that her mother Louie, an educated city girl, never made housekeeping her priority. She always kept a broom by the door, so when visitors arrived unexpectedly she could begin sweeping and truthfully say she was just starting to clean up.
Rolph moved his family yet again to Vancouver, but could not find work there. He saw an advertisement in the newspaper placed by the Trethewey family in Yennadon. The family occupied the upper floor of the old Trethewey farmhouse, while Rolph worked as their farm manager. During the next eight years, he also looked after various farms owned by the Wests, the Spinks and the Storeys.
After working so long for other people, Rolph wanted to own some property himself. He saved money by working for a while as a logger at the Abernethy & Lougheed Company in the north of Maple Ridge.
With money he earned as a bucker and taller, at the age of 40 he bought property on the north-east side of Thornhill. The land already had a barn and some fruit trees, so they had to build a farmhouse to live in. They had no indoor plumbing or electricity for several years.
To keep the family income up in those depression years, Palmer continued to log for the A & L Company, six days a week, while his wife Louie and daughter Rosemary helped look after the sheep, horses, cows and other farm animals. His oldest son, Bernard, followed his father’s hard working example, going out to work as a whistle punk for A & L at the age of 14, while the 13-year-old twins, James and George, went to work for the Edge family in Yennadon.
The Rolphs finally sold the 120-acre farm in 1954 to William and Evelyn Bean for $7,500.
Rolph died in 1979 at the age of 88. His family remembers why the road was named after him, and would like him to be remembered by all of us.
Sheila Nickols is past president of the Maple Ridge Historical Society.