Mary Berry Charlton and husband Alfred Charlton on the bank of the Fraser River on the Edge farm opposite Port Haney, circa 1902-05. (Maple Ridge Museum #P00186/Special to The News)

Mary Berry Charlton and husband Alfred Charlton on the bank of the Fraser River on the Edge farm opposite Port Haney, circa 1902-05. (Maple Ridge Museum #P00186/Special to The News)

LOOKING BACK: Woman pioneer thrust into postal role and more

When Alfred Charlton died, his widow took over as harbour and post master, plus general store owner

by Melissa Rollit/Special to The News

Canada Post has been making headlines for their record number of packages this year.

However, in Maple Ridge, this is not the first time the post office made headlines.

In 1961 there was the much-anticipated arrival of door-to-door delivery service to Haney.

With the roll out of this new service came the centralization of the postal service and the dropping of the neighbourhood names in favour of the standard “Maple Ridge.”

Those used to getting mail addressed to Haney or Hammond, for example, had to adjust to a change in name – a controversial move still in the hearts and minds of some residents today.

If we look even further back in Maple Ridge history, one might find another newsworthy event in the city’s post office history, that being the story of Mary Berry Charlton (Storey) who became post mistress in 1907 and was one of the first women to hold said title in British Columbia.

RECENT LOOKING BACK: Sharing memories of winters past

Prior to door-to-door delivery, the postmaster/post mistress would receive large bags of mail from the railway, which they would then sort into individual mail boxes for their customers.

Residents of Maple Ridge would then have to go to their neighbourhood post office to pick up their mail.

Post offices in the early days of Maple Ridge were critical community centres.

Letters were for many years the primary method of communication for local settlers. Mail was how they stayed in touch with family and friends, how they conducted business, and how they received news from the outside world.

Mary Charlton’s road to post mistress is marked by tragedy. Her husband Alfred T. Charlton had been postmaster of the Port Haney office prior to her, and it was his untimely death while crossing the frozen Fraser River in 1907, which resulted in her new position.

In this tumultuous time, Charlton showed great personal strength, taking on not only her husband’s position as postmaster, but also as owner of the Charlton general store, and harbour master. She did all this while raising her two young boys.

In a letter sent to her mother in Ontario, Charlton describes how her sons were her main motivation to persevere and overcome her grief:

“I cannot tell you how lonely I am. Such a black darkness over everything. If it were not for our two boys I could not go on. Then I try to remember that if I do not bravely do the best I can it will only cause more sorrow and I must not be selfish. I must think of others but it is so hard.”

The bad times would not last forever, and in 1917, Charlton remarried to William Storey, who took over the duties of the general store.

RECENT LOOKING BACK: Taking a trip… back in time

This allowed Charlton to fully pursue her passions in the postal service, where she retained her position of post mistress for the next 40 years, even overseeing the construction of a new post office in Haney in the 1930s.

While the postal service in Maple Ridge has changed greatly through the years, the post office Charlton built still stands today in Callaghan Park.

– Melissa Rollit is curator of the Maple Ridge Museum



• If there is more to this issue, please let us know about it. Email us at We look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Heritagehistorymaple ridgewomen entrepreneurs

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

One staff member tested positive for COVID-19 at Maple Ridge Seniors Village. (Google)
Outbreak declared over at Maple Ridge Senior’s Village

This is the second COVID-19 outbreak for the long-term-care facility

The slide happened in November of 2018. (Special to The News)
Slippery slope has Albion community centre neighbours upset

City’s excavations caused landslide on neighbouring property

Cathy Barrington plays the drums and sings with various jazz and blues bands. But she is known in the school district as the singing secretary. (Special to The News)
Singing secretary at Maple Ridge elementary school leaves on a high note

Cathy Barrington, whose rendition of At Last went viral online, has retired

Lance Andre is the GM of the Maple Ridge Burrards WLA team. (The News files)
Maple Ridge Burrards plan to ‘go local’ in upcoming draft

WLA announces draft will be held online Feb. 11

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

A child joins the Uke ‘n Play kickoff event at the Chilliwack Library on Oct. 1, 2016. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Events return, in virtual form, at Fraser Valley Regional Library

People can take part in ukulele jam, bullet journaling, reading groups and more

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

Most Read