In 1882, when the CPR was still but a glimmer on the horizon, there was much complaining about the state of roads in the Westminster region, which included the District of Maple Ridge.
With a population of 3,000 people, it was described in the New Westminster Columbian newspaper as an “intolerable injustice” that the district lacked even “five consecutive miles of road over which a buggy may be driven with safety.”
The lack of any roadways was a serious impediment to settlement as families were not likely to purchase properties that they couldn’t even get a wagon to.
Maple Ridge roads at that time were under the supervision of “pathmasters” within each political ward of the district.
Municipal councillors battled over tax dollars to spend on the roads in their ward and much of the work of council involved those roads and their bridges.
But with very few exceptions, those roads had no names and were referred to by the surnames of those who lived along them.
What we now call 224th Street was originally called Ontario Street, from River Road to the Dewdney Trunk. That was the name assigned by Thomas Haney when he laid out his town site.
Town sites did get proper named streets as it was part of the process of registering a section of your property as a town site.
In order to parcel land in small lots and provide access to all of them, a grid of streets was necessary.
The people who did the registering were able to name the streets whatever they wanted.
Thomas Haney chose to use name from his and his wife’s family, their patron saints and the province from which they had come.
In Hammond, the Hammond brothers chose names from their native region in England.
Ontario Street ended at Dewdney Trunk Road.
When the Best family purchased the two quarter sections north and east of that intersection, the road built alongside their property was called Best Road.
We still see evidence of the time lapse in that construction in the jog where 224th crosses Dewdney.
Beyond the Best property, where 124th Avenue crosses it, the road became Weeks Road for another property owner.
This manner of informal designation served the community well enough for a long time.
There were no emergency services and no home delivery of mail, so as long as your friends and family knew where to find you, little more was needed.
But the community continued to grow and by 1938, the lack of street names had become inconvenient.
In the fall of 1938, the municipality installed sign posts all over town on all the streets and roads and announced, somewhat mysteriously, that the citizens were sure to value this modern signage as there just might be some new street names just around the corner.
Within the month, it became clear that the renaming was a fait accompli – all done with little fanfare and even less complaint.
While certainly meeting the demands of practical reality, the replacing of family names with numbers has been felt as more of a loss with the passage of time. It would be a great community project to reapply those original names in a manner which acknowledges the early land-holders without compromising our postal or emergency services needs.
• To see copies of maps showing the old names, go to the municipal website and find the page for the “Community Heritage Commission.” Choose the link for “Historical Street Maps.”
Val Patenaude is director of Maple Ridge Museum.