They’re called an ‘orphan family,’ one that arrived and pioneered here, helped build Maple Ridge, then vanished into the mists of time.
Sam and William Edge were brothers who came to Maple Ridge in 1874, the year the municipality was incorporated.
Originally from Ireland, the two brothers had first lived in Ontario, then came to Maple Ridge via San Francisco and a trip up the U.S. coast to Victoria. That was a decade before the completion of trans-continental Canadian Pacific Railway.
A century ago, it would have been hard not to know the Edge family name in Maple Ridge.
A photo from 1924 marking the 50th anniversary of the first Maple Ridge council meeting has no less than nine members of the Edge family at the memorable event.
Now, historian Andrea Lister wonders if any descendants remain in Maple Ridge. Over the years, people just scatter as jobs and families move them to farther reaches.
“They were very involved in the early days of Maple Ridge,” says Lister.
Some Edge family members may have been here up until the 1990s, but after that, it’s a mystery because it’s not possible to access all records.
Sam Edge Sr. left Maple Ridge in about 1895 and died near Grand Forks in 1898.
Lister, along with other members of the Family History Group, part of the Maple Ridge Historical Society, decided to peer into the family’s past over the past nine months and created the Edge Family Legacy Project.
Without any relatives or family photo albums to rely on, researchers had to check out birth and death and marriage statistics, military records, land files, voters’ lists, headstones and other traces people leave as they go through life.
Sam Sr., as he was known, was the builder of the pair and constructed Anniedale and Port Kells schools in Langley, as well as the old South Lillooet School and Haney House, on 224th Street, in Maple Ridge.
He used to live along Dewdney Trunk Road and 208th Street. In 1882, he also helped move the St. John the Divine church from Derby Reach in Langley to Maple Ridge. It remains a historical asset for Maple Ridge and is located on River Road.
There’s also some thought that Sam Jr., his nephew and son of William, helped out with the move because both were carpenters.
While the Edge family seems to have disappeared, the name lives on with a road in downtown Maple Ridge bearing the name in addition to one of the fantastic peaks in Golden Ears Provincial Park.
Edge, formerly 9 1/2 Avenue, received its new name in 1968, when Maple Ridge council changed all streets names that had an A or 1/2 suffix.
Edge Peak is named after either Sam Edge junior or senior after one of them climbed the mountain, taking three days to do so.
Sam Edge Jr. died in 1931 and is buried in Maple Ridge cemetery.
While the two Sams focused on Maple Ridge, William farmed in Derby, just across the river from Maple Ridge.
He was on his property near the river in January 1880 when the Haney Slide struck. A huge chunk of cliff, just west of the current Port Haney West Coast Express station, plunged into the river.
Lister quotes the Victoria Daily Colonist newspaper, saying it was the height of a six-storey building and sounded like a cannon shot, “demolishing and conquering everything in its course.”
The cliff plunged into the river and created a tidal wave that swept across the river, catching William and smashing him into the rocks and trees on his farm. He died a few days later.
“It was big. It swept across the Fraser and killed him.”
One of the bonuses of the history group’s research was finding a receipt for another Edge family member. Hamilton Edge took out membership in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Agricultural Association in 1901, the year it was formed.
That tied everything together at the 2016 Heritage Awards, Feb. 11, which also recognized the agricultural association.
Lister said the history group spent hours sifting through records and cross referencing to ensure accuracy of the information.
One interesting tidbit found during their investigation was learning that Mary Ann Edge, daughter of Sam Edge Sr., in 1885 signed a petition in favour of giving women the right to vote, years before they received that right in 1918.
“Because the members of the group were all women, it was really neat,” Lister said.
Another member of the Edge family was Vernon Edge, a veteran of the First World War. He brought back a war bride from England and started a land surveying company, which later became part of J.M.C. Wade and Associates, which is still operating today.
To show the results of their work, the Family History Group created display boards, which will travel to various events, such as the Heritage Tea and the annual meeting of the Maple Ridge Historical Society, March 18.
Lister said historians usually focus on one particular issue or topic, but “we’re interested in the people in the story, whether they were famous or not.
“It’s every day people who make a community.”