In 1923, Langley residents Dr. Benjamin Marr and Archie Payne spearheaded a project to plant 36 Big Leaf Maple trees in honour of the local soldiers that fought in the First World War and didn’t come home.
Going one step further, streets were named after the fallen soldiers, giving Langley some of it’s most familiar titles such as Trattle, Topping, and Carvolth.
Nearly one century later, most of the trees have gone unrecognized and even neglected – with some possibly having been removed over the years for construction and maintenance purposes.
Brian Croft, a local artist, historian, and former Canadian Forces fighter pilot, said he had heard about the memorial trees over the years through the grapevine and has been working with resident Warren Sommer to unearth the history and location behind the trees.
“Three dozen trees were placed in memory of the gentleman that didn’t come home. Now, about a half dozen of these things are hiding in plain sight,” Croft said. “Plaques used to be on each but not much exits of those anymore.”
Around five trees have been identified – Croft said the only one remaining with a commemorative plaque is on Trattle Street in Fort Langley.
“Some of the trees were replaced and many of them are now in bad shape,” Croft added, hoping the project can not only help bring to light local history but revitalize the plant life.
One is thought to be located at the five corners in Murrayville, another on Glover Road, one in Aldergrove, and the last in Milner near the chapel.
“Logically, the memorial trees for each soldier should correspond with the name of their street,” Croft explained, which would narrow down the search to 36 specific areas – many of which are completely covered in old maples.
Croft pointed to the book Roads and Other Place Names in Langley, B.C. by Maureen L. Pepin as a source guide for explaining the memorial project and history behind the city and township landmarks.
But narrowing down the search can only get project so far; Croft said much of the records that would have contained tree locations and information were destroyed decades ago in a fire.
With Remembrance Day up ahead, Croft figured the timing was perfect to open up the memorial tree mystery to residents and even students.
“We remember… we remember… we remember… but, then we also forget,” Croft said, stepping up to help facilitate a ceremony at Alice Brown Elementary School, where his daughter is a teacher.
“We remember with poppies, crosses, cenotaphs, and reading In Flander’s Field, but we can also let kids know the different ways we remember by planting trees,” he explained.
A wall featuring the photographs and names eight local killed in-action soldier’s who fought in the First World War will be displayed at the Alice Brown ceremony.
Pinned next to each one by student volunteers will be handmade trees to symbolically honour the fallen servicemen and also commemorate a local tradition of how Langley has remembered.
Croft is now hoping that residents might be able to shed some light on the memorial tree history, asking anyone who may have information or knowledge of a tree location to share what they know.
People can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 236-987-1858 if that have anything to share.
The information will be passed on to the Langley Centennial Museum and the Township’s Parks and Heritage Planning departments.
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