Fort Langley, 1858. (Harper’s Weekly, October, 1858. BCA PDP01891)

From glaciers to the Great War and beyond

‘Our Shared History’ looks back 13,000 years at the region that became Langley Township

The Township of Langley’s roots go back more than 13,000 years, when the Cordilleran ice sheet began its retreat, causing the land to rebound, the coastline to rise and the Fraser River to form.

By the time the glaciation was complete 3,000 years later, the familiar stands of Douglas fir, western hemlock and cedars had emerged, along with the riparian areas, wetlands and grasslands.

The history of the Fraser Glaciation era, and other events, places and people that have shaped the Langley we know today, have been documented in Our Shared History: Township of Langley Historic Context &Thematic Framework.

The 152 page document — created over the past year by a task force, the Township’s Heritage Advisory Committee and Don Luxton &Associates — will be used to help assess and understand Langley’s historic sites based on their significance within the greater community context.

“It provides for the identification of themes that contribute to community identity, which can inform neighbourhood planning processes, educational activities, urban design projects, cultural tourism and other locally based economic initiatives,” said Elaine Horricks, Township heritage planner, who presented the document to council on July 24 with Donald Luxton.

The historic context divides Langley’s history into 10 eras: The Great River, Fertile Valley; First Nations; Contact; The Hudson’s Bay Company; Outpost of Empire; Growth and Consolidation; The Great Western Boom; Conflict and Turmoil; Postwar Langley; and Langley Today.

The thematic framework then explores the themes of each era by breaking them down into five key categories: habitation; economies; government; society; and the arts.

Luxton said a memorable moment of the project was finding a picture in the Vancouver Vocational Institute from 1961 of Kwantlen First Nation member Helen Gabriel working as a hairdresser. Having a member of the Kwantlen First Nation on their team, they were able to connect with Gabriel and have the photo explained to them firsthand.

“That was just so satisfying, I think one of the highlights of the project,” Luxton said.

Mayor Jack Froese called the booklet a “very comprehensive document,” and said he enjoyed learning more about Langley’s history.

“What I got out of it was that it really provides a path moving forward, because history doesn’t just stop, it continues to be made,” he said.

Coun. Petrina Arnason asked if the document could be put into libraries and schools.

“There’s so many people, not only myself, who have lived in Langley for some time, but also people who are newcomers. I think it would be an interesting thing for them to be able to review,” she said.

Horricks replied that staff are already working on making the document available in local schools this fall.

Coun. Bob Long called it a “fabulous project” and suggested they make some hardbound copies.

“It can be a great tool for all kinds of things. How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?” he remarked.

Coun. David Davis shared similar comments.

“I read this all weekend and never even opened this stupid package,” he joked, while holding up his council package.

“As a gift, for somebody who is interested in history and whatnot, it’s beautiful, I love it, it is great.”

Coun. Angie Quaale said she sees it as “a valuable tool” and asked what will happen next with the information that has been provided.

Luxton replied that they will soon start a gap analysis of the current heritage registrar.

“I hope it inspires people to dig more deeply into the history of Langley,” Luxton commented.

Coun. Charlie Fox suggested that a workshop for Langley history teachers be held during a professional development day to get them more involved in the document.

“I think there’s an element that can be built into the curriculum about your local community and I think that there’s a value associated, especially with the new curriculum emphasis on First Nations history, First Nations involvement in community, and so on and so forth,” he said.



Corporation of Langley Federal Motor Company truck, likely in Vancouver, April 1920. (BCA C-02428)