The passing of Langley pioneer Hugh Davis severs an important link to the community’s past, writes Frank Bucholtz. In this photo from 2012, Davis holds a picture of himself taken in 1953. The farm where he grew up has been in his family since 1882, when his grandfather bought 121 acres at a Hudson’s Bay Company auction. Langley Times File Photo

Hugh Davis’ reverence for Langley was boundless

Passing of pioneer severs an important link with community’s history

Hugh Davis, who passed away at age 93 on Oct. 2, was one of the last links with the early days of Langley Township.

He was the third generation of the Davis family to operate an active and vibrant dairy farm on a portion of the Hudson’s Bay Company lands in Milner. The HBC farm was established in Milner in 1835 in an effort to broaden the economic activity conducted at nearby Fort Langley. It was the first farm in the Fraser Valley, predating the establishment of British Columbia by 24 years.

The Davis farm land, known as Davistead, was bought by his grandfather Henry in 1882. Hugh’s father Harold was born on the farm in 1895, and Hugh was born there on Sept. 6, 1924. While some of the land was sold over the years, Hugh was able to buy some back, and it now stands at 100 acres. The Davises also lease additional farmland in the Milner valley to grow crops to feed to their cows.

It is now operated by Hugh’s son David,and his family. The Davis family farm is thus already in its fifth generation. It represents the fullest and truest definition of a family farm.

A wonderful video by BCIT broadcast journalism students Vanessa Ybarra, Sonia Stirling and Caroline Carter, compiled in 2010, offers a good look at the farm and its origins, and at Hugh himself.

It can be found here.

Hugh Davis didn’t finish high school, but he had more practical knowledge than many people who’ve spent decades in classrooms. His interests centred around the land, and its intricate soils and waterways, but he knew a great deal about many other subjects. He knew more about the HBC farm than anyone.

One of the most fascinating conversations I ever had with anyone during my years at the Times was with Hugh.

We met, by chance, at the opening of the Golden Ears Bridge between Langley and Maple Ridge in 2009. On that day, the bridge was only open to foot traffic, so we walked across the bridge together, and then back again.

He told me how he had never read a book since his days in school. He preferred to gain practical knowledge, and he had plenty of it.

He also told me how he liked to go to bridge openings, as they represented a significant change in the flow of people and goods in the region. One of the first ones he attended was in 1937, when the Pattullo Bridge opened.

The insights he offered as we conversed about a broad range of topics were fascinating. I would liken it to hearing words of wisdom from a philosopher or professor — but always tinged with the air of practicality that is usually missing from those types of discourses.

He frequently attended Langley Township council meetings, both before and after his son David was elected to council.

He was keenly interested in ensuring that farmland was preserved in Langley, and that farmers would be able to make a living on their land, while acting as stewards of the natural resources they managed.

He loved Langley with a passion. He was not alone in this, but his reverence for this community, its history and particularly its natural advantages was boundless.

He was very happy that his grandchildren were growing up on the farm and were taking more and more interest in it. They were old enough that not only could they do various chores, but they were able to understand the importance of the family working together to ensure that the farm was a success.

Hugh will be fondly remembered on Saturday at a celebration of life at the Kings School, located adjacent to the farm at 21783 76B Ave., off 216 Street. It begins at 3 p.m.

Frank Bucholtz is a retired editor. He writes monthly for the Langley Times, as well as sharing his insights on his Frankly Speaking blog. It can found at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca.