Derby Beginnings

European Settlement

The following are excerpts taken from each of a number of sources and then chained together into a story.  By Larry Meneely

“The area was ‘discovered’ by a party of Hudson Bay Company explorers, led by James McMillan, who struck out from Fort Astoria on November 18, 1824, to find a suitable location for a trading post on the Fraser River. McMillan’s group reached Mud Bay on December 13 and followed the Nicomekl River to an area near today’s Portage Park (53rd Avenue and 204th Street). From there the group portaged across Langley Prairie to the Salmon River where Trinity Western University is located today, following a route that became known as the Smuggler’s Road (later renamed Glover Road). In 1827 McMillan returned to set up his fort at Derby Reach (the site is marked by a cairn at Derby Reach Regional Park).” “Langley Township” by Bob Groenveld. “….a site on the south bank of the Fraser, near the Salmon River, was selected for a prospective depot named Fort Langley in honor of Thomas Langley, a director of the Company.

Construction of the first Fort Langley commenced on August 1, 1827. The new fort measured 41 meters by 36.6 meters and was solidly enclosed by a palisade 4.6 meters high.”  –  Parks Canada – Fort Langley

“In July 1827, the sailing ship Cadboro entered the Fraser River. Chief Whattlekainum had observed the great winged canoe on the river and spread the word among the Kwantlen that no hostile acts were to be committed against the sky people. Early next morning, Whattlekainum and some Kwantlen braves set out in a canoe laden with beaver skins and cautiously approached the Cadboro.

The Kwantlen were warmly welcomed by McMillan, who noted in his diary:
“Whattlekainum, a Quoitle Chief, was on board this morning, and was kindly received. He traded a few Beaver skins for knives.” The Fraser Valley: A History – John A. Cherrington

By fall the rudimentary beginnings of Fort Langley were established at the site of Derby. By 1828, so many Indians established encampments near the fort, and settled on Kanaka Creek directly opposite the fort, that the main Kwantlen tribe eventually became known as the Langley Band. Whattlekainum had led this re settlement from the Skaiametl and Kikait areas. He decided that the sky people could offer protection to his people from the constant Yuculta depredations.” From “Kwantlen..” – J.A. Brown

 “Responding to problems caused by a huge population influx (primarily Americans) during the Fraser Gold Rush, Fort Langley was the site of the declaration of B.C. as a Crown Colony on November 19, 1858. The fort was the colony’s first capital until just after Christmas when, against James Douglas’ wishes, Col. R.C. Moody chose Queensborough (New Westminster) because the fort on the south side of the Fraser River would be too hard to defend against American attack.” “Langley Township” by Bob Groenveld

On November 25, 1858, there appeared in the Victoria Gazette the following news letter:
“New Fort Langley, 20th November 1858.  Editors Gazette: Yesterday, the birthday of British Columbia, was ushered in by a steady rain which continued perseveringly throughout the whole day, and in a great measure marred the solemnity of the proclamation of the Colony.” – Birth of British Columbia

See also:The Illustrated Langley History” – Donald E. Waite