Fort Langley

History of British Columbia

some excerpts from the book of:

ALEXANDER BEGG, C.C. December, 1894.


From Lake Stuart, Sir George  Simpson passed along Stuart River and Fraser River to Fort Alexandria. Horses were taken at this place and the country crossed to Kamloops, a distance of 215 miles. At Kamloops, water navigation was resumed in a canoe with twelve men paddling. After passing through Lake Kamloops to its outlet, they entered the Lower Thompson, which they descended to its junction with the Fraser, From this point they reached tide water by nearly the same route as that which was explored by Simon Fraser twenty years earlier. They left Kamloops early on October 6th. 1828, and reached Fort Langley,. on the Fraser, about twenty-five miles from its mouth, on the 10th,, the distance being 264 miles.


Shortly after his arrival Finlayson was placed in charge of the grist and saw mill about five miles up the river from the fort, where he had a gang of twenty men to look after. From the saw mill were shipped lumber and spars to the Sandwich Islands. At this work he remained until the spring of 1840, when he was ordered to join the party under Chief Factor Douglas, who on going north at that time rescued the man Lassertes from drowning, At the head of Puget Sound they found the steamer Beaver, Captain-McNeill, in waiting. On the way north they called at Fort Langley on Fraser River. That fort had recently been destroyed by fire r which was unfortunate, as a supply of salted provisions were expected to have been obtained there. Fort McLoughlin, at Milbank Sound,. was visited, and also Fort Simpson, at each of which places furs, potatoes, cord wood, etc., were secured.


To open up the country by way of Fort Langley and the Fraser River, the work of exploration was at once commenced. Early in 1846, Mr. A. C. Anderson, who then had charge of Fort Alexandria (the next fort on the Fraser north of Langley, set out with five men to survey the country from Fort Kamloops to Fort Langley. His downward journey was not very successful ; but he was more fortunate A. c. ANDBRSON. on nis return, and secured a route which was adopted from Langley by the way of the Quequealla River (at the mouth of which the town of Hope now stands) and Lake Nicola to Kamloops, from whence the trails to the interior were tolerably well known. He made another survey in 1847, but without further success ; his route of the previous year afterwards became, in the main, the waggon-road to the south-eastern interior.


Fort Langley was the only station occupied by white men on the Fraser, below Fort Alexandria, a distance of about three hundred miles, until the establishment of Fort Yale in 1848. It was so named after James Murray Yale, then in charge of Fort Langley, who entered the Company's service in 1815, when a boy, and who in after life became one of their best officers. The new fort was erected to facilitate the transfer of supplies and furs over the new route about to be opened, connecting the seaboard with the interior east and north. The difficulties experienced on the first trip to and from Fort Yale, determined Douglas to establish another on the east bank of the Fraser, a short distance below Yale at the mouth of the Coquihalla River, to be named Hope.


Preparations were now being made at old Fort Langley to be in readiness for the arrival of the Royal Engineers and others expected from England in connection with the new seat of government on the mainland. A sale of town lots was advertised to take place at Victoria, on or about the 20th of October, the upset price to be $100 per single lot of 64 x 120 feet; lots to be sold without reservation, unless for the use of the Government. Barracks were built. The roof was laid by William Clarkson, from Oshawa, Ontario, yet (1893) a resident in New Westminster. [Mr. Clarkson died in 1894. ” ED.]


" both vessels  proceeded in company as far as old Eort Langley, when the Otter disembarked a party of eighteen sappers, under the command of Captain Parsons. They embarked on the revenue cutter Recovery, joining the command of Captain Grant, R.E., who had previously reached this spot with a party of the same corps. The two captains mentioned had recently arrived from England, each in command of small detachments of the Royal Engineers. The Beaver then proceeded with his Excellency and suite aboard to new Fort Langley, when preparations were made for the ceremonial of the following day"


An advertisement from Victoria, on the 25th, 26th and 29th  November. The land was laid out or divided into 183 blocks of five by ten chains, and the blocks subdivided into eighteen lots of 64 x 120 feet. Nineteen blocks were reserved for government uses in different portions of the town. The width of the streets was seventy-eight feet, with an alleyway of twelve feet in width through each block. The streets were not named. The new town was located upon the site of the old Fort Langley, thirty-three miles from the mouth of Fraser River. Upset price of lots, $100. Printed receipts for lots purchased were given, signed by J. D. Pemberton, acting Colonial Surveyor, and contained the following clause : " All interest in, and title to, the said lot, and to this instalment, to cease and become void, unless the balance is paid within the space of one calendar month from this date." The town as laid out and sold was named DERBY.


The Hudson Bay Company's officer, Mr. Yale,  at Fort Langley, undertook to provide a canoe and crew for the journey, and my own preparations," continues Lieutenant Mayne, "were soon made ”a blanket, frock and trousers, a couple of rugs, two or three pipes, plenty of tobacco, tea, coffee, some meat and bread completing my outfit. At this time canoe-travelling was quite new to me, and, familiar as it has since become, I quite well remember the curious sensations with which this, my first journey of the kind, was commenced. It was mid-winter; the snow lay several inches deep upon the ground. The latest reports from up the river spoke of much ice about and below Fort Hope, so that I was by no means sorry to avail myself of the offer of Mr. Lewis of the Hudson Bay Company.