Maple Ridge history is a lively story of many ethnic communities-- hard-working, resourceful and generous. This history comes together uniquely in its cemeteries, peaceful resting places shared by people who worked together to build the Maple Ridge we know today.
"Rivers of bounty, Peaks of gold" and "Deep Roots, Greater Heights." These Maple Ridge mottos aptly describe the history, natural beauty, present growth, and future hopes of Maple Ridge. At its humble beginnings in 1874, when local settlers met at John McIvar's farm to discuss the incorporating as a municipality, Maple Ridge had just 50 families. How Maple Ridge has grown!
To celebrate its consistent growth over the past 140 years as a municipality, Maple Ridge -- currently 80,000 strong -- took on city status in 2014. And Maple Ridge will take on all opportunities and challenges that come its way.
Maple Ridge's can-do spirit is inherited from a past built on innovation and hard work, especially in the forestry and agriculture industries. Early settlers had a tough time growing many of traditional food crops due to the condition of the soil. But berry crops reaped excellent harvests, as they do to this day. Greenhouse nurseries also continue to thrive alongside the forestry industry.
Maple Ridge people continue to work hard but they enjoy their leisure, too. A lively arts and culture scene includes top-notch theatre productions at the Arts Centre and Theatre (ACT), and plenty of festivals that either originate or spill outdoors. These include the Jazz and Blues Festival, Caribbean Festival, and multi-occasion performances at the Memorial Peace Park bandstand. Give Maple Ridge people an opportunity to get outdoors, and they'll take it without hesitation.
Locals who enjoy a picnic or hike on the banks of Kanaka Creek may not be aware of the history of the word "Kanaka" and should be forgiven for thinking the name is of First Nations origin. It's actually a Hawaiian word for ‘man.’ By the 19th century, the word came to mean a Pacific Islander employed as an indentured laborer. By the 1820s Kanakas were routinely hired as workers in the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest. The six Kanaka workers who helped with the building of Fort Langley were the first of many to arrive here.
A group of Kanaka crossed the Fraser River and established a community in Maple Ridge. The Kanaka formed part of the patchwork of ethnic communities that had already begun to establish themselves locally.
In Maple Ridge's cemeteries, local Kanaka history is merged with the 1000-year (and perhaps much longer) local history of First Nations-- and those of dozens of other group's more recent arrivals.
Maple Ridge and Whonnock cemeteries: a link to historic communities
Cemeteries are always an integral part of local histories and a vital link keeping alive the knowledge of local history. Both of Maple Ridge's public cemeteries began -- as British Columbia's public cemeteries usually do -- as First Nations, private or ethnic burial places established by recent European migrants.
Maple Ridge Cemetery
The more centrally located Maple Ridge Cemetery at 21404 Dewdney Trunk Road is the largest and most centrally accessible of the two local cemeteries and most local burials take place here.
The first burials occurred here in the mid-1870s on a private lot belonging to William Nelson, which he donated to the District. George Howison, the owner of the adjacent property donated the same amount of land. Nelson and his Kanaka wife and family are themselves buried here.
Other prominent citizens of Maple Ridge buried here include John McIver, Thomas Haney and the Haney family, and J. Inouye, pioneer of the Japanese community in Maple Ridge. Many graves from the early Japanese community can be found at both Maple Ridge and Whonnock cemeteries.
In the late 19th century, nobody local to the area asked: "Where's Whonnock?" It was a bustling and strategically-located place. When trains started running across Canada, Whonnock was in the right place at the right time: 1885, to be specific. It was 10 miles from Port Hammond to the west and 10 miles from the station at Mission to the east. This was good fortune. Ten miles was the distance between stations required by the building contract of the railroad.
Whannock cemeteries reflect the diverse communities of early residents. A First Nations Cemetery is referred to in surveyors' field notes from 1874 simply as the "Indian Cemetery." This small band of indigenous people, part of the Kwantlen First Nation, was connected to Fort Langley in the 1840s. The Whonnock band's one-acre cemetery, on Whonnock Reserve land, is adjacent to the current public cemetery at 96 Avenue, just east of 272 Street and was purchased by the Municipality of the District of Maple Ridge in 1919.
Many of the reserve's residents were buried in the First Nations cemetery. Nearly all of the reserve's residents, including Chief Fidelle, had taken non-aboriginal names by the 1880s and had converted to Roman Catholicism due to the missionary influence of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Mission. Thus, surnames such as Cheer and Louie are inscribed on the weathered headstones here.
Norwegian Lutheran settlers also began using the area as cemetery around the turn of the twentieth century. The group established a graveyard at the site of a church they built in 1905. It came to be used by a number of locals, including early Scottish settler Robert Robertson, who was buried here in 1912. In 1884, the Hudsons Bay Company employee was allotted most of the core Whonnock-- although Robertson's land was quickly parceled out to other settlers. In 1982, the cemetery property was transferred to the District of Maple Ridge and made part of the Whonnock Cemetery.
Both Maple Ridge and Whonnock cemeteries continue to serve as well-maintained and beautiful places of rest in Maple Ridge.
Need more detailed, current information on local cemeteries?
Burial plots are available in both Maple Ridge and Whonnock cemeteries. These two Maple Ridge cemeteries are just two of the dozens of Greater Vancouver and Lower Mainland cemeteries-- from Squamish to Hope-- that we serve at Ancient Burials:
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