Downsizing in Langley
Population is approx: 129,258
The Township of Langley is a district municipality immediately east of the City of Surrey in southwestern British Columbia, Canada. It extends south from the Fraser River to the U.S. border, and west of the City of Abbotsford. Langley Township is not to be confused with the City of Langley, which is adjacent to the township but politically is a separate entity. Langley is located in the eastern part of Metro Vancouver.
From time immemorial, the area that is now Langley Township was inhabited by various Stó:lō nations, including the Katzie and Kwantlen, who continue to live in the area and fish along the Fraser River.
C.N.R. Locomotive at the Langley Railway Station, 1924
The first Europeans to stay in the area permanently were the traders of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). In 1827, Fort Langley was built on the banks of the Fraser River, in the area now known as Derby Reach. It was one of a string of trading posts built up and down the Pacific Coast to compete with American fur traders for the rich pelts available in the region. Farming as well as cranberry and salmon exports soon replaced fur trading as the fort's primary source of income.
The first fort, built with two bastions, a wooden stockade and several buildings, proved to have been built too close to a fast-moving part of the river, in an area prone to flooding. It was rebuilt in 1839 farther upstream. As the HBC's network of forts in the interior grew, Fort Langley became a hub for farming, smithing and for shipping furs back to Europe. Along with farming, the export of cranberries and salmon would soon become the fort's main source of profit.
In 1858, gold was discovered in the Fraser River in what is now the interior of British Columbia, and the fort also became important as a supply station for the miners heading up the river toward the gold fields. With thousands of gold prospectors, many of them American, streaming into the region, the British government created British Columbia as a colony. James Douglas was sworn in as the new colony's first governor in Fort Langley, but New Westminster was chosen as the capital, as Fort Langley was less defensible from an American invasion.
When the gold rush ended, Fort Langley's importance began to decline. The Hudson's Bay Company subdivided and sold its farm on Langley Prairie. Farming and logging took over as the dominant local industries.
The Township of Langley was incorporated on April 26, 1873, with James W. Mackie as its first elected warden. Over time, New Westminster and then Vancouver developed into urban centres, but Langley Township remained predominantly a rural community.
The growth of transportation would continue to connect Langley Township with its surroundings. The British Columbia Electric Railway was built through the community in 1910, followed by Fraser Highway in the 1920s, and the construction of the Pattullo Bridge in 1937, all adding to Langley's importance. The Trans Canada Highway reached Langley Township in 1964.
In 1955, however, residents of the downtown core (then called Langley Prairie) demanded services that the municipal government was not willing to provide (namely, street lights), and on March 15, 1955, the City of Langley incorporated as a separate municipality.