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The Maple Ridge Slide

January 28, 2015

On January 30, 1880 occurred most catastrophic event of this winter of extremes. Reports began to come in from upriver that a section of the hillside at Maple Ridge had slipped away into the Fraser River, partially blocking the channel.

Residents reported hearing a loud overture, "like a discharge of heavy cannon,"  heralding the movement. Others heard from a distance a "roaring sound."

At 2:30 in the afternoon, about 20 acres of the farm of Justus W Howison had broken away en masse, forming a large bend in the stream, complete with trees standing erect.

The slide displaced a wave of water and ice that swept over the opposite bank, submerging the farms of William Edge and Edward Muench. Trees left standing had the branches and bark torn off to a height of 10 meters.

Edge, at work clearing land, was tossed like a toothpick amongst a pile of broken rails. He was said to be "frightfully wounded by the falling trees and flying ice" and not expected to live.  

Muench’s wharf was wrecked and two horses battered by water and ice barely survived.

At the adjacent fish-curing establishment  of James Wise and Alex Ewen the wharf was destroyed and the buildings crumpled. A scow was carried more than 100 meters onshore and when the waters receded, left sitting there, high and dry.

A tsunami  estimated to be from 5 to 20 meters in height reversed up the Fraser beyond Fort Langley, folding back the ice floes and splintering boats and docks.  A boom of logs was broken up and joined the debris smashing into structures along the riverbank. 

It was a time when the river was the main highway, and numerous landing places, docks, jetties and sheds lined the river banks.

William Nickels stated that 8 miles above the slide the water level of the Fraser rose 3 meters.

view of 1880 Maple Ridge Slide area

The area of the slide is indicated, lower center,  on the modern view, above.  Top left was the farm of William Nickles, where the water rose 3 meters.  Top center, Fort Langley. Opposite the slide were the farms of Edge and Muench, with Ewen’s fishery in between. Nowadays,  the Derby Reach campsite occupies the riverbank directly opposite the slide.

Excursion to Maple Ridge Slide

On the weekend following the slide, excursionists accommodated by Captain Odin of the steamer Gem went up from New Westminster to gaze in awe at  the devastation  caused by the event already dubbed "the Maple Ridge Slide." 

Nowadays the slide is most often called the “Haney Slide” after a railway station that was later built nearby.

The countryside was noticed to have retained  "a wintry aspect" with snow still lying in the woods. Some got off the boat to examine the nature of the material that broke away, noting a blue clay overlaid with sand and rich loam. The face of the caved area was said to be 1/4 mile in length, with a small  creek flowing at the center. On parts of the hillside, now in the river,

"the snow is still undisturbed, except where the frozen sod is divided by cracks, which generally run at right angles to the line of the river. Over these sections of surface the line of the Maple Ridge road can be traced for a considerable distance."


William Edge,  whose farm lay on the old townsite of Derby, died of his injuries a few days after the slide.


Haney bulge

1923 Geological Survey of Canada map detail of Derby Reach and Haney shows slide bulge in Fraser River. 

The road was rebuilt around the bluff and the Canadian Pacific Railway traverses the base of the slide.

  Maple Ridge Slide Map - Fraser River - 1923 GSC map


Hamilton Edge of Derby

June, 1935, Murrayville BC –

"Hamilton Edge, well known pioneer of Langley who has lived in Derby townsite for nearly half a century," appealed to Langley township council for help in preserving his property on the south bank of the Fraser River. The river had carried off about 

"20 acres of good land and now his house, which once stood well back from the water, is in danger of being undermined and falling into the stream in the freshet." 

Edge had put in protection piles to no effect.

Hamilton was the son of William Edge, killed in 1880 when the Maple Ridge Slide carried about 20 acres of land from the north bank into the Fraser River.

The Edge property now forms part of the Derby Reach Park.

Justus W Howison of the Occident Hotel

Occident Hotel - JW Howison - 1880In January 1880, just a couple of weeks before the slide occurred on his property at Maple Ridge, Justice W Howison had purchased a hotel business in the city of New Westminster and was not then living on the farm.

He and wife Mary Howison would operate the Occident Hotel as a first-class establishment, building the business into the most popular hostel in the city, before selling out two years later.

Three years to the month after he bought the hotel and the slide occurred at his farm, Justus William Howison succumbed to “congestion of the brain, “ passing away on January 6. 1883. 

A native of Quebec, Howison  was only 33 years old.

J W Howison had acquired a number of other properties in the district before he died, including Lot 11 at Brownsville,  formerly the property of Peter Donahue, which had been sold for taxes in 1879.  At the time of the South Westminster land boom his widow contracted to sell the property to William Manson, resulting in a notable court action.

link to Google Map of Maple Ridge SlideClick link to Google Map of Maple Ridge Slide.

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