1344 Rambles in North Delta

North Delta History and Heritage: including Annieville, Upper and Lower Sunbury, Annacis Island, Part of East Delta, and Burns Bog
by John Macdonald (editor)

Delta: Delta Heritage Society, 2020 (4th printing, 2021)
$20.00  /  9781777161705

Reviewed by Ken Favrholdt


North Delta History and Heritage is a great example of what a group of historically-minded volunteers can achieve. With the backing of writer Nancy Demwell who wanted to start a North Delta history group and North Delta Reporter editor James Smith, the idea for a book describing the area’s history was born with local historian John Macdonald, his wife Brenda, and a dozen others (see photo at the foot of this review — ed). Macdonald’s interest in history derives from his own and his wife’s family roots in Vancouver.

North Delta (outlined in red) with Tsawwassen ferry terminal and Roberts Bank port at left. Wikipedia

With the support of Delta Heritage Society president Barbara Baydala, the publication saw fruition in 2020. Edited by Macdonald, in his words, the 2021 (4th) printing of the book’s 191 pages form a “collection of historical information, newspaper articles, stories and presentation summaries” and “a number of historical maps and aerial photos.” In addition, over 250 photographs of people and places fill the book. As well, there are many locator maps intended for finding the historic sites and buildings.

North Delta may not be an instantly recognizable area, except if you live there. I grew up in Delta during my high school years but rarely visited North Delta except when driving through it on my way to Surrey and beyond. I knew of Annacis Island but Annieville, Sunbury, and Strawberry Hill? I had never heard of them. Now, as a historical geographer, I am immediately attracted to look at the book that answers most everything one could ask about North Delta’s history.

North Delta neighbourhoods

The book opens with a section on the First Peoples, then proceeds to describe the early European settlers, followed by sections on Annieville, Sunbury, fishing, logging and mills, Japanese and South Asian settlers, schools, neighbourhoods including Strawberry Hill, heritage homes and families, the Kennedy Trail, roads, parks, Annacis Island, and Burns Bog.

A theme that permeates the book is the multi-cultural makeup of North Delta — from the Kwantlen people to British, Irish, Norwegians, Japanese, and Sikhs. I only wish there was further mention of the Indigenous people today.

Many of the chapters have been written by John Macdonald and have been previously published but they are interspersed with other writers including Valerie Adolph who has written a creative non-fiction piece on the Annieville Family. She also writes a lengthy section about the Annieville fishing fleet that she presented at the George Mackie Library in 2019.

Confiscated Japanese Fishing Boats tied up at Annacis Island, 1942. Royal BC Museum and Archives
Editor John Macdonald

Nancy Demwell collaborates with Macdonald in writing about logging and mills and a chapter on the Interurban railway. Demwell has contributed many essays originally published in the North Delta Reporter including Japanese settlement before the Second World War. Mark Boyter has a related piece on teacher Miss Katsumoto. Masayoshi Okamura has a short piece on Japanese pioneers. The profile of picture bride Take Koizumi, by Demwell, Macdonald, and Len Stroh, depicts what happened to over 6,000 Japanese women who arrived in Canada by 1924. Sadly, Japanese internment during the Second World War impacted 100 families living in North Delta.

Demwell also contributes an essay on the Norwegian graveyard, the First World War’s impact on North Delta and the role of veterans, why North Deltans couldn’t vote in the past (and still don’t), and the story of the Durbrow Peat Plant. The Fraser River floods, and the creeks and ravines are also described by Denwell.

Atkins & Durbrow peat operation, ca. 1947. Courtesy BC Archives
Gunderson Residence, 1902, still standing. Courtesy Delta Archives

One of the most interesting articles Denwell has included is about Scott Lake, which used to be a large home for beaver near Scottsdale Centre. It is now a small pond. This is what makes the book fascinating — its snapshots and vignettes of how the landscape has been transformed over time.

K.P. Aujlay, a Sikh member of the Delta Heritage Society, made a presentation on South Asians in North Delta at the George Mackie Library in 2019, and contributes his story of his own family, who first arrived in Duncan in 1906.

Macdonald describes today’s neighbourhoods in great detail with help from researcher Sandra Clark. Chapter 12, concerning heritage homes, fills 14 pages and highlights the architectural styles of houses and their families with many photos and locator maps.

Irish settler James Kennedy and his wife Caroline. Photo taken 1854 in Ontario. Courtesy Delta Archives

The chapter on the Kennedy Trail — the first settler-built trail in the Lower Mainland, dating from 1861 — is significant for making an important correction to the location of the trail. John Macdonald’s keen interest in the trail earlier prompted him to write the book Kennedy’s Trail: Past to Present (2012). An interview with Macdonald about the trail can be seen in a 2012 YouTube video.

The 19 sections or chapters of the book are arranged topically and geographically. The organization and layout could have been improved and another round of proofreading made, and future editions will, I hope, tend to this. The list of sources and the index are generally useful but incomplete alongside the detailed text.

The big bonus in North Delta History and Heritage are three pullout colour maps inside the back cover: “North Delta History & Heritage,” “1905 North Delta Land Owners,” and “Annieville Slough Water Lots 1946-1970s.” Originally printed for Heritage Week in 2019, the maps are intended to be detached from the book and used for display.

The photos on the front cover, which are identified on the back cover, provide a hint about the purpose of the book: to answer questions. This brings me to ask: what is the purpose of the book and who is the audience?

Annieville Cannery, 1905. The tents in the foreground form an Indigenous camp. Courtesy Delta Archives

People who live in North Delta will find answers to their questions about where they live. Students, especially high school and post-secondary students, will find the book a trove of information. I am reminded of a workshop I attended some years ago from UBC professors Peter Seixas and Tom Morton about their “Historical Thinking Project,” including how to look at photographs critically. Many of the book’s photos tell stories in themselves. The book, thus, is a rich resource that helps explain the history of the area in a readable and visual way.

Does the book fulfil its purpose? I believe it does and that it will serve as a reference for years to come. Especially noteworthy about North Delta History and Heritage are the numerous photos that augment the text and small maps that locate the many places mentioned.

St. Mungo Cannery, 1979. Courtesy Delta Archives

Now, upon reviewing the book, I hope to visit North Delta, book in hand, to see St. Mungo Park, where a Scottish-owned fish cannery once stood; Norwegian Jacob Gunderson’s 1902 residence, one of the first permanent homes in North Delta; and the site of James and Caroline’s Kennedy’s home and the Kennedy Trail. Thank you, John Macdonald and Delta Heritage Society for making the past accessible in this way.

Baitur Rahman Mosque, River Road, North Delta, in 2018. Courtesy Google Maps Streetview


Ken Favrholdt

Ken Favrholdt is a freelance writer, historical geographer and museologist with a BA and MA (Geography, UBC), a teaching certificate (SFU), and many certificates as a museum curator. He spent ten years at the Kamloops Museum & Archives, five years at the Secwépemc Museum and Heritage Park, and four at the Osoyoos Museum. He has written extensively on local history in Kamloops This Week, the former Kamloops Daily News, the Claresholm Local Press (Alberta), and other community papers. Ken has also written book reviews for BC Studies and articles for BC History, Canadian Cowboy Country Magazine, Cartographica and Cartouche (for the Canadian Cartographic Association), and MUSE (magazine of the Canadian Museums Association). He taught geography courses at Thompson Rivers University and edited the Canadian Encyclopedia, geography textbooks, and co-edited a commemorative history (forthcoming) for the Town of Oliver and Osoyoos Indian Band. Ken is now working on books on the fur trade of Kamloops and the gold-rush journal of John Thomas Wilson Clapperton, a Nicola Valley pioneer and Caribooite. As an archivist and historical geographer he has undertaken research work for several Interior First Nations. He now lives in Kamloops. Editor’s note: Ken Favrholdt has also reviewed a book by Brett McGillivray for The Ormsby Review.


The Ormsby Review. More Books. More Reviews. More Often.

Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

The Ormsby Review is a journal service for in-depth coverage of BC books and authors in all fields and genres. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Provincial Government Patron since September 2018: Creative BC

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Inside back cover with photo captions


Members of the North Delta Advisory Group, June 2020

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