Samuel Robertson in about 1853.
Samuel Robertson in about 1853.

Sam was born in the Orkney Islands of Scotland in 1823. Before he left there, he became a tradesman skilled in boat building, carpentry, and cabinet-making.  He signed on with the Hudson’s Bay Company, whose ships stopped at the Orkneys for fresh water, shipping round the Horn with a huge sandstone grindstone brought from home, and arrived at Fort Langley in 1843.  He worked there for several years, working off his passage, and became attracted to the beautiful land he could see across the river.

While still working at the Fort, he would row across the river and plant young fruit trees wherever he could find natural clearings.  As a result, by the time he took up his homestead in 1858, he already had bearing trees – the first in BC not owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company.  Samuel was the first European to settle and farm in Maple Ridge.  Remnants of those early orchards can still be found near the mouth of Kanaka Creek.

Sam Robertson and friend Kenneth Morrison in the 1860’s.
Sam Robertson and friend Kenneth Morrison in the 1860’s.

In the Spring of 1864, Samuel planted his potato crop and walked to Barkerville to take part in the Gold Rush.  Leaving behind his wife and their two sons, he set off in the Sternwheeler “Reliance” for Yale.  His diary records his journey and his sluicing for gold.  Samuel struck gold on May 10th, discovering nine and a half ounces that day.  By July of that year, he was richer by 45 ounces of gold.  He was then able to increase his original 160 acre holding to 700 acres between Kanaka Creek and the Fraser River, including all of what is now considered Albion.

Even with his new found wealth, Samuel didn’t neglect his Albion farm.  He returned home just in time to harvest his potatoes at the end of the summer.

When Sam passed away in 1897, a huge obituary was run in the local Gazette, including the following passage:

“The stranger might not think that a man so humble in his manner, so plain in his apparel, so diffident in the expression of his opinions as Mr. Robertson was, so quiet in all his movements would be likely to accomplish much.  Great works speak louder than words, or mere outward appearances.   The fields, the fences, the barns, the orchard, the residence of the Robertson estate furnish unmistakable proofs not merely of the intelligence and practical ability of the late owner, but of his rare prudence and foresight.”

Sam Robertson was so described in all mention of his passing.  He seemed such a good role model for students that the Maple Ridge Historical Society recommended that the technical high school located in Albion be named after him.