Members of the Jackman family joined dozens of other guests who took in the new exhibit about a local pioneer, Philip Jackman, at the exhibit’s opening reception last month. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Royal engineer to reeve: New exhibit explores life of Langley pioneer

Langley Centennial Museum has an exhibit outlining the life and times of pioneer Philip Jackman.

Sapper Philip Jackman opted for a life of adventure and opportunity as a young man, leaving his small farming village in Devon, England to endure a six-month voyage across the Atlantic Ocean and around Cape Horn to British Columbia.

He was a Royal Engineer with the Columbia detachment, who came to B.C. in 1859. Following an intriguing list of jobs through his adult life, Jackman eventually became reeve of Langley.

Today, he is known as one of Aldergrove’s most storied pioneers and the inspiration for the Langley Centennial Museum’s latest exhibition.

The display pays tribute to the life and times of Jackman, a local legend, muntineer, gold miner, railroader, saloon operator turned mayor and store keep, explained the museum’s arts and history curator Kobi Christian.

Ideas for the exhibition were pondered as much as two years ago, when a research paper was presented, she explained.

Last summer, that report was flushed out and it was confirmed a museum display focused around Jackman would be worth pursuing. But little did Christian, nor the museum’s territorial assistant Shea Wind, have any idea how sparse the Jackman archives would be.

The museum held little to no items from the legendary pioneer. And his remaining family have little more than photographic keepsakes, Christian elaborated.

Nevertheless, the museum team wasn’t swayed from their goal. Reaching out to neighbouring museums and historic sites in New Westminster, Chilliwack, and Yale, and searching into the records department at the Township of Langley, they were able – over the past few months – to piece together an engaging exhibit.

“This exhibit draws information from censuses, directories, council minutes, newspapers, theses, correspondence, oral histories, and other archival records to present the life and times of Philip Jackman, and creates a legacy for future generations,” Christian said, noting the display runs until Feb. 25.

Admittedly, following on the heels of two largely successful exhibits this year (a First World War display and a non-traditional fibre arts exhibit), she wasn’t sure what the response was going to be this current display focused on just one man’s life.

But a lot of people have been “quite interested,” Christian said.


One man’s story

Jackman and other engineers arrived at an encampment along the Fraser River “and quickly engaged in laying out the infrastructure for the new colony; building the provincial capital of New Westminster, surveying and constructing towns and roads, even altering rivers for safer passage,” Christian explained.

The Corps of Royal Engineers or Sappers, as they were called, changed the province, both during their time in the Columbia detachment, and as community leaders after their disbandment in 1863.

Like other Royal Engineers for whom towns, streets, and parks have been named, “Jackman was a doer,” Christian said.

He participated in the Cariboo Gold Rush, worked on the Douglas-Lillooet and Cariboo wagon roads, worked for the Canadian Pacific Railroad – where in 1872 he was involved in a mutiny. He worked at the first provincial lunatic asylum in Victoria, was a New Westminster saloon owner and night watchman, and a general store owner in Aldergrove.

In Langley he became involved in politics, and from 1895 to ’97, he served as reeve (what’s now known as mayor) of the Township of Langley.

After this, he worked seasonally as a fisheries guardian on the Fraser River, eventually retiring and living with his daughter in Surrey.

Jackman was the last surviving Royal Engineer of the Columbia detachment when he died in 1927 at the age of 92.


Where to find the exhibit

The Langley Centennial Museum, located at9135 King St. in Fort Langley, is open Mondays through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., and on Sundays from 1 to 4:45 p.m.

Admission is by donation.


Members of the Jackman family joined dozens of other guests who took in the new exhibit about a local pioneer, Philip Jackman, at the exhibit’s opening reception last month. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Jackman’s great-grandson John Jackman in Royal Engineer costume with Dr. Virginia Cooke. Due to a generous donation from the family, Dr. Cooke has been working with the museum and the Jackmans on a book about Philip Jackman that will be out in the new year. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Members of the Jackman family joined dozens of other guests who took in the new exhibit about a local pioneer, Philip Jackman, at the exhibit’s opening reception last month. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Just Posted

Metro gas prices hit 155.7 cents a litre and higher

Lower Mainland could see 1.60 cents by April

BREAKING: Patient airlifted from two-vehicle crash in Langley Wednesday morning

Fraser Highway at 232nd Street is closed in both directions. People are asked to find another route.

Proposed slaughterhouse in South Langley evokes considerable ire

Large delegation of Langley residents came out to oppose a poultry abattoir.

Cloverleaf Preschool must find new home after 26 years in Cloverdale community

Christ the Redeemer Church terminated tenancy, finding 86-year-old Bell Hall unsafe

LETTER: Lack of tree protection for Langley short-sighted but expected

One Langley letter writer calls Township council’s inaction on a tree protection bylaw disappointing.

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

B.C.-pioneered wood construction on a roll internationally

Washington state considers mandatory engineered wood for public buildings

Cops say gun-toting robbers used fake police lights to pull over victims

Information wanted on North Shuswap robbery, police impersonation, burnt vehicle, motorhome theft.

BCHL Today: Surrey Eagles and Powell River Kings close to advancing

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Plane filled with smoke lands at Nanaimo Airport

WestJet flight came in from Vancouver

VSO to perform ‘Star Wars’ music while 1977 movie plays on big screen

Three shows for the classic at iconic Orpheum Theatre this summer

B.C. emergency alert system being tested Wednesday

Alarm tone and message will play on TV and radio

BC Conservatives pumped by poll results

Surge in popularity has BC party picturing elected representatives in Victoria

5 to start your day

A serious crash in Langley, Surrey man wanted in connection to vicious assault and more

Most Read