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By Al Sholund

Ioco townsite circa 1917 
 The Ioco townsite in 1917.
Site clearing for the Imperial Oil refinery at Ioco began in 1913, followed by installation of the crude oil processing equipment in 1914. The refinery began refining in January, 1915.

The refinery site was very isolated – the ferry “New Delta” had a scheduled run from Vancouver, calling at Dollarton, Barnet and Ioco, en route to Port Moody. While a number of workmen used this service, others rowed from Barnet or Port Moody, or used the water taxi service from Port Moody. Still others chose not to commute: they set up a tent town near the work site. As construction continued on the refinery, more manpower was required and as a result the tent town expanded and became a more permanent “shack town.” This tent-and-shack town squatted on both sides of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) right of way south of the present townsite. By 1917, approximately 200 men, women and children were living in the shack town, which now boasted a school and two grocery stores.

The company had built fifteen cottages and a large boarding house on the refinery site for the trained operating personnel who had come mainly from the Sarnia, Ontario refinery. The school teacher was one of the boarding house’s residents.

Imperial Oil wanted to buy a large block of crown land which bordered the present April Road in order to build a townsite, but the federal government refused to sell as the Great War was on and the land was deemed a military reserve. In frustration, Imperial Oil purchased land from a private seller on which the present Ioco townsite was built.

The land was cleared and housing construction began in 1920. The first houses, however, were the cottages from the refinery, which were towed to their new site using donkey engines (portable steam engines used primarily in the lumber industry). Between 1920 and 1924 83 houses were built – all with indoor flush toilets, a real luxury at the time! On completion, the houses were sold to the employees.

In 1920, the company also built the Ioco grocery store and the Ioco community hall. Later, a tennis court and lawn bowling green was laid out. As well, Anglican and United churches were built. 

Last updated: 04/10/2011 9:30:58 AM