A Mini History of Port Moody
The 2011 Census released on February 7, 2012 revealed that Port Moody has a population of approximately 34,000 and also showed that it is one of the fastest growing cities in B.C.
It seems a good time to give a history primer for the newcomers and a refresher for the old timers.
When you visit the City Hall/Library complex at 100 Newport Drive, have a look at the Port Moody coat-of-arms on display in the Galleria. They are on the wall above the doors leading to the Council Chambers. It was designed by former Mayor David Driscoll. It shows our mountains, trees and water and the words “Blest by Nature – Enriched by Man”.
The water is Burrard Inlet named by Captain Vancouver while on his mapping expedition in 1792. The inlet was used by the Salish Indians canoeing to their summer/fall encampments east of present Rocky Point Park. They came for shellfish, deer hunting and berry picking. They left evidence of these activities (shells, bones, kitchen utensils) in their middens (European word for garbage dump). When you walk the Shoreline Trail, you are walking on top of some of the middens which can be many feet deep.
After Captain Vancouver’s visit, there were no Europeans in the area until Col. R.C. Moody came to the Colony of British Columbia in 1858 with a detachment of Royal engineers (sappers). They were encamped at Sappertown (Sapperton). He had a great number of tasks. One was to safeguard the Colony from any American encounters caused by their Civil War which started in 1861. His fleet of man-of-war on the Fraser River supporting Fort Langley needed safe winter anchorage, he chose Burrard Inlet. In 1859 he cleared a military supply road directly north from Sappertown to Burrard Inlet – hence the “North Road”.
Admiralty charts refer to the eastern end of Burrard Inlet as the “Moody Arm”. Col. Moody established a naval reserve just east of the present Ioco townsite because it had a commanding view of the whole inlet. His ships used the site for cannon ball firing practice. A number of cannon balls have been found, one of which is on display at the Port Moody Station Museum. After completing his last assignment – building a road to the Barkerville gold rush – he returned with his Royal engineers to England. Any sapper who chose to remain in Canada was given a grant of 200 acres, one was John Murray. He chose the present site of Rocky Point Park (Murray Street).
As early as 1865 there was talk of a railway to join east to the west. In an 1865 memo, Col. Moody recommended “Port Moody” as the western terminus because of its strategic location on Burrard Inlet. This became a fact in 1879 when the Federal Government made the commitment to complete the railway – the “Canadian Pacific Railway” in order to have British Columbia join the Canadian Federation. In 1880 Port Moody became a boomtown with railway construction activity. A wharf and railway station were built near the present marina on the Barnet Highway to facilitate supply ships from Britain.
Hotels, stores and houses were built. John Murray joined with James Clarke to start a real estate company to sell lots to people lured by the boom. James Clarke paid to have a road built to connect with the North Road to accommodate people coming from New Westminster (Clarke Street – Clarke Road).
The east-west railway was completed in 1885. In 1886 the first ocean to ocean – Montreal to Port Moody passenger train arrived at the Port Moody terminus on July 4, 1886. This arrival is depicted in a lithograph drawn by the renowned Tri-City artist Don Portelance. The Port Moody Museum has a copy on display. The event was commemorated in 1936 with a cairn built on the lawn of the then 1913 City Hall – now the home of the Port Moody Arts community. The event was also commemorated by the Canadian mint by producing in 1986 a silver dollar showing the arrival of Engine 371 in 1886.
Unfortunately, the boom did not last because the Canadian Pacific Railway Company negotiated with the Province and Vancouver to permit the building of a branch line – Port Moody to Vancouver – which was completed in 1887. (Incidentally, the first passenger train into Vancouver in 1887 was hauled by Engine 374 – sister to 371. Engine 374 is on display at the Roundhouse Community Centre at the False Creek Expo Site in Vancouver).
The Port Moody Heritage Society acquired the original CPR station building and moved it to its present location near the Moody Street overpass. It became the Port Moody Station Museum – a must visit for newcomers.
Now back to the trees on the coat of arms. They have sustained Port Moody since the first sawmill was built in the early 1880’s. There have been as many as five mills operating simultaneously. Looking at the mountainside above the North Shore it is difficult to believe that there had been intense logging including use of a logging railway system and a large dry flume system for moving logs from the mountainside to McNair’s shingle mill on the inlet. Incidentally, the concrete base of a teepee waste sawdust burner from the shingle mill can be seen from the shoreline walk on the North Shore.
Port Moody has had two oil refineries, a steel pipe manufacturing plant, a submarine manufacturing plant, a large steel manufacturing plant, a radio/tv manufacturing plant, and a winery. All of the above were either closed or moved out of Port Moody.
The oldest industrial plant in Port Moody is Flavelle Sawmill and it depended on logs being brought to the plant by water.
Industrial plants do not make a city. Workers who build the plants and operate them do. Flavelle Cedar Mill established in 1912 and Ioco Oil Refinery in 1914 (now closed) took pride in having a number of three generation employees.
McNair and Imperial Oil workers took the new Delta ferry to work or they walked along the CPR branch line that went to Ioco. When the school was built at Ioco in 1920, the teacher, who lived in Coquitlam, walked to the school along the railway tracks.
Many millworkers who lived in Coquitlam used a trail that began (or ended) south of the Shell service station on St. Johns Street. Some parts of the trail are still in use after 100 years.
The son of John Hutchison, owner of the Brickyard on Ioco Road told me that since there was no high school in Port Moody in the 1920’s he would walk every school day to Sapperton to catch the New Westminster street car to take him to his school.
Now – recent history – in 1960 Pacific Coast Terminals was established in Port Moody. They dredged the inlet in the vicinity of their dock to allow deep sea vessels to dock safely. The company receives sulphur by railcar from Alberta where it is extracted from natural gas. The company has facilities for off-loading the railcars; for storing the sulphur; and for loading the ships for export around the world.
The company has made Port Moody one of the largest sulphur exporting ports in the world.
Now – quoting from Port Moody’s coat-of-arms, Port Moody is truly “Blest by Nature – Enriched by Man”.