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First Nations Inhabitants
Port Moody's Early History
The Western Terminus
Industry in the Early 1900s
After the War

First Nations inhabitants

Prior to the arrival of European explorers, the Coast Salish First Nations communities lived along the southern coast of this province. Dialects of their language were spoken even further south. The mild climate and plentiful resources of this region allowed these first nations groups to live comparatively well. A number of first nations tribes lived in various areas according to their ethnic group such as the Sanetch, Cowichan, Nanaimo, Homalco, Sechelt, Squamish, Muskwiam and Tsawwassan.

It has been reported that two of these tribal groups, the Squamish and the Muskwiam came to Port Moody during the summer season to set up camps at the mouths of local streams such as Noons Creek for the purpose of hunting and gathering shellfish in preparation for the winter season.

Source: Early History of Port Moody, D.M. Norton (1987)

 

Port Moody's early history

First Transcontinental train

The arrival of the first transcontinental train in Port Moody, the western terminus of the line, on July 4, 1886.


 

The early history of the Port Moody area was dominated by two events: the 1858 gold rush on the Fraser and the 1886 arrival of the first transcontinental train. With the sudden appearance of thousands of gold prospectors in the Fraser Valley and the need to develop a back-door defense for the burgeoning town of New Westminster, the Royal Engineers (commanded by Col. Richard Moody, after whom Port Moody was named in 1859) were directed to clear a trail from the new capital of British Columbia to Burrard Inlet.

The trail, later known as North Road, would allow ships anchored in Burrard Inlet to unload military supplies and personnel if New Westminster were attacked from the south. No attack occurred. But a town, at first no more than a cluster of tents and shacks, began to grow, spurred on by several land grants to some of the Royal Engineers. One of them was John Murray, who eventually owned about half the town. His son, also named John, later was responsible for many street names – Murray, John, George, William, Henry, Jane, Mary, etc. The main thoroughfare, St. John Street, is a misnomer: John Jr. – police officer, alderman and general mover and shaker – in error put "St." in front of, instead of behind, "John." So the official survey gave the street the name it has today. (The late Major J.S. Matthews, the Vancouver archivist, supposedly said when he heard of the street name: "Johnny Murray was no saint.") 

The Western Terminus

Port Moody had an "early moment of fame" in 1879 when it was officially named western terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway, the transcontinental line promised in 1871 by Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to entice British Columbia into Confederation. The first passenger train from Montreal arrived in Port Moody at noon on July 4, 1886, with about 150 passengers after a 139-hour (4,655 kilometre) trip.

Speculation caused by the imminent arrival of the railway had been rampant; in 1885 a man bought a lot at Clarke and Queens Streets for $15 and sold it later the same year for $1,000. Port Moody was expected to become the biggest town in the west but William Van Horne decided the company would extend its rail line from Port Moody to a new terminus several kilometres farther west, newly named Vancouver – the railway's executives had determined Port Moody's narrow shelf of land between water and hillside to be insufficient for expansion. There was amazement and anger when the decision became known, and unsuccessful lawsuits were launched. The near-ecstasy of the first train's arrival in Port Moody soon faded. A cairn in Port Moody commemorates the "Completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway." There is no cairn for William Van Horne! Port Moody's population was static at 250 for nearly 20 years. 

Industry in the early 1900s

J.S. Emerson built a sawmill for cutting cedar in 1905. Records show 125 men were employed there: 34 white men, 80 Chinese, five Japanese and six Hindustani. At about the same time several oil refineries opened, followed in 1915 by the large Imperial Oil Company development just outside the Port Moody boundary. In 1913 Port Moody was incorporated as a city. The first city hall was built and Perry A. Roe, the owner of a local sawmill, became the first mayor.

Port Moody was primarily a mill town, full of the smoke and the whine of lumber being cut into boards and shingles. If you walked down a street in the early 1920s, you would have seen mostly private homes with gardens in the back and laundry on the lines. There were five or six general stores selling everything from shoes to steak, three hotels, two gas stations, an elementary school and one police officer. There were no fire fighters. When one of the sawmills caught fire, a series of shore whistles was blown and everyone hastened down to help fight the fire. 

After the war

With the outbreak of World War II, people were able to find steady employment. After the war the town began to spread out and meet surrounding towns as they grew. Port Moody joined the suburbs. In the following decades the process continued as large companies like Andrés Wines, Gulf Oil, Weldwood, Interprovincial Steel, Reichold Chemicals and Pacific Coast Terminals opened up plants in the Port Moody area.

 

Last updated: 30/09/2011 9:35:04 AM