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CENTENNIAL: PoMo's pioneer spirit kept community growing
Poised on the verge of its second economic boom, the bustling community of Port Moody boasted a population of well over 1,000 people, at least three vehicles and even a home with an indoor toilet in 1913.
It had already been some 40 years since people first flocked to the city, anticipating fortune and prosperity with the promise of a CP Rail terminus in Port Moody.
“There was a tremendous boom for a few years,” said Jim Millar, curator of the PoMo Station Museum. “Articles in the Port Moody Gazette had all sorts of fabulous stories about what Port Moody would become,” with the head of Burrard Inlet slated to become the west coast’s Toronto.”
When the terminus moved to Vancouver, however, most of those early pioneers left in a hurry; even the Winnipeg House hotel was dismantled and moved to New Westminster.
A few hardy souls remained, however, and pioneered PoMo’s continued growth.
There was Capt. James Clarke, a master mariner, marine engineer and later a farmer, who donated significant portions of his 150 acres of land for Port Moody’s first churches and schools. He moved to Vancouver briefly in the early 1900s but returned to PoMo by 1911; two years later, at the age of 77, he established a real estate business and earned a seat on the first city council.
Born on a British ship and raised in Port Moody’s first family, John Murray Jr. came to be known affectionately as “Mr. Port Moody.”
Fiercely patriotic and devoted to his family, Murray Jr. surveyed the city’s early streets and named them after his siblings, their spouses and their children (he and his wife, Clara, never had children of their own).
With much of Port Moody still densely forested land there were ample hunting opportunities, and Murray Jr. served as the city’s game warden for many years before becoming a school truant officer, where he was known to be strict on the rules but soft on punishment. Murray Jr. was also elected to the first council in 1913, but only served for one year.
The mayor of that first council, Perry Roe, was born in Scotland in 1863 but spent his early years in the U.S. At the age of 15 he ran away to Texas, where he had dreams of becoming a cowboy; 10 years later he was in Vancouver and, although he had no knowledge of the lumber industry, he was working at a Vancouver mill.
By the early 1900s he was raising a family in Port Moody, where he soon owned half the Canadian Lumber Company.
Roe was acclaimed as PoMo’s first mayor in 1913, presiding over a nine-member council, but resigned a few years later amid controversy over a $100,000 loan to the Port Moody Steelworks company.
RECOVERY ON NEW TERRAIN
After the CP Rail terminus moved west, Port Moody initially sank into a deep depression, then quickly recovered (aided by a worldwide economic boom in the early 1900s) by turning to the trees.
Logging that had started on the south shore to clear land for the railway continued on PoMo’s north shore, where massive fir and cedar trees were cut by men living in logging camps along the hillside, up above the comfortable vacation homes for Vancouverites that had been built in Old Orchard and Pleasantside.
Logs were sent down the mountain on skid roads, where they were processed in the dozen or so mills operating in Port Moody. In 1912 Robert Thurston and Aird Flavelle purchased the former Emerson sawmill, operating on the waterfront at the foot of Kyle Street, and soon turned it into B.C.’s largest cedar mill and Port Moody’s most significant employer.
“Most mill workers would take whatever lumber they could home on their backs,” Millar said. “Quite a few built their houses that way.”
Following closely on the lumber industry’s success were the oil refineries, which started at the site of the first CP Rail station in 1909 and was followed by the Imperial Oil Company on PoMo’s north shore in 1914. By 1915 Ioco was running at full steam, employing 240 men and producing 1,000 barrels of oil a day.
As much as Port Moody has changed in the past 100 years, the small community hugging the shores of Burrard Inlet today bears many similarities to its 1913 counterpart.
Significant growth in the city’s town centre in recent years gave way to a near-standstill in new development while the city lobbied for a long-promised transit line. Now, with the Evergreen Line set to make its way alongside CP’s tracks, Port Moody stands poised on the verge of a new era of growth, change and prosperity. Those early pioneers, the ones who stayed to make Port Moody their home, would no doubt be proud.
• The Port Moody Heritage Society’s book Tracks in Time: Port Moody’s First 100 Years will be available in February 2013 and can be purchased now for $40 online at portmoodymuseum.org or at the Station Museum (2734 Murray St.). For more information about Port Moody’s centennial events planned for 2013, visit www.portmoody.ca.
POMO CENTENNIAL EVENTS
• Jan. 1: Penguin Plunge centennial kick-off event.
• Feb. 24: Heritage House Tours, with historical re-enactments.
• March 2: Living Heritage Project, featuring “living books” connected to PoMo’s past.
• April 7: Special council meeting, with historical re-enactments of PoMo’s first council meeting, heritage dress and vehicles.
• April 7: Community Arts Gathering, an exhibition of historical photographs, art and entertainment.
• May 21: Youth council meeting.
• June 16: Dance With Us, a Yarilo Contemporary Music Ensemble centennial concert at Rocky Point Stage.
• June 22: Aboriginal Days, featuring a celebration of PoMo’s First Nations history (date is tentative).
• June 22: Centennial Parade, from the civic centre to Rocky Point Park.
• July 20: Celebration of Wood, highlighting the importance of logging in PoMo’s history.
• Aug. 17: Community Day Picnic at Rocky Point Park, with games, live entertainment and fireworks.
• Sept. 29 & Oct. 6: Ioco Ghost Town Days.