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Once housing drunks, murderers and gamblers, Port Moody’s first jail cell resurrected

You can learn how early-1900s scallywags did time — or just dried out — in a display at Port Moody Station Museum
Jim Millar in old jail at Port Moody Station Museum
Jim Millar, the executive director of Port Moody Station Museum, checks out the city's original jail that's now on display at the musuem.

Scallywags with criminal inclinations may want to stay away from the Port Moody Station Museum.

They could find themselves incarcerated right on the spot, now that the city’s first jail cell has been rescued from storage and put on display.

It’s a bit of a homecoming for the cell, which is constructed of flatiron slats riveted together. It was once located in the basement of the old CP Rail train station after it had been moved from a purpose-built jail and then a hen house on Queen Street. When the old city hall on St. Johns Street was built in 1913, it was installed there until the city got a new police building a few blocks away in the mid-1960s.

The cell was finally retired when the growing police department moved into larger facilities in 1986.

Markus Fahrner, a manager and curator at the museum, said the cell is a vestige of Port Moody’s frontier beginnings, when its chief constable spent much of his time wrangling loose pigs on city streets and collecting dog licence fees as well as checking reports of illegal gambling dens and runaway children.

“It feels more like a Wild West kind of city,” Farhner said of his reading of old police logs and diaries kept by C.A. Mills. “There was a lot of drinking and people spent time in the cell drying out.”

In 1924, a rivalry between gangs in the city led to two murders and there was the occasional industrial accident at the cedar mill to investigate, including a report of kids skinny dipping in its tailings pond that resulted in a pile of their clothes being deposited at the jail by the mill’s night watchman.

The cell was officially unveiled as part of the museum’s celebration of Heritage Day last Sunday.


Read more about the Port Moody Station Museum

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Immigrant stories disembark at Station Museum

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