Colonel Richard Moody, Royal Engineer, 1859
today’s Citadel Heights subdivision), on the right bank of the Fraser, west of the mouth of Pitt River. His party landed at Mary Hill intending to start clearing the land. One of his officers, Captain Jack Grant, was taking the first swing of his axe to fell a large tree near the riverside. Suddenly, he stopped and put down his axe. Grant told Colonel Moody that he was making a mistake in locating the capital city at Mary Hill. Instead, they should build the capital further down the river, where New Westminster is located today. He reasoned that the downstream site was at the head of tide water, and therefore big ships could reach it from the ocean. It would also be easier to defend. Colonel Moody agreed, and so New Westminster became British Columbia’s capital.9 During the winter of 1858-59 the Fraser River froze solid for several months. Colonel Moody realized that in such a situation New Westminster (as it came to be called) would not be accessible to ships carrying supplies or guns. Therefore in the summer of 1859 he built the North Road to Burrard Inlet, so that settlers in New Westminster would have access to a salt water port. In 1861 the Royal Engineers also built a trail from their camp in Sapperton (they were known as “sappers”) overland to the site of present day Port Moody. In 1862, they built the original Pitt River Road.
From the Royal Engineers’ camp, the road crossed the Coquitlam River near the site of present day Port Coquitlam. (Like many roads and streets in the Coquitlam area, parts of Pitt River Road have changed name over the years. Today, only a small portion of the original road still bears this name. Another section now forms part of the Lougheed Highway.) On November 11, 1863, the Royal Engineers returned to England, but many of the sappers decided to stay. They and other settlers acquired land clustered around North Road and Pitt River Road in the Coquitlam area.10
Exploration and Settlers
The Royal Engineers Build North Road Present day Port Coquitlam almost became the capital of the new colony. Initially, Governor James Douglas proposed Fort Langley as the site for the capital of British Columbia. However Colonel Moody rapidly decided that Fort Langley, with its back to a possible American invasion, was a bad defensive site. He wanted the capital on the north bank of the Fraser, putting the river between himself and any invaders. First, he suggested nearby Mary Hill (location of
Stage Coaches on North Road By the early 1880s, there was a regular stage coach service running the length of North Road between New Westminster and Port Moody. The coaches could carry eight to ten passengers and were drawn by either one or two pairs of horses. The trip took a little more than an hour and cost $1 per person. However, the “road” was sometimes in very poor condition, as reported in the winter of 1883 in a local newspaper: “ …[the road was] nothing but an ugly trail. Stages are driven over it by making passengers cross the Brunette on a single, round log. The stage at one time has to drop about two feet, and at another, horses and stage have to tumble through a ditch three feet wide. The track is all furrowed by the late floods.” As traffic on the road increased, Port Moody residents petitioned the government for a better road. Eventually North Road was 25
Published on Mar 3, 2017