on the Fraser River
stand witness to the fact that the Fraser River courses through the
history of New Westminster. The city's location on the Fraser has influenced
the ebb and flow of its development.
river played a major role in Colonel Moody's choice of this area, which
he named "Queensborough", as the capital of the new colony. He felt
the capital should be on the north side of the Fraser so there would
be formidable natural barriers against invasion from the United States
to the south. New Westminster's hillside location further increased
Westminster was easily accessible by large ships and was a short distance
from Burrard Inlet, where goods could be received by sea. Over the years
all manner of ships plied the Fraser, from sailing ships (some steam
equipped), to paddle wheelers, tugboats, and freighters.
the gold rush created a demand for mass transportation to the canyon
mines of the Fraser Valley, steamboats fit the bill. New Westminster
funnelled supplies upstream to the gold mines and later to workers building
the Canadian Pacific Railway at Yale. One of the most famous steamboat
captains was William Irving, whose house still stands in New Westminster.
Using his steamboat "Onward" and later the "Reliance", Irving concentrated
his business on runs between New Westminster and Yale.
from the Fraser Valley needed a more efficient route to New Westminster
in order to conduct business. Necessity being the mother of invention,
in 1884 the "K de K", under the direction of Captain Grant, was the
first ferry to go across the Fraser. The "K de K" was named in honour
of Knevett de Knevett, a friend of Captain Grant. In 1889, the ferry
"Surrey" replaced the "K de K". The "Surrey" could be seen leaving from
Brownsville (part of Surrey), loaded with families, their wagons and
produce, all bound for the New Westminster farmer's market. In 1904,
the opening of the 1st Fraser River Bridge rendered the "Surrey" obsolete.
Later would come the 1937 Pattullo Bridge.
Fraser spawned industries. The fishing trade and salmon canneries flourished,
lumber mills were located by the riverbanks for easy shipping, and shipbuilding
thrived. Mercer Shipyards was an industry leader. During World War I,
war vessels were built on Poplar Island for the Imperial Munitions Board.
of giant sturgeon caught in the river lead one to wonder where these
once plentiful and magnificent creatures have gone. Terry Glavin in
his book A Ghost in the Water includes a description of caught
sturgeon which appeared in the Columbian newspaper of August 14, 1897:
"Several very large ones have been caught in the Fraser, one over 1,800
lbs. being reported. The largest of which any authenticated record has
been kept was one weighing 1,387 lbs."
Fraser River Flood of 1948 dramatically underscored that the river destroys,
as well as nurtures. The flood affected much of British Columbia. Alongside
the army, Queensborough civilians conducted a heroic and successful
dyke building effort, using one million sandbags to strengthen the levees.
story of the Fraser flows on. New Westminster has undergone a major
transformation over the years, from a primarily commercial/industrial
centre, to a residential one. The waterfront development of Westminster
Quay is a striking example of this rebirth.
photographs presented here illustrate the strong bond between the Fraser
River and the people who live by its banks.