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Jack Herbert

History of Burnaby, British Columbia

It happened so that Burnaby became a popular corner for new immigrants, especially from Eastern Europe to settle down. Metrotown and its Metropolis Mall are well known places. The Simon Fraser University is also located in Burnaby. Well, let’s give a closer look at the history of Burnaby.

In 1858 the Royal Engineers under the command of Col. Richard Moody came to western Canada. They opened up the North Road from Sapper Town (Sapperton) to Burrard Inlet.

By 1892 over 200 people lived in the southeast corner of the land between New Westminster and Vancouver. A group of interested citizens met to plan and submit to Victoria an application for a municipal charter. The response to the request was immediate, and the land officially received identity – Burnaby.

The name chosen for the municipality was that of a man who, strangely enough, spent only a few months on the mainland of B.C. Robert Burnaby arrived in Victoria in 1858 from England with a letter of introduction to Governor James Douglas. It seemed logical to Gov. Douglas that Burnaby with his knowledge of business gained from 17 years as a custom’s agent in England should act as secretary to Col. Moody. The arrangement lasted for 6 months, after which Burnaby started 2 mining companies and a navigation company, but all were financial failures. He then turned to banking and became a respected Victoria businessman. He also organized the first Freemason Lodge in B.C. in 1860. Robert Burnaby had resided in Victoria for 18 years when his health began to fail. Thus, he returned to his former home in England.

By 1896 it was deemed necessary to hire an enforcer of the law in the person of a Mr. Bailey. His duty was to admonish owners of pigs to keep their livestock from rooting and wallowing on the Vancouver-Westminster Rd. (Kingsway) and to enforce the wide tire by-law, which stated that wagons carrying one ton or more must have tires at least 4 inches wide.

In 1899 a mill built several years previously on the shores of Burrard Inlet, but never used, was activated. Known as the North Pacific Lumber Co. (later Barnet Mill), this mill, at the peak of its operation, was the largest of its kind in the British Empire.

By 1910, and up to about 1940, agriculture had taken over much of Burnaby’s land. Many residents went in for produce and small fruit farming. Burnaby was noted even in the early days for its strawberry crops.

In 1911–12 a population influx and real estate boom hit Burnaby. The municipality borrowed money to open up more land by installing sewers, waterworks and roads. Then World War I burst on the scene. Development in the municipality came to a standstill until the war ended and veterans came back to settle with their families.

During the 1920s jobs were scarce, taxes went unpaid and many people lost their homes as a result. Then the Depression came, and Burnaby, where the budget had not balanced for at least 6 years, found itself in financial trouble with no proper relief setup for the large number of unemployed within its bounds. For the destitute, municipal work was provided so that heads of families could earn their relief money. Under the program roadwork was done, several of Burnaby’s parks were created and a section of Burnaby Lake’s shore was cleared so that the International Rowing regattas could be held there in 1930-31.

Up to November 1932 relief investigations in Burnaby totalled 11,384 out of a population of approximately 25,500, although not all those who applied were eligible for aid.

During the 1930s industry began to take over Burnaby’s farmlands and unopened territory. As the municipality was gathering momentum in urban and industrial development, World War II broke out and progress was halted.

By 1941 the population of Burnaby was 30,328; by 1975 it had risen to approximately 133,000. The current population is more than 210,000. To meet the growing needs of municipal administration a new centrally located hall was planned on Canada Way and the cornerstone was laid in 1955. On top of Burnaby Mountain, Simon Fraser University took shape and was officially opened in 1965. The year before that another large educational complex, the B.C. Institute of Technology, was completed on Canada Way.

Lots of interesting facts can be told about Burnaby and its past and present. Myself, for example, I like to roller blade right under the sky-train Expo Line. At some places you can observe a really fantastic view on the city. Also you can roller blade on a trail starting from Cameron street near Lougheed Town Centre and go up to Hastings passing along the Golf Course closest to SFU. There are several bike trails in the woods on the Burnaby Mountain and some lead to SFU. They are of different difficulty levels, at some places going steep up the hill. Well, you can take a break, stop, and rest awhile. Why don’t you pick up some berries like blackberries or elderberries? You can also find a shroom and eat it up at the spot. You may also come across a cub bear or a coyote. Well, then what I’ll do is just give a whistle so the cub approach me, and pet him a little bit. Satisfied, the animal runs back into the woods wiggling his tale. How many miracles of nature do we have in Vancouver!

Mitch Grigori

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