By Eric Andersen
Published: March.17, 2012
“Newport as a city is absolutely at its beginning, but it is backed and founded on FACTS, which makes its future a mathematical certainty.” (British American Trust Co. Ltd., November 1909)
Thirty years after the establishment of the Squamish Valley Indian Reserves and the pre-emption by Sewell P. Moody and his Burrard Inlet syndicate of what would become the townsite (Lot 486), the next Grand Project for Squamish would unfold.
“Newport” was to be the grandest Squamish Project scheme of them all – the one with the greatest development impact for our valley, as it is today. Yet it was also not to be realized. “Newport” has become the myth of Squamish – of what was to have been …of what the town deserved to be.
“Newport – “FOUNDED ON FACTS” – The New Industrial Seaport at the Head of Howe Sound.
Building a City …Newport, facing one of the most perfect harbors on the Pacific coast, Howe Sound…
Back of Newport for one hundred and eighteen miles are timber lands, agricultural lands, mining lands, grazing and fruit lands, water power, hunting, fishing and the most superb scenery to be found on the North American continent – in other words, enough natural resources to support a thriving city of at least 50,000 people.
In February 1906, a group of Vancouver businessmen announced their intention to apply to build a line of railway from “the Squamish”, at the Head of Howe Sound to Anderson Lake. The Howe Sound, Pemberton Valley & Northern Railway was granted its charter on March 21, 1907. Later, in 1910, the company took a new, abbreviated name and had its charter amended to build to Lillooet.
Arthur McEvoy, one of the group, was later to recall: “In 1907 the Howe Sound and Northern Railway Company, of which I was a director, discovered the feasibility of construction of a railway to a reasonable grade from the head of Howe Sound over the Coast Range by way of the Cheakamus Canyon, through Pemberton Meadows into the great interior.”
Before the work of construction could commence, it was necessary to secure the property required for a townsite, for terminal facilities and for the right-of-way itself.
Lot 486, the Moodyville syndicate’s delta lands pre-emption, was divided up among several owners – hay ranch operators, logging companies, Galbraith’s Squamish Hotel, and the Blue Ribbon Tea Co.
Re-assembling these delta lands and the preliminary railway surveying took three years. In 1910 the railway construction began, from across the slough (then the East Branch of the Squamish River) from where the Adventure Centre is located today, and up what is now Loggers Lane as far as Cheekye.
Arthur McEvoy: “We spent in railroad construction several hundred thousand dollars, and in development of the townsite of Newport, at the head of the Sound, some sixty thousand dollars. We opened up roads, laid down sidewalks and put in a water system, helped to establish a mill, and the town was rapidly developing by reason of our activity and the payroll of the logging operations carried on over our road.”
By 1912, the line extended south to the valley’s first sawmill, Newport Sawmills Ltd., around today’s Cattermole Slough. Two major logging operations – Newport Timber Co. on the Mamquam flats and up today’s Ring Creek road, and Squamish Timber Co. in the Cheekye Fan – alongside a few smaller ones, were using the railway’s mainline and dumping into booming grounds at the waterfront beside the townsite.
Cleveland Avenue would fill up with new businesses, including two 3-storey hotels, and the valley’s first Board of Trade was established (1912). Plans were made for extending the line south across the Stawamus to larger log booming grounds, and north to Green Lake and to Pemberton Meadows, where the railway company investors also had mining claim and land interests.
There was to be no money from the provincial government for the HS&N Rly company venture. It was to be a “pay as you go plan” – expansion would be financed from logging railway operation revenues.
But then, “by reason of the Government of the day granting to the Incorporation of the Pacific Great Eastern the right to construct a railway over the same…from that date until that bunch of alien carpet-baggers controlling the P.G.E. was thrown out and control taken over by the present Government, all progress at Newport stopped.” (Arthur McEvoy, Nov. 15, 1919)
A forced sale, a hostile takeover – just when the company’s valley operations were showing very comfortable profits, and great plans were being made to build northward, all the way into the Central Interior. It was the end of this Squamish Project, and the beginning of another – that of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway.
The real estate companies simply continued:
“…BUY IN NEWPORT NOW. Its area is so limited, its position on the trade routes of British Columbia is so unique, and the resources tributary to it are so enormous that investments made there at present must inevitably bring a rich return.” (Morten & Willmot, selling agents for Lot 759 [Dentville], 1912)