Transportation & Communication
— Part of Surrey's Built Heritage —
Located near the intersection of the King George VI Highway and the Nicomekl River, the Port Elgin area has been a crossroads for various forms of traffic for thousands of years. For centuries prior to the arrival of the first European settlers, Natives regularly canoed up the Nicomekl River and down the Salmon River as they made their way to the salmon-fishing platforms in the Frasier Canyon.
The Hudson's Bay Company's chief trader James McMillan and his party of men followed the same route in their search for a location for a new fort for the fur trade in 1824. When European farmers began to settle in the area the native population abandoned the age-old route, traveling instead on the Fraser River.
A Working River
Prior to the construction of the Semiahmoo Road in 1873-74 and Crescent Road in 1884, the Nicomekl and Serpentine Rivers were the primary means of transportation in Port Elgin and Mud Bay areas. A customs office was located at the junction of the Semiahmoo Road and the Nicomekl River from 1880 to 1895. A post office operated from various settlers homes from 1885 to 1909.
Small steam powered vessels routinely traveled up both rivers to provide supplies to settlers; to pick up grain, hay and other produce; and to pull logs and lumber to market. Vessels travelling the Nicomekl River in the early 1900s included the supply boat Stella
, the Brackman-Ker Milling Company's Grainier
, and the Port Elgin
, a vessel initially used as a water taxi and later converted to a tug. Improvements to the road network and construction of the Nicomekl Dam in 1911-12 lessened the area's reliance on river-based transportation.
Trails & Roads
First Nations people developed a number of trails to supplement their river-based routes through the Fraser Valley. Some of these may have been used by later European settlers. One of the earliest overland routes developed by Europeans was the Semiahmoo Wagon Road, plotted by two former Royal Engineers. The route ran between Semiahmoo Bay in the south, continued north through Port Elgin, and ended at what later became Brownsville, on the Fraser River opposite New Westminster.
The short-lived Collins Overland Telegraph Company used part of the route in 1865 for its telegraph line. The road was upgraded with assistance from the Province in 1873-74 and became known as the Semiahmoo Trail by 1890. Much of the route was incorporated into the King George VI Highway, which officially opened October 1940.
The historic use of the rivers, trails and roads provided continuity from the past to the present and continues to influence transportation and communication in the Elgin community.