“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Surrey in Greater Vancouver Regional District, British Columbia — The Canadian Pacific

Historic Port Elgin

Transportation & Communication


—Part of Surrey’s Built Heritage —

Port Elgin Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, October 30, 2012
1. Port Elgin Marker
Photo captions:
Skokomish Summer Encampment, c, 1912 (left, center); Supply Vessel S.S. Stella (right, top); Water Taxi, Port Elgin (right, center); Early bridge over the Nicomekl River (right, bottom).
River Routes
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
Port Elgin Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, October 30, 2012
2. Port Elgin Marker
The Nicomekl River is in the background.
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.
Erected 2008 by City of Surrey, Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission.
Location. 49° 4.143′ N, 122° 49.552′ W. Marker is in Surrey, British Columbia, in Greater Vancouver Regional District. Marker can be reached from Elgin Road. Touch for map. This marker is located on the Semaihmoo Trail a short walk from Elgin Road. Marker is in this post office area: Surrey, British Columbia V4P 0C2, Canada.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 16 kilometers of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Semiahmoo Trail (within shouting distance of this marker); Historic Elgin (approx. 0.3 kilometers away); Historic Stewart Farmhouse (approx. 1.3 kilometers away); Farming History (approx. 1.3 kilometers away); Historic McMillan Expediton (approx. 4.7 kilometers away); Peace Arch (approx. 9 kilometers away); The New Westminster Court House and Land Registry Office (approx. 16.1 kilometers away); The Great Fire (approx. 16.2 kilometers away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Surrey.
Categories. CommunicationsNative AmericansRoads & VehiclesWaterways & Vessels
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on November 3, 2012, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 625 times since then and 14 times this year. Last updated on March 11, 2013. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on November 3, 2012, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
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