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History of Burnaby

Before the advent of new settlers in the late 1800's, the area now known as Burnaby was a land of tall trees and wilderness. The earliest pioneers settled around 1850 and Burnaby developed very slowly until 1887, when the Canadian Pacific Railway was extended into Vancouver from the Port Moody terminal. Due to the dramatic increase in traffic between New Westminster and Vancouver, a tram line connecting the two centres through Burnaby was built.

In October of 1891, the land along the route was subdivided and sold. The population of the area along the Canadian Pacific line was only about 200 persons who were mainly employed in the agriculture or logging industries. The property taxes the pioneers paid went straight to the new provincial capital of B.C. in Victoria and gave them no local benefits. A group of community minded neighbors consolidated to apply for a municipal charter that would guarantee their taxes went to local roads and services.

The municipality received its charter of incorporation on September 24, 1892. It was named after Robert Burnaby who had explored the region around Burnaby Lake in 1859. Robert Burnaby, a merchant and businessman, was active in a variety of community affairs and helped develop much of the west coast. Robert Burnaby went on to serve five years in the B.C. legislature before returning to England because of poor health. In all, he has given his name to a city, a park, a lake, a hill, a Vancouver street, a mountain range in McKenzie Sound, an island and a narrows in the Queen Charlotte Islands.

By 1896, Burnaby had its first park along with a store, post office, two schools and a church. Within five years, the population in South Burnaby had grown to 400. The opening of the Barnet Mill in North Burnaby in 1900 started a second settlement within the municipality.

The City of Burnaby is on the on the traditional, unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Kwikwetlem Nations.


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