Stanley Park – Early uses of park land

A traditional seagoing canoe dug out of a single cedar tree using stone tools. For years, hundreds of such canoes competed in local Dominion Day celebrations.

The peninsula was a popular place for gathering traditional food and materials in the 1800s, but it started to see even more activity after the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush in 1858, going through a succession of uses when Non-Indigenous settlers moved into the area.

The shallow waters around the First Narrows and Coal Harbour were popular fishing spots for clams, salmon, and other fish. August Jack Khatsahlano, a celebrated dual chief of the Squamish and Musqueam who once lived at Chaythoos, remembered how he used to fish-rake in Coal Harbour and catch lots of herring. They would also hunt grouse, ducks, and deer on the peninsula.

Second Beach was a source of “clay … which, when rolled into loaves, as (my people) did it, and heated or roasted before a fire, turned into a white like chalk” that was used to make wool blankets.

Indigenous inhabitants also cut down large cedar trees in the area for a variety of traditional purposes, such as making dugout canoes.

By 1860, nonaboriginal settlers (Portuguese, Scots, and others) had started building homes on the peninsula, first at Brockton Point and later on Deadman’s Island. “Portuguese Joe” Silvey was the first European to settle in the future park. A Chinese settlement also grew in a cleared area at Anderson Point (near the present day Vancouver Rowing Club).

The peninsula was surveyed and made a military reserve in an 1863 survey completed by the Royal Engineers. Despite the houses and cabins on the land, it was again considered a strategic point in case Americans attempted an invasion and launched an attack on New Westminster (then the colonial capital) via Burrard Inlet.
In 1865, Edward Stamp decided that Brockton Point would be an ideal site for a lumber mill. He cleared close to 40 hectares (100 acres) with the permission of colonial officials, but the site proved too impractical and he moved his operation east, eventually becoming Hastings Mill. The land cleared by Stamp later became the Brockton sports fields.

A traditional seagoing canoe dug out of a single cedar tree using stone tools. For years, hundreds of such canoes competed in local Dominion Day celebrations.

The future park was selectively logged by six different companies between the 1860s and 1880s, but its military status saved the land from further development. Most of today’s trails in Stanley Park got their start from the old skid roads.

Near the end of the 1800s, the city’s principal reservoir was built in the area south of Prospect Point that is now a playing field and picnic area. Despite the reservoir’s demolition in 1948, there is still a Reservoir Trail at that location.

From the 1860s to 1880s, settlers in Burrard Inlet used Brockton Point, Anderson Point, and nearby Deadman’s Island as burial grounds. This practice stopped when the Mountain View Cemetery opened in 1887. Deadman’s Island had already had a long history as a burial site. In 1865, unsuspecting newcomer John Morton found old cedar boxes in the trees. They turned out to be coffins that had been placed there to keep the remains of important indigenous persons out of reach of wild animals.

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