The earliest residents of the Coquitlam area were the Coast Salish. Although Simon Fraser passed through the region in 1808, European settlement did not begin until the 1860s.
Coquitlam began as a "place-in-between" since the area was opened up with the construction of North Road in the mid-1800s. While the purpose of the road was to provide Royal Engineers in New Westminster access to the year-round port facilities in Port Moody, the effect was to provide access to the vast area between and to the east.
The history of the early years is one of settlement and agriculture. Growth was slow and steady and, in 1891, the municipality of the District of Coquitlam was officially incorporated.
The young municipality got its first boost in the dying years of the 19th century when Frank Ross and James McLaren opened Fraser Mills, a $350,000, then state-of-the-art lumber mill on the north bank of the Fraser River. By 1908, a mill town of 20 houses, a store, post office, hospital, office block, barber shop and pool hall had grown around the mill.
A year later one of the most significant events in Coquitlam’s history took place. Mill owners, in search of workers, turned their attention to the experienced logging culture of Quebec and in 1909 a contingent of 110 French Canadians arrived, recruited for work at Fraser Mills. With the arrival of a second contingent in June 1910, Maillardville was born.
Maillardville, named for Father Maillard, a young Oblate from France, was more than just a French-Canadian enclave in Western Canada. It was a vibrant community, the largest Francophone centre west of Manitoba, and the seed for the future growth of Coquitlam.
While the passing of time has diluted the use of the French language in British Columbia, it is still heard on the streets and in the homes on the south slope of Coquitlam. Maillardville’s past is recognized in street names that honour early pioneers and in local redevelopments which reflect its French-Canadian heritage.