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The Crescent Oyster Company 1904–1957

Photos and information provided by Peter Oldershaw.
Compiled by Jack Berry

The Crescent Oyster Company was incorporated in 1904. W. Lambert was the founder and manager of the company until 1922 when Alf Oldershaw took over. Alf Oldershaw retired in 1949, then Bill Gardiner managed the company until it was sold in 1957.

The initial pre-emption claim by the Crescent Oyster Company was for the foreshore and sand bars to the north and east of Walter Blackies holdings.

BC land file

Detailed land claim

Pictures courtesy of Kathleen Moore

For over fifty years the Crescent Oyster Company provided employment for a small group of East Indian labourers and part time or full time employment for some local residents. The Sikh employees lived in two bunk houses on the premises.

COC in 1930s Barge and skiff

john Christopherson is piloting the skiff on the right.

The majority of Company buildings were perched on pilings above the high water mark at the mouth of the Nicomekl River in Surrey, B.C. As the river channel silted up, wharves had to be extended out into deeper water to give adequate moorage at low tide. The first shed on the left is where the wooden packing crates were assembled out of pre cut lumber. The second shed held the machine shop and smithy. The floating building to the right was used for sorting Native and Eastern oysters in preparation for shipment.

Bunk House

Another bunk house was provided by the company. This one was located out on the Mud Bay oyster beds to house the crew while they were harvesting oysters. This bunk house was abandoned in the mid twenties but while it stood, it was the subject of idle curiosity for many visitors to Crescent Beach.

Plant Office 1955

Crescent Oyster Company manager's office and living quarters are on the right. The house to the left was used as a laboratory or living quarters for supervisory staff. The building in the middle was the oyster shucking shack with its accompanying shell pile.

Ponds for seed oysters

In the beginning oysters were grown in lagoons. The flow of the water was controlled by tide gates. This method proved too costly for the amount of oysters harvested. Immature "seed" oysters were imported from Long Island Sound and transplanted onto the Mud and Boundary Bay's leased beds. This proved to be a better method.

Racker boat Racker boat Alf Oldershaw

Oyster rakers could row out to local beds. To the more distant beds they required a tow. Alf Oldershaw is at the tiller of the tow boat. During the winter months, when low tides were required, harvesting occurred only at night. Coleman lamps were used to light the work area.

breaking up clumps

The crew is breaking up clumps of imported seed oysters to promote uniform growth and make shucking easier.

Oyster Rakers basket Carrier Oyster Barrow

Loaded Scow

Alf Oldershaw is on a scow which had been previously anchored over the bed at high tide. After loading, it would be floated off at the next high tide and towed back to the plant. There the oysters would be off loaded into live boxes for storage until they were sorted.

Sorting Oysters

Here Oysters are being sorted into marketable, undersized and loose shell. Undersized and loose shell were returned to the beds. Left to right: Swaren Singh, Prahim Singh and Oudam Singh. In the background is the live box where the oysters were stored.

Shucking Plant

Seen here is the oyster shucking plant, shell pile and live box at low tide.

Harry Truesdale

Harry Truesdale is opening Pacific Oysters in the shucking shed. Pearls found in these oysters were of no value. They were too chalky, 1942.

Harry viewing the pile of shells

Harry inspecting his handiwork. The old closed-in Great Northern (GNR), now Burlington Northern (BN) bridge can just be seen in the background.

Pile of Oysters

More of Harry's handy work.

Returning shells to beds

Oyster shells were returned to the beds as a base for oyster spawn. This was called a "culch". The oysters attaching themselves to the culch were called "spat".

Sikh employees

Sikh employees in front of the Crescent Oyster Company's tow boat "Cresoco". Circa 1933.

Loading Oysters

Manager, Alf Oldershaw on a wagon loaded with boxes of Eastern oysters and sacks of native oysters. They were express shipped on the GNR to either Seattle or Vancouver. This was a flag stop at the oyster company site. Bridge tender's house and hand propelled speeder is in the background. Circa 1928.

Fisheries biologists

Left to Right: Fisheries biologists Gil Black, Roy Elsey and Edgar Black would make periodic visits to the company to do marine research relative to oyster growing. Circa 1933.

Current pilings

The current view of the remnants of the Crescent Oyster Company taken from near the Burlington Santa Fe Bridge, west of Crescent Beach Marina.

The Crescent Oyster Company was bought out in 1957 by B.C. Packers. They had a plant across the Bay in Ladner. The C.O.C. buildings were either torn down or moved and the beds were taken over by the Packers. The old site is marked with one of the 33 Memory Stones that are situated at points of interest around Crescent Beach B.C.

Memory Stone

For additional information on the Crescent Oyster Company contact:

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