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The Atchison Family
by Lloyd Atchison


My grandfather, George Atchison ventured west on the C. P. R. from Pembroke Ontario in the summer of 1897. He left his wife and seven children behind on his father's farm and after he established himself in B.C. he would telegraph his wife Mary to bring the family to join him. My father was a two year old twin as one of the seven children.


Upon arrival in B. C., George went about scouting out a favourable location for a family farm south of the Fraser River. He found an 80 acre tract that had been partially cleared by a Mr. Ward at Tynehead, and the two agreed upon a price in early 1898. He met his wife and family as they disembarked from the train in New Westminster in the summer of 1898 and they made their way to their new home. Tynehead was a very welcoming community even in those days, and when George built a large barn, many men freely contributed their labour. That barn and most of the original house still stand on the farm today. (2010)


George and Mary eventually had a family of eleven children. Large families were the norm in Canada at the turn of the Twentieth Century. All of the children attended Tynehead School, and only one of the boys (Harry) was able to get his high school graduation at the new Surrey High School that had been built in Cloverdale in 1912. George served as a school trustee for two years, but resigned that position after having a serious altercation with the Tynehead teacher over a discipline matter concerning one of his children.


I don't know why, but George's older brother and his family arrived in Tynehead after selling the Pembroke Ontario farm. Perhaps George and Mary had been too effusive in their letters about the mild climate and other positives that were found in coastal B.C. so that his brother and sister–in–law decided to pull up roots too. Although the extra manpower was welcomed, it must have been very crowded conditions on the Atchison farm at Tynehead in 1900. George's brother Andrew and his family were able to settle in the Newton area of Surrey and have flourished.


1901 census (New Westminster)


Brothers not on the 1901 Census and born later:

George and Mary Atchison

George and Mary Atchison circa 1910


Atchison Family home circa 1905

The Atchison house still stands on Coast Meridian Road (168th Street), although the second floor has been removed, and a new roof has been built.


Atchison Barn

The original Atchison barn still stands on 168th Street. This was a community built barn.


The Atchison family circa 1905

The Atchisons with twins Lloyd and Jim in the foreground circa 1905.


Only two of the Atchison boys enlisted for the First World War, and they were the twins Lloyd H. Atchison (my father), and his brother Jim. Although all of the boys could have avoided the conscription or draft to army service since they were farm workers, my father told me many times of the following story. It seems that the community had a pretty good basketball team that played at the new community center and they had been able to easily beat the local opposition. The twins played on the team, and they arranged to play a New Westminster team in that city. To the shock of the Tynehead team, they were severely beaten, and after considering what they could do to retrieve their honour, all five of the team walked up the hill to the armories in New Westminster and joined the army in 1915. Shortly after the brothers arrived at the European battlefield, the community of Tynehead and Lloyd's family was saddened to receive a telegram announcing that he was Missing In Action. This was terrible news, as it usually meant that the army was looking for proof that he was dead. A telegraph a couple of weeks later brought the welcome news that he was alive and well. Dad told us that he had changed his rifle for one that he had found, and the MIA report was probably sent after they found his old rifle and checked its serial number. He had traded his Ross rifle which jammed easily with mud and dirt, for a Lee Enfield rifle that did not.


Lloyd and Jim Atchison

Lloyd and Jim on their way to war


Jim and Lloyd both were with the Canadian Forces at Vimy, and at Passchendaele. It was at the latter battle in 1917 that Lloyd was severely wounded by an artillery shell that exploded in front of him. Lucky for him (and me), the shell deeply penetrated the mud before exploding. As a result, the shrapnel hit him in the upper chest and parts of his face. The doctors were able to remove most of the shrapnel, but some small pieces were too close to the heart and arteries to deal with, and it was decided to just leave them there. Some of those small pieces moved around in his body, and I can remember once at the dinner table watching in awe as he rubbed his shoulder, and cut his finger on a piece of shrapnel that had surfaced. He used to tell of one visit to his doctor in the 1960's where he had a chest x-ray and the doctor exclaiming, "What happened to Mr. Atchison", as she viewed the x-ray of his shrapnel laced chest.


Lloyd's twin brother, Jim served with the army until the winter of 1918, and came back to Canada without a scratch. Jim had gone to war as a Private, and returned as acting Captain. This says much for the ideal that junior officers were supposed to lead their men on the battlefield and as a result, the attrition rate of junior officers was fearsome.


Appreciation Certificate

Surrey Municipality awarded Lloyd an appreciation certificate in 1919 for his war service.


By the early 1920's, George and his wife were in their 60s and were having difficulty running the farm as their children moved away. The brothers Lloyd, Jim and Harry worked the farm for three years. Harry used to say that these were the only years that the farm actually made a profit. George and Mary sold the farm and bought two houses in Vancouver with the proceeds of the sale. Four of the Atchison boys made their way to Vancouver Island where they got jobs in logging and shipbuilding.


Lloyd tried logging in the late twenties, and suffered a very bad accident while rigging a spar tree in the Columbia Valley east of Cultus Lake. The spar tree split, and he fell to the ground suffering multiple fractures to his left leg. It is of interest that his twin brother Jim, also a high rigger fell from a tree on Vancouver Island a few years later. Unfortunately, Jim landed across a railway track, and his body was so badly broken, he never worked again.


My dad had a long recovery period, and got a job as a clerk in the new provincial liquor store in Cloverdale (now Dann's). It was a period of prohibition in the U.S.A. and there was a steady stream of Americans driving on the Pacific Highway to the closest liquor store in this part of Canada. Although it was a big store, some days there were long line–ups on the sidewalk in front of the store. My father married my mother, Grace McDonald of Murrayville in 1929.


Dad also had a job in the late 30's selling cars in New Westminster. When I was born in 1938, my parents decided to move from their one bedroom apartment along with my older sister Donna and I to a house in Cloverdale. Property prices had dropped so much during the Depression, that my father used to shake his head while telling us that he had bought a two bedroom house on King Street in 1938 with a chicken shed and an adjoining lot for the sum of $450. Our house was across the street and a bit south of the O'Brien house. Mom and dad set up a real estate and insurance business in our home. Dad served the municipality as councillor representing Ward 4 for seven terms from 1947 to 1954, and retired from business in 1965. This was the same year that I graduated from U.B.C. with a secondary teaching degree. I taught first at Johnston Heights Jr. Secondary, then for 18 years at Semiahmoo Secondary. I am retired now and I live with my wife Marlyn in a townhouse complex only a few miles south of the original Atchison farm on the Coast Meridian Road.


B.C. Municipalities convention 1948

This picture was taken in 1948 at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention with Surrey's reeve, Charles Schultz and his wife at the far left, municipal clerk Percy Livingstone at far right, and councillor Lloyd H. Atchison behind his wife Grace as third from the right



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