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The Brown Family
of Colebrook, and Surrey Centre.

This history is based on photos and information from a family history produced by Jack Brown and his daughter Jamie Brown, a Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher titled Pioneer Profiles of Surrey, and a Power Point presentation created Dr. Michael Stibbs on the Brown Family Heritage Home.


Christopher Brown Family History

Christopher Brown was one of the first settlers in the East Delta area. He and his sons also developed and operated farms in the Colebrook and Surrey Centre areas. No history of Surrey would be complete without the Brown Family History.


Christopher Brown(e) was born in county Fermanagh, Ireland in 1853, his parents being Thomas and Jane Browne (nee Stinson). Christopher ended his education at age eighteen and turned to farming where he worked on the family farm for several years.


Fermanagh, Ireland County Fermanagh

Pictures courtesy of Surrey Archives


In 1874 he traveled to the United States via Cape Horn to San Francisco. He worked in California for several years handling stock and moved to British Columbia in 1877. He filed upon 160 acres of wild land in east Delta and started his Canadian farming career.


Christopher Brown

Sarah Thompson was the woman in Christopher Brown's life. The romance had begun in Ireland where they were young high school sweethearts. Sarah, also being raised on a farm, was one of fourteen children, (which included three sets of twins!!). Her parents were Joseph Thompson and Mary Parker. Sarah and her twin sister Mary came to the United States via New York in 1875. After working in New York for a few years, Sarah and Mary made their way to California where Christopher came down from BC and Sarah and Christopher were married in September of 1878.

Sarah Brown

Chris Brown returned to BC with his bride and took up his preemption in East Delta. He farmed the 160 acres in Delta for thirteen years then moved his attention to Surrey.


Location of East Delta preemption

Courtesy of Surrey Archives


The Brown preemption in East Delta

Courtesy of Surrey Archives


Sarah was the first white woman to settle in East Delta. Her first child, Norman, was the first white child to be born in East Delta. All of the Brown boys were born on the East Delta homestead except Harry and Clare who were born in Surrey Centre. She worked hand in hand with her husband as they worked and laboured to build a home and develop their land.


Norman was born in 1880
Thomas was born in 1881
Christopher was born in 1882
Joseph was born in 1883
Jack or J.J. was born in 1887
Jennie was born in 1889
Harry was born in 1892
Clare was born in 1896

Some years after his arrival in Delta, Chris added to his land holdings with the purchase of three hundred and twenty acres, but after holding it for a time he sold two hundred acres of that tract. The sale of this land netted him such profitable returns that he resolved to engage in the real estate business in connection with farming.


About 1890 Chris bought a larger piece of land (400 acres), north of Surrey Centre, Sec. 13-T.P.2 is bounded by the Bose Road (64th Avenue) on the south and the Coast Meridian (168th Street) on the east. Here he built a home and for the next few years farmed in Surrey and in East Delta. This farm remained in the family (son J.J. Brown then his son Jack) until it was developed into the Northview Golf Course which opened in 1994.


1890 Surrey preemption map

Courtesy of Surrey Archives


Brown home in Surrey Centre Brown home in Surrey Centre

Entry to Northview Golf Course

The Brown family home in Surrey Centre. The top picture is the front on the home and the bottom picture is the back of the home with Lourene Cannon in her formal dress. This home was located were the driveway to Northview Golf Course is presently located.


Brown Family Home on 168th Street

In 1956 the Brown family moved into a rancher facing 168th Street. This modern home replaced the original home located slightly to the north.


In about 1898, Chris Brown, together with F.J. Coulthard, purchased what was known as the Moodyville Estate, a tract of 1500 acres in the Municipality of Surrey. After the purchase Brown and Coulthard divided the property, Brown taking the west half and Coulthard taking the balance in the east. The property, the Moodyville Estate, is now known as Colebrook. By this time Chris Brown had become a big landowner in Surrey. At the time of his death in 1908, he had title to over 1300 acres. Seeing the need for land, Chris purchased land for the purpose of selling it to new immigrant settlers in the area.


In 1879 the Moodyville Sawmill Company had acquired approximately 1500 acres in Surrey (the area shaded pink in the previous map). Moodyville was a large Vancouver company with mills on the north and south shores of Burrard Inlet.


Moodyville Crown Grant Document

Courtesy of Surrey Archives


Plan attached to Crown Grant document

Courtesy of Surrey Archives


A document granting ownership of lot 51 group 2, New Westminster District to the Moodyville Sawmill Company. 5th December 1879 according to land titles office records Chris Brown bought the 1500 acres of district lot 51 from Moodyville in 1901, but, as he built his house on the property in 1898. There must have been some sort of less formal arrangement with the company prior to this. After the purchase the 1500 acres was bisected, F.J. Coulthard taking the eastern half, while Brown kept the western portion.


In 1908 Chris and Sarah Brown returned to Ireland to visit relatives. On their way home to BC the couple stopped in Eastern Canada to visit with their son Norman who was practicing medicine there after attending university at McGill. Shortly after returning home Mr. Brown made a trip to New Westminster. On his trip home Mr. Brown came upon a washout in the road, struck a rock, and was thrown from his buggy. He was killed instantly. He was 55 years old at the time of this death. His death was a great blow to all of the family.


The report of Chris Brown's accident in the Daily Columbian describes him as "one of the most widely known farmers of the Fraser Valley, Mr Chris Brown of Mud Bay." The British Columbian Fraser Valley Edition describes the funeral being held from the family residence at Mud Bay. That Coldbrook farm is not mentioned suggests perhaps that it was not given its name until later.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

Christopher Brown

Courtesy of Surrey Archives


Last rites Wednesday Dec. 23rd 1908 funeral was held from the family residence at Mud Bay to Surrey Centre Church and thence to the Surrey Centre Cemetery. "A cortege half a mile long followed the remains to the place of interment". Pall bearers included John Oliver and F.J. Coulthard.
From the daily Columbian, Fraser Valley Edition: Whether agriculture or investment potential was uppermost in mind when he bought district lot 51 is impossible to say, for he died in 1908 when the buggy he was driving rolled into a ditch. In his will he bequeathed his real and personal property to his eight children, subject to the obligation to "maintain their Mother in a manner suitable to her station in life".
The sons continued operating Coldbrook Farm, now divided into four, while their mother remained in the house until she moved to live with her daughter Jennie in Surrey Centre about three years before she died.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

Sarah Brown

With the death of Mrs. Sarah Brown of Colebrook, Fraser Valley lost one the few remaining settlers who came to this district when it was an untamed wilderness. Mrs. Brown passes away in Vancouver General Hospital on October 10th, 1947. Sarah Brown died just days shy of her 92nd birthday. Funeral services were held in Cloverdale with interment in Christ Church, Surrey Centre. Surrey Leader October 16, 1947.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher

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Church, family and the community was very important part of the Brown family life. Sarah contributed to the purchase of the first organ for Christ Church at Surrey Centre. Sarah and Christopher had eight children, seven boys and one girl. Seven of the Brown children attended school at Surrey Centre.


Surrey Centre School

School Register 1897

Courtesy of Surrey Archives


Four of the Brown children are recorded in this attendance record. Norman, John J, and Joseph attended in 1897.


Surrey Centre School

Three of the Brown children are shown in this school picture from 1911. Chris is third from the left, Harry is standing behind the boy on the left sitting on the grass, while Jenny is standing to the right of the boy sitting on the grass on the right.


Christopher and Sarah Brown's children

Sarah Brown and family

This picture was taken at Colebrook in 1913.
Sarah Brown is seated in front of her seven sons and her daughter Jennie
From left to right Jack, Harry, Chris (behind Jennie), Tom, Clare, Joe (behind), Norman (white suit)


Norman was the first child of Sarah and Christopher. At an early age he displayed a keen interest in books and learning and was to foster his ambition all the way to McGill University to become a medical doctor. He was president of the graduating class in medicine in 1913 and he practiced in Montreal in connection with the royal Victorian Hospital. He married Josephine Mary Hale (Kitty) of Nova Scotia and they had two children; Frances Mary and Norman Elwood. As Norman never farmed he was given property in Vancouver to cover the cost of his education, at 600 Burrard Street and the NW corner of Robson and Seymour Streets. Oh to have that property today!


Thomas Joseph was the second child of Sarah and Christopher born in 1882. He married Margaret Gay of Langley, they had two children. Tom farmed part to the original Colebrook homestead (it had been broken in four farms after Chris's death). Tom spent the period from 1914 to 1921 as the Ward 3 councilor on Surrey Municipal Council.


Christopher was the third son of Sarah and Chris and was born in 1882. He married Margaret Ada Lewis and they had six children. Christopher was a farmer in the Colebrook area and ended up employed by the federal government to be the chief buyer of produce for the Canadian Army. Christopher also served some time as a councilor on Delta Municipal Council.


Joseph Thompson was the fourth son born in 1883 in East Delta. He married Ellen Elizabeth (Nellie) Weaver. They had four children and lived in Colebrook on part of the original homestead. Following the death of his first wife, Joseph remarried Ethel Agnes Peck in 1902 and they had one son together. In 1910 he was appointed a fence viewer for Surrey Municipality. He served as the Reeve of Surrey from 1930 to 1937 and from 1941 to 1945.


Joseph Thomas Brown

Courtesy of Surrey Archives


Joseph farmed in Colebrook, was a member of Surrey's School Board, and was a Surrey Municipal Councilor for Ward 3 from 1912 to 1916, from 1918 to 1921, and 1927 to 1929. He served as the Reeve of Surrey from 1930 to 1937 and from 1941 to 1945. He had taken office before World War I and remained in office until the end of World War II.


War Bond Campaigne

Courtesy of Surrey Archives


The population of Surrey had grown from around 5,000 to 20,000 during JT Brown's terms in office. His most trying years were the hungry thirties when many of the people were unemployed and the Municipality had to provide relief. Surrey came through the seven years of depression without going into debt and without a single person losing his home or land.


In 1924 JT Brown was appointed chairman of the Colebrook dyking Commission, a position he was to hold for many years. During this time he introduced the method of facing the dykes with blue clay to prevent erosion. This method is now universally adopted among reclamation engineers. (See Surrey Dyking District)
In 1912 Mr. Brown took a personal interest in the building of the Municipal Hall in Cloverdale in 1912. When completed, this Hall was one of the most outstanding municipal buildings in the Province. (See Municipal Halls)
Although Mr. Brown's interest covered Surrey as a whole, he never forgot the Colebrook community. By 1920, the population of Colebrook had increased to point where there were a number of children and teenagers without any recreation facilities and the community was approaching a juvenile problem. To alleviate this, Mr. Brown erected a Recreation Hall on his property and turned it over to the community.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

In 1946, he was the prime mover in the construction of the picturesque Colebrook United Church.


Certificate of Life Membership

Courtesy of Surrey Archives


In recognition of JT Brown's public service the Union of British Columbia Municipalities awarded him the Life Membership


The Joseph Thompson Brown house Joe Brown infront of his home

The Joseph Thompson Brown house remains as a heritage home in the Colebrook District. It was built on part of the original Christopher Brown property that was divided amongst four of the boys in 1908. On the right is Joe in front of his home.


John James (Jack or JJ) was the fifth son born in 1887 in East Delta. He married Melina Mary McRae in 1915. Following the death of Melina he married Elva Claire Buettner in 1939. Elva and Jack had one child, John Christopher (Jack).


John James (Jack or JJ) Brown

JJ spent his years farming in Surrey Centre and being active in the politics of agriculture. He was secretary of the Fraser Valley Milk Producers' Association for many years and president of Surrey Co–op for four years and 19 years as a director. He was on the board of the FVMPA for 29 years. He held directorships in the BC Clydesdale Association, the BC Swine Breeders, and the potato growing associations and the Surrey Fall Fair. Outside of agriculture he served on the Surrey School Board. He served as a commissioner of the Surrey Dyking District for 36 years of continuous service. (See Surrey Dyking District)


The Surrey Centre Brown home Young Jack fixing a tire

This was the JJ Brown home on 168th Street in Surrey Centre which later became Jack Brown's home.


JJ and Elva's son Jack and their granddaughter Jamie were primarily responsible for the research towards this family history.


Jane Mary (Jennie), Sarah and Christopher's only daughter, was born in 1889. Jennie married Hylton Lane and they had three daughters. Jennie farmed in Kansas with her husband, and then moved back to British Columbia where Jennie established a small farm near Surrey Centre. Part of her income was derived from fostering children for the Children's Aid Society. Those children are still considered to be part of the Brown family.


Henry Wadsworth (Harry) was the sixth son born in Surrey Centre in 1892. He married Florence McRae, sister to Melina Mary McRae (wife of JJ Brown). They had two children Margaret (Peggy) and Archie. Harry was a farmer in Colebrook and after the dissolution of his first marriage, Harry made a new start at ranching in Horsefly, BC. This was later followed by owning the general store in Horsefly, and following the sale of the store, he managed McKenzie's Men's Wear in Williams Lake. During the course of his life in Horsefly, he married Melba McDonald.


Cecil Claire was the last child of Sarah and Christopher born in 1896 in Surrey Centre. After a brief time farming he went into the automotive business in New Westminster owing CC Brown Motors. He married Florence Jean Haddon and had two children James (Jim) and Patricia (Patti). His untimely death at the age of 36 left his wife and children in the care of a nephew, Chris Brown, who took over the automotive business.


The Christopher and Sarah Brown family is one of the more prominent pioneer families of Surrey. They have left us a beautiful heritage home, a lengthy community service portfolio, as well as a political legacy. In addition to these, the family name has been etch on a school and a park in the community they used to call home. The next time you're in the Colebrook area or playing the North View Golf Course think of the Browns and what life must have been like in Surrey at the turn of the 20th Century.


Five Brown Siblings

This picture, taken in the early 1950s, is of five of the Brown siblings.
From left to right is Norman, Joe, Jennie, Jack and Tom.


Colebrook area

When Chris acquired his lands in Colebrook and Surrey Centre they were covered with water during a large portion of the year. Dykes were built and drains laid, in time the soil was ready for cultivation. He did his work gradually and thoroughly, breaking up a small portion of the land at a time until he had the entire tract planted.


In her book the Surrey Story Fern Treleaven tells of Chris Brown's son J.J. Brown sharing memories of Japanese workers hired by his father to clear the land and how they had lived in an abandoned logging camp, supplementing their diet by hunting raccoons. Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher


The Brown farm in Colebrook was once the centre of logging activities when the property was held by the Moodyville Sawmill Company. This rusted half oxen shoe was found on the property. Oxen were the preferred means of moving the giant logs to tide water during the 1880s and 1890s.


By 1901 all of the timber had been taken off dl 51 leaving the many stumps to be cleared before the land could be farmed.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

1910 Surrey Preemption Map

Courtesy of Surrey Archives


This 1910 Surrey preemption map shows the former Moodyville Sawmill property was acquired and divided between Brown and Couthard.


Brown Homes at Colebrook

This map of the Kennedy Trail shows the location of the early Brown homes in Colebrook.

Courtesy of John Macdonald


Chris Brown built his house in 1898 on the hillside overlooking the western half of district lot 51. This cement block was found in the garden sometime in the early 1960's. The barely legible handwritten inscription Coldbrook farm prompted the question "why was Colebrook station spelled differently?"
The end of the nineteenth century was a time of great railway activity. A small railway had been built on Vancouver Island to connect Victoria with Sidney. It opened in 1892. The Victoria Terminal Railway & Ferry Company was founded later by a Victoria group to link the island with the mainland by a ferry service between Sidney and Port Guichon at the mouth of the Fraser. Port Guichon was linked to the New Westminster Southern Railway at Cloverdale. The NWSR ran from Blaine to Liverpool on the south bank of the Fraser opposite New Westminster. The NWSR, VTR and VV&ER were all ultimately absorbed by the GNR. (See the Railway Era)
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

Rail routes in Delta and Surrey

Port Guichon

The Victoria Terminal and Railway Company connected Port Guichon to Cloverdale. There were several sidings along the line from Port Guichon to Cloverdale to serve the farms, one of which was Bayside, John Oliver's farm which was just a mile west of the Surrey/Delta boundary. John Oliver ('honest john') was the Minister of Agriculture in the Liberal Government elected in 1916, and became premier two years later on the death of Premier Brewster.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

Oliver Siding VVTR sidings

Courtesy of Surrey Archives


Bayside Farm is on what is now 112th street aka Oliver road as was shown in the previous picture. The station, originally named after the farm, was renamed Oliver in 1909. A memento of this can be seen on the Burlington & Northern tracks running alongside highway 91 near the large truck parking area.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

The New Westminster Southern Railway had run from Blaine through Cloverdale to Liverpool climbing some high ground east of Hazelmere. About 1906/7 Chris Brown had made a claim against the VV&ER for compensation for loss of value to the farm owing to the line's construction across his land. It was reported in the December 16th 1907 issue of the Daily Columbian newspaper that he was awarded $16,910 by the court appointed arbitrators.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

In 1909, presumably to avoid climbing the highland east of Hazelmere, the line was rerouted, to skirt Semiahmoo Bay and then go northwards to Brownsville on the south bank of the Fraser. In order to allow a sufficiently wide curve northwards it was necessary to make the intersection with the VTR a couple of miles to the east of Bayside. A new station was set up, given the name Colebrook, and Bayside was dropped. (See the Sealine Route)
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

Coldbrook Stone Coldbrook Farm sign

The spelling difference: Colebrook verses Coldbrook.

The Brown family's theory was that it was the result of a mistake in the Great Northern's head office in St Paul, Minnesota. However, Colebrook Station had been named in 1909. The only material confirmation that the farm was called Coldbrook is the cement block dated 1915, six years later. A quest for an earlier record has, so far, been unsuccessful. There had been a crossing over the track a little east of Colebrook known as Brown's Crossing before the designation of Colebrook Station.

Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

Chris Brown's Heritage Home Areal of Brown home circa 1960

The house was unoccupied until 1948, when it was sold to Ben and Margaret Shepherd. The house had been in that part of the farm that had passed to Clare Brown. It had been subdivided off, together with 7 acres, in 1945. Part of the farm, including the farmyard was sold to Colebrook Co-operative Community Association.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

Joe Brown farm yard Joe Brown home

Joe Brown's barn (burnt down in 2001) can be seen in the middle distance with Tom Brown's house (now a heritage house owned by the city) just to its left.
A tower stood in one of the top fields just below Coulthard Road. It had held a tank, part of a water system laid during the 1935–45 war. Some fifteen local residents had managed to scrounge some iron pipe and laid out a network on the hillside for their domestic water supply. Benton Brook, running along the foot of the hill provided the water source. The brook was still the source of water for the house in 1959.
Pat and Michael Stibbs bought the house and land from Mrs Shepherd in 1959 when the pictures above were taken.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

Pump house Brown house 1959 Brown house 1960s

The Stibbs' first year was spent clearing up the undergrowth which, given a few more years, looked as if it might take over the house. While clearing the mass of brambles in front of the house the posts that must have framed the front steps were revealed leaning against the beech tree's very large trunk. They were in good shape, their preservation a tribute to the protective qualities of the tree's thick canopy (a particular characteristic of the beech tree). The front steps were rebuilt and the posts restored to their proper place. That spring, with the brambles now cleared, masses of daffodils appeared, apparently none the worse for having been hidden from the light of day for so many years. Over the next twenty years the house was restored as much as time and funds permitted. The ground was cleared, barn and stables built and livestock of varying sizes and breeds appeared.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

By the 1980s the young Stibbs had fled the nest and the last animal had been sold. Recognizing that without stock to graze the land it would soon revert to bush the possibility of selling had to be faced. It was thought that this ultimately would lead to development and the probable demolition of the house so as to maximize the number of building lots. This was something we felt we could not let happen so we decided to develop it ourselves and asked Aplin & Martin to draw up a subdivision plan that would ensure preservation of the house on its present (and original) site.
By 1981 the subdivision almost complete although the stables and blacksmith shop have yet to be taken down.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

By 1984 many improvement has been carried out, primarily in the interior, though some changes can be seen here: the bow window on the right and an extra room with window looking onto the veranda on the left.
Pioneer Profiles Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher.

Brown home 2007 Front yard of Brown home Daffodiles in front yard

Sources


Next page: The Coulthard Family

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