Brownsville was located directly across the Fraser River from New Westminster. It has a distinguished history, as Surrey only ferry terminal, and also its only railway terminal. Sadly, it has almost disappeared from memory. Before White contact it was known as Kikait, a small summer fishing camp of the Kwantlen, who resided at the larger village of Skaiameti on the north shore of the Fraser on what is now the City of New Westminster. In 1861 Ebenezer Brown, a liquor merchant in New Westminster and ran a very respectable saloon. He preempted the Kwantlen's Kikait camp, on the south shore of the Fraser.
With is crucial position across the river from New Westminster, Brownsville had begun to take shape in 1864. Twenty years before the ferry, Ebenezer Brown had built a wharf, first known as Brown's Landing. As well as the wharf, Brown built the first hotel, known as Brownsville Hotel. Other hotels followed. In 1861 the Kennedy Trail had linked the south shore of the Fraser at Annieville to Mud Bay and the Serpentine lowlands. In 1865 the Telegraph Trail was opened between Brownsville and the U.S. border. The next year the trail extended the link to Fort Langley. As roads developed the Semiahmoo Road linked the U.S. border to Brownsville by 1874. By 1875 the Yale Road linked the upper Fraser Valley and the Fraser Canyon. All these converging transportation links made Brownsville Surrey's most important community. It became a hive of activity with hotels, livery stables, and "sporting houses" became lucrative businesses.
The K de K operated between Surrey and New Westminster from 1884 until 1889. Captain Angus Grant of New Westminster built the ferry and named it after a close friend with the unusual name of Knyvett de Knyvett.
In 1883 New Westminster and Surrey Councils agreed on a joint ferry service across the Fraser. The first ferry to operated between Brownsville and New Westminster was the K de K. It was large enough to transport a couple of teams with wagons across the river. In 1889, the K de K was replaced by the steam ferry Surrey. The picture on the left shows the Surrey at the dock in New Westminster. The one on the right shows the steam ferry Surrey in mid-steam in the Fraser River.
The ferry service brought Brownsville into prominence. At its height Brownsville had four hotels along the road and docks leading to the ferry terminal. It had a general store, stables, salons and a Post Office. In 1891 the New Westminster Southern Railway made Brownsville its northern terminus as the Canadian Pacific monopoly clause prevented railway access across the Fraser River. The railway's arrival brought the world to Brownsville, and no Surrey community possessed greater power or influence, confirmed by the installation, in 1893, of Surrey's first telephone.
For thirteen extraordinary years, until the opening of the Fraser River Bridge in 1904, whether one arrived from Seattle, San Francisco, or New York and way points, Brownsville was the end of the line for one of North America's greatest railway systems.
Brownsville's decline began with the opening of the New Westminster rail and road bridge in 1904. The roads and the railways by-passed Brownsville and it fell into decline. The remnants of Brown's landing/Brownsville are the decaying pilings and docks along with a water side park just downstream from the Sky Train bridge over the Fraser.
Henry Ewert's unpublished essay "Brownsville".
Selections are taken from Not the Country for Serfdom: Land Settlement and Roadmaking Opposite the City of New Westminster, 1858 – 1879. Oppositethecity, Wordpress.com