The early settlers of Surrey come to exploit the agriculture and forest potential of the district. They generally located their homesteads on or near the flanks of the uplands. The early farmers eagerly sought out those home sites which gave them access to fertile, easily cleared lowland prairie, yet provided sites free from periodic flooding. The early loggers tended to chose such sites also as hand-operations could easily be employed to move the timber of the uplands to the navigable waterways.
As pockets of settlement developed, names were given to them - Elgin–Mud Bay, Halls Prairie/Hazelmere, Woodward Settlement, Bothwell/Tynehead, Brownsville/Brown's Landing, Surrey Centre, Port Kells, Kensington Prairie, and East Kensington, Johnston Settlement/Sullivan, Bon Accord/Port Mann.
Elgin – The only center to develop anything of a central tendency was Elgin. Mud Bay is the agricultural area associated with Elgin. Three factors were responsible for Elgin's development: local logging operations; its importance as a stage stop along the Semiahmoo Road; and the establishment of a customs' entry port. Located at the junction of the Nicomekl River and the Semiahmoo Wagon Road, Elgin had became a center for logging operations as early as 1872. In that year William McDougall arrived with his family to establish a small hand–logging operation on the uplands around Elgin. For many years after this, Elgin provided the booming grounds for all logging operations along the Nicomekl. Logs were sorted and boomed in the Nicomekl river just west of the Semiahmoo Road bridge.
Elgin's position as a stage stop along the Semiahmoo Road began in 1874, just after the opening of the road. A daily mail stage between New Westminster and Semiahmoo, Washington was inaugurated but was forced to stop in the spring of 1875 because of fallen trees across the road. A twice-weekly stage service was re–established in 1878 and this operated until 1891. For the benefit of passengers a six–room hotel was put up, and with its barn and blacksmith's shop it provided a rest and watering stop for the teams before the long six–mile pull over the southern uplands to the St. Leonard hotel on the International Border at Blaine. The Elgin Hotel also housed a country store and post office to service the immediate community. However, the hotel languished after the stage service was terminated with the opening of the New Westminster Southern Railway in 1891.
Halls Prairie – Sam Hall was one of a number of early trappers who worked the area for furs after the establishment of Fort Langley in 1827. Sam left behind shelters which some of the early settlers found. Sam Hall, with his Indian wife, lived in a log cabin beside the Campbell River, and the open grassy area around his location is still called Hall's Prairie. Halls Prairie was not settled as quickly as the northern lowlands, but after the initial homestead was established the region quickly developed. William Brown was one of the first settlers arriving in 1878. By the next year, 1879, six other homesteads dotted the prairie. Three other families named Brown joined William Brown along with farmers Bamford and Frig, and the loggers Roper and McMillan. As settlement and families grew Hall's Prairie school opened in 1885. Within Halls Prairie, Hazelmere developed as a station on the New Westminster and Southern Railway(NWSR). In addition its post office, a non-denominational church, a general store (opened in 1906 by George Thrift), and a lumber and shingle mill gave it a number of other activities. It center is the area around the current junction of 16th avenue and 184th Street. However, Hazelmere declined as a community when the NWSR abandoned the southern part of its line as far as Hazelmere in 1910. After the Hazelmere mill burned to the ground in 1912 the NWSR abandoned the line south of Cloverdale. As White Rock began to grow and assume the centralizing tendencies, Hazelmere reverted to its agricultural roots. Halls Prairie school was built about a mile south of Hazelmere station on Campbell River Road west of Halls Prairie Road. Early preemptors in the Halls Prairie–Hazelmere district were William Brown, Archie Brown, David Brown and family, Robert Roper, Mr. Bamford, Thomas McMillan, and Joseph Figg.
William Woodward arrived in Canada in 1870. See Woodward In 1873 he and John Brewer walked the slash trail and bid on clearing and building the Semiahmoo Road from Brownsville to the Serpentine River. They also won the contract to build the Serpentine Bridge. Knowing the route of the road William and John preempted a pieces of hillside land along or near the Semiahmoo Road over-looking the Mud Bay flats. When a stage run began between New Westminster and Blaine along the Semiahmoo Road a few years later, the Woodward home became a stage stop and later became the first Post Office in the district. Other families such as the Dinsmore families homesteaded east of Semiahmoo Road and the Woodward's property. The Woodward's stage stop was eclipsed by Elgin as it developed into a larger centre after 1880. See Elgin With the opening of the Victoria Terminal Railway in 1903 a station – Alluvia – developed below the Woodward Settlement where the rail line cut the Semiahmoo Road. The abandonment of the railway and the growth of other centers saw the decline of the settlement. The section of Highway #99A at Highway #10 is known as Woodward's Hill.
Most of the northwest corner of Surrey was heavily forested. In 1885 three brothers, Thomas, James and William Bothwell pre-emptied land along the Coast Meridian Road near the head waters of the Serpentine River. Other settlers followed behind them to engage in farming and logging. Eliiah and Edward Martin, David Esson, John Gillis, W.C. Bournes, Charles Richardson, D.M. Robertson, and R.S. Inglis all came within a short period of time. The Bothwell's donated land for a church and community hall. At first the area was known as the Bothwell Settlement but the name soon changed to Tynehead by Scottish settlers in memory of their old home in Tynehead, Scotland.
Port Kells – was originally founded along the Fraser River by two men both named Henry Kells. The younger Henry Kells married the elder Henry Kells sister Mary Ann. The brothers–in–law formed a partnership and bought one square mile of land along the river front in what is today the Port Kells District of Surrey and West Langley. They laid out a town site dividing the property into city sized lots. The first post office and store was built, by the elder Henry Kells, near the present wharf. When Henry left the district, the store and post office were moved a quarter mile west and was owned by John Latta. After 1891 the Post Office was moved to the Port Kells station. The town site along the Fraser River did not flourish and when the New Westminster and Southern Railway was being built the partners gave some 16 acres to the NWSR to ensure a station in Port Kells. The station was located at the junction of Broadway(now Harvey Road and 190th Street at 88th Avenue). A small commercial core with a sawmill, store, community hall, and church grew up south of the station at Holt/Davis Road(now 88th Ave. and Harvey Road).
Port Kells never grew into the thriving town site the Kells brothers envisioned. It had a strong agricultural base and many early settlers farmed in the area. The spur line to the Fraser River brought logs to be dumped and boomed for movement down the river to the mills in New Westminster. In addition a number of small milling operations operated along the Fraser within the Port Kells town site.
In 1918 the Great Northern Railway abandoned the line from Hazelmere to Port Kells and sold the section from Port Kells to Brownsville to the Canadian Northern Railway in 1914. Port Kells as a center languished.
The picture on the left is the Port Kells wharf during the Fraser River flood of 1948.
Byrnece McKee was six years old at the time. She recalls that during the flood, all the animals from Barnston Island were swam across the river by the Indians and we (the local farmers) took in their cattle.� I was six years old and remember standing on the wharf watching the chicken houses float down the river with chickens sitting on top.� My father gave me the rope which was on a HUGE Holstein he had rescued from the flood�and told me to walk her home.
Port Kells store is shown with the heavy snow of the winter of 1951. The boy in the box is Lorne Adamson and the girl beside him is Byrnece McKee. They were neighbours in Port Kells.
In 1964 the opening of the freeway as part of the Trans Canada Highway system split the Port Kells district in half. By the 1970s the extension of trunk water and sewer services encouraged the development of an Industrial Sector along the Fraser, the CN Rail line and the freeway.
Kensington Prairie an East Kensington are the agricultural areas south of the Nicomekl River and north of the southern uplands. Kensington was a center of logging activity for years as the logging ditch that moved much of the logs from the southern uplands ran northward through it to the Nicomekl River.
Henry Thrift was the Clerk, collector and Assessor for the municipality for part of his career. He persuaded Council to advertise the opportunities for settlement in Surrey. The response was quick and settlers began coming into the land that Mr. Thrift had named Kensington. Edward Parr was the first to respond. Then William Figg, whose father was killed clearing land in Halls Prairie. The brothers Tom and Robert Fallowfield, Sam Walker, Elisa Pickard, W.C. Jones, James Crutchey, William Collishaw, Edward Carncross, whose brother Charles was already established.
Bon Accord, was upstream on the Fraser River from Brownsville. Initially, it was a location where steamboats on their way to Fort Langley and Yale nudged ashore to take on wood and leave mail and supplies. A number of fishermen had the shacks there. After 1891, Bon Accord developed as a station on the New Westminster and Southern Railway. When the section of railway from Brownsville to Port Kells was sold to the Canadian Northern Pacific railway in 1914(Canadian National after 1917), Bon Accord became the link for ferry and barge service to Vancouver Island. However, the CNR found it difficult to compete with the service provided by the Canadian Pacific out of Vancouver Harbour. After the line was purchased by the Canadian Northern the site was renamed Port Mann.