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Keery Park by Sue Bryant

Sue Bryant is an oral historian and a member of the Surrey Historical Society. She is also a digital photo restoration artist, genealogist and volunteers at the Surrey Museum and Surrey Archives.

Keery Park

Keery Park: Located at 188 and 28 Ave., Surrey, BC

Illustration of Keery Park Keery Park

As is true elsewhere, most parks in the Surrey owe their beginnings to the early settlers – those men of vision who came into this southwest portion of British Columbia when the land was new, and they chose to homestead on large choice pieces of property, parts of which often became a park named for themselves or in honour of something they stood for or had created.

Keery Park is like that. It carries the name of John Keery, a peppery Irish immigrant who settled on Kensington Prairie in the early 1880’s and then with his family played an important role in Surrey municipality by developing farms and by taking part in its government. Records show that in 1894, the time of the big flood on the Fraser when the municipality of Surrey was very concerned with the building of dykes and dams, John Keery was a Councilor for Ward 4. He served as a Councilor for over 20 years between 1894 and 1928, and was responsible for many initiatives that helped to bring Surrey into a growing and prosperous community.

John Keery arrived in Surrey in 1890 to homestead by the way of the United States from Belfast, Ireland. He began to work for the Royal City Lumber Company, a pioneer lumber and logging company in the area. In 1891, John married Emily Collishaw, the daughter of William and Elizabeth Collishaw who had settled in Surrey in the Kensington Prairie area in 1885. The Collishaw house is now considered a heritage property and the house William Collishaw built for his family in 1889 can still be found 16520 – 40th Avenue. John and Emily settled in the Mud Bay/Kensington Prairie area and had three children, Leslie Clare, Robert, and Rita (Mrs. Ace Gray).

John was a kind and generous man with warm compassion for his neighbour. One story handed down when he was a Councilor tells of days when money was hard to come by. A neighbour had lost a horse when it fell in the deep ruts that marked the newly formed roads. He appealed to the Council for help but no funds were available at the time to assist the resident. John chose to donate his monthly salary as a Councilor and persuaded his fellow members to do likewise for to replace the farmer's loss. Later on, his younger son, Robert, carried on the family tradition of community work and served as a Councilor in the post–war years of the 1940s and 1950s.

The 17 acres that compromise the park were purchased by the municipality in the late 1940s. The site is situated on a plateau at the corner of 188 Street and 28 Avenue (formerly known as Siddons and Oliver Road), just east of the East Kensington School in the area known locally as Hall's Prairie. In the Spring, there is a tremendous display of colourful flowering currant bushes and, as the former Surrey Parks Administrator, Bob Nicholson noted in 1967, "the biggest showing of Dogwood trees to be seen anywhere in the district".

Keery Park pays homage to the industrious spirit of our founding families. Descendants of these families still live in the City today and it is important to keep their stories alive to allow our history to be told.

Next page: McBride Family Farm

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