The Stevenson Family's origins begin on the Orkney Island. The family center was located on Westray Island, the Jewel of the Isles. It is a lovely island of fertile farms and industrious people, and it has a traceable history back to the Vikings and Celts. The Stevenson family origins can be traced back to about 1742. However, the branch of the family with Canadian roots begins in the mid 19 th Century.
The 19 th Century was marked by the revolution in agriculture. The mechanization of farming, the enlargement of farms, and the greater ease of marketing products were all part of that revolution. No longer were all the sons of a farmer needed to keep the farm going. The land for new farms was limited and all the land that could be tilled was being used. Employment opportunities for towns people were also limited. These were some of the factors which resulted in a strong pressure for emigration.
Thomas Stevenson married Mary Rendall and took her to Surrigarth in 1845. We know that Thomas had the Stevenson blue eyes, and Mary had the Rendall brown eyes. One result was that all of the sons of Robert's family in Canada had brown eyes.
Of Thomas and Mary's eleven children at Surrigarth, eight left Westray and immigrated to Canada. One went to Australia. Betsy and Mary Ann (Annie) stayed on Westray and married local men. The families and descendants of these two Stevenson's are spread throughout the Orkneys today.
Of the eight Stevenson members who immigrated to Canada, four came to the Mud Bay/Elgin district of Surrey. The first to arrive was John Stevenson in 1876. On July 18, 1877 John purchased the farm, lot 154, of William Pike.
Pike was the original pre–emptor in 1873–4 about the time of the construction of the Semiahmoo Road. The property was on the east side of the Semiahmoo road and straddled the Nicomekl River. John initially used William's homestead on the south side of the river. (See The Pike Family)
In 1882 John's sister Margaret joined him to keep house as his health was not good. In 1884, their brother Stuart came to join them in Mud Bay/Elgin. John was elected to Surrey's Municipal Council in 1887, but resigned in 1888 because of poor health. John died October 31, 1888, from what was believed to be a bad strain received while loading a boat on the Nicomekl River. Brother Stuart took over the farm and Margaret stayed on.
Stuart was the third Stevenson to leave the Old Country for British Columbia. He arrived in 1884. He took over the operation of John's farm at his passing.
The original Stevenson homestead was a two–storey, four–room rough board dwelling set well back from the road and facing the Nicomekl River where the King George Highway Bridge crosses near Elgin.
In the picture, on the left, Stuart is standing, George, visiting from Ontario, is standing, Margaret is holding Myrtle, Ben is standing with John on his left.
Planning his own home later, Stuart built a handsome, 5–bedroom house just south of the present Esso Station on the south side of Crescent Road.
"It was the style to have large houses then," Mrs. Stevenson said, noting that the house was destroyed by fire some years ago after she had vacated it.
Stuart met and married Mable Rose Holland in June, 1914, and on their wedding day, they moved into the new home where they lived until his death in July, 1949.
"We were married at Christ Church in Vancouver," she said, recalling that her late husband had come for her by horse and buggy from Elgin to Crescent Beach where they took the Great Northern train to the city returning by the same route after the ceremony to the home he had made ready in advance.
Born in Portchester, southern England, September 17, 1882, the former Mabel Rose Holland had her schooling, learned dressmaking and served for ten years as lady's companion and children's nurse before complying with her aunt's invitation to come to Canada. On June 13, 1910, she arrived at Crescent Beach where she helped in the post office and small store then located at Crescent Lodge on the homestead of Captain Watkin Williams and his wife, Elizabeth. (See Crescent Lodge and Hotel)
Mabel Holland met her future husband shortly after arriving from England. Seeing him from a distance on horseback she thought he was a "Canadian cowboy". Afterwards when Stuart Stevenson came to Crescent Lodge post office for his newspaper, it was love at first sight for him, and although it wasn't in her mind at the time, he decided that she was the girl he was going to marry.
In the early days (1884–86) when the post office was located at the Elgin Hotel, among his other pioneering, it was Stuart Stevenson who brought the mail on horseback from New Westminster.
Meantime, Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson were living in the big house overlooking the farms on the flats across the river which was part of the original Stevenson land. Along the Way....
Johnson–Stevenson...1866 Sullivan, Margaret Lang Hastings, 1981
Emelia and Margaret Stevenson
After John died, Margaret Stevenson lived with Stuart and Mabel. Together the two women formed a team, doing the endless chores around the farm. Among other things, feeding the extra twenty or so men at haying and threshing times, community and church work (Ladies Aid, Red Cross wartime knitting, sewing and at the time raising money to build Elgin Hall), and lending a neighbourly hand when death or illness struck. Such was the way of life during Mabel Stevenson's younger days, growing easier as modern conveniences were installed in her home.
Stuart met and married Mable Rose Holland in June, 1914, and on their wedding day, they moved into the new home where they lived until his death in July, 1949.
As time passed, her nursing talents were well employed, first through the illness and death of her aunt, then her sister–in–law, and finally her husband. In 1949 when her husband died, Mabel Stevenson had the old Elgin Hotel across the way torn down and in its place had a smaller house built with all the modern conveniences necessary for home comfort and entertainment.
In 1870 Ben was born in Orkney, Scotland. He began training for a carrier in Law but, when he was seventeen years of age Ben decided that he would join his brothers. John and Stuart, along with their sister Margaret, had immigrated to Canada, and were farming at Elgin, in the Municipality of Surrey.
In June, 1887, he left his home in Scotland, bound for Canada and landed in New Westminster about the end of June that year. Elgin was many miles from New Westminster, there was no means of transportation, the only way to get there was by walking and that is what Ben Stevenson did. When he arrived at Elgin he was welcomed by his brothers, and sister Margaret. He stayed with them, and worked on the farm for about ten years. In 1899 he purchased a 240 acre farm, known as the Eldorado Farm, on the Wade Road (44 th Ave.) at Mud Bay, and started farming on his own. This farm had been part of the William Woodward pre-emption in 1872. (see the Woodward Family)
Surrey Pioneers, R.V. Whiteside.
Ben drained the marshy fields and put up buildings including a home which he completed about 1900.
The Eldorado Farm was on the banks of the Serpentine River, which enabled Mr. Stevenson to ship his grain and farm products direct to Victoria by boat. When stocking his farm he purchased sheep in Fairhaven (now Bellingham) and drove them over the Old Semiahmoo Trail to Mud Bay. In addition to the Eldorado Farm Mr. Stevenson operated a farm known as the Brewster Farm on the Johnston Road. At the same time he worked very closely with his brothers, John and Stuart at Elgin.
Emelia Johnston, was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Johnston, who were early settlers on the Johnston Road. James Johnston and his sons Isaac and William had pre-empted land on what became known as the Johnston Settlement. Isaac did not stay long on the land near his father's but sold it and took up a homestead in Mud Bay. James Johnston was very angry and didn't speak to his son, Isaac, for a long time. Later on they became good friends again.
Isaac and Fanny Johnston (nee Fanny Oliver, whose cousin, John was to be B.C.'s Premier) made their home on the Mud Bay farm. They had two boys and six girls. Emelia Matilda, was born there September 16, 1884. The family affectionately called her Millie.
It was at Mud Bay that Emelia Johnston met her future husband. Looking back to her girlhood - now a widow since September 27, 1966 - Mrs. Stevenson recalled being about 14 when hurrying to tell her uncle Jimmy to get a doctor for his wife, she rode across Mud Bay fields on Ben Stevenson's binder. That was when her cousin Bryce was born, she said, noting, Uncle Jimmy was grandfather Johnston's youngest son and namesake.
Along the Way.... Johnson-Stevenson...1866 Sullivan, Margaret Lang Hastings, 1981.
On December 18, 1907, Ben Stevenson married Emelia Johnston on December 18 th, 1907, in Christ Church, Surrey Centre. Emelia Johnston was 23. For some time they lived in Mud Bay, although she said her husband was pretty well finished with the physical work of farming when they were married though he continued to run his Mud Bay Farm.
They returned to the Eldorado farm house and lived there for the next two years and then decided to rent the farm and travel. When their first born, John, was about nine months the family travelled to Scotland for about a year. John was baptized in Scotland while they visited family.
Ben, Amelia and John set sail for Scotland in the Empress of Scotland.
They returned after a year as the renter of the Eldorado Farm was not doing a good job, and they had to return to deal with that situation. They continued to live and work on the farm but most of the heavy work for Ben was over. He was able to employ farm workers to do the work for him. In the pictures below, note that Ben always appeared in a shirt and tie.
Around 1904, Ben acquired the property in Ocean Park which was bounded by Sunnyside Road, Stevenson Road and North Bluff Road and the foreshore to the west, (24 th Avenue, 128 th Street and 16 th Avenue). Shortly after the purchase he signed a 99 year lease agreement with the Great Northern Railway which gave them the right-of-way along the foreshore and Ben's property. The Great Northern in turn promised to maintain a wagon trail up the bluff to Ben's property and construct an underpass to allow teams to move logs to the foreshore for booming.
Ben's plans included logging and subdivision of the Ocean Park. The plans gazetted in 1908 are basically the same divisions that exist today. Ben farmed in Ocean Park and kept animals and grew feed for them. He raised fodder crops along Ocean Park Road in the vicinity of the present 20 th avenue.
For years Ben and Emelia made their home on the Mud Bay farm. Their two boys and two of their girls were born there. Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson had a family of eight; two sons, and six daughters: John, born 1908; Myrtle, born 1910; Marjorie, born 1913; Benj. Robert, born 1914; Mildred, born 1916; Vivian, born 1918; Heather, born 1921, and Georgina, born 1922.
In 1907 Ben rented the farm to Mr. Falk while he went to Scotland. He returned to manage the farm but in 1913 he left it and moved his family to the Ocean Park District. Though his farmland changed hands several times it was always known by Ben Stevenson's name. Perhaps that was because he made the original improvement on the land to make it a productive farm, or perhaps it was because Ben was a progressive and public-spirited citizen who was involved in many of the early projects in Surrey's development.
In 1964 the farm was bought by the Provincial Department of Highways for the new Highway 99 to cut across part of it. The remaining 200 acres lay derelict and was acquired to become the Serpentine Fen, a wildlife and nature preserve.
As the number of children grew, there was a need for school space. The first Crescent School was located on the corner of Old Crescent Road and Tulloch Road. This small one–room school was built in 1913 on land donated by pioneer Capt. Watkin Williams. In 1918 the school was relocated to a larger one–room, 2 storey building on Ocean Park Road (124 th Street and 24th Avenue) on land donated by Ben Stevenson.
In 1913 they left the farm and rented a place on Ocean Park Road. Then about 1915 they moved into the large five bedroom house built on their own land overlooking the bay where they stayed until the oldest boy, John was in college. John was a good student and initially he was boarded in New Westminster, but in 1922 the family decided to move to New Westminster so all the children could benefit from enrolment in high school. John attended Columbia College in New Westminster. But they kept the property renting it at times, and this was the case when it burned to the ground in the 1940's.
In 1929 St. George's School moved from Crescent Beach to the Stevenson's large home in Ocean Park. The school used the home as a classroom for the older boys. The school flourished for many years but the school closed during 1936 due to conditions during the depression.
In the years following the Stevensons moved several times as the children changed schools for higher learning. Initially they lived in New Westminster, near th and th, so John could go to high school. While in New Westminster Ben and Jim Livingston opened a potato factory near the present Patullo Bridge. They produced potato flower and other potato products.
Another venture Ben entered into was the opening Auto Dealership and Garage in New Westminster. This Garage ultimately became Trapp Motors.
Ben and the family in his Model T
In 1926 they moved to Vancouver when John enrolled in the University of BC. They lived at 3037 W 8 th, near MacDonald and Broadway. Later Ben had a large family home built near 41 st and Cartier. This allowed all of the children to pursue a higher education.
Ben became a land developer and speculator. He traded the Brewster Place, the farm on Johnston Road, for 6 houses in the city which he rented out. He would acquire land, log it, and gazette lots and sell them for residential development. He was an entrepreneur and landlord.
Ben Stevenson was a very progressive and public spirited citizen. Anything that was for the good of Surrey always got Stevenson support. It was through his efforts that the first water was piped to Mud Bay. He donated the land for the first school at Ocean Park. He had the first mail contract, carrying the mail by horse and wagon from New Westminster to the Elgin Hotel at Elgin. Mr. Stevenson, together with Daniel Johnson, Dave McKee and John Oliver (later to become Premier of British Columbia) started the first Mutual Fire Insurance Company of B.C. to give the farmers of Surrey protection. Ben and Amelia Stevenson R.V. Whiteside. 1974
In 1952 (by this time the family were all grown up) Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson built a new Home at Ocean Park and returned to live on the old home site. They lived at 1748 Ocean Park Road on 15 acres of the original 320 acre homestead.
PIONEERS OF THE PROVINCE, Mr. and Mrs. Ben Stevenson of Ocean Park, will mark their golden wedding day Sunday at an at home from 2-5 and 7-10 p.m. at 1042 West 52 nd. Couple married at Christ Church, Surrey, Mr. Stevenson arriving here in 1888. They have eight children: Dr. John S. Stevenson and Mrs. Russel Bulger, who are coming from Montreal with husband and wife for occasion; Mr. Ben R. Stevenson; Mrs. R. J. Sullivan, Miami; Mrs. W. Falconer, Toronto; and Mrs. W. Lewis, Mrs. J. Benbow and Mrs. H. White of Vancouver. There are 19 grandchildren. The Province, Saturday, Dec. 21, 1957.
On the left, Ben and Amelia are enjoying their garden. On the right, Ben is sitting in his driveway enjoying the sunshine and the view of Boundary Bay.
Ben and Emeila are very spry and extremely active. Ben still keeps busy, although he sold the farm a few years back. He does all his own gardening, except the mowing of the lawn. He has a fine vegetable garden, in addition to the lovely flower' garden surrounding his property with its wonderful VIEW of the ocean. But his particular enjoyments are his roses, which are still blooming in profusion and which he hopes will bloom until Christmas as they did last year. His other most enjoyable hobby is driving his car. At 90 years of age he never feels happier than when he is behind the wheel of his car, and often takes a jaunt into Vancouver. He has been driving since 1914, and owned one of the first cars in Surrey. Both Ben and Emeila enjoyed travelling and Mrs. Stevenson's last trip was to Hawaii in 1976 at age ninety–two. Rose Garden main diversion for Pioneer Surrey Farmer The Surrey Leader.
Ben Stevenson passed away September 27, 1966. He was 96 years of age. Emelia Matilda Stevenson passed away February 17, 1979. She was 95 years of age.
In 1947 all eight children were given a piece of property along Ocean Park Road and on the bluff overlooking the bay. These are the properties north of 16 th Avenue and west of Ocean Park Road.